This seminar has provided so many great lessons, but the most valuable for me was the chance to see how other faculty members use technology in unique and fascinating ways. It’s been truly eye opening to see these tools being used to help students in every kind of class from Math to English to Philosophy of Art. Even if I never get on the Twitter-bandwagon, it’s been educational for me to see how it can be used to expand learning opportunities for students and faculty alike. The combination of face-to-face meetings and the seminar blog have worked together beautifully to give us hands-on time but also time to explore on our own and report back on what we’ve learned.
I guess what I would always like to know more about is how to keep doing this for myself, especially once I no longer have the support of the seminar. I’ve tried various things with varying degrees of success but I know that there’s so much more still out there that I have not yet tried. Plus, there are new things happening every day and the need to keep up feels a bit overwhelming. I’ve come to realize that it’s OK not to do it all but I would like to have a strong repository of tools that I know work for my classes. This seminar has definitely helped me get closer to that goal but I’m not there yet.
My favorite and least favorite moment is one and the same and it exemplifies both the possible advantages and possible drawbacks of the work this seminar encourages us to do. Ximena, Jason, and I connected our classes in a discussion of Emily Dickinson’s poem “I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain” (I write about it here and here and share student feedback on the activity here). As I’ve written already, the plan was somewhat complicated and the fact that we were using different platforms (Facebook and GoogleDocs) was confusing. The timing was also not great; it was just the second week of classes and things were still very new for students. Because Jason and I both had classes that met just once a week, we felt rushed to squeeze everything into a limited time frame. Despite all the things I would do differently, it was truly exciting to see students so engaged in the work of their peers. They were fascinated to learn what other students had to say about the poem, to see what other professors were doing in their classes, and to get and provide comments to fellow students. My biggest regret was not doing another similar activity at another point in the semester. This activity took so much time and energy and generated so much stress for me that I just didn’t do it again and that’s a shame. My students would have enjoyed doing similar interactions in a more sustained way. Of course, we continued to use Facebook to interact amongst ourselves but I could have kept us connected to other classes and I wish I had done a better job of that this semester.
The future is so hard to predict. The technology we use today may be obsolete in 5 or 10 years or it may be so different from the current version that it won’t serve the same purposes. My goal is to keep up as best as I can so that I will continue to try new things and see whether or not they work. I am somewhat concerned about using computer labs so heavily in classes. I firmly believe in the importance of class discussion and sitting at computer screens can make the student interactions I would like to see more difficult. I have developed strategies to combat this problem but it’s still an issue, especially for my once-a-week class that meets only in a computer lab.
Future participants should be ready to experiment, to try things they don’t feel comfortable trying, to fail, sometimes, and learn from that failure. Technology is exciting but also scary for many of us and this seminar can help conquer that fear if you’re willing to go with it and see what happens. Keeping an open mind is also important, as is a willingness to see things from different perspectives. I would also suggest you not be too hard on yourself. This isn’t easy and one yearlong seminar is not going to answer all your questions. It will, however, introduce you to a whole new world of possibilities and that’s a wonderful thing. My thanks to Jason and Ximena for making this seminar such a rich, rewarding, and fun learning experience.