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Notes from the Field #1: Garden in the Machine
Notes from the Field #1: Garden in the Machine
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For many of us, summer is a time of personal restoration yet also a time of cultivation and creation. Plantlife abounds the campus, from patios and porch steps brimming with greenery to the gardens—both walled and unwalled—that dot the hilltop. And while much of my focus has been on struggling to maintain the wellbeing of three potted plants outside of our home these past few months, others are bearing the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor as harvest time nears. And we know that harvest time is nearing as the days grow shorter and we receive the annual announcement that Canvas pages have gone live. (click the title to read more)

"We need to begin using the LMS not to build courses but to organize thinking about courses." (Morris and Stommel, 2012)

For many of us, summer is a time of personal restoration yet also a time of cultivation and creation. Plantlife abounds the campus, from patios and porch steps brimming with greenery to the gardens—both walled and unwalled—that dot the hilltop. And while much of my focus has been on struggling to maintain the wellbeing of three potted plants outside of our home these past few months, others are bearing the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor as harvest time nears. And we know that harvest time is nearing as the days grow shorter and we receive the annual announcement that Canvas pages have gone live.

Learning Management Systems can often engender a great deal of trepidation amongst teaching faculty. At times these systems are cumbersome and difficult to navigate. Keeping pace with content delivery, assignment updates, and grading procedures can feel like the worst part of what we do as educators. Abruptly in August, we're tasked with removing ourselves from the livelihood of gardens and greenery in service to the whir of computers and machinery. If utilized and implemented correctly, however, these systems and machines might find ways to make the learning lives of teachers and students far more efficient and effective. As professors Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel aptly remind us, "...the LMS is meant to help us think about teaching, not to do the teaching, or to tell us what teaching needs to occur. The LMS is not the course; it’s the launching pad for the course" (Morris and Stommel, 2012). In our society, we tend to look to technology to solve problems best tackled by our humanity. Canvas may have recently surpassed Blackboard concerning national market share but it is the connection we make with our students each day as a residential learning community that facilitates learning in ways no software might replicate.

In an increasingly digital world, it has become increasingly clear the ways that machines routinely disrupt both the literal and figurative gardens referenced above. But what if we considered the LMS as a type of garden in the machine? What if we cultivated rich, vibrant, and nuanced digital learning environments for our students in ways that mirrored the digital lives they lead each day? The magic of gardens is what takes place when we're not tending to them. Our work facilitates a type of growth and development in the hours when we're intentionally unaware. And we all reap the benefits long after the initial work has taken place. "Good teaching," writes Morris and Stommel, "doesn’t happen by accident, and it can rarely be scripted. It requires planning, improvisation, and on-the-fly course-correction." So happy planning. I can't wait to see what becomes of our work together this year.

Featured Research Morris

Sean Michael, and Jesse Stommel. 2012. “Hacking the Screwdriver: Instructure’s Canvas and the Future of the LMS.” Hybrid Pedagogy. June 15, 2012. http://hybridpedagogy.org/hacking-the-screwdriver-instructures-canvas-and-the-future-of-the-lms/

Waters, Audrey. “Learning Networks, Not Teaching Machines.” 2015. Hack Education. June 10, 2015. http://hackeducation.com/2015/06/10/eden2015.

SG Teaching Standards

* 3.5 & 3.6—Planning * 4A1—Teaching & Learning (Instruction)