Tag Archives: fa07

More on Risk

David Wiley’s got a fascinating post up at Iterating towards Openness about the generation of open educational resources (OER) and whether we should take a consumer- or producer-oriented approach to production. The dilemma is whether or not resources created to meet a producer’s needs are necessarily limited in their effective scope and impact. Should our approach to OER creation focus on generating resources that are user-oriented, instead?

Wiley thinks not, and he uses this quote from the Cathedral and the Bazaar to support his argument:

Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.

In the open-source world of software development, the impetus behind creating something new should never be to survey the user base and then develop the product to meet the perceived need. Instead, open-source producers need to look to themselves for inspiration and trust that the resources they create will have a meaningful impact and will be adopted (and further developed, owned, and expanded) by a community of users.

He goes on to talk about the issue of contextualization of learning resources and the the common (mis)conception that learning resources need to be created in as context-agnostic a way as possible. The idea being that if there is too much context to a learning resources, it won’t be as inherently resuable.

But I agree completely with Wiley. Context is what gives content meaning, and when we divorce the two we end up with stale, dry resources that no one would want to re-mix, re-use, and re-own.

(Side note: At lunch with Steve yesterday he told me about a presentation Gardner made recently to our freshman seminar faculty at UMW that I think drives at this point: Gardner, can you share the NASA video–or at least the point you were making with it?)

As usual, when I read these kinds of analyses my mind starts to make a million connections. All of this makes me think of the very human aspect of all that we do–and how vital it is that our work remain connected to ourselves, our communities, and our contexts.

A few days ago, I blogged about risk in higher education and how unwilling institutions were to embrace it these days. The commodification of higher education has taken it’s toll on our enterprise, and these days we seem to be more concerned with focus groups and user surveys than the messy, risky behavior of human connection.

Schools are so busy worrying about FERPA and privacy that they simply can’t allow themselves to be risk-takers when it comes to fostering connections among students and faculty.

It’s been quite a week. I’m trying to absorb and assimilate a lot of information coming out of Faculty Academy and beyond. Ultimately, I’m left with a feeling of increasing urgency that we need to find a way to embrace risk and be okay with the messiness of human connection and context. Education isn’t supposed to be easy or formulaic. The resources we create should vibrate with our passion. We should be okay with that; we should rush to meet that challenge.

With Thanks

I’m feeling a bit wrecked today, and I’m turning to my blog for a cure. There was a time once before when writing in this little space helped me to start moving again, and I’m hoping the strategy will work this time.

First, I said it in the comment thread, but I want to mention here just how amazing and humbling Alan Levine’s recap post about this year’s Faculty Academy was. I was literally swept away by it — to the point where I actually had to stop reading it and come back later.

I’ve been back at UMW (this time) for almost three years, and for the last two years I’ve had the remarkable pleasure of being a part of Faculty Academy. In my previous tenure at UMWMWC, I had participated in Faculty Academies before, but in the intervening years the event had changed, expanded, and grown.

For the last 9 months, I’ve spent many sleepless nights wondering how we could possibly follow last year’s event — and wondering how I, in my current acting role, could lead us there. I was wrong to worry. I was wrong to not stop and enjoy the process more. I was wrong to focus so much on the product (when will I start listening to my own advice?). I was wrong not to trust.

This year’s Faculty Academy was wonderful, and I can take little credit for any of it. It was wonderful because of the amazing willingness of UMW faculty to reveal themselves and their work. I am amazed every year by this willingness; I am humbled by it.

It was wonderful because of our guest presenters: Alan, Barbara, and Karen who shared of themselves so generously and inspired us again and again. It still floors me how I can feel so connected to people whom I “met” online. I’ve been reading Alan and Barbara’s blogs for years; it was incredible to have them here in person.

It was wonderful because of my colleagues in DTLT who simply dove into every aspect of the event. The commitment that they demonstrate to our work is breathtaking, and Faculty Academy is simply one moment every year when it becomes almost visible. Trust me when I tell you I live with that commitment every day, and it is humbling, too.

Faculty Academy was wonderful because at UMW we have Chip German. I’ve talked to enough people at other universities and colleges at this point to realize how amazing it is to have a CIO who understands and supports the kind of work that we’re trying to do in DTLT. There are lots of reasons administrators could come up with to shy away from the kind of engagement that we’re trying to foster at UMW, but Chip is willing to challenge them all, and for that I am very grateful.

Faculty Academy was wonderful this year because Gardner Campbell is back at UMW. I can’t imagine this event without him, and I can’t thank him enough for his willingness to contribute to the production and programming of this year’s event (on top of everything else he does).

Now I’m going to digress a little, but I promise to bring it all back together in the end. 😉

A little over ten years ago, I walked into Gardner’s office and asked him to work with me on my senior honors thesis. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor. Every week for a semester, I looked forward to our regular meetings. When one ended, I was counting the days and hours until the next began. What made Gardner extraordinary was that he showed me I could teach him, too. I know now that what he was doing was inviting me into a real community, a conversation in which we were both partners. He was still the faculty member; he was still guiding me. But, more and more, as the semester went on, he let me lead, too. At the time, I thought that the experience was amazing simply because of how it affected me personally. But, now I know that what I was experiencing was teaching at its finest. And it is my belief in the power of that kind of teaching that has brought me to the work I’m doing today. I guess what I’m saying is, I learned a lot about John Donne that semester, but, more importantly, I learned a lot about teaching, learning, and the power of people to come together (to commune) around ideas. That’s the most amazing kind of communion I’ve ever experienced.

