Schindler Talks: Teaching and Television

By Caitlyn Maltese
Student Life Editor

On Nov. 11, Dr. William Schindler gave a talk about his experience working on “The Great Human Race” (TGHR) titled “Augmented Reality: How We Transform a Reality Show into a Unique Teaching Opportunity.” He spoke about how he worked to turn the opportunity into an educational experience.
This talk was sponsored by the Washington College Academy of Lifelong Learning (WC-ALL), a group that allows adults to take six week, non-credit academic classes. According to their website, it is for those “pursuing learning for its own sake without the stress of exams, term papers, or grades.” They offer late afternoon classes as well as other special events; such as their learn at lunch lecture series and trips.
Schindler got the job when a recruiter reached out to him on LinkedIn. A casting agency in New York messaged him, and told him that they were interested in placing him in a National Geographic show. At first he thought it was a practical joke by some of his students. His wife finally convinced him to call them back.
Previously, students had encouraged him to go on another survival show called “Naked and Afraid.” He wasn’t too keen on the idea of being naked on television, but he didn’t want to say no. ”If I say no, it seems like I’m wussing out,” he said. “But if I ask my wife, she will definitely say no.”
Dr. Schindler asked his wife, and after thinking about it, she said that she was okay with the idea because, “If anyone on that show had any kind of romantic idea about anything, a day being in the woods naked and cold would squash anything.”
He went to former Dean and Provost Emily Chamlee-Wright, and asked about the idea. He thought that she would at least be against it, but she also encouraged him.
When TGHR opportunity came around, there was no way he could turn it down. A month later, Dr. Schindler found himself in the mountains of North Carolina doing a chem test for “The Great Human Race.”
This idea grew from the magazine side of National Geographic and was transferred to the network. This was very important because, according to Schindler, “it helped keep this as legitimate as possible.”

“Stone-Age iPhone”
Above is a “Stone-Age iPhone” that was made by the WC Director of Digital Services Brian Palmer in honor of “The Great Human Race.’

“A lot of people ask what this is… Is it a survival show? Well, it’s not a survival show—it is about subsistence, about our ancestry. This isn’t ‘Survivor.’ They asked if it was a documentary—it’s not about documentary either, it has a reality T.V. aspect to it as well,” he said.
“What they wanted was to merge reality T.V.. with some of the most up-to-date interpretations of human evolution and technological innovation in the past [millions of years],” he said.
“I really saw this as the ultimate teaching and learning opportunity. For, me, I hate to talk about things in class that I haven’t done. I know that’s very difficult in my line of work to do that, but I thought this was the opportunity to fill those gaps,” he said.
Now, he has had experience making tools in the same kind of enviroment that they would have originally have been made.  He can tell students, “This is what it felt like to use this tool, and I was starving, and I hadn’t slept in four days. It was really powerful for me to learn and for teaching—I mean, the opportunity to have a classroom of millions of people across the world in over 171 countries,” he said. “Now, I certainly didn’t step into a time machine and live exactly as people lived then, but it was as close as an anyone has ever done, ever in millions of years worth of humanity.”
Dr. Schindler helped select ten of the most important technological time periods. He places importance on teaching students anthropological content in its own enviroment.
Dr. Schindler previously investigated putting together a trip that would take students to the different locations important to technological advancement. He wanted to put together a trip that was an anthropology version of Kiplin Hall.
“I teach all these technologies here on campus… It’s a great opportunity to teach and learn, but we are doing it in a parking lot in Chestertown, which is awesome, but it is still here. I wanted the opportunity to take students to the places where these technologies first arose—to look at the landscape and understand how and why these technologies appeared,” he said.
Even though this dream project was too expensive to be realistic, but his notes from planning proved very helpful when trying to pin down where to go during the show. Now, with filiming finished, Schindler continues to his own experience gives students a first-hand perspective.
The learn at lunch series is open to the community, but WCALL members are offered a discounted price. The lunch is $20 for members and $25 for non-members. The food for this talk was catered by WC Dinning Services. Sue Calloway put together a menu of venison stew, wild rice pilof, pork pate, and cranberry and blueberry cobbler.
The next lunch will be  “Access to Justice: Critical Tools for a Civic Society” on Jan. 18 with Pamela Cardullo Ortiz. For more information, contact Calloway at

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