Do We Behave Like “The Best Things in Life Are Free?”

Yesterday I spoke with Mary Bart from Faculty Focus and asked her for some “vendor swag” for our 9x9x25 Challenge. I asked because our Challenge is short a week or two of weekly rewards.

After I explained the Challenge to Mary she said, “Great idea. Sure, I’ll send you some stuff,” and she said I should write up the process for a future Faculty Focus article. I will do that. The college and the 9x9x25 Challenge get some airtime on Faculty Focus, Mary gets good content for the Faculty Focus and other institutions and teachers get to learn along with us. It is win/win for both of us. What other places, people, and companies might we work with? I was also left wondering, “Why not help each other as we try to help ourselves?” We are writing with and for our faculty, but what about the broader audiences we might reach and the professional groups or companies we could learn from and share with? (These concepts are currently trending as words like “collaboration” and “partnerships” )

edcamp_logo2Anyone ever been to an EdCamp? I went to my first one in Phoenix last year. It was a great opportunity to share ideas with other educators and be ACTIVE in each session. The event really promoted another awesome word to use in academia these days, “engagement.”  Here is some language from EdCamp:

Mission: To support free edcamp unconferences for educators to exchange ideas and learn together. Edcamps are:

  • free
  • non-commercial and conducted with a vendor-free presence
  • hosted by any organization interested in furthering the edcamp mission
  • made up of sessions that are determined on the day of the event
  • events where anyone who attends can be a presenter
  • reliant on the “law of two feet” that encourages participants to find a session that meets their needs

Our 9x9x25 Challenge has some of these characteristics. “Free.” Up to this week, week four, it has only cost the college a bit of my salary for organizing and clicking some buttons. Everything else, from the Webletter to the teacher’s blogs and the weekly rewards, it has cost the college exactly NO dollars. That is interesting to me. Really interesting! At the risk of sounding like an article in the Chronicle, I’ll say, “Damn, that is efficient.” And like the EdCamps, the 9x9x25 Challenge also asks participants to be ACTIVE. They are not just participating in the event. They ARE the event!

I was warned yesterday by a concerned colleague not be pushing for the “no cost to the college” agenda out of spite. And truth be told, there is a part of my puzzle that wants to “prove” that there are ways of doing thing better than we currently do them, for way less money. I even remarked yesterday at the Arizona Town Hall gathering that some of the best things TeLS has been able to accomplish for/with the college have been things that were done outside the parameters of college resources and funding. The Cybersalon is a good example, as is the Webletter itself.  They don’t have the often crushing weight of college bureaucracy, policy, and regulations to hinder them.  Yay!

Personally, I am hoping that we can all say at the end of this adventure that we have created some meaningful work, both to each writer and to those who read the work. I am also intrigued by making the Challenge something that can be run without college assistance and seeing if it can be replicated (or a similar structure) in a K12 environment or at another college.

Getting the 9x9x25 Challenge to be self-sufficient where money is concerned would be a good thing. Imagine being able to say “Look at the great work we have created and it cost the college nothing!” I know our bean counters would be happy. Who might we approach to share these ideas with and what groups or organizations might we provide assistance to in our sharing of ideas? What might they be able to contribute to our goal of writing and honoring our teachers? I am going to be looking for these opportunities for next year and the 9x9x25 Challenge.

As for the spite and my journey where sweaty dollar bills are concerned I am so aligned with the themes and issues in video below, I fear I’ll never recover. But as long as the guitar still sings, who cares?

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2 Responses to Do We Behave Like “The Best Things in Life Are Free?”

  1. Mark Shelley says:

    Todd,
    “Resonate” is an understatement. This Challenge has certainly infused meaningful conversation in the hallways! Honestly, the nine weeks is going to be taxing, but I think most of us participating see it as well worth it. There’s been talk of some kind of journal. Once a month (instead of once a week) entries. Perhaps something more formal, maybe not. Thank you, and keep pushing on us. 🙂
    Mark