Sunday, September 30, 2007

Glaciers Move Faster

Urgh. I'm sick, y'all. Which hardly ever happens. But Thursday, I woke up with a sore throat and a deep resistance to standing up. I debated for a long time about whether to cancel my classes---my seminar could have lived without me, and gone on to read more of the novel. But the first years are deep into their first significant assignment, and I needed the time with them. What to do? What to do? In the end, I went in, but I think it had far more to do with the fact that I had come up with a cute outfit for the day than it did with my work ethic.

So, this weekend I've been moving slowly. Too slowly. Like, not doing anything on my ever-burgeoning list of things to do, except maybe paying bills online. Instead, I spent the morning in bed, and then moved downstairs to the couch. I watched a bewildering Colin Firth film, made more so by the fact that I fell asleep in the middle. Then there was an episode of Torchwood (and damned if I can figure out what's up with that show, although I think I like it). Why didn't I just read Naked Lunch in my fever dream and be done with it?

Before I was struck down by the plague, however, I had an epiphany about the glacial pace of institutions, and what that means for my own expectations. [Yup, that was officially the world's clumsiest segue. Sue me.] It goes something like this. When I was hired at Askesis U. 5 years ago, I had been just started doing some work at my previous institution with student films. As part of my negotiations with Askesis, I asked whether I could get the equipment necessary to continue. The dean assured me that she was invested in me being able to continue that work, and that she'd do her best. It wasn't much of a guarantee, but since my other job choice was deep in the bowels of the Midwest, I jumped. And at the end of the year, when the budget went in, I got two shiny little cameras to use in my course. And the year after that, another one and some tech support with editing software. And the year after that, another two and some audio recorders. In the intervening years, I've been involved with some discussions about the role of technology on campus, and I've felt a bit like I've been banging my head against a wall. There are a handful of faculty who are exploring how to make students critical and rhetorically-savvy users of existing web applications; there are any number of faculty who record 15 hours of lecture and powerpoint materials for students to watch on Blackboard. Both of these groups fall under a wider institutional umbrella of "e-learning." Sigh.

On Wednesday, however, I sat in a room with some of the former group of faculty, some librarians, some IT guys, the deans and the provost, and talked for an hour about how to begin an on-going campus wide discussion of the exigencies of digital media and pedagogy, how we want to build an innovative program, and brainstorming for some grant opportunities on the horizon.

Over the last few years, I've been both frustrated and disgusted by the gulf between what was going on in the world and what was going on at my institition. And in the gentlest terms I could muster, I've talked to whomever I could about the ways that we could embrace some new developments and make them our own. The responses to these have ranged from deep suspicion and dismay to blank stares to interest with no follow-through. But on Wednesday, I think I saw the fruit of some of my labors and that of others on the same page. And I realized that an institution shifts incrementally, and only with a number of people wielding big levers. And more importantly, that I should be pretty psyched about being at a place where I can participate in the shift. So when I read other job ads and fantasize about moving, I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm not at the right place after all, given what's important to me.

And now, if I can only shift the crap from my sinuses to a Kleenex, I'd be all set.

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