Wednesday, June 15, 2016

bridges, change, and wisdom

I've not been very faithful about blogging lately because my headspace has been occupied with a lot of other things.

I turned 46 the other day. That's one of the things. Firmly into middle age now, closer to 50 than 40. I still feel like I am on a journey of exploration and I'm still not sure what I am going to do when I grow up.

I'm making a sharp turn in terms of my academic focus. I realized once I got to UNH that if I am going to work in the health management and policy realm, the thing I care most about is people, and how organizations integrate, develop, and empower people. So I'm starting a new research stream focused on "talent management". To that end, I have a new blog, cleverly named Bonica's Talent Management Blog, and a new Twitter, @bonicatalent . I've been a little better about posting to the Twitter account than the blog - the idea being to try to put something out every day as a form of discipline to keep focus on the new stream.

So professionally I am once again standing on a bridge that goes to unfamiliar territory. Life's a journey with a lot of crossing points like this.

Personally, I am at a few other bridge points, too. My kids are almost grown, and are slowly making their way out of my house and my control.

Other things, as well. Places in my mind that I want to cross, but haven't found the bridges yet. Or maybe haven't built them.

It's a cliche, but I do see life as a journey. Maybe that's because I have moved so many times in my life. But more than a physical journey. It is also a spiritual journey. At 46 I realize I have accumulated a lot of mistakes. I am much more sympathetic at 46 than I was at 26. Experience is a harsh and inexorable teacher. It shows us our imperfections and weaknesses whether we wish to acknowledge them or not. But it is not all mistakes and difficulty - struggle is the price of wisdom. I don't claim to be wise, but I am wiser than I once was. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

good to be home, a great experience

USNH ATI 2016 ( #USNHShare ) was a great experience. Getting to talk with the collection of teachers from across the three colleges of the USNH system, and from across all the disciplines, was really a privilege. I have to say it was exactly the kind of experience I had always hoped academia would be - a group of people who were passionate about their subjects and passionate about sharing what they know. I got to meet people who are experts in art, philosophy, rhetoric, journalism, math, computer science, archaeology, biology, sociology, applied anthropology, and literature from a bunch of periods. It was great asking them about what they taught and hearing how much effort they put into teaching.

It's good to be home, and I'm behind on a bunch of stuff I need to get done, but it was a great week. It's always great to spend time with people who are passionate about the same things you are.

(Photo is from the garden at the LHH this evening)

Thursday, June 2, 2016

unconference at ATI 2016 (#USNHshare)

I had heard about unconferences a couple of years ago and I've been interested in trying one out. I wrote about them here:

So today at ATI 2016 we did an afternoon unconference session and it was very interesting. I've enjoyed meeting all the interesting people from the different USNH universities and disciplines this week. We are all here trying to figure out how to use and create open resources to improve our classroom experience, as I wrote about yesterday. The unconference format was great for tapping into the distributed knowledge in the audience - it's very Hayekian.

I'd love to do this again, back home. Maybe do an HMP (@unhhmp) alumni event with this format. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

ATI 2016 #USNHShare

I'm at the University System of New Hampshire 2016 Academic Technology Institute - USNH ATI 2016.

The conference is focused on open educational resources (OER). The idea is to reduce or eliminate text books from the classroom. Ostensibly the reason is because of the high cost of text books. I agree - textbooks are absurdly expensive. Last semester I assigned a health econ text book that cost $275. I'm reasonably sure that many of the students tried to get through the semester without reading (or buying) the text. But when you consider the total cost of college, even in-state at UNH, the cost of text books is really minor. The key is students can opt out of text books, whereas the rest of the bill they cannot.

My motivation in attending is not so much about saving students money. I think there are more effective ways for the university to reduce costs than to eliminate text books. My motivation instead is about trying to improve the quality of my teaching. Text books are crutches for professors. Text books provide structure for a class, they provide adequate materials to give to the students, they even provide slide decks and test banks. It's really great if you don't want to do too much work in preparing to teach.

I have used text books in almost all of the classes I have taught, and I have used the supplemental materials like the slide decks and test banks. However, each time I teach a class, I drift away from the text book and associated materials a little bit. I inevitably add materials that I find on the internet or in the library - articles, podcasts, videos - that I think enhance my teaching. My students almost always comment on this in my evals - they really like the resources that are not part of the text book.

So my goal is to eliminate the text books in my classes and replace them with materials I have found or I have made. The primary reason I want to do this I think both the students and I will get more out of the class. All of us will engage more deeply with the materials and all of us will be better for it.

(picture is my dorm room at Keene State College where I am staying during the conference!)

Friday, May 20, 2016

goofy spring fashion on campus

What is this strange fashion that is suddenly sweeping campus? The professors seem to be going even deeper into than the kids... Goofy robes, floppy hats, and colorful scarves. What's this world coming to?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

the load out

It's always strange when the students pack up their stuff for the last time at the end of a semester and I am left standing alone in the classroom. It always makes me think of the Jackson Brown song, Load Out. 

"But when that last guitar's been packed away
You know that I still want to play
So just make sure you got it all set to go
Before you come for my piano"

There are always so many things I wanted to share, and I always run out of time. I always feel like I haven't quite delivered quite what I wanted. I always wish I had done it a little better. It's a strange, empty feeling. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

coati - animal coessential

A fascinating cultural perspective on the person that includes a spirit animal:
The Mixtec, like other Mesoamerican people, believe that living things come into the world at the same time are fundamentally linked to one another. An animal and a human born at the same moment will thus share life experiences, are often said to have a single soul, and will, at times share a consciousness. This latter most often occurs through dreams, which may be interpreted as the world seen through the eyes of one's "coessential" animals (so labeled because the animals and their human counterparts are essentially linked)... 
Mixtec thus clearly conceive their selves - their essential being in the world - as not being bounded by the body...
When we in the West see ourselves as persons we tend to see ourselves as autonomous individuals, each of us master of our own destiny and not part of a wider continuum of entities that might include coati...

Monaghan and Just, Social & Cultural Anthropology, pp. 180-181