When You Plan for Fun Activities but Just Keep Talking

Last week, I attended the Building Bridges conference in Spokane, Washington. The conference is regional, always located in the Pacific Northwest states, and it brought a variety of people in the education landscape to the beautiful downtown area of Spokane. I had never seen the Spokane Falls or the beautiful Centennial Trail that covers about 50 miles along the Spokane river.  One afternoon I took a nice run along the river and ran around the Gonzaga University campus for a bit.

The conference had good attendance and the venue was beautiful.

I tried out a new presentation about ways we may better engage faculty in development opportunities as educators.Conference Website banner

Here is the website I used as a presentation. No PowerPoints allowed for me these days. I figure I am the presentation, and I can make the website do all the work I need for visuals. As usual, I shook the hands of all who entered the session and joked about the Harry Nilsson playing in the background. There were about 30 attendees and I had some good activities for them to complete during the session. Sadly, I never got to them.

I had in mind an active session, but I got caught up in explaining the ideas I was presenting. As a presenter, it is an interesting thing to have grand plans that are instantly recognized as impossible. I knew after about ten minutes that I had too many damn things to say and I was going to choose telling them stuff rather than to have them do stuff.

I told them as much. At least I was honest about my plan and my choice to follow a new path. No one seemed too upset. Some of the things I shared were kinds catchy and fun, and I did ask if people had questions a number of times during the session. There was some interaction and some participants did do the activities I had prepared. Generally, the message I had was received.

Without going into much detail, I tried to share some of the professional development activities I have been involved in that were variations on the hour-long workshop, a PDF file, or website with some information on it. You can see those listed along the top navigation on the presentation website listed above. Essentially, trying to find formats, timeframes, and content that fit together in a way that make them things faculty want to do. That is tricky.

I got good feedback from some participants saying that they may use some of the ideas expressed in the future. I suppose that is a win!

I struggled with the room set up as usual. I almost got the nerve up to move the tables into a large horseshoe, but wimped out.

I met some really good people from all over the PNW and hope to be able to attend the event again next year.

Where is Your Frontier?

Last week the person the Quality Matters Twitter account direct messaged me three questions. They said, “We want to know what YOU think! Help set the stage for our intrepid, seasoned panelists who will engage with a set of questions about our future and your own responses to these questions.” Nice. It would be good for the speakers to have some ideas about the interests and concerns of the people they are talking to.


I wondered what that looks like in classrooms. I suppose it is the teachers asking a “Why are you here?” sort of question at the outset of the course. I like that. It is good to know who wants to go where, and why.

I think these are good questions to wonder about. I will share the questions and my answers here for this post.

Q1: What is YOUR vision of the future for teaching and learning? What’s the prize we are looking for – once we get where we are going?

That teaching and learning will be engrained within the community and the roles of students and teachers become blurred into the many roles people play in communities. Students will be responsible for doing important tasks within our communities. There will be more adventure. Not just adventure of the brain, but of the body. Of the soul. Schooling will become messier. It will be harder to define lines between the “school” and “life.” Fewer people will say, “When I get out into the real world…” There will be more teachers because the profession will become one that many aspire to be a part of. For many reasons. But the schools themselves, the buildings and “things” of school, will become more engrained in the way communities function.

We are looking for people who have a broad range of experiences behind them and know how to place themselves in places that make them work. Make them think. And make them questions their existing ideas. Not just people who know stuff, but people who can imagine things and have the desire to make those things realities.

We are going to create healthy and happy people. People who have confidence in their capabilities. People who are honest and hard working. People who want to be more and are capable of getting it.

Q2: What will that path look like? What should we expect to see?

Students and schooling will become more visible. You will see them outside of school buildings more often. The “students” will play larger roles in doing things that are necessary for communities to function. They will be given work in school that requires more than mental effort. It will require physical effort and lots of it.

— on a side note here, I am sort of reminded of our current infatuation and longing for qualities like “grit” and “perseverance” and “completion” and how we assess those things simply by the quantity of numbers/letters on a piece of paper. There are better ways to learn how to keep going. The world is full of opportunities to literally dig into or walk though spaces that challenge our endurance. That make us sweat and work for a goal. Largely, we have reduced those options to some test scores.


