Thursday, April 18, 2013

Finest of Work Songs

Three things happened this week that made me reflect on how crazy my teaching career has become, and how totally unprepared I was/am for what's next. This post is a combination of many ideas that I've been thinking about--don't judge me on smooth transitions or lack of coherence.

First, a much loved colleague has been hired at another college. It's that time of year. He's leaving us for a well-deserved position. I have just recently gotten to know him although we've been at the same school for the same amount of time. Every single thing that I have thought "Wow, that's awesome/cool/innovative/amazing/inspiring/interesting" this colleague either had a part in creating it or it was his idea. He put trust in me on a project that has never been done before, and I was so honored, I floated for days. This is such a huge loss for where I work, but his influence will live on. He's made our campus a better place, and I hope he knows that. I had to describe my ideal administrator the other day, and his leadership style came to my mind without a moment's hesitation. It's hard to not envy that campus got him!

Second, two chemistry teachers that I have enormous respect for are observing one of my online courses. Smart science teachers! Scary! As I discussed my fear with one of them, I admitted that being observed in an OL class is terrifying! At the same time, I've been observing local high school teachers all week. I am both the observer and the observed. If you teach college courses, I recommend making some time to connect with high school teachers by actually visiting a high school. You'll be amazed how familiar it feels (you'll see your former self in the hallways), and how very different their teaching environments are from ours. Endless kudos to high school teachers!

Third bizarre moment: I'm doing some training on reviewing online courses at the same time I need to develop my own. I feel like I'm being certified to be the architect when I really need to work on the construction of the building. 

Which makes me return to my presentation that is rapidly approaching and why I took some time to blog this morning.
Doing some more research on personal learning networks, I've raised the question to myself (and now to you, dear reader)--how big do you need it to be?

I think a lot of teachers have what my mentor/friend calls "peeps" in teaching. A lovely word from the world of hip-hop put into the context of teaching. I think many teachers have peeps that they email. Small groups that they tweet. Individuals they text questions to about what we do. We need peeps.

Every time I have seen REM live, Michael Stipe introduces everyone in the band and says, "We're REM, and this is what we do." I've always thought that was hilarious. Like we don't know, Michael! But I get it now. Saying it, makes it so.

PLNs, big or small, are a way of saying just that. "This is what we do."
And I'm not alone.

One of my peeps sent me this a few days ago and I got to read this morning. I sent an email response, and I thought I'd share it here:
I loved how the writer truly cares about the future and past of OL learning. Here's what I took issue with (bold emphasis mine):

Online learning not only will fail; in its current iterations it already has. We should not try to fix what's wrong with online learning now; instead, we should pretend it never happened, start from scratch, and begin playfully outside the borders of how we’ve always taught and how we relate to the machines that can help us teach. 

I don't think we should pretend the era he is discussing never happened. New OL teachers take a lot of comfort in learning about our mistakes. One teacher told me recently, "Wow, you really messed up a lot. I'm glad I won't have to go through that."  They have also said "This online stuff will change how I teach in the classroom." Maybe completely "starting from scratch" isn't the best advice. Maybe we're bored of the same menu!

We better best rearrange. 

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