Gardner Campbell of Baylor University, in his session "Faculty Development in New Media: The Seminar Experiment", outlines an approach to faculty development that really resonated with me. First, I'll start by describing some things that don't seem to be working, namely what Gardner refers to as "tech churn": New hardware/software is introduced > new workshops are offered > new projects are built around that tech > churn and repeat. Gardner reflects on these workshops: "it's like people were thinking about cars, not transportation". The end result is that faculty get burned out by constantly adapting to new technology, while their primary role at the university is in their teaching, research, and other intellectual work. Certainly technology supports those things. But in the tech churn, technology becomes the proverbial cart before the horse. Tech adoption is not driven by a fundamental understanding of needs and thus not aligned well to those needs. This is certainly not surprising to most of us, but we (educational technologists in general) still often struggle to find the right way to involve faculty early in the process of technology evaluation and development.
Programs like the Faculty Fellows here at ETS are a great example of how this can be done right, and it aligns with what Gardner argues in that we should lead with the intellectual discussion. He has designed a seminar that he describes as a "seed bed" upon which students (faculty, grad students, and ed tech staff), over a 12 week period, can develop a deep understanding of technology through reflection, discussion, and debate. In perhaps a more academic environment than a typical technology workshop, students are provided readings (which you can find in the syllabus) and then spend the subsequent session reflecting on that reading. On interesting point about the syllabus is that it sits on a wiki and is very much a living document. A quote from Gardner that I especially liked was: "how can I make a syllabus for students if I don't know them yet?". Students don't just lead the individual discussions, but the entire direction of the seminar. There is a facilitator, but it seems that role has a light touch, and is more often an integrated member of the discussion. Gardner says: "I do my best to make this a true learning community".
Another aspect of this model, at least in how it was implemented at Baylor, is that those attending come from a variety of disciplines. This is important as through these multiple perspectives, students can discover some of the fundamental, common ideas that underly the effective integration of technology. This is, as Gardner says, "new media studies as a platform for integrative learning". Tech staff also participate and benefit from the discourse, which serves as a scaffolding for their own work. One grad student who attended noted she was treated like a peer by faculty. It seemed that this model was very successful in developing a vital and integrated learning community.
At Penn State, I believe this type of faculty development would be very successful, especially if looked at as one element of a continuum of programs that ETS provides, that includes Faculty Fellows, the Learning Design Summer Camp and Media Commons Tailgate, faculty brown bags, Hot Teams, and other work we do with individual faculty. There would be some questions of scale (the Baylor seminar was about 11 faculty), but Media Commons has taught me that with a little ingenuity you can scale to some point without sacrificing quality of service. Obviously the culture at every institution is different, so there would be unique challenges and opportunities. But one of the important strengths of this model is it's academic seminar format that I believe will appeal to many faculty and thus be a more effective approach to faculty development than some of the workshop-style programs that have been implemented in the past. I should add one caveat that there is definitely a place for faculty-focused hands-on technology workshops, especially those that have a discussion component, but they should be done in conjunction with something like Gardner's seminars.
Here's some resources referenced in this post:
Seminar discussion board:
Blog posts from the seminar: