Monday, May 14, 2012

We Should Talk

We should talk. My ex would start to sweat when he heard those words.  He knew I was adverse to confrontation, argument, discord...and thus it takes a lot for me to confront hostility. Now, this may surprise some who know me, but that's because there's a difference between healthy disagreement and discord. I love a good argument, and it's probably why I chose a lifetime in the Academy. I love it when someone is willing to change my mind. People here are willing to argue, passionately and with great civility, about anything

How many angels dance on the head of a pin, the kind of bug Samsa became in the Metamorphosis, how assessment is different than evaluation. Sometimes, the civil piece can give way to the passion, and nowhere is this more painfully felt than when we are asking the Academy to make a change. 

“When someone is trying to do something new and innovative in higher education, 
often it’s met with a ‘Deny-Decry-Delay’  energy.”
-Jeff Young, Tech Therapy at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Working in eLearning, my coping strategy in the face of discord ("OK, I'm going into my room and shutting the door. Let's talk about it when we're both calmer.") has served me well. I slide off into the online environment and quietly keep doing what I'm doing while some stand on the outside, pound on the door and insist I come out to be beaten about the head. I turn off the lights and work by the glow of my monitor.  

If spoken softly,  I'll happily take on the fighting words mired in old values held sacred: culture-discussion-lecture-worries over plagiarism and cheating-fear of being replaced by the machine-death of the soul in the modern age. Sure, let's talk about it. Let me show you soul and joy and engagement online. But get crazy, or disparage online learners, and I'm out of the room quicker than you can say administrative-plot--about-the-money--hallowed-halls--tradition.

We should talk. There is a train a'coming, and it WILL bring eLearning in one of the cars. And it WILL bring assessment and accountability and access and learning-centered technologies. And it WILL bring an awareness of big data (see Carmean & Mizzi, 2010 for our Nudge Analytics case approach). And it WILL bring analytics innovation, no matter how excellent the credentials of those who argue for the beauty and the sanctity of the classroom.  (Listen to Gardner Campbell's passionate counter-argument here, along with Jeff Young's above observation.)

I do love passionate, smart, thoughtful counter-arguments to my approach. It makes me smarter and more passionate and it tempers and changes me. But it never deflects me off my course. And when the old, wealthy, well-educated members of the Academy ‘Deny-Decry-Delay’ education for other than the students who look like them, I think of Sidney Poitier lovingly speaking to his father in that moment from Guess Who's Coming to Dinner:

CC: Non-Commercial Columbia Tristar
"You don't know how I feel, what I think. And if I tried to explain it the rest of your life you will never understand. You are 30 years older than I am. You and your whole lousy generation believes the way it was for you is the way it's got to be. And not until your whole generation has lain down and died will the dead weight of you be off our backs! You understand, you've got to get off my back!"

Of course, the time is not far off when someone will say these words to me as I attempt to protect what I now hold dear. Change is inevitable, but my time to do the right thing for the right reasons is now. We should talk. 
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