The Pieces of My Puzzle

I am a creator. I survived high school largely due to my experiences in woodshop, ceramics, welding, and stained glass. In college I discovered a school that allowed me to roam the community and the wilder world as make those experiences become part of my “academic” journey. I feel lucky that it all happened that way.

Of course, because I wanted to create things as a student, when I became a teacher I had my students create stuff. The electric tools at that point, about 1996, were just becoming something that classroom might have. Printing in color, video and images, and the web, were all just about to become tied together and made into something that a mortal soul could manage. And create things within.

So we did. Some were in print. Some were text that could float across continents. Some were videos with a message for someone. The best were the ones that documented the moments in our lives with some reflection.


Later, as a college faculty and as an instructional designer I was introduced to even more tools. Strange things with strange names like Diigo and Ning. They made some new things possible and some old things a bit easier or more user friendly. Life was good. My students created work, the faculty I worked with created useful and not so useful content for students.

In that evolution of technologies and possibilities, I think one of the most useful tools to me had been the idea of my own space. A place that I control. One I can make blue or yellow. Sad or happy. One that stays close to me and private or one that can wander the wilds of the internet. I am still headed down that road, even as I write this. What are these things I share? Are they really of value to others? To me?

One event, that probably occurred over several years, was that I started reading poems I had created to small groups of people and printing them and sharing them with others. I remember the struggle between knowing that I had something to say, something I felt important and hoped others might find useful, and the fear of sharing those things. Poems are usually held pretty close to the heart. Sharing them is difficult. Or it was for me.

And now, many years later, I realize that I wrote all those poems for myself. I needed them more than anybody. That I shared them was just me learning to be more generous or kind. Or something.

So, I guess my answer to the prompt for the week is that I have found my little space here on this WordPress site something that has value to me. It is a place I can tie together disparate ideas and various media into a new creation. Something I make. Something I can hopefully learn from.


Here are a few examples of things we created in a high school English Classroom between 1996 and about 2005.

Website about Communication

Video of a Puppet Show

Wilderness Literature class

A Portfolio of Work

A Magazine of Poetry

Presenting Past the 32 People in the Room

I love this topic. I have two complaints. And I have a few possible solutions.

PART ONE: CONFERENCES SHOULD DEMAND MORE THAN POWERPOINT FILES

As a conference presenter, I remember the first time I saw that I could upload a file to some webserver that presumably would share the file with conference attendees. That was cool. Later, it became a thing, and now often softly demanded. I remember how hard it was to go back and find those files from my presentation, let alone other presentations. A couple of years ago I had to call one of the conference organizer folks and ask if rather than a file, I could share a URL. “You mean you don’t have a PowerPoint?” I had to tell them I did not. I just had a website with all the stuff I wanted to share. “Nope” No PowerPoint, no sharing.

Thankfully I had other ideas. And of course, there are conference hashtags and all. So I shared, despite the restraints of the event software.

And the web has evolved and we are smarter. Now it is more normal to share stuff though I think we are still learning. Now we record some of the fancier sessions. We share those and the PowerPoint files.

What if a conference website became just what we are experiencing here in #CCCWrite? After the conference started each session that day would be a brilliant blog post with text, images, videos, links, and the opportunity to comment and share. No log in. Just good ideas flowing down the rectangle before you. Like a frickin’ waterfall of brilliance!

We are making progress. Check out this OER conference schedule and the YouTube recordings of sessions. Pretty awesome start. I suppose I think that at this point in time, we could demand a bit more from presenters and make that good information available to the community.

Personally, my strategy these past few years is to bring business cards I make myself on the printer down the hall. They have a cute picture, the name of the presentation and the URL where all the stuff is. I give them to all the people in the room and often leave then one tables during opportune moments during the conference. Sort of spamming the conference community with my stuff. Maybe that’s not so good.

The websites usually look about like this or maybe like this: Some look like this one and others like this one. I have been trying and for me, they work. Good enough.

I am still learning how to do this. And I like to make fun cards.

PART TWO: UNIVERSITIES SHOULD DEMAND MORE THAN SUMMARIES OR THREE MIN. PRESENTATIONS

For my first presentation of my conference experience at a division meeting, I was allowed exactly three minutes. So was a colleague who had attended some other event. Literally, three minutes. It was on the agenda. Three minutes. I sweated through the experience. The VPAA was there. My boss, in the front row. I was terrified. That was in 2008 (still PowerPoint days) and I had attended the League for Innovations Conference in Denver.

