Sunday, December 3, 2017

Hey Liz! Your shoe's untied!

     Sometime between June 2017 and November 2017, it became alright to address colleagues in work email with "hey."   I am not sure when who or what started this, but one day we only used it in casual, spoken interchanges and the the next day my email inbox was full of "Hey, Liz". 

     I remember when I was in elementary school and kids were using the phrase "hey!" and every time we did, whatever adult was in the room (back then, usually a parent) would invariable respond with, "Hay is for horses."  The gist being, it is not a word for people to use with each other.  In spite of  - or because of - this, the word continued to thrive in casual, spoken settings. The kind of situation where you wanted make sure you got someone's attention. As in, "Hey Liz! Your shoe's untied!" 

     Since then it started to be used as a spoken greeting; "Hey, how are you?" But I had not seen it in my academic work email until this year.  And then suddenly, they were everywhere.  And every time I see it, I have a visceral reaction: This is inappropriate, and I don't feel like you are treating me very nicely.  I consider myself open minded and inclusive of various voices and ways of expression.  But being asked to do something via email with an "Hey Liz" start does not make me feel very included. It makes me want to check to see if my shoe is untied. (Ah. So this is what it feels like to get old!)

     I write this after a lot of reflection.  After all, it does matter how we address each other in professional situations. Last year, I changed the greeting from "Dear RTC Student" to "Dear Awesome RTC Student' in my welcome student email from eLearning, and I was surprised that for the first time ever, I got several responses of "Thank you" from students.  Buoyed by that response, I have started sending emails to faculty groups with "Dear Awesome Faculty" headings as well.  It makes me feel good to write that.  It makes them feel good to see that.  Language matters, especially the language that sets a tone for a written exchange.

     I know that language changes is inevitable ("Hi Liz" seems fine to me, but at one point "hi" was not used as a written greeting in the workplace) but being aware of nuances is crucial for effective communication.  The ability to adjust language to fit with different situations seems like a skill we should be both using and teaching our students. At this point, I would model that approach.  What do you think?


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lurking or Learnking?

gerund or present participle: lurking
  1. (of a person or animal) be or remain hidden so as to wait in ambush for someone or something.

    "a ruthless killer still lurked in the darkness"

    synonyms:skulkloiter, lie in wait, lie low, hide, conceal oneself, take cover, keep out of sight
    "is someone lurking in the bushes?"
    • (of an unpleasant quality) be present in a latent or barely discernible state, although still presenting a threat.

      "fear lurks beneath the surface"
    • informal
      read the postings on an Internet message board or in a chat room without making any contribution oneself.

According to articles on the subject of lurking, there is a  1% rule of internet culture: Only 1% of the users of a website actively create new content, while the other 99% of the participants only lurk.

How is it that the creepy term of lurking - started around1990 in a chat room - continues to be used for picking up information on the internet? When you go shopping and don't buy anything, but you are interested in what's on sale or in fashion this season, you aren't "lurking" in the stores, but rather doing something fun like window shopping, browsing, or mall walking.  And if you go to a webinar or meeting and get information without asking a question, you are simply attending a webinar or meeting, not lurking. 

Using the word as a way to describe all people who are using the internet with low interactions seems unfairly negative.  There should be a difference made between people who are lurking in a creepy way (perhaps the types of chat rooms or message boards that are focused more on adult content) is different from people gathering information for educational or self-edification purposes. With the rise in the various ways we can educate ourselves and increase our everyday learning  on the internet, I propose that we use a term that differentiates this purpose: Learnking. 

Last week I dropped in to two short self-paced Canvas network MOOCs to pick up some information, completing one and not the other. I have taken several MOOCs and comleted them, but more often than not, I am dropping in with the intent of looking at the course design,  seeing how the tools are used, and in general checking out how the course is taught. As an educator with a passion for engagement, these things are first and foremost on my mind in any course I encounter. 

I  recently navigated to the Canvas Community space looking for an answer to a question I had, but - as often happens online - I ended up reading a bunch of other posts about other stuff people are asking about. And I ultimately learned even more than what I had come for. Almost every day, I spend a few minutes scrolling through my twitter feed and checking a couple of groups on Facebook for teachers. When there happens to be an alignment of time/brain/need I will actually contribute to those sites.  But  more often, I am just leaernking. Picking up information and seeing what's up in the minds of others.  (If you follow the right people, those minds can be astoundingly insightful and inspiring.) 

I think we need to add a new informal  term to the dictionary, that would look something like this 

gerund or present participle: learnking
Using the internet with the main purpose of collecting of information for future use, mainly pertaining to educational purposes 
A person who spends time learning on the internet without a focus on interacting with others 

Learnkers, Unite! It doesn't have to be creepy.  What do you think? 

Friday, February 24, 2017

An Open Letter to Faculty Who Do Not Participate in PD

     We are finishing up our carefully-crafted, collaborative, and offered-with-stipend Winter Quarter Professional Development options at my institution. Our theme for this year, "Intentional Teaching" has a focus on building a shared teaching vocabulary for faculty around Reading Apprenticeship (RA) and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), two teaching approaches that are making a difference in helping our students succeed. In response to feedback from faculty, we have organized these to best fit everyone's hopes, needs and schedule:

  • They are offered online, so that both evening and daytime instructors can participate, on their own time. 
  • They are for BOTH full time and adjunct instructors; no one is excluded. 
  • But wait! Faculty like to see each other in person too, so a quarterly, free, "Connect with Faculty" lunch is provided, on a non-teaching day, for all participants. 
  • They offer a small stipend for participation; last year with the first time this was made possible. 
  • They have been planned, based on feedback, as 6-week workshops, offered mid-quarter so that faculty can concentrate on getting their classes going and wrapping up at the beginning and end of each quarter. 
  • Faculty have the opportunity to both suggest topics and lead a workshop, for an extra stipend.
  • They are "learn today use tomorrow" workshops that tie directly to teaching.
  • They have flexible weekly deadlines for busy faculty.
     I am thrilled with our participation; we have had about 40 faculty each quarter take part in the workshops.  Each quarter, new faculty give it a try and become "hooked."  But as the coordinator, I am still distressed at the number of faculty who do not participate at all; some are newer faculty who feel overwhelmed and don't know how much these would help; some are old-timers who have a set policy among buddies to Not Let Them Make Me Do Anything Not In My Contract, and some are (surprising, in my mind) tenure-track faculty. Since they don't participate, they don't know what they are missing. The workshops offer:

  • A chance to better your student engagement
  • A chance to get to know faculty you don't normally see or have time to talk to
  • A chance to share your own ideas and get some great ones from others
  • A chance to experience our learning system as a student, so you can better understand the student experience
  • A chance to get a stipend; recognition from the college for your efforts.

     According to surveys and conversations, the #1 reason non-participants cite is that they are too busy. But while they are too busy, the world of teaching and learning are changing.  While they are too busy, participants are gaining teaching expertise that they have never even heard of.  While they are too busy, participants are finding ways to better engage our students. While they are too busy, participants are discovering that this actually helps reduce the workload of their busy schedules.While they are too busy, data shows that participants are helping their students succeed at a higher rate than the non-participants. Higher. Retention. Rates. 

     Well-crafted PD - the kind I am talking about here - is meaningful, enjoyable, and fun.  If you have already decided you are too busy, you should think again. It is easy to think that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence; that other institutions offer get-rich-quick PD and you are stuck in a demanding job that just keeps demanding more from you, and you don't have the time. But the grass is watered and green right in your own backyard, if you step out and take a stroll.