Two things happened to me this week that might not seem related, but in some ways I believe they are.
- On Thursday night I teach until 10pm. It’s really the latest that I’ve ever hung out on campus, as I exit the classroom building at that hour and make my way across the campus to drop things off at my office. This Thursday, my second of the semester, I ran into another professor in the elevator and we chatted a bit as we traveled down the first floor. We also ended up talking outside of the elevators for about 10 minutes as we each discussed the subject matter for our respective courses. He is teaching PR and we found that we both share a concern for how technology is shaping our students’ lives in ways that we are unsure of what the consequences will be. It was a lovely conversation and as we parted we remarked that we were looking forward to running into each other the following Thursday. I noticed, as we chatted, that he was pulling the characteristic roller briefcase of an adjunct faculty member. Because I rarely encounter an instructor with a rollerbag during the daylight hours that I’m campus, it stuck out a bit for me. And then when I exited the building I noticed something else: there were dozens of other faculty members pulling rollerbags as they walked to the parking structure in the center of campus. It felt so strange to me that I could have taught at Chapman for seven years and never noticed the difference in the teaching population in the late evenings. And after making this observation I even felt a bit guilty about the fact that I was dropping off my teaching materials at my office instead of having to carry them with me like the other instructors that I observed on the campus at that late hour.
- Friday I was scheduled to teach a Faculty Workshop about creating student ePortfolios using WordPress. It’s a topic that I’m fairly comfortable with, but I still spent a few hours prepping materials and a lesson plan for the Workshop. And no one showed up. I suppose I can’t blame them–it was midday on a Friday and faculty are incredibly busy in the first two weeks of the semester. But as I stood there at the podium in the empty classroom I realized that Workshops simply aren’t meeting the needs of our faculty who need training on using academic technologies.
So as I consider these two happenings I wonder what the role of technology is in the lives of the contingent faculty who move across campus with their teaching materials in backpacks on wheels. They aren’t present to attend faculty development workshops in the midday. In fact, I suspect that they are unlikely to have much discretionary time for development experiences, in general. But yet our adjunct faculty are teaching about half of the classes at Chapman, and they need to be as facile with technology as any of our full-time and tenure-track faculty are (perhaps even more so, if the technologies can help them to better-organize the courses that they teach at multiple university campuses).
I am sure that there are ways that I could tailor my trainings to be more helpful to part-time faculty population, which might mean moving them to later in the evening or might mean creating materials where they could learn about technologies on their own time. But I also wonder if I simply haven’t spent enough time getting to know the faculty who are on campus long after business hours, to listen to what their needs are rather than second-guessing them or assuming that they are similar to the needs of the full-time faculty that I know well.
I can (and will) do so much better at this, in the future.
(Image from LOC Commons on flickr.)