Solvitur Ambulando~Diogenes of Sinope
It is solved by walking.
I’ve travelled a lot of miles since July to talk about open education. OER. Open pedagogy. Course mapping. Design. Assessments. Outcomes. Courses. Open. Free. But not open. Sharing. Teaching. Education. Pedagogy. Design. Curricula. System. Section. Change.
I’ve been on the road quite a bit. These days.
I pack up my presentation clothes, my notes for the jobby job, and my laptop to fly or drive to various institutions. I smooch my regular sweet life goodbye, and I travel to the airport, to a taxi, to a hotel bar, a hotel room, a taxi, a computer lab, and then again to a taxi that takes me back to the airport. The mister picks me up at the same spot. We drink beer, talk, sigh, stay up too late. Catch up. Complain. Joke. Laugh. Parse the details of the household. For the next week. Look no further. Celebrate that at least one of us is The Breadwinner.
Sometimes as I travel I gaze out the window of taxis and planes to see areas of the country I have never seen. I travel to mostly community colleges, which are not usually in the most scenic parts of America. The open door policy of American education does not usually drop one off where there are beautiful vistas of hope, optimism, confidence, wonder, magic. I always love the people, however, and I’m lucky to meet them. Learn from them.
For example. One leader welcomed me to her campus and pointed to the very large penitentiary across the field to the east. The nicest building for miles.
“Our students,” she said “either end up in the prison or working for it. I’m glad you’re here to help us change that.”
I’ve worked with teachers lately who have said, point blank: Our students should be fifth generation miners, but there is nothing to left to mine.
There is nothing left to mine.
How do we help these students out of generational poverty? Abstract. Real. Tacit.
I’m no stranger to the exploits of the fossil fuel industry. I come from a long line of Pennsylvanian miners of copper and coal. My dad was a steel worker. His first job was in a copper mine. I can’t listen to Grant Lee Buffalo’s Bethlehem Steel without crying.
To these teachers I say, “Here’s what you do.”
To these teachers I say, “Here’s a plan.”
To these teachers I say, “Here’s a strategy that I think works. Here’s what does not.”
When I really want to say, “I have not a fucking clue of what really works, but I know everything is broken. I know you are not happy with the materials you are using to teach. I know your students deserve better.”
Here’s the thing.
When I was a kid, I asked my elementary school teacher what we will do when fossil fuels run out, and my question angered my teacher. I got detention for my “sass talk.” My little lady brain was processing the learning outcome that taught me that there would be no dinosaurs ever again.
I wanted to know. What will we do when it all runs out?
Stop that sass talk.
These days, as I travel in my beloved Pacific Northwest, I take note of the huge refineries next to our lovely oceans. Our lovely forests.
Until I visited Texas, however, I had never ever never ever seen such production at scale.
Such production at scale.
For example. It reminds me of my young self who asked what will happen when it’s all gone. I thought I was learning. Questioning. I didn’t realize I was challenging authority.
The Houston Ship Canal is a shocking sight in real life. From end to end on the horizon as far as one can see in the polluted air, there are ships, smokestacks, refineries. It reminds me of the first time I saw a clear-cut of old growth trees in the Northwest. The first time I saw a logging truck filled with the logs of dead big beautiful trees. The first time I saw huge holes in the earth from mining. I can’t remember the first time I noticed air pollution.
It seems that by now, we would have figured out a better way. I see billboards for fracking materials and I buy bottled water. Privilege. I don’t ask questions because I’m a guest. But I tell stories. I like to tell a story.
These days I tell a tale of my early engagement with teaching teachers about technology circa 2009. Circa.
Back then I collaborated with a woman at my former college who was in charge of recycling, the grounds crew, and service management. She’s a badass lady leader who gets shit done. She funded me to create a project to reduce handouts on campus, and I gathered up the best adjuncts I knew to create the “Paper Free Project.” Hippy leadership. It was my first success with organizing and legitimizing funding to pay teachers to redesign their courses to reduce their use of handouts and printers. To maximize technology. To minimize their department’s budget using the LMS. A solution.
A German teacher I worked with made thousands of handouts per quarter for all of the classes she taught. Every quarter. Every year. Students didn’t have to buy a textbook, but she crushed the budget of the Humanities department with her printing. heilige Scheiße!
By giving her the tools to laminate and organize her handouts, we paid her to do the work she never had time to do but always wanted to as a teacher. Intentional funded curricula redevelopment.
Did you catch that? We paid her to do the work she never had time to do but always wanted to as a teacher.
At the conclusion of the project, I visited her classroom as her students were filling out laminated verb conjugation charts. They practiced conjugating with erasable markers, checked each others’ work, erased what they wrote, and then filed the exercise for the next class. It was magic. Laminate is petroleum product, I know. Hippy leadership is not perfect.
I shared that story recently as small-talk conversation with some leadership folks, and I could see light bulbs going off. They started mentioning people who might be into that idea on their campus. Today. As in 2016. I thought they were making fun of me at first.
They started talking about excessive printing on their campus. How teachers made handouts instead of scanning files because they didn’t know how to use the technology. Didn’t have time to learn it. How to learn to scan. How to upload. How to digitize some resources. How to save themselves time. My off-the-cuff story seemed like a good idea to these folks.
My Paperfree Project took place in 2009.
It’s 2009 somewhere. All. The. Time. Yet we want to run. So. Fast. Change so fast.
Yet it is solved by walking slowly.