Thursday, January 15, 2009

Afterthoughts...to my Sierra Colleagues

I'd like to share some thoughts regarding my previous blog post. First, I wrote that post passionately, from the heart, after watching the two Kaplan videos that a colleague had just shared with me. As an art historian, I interpret my surroundings constantly and I couldn't help but read the symbolism in the messages of those videos and the timing of my departure from Sierra College. Secondly, that blog post - like all of my blog posts - was written, first and foremost, for the academic blogging community. Of course, as a blogger, I realize my writings are open to everybody and anybody (Hi Mom!) but what makes me feel uneasy right now is the fact that my blog post has been directly shared with my community of colleagues at Sierra College. I just want to be clear that my post was not written with the intention of being directed at a Sierra College audience. Interpreting the post in that way changes its message, I believe.

So, allow me to share a few thoughts intended for the Sierra College audience. First, I would like to take a moment to say thank you to those who have shared your supportive comments with me on my blog and through direct email. I have so many precious bonds with my colleagues at Sierra and these ties make it terribly difficult for me to leave. I have grown tremendously as an individual and as a professional in the past seven years as a full-time faculty member there. Sierra has done a lot for me. Like a family member, we've been through good times and bad together. I will always reflect upon my experiences at Sierra with a mix of gratitude, honor, pride, as well as disappointment...the ingredients of a fine learning experience.

I am confident there are innovators left at Sierra who will continue to cultivate the dialogue that is currently in motion about the truly amazing potential online learning and instructional technology have for redefining the community college experience. I am proud of the iTech Lab and iTunes U efforts I have worked hard to spearhead at Sierra and hope they will flourish after my departure. Your students will appreciate your efforts to maintain them.

Moving forward, I hope my colleagues will see the importance of engaging in the difficult conversations that surface with online learning. Too often these conversations are not had because they are so challenging. Online learning does force us to redefine how we've always done things. That's because it truly is a new and unique way of teaching and learning. We can't approach online teaching with the same questions, pedagogies and course design as we approach our in-class teaching. It is time consuming, labor intensive, requires new skills and if you really dislike it - don't do it.

Online learning can be amazingly powerful and rewarding to a student and a teacher. I have had many students share with me that their online learning experience in my class was more personalized and more meaningful than any in-class experience they had ever had. We need to realize the effects of new technologies on learning. There's a big difference between posting text documents online and supplementing them with discussion boards versus integrating your own presence and passion through video and voice into your student's learning and infusing your students' learning with a social network community. Students are fully capable of learning online and do a fantastic job when we empower them with clear expectations, respect, and courses that are designed with active learning experiences and opportunities for them to express themselves and personalize their learning space. We have to be there...every step of the way...as part of that online community that we expect our students to be engaged in.

Finally, I want to address my departure from the community college system. This was not my intention. While I am very excited about plunging into a completely new challenge and adventure as part of CSU East Bay (no, I'm not going to Kaplan), I will forever be an advocate for community colleges. I believe in the mission of community colleges to my core and will do everything in my power to continue to support CCs in every way I can both on a personal and professional level of advocacy.

Cheers to you all. Please stay in touch.
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