Tag Archives: innovation

Cheers, Priests, and Gas Charges

Dr. Z
A Seminary Story
Professionally, the last few years have required several changes in direction–chair, faculty, interim jobs, and children leaving home for college.  At times, those shifts have left me disoriented, as well as carless.

It’s not that I expect such changes to be easy.  Just, on some level, I assume, or more accurately hope, that my experience will enlighten me when the plans I have made and shared become obstacles to overcome.

My last year in the seminary was a rough one–much of it my own making. Continue reading Cheers, Priests, and Gas Charges

Bicycles and Innovation

Dr. Z
Bicycling today,  I thought about a lit class I am teaching this summer.  I had planned to build the class around a series of group presentations on various aspects of class readings: historical criticism, biographic criticism, new criticism, feminist criticism.  Different views. Different approaches.  But I had begun to back away from that idea.  And I wondered why.

Why was I unwilling to try something new?   If the new approach did not work, I could adapt, change, or simply endure.  My administration encourages innovation.  I enjoy a certain autonomy in my classes.  Nobody would question the changes.  So why was I?

pathAll the while, I was bicycling though the master planned community where I live.  The bubble is about forty years old.  The original developer worked to maintain the feel of the forest that was torn down to make way for the homes.  Paths wind away from roads across golf courses along streams and back to the roads.

When we first moved here from The Panhandle, I tried to bike in the same way I had in the north. There, I would head out on long, uninterrupted rides on country farm roads.  Wind, cold, even snow, added to the joy of the rides.  I would return home exhausted and triumphant.  The solitude invigorated me.

Here, though, lights, traffic, and developments seemed to hem me in curtailing my rides.  I could not get out of the city; Houston stretches up, swallowing everything from College Station to Galveston.

It took me ten years to learn how to enjoy riding here.  I had to give up the sexy Italian racing bike Fuji CyclocrossI had bought with the raise and replace it with a cross, a gravel bike of sorts.  The turning point came about a year ago when I finally bought a bell–something I would have never deigned to do in the open plains.  I had to let go.

Now, I enjoy wandering the trails, sidewalks, paths greenbelts–whatever they are.  I enjoy becoming lost and turning back on myself, seeing new neighborhoods, coming across a snapping turtle, or cruising down the fake riverwalk.

I have started riding again.  But to do so, I had to let go of some of my preconceptions, some of my  pretensions, and some of my assumptions.

I am going to go ahead with the group projects for the summer.

League of Innovations 2015, Day 2

Revisiting what a community college classroom looks like.

When I started teaching online in ’96 (it sounds like one of those movie with Gaby Hayes)–the two of use working on developing the courses felt as if we were cutting paths in an unexplored wilderness.  We did not take the time to look around us to see all of the others tackling the same innovations from other directions.

Over the last few years, those of us in THE Initiatives have been excited with the idea of reshaping the classroom.   The sense is much the same.  We are pioneers moving into new, unexplored territories.

It is still disconcerting to look up and find others populating the wilderness we assumed was uninhabited.  Other pioneers working on similar projects.  People who share our values, our goals.  At first it is threatening.  But as I listen, I hear an affirmation of what we have accomplished and a challenge to continue moving forward.

League for Innovations 2015, Day 2

Adjunct Faculty Professional Development and Mentoring: I am holding out some hope for this one.

The Suburban Professor, some colleagues, and I have tackled this issue for years.  We have tried a wide range of approaches: seminars, workshops, round tables, embedded observations–all of it with limited success.

The struggle is understandable.

First and fore foremost, adjuncts are part time workers.  They have other obligations and receive minimum pay for  the jobs that they have been hired to perform.  They often lack the resources, motivation, or time to participate in outside activities.

And second–perhaps more damning and more immediate–is the culture of the community college.  Professors, instructors, administrators can not or will not admit to their limitations, shortcomings, or weaknesses.

The irony here is not funny; it is crippling.

In institutions founded on the notion of self improvement, growth, betterment, the leaders (faculty) place no value on their own self-improvement.  Professional development is an admission, a liability.  The education is complete.

A sweeping generalization I know.  But one that has been reinforced by years of observation and participation in professional development initiatives.

Before any professional development program gains momentum, the culture has to change.

Our students make a commitment.  They take a chance.  Financially, emotionally, socially.  They decide they want to become something more and make the decision to take the risk necessary to realize that goal.

I wonder if we have that same type of grit.

Along those lines, the session on Curmudgeons was a perfect follow-up.

League for Innovations 2015, Day 1

One of the last sessions I sat in today was on incorporating Facebook in a traditional Composition classroom.  The session was not particularly revolutionary.  The instructor, though, did an excellent job of providing a clear, concise approach to incorporating social media in a traditional, face to face classroom.

In passing at the end of the session, she pointed out the information Facebook provided, the data on the students’ interaction with the site.  The conversation quickly shifted to traditional concerns.  Classroom management, bad words, and bullying.

Everyone overlooked the powerful tool that she briefly flashed on the screen.  She has access to students’ behavior patterns.

This is nothing new.  D2L, Blackboard, the old Angel and WebCT platforms all provided similar information. What I found striking is academia’s continued oversight of the implications of that information.

In a conference dominated by vendors extolling various aspects of “analytics” (the latest buzz word appearing on every email out of system) and data collection, nobody seems to spot the potential of the data.

We do not need the precogs to predict the future.  We have the data to reshape the present.