After one full week “back in the saddle” after my Sabbatical leave, I am shocked by the amount of energy I have.
One of the features of this past week was two full days of “faculty development” meetings. “Faculty development” is the fancy term we use for what the rest of the world might call training. You might think that after 37+ years as an educator, there isn’t much more training that I need. Frankly, some years, that’s how I feel as I sit through these meetings. This week, however, I got a huge benefit from several of the sessions.
On Thursday I attended a session called The (Almost) Paperless Classroom, where I learned about a whole host of digital tools that are available to me to help me manage what used to be paperwork. With these tools I can have students submit their work to me electronically, I can score it electronically, the software converts my scoring to a grade and it captures my comments, students can view their scored work online, the scores can be passed to a gradebook where averages are calculated automatically and maintained, and a database of the students’ past work is maintained.
On Friday I attended a session that takes all of that several steps further. I learned about a software package that does all of that, but also enables instructors to tie their assignments and exams to a coded set of program outcomes. This enables the institution to keep track of how well it is doing, overall, at helping students learn the overall program outcomes. Because it is all digitally tied together, everyone can get access to data and generate all sorts of reports to give up-to-the-minute indicators of overall program success. Of course, this same data is available to help find and address individual student weaknesses.
Between the two of these sessions I can see a potential that I’ve not been able to see before to really improve my teaching. I was so energized by this vision that I spent many hours yesterday re-tooling my courses to enable me to move toward using this type of technology. The time went super quickly, and at the end I had an almost euphoric sense of accomplishment. I am looking forward to moving into more implementation and sharing this vision with my colleagues.
I don’t know if having had a Sabbatical is in any way responsible for my new level of energy and excitement. But if it is, then institutions that provide a Sabbatical benefit are very wise.