Friday, September 02, 2011


Most of you who read this little blog of mine know that I started it when I embarked on my transitional journey from student to professor... over the years I've shared my adventures with you, and, of a more entertaining nature, my horrific (and occasionally impressive) students' work. If you need a refresher on any of these, I'm listing a couple of classics below for you:

Now I find myself back in a transition... from professor to student again - which is admittedly a little odd, and since I'm not a TA, I will be unable to share such educational gems for the next few years.

Currently I'm taking an instructional technology - media tools course, for which I have a couple of blogging assignments. This is blog assignment # 1 -- the blog as a pedagogical tool.

I was instructed to find and read a few educational blogs, and since my experience and my aspirations lie in higher education, I started with where I used to work and with the Chronicle of Higher Education, which is where I actually found that former job back in early 2005. Where I used to work brought me to two blogs that I previously knew about, but upon closer examination I found that one was not particularly useful in this context, and the other, on assessment, was relevant, but not even remotely appealing. The Chronicle proved a better resource, and I found myself drawn into a post that related hiring new faculty to planting fruit trees in the yard... I think it was the weirdness of the analogy that drew me in in the first place. While the article isn't so much about teaching or pedagogy per se, I can definitely relate to the roots (ha. trees. roots. ha) of the concept, in that, like a biologically active and growing forest ecosystem, the faculty of a college or university need to be diverse, filling the various academic, collegial, administrative, etc. niches in order to generate a complete functioning institution that is also inspirational to the student body.
somewhat crappy doodle I did of a rainforest run by evil forest monkeys during another class while thinking about this assignment and playing with my livescribe pen

This naturally reminded me of where I used to work and how unlike a rainforest it was... or if it WAS like a rainforest, it was one where the evil forest monkeys (chancellor and chancellor minions/puppets) were building an unsustainable reserve factory on top of the forest canopy and fueling it with the non-renewable lifeblood of the forest understory... anyway... surely that sort of system is one that generates the uninspired student body, the students that are represented in my horrific examples above. The students that prompted me to routinely read a blog that shut down last year, called "Rate Your Students". While it was primarily composed of rants, they were rants I could easily relate to based on similar experiences I had with my own students, like this one, and that made me feel like I wasn't alone in my dying rainforest. Every once in a while, however, a post would appear on Rate Your Students that had a valuable teaching lesson, genuinely inspiring to a young college professor, and that's the real bummer about the end of Rate Your Students.

Meanwhile, back in the current world of higher education, I stumbled across this blog and consequently this article -- which is right on the money. I can't even begin to say how many former colleagues I had that fit the "I'm perfect and I don't need to improve" mentality, and how little they did to serve the institution. I served on the Academic Senate Executive Board for 5 of my 6 years there, and in that forum was surrounded by fellow faculty who strove to do more do better do faster do bigger, and like me, were also the primary constituents of every other important committee at the College. Meanwhile, the bulk of the rest of the population ran their scantrons through the scantron machine for the billionth unchanged time and bitched about how little time they had for other things because they're teaching 8 identical scantron sections... I digress... you get the point. Thank you Dean Dad, it's nice to know that some Deans notice this sort of thing.

This is becoming a fairly lengthy ramble, and I'm not sure that I've even touched upon the relevance of blogging with regard to education, or its use as a tool in education. To some degree I've used this blog to educate you all about a few random/historical/geological places I've been-- and I can certainly see the applicability of this, say as assignments for students to show their comprehension of subject matter -- like my former student Terisaurus Wrecks demonstrates in this vlog:

In fact, posting their reflections on subject matter, to be graded, in the context of a publicly visible blog might just get a few more students to proof-read their work so that it's not an incomprehensible pile of misspelled words bracketed by capital letters and periods. Maybe.

Or, in the context of geobloggers like Garry Hayes and Silver Fox who use their blogs solely to share their geological experiences and knowledge with the general public. With a subject like geology, where the hands-on field experience is so crucial to learning the material in context, blogs like these provide a sort of "virtual field trip" that allows the reader to passively "travel" with the author and "share" their experience.

web addresses for blog references:

No comments: