Had a great first day at the League for Innovation’s 2009 conference. While I work at a wonderful four-year research university, my doctoral dissertation and first ten years in higher education revolved around two-year colleges. So it was refreshing to once again rub elbows with the dedicated faculty and administrators who handle a significant segment of higher education.
Sixteen faculty attended my morning workshop on engaging students through free web tools, which I blogged about yesterday. It was a fast three hours that I thoroughly enjoyed. This group was simultaneously blown away and energized by both the opportunities for learning afforded by these tools, and by the enthusiasm evident as they brainstormed uses for these tools. In a short three hours, I touched on:
- Google Reader
- Google Docs
- Garage Band
- Zoho Polls
Whew! Seems like a lot of tools, but what we focused on was the practices these tools offered. What was gratifying was the comments by several at the end of the day on how helpful this session was to them personally. Making a difference one faculty at a time!
After a breather, I attended two forums in the afternoon as well as the opening keynote.
Thelma Bushong and Elaine Karls of Delta College (home of my old mentor Jim Steele) did a presentation called “Everyone Grows: Organizational and Professional Development for All Employees.” There premise (and one I agree with) is that it takes engaged faculty and an engaged support staff to develop engaged students. A key question that they asked is how does a college invest in significant learning experiences that result in engagement, empowerment, and leadership development for faculty? Part of their answer is to open leadership and learning opportunities to staff as well as faculty. They have taken the concept of faculty learning communities and expanded it outside faculty to a holistic approach to college leadership and empowerment.
The second session I attended was by Michael Coste, Angelica McMillan and Brandon Berman from Front Range Community College entitled “Personalize Your Class with YouTube.” This was an engaging and exciting session focused on, as they stated, getting the human that is in each of us into classes. They demonstrated how, with the use of inexpensive Flip cameras and free software, they developed some rather sophisticated YouTube videos for:
- Introductions to Classes (Get to know the professor)
- Checking in (quick updates on general status of how class is going)
- Lesson Reviews
- Group critiques (students commenting on each others YouTube presentations)
- Speeches ( faculty commenting on public speaking by students via YouTube)
The keynote speaker to open Innovations 2009 was Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College in NYC. She is co-author of the 2008 book Minding the Dream: The Process and Practice of the American Community College. She gave a dynamite speech to the 1500 attendees at this conference. She detailed the different standards American higher education places on two year colleges, noting that there were real differences between institutions that screen out and select their students versus institutions that welcome in students. While noting that community colleges enroll roughly half of the higher ed population, they only receive about twenty percent of the funding. The students are typically much further behind four-year students in terms of entering SAT scores. Two-year and four-year institutions are typically assessed based on IPEDS data, yet that data is only collected for first-year full time students, which make up only 14% of community college students. Yet, given the inequities in funding and assessment, community colleges are surprisingly successful at impacting the percentage of higher education students who complete a four-year degree. She illustrated that if four-year institutions factored out their feeder institutions and reverse-transfer students, many four-year institions would be in trouble. She saw community colleges as integral partners in President Obama’s call that all Americans complete some course work above high school as a means of rebuilding our economy. It was an empassioned keynote that seemed to energize the crowd.
Looking forward to Day Two tomorrow!