It was great to be in the environment. By that I mean there were ideas wandering around and people who had little to do other than wonder about them. I was able to spark up many conversations before sessions, after sessions, and at lunches and dinner. It is always nice to be in that kind of space. My proposal was not accepted, but I would be willing to try again. I will.
On the whole I think that I saw and heard some new ideas, but mostly, as usual, I seemed to cement some of the ideas or opinions I already have. That may or may not be a good thing, but at Yavapai we have so many good things going and if we are lacking, it is just because we are not quite “there yet.” What does that mean?
Mandatory Training to be Teachers (not just “online” but…)
We are not quite there yet where our online teaching guidelines and faculty expectations regarding them. We are behind when it comes to having a mandatory plan of training. Our biggest problem is not that we “don’t have one” but rather that no one, or no group, has been willing to get out there and demand the implementation of some formal and required training. Most colleges at this point do have mandatory training of some kind. Most are 2 months or longer. Most involve a pass/fail and the result of failure is that you don’t get to teach online. The end.
As much as I hate to use the words “hybrid” and “blended” we also could use a bit of clarity when it comes to what those things are and how we go about doing them in classrooms/online. It is as if the words themselves create barriers to opportunity for students and teachers. In many cases, teachers and students just go around the words and use what works. At the base level, grading is a good example. We market F2F classes were tests must be taken online or at the very least, you have to go online to see your grades. That seems more like “hybrid.”
Anyway, there was much conversation about the notions of blended learning and what it is and how it works. More than any particular strategy the conversation seems driven by the realization that most schooling is done in a blended environment whether we want it to be or not. If that is the case, we are back to, “What is best practice.”
I had drinks with Lisa Young, Sian Proctor, and several of the teachers from Scottsdale Community College. My big takeaway from that was that Lisa is heading up a district wide OER implementation plan. She now works part time in the district office and the rest of the time at her position as a faculty/instructional designer.
Maricopa is going full ahead with OER after the success of Donna Gaudet and the math departments successful creation and use of the resources. I attended three OER sessions, one included some conversations at a “vendor party” at a room in the Hilton. There is a pretty big movement in that direction at many schools and it seems like it is slowly coming out of the woodwork. Yavapai College would be wise to get some folks, both instructors and administration, to advocate for a broader approach to the use of OER content at the school. Lisa said that they started with Donna and her division in math at Scottsdale and a president that was “interested.” By seeing what had happened for students savings on textbooks, the president finally became a believer. We need one of them.
Vendors… The Next Music/Textbook Industry?
The vendor booths at this conference were unreal! Many, many of them were as large as the entire TeLS office area. Maybe larger. There were literally cheerleaders in uniforms and dancing dinosaurs! The glitz and glamour was pretty sad. The anxious faces of salesmen eyeing you like a frosted cupcake was troubling. I guess that is how they all are, but this conference had by far the most massive displays and the most salesman. I spent very little time in the exhibit hall. It was uncomfortable.
Ken Robinson and Jane Mcgonigal
It was really powerful to see Ken Robinson. I sat in the front row! For both speakers I was in the front row! I took the picture below. I was that close! And it was a packed room. There were 6,000 people at the conference and I bet most were at Ken Robinson. Slightly less for Jane Mcgonigal.
Ken Robinson was motivating and he shared a bunch of stories that seemed unrelated to the conversation about creativity. When he did start looking at the nature of creativity it was from the perspective of “freedom to create.” He pointed out that developing creative habits comes from allowing ourselves to become unchained from “default” structures and “collective norms.” I suppose for me I am doing more of that, or I am trying to.
Jane Mcgonigal has a great message to the overly structured, grade as goal oriented classroom experience so many students face. Back in the day, Prescott College was pretty clear on “it’s the journey, not the destination” being applied to all aspects of the class. The notions of gaming and the emotions tied with it bring some of the process as content back to the world of academic experience. How do we keep people engaged in the learning?
It is a tough sell in a time when so much rests on prefabricated courses and objectives and even tests (you can see that most clearly in Common Core type top-down administrative policy pushes) where the goal becomes less about the process of learning and more on “data” in scores accumulated at the very end of the event.
I met the keynote speaker for the upcoming SILT conference in Flagstaff. In fact, I had lunch with him. His name is Chuck Dziuban and he is the Director of the Research Initiative for Teaching Effectiveness at a university in Florida. He even has an award named after him?
The poster sessions were done digitally and he had one of them. The poster sessions have some materials found here: http://www.educause.edu/annual-conference/poster-gallery
The sessions with the “View Poster Session Resources” actually have handouts and other material. Kinda nice. They also have some recordings available to the public.
You can see my complete notes from the sessions I attended by clicking here.
You can see oodles of tweets from the conference below.
Ken Robinson played the following 2 minute long video to illustrate what happens when there is too much structure or pre-arrangement of stuff in learning spaces, and how we often prompt the “correct” answer with our policy, rules, and classroom expectations.