Teaching (and Learning)

In one week I will be teaching Disruptive Technologies for the first time at Stony Brook. My enrollment is lower than I had hoped and that has me a little concerned about how I will have to rethink my course design. I was reminded yesterday to embrace the lower than expected enrollment and to not wish for the alternative — too many students. I suppose that is true, but my design is predicated on teams and only having enough students to form two of them has made me question a few things. I think I have made the right kinds of changes so far to manage it. We’ll see.

Setting that aside I am extraordinarily excited to get back in the classroom for the first time since the Spring of 2012 when I co-taught Disruptive Technologies for Teaching and Learning with my very good friend and colleague, Dr. Scott McDonald at Penn State. Back then it was a graduate seminar that was a popular offering in our College of Education. If I’m honest, teaching it alone without Scott to lean on also has me nervous. In a lot of ways making myself nervous is part of the thrill of teaching in the first place. So again, we’ll see.

I get a lot strange looks when I tell people on campus that I am choosing to teach at all … most people tell me I am crazy. That is probably true given my time constraints, but when I look at the fact that my boss, President Stanley, is teaching this semester I think I can make time to make it work. When people ask me why I do it, the answers have been the same for years — I love it and I learn so much by doing it.

I learn how the tools we provide for faculty really work. I learn how our classrooms really support instruction. I learn where our administrative tools are falling short and exceeding expectations. I learn about how our students see the services we provide. I learn from the readings we do. I learn as we form into a learning community. I learn about all the things that I have long forgotten about how hard it really is to be a college student. I just learn.

An interesting twist this semester is that a member of my senior leadership team is taking the class as a student. When he told me I looked at him like he was crazy — I mean the guy finished his undergrad and has an MBA, so he clearly doesn’t need the credits. What he told me made me smile — he wants to learn. He wants to learn from what we do in class, but in so many other ways he wants to learn about what it feels like to be a students at Stony Brook and have to interact with all the systems our students have to interact with to be a student. His team builds the administrative information systems that support things like bursar functions, HR functions, registrar functions, and all the systems that really make a Unviersity work. He wants to know how his audiences feel … I liked that answer.

He and I just want to learn. And that is what I love about this whole thing — teaching to learn.

2 thoughts on “Teaching (and Learning)

  • January 23, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    The world of information technology is constantly evolving, and it’s doing so very rapidly. You snooze and you will be behind in technology and innovation, and you will be playing catch up, for a long time. I heard someone say this week how his father tells him that, before this technology, life was moving much slower. Is … that … a … bad thing?

    Just as you, Cole, I am very interested in learning, and one day, I will love to be ready to teach. This class will give me insight in two different ways; one, I will be able to learn more about disruptive technologies, a field that directly impacts my line of work, and secondly, it will give me a true experience of the troubles and tribulations that our students must go through in order to enroll, create and view their class schedule, pay their bills, and ultimately, see their grades, which all ride on software supported by my group.

    So, in this case, the professor is also the boss, does this mean I better show up with not one, but two apples on first day? 🙂

  • January 24, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Teaching is an honor that I don’t take lightly. The ability to learn along the way is always one of the driving motivators for me. I talked to another one of our colleagues this week about this idea and he said he teaches for the same reasons … we often learn much more by taking the chance to stand in front of a group of students. This semester part of the plan is to turn the class upside down and hand over a big piece of the control to the students along the way. That means everyone will get to take a turn at teaching us all something.

    Things are moving very fast in our world and finding strategies for being able to unpack the embedded affordances of these technologies allows us to imagine them being used in new ways. That is one of the primary goals of the course — to learn how to see past the obvious first layer of a product or service and see how it could be used in new contexts. It will be fun and challenging.

    No apples required … unless you want bonus points already 😉


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