Every year in June, endowed chair recipients submit a form that quantifies how funds are utilized over the course of a year. Unfortunately, reports of this nature often fail to capture the depth and breadth of the impact endowed chairs have on students, faculty, and staff. Many of the most profound effects that endowed chairs have go unrecorded because, simply put, they are difficult to quantify. This post is an effort to qualify, rather than quantify, a few of these effects.
It is easy to quantify the purchase of Camtasia (screen-casting software) and the use of Jing and Screenjelly (Free Web 2.0 applications that allow students and other teachers to make screen-casted videos themselves), but how do I quantify the looks on my students’ faces when they first watch individualized feedback videos for essays they have written? Or when they Jing their own videos and tweet or facebook them to their friends? How do I quantify the looks on colleagues’ faces when I show them the possibilities that these new technologies offer?
It’s easy to quantify the purchase of Dragon Naturally Speaking (software which turns my voice to text), but how do I quantify the feelings of inclusion felt by a Deaf student watching a closed captioned YouTube instructional mash-up I have made? How do I quantify the feelings of inclusion felt by a soon-to-be mother home on bed rest who sits next to me “digitally” as we go over one of her papers on a digital/video conference call?
I can quantify the money I spend buying books or going to a conference for training and the purchase of software and hardware to improve materials for my students. I can list the tools and tricks: Adobe CS4, Soft Chalk, Flip Cameras, WordSmith, Camtasia, Snag It, Voice Thread, Word Clouds, SCORMS, Screencasts, Mashup Videos, etc… But how do I quantify the moment of realization when I tell a student, “No, you don’t have to buy a book for this class. Go ahead and put that money to better use. Your book is online and it is free, interactive, and embedded with audio and video”? How do I quantify the charge I get when I see the light bulb come on in the mind of a student because of something I am doing as a result of an endowed chair? Or when a colleague asks me, “Hey James, can you show me how you did that?” Or when lab staff asks, “Hey, can we use that, or will you come teach us that?”
Last year, I was privileged to receive the Maguire Family Teacher Endowed Chair. As a result, this fall I will pilot a free digital text for writing students, and the text includes embedded practice tests and quizzes. I will also be offering this content to others who wish to reduce the cost of texts for their students. During the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 academic years, I utilized funds from the Dr. P. Phillips Foundation Endowed Chair to bring learning leaders into EAP classrooms and to enhance student engagement opportunities through the use of Web 2.0 technologies. This year, as the recipient of the Jessie and Eugene Drey Endowment, I have the honor of continuing my work and exploring how vocabulary learning can be enhanced through the use of digital corpora. I would like to thank these families for helping me to do what I do, but the word “thanks” can’t really quantify my sincere appreciation for what these endowments do for teaching and learning. Even expressing the word “thanks” in the various languages of my students just doesn’t get it. So, in an effort to better qualify and give others a better feel for how endowed funds continue to cultivate the learning landscape for teachers and students, I have created a brief showcase to share some of the things endowed chairs have allowed me to do with my students. The interactive word cloud above and below this post was created to give you a brief glimpse of how endowed chair funds have allowed me to turn static text into dynamic learning. So, take a moment and think back to your college days, remember those heavy, expensive, and considerably dense texts and then roll over the words in the cloud, click on them, and imagine how these new technologies are changing learning for students.
With Sincere Thanks,
Dr. James S. May
Professor of English as a Second Language
Valencia Community College