Last week I didn’t do one of these posts because of the Wired Campus article, so let’s get back into it. It’s been an eventful week.
- I learned that signing up to do three straight
weekends half-weeks of travel to give workshops and presentations during the middle of the semester is a really bad idea, unless you make your living on the lecture circuit, which I do not. I swear it sounded doable at the time.
- From being in Jamaica this week and working with the University of the West Indies faculty on integrating technology into teaching and learning, I’ve learned that you don’t need to have the best, most cutting-edge technology – or much of any kind of technology – to make a positive impact. To be honest, the technology infrastructure and market in Jamaica is pretty significantly behind what you find in the US and other, wealthier countries. I did not see a single tablet or laptop among students, for instance. The room where I did a workshop on 21st century technology this morning did not have a projector – they had to bring one in from elsewhere and prop it up on phone books. And yet what is so impressive about the faculty here is that they want to improve their teaching by using technology. They know it can be done; they are instinctively curious as to how it can be done; and they know it has to be done in order to build Jamaica up as a country through the university’s graduates. So they make it work. Effective teaching with technology in other words is a lot more about the heart and soul of the people using it, than it is the circuits and software of the machines.
- I’m not sure if this is something I learned, but based on my experiences this week, when I look at faculty in the US, I see that we live in an embarassment of riches. We have all the technology in the world at our disposal and more wealth than we can comprehend. By all rights, our higher educational system ought to be absolutely permeated with technology, used intelligently and resulting in powerful learning experiences for students. And yet, with all this technology and access and wealth around us… American faculty opt out, for reasons that sound like the reasons for opting out of active learning. It takes too much time. It’s too expensive. Students need to be without distractions. I’m afraid my evaluations will get hurt if I don’t lecture. Students come to us with tablets, laptops, smartphones, high-speed wifi access – and we ban it, ignore it, remove it from our teaching as if it were the enemy of learning rather than a potential ally. I know that the Jamaicans here would practically kill to have what we have. And so it’s very frustrating to think about how the Jamaicans have all the right ideas and the spirit for using technology in the classroom well, but struggle to get the infrastructure while we in the US have all the infrastructure but hobble ourselves with an antiquated mindset that leaves all this technology on the outside, waiting to be used and rusting away from disuse. Not all professors, I know. But more than there should be. Again: Frustrating.
- I learned, or realized might be better, that it is several times easier for me to enter into foreign countries than it is to re-enter my own country. I’ve been on international trips four times now in the last 18 months: the UK, twice to Canada, and now to Jamaica. All four times entering other countries: No problem. I think this time entering Jamaica took me a grand total of 20 minutes including deplaning, going through immigration, getting my bag and clearing customs. Coming back into the US? Not so much, to put it mildly, and we’ll leave it at that. I hope for better on Sunday. But really, what is the deal with this? Is it just because terrorism? Or because the US is a huge bureaucracy? I’m mystified why coming back into my home county isn’t easier than it is.
- I learned that Jamaicans are big on formal customs. Consider: At the beginning of the keynote lecture I gave the other night, the first 10-15 minutes of the event were salutations and regrets from those who could not be in attendance. Then we stood while the Jamaican national anthem was played. And then there was a Christian invocation prayer – at a state university.
- I learned that I was among friends when part of that invocation prayer said: “Lord, forgive us for the comfort we sometimes bring on ourselves by thinking that we can continue to teach in the same old ways and expect new results.” Boom!