Avoiding the rush to technique

July 13, 2012

As I have grown older, I have found it ever-so-slightly-more-difficult to sustain focused attention and thought.  I try, though, in so many facets of my life — from my interactions with my family, to conversations with colleagues, and in my contemplative practices.

One of today’s particular opportunities for sustained focus and thought occurred during  the second session of the book club in which I am participating.  We’re reading Palmer and Zajonc’s The Heart of Higher Education, and the particular challenge today was in sustaining our focus on the various dimensions of the rationale for integrative education.  Certainly, we touched on several potentially complex topics, such as spatial relativity, reductionism, and epistemology.   The temptation was to step around these topics and move, instead, to questions of “How do I do this in the classroom?”  Or, “Here’s why I can’t do this in my course.”    We experienced what Palmer warned us about — namely, a “…rush to technique, to problem-solve pressing educational dilemmas, (which) can obscure the indispensable need for a truly adequate foundation if our pedagogies are to serve the real aims of higher education” (page 61).  I think we’re beginning to build this foundation.  We just need to give the cement time to dry.



July 2, 2012

I’ve debated this long enough. “Time.”  That’s all that is needed.

“Time,” for the title, that is. At least that was my original point of reference, as in, “My, how time flies!”

But, clearly, there are other references. As in, “Time stood still.” It’s been four years since I last posted to this blog.  Four years!  Four.  Years.

Which got me wondering, what’s the record for the longest time between blog posts?  I don’t have a lot of, um, time, to look into this, but one guy wrote on his blog, ” Well folks, I just broke a record (not a good one) for the longest time between two blog updates. It was not unusual, I regret, to skip a week between updates, but I’ve now managed to skip two weeks!!!”  I probably have better things to do with, well, my time, so I’ll leave it with that.

But, holy jesus, four years!

I wish I had a compelling reason for going silent these past four years, let alone for breaking that silence now.  To the latter point, I did just come from the first session of a discussion group for the book, “The Heart of Higher Education: Transforming the Academy through Collegial Conversations.  It was a nice discussion, er conversation.  It was really nice having Fran, Brooke, Ali, Kirk, Scott, Warner, and (if even only for a short time) Dan there.  I facilitated this first session, so it’s a little hard for me to judge how it went.  I don’t have a ton of experience facilitating book discussions.  I tried to create space for open-ended, talk-about-what’s-on-your-mind conversations, while also being a bit prescriptive with some of the time we had together.  I had a few discussion questions ready, some of which we used.  We have three more sessions planned, and two of those will be facilitated by other members of the group.  I am really looking forward to participating next time in a role other than that of the facilitator!

Meanwhile, I don’t have a lot of extra time on my hands, so I’ll stop here.

Things that don’t write themselves

December 23, 2008

Apparently, blogs don’t write themselves.   Nor do the projects, e-mails, reports, doodling, and other goings-on of this working person.  I wish I could say that all of that and more got in the way of writing this blog, but, well … Wait a minute.  This is my damn blog and all those things did get in the way of writing this thing.  Oh, that and forgetfulness, dread, apathy, lethargy, and a dose of dysthymia.

Speaking of, I told my good friend David I would try to publish my little creative writing effort in which I use the word “dysthymia.”  If I don’t get it published, I’ll post it here someday.

Back to work.

A headful

September 13, 2008

If having acute viral nasopharyngitis wasn’t enough noise in my head, this week I listened to two very good speakers address two very important topics.  The first, on Wednesday, was Gordon Freedman, Vice President for Education Strategy at Blackboard Inc.  His affiliation to Blackboard aside, Gordon was on campus where he spoke passionately and purposefully about the desperate need to improve public education.  Although Gordon has a special interest in advancing the charter school concept, an interest I don’t entirely share with him, he has a clear vision of a much different and much improved public education system than we currently have in the US.   A vision, incidentally, I do share with him.

On the following day, I listened to a compelling audio presentation by Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.  Her presentation on Liberal Education for Everyone — Transforming Professional and Liberal Arts Programs reminded me of a lecture Leon Botstein gave at Xavier University of Louisiana several years ago when I was on the faculty there.  In each, the speakers exposed the threats to a liberal education and the dire need for a liberally educated populace. 

As enjoyable as each presentation was this week, the difficult work lies ahead in making use of the ideas to affect excellence in what we do for students here.   First things first, though: I gotta get over this nasty cold.


September 8, 2008

Today is the official start of the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course, a huge undertaking by George Siemens and Stephen Downes.  Although pale in comparison, my participation in this course will undoubtedly prove to be an undertaking of some large size itself.  You see, I have the attention span of a ___ (fill in the blank; my score of 39 puts me up there with, oh let’s say, a woodchuck).  Keeping up with the course will test this 39.

That being said, my homework for the course asks that I offer some background about myself and reference to my interests in or expectations for this course.  First, the background:

:: I played in the sand pile with toy trucks and tractors for the first 10 or so years.  Progressed to real tractors sometime after that.  Left tractors behind for Ph.D. in genetics and things botanical.   Taught at Xavier University of Louisiana for a bunch of years.  Now doing faculty development work at Ferris State University in Michigan.   Have a small, real John Deere tractor of my own now for no particular reason.

:: Interests?  Expectations for this course?  (This will test the 39 and your tolerance for incomplete sentences.)  Learning.  Want to know more about theory, practice, and social, emotional, neurological, and other dimensions.  Sucked in more each day to Web 2.0 experience, despite deliberate efforts to keep it at bay.   In the end, I’m seeking better language for theories and experiences for the learning/Web 2.0 milieu.

Common theme

September 3, 2008

The first real consideration I gave to starting a blog was in early 2006 when a friend of mine suggested I start one.  He said, “You need to share your thoughts with others.  Let people know what you’re thinking.”  Hell, I wasn’t even sure myself what I was thinking at the time.

You see, I, along with my family, had made a difficult decision to leave New Orleans.  Months early, we’d experienced the Federal Flood right there in our living room.  And kitchen.  And bedrooms.  And, well, I needn’t belabor the point.

Actually, maybe I should … and University, and kids’ schools, and friends’ homes…

Anyway, I was reluctant, sad, and regretful.  Yet hopeful, in some small way, that what we had decided would be okay.  And that we would be okay.

I’m still reluctant about many things.  Which brings me back to this blog.  I hadn’t thought again about starting a blog until I read this morning, “Set up your course blog…”

And so, here I am and here’s my blog, fulfilling — at least partially — the “pre-week 1” activities associated with a course in which I am enrolled called, “Connectivisim and Connective Knowledge.”

Oh, in case it was just too subtle, the title of this post, “Common theme,” is simply a reference to my inherent reluctance about so many things.  For example, I was reluctant to leave New Orleans.

And I’m reluctantly starting this blog.