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Teaching Thursday: New Academic Year, New Future for Teaching

Crossposted to Teaching Thursday.

As we stand on the brink of a new academic year frantically working on syllabi, tweaking readings lists, and refining or rewriting lectures, I am positive that most of us are thinking at least a tiny bit about the challenges and opportunities of teaching in 2009-2010. 

I’ve invited a group of colleagues to write about the future of teaching over the next few weeks, when that future and its practical implications are freshest in their mind.

Here are a few of my musings:

As I work through the development of a new online version of the History 101: Western Civilization class, I wonder how my university’s growing support of online teaching will effect the way that we teach in the classroom. 

I check my twitter feed at least 5 times a day.  Last fall, I attempted to use it (in an awkward naive way) in my graduate historiography course.  Even as we are told that students don’t tweet and that blogs have reached a kind of grizzled maturity, it is clear that social media applications are changing they way that we communicate on the internet.  It’s clear that the once static world of html driven webpages has given way to spaces of interaction.  The content generators are no longer clearly delineated from the content consumers.  What are the implications for teaching?

Over the past year the seeming invincibility of the American economic system has evaporated rather abruptly.  Once blue-chip companies like GM and the New York Times which provided touchstones from transgenerational identities, are in serious trouble (or have even passed the point of serious trouble).  I feel like I’ve missed out on a Caraher family tradition because I cannot buy a brand-new Oldsmobile).   How will this economic “adjustment” change the way that we approach our own place in the economic food chain?  How do massive political, social, and economic changes influence our attitude toward what is important?

Recent political events have manifest a shocking breakdown in civility and, once again, called into question the status of sincere and sustained discussion in the public sphere.  As so much of university education is rooted in a kind of sincerity and a willingness to engage debates in a focused and concentrated way, how do the prevalence of outbursts such as those witnessed on an almost daily basis on television influence how we understand the relationship between the processes that we champion in high education and those central to a properly functioning democracy?

How will recent calls across higher-education for a kind of voluntary, technological luddism shade and condition our use of technology in the classroom?

How will changes in assessment, university administration, and general education priorities change the content and methods of our classes?

If I could have a new classroom, what would it look like?

I am sure that many of us thought about things like this (or other things entirely) based on our experiences over the past year, our engagement with the political, pedagogical, and technological discourse, and, of course, the practical time constraints that we all face when we stare down the reality of the semester. So, I call out to any UND faculty who are thinking ahead toward the new semester to share their views on the future opportunities, changes, and challenges waiting just around the corner in the new academic year.

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Categories: Teaching
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