Yesterday I spent time at the Mont Alto campus of Penn State working with faculty to help share the story of teaching and learning with technology. I was strangely intimidated as I sat in the back of the room waiting for my turn to talk. I’m not sure why, given the fact that talking in front of people is typically not something I get uptight about. As I reflect on it now I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I realized just how close I was to our primary audience. The room was filled with faculty who value teaching at such a high level and are repeatedly put into situations that make them question change … these are the people who want so badly to be innovative but sometimes walk without the support structures they need to take advantage of our opportunities.
When I was at IST, one of the goals of the Solutions Institute was to create a set of online course materials that could be used by resident faculty all across the Commonwealth. The materials needed to be designed so they could be easily pulled into a resident section and serve as the basis for each of the core undergraduate IST courses. One of the things I had to do each semester was stand up in front of the statewide faculty and share what was new, what we were thinking about, and talk about how to take advantage of Online IST. It scared the hell out of me each and every time I did it.
But you know what? Each and every time it turned out to be a great experience. Faculty telling stories about how using Online IST allowed them manage four or five sections of courses, how they would never have been able to integrate technology without it, or other inspiring stories related to teaching. Yesterday turned out to be the same way — a packed room of motivated and interested faculty all looking to enhance the story of their classrooms. Sure there were skeptics who pushed back on me when I talked about how critical portfolios are to the reflection process, there were people that rolled their eyes as I shared ideas about using youtube to engage students, and so on. But, without a doubt, it was an engaged and very interested group.
The thing it reminded me is that when we build new opportunities for our University, we are building them for all of our faculty — at all locations. Just because we don’t see them on a regular basis doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Traveling to Mont Alto and being nervous reminded me that our community stretches well beyond College Ave. and it is our responsibility to include everyone in the mix. You should have seen the response when I offered to come back with more ETS staff to dig deeper into these new opportunities … overwhelmingly, faculty wanted to learn how to integrate new opportunities into their classrooms. I am now more than ever committed to expanding Digital Commons and using it as a vehicle to move more efforts into faculty development across all of our campuses so all of our faculty and students get what they deserve. It was a good trip that will be the first of many I suspect.