Liminality & Prof. Tech. #OER

Some Liminality

Back in my undergraduate years, I was in a literature course and my teacher waxed poetically about “liminal spaces.” My teacher had written that he saw some of my thoughts “existing in a state of liminality” and I needed “to explore more of inner voice.” What?! Was that bad? Why don’t these English teachers talk like normal people?

I remember I had to bust out the dictionary to look up “liminal” because that was a new word for me.That was before the magic of the Internets and you had to use a book! This was before Internet Magicians were creating the thing that would become Wikipedia.

Here’s what Wikipedia says, this would have really helped my younger self who was desperate to impress the teacher:

Liminal is an English adjective, “on the threshold,” from Latin limen, plural limina, “threshold.” Liminality is the abstract noun formed from liminal.

In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”[1]) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete.

So. Okay. My thoughts were on some threshold and I needed to listen to my inner voice. Something like that. Later in life as I grew to know more English majors, poets, and writers, I would learn that he was just trying to spice it up with his comments on a student paper. After you’ve read the same essay hundreds of times written by different students, it gets really boring to write the same thing. It would have been more helpful if he had written that I needed to expand more on my half-baked ideas and that I should get over myself. He could have also admitted that he was a pretentious hack. But he didn’t.

He did, however, teach me a good word that applies to where I am with several projects as it relates to this FLC grant.

So here goes some liminality:

1. The Unconference was amazingly insightful, fun, interesting, and everything I had hoped for and more. In short, if that was my job everyday of my life I would give up my bikes. That’s how much I love solving problems about teaching and learning. Thank you to all of the brilliant minds who contributed. I’m not sure what shocks me more, the fact that I pulled it off or that I adhered to an agenda.

2. The ATL Conference was also a fantastic experience. Seeing so many friends in the system and watching my faculty network with other faculty was a joy beyond imagination. Our experiment of paying for faculty to attend a conference with the understanding that they will propose next year is a winning idea that I will share soon.

3. I‘m working on an FLC grant proposal with the brilliant Lisa Chamberlin! She and I are going to try something that hasn’t been done before and we have no idea if it will work. But you know what? We’re going to do it anyway. We see a need at our institutions and we know we’re not alone. Plus, it will be in my 2015-2016 professional development plan to work with Lisa!

I’ll post more about all of this soon. Like this weekend. I need to get caught up (a memoir).


Professional Technical Programs and OER

I was the Lady in the Magic Box again only this time if was for Big Bend Community College. This is also a winning idea, by the way. If you can’t have a speaker travel to your campus, then turn to the magic box and the Internets.

The eLearning Coordinator, Zach Wellhouse, put out a call for speakers on OER for professional technical programs. If you’ve chatted about OER with me in the last six months, I most likely have talked your ear off about this untapped potential. Most of the OER movement has been about academic programs, and rightly so, that’s where the bulk of our students are in higher education.

But here’s the thing, our students in Prof. Tech. programs are the ones who need it the most. They are on all kinds of governmental assistance programs and/or financial aid. If we are going to be honest with ourselves and prioritize the needs of our most neediest students, then we would focus more on creating OER for Prof. Tech. courses. I just don’t have as much time to devote to them as I’d like to, so if you can, please share with me what you are doing.

So here’s some advice that’s working in this corner of Puget Sound:

1. Get them iPads, Surfaces, or any mobile device you can afford. They can use eBooks if they aren’t ready to make the transition to OER. Once they like the mobile devices they are ready to talk OER. Suggest that the programs “require” the mobile device so the students can use their financial aid to purchase their own. Or check them out through Media Services if you can. For the Cosmetology program, the students can use them as cash registers when they graduate and for job creating portfolios. It’s been a wild hit with the students and teachers. Here’s a link that shows a bit of what we did. Scroll to the Cosmetology page.
2. The teachers don’t have time to learn anything. They work under the somewhat archaic conditions of “seat-time” so they are surrounded by their students constantly. No exaggeration. You have to go to them. Make appointments with them. Show them tips to save time teaching by using Canvas. Let them ask questions of you and you’d be amazed what you can show them. Ask them what they hate about their textbooks or their curriculum. Ask them to collaborate with eachother to create content. Rubrics in Canvas blew my teachers’ minds! They share with one another in ways that I wish I would see among academic faculty.
3. They have a ton of industry manuals they can use and then they can supplement that content with their own ideas. For instance, the aviation department uses FAA teaching materials that they can access online. They don’t need to purchase the bound manuals. They can upload the links into Canvas. They can, however, also use their own ideas to create content. This is where you need an Instructional Designer to help. It’s not truly open pedagogy because they can’t remix or revise an FAA document, but the students save money with a little creativity.
The ones that really care want to reach their students. They’re searching for ways to be better. Be flexible with project deadlines and expect meltdowns. Bring tea and cookies and let them complain. Be like Las Vegas. What they say to you, stays with you.
Tell them it’s hard work. We can’t just tap our heels together and make it happen, my little pretty. They know hard work. They’ll understand.
Just keep telling them they can do it. Most of all, it’s not a race. We don’t have to make something like this happen over night. Make it a year long project. Call it collaborative professional development.
When in doubt, quote Glinda The Good Witch, who helped Dorothy find her way home and out of the liminal state of the dream-like Oz.
“You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
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