That year (and for several years following) I struggled and toyed with the notion of going back to graduate school for early modern literature. In the end, I chose a different path. Early this past Friday morning, as I was driving back from dropping Barbara Ganley off at Dulles airport, I realized something. The real reason I wanted to go get a PhD in lit back then was because I wanted to grow up to be Gardner Campbell’s colleague. In the end, I discovered that my calling lay in a different direction, but I still got my wish. How cool is that?

And, really, at the heart of my desire back then lay a wish to be colleagues with so many amazing teachers that I encountered at Mary Washington: John Morello, Terry Kennedy, Donald Glover, Bill Kemp, Gregg Stull, Tadesse Adera, to name just a few.

What made all of these teachers extraordinary was their willingness to give of themselves, their commitment to being in conversation with each other and their students. It’s that willingness that changed my life when I was a student; it’s that same willingness that we witness every year at Faculty Academy, and it is inspiring.

Coming back to work at the place where you studied–the place where you came into yourself–is both a blessing and curse. It is amazing to be given the chance to work with the very people who helped me find my voice. It is frightening, too. When I first arrived back at MWC to work in 2000, I felt like I was walking through a ghost town. Everywhere I went, this campus haunted me. I remembered a thousand moments of discovery, love, pain, and euphoria, each linked to a different building, green lawn, classroom, office. Those moments seemed so far away and yet so very close. And to encounter the very teachers who brought me so many of those moments, but to encounter them in this new context and as this new version of myself was jarring. The other people whom I shared those moments with — my classmates — were all gone and scattered. But I saw them everyday in faces of the students on campus walk or in the halls of duPont. They looked the same. I swear I could feel what they were feeling; I could read their minds.

Now, UMW feels more like the place I work than the place I went to school. Except, I’m still going to school here. I have the most amazing group of fellow travelers on this journey. We are quite the motley caravan.

And every year at Faculty Academy, I’m reminded of this in the most dramatic fashion. It shouldn’t take an event like this to remind me of what a gift I have. I will try to be better at remembering it, always.

Barbara’s Workshop: Random Notes & Thoughts

Notes from Barbara’s workshop:

* no two classes should necessarily have the same goals. Before you think about the tool or technology to use, think first about about the kind of class dynamic that you are hoping to foster and generate. A few questions: “what kinds of teaching will you do in class?” “How will your students spend their time out of class?” “What is the relationship between content and process?” “How will you make your pedagogy transparent?” (Transparent pedagogy — something to ponder)

* the play between “group” and “solo” varies according to the class goals.

* how do you spend the first few weeks of the semester? What’s your “opening act?”

* another question for students: “what in my life has brought me to this course?” Tell a story (dig. story) of one particular moment in your life that explains why you’re in this class. . .

* Bonding over digital storytelling — powerful force/magic

* great exercise on identifying learning moments, trends, commanilities, good stuff. Must to back to Barbara’s blog to take a look at the whole program

Feel the Power

The first day of Faculty Academy 2007 is wrapping up, and I’m enjoying the ITS Monster Mashup Show.
Overall, it’s been a great day: wonderful presentations by our guest speakers: Barbara Ganley and Alan Levine and a smorgasborg of sessions by UMW faculty. I wish I could have been in all of them; I’m looking forward to the podcasts.

Both Twitter and Google have been on the fritz today, and I choose to believe it’s the power of FA, pumping through the “tubes.” Luckily, we only use our power for good. 🙂

On Making Messes and Faculty Mentorship

I’m watching a panel discussion among Angela Gosetti-Murrayjohn, Susan Fernsebner, and Laura Blankenship, moderated by Steve Greenlaw. Sue just referred to a point in Barbara Ganley’s presentation earlier: is blogging already becoming passe? And, if so, what’s the next tool we’ll be embracing on the horizon? Or, as Sue put it “what mess can we make now?” (I’m paraphrasing; that’s basically what she said, though.). I love it.

Making messes is one of the parts of my job that I like most. It’s related to risk-taking, actually. I feel very lucky to be in a job that allows me to make messes and learn from my mistakes.

Another great thing about this panel is the fact that Steve is moderating. I knew that he had played a part in getting Angela to consider using blogs for her Afterlife and Homer courses, but I didn’t know that he’d also talked Sue’s ear off about blogs on a commute from NoVA to Fredericksburg–and is, at least partly, responsible for her own use of blogs this past year. Steve is a great example of the kind of faculty mentor that we need more of. Thanks, Steve.

Just to be clear, I feel very lucky to work at place like UMW that does have lots of faculty mentors like Steve. Faculty Academy is a great example of that!

Inspired by Barbara Ganley at FA

Barbara Ganley’s plenary presentation this morning felt to me like a call to arms–a reminder of how transformative blogging can be if we are willing to give ourselves up to the process of “slow blogging” that she discussed.

The word that resonated in my head afterwards was “risk.” A few weeks ago, when Jerry, Steve, and I presented at UCF, I had an interesting conversation with a faculty member afterwards (whose name I can’t recall at the moment) about the fact that at the heart of so much of what we are pushing faculty to do is the willingness to take risks. That willingness transcends personal choice in many ways–I think that the real willingness probably needs to happen at a higher, institutional level in order for it to filter down to individual faculty (and students). What would our lives be like if we all worked at institutions that valued risk-taking and were “okay” with the idea that, sometimes, the outcome of risk is failure.

These days, risk seems like a completely foreign concept to the business of higher education. Institutionally, aren’t we tending to make choices based on “good business models” and “market research?” Can those practices co-exist with risk-taking? I’m not so sure. . .and if risk-taking isn’t a part of the larger culture, how can we ask our faculty (much less our students) to be comfortable with it?

Or, am I wrong? Is part of the essence of risk-taking a grassroots commitment? I’m not sure. . .