Conversations in, on and around the classroom

Today was an interesting one, which really centred around the classroom  and looked at it from a range of very different aspects.

In the morning I sat down over coffee with Scott Hamm in the library commons area. (Note to self: Check if we can get a Starbucks on our campus) We discussed a range of issues but spent a good amount of time discussing change management and the effects on staff. Abilene has obviously been through some huge changes and they’ve done it successfully. We discussed buy-in and how they have achieved that when Scott bought up the idea about some people seeing change as loss and they quite often react in the very same way to change as they do to loss. I think this is a real stroke of genius and Scott went on to say that they are actually losing something – whether it’s the way they have worked for 20 years, the way the built their career, the way they have built their research and practice – when you want to change that they are in fact losing that part of themselves. Here is why communication is so important, because change is more often about upgrading and improving and this really needs to be explained clearly so that the person can actually see this themselves. However, there will still need to grieving time because ultimately something is being lost or replaced and people will react and need time and space to go through that process. When Scott bought this up I thought about how I personally have seen people respond to change and honestly I have seen people react in much the same way as those that go through the 5 stages of grief. Actually seeing that link between change and grief actually makes understand people’s reactions far more understandable and one of the big lessons for me to take home as it will help me in my day-to-day job.

The second part of the morning was a great conversation with George and Bill about the future of the book. This is one of those areas that is under a lot of scrutiny at the moment and where a lot of people are asking a lot of fundamental questions – about the very nature of a book, it purpose, what it is, it’s very make-up. While there don’t seem to be any clear answers right now this question of ‘what is the book in the future’ is something I have been wrestling with quite a bit. I’ll write another post on this topic in a bit – once I clarify a few bits and pieces in my head. I think it’s a challenging subject and one that I would be keen to follow-up on.

In the afternoon I sat in with Ian Shepherd teaching his Principles of Microeconomics class to see how the students were using a range of technologies in the classroom. This class of Ian’s has been involved with an iPad trial using a digital text from Inkling. Ian is also a big user of ACUs deployment of Turning Technologies classroom feedback system as well as a big user of Blackboard. Todays session was a classroom quiz where students were grouped together, studied and where then quizzed together in a little competition to spice things up. I was a little in awe with how seamlessly Ian had integrated a wide range of quite different technologies and also how well they worked together. I think Ian’s practice is quite exceptional in this area and in a way that truly seems to benefit both students and his own workload and practice.

The last session was a discussion with Arthur Brant about the network and infrastructure that underlies the mobile project. In essence the wireless network underpins the success of the mobile project. Without it nothing would work because the data requirements are well and truly beyond any 3G network. Arthur went trough some of the planning that they did as well as the work and problems the discovered after going through a major upgrade. I always love to find that there is usually one component of a project that gets very little mention in the marketing or promotional press, in this case it is the wireless network. It is the great facilitator that allows everything to happen and without it there wouldn’t be a successful project at all. I got some interesting tips about some of the problems they encountered (including one relating to our proxy server).

So I got to see inside the classroom, discuss the problems and people who stand up in front of it, imagine what people will use in it and learn about the technology that today underlies it. I think it’s a great picture.

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