This is my first post for 9 X 9 X 25.
Mea culpa. I tried waiting for October, but it seems I just had to get this down as I was mulling it over while racing between meetings today. I am sure I will make it up with the next.
I know it sounds simple, but I really had no idea what I wanted to write about. So I naturally did what I usually do, I hit the reply button and asked Terry for guidance and advice. Probably the nicest thing about extend is that people really go out of their way help you, and within a minute I had a reply.
Terry said “you can write about whatever you like”.
This was a huge problem, and one that mirrors asking for specific advice about teaching in the classroom. Now I know that Terry is not TI (see https://youtu.be/nQJACVmankY for more detail on that front), but you often hear “you can do whatever you like” in the context of what or how you should deliver classroom content.
I understand that I have academic freedom, and I can deliver content in the way that best matches the objectives of the course and the unique learning conditions in the classroom. I can even work in pirate jokes that suit my personality and teaching style
(as one student said in class last year: “we get it, this is really not funny, don’t try so hard”, then again, not everyone appreciates a good Arr2-D2 joke). That being said, I have often wished someone would just say “go to class and do X: your students will be engaged, you’ll walk away happy with your lecture and activity, homework will get done, attendance will be up, and most importantly, you will never be frustrated with Bloom’s Taxonomy“.
But alas, it seems that such a panacea does not actually exist. In fact, each one of these topics require a meeting with someone, using resources, and finding a place where you are comfortable making strategic decisions in the course and living with the consequences. In fact, each one of these challenges was a learning opportunity where something new and interesting happened. When I look at how I assign homework, the pace and design of class/lab/lectures, record videos, and a million other small choices, these decisions are all the result of a moment where I needed to sit down and figure things out.
Looking back over the past year, there has been countless educational experiences that come together into the form of my ongoing teaching practice. Trying new things is often challenging to wrap your head around. It can be exciting, crazy, and nerve wracking, but all of that leads to something really neat: some innovations actually work. I am trying things this semester that are new and different (in terms of grading, material, delivery, my schedule and class expectations) and so far it’s working well. Yes, it can be whatever you like, but you really do learn a whole lot from colleagues, students, and trial and error.
So far things are going well. I think I am fortunate to be in a space where I have the flexibility to try new things, colleagues that are interested in exploring new ways to teach and connect with students and the material, and many peers who are struggling with the same issue. My students generously go along with trying new things, and who knows? We may even find a better system along the way. I don’t suppose my courses will ever be as immersive or engaging as the apps my students use (wait, I have a great idea for an app), but the material can always be presented in a way that draws students in and makes it engaging, relative and exciting.