Reflections on Day One of The (Un)Common University

Lots of great take aways from this first day of the conference.

James Boyle’s talk was inspiring, engaging, simply awesome. In Twitter someone said he had the audience in the palm of his hand, and that was certainly evident looking around the room. There was so much to take away from his talk, but I’ll mention two things that jumped out at me.

* It’s really interesting how we avoid thinking about issues of open-ness vs/ closed-ness in self interested terms. The conversation always seems to veer towards discussions of values and philosophies. I think values and philosophies are great — but Boyle reminded us that openness is also a great choice because it can serve our self-interests. We just tend assume it can’t.

This reminds me a lot of the way my dad talks about environmentalism. He’s a biologist with the Office of Endangered Species, and although he certainly believes in the mission of the ESA for philosophical reasons, he’s also great at reminding people that preserving species and the environment is a choice that protects our own self-interests.

It’s OK to be self-interested. It’s even better when our self-interests jive with our philosophies. 🙂

* At one point Boyle basically referred to the practice of teaching as the ultimate mashup. Teachers are constantly “stealing” techniques, lesson plans, activities, styles from each other — often without attribution. The next time I’m talking to faculty about mashups, I plan to use this as a means to explain the concept.

During Lunch, Jim Groom and John St. Clair blew us all away with the mock debate, “Is the CMS dead?” Jim, quite predictably and charmingly went the zombie route. John, however, well. . .who knew John had that in him? I can’t describe it. I recommend visiting the faculty academy Web site in a week or so and watching the video.

In the afternoon, Cole Camplese’s plenary captured people’s imaginations about how we can use lightweight emerging technologies to redefine our notion of conversation in the classroom. The number of questions and comments at the end of his presentation spoke to how he clearly engaged the faculty at UMW and our guest visitors. My favorite anecdote from his presentation was about the student who tweeted one evening that he had just realized his thesis was due the following day — a week earlier than he had thought. Out of nowhere, his classmates jumped in to assist — proofreading, helping with endnote formatting, meeting in the Library to discuss a draft. In the course of that evening, the entire class suddenly understood what Twitter could do for them.

And now, I’m sitting in Laura Blankenship’s workshop on personal learning networks where about twelve of us are brainstorming how to use lightweight web-based tools to accomplish all sorts of tasks and connect with the people who can help us to work, learn, and live online. Frabulous!

We’ll close the day with some wine and food and be back in the morning to start it all over again.

I wish everyday could be Faculty Academy.

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