I’m not very good at that. I’m a planner. And a perfectionist (in recovery). There is something very appealing to me about making a plan and having things unfold as expected. Cue the hard reality: life doesn’t unfold that way. That was the big lesson of my 30s. And I hated it…until I learned to embrace it, because along the way, I discovered that the unexpected actually made life more fun and enriching. It led to new paths that I never would have predicted or planned. And they were (wait for it) better than the things I had planned, in many ways. And the ones that weren’t, I at least learned a lot from, and (begrudgingly) became a better person for it. Pretty much without exception.
So here we are, arriving at the end of the week-long university seminar on general education. And there have been a lot of unexpected surprises. I delighted in hearing Randy Bass speak about the future of higher education. And I am incredibly excited now to be (unexpectedly) participating in a symposium about Designing the Future(s) of the University, organized by his group, in a couple weeks. I loved hearing Amy Nelson speak about the fascinating work she had done transforming her class on Russian history into a hybrid connected learning experience. But having heard her speak at ALTfest, that was expected. However, since her talk was live streamed, my fabulous co-instructor Dr. Amy Adkins, who is my co-conspirator on our Spit for Science class (read: she makes it all happen), was also able to tune in. That was pleasantly unexpected.
Also unexpected for me, has been the diversity of responses to the week: ranging from despair to delight (OK confession: the latter is me), filled with thoughtful comments and questions. I really enjoy the back and forth exchange – especially when it happens within the same person! But I have to confess that I don’t fully understand the depth of concern that has been raised, though perhaps I should have been more prepared, since these debates are not new. No one is being forced to change their teaching methodologies or to change their course. The idea of the week was to introduce new possibilities for teaching – things made possible by the introduction of connected learning practices and the use of digital technologies and the web. And the idea of promoting integrative thinking is not new, as several individuals pointed out during our lively seminar discussions. So why the degree of push-back and concern? I admit that I don’t fully understand. If you don’t want to blog, then don’t. If you don’t want to make a course trailer, then don’t. If you want simply to stand up in front of a class and lecture every week, then go right ahead. Why all the fuss? In a cynical moment I would say that there is a fear that if others start to embrace new technologies and pedagogies, there is fear that one will get left behind. Evolution has a way of marching forward and driving behavior over the long term. Sometimes that’s scary. Some species go extinct. But great teachers are great in a myriad of ways. And universities are filled with great people. So go be great. And now you have a few extra tools in your toolbox.