FLC Debrief: Somebody Threw My Notecards Out the Window of a Speeding Car

“What makes me happy I seem to catch out of the sky with both hands; I only hold whatever it is that I love because that is all I can really see.”― Jane Bowles, Two Serious Ladies

This week we had a meeting via Collaborate about the state of our FLC grants, and Dr. Boyoung Chae did a presentation on OER. One of the conditions of the grant is to license whatever we produce to support the state board’s open learning policy. Not to toot my own horn, but I would have done that anyway. In fact, I’ll share anything I create if it makes your work better. Improves OL education. Helps teachers. Supports students. I’ve stopped caring about attribution, and I realize this perspective is not popular with all academics. But if you see something that I’m writing about and you want more, contact me, and I’ll bombard you with everything I have.

During our meeting, I watched the comments in the chat, and I learned a valuable lesson, so I’d like to share my three insights from that meeting. Again my audience for this blog are current and future FLC participants/coordinators/facilitators/grant writers.

Insight 1

Having an asychronous meeting where only some people have microphones for the audio complicates communication. The chat function goes rogue while microphoned people talk. I mostly facilitate or participate in Collaborate discussions with eLearning-type folks–directors, instructional designers, tech support–but I’ve noticed lately that when people are new to Collaborate as a medium, communication gets harder. I’d rather exchange dozens of emails in some cases than try to manage meltdowns in the Chat with a live Collaborate session. Sometimes getting everyone oriented on Collaborate takes up half the time of the meeting. In fact, I’d rather–gasp–talk in person or on the phone than deal with this clunky medium.

Perhaps having some basic rules about questions and chat usage would help these meetings go smoother. Perhaps I need to work on my instructions for new users. The best discussions I’ve had lately is when we have a Google Doc. open while we use Collaborate to screen share. I worked with three people to create a conference proposal that way, and they left feeling like they could do that type of meeting with their students. One small eLearning victory! Collaborate is just not that easy to use. But we pay for it–so I feel like I should teach teachers how to use it.

Insight 2

There are still a lot of questions from faculty about OER. The act of licensing looks really difficult, and I’m wagering that this faculty PTSD over dealing with publisher permission for course packs. It takes forever to get the proper permissions, and so you know what happens? They break the law and they copy up a storm. How do I know that? I did it for years. If I had the choice between losing a student who couldn’t afford my textbook and making copies for him; I made the copies. I took the heat from deans who warned us about “our copy usage” and the budget. I gave students hints on how to meet at the copy machine with one textbook and make three friends. Wrong? Yes. Illegal? Yes. Offensive to my library friends? Yes. But it was essential to keep the poor community college students in my class. There is a tidal wave of openly licensed information and yet, it’s still really hard to understand licenses, linking, and using information. Throw in the FLC budget, the logistics of gathering people, and well, frankly just getting down to the work itself, it all seems like a lot of work.

Jen Whetham, who coordinates the grants, created analogy about working on an FLC as being very similar to writing. You start with an outline and then you start researching. And then, you start to write and the research paper turns into something else.

I could sense the air was getting a bit tense because I have a feeling that all of us are behind with our timelines.

And so, people, I needed a laugh.

I posted this in the chat: Or somebody threw your notecards out the window of a speeding car.

This comment actually has some backstory for me. When I was a wee-tiny undergrad, I did research on The Beats and the expatriates of that generation. I had a class on Paul Bowles and post-colonial literature–and it was life-changing for me. I discovered ideas, thoughts, and writers that I never knew existed. My teacher was a scholar of Islam, and he blew up my world with his reading and writing assignments. As I was researching Paul Bowles, I discovered Jane Bowles, his wife. Bowles wrote beautifully about his wife as a thinker (and her subsequent madness), and I never forgot his story describing how she threw an entire manuscript out of the window of speeding taxi in Manhattan.

So in my deepest moments of despair about projects, writing, and work in general, I channel Jane and throw the whole damn thing out the window. How beautifully dramatic!

And thankfully, my co-facilitator is amazingly flexible, and she’s starting a new position. And I need to protect our workload. In addition, we’re a part of team putting on a retreat for our own faculty and staff, and that’s a major part of my job description right now. And I love it. Our theme is Fear, and I’m very excited to see what connections folks will make with the structure we’ve provided. It’s a big job with a lot of responsibility.

Insight 3

So through this grant, albeit part of my research for many other projects I’m involved in, I now understand a bit more about the system and my institution’s place within it. I’ve been calling this experience a failure, but what it’s really teaching me how to take my big, big plans, and make them small. Then make them even smaller. That’s a good thing.

Peg and I met yesterday and we’ve sketched out a plan to go “on the road” to visit places and people we can learn from, and we’ll report back to the other four colleges in the consortium. We’re going on tour in April! And just when I think I’m being overly ambitious, Peg suggests that we ask a researcher to post on our blog! Yes!

One person posted in the chat during our FLC meeting about whether these grants can be focused on “deep change” at one institution rather than worrying about the entire system. Yes, I think that’s a noble goal, but I also think we can create ideas and materials that can be used throughout the system and beyond. Why not?

Look closely at the photo I chose for this post. See the green shoots? See the flowers? The machine may have stopped, but there are things growing around it. Rather than focusing on what has slowed down the gears; I’d like to refocus on what’s growing.

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