Later that year, I was able to share the experience in a longer session with faculty in our Summer Institute. I was still so pissed about the division meeting that I titled the presentation “Joint Division Meeting.” Here is that presentation.

I was not a faculty, but the person who shared their experiences at the division meeting with me was. As noted, she got the three minutes too. That got me asking questions. If we send faculty or staff to conferences, what do we expect upon return? Well, all these years later I have learned that is varies from place to place. As it should, right. My guess is that we could ask a bit more. And I say that because I think two things.

  1. Asking them to reflect on the experience in writing/video/images is good for anyone
  2. By sharing it with the larger community we all stand to learn something.

I know that teams like mine staffed with people who have the ability to share ideas widely, and in many forms, can help faculty do just that. Maybe we could help those conference goers create not only meaningful exhibits of their experiences, but perhaps help them as presenters by imagineering better presentations?

And these things could all be linked together is some space that is organized and understandable. It would be useful for incoming faculty because it would have some great examples of tools and strategies in the classroom. All kinds of things.

So there. Let’s ramp up our vision of delivering experiences. Let’s play music when people come into our spaces. Greet them. Share ideas that can be expressed in the room we are in, but then past the walls of the conference into the world wide community. Just like we are doing here with #CCCWrite.

 

Are We There Yet?

“All good things arrive unto them that wait–and don’t die in the meantime.”

– Mark Twain in letter to Orion and Jane Clemens, 1889


I wish I had learned things earlier in life that required patience. As a kid I looked for the quick fix. Instant gratification. Not just as a child, but till I was like 27. Or 29. I lived as Veruca Salt. Maybe 36.

“I want the works

I want the whole works

Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises

Of all shapes and sizes

And now

Don’t care how

I want it now

Don’t care how

I want it now”

 

Some how I survived. I think it is miraculous. Really. Now, a few years later, I have learned the lessons of gardening. That things take time. And care. Are often fraught with failure and messiness. I am sure part of that is age. Part, because I have actually done more gardening. Either way, I wish I had more patience when I was younger. Or just last week when….

I brought that to my students. It was a gift I could share with them, just as I did the world of language and the magical spaces of literature. As a teacher, I have learned that progress is good. I have learned it is easy to miss the progress we make because are are busy looking for the next bit of progress. And then the next. And the next.

The process of progress is a better story than the final score on a quiz or essay. Within the story of progress there are people, places, moments of wonder and disbelief. A good reading of that story is a far more informative description of “what one is knowing” than what one knows. The evaluation is the end of the story. No, it is just another beginning. And these stories take some time to tell, and to hear, to see and to appreciate. I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I don’t have time. I can’t fix that story. But I can assure you, the only thing we have is this time.

Gardening is a cycle of time. Seasonal. Annual. It moves between time and through it. Each unique and each endless; each tied closely to the last. The great circle of life.

These days I work with faculty. I see them hurried to figure things out. To fix things they believe are broken. To do things they feel a need to do. All too often they are nervous. Worried. Technology is fast like a new toaster oven. If it comes from a computer, it should be efficient and correct. There seems to be a belief that whatever needs to happen, can happen fast. I tell them a different story.

I often tell them I can fix it for you now, or we can learn it together over some amount of time. I remind them that me doing it for them will only put them in the same position next time it happens. I tell them that these digital tools are very complex and that the art of teaching is far more complex. It takes time. I remind them that it is ok to let students know they are learning it too.

I appreciate the need to do things “right” or “on time.” I know faculty want to be seen as knowledgeable and capable. I do too. And the class starts next week. Or We just changed the LMS over the summer and I need to learn the new one, fast! I don’t have time to learn it! I don’t have time! Yes, I know that story.

Part of the circle of life is not knowing. Part of failure is success.

There is little in this small patch of dirt worth getting anxious about. Turn the soil. Give things space. Water the sprouts carefully. Prune when necessary. Let insects in, but pay attention. Share what is grown.

So I suppose I wish I had known that I could just breathe (like my yoga teachers always say) and open my eyes and move forward. Without anxiety. Without so much stress. Without hoping it will be fixed instantly. I have more time! I have more time! I have time!


“Yes” you are saying. Hal Ashby. I know right. Did you know that there is a movie coming out titled Hal. Here is the trailer.