The National Teaching & Learning Forum
Online ISSN: 2166-3327
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James Rhem, Executive Editor
Having felt a passion for teaching for as long as he can remember, James Rhem, creator and executive editor of The National Teaching & Learning Forum, describes teaching and learning as sacramental acts. He was pursuing post-doctoral studies when the opportunity to have a wider influence on the teaching community opened and he began creating publications on teaching for higher education. After founding four newsletters, including the popular Teaching Professor, he founded The National Teaching & Learning Forum in 1990. Rhem is also active as a speaker, offering a humanities perspectives on teaching.
Editor's Note, Volume 22 Number 5
James Rhem, Executive Editor:
We start this issue with a bang—a review of the work on meta-disciplinary thinking Ed Nufher has been doing and reporting on in DEVELOPER’S DIARY. Here, Ed sketches out how to let faculty in on using these insights to teach students the things they really want to teach them, the things beyond mere content.
Elsewhere this issue asks “Where does energy come from?” Over the centuries, energy has gone by different names—phlogiston, caloric, joules—all references to or measures of the heat, the friction, the get-up-and-go that gets things done. But no measure or name explains what causes the initial impulse, the thing behind the spark that starts the fire. In education we speak of “motivation” or “volition,” the will. And, there, it remains equally mysterious. Elmer Gantry could whip up evangelical fury by preaching to a crowd, but few faculty can or want to motivate students that way. Learning comes from active involvement, the doing of the thing, whatever it is. Energy comes to us somehow when we find ourselves focused on, involved in, doing. Gabriella Bedetti of Eastern Kentucky University uses this insight to counteract the slumps of energy students feel in the calendar imposed rhythm of the semester. She gets them doing, and energy and achievement follow. As a professor of theater, she has students write and perform a play.
Also at Eastern Kentucky University, the CREATIVITY CAFÉ team of Sweet, Carpenter, and Blythe understand something about doing and the creative (and critical) energy it releases. Moreover, while some traditional academic voices challenge the idea that creativity (or the skills that characterize it) can be taught, this trio answers with a review of some of the research that indicates creativity can be cultivated, just as critical thinking can.
So, on the whole, the fall semester usually begins on a positive, hopeful note. But let’s not be naïve: every new thing turns out to bring new problems along with new possibilities. TECHPED columnist Mike Rodgers and co-author Mary Harriet Talbut of Southeast Missouri State explore the problematic side of “Moodle,” the LMS (‘learning management system’) installed on their campus. The wonders of the Internet have enjoyed such fulsome praise that some of the problems its use engenders end up blind-siding us. In the age of “texting” and “Twitter” where attention spans become impatient with more than 140 characters, perhaps it should have come as no surprise that students—often focused only on their grades—should look to LMSs as a kind of scoreboard rather than as a platform for learning enrichment and dialogue.
Also, while students may expect extra credit, forgiveness, and deadline extension with some regularity, today they expect technical perfection in the management of online software. Faculty who fumble with Moodle, or other such new technology, lose credibility and may be accused of unfairness. I experienced something similar to the incidents that spurred Mike’s TECHPED: when I lent copies of educational DVD’s to students in a seminar I taught a while back. When a few discs turned out to be defective, the students’ attitude was ‘You screwed up’ not ‘Can I get a good copy so I won’t miss out.’
Perhaps the challenge of maintaining credibility with students that technology poses isn’t a new challenge, just a renewed one. Things didn’t go so well back when some slides were upside down in the projector either. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the new from the old. Take “flipping” for example. In this issue’s AD REM .. Marilla Svinicki wonders what’s really new about “flipping” the classroom. Weren’t students always supposed to have done the reading ahead of class?