Margery Resnick, Published April 27, 2021 in the MIT Technology Review
Usually, I spend the month of January teaching an IAP class on Spanish literature in my favorite city in Spain. With travel off the table this year, I took up the challenge of creating an immersive cultural experience online.
Every January 5 since 2015 I’ve braved the crowds lining Madrid’s main boulevard, el Paseo de la Castellana, with my own small crowd of MIT students. Having met me in Spain for IAP, the students begin the Spanish Incubator—my crash course on 20th-century Spanish literature, history, and culture—with a dinner of tapas followed by the annual Three Kings Parade. The students quickly join the fray, competing for caramelos—candies tossed from the parade’s spectacular floats. The next morning, we meet at the Royal Palace, where the regal troops parade past on stately horses. Then we marvel at the Teatro Real opera house and proceed through the winding streets of old Madrid to the Plaza Mayor, once the site of Inquisition autos-da-fé, royal celebrations, and bullfights. We visit the historic San Miguel Market, the “street of authors,” and the huge, beautiful El Retiro park, fortifying ourselves along the way at Madrid’s oldest chocolatería, where even the football players among us cannot finish the heaping plates of churros.
…When covid made leading an IAP class in Spain impossible this year, I took it as a pedagogical challenge to see if I could transmit the same excitement and intellectual energy while teaching the material virtually. Twice as many students as I could admit applied for the class.