I put off writing this last post to the very end so I could go to a conference, hopefully be inspired, and then write up something worth putting on this blog. I know, that was a huge risk, especially for someone like me who is increasingly weary of conferences.

But it worked out. I’ve learned some great things and remembered some things I forgot.

So, here it goes, some new things I’d like to start doing with my classes.

1) Civic Engagement. I want to do more of it. Right now, in some of my classes, I have my students write letters to public figures and send them out. It’s easily the most meaningful and exciting assignment I give my students, both for them and for me. But there are some other interesting ways to have students engage with their local communities that I’m interested in trying out. A) In my writing class, I could require students to spend a few hours at a local community service (homeless shelter, soup kitchen, convalescent home, open space, nature reserve, etc.) and then write a narrative about a person they met or a place they helped restore. B) Or maybe students can hold a conference on campus where they present an important local or global issue to other students in workshops or at booths. C) I already have students write a robust and challenging “Literature Review” assignment which must look and read like a peer-reviewed academic article – perhaps it’s time I actually have all my classes “peer-review” these articles, narrow them down to 4 or 5, and then publish them in a Foothill College Academic Periodical available to the entire campus at the end of the year. I think it could work; their topics are always a delight – I’ve had students write about the Socioeconomics of Sugar Dating, the Mathematics of Black Holes, Feminist Themes in Miyazaki’s Disney Films, the Neurology of LSD Use, the Historiography of Video Games set in WWII, the Engineering of Eco Jetliners, the Politics of Crypto-Currencies… just to name a few. Scott Lankford’s students are doing something similar with a literary magazine written around the theme of climate change, so I think there could be some interest in something like this and I’m wondering if any other teachers would be interested in having their students read and/or contribute to a student peer-reviewed academic publication.

2) Guided Pathways. As you might know, Governor Brown has allocated $150 million towards the development of guided pathways in post-secondary schools. I think Foothill has plenty of “invisible” pathways all over campus, but I’m wondering if anyone else would be interested in collaborating to make all the various pathways more visible to students. Maybe a single resource on the website and in a printed brochure that would help students figure out: What do they want to do? What career/degree/certificate do they want to pursue? What classes should they take to do it? When should they take those classes? What other campus services should they be using? These are questions students are lucky to have answered only when they’ve booked a single 20 minute meeting with a counselor.

3) Open Source Textbooks. I was going to write about this here, but the post is already on the long side, so I’ll wrap it.

All this to say I haven’t yet completely lost faith in conferences. I think they’re worthwhile so long as you get to have some crosstalk with creative faculty and administrators from all over the place.


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