Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On Time

I'm going to guess that most of the people who commented on my last post about office hours are conscientious about their time, trying to be available a reasonable amount of time and trying the balance the time needed for attending to student and the time for prepping, research, committees, etc. These people, I'm going to guess, are not the faculty who swoop in for a class and one office hour (held right before or right after class) and then disappear.

I've been hearing a lot about the issue of faculty time lately. It came up in the planning committee meetings I've been participating in where we got input from faculty about their concerns in addressing the topic of the conference. They almost all said, "Not enough time." I've heard it from individual faculty: "I just don't have time to deal with that." At a workshop on blogging I ran a while back, I heard, "This is great, but I just don't have the time to really learn this." And at a day long workshop on gaming yesterday, that was a big factor in whether or not to investigate the potential of gaming for teaching.

I think the issue is mostly not really about the amount of time available, but how that time is prioritized. It's really about how faculty choose to spend that time. I'll be the first to say that some of those priorities, especially for t-t faculty, are forced upon the faculty. A junior faculty is not going to get tenure based on integrating blogging into their introductory courses. I know that. But I also think that for some of the technology that we're talking about, it doesn't *really* take that much time to learn the basics. What does take time is figuring out how to use the technology effectively and if that's what faculty are wanting to take time to do, then that's great! But that's not my sense about 75% of the time. Most of the time, I think either a) they really think it takes years to learn the technology or b) complaining about a lack of time is an excuse and that they just really don't want to use the technology at all. And that's okay. Really, it is. I'm okay with people being skeptical about the usefulness of particular tools.

Except that I'm not okay with that in some ways. In part, it's because the faculty who are often skeptical haven't even tried. They haven't assessed at all whether something is hard to learn, easy to learn, would add a new element to their class, would add excitement to their class, would achieve a learning outcome more effectively. I think if someone said, "You know, I spent a few days poking around with this thing, trying to see ways it could work for me and I just couldn't see the point" I'd be more likely to accept some skepticism. But saying, "I've watched you do this and I've read about it for five minutes, and no thanks" makes me believe that that person wasn't really interested to begin with. And that they, in fact, think this whole technology thing is a load of hooey.

I guess what I'm saying is that it kind of feels yucky to realize what you are passionate about is just not a priority for a great many faculty. I suppose this is what people who teaching "dying" subjects feel like. My sympathies.