Wednesday, November 18, 2009

another term flies

As I sit here, we are heading into a Thanksgiving break, and then, another Christmas break, which is really quite long, and gives us a little time to breathe, as teachers who really only have this one season. But I also would like to reflect a little on trends in the field, and what is happening around me.

First, I am lucky, I'm sure, to still be working in a rapidly contracting world, where jobs in particular are flying, and everyone, it seems, is looking for new and clever ways to make a living. I'm surprised more of them don't end up in places like China, Brazil, or Ireland, where they still have an economy and they hire bright people to do cool things. I frankly don't know what will happen to esl/efl around the world; the crashing dollar has traditionally been good for our field, but a complete lack of jobs elsewhere in the country might not be so great.

Second, the rapid gain of technology in all fields is of course both a curse and a blessing. Who has really integrated it successfully? The divide between the online teaching world, and the brick-and-mortar traditionalists, is getting wider, coming to blows even. Teachers are threatened by those who are willing to "do it online" for cheaper, and from any corner of the world, like Phoenix, or 'Smith University.' I actually am not so quick to criticize the quality of online instruction, or quick to ridicule the traditional teachers' fears; both are valid, and there is no way to reconcile them, really. Any talk about a "New Academy" (I've copied the link below a few posts) is a little early; nobody's changing, or if they do, it's over their dead bodies, pretty much. Administrations see the future and try to push teachers into "online development". Teachers see the future and dig in their heels, doing what they've always done. And I'm speaking even for myself, a leader in the technology-integration area. When I'm out of time, and the chips are down, I do what I've always done. It's "teaching" as I know it, and, I'm always short of time.

The static web, and the blogs, for that matter, have the look and feel of foreclosed houses. I've become impatient with my own inability to get around and fix all the broken links, update wherever possible, keep things shiny and useful. The world moves onto Facebook and Twitter, and we, left behind in our old pictures and ancient design, have nothing to say, except, "we've been here forever." The blogs feel so much like "old media" that I have trouble presenting them to students as "fresh;" they, for their part, don't seem to mind, but I have less time to ask them, and we have trouble just getting their skills up to the point where they can really use English with each other, and they of course are seeing things a lot more in terms of tests, and particularly the TOEFL, which they need to pass yesterday if not sooner.

This talk about the "New Academy" being all more collaborative, also, doesn't sit well with me. I like collaboration; I'm all for it, and feel that when we work together we get the best of all our skills combined. But, I find it hard to set up and maintain. I think there are thousands of wikis out there that are, basically, blogs with 1 1/2 users; actually, there is lots of real collaboration out there too, but I'm not sure a single busy teacher like me really has access to ways to make it work in our favor. My own way of storing information, literally on blogs and static webpages, is hopelessly outmoded, but I haven't had time to explore diigo or even exploit twitter for all it's worth. The collective wisdom is rich and many-layered; but, the free moments of a teacher under pressure are so scarce, it's all I can do to produce my students' grades.

The program has a new Moodle; this is good; we were not doing well in getting Blackboard or getting our students to have access to it. The Moodle is interesting. I, however, have been too busy; I scarcely know it. I'm interested though. If my students can have instant access to all their grades, everything that's happening, everything I know or have to say, why shouldn't I give it to them? I do, after all, teach them English first, teach them how to make sense of this world, second. Sense, that is, as I know it, best foot forward, showing them our world. Our rapidly changing world. Have a good break; I hope you get some rest.

Barone, C. (2009). The New Academy. EduCause. Accessed 10-09.

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