Anyway, in the future, when schooling is on a more amazing path, we will find that we have created in students a resource for our community. One that contributes directly to our shared daily life beyond amassing piles of worksheets and PowerPoint files. The students and teachers will be doing “service learning” every day. They will find mentors in adults in the community and create relationships that bridge the age lines we drew with social promotion as the only indicator of capacity. Students will be away from home more often. They will travel to places to touch the things they currently only read about. There will be more field trips.

Q3: What obstacles can we expect along the way?

Our history.

Not that what we have accomplished is nothing short of miraculous, but that we have made errors and that we must be willing to remedy them. That will take more advocacy from parents, teachers, and local communities and federal and state government. That of course, will take time.

Reminders to Myself

I suppose there are a lot of reasons why it has come to this point. Why we still settle for passive classrooms full of students asked to do little more than listen for an hour a week or more. Why we still settle for largely rote memory assessments of student “learning” over a 15-week period that often come to a grinding halt. Why we keep using only the institutionally procured products rather than the community around us or the amazing resources that surround us.

There are a lot of reasons.

More people in the village.

A lifetime of passive learning experiences as students and teachers in “schools.”


Not enough hours of daylight.

Yesterday one of our faculty came into our offices and shared some of her summer course with us. The month long course spend part of the time in Alghero, Sardinia. Yeah, like in another country. We talked about some of what students experienced and you can imagine what we heard. The challenges. The trials. The difficulties. The amazing moments. The sunsets over the Mediterranean. Just take a look at what they did. What they experienced. Look at what they wrote. What they lived. Here is the class site.

image of coastline

After she left, I was wondering as anyone would, “Why has most of our schooling become sitting in rooms?”

I know. Sure, there are these initiatives, many just recently adopted, called “service learning” or “community based learning” or “active learning” or “life-long learning.” Some of those have come into our institutions and for whatever reason, after a few years of implementation gone by the wayside. Some have stayed. There are many reasons.

I know. I remember taking students away from campus for two weeks backpacking or mountain biking and the challenges I had negotiating family responsibilities. Other courses. What little social life I had. It is hard to take students out of a classroom to go anywhere, much less for an extended period of time. It is not part of the “normal” view of schooling. It is never “expected.” Maybe it should be? Anyway, there are a lot of reasons not to do such things.

Becoming is hard work. It is often uncomfortable.

As one of the student from the Sardinia class notes in the video below, “Maybe we just need to push ourselves into uncomfortable situations.”

There are a lot of reasons why the schooling experiences of so many has too often become so dreary. It is not about the amazing teachers I have known over the years. It is not about the administrators who rise to these great challenges in the landscape of schools and society. It is not about all those students who sit there in classrooms waiting for amazing things to happen. It is about me. Each day. Each decision.

Sometimes I just need to remind myself to push the boundaries and to feel that uncomfortable feeling. Sometimes I just need to remind myself. So today, I have.

image of Becoming is Superior to Being

Ways to Use Videos in Your Class

Last week I spoke to some of the Masters of Nursing faculty about the various ways video content can be used in a classroom. As I am new here to UW, I do not have a lot of openly available videos created by faculty to share. So I used some from faculty at Yavapai College. They show a variety of purposes a video may have. Instructional, an introduction, a useful aside, or an assessment of some work. I think it is a good representation of the types of videos we might create.

We created a single page handout trying to capture in a consumable format just the basic rational for creating video content for courses. It does matter what delivery is used. Face to face or online, there are many reasons that a short video can be something students can use to learn, or perhaps be inspired.


For the many who are already engaged in creating videos, we know the tools. Tegrity, Panotpto, YouTube, Jing, your phone, or your friends phone, or some app on a tablet. Lots of options and none of the tools require a doctorate in bioengineering.


Later this month I am headed down to Portland to attend a Quality Matters conference where I am to present about the value of faculty sharing their strategies for meeting the standards using short videos. We did that at Yavapai College and called it the March for Best Practice. I made a fancy website for the presentation. It looks like this. It was pretty successful. The vision was a wall of short videos that faculty could watch as other faculty described how they met the standards. Seems easy enough, right?


I thought it would be a good idea for me to gather some other videos made by anyone willing to share before the conference so I could point to them and say, look, we can do this! But, I am having a heck of a time getting conference participants to share their strategies. Maybe as the conference draws closer I’ll get more involvement. On a slightly sad note, I am reminded again of the challenges of getting people to make videos of anything other than their cats. If you want to share how you meet a standard, you can by clicking here.