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Who is a dime a dozen?

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I recently read:
 
"'There's a feeling, I think, that good teachers are a dime a dozen,' said Higginbotham, 32. 'I'm not sure what you'd have to do to distinguish yourself enough as a teacher to get tenure.'
[Higginbotham is] an English professor at Ohio State who's up for tenure in three years. By then, she will need to publish a book she's writing about conceptions of girlhood in the Middle Ages to have any chance at the promotion." [AP article]

I have to say that I find this comment and the context surrounding it to be frustrating. First, the obvious, good teachers are a dime a dozen? Really? Has she ever attended a higher education course? The increasing empahsis on research and scholarly production make it routine for professors in some fields to see one class a year as an onerous teaching load. One thing that my field has made abundantly clear is that to know something does not translate into teaching it well. Is she really arguing that higher education institutions (especially large research-focused ones) are bastions of teaching excellence?

Having a junior faculty member focusing a great deal of her intellectual energy on a book about conceptions of girlhood in the Middle Ages exactly captures what seems broken about the way we think about faculty and their relationship to their students. If we can set up a system that knows how to value esoteric books written for a mircoaudience, can't we set up a system that knows how to evaluate teaching in meaningful ways? I think we have lost sight of the mission of a university here. Do we really want all faculty to focus the preponderance of their effort on scholarship at the expensive of teaching? Do we really want our faculty to be spending more time thinking about girlhoods past, when to do so means giving up thinking about the girlhoods of the students present in their class?
I was included in the new survey from here at PSU around the Horizon report. I have included my answers here because I felt like it made me think and that my answers might do the same for others. They are grouped by category (from the Horizon Report), and each category requires answering the same three questions. User Created Content What are the missing pieces for this technology or practice to be implemented in higher education? I think there needs to be a platform for publishing digital media that allows different levels of access, so students can publish the same things to different communities. So, a student making a podcast might want everyone to see it, only her class, or just her friends. A way to tag posts in a way that allowed them to be in different bins would make publishing in higher ed a more powerful technology. What kind of research would you like to see around this topic? I would like to see research that tries to look beyond tools and comparisons between the affordances of different tools and instead looks at the sort of "technology ecosystem" and how it contributes to the community of teaching and learning. I think we need to move beyond statistics of how people use these tools and get a more anthropological understanding of how they impact the culture of a higher education institution. What are some of the learning implications of this topic? Obviously the implications, at the very least, are that we have reached the point at which students (and hopefully faculty) see static text produced by a single person as a impoverished representation of the knowledge of that individual. Users are transforming the way they represent themselves and this will naturally carry over into how they represent their understanding. We (as faculty) need to be prepared to understand these new forms and assess them as part of how we determine students understand of a content area. Social Networking What are the missing pieces for this technology or practice to be implemented in higher education? We need a way for students and faculty to aggregate their social networking spaces with the other key web-based technologies they use. Right now the multiple networks that many students participate in are just beginning to play well together. We need something that really integrates these so that students connect to faculty and students as well as all their content and digital media. What kind of research would you like to see around this topic? Well, assuming there is actually heavy penetration of this technology into the teaching and learning culture of the university, the implications are profound. It means more porous boundaries between in-class activity and out of class activity. This means that considerations of curriculum and assessment (to name just two) have to be entirely reconsidered at a university level. What are some of the learning implications of this topic? Well, assuming there is actually heavy penetration of this technology into the teaching and learning culture of the university, the implications are profound. It means more porus boundaries between in-class activity and out of class activity. This means that considerations of curriculum and assessment (to name just two) have to be entirely reconsidered at a university level. New Forms of Publishing What are the missing pieces for this technology or practice to be implemented in higher education? First and foremost is a reconsideration of what it means to be an intellectual in a field of study, and how you go about making a case for that contribution (e.g. tenure). In academia the way that you succeed is to contribute original ideas to your community and get recognition from your peer for you ideas quality. Self-publishing and social networking and collaboration tools will require a rethinking of how to count publishing as a part of your work. What kind of research would you like to see around this topic? I would like to see research around how the new forms of publishing transform the academic discourse. Are ideas more dynamic? Is there more critique and response to critique in short cycles? Are these new forms of publication considered valuable and unique contributions to a field? What are some of the learning implications of this topic? See the above.

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