Culturally Responsive Teaching, Innovation, and Public Humanities

Photos from the Digital Delano Project

By Oliver A. Rosales

When I was first hired at the Bakersfield College Delano Campus in 2012, I had never actually spent much time in Delano.  As an alumni of Garces High School (Class of ‘98, Go Rams!), I recall visiting Delano as the local high school was on our regular football schedule in the then South Sequoia League.  Between 2005-2012, I completed my PhD in History at UC Santa Barbara, where during the doctoral research phase, I traveled across the country to multiple archives researching California labor and civil rights history.  When I approached the ABD Phase (All But Dissertation), I began presenting my work at academic conferences and attending sessions of other scholars working in the field of U.S. labor and civil rights history.  When the chance to work at the Bakersfield College campus opened up, I was excited because Delano had always been a recurring topic of conversation among scholars doing work on California labor and civil rights.  The legacy of César Chávez and the farm worker movement looms large in Delano and across the San Joaquin Valley; anyone studying Latino history in the twentieth century knows about Delano’s legacy.  After landing the job, I was excited to jump into teaching various history courses focused on the twentieth century, where I could align local history and oral history methods to illustrate to my students that “history is all around them,” often times within their homes or the collective memories of their families.

To somewhat of a surprise, many of my students knew very little about the history of the farm worker movement.  Many of my students, while their families may come from migrant agricultural backgrounds, stem from families of more recent immigrants from the 1980s forward, after the heyday of the farm worker movement had passed.  Still, in Delano, many of my students attended César Chávez High School or Robert Kennedy High School, not realizing that the naming of their school was a direct reflection of the history that occurred within their hometown.

For nearly a decade then I’ve practiced oral history methods with my students.  The design of these assignments has been a culturally responsive approach that taps into the rich histories of agricultural, labor, and migration within student families; historical themes so commonplace to my students regardless of racial, ethnic, or cultural background.  After practicing this method for a few years, however, I began to realize that more could be done in helping address a systemic problem within the region faced by students, a lack of traditional archives. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in 2017 funded Digital Delano: Preserving an International Community’s History.  Part of their common heritage series, the grant was focused on expanding digitization efforts in rural underserved communities.  Through that program, Elizabeth Sundby (Delano Campus librarian) and I hosted a series of public events featuring writers and cultural stakeholder groups invested in preserving the history of international migration in Delano.  At these events, aside from creating a public humanities learning opportunity, we hosted digitization events where the public could digitize family historical artifacts.  This was a first step in creating the Digital Delano archive, which we have continuously grown since the grant was implemented. 

Digital Delano served as a spring board for subsequent grant opportunities.  From 2017-2020, Professors Andrew Bond (English) and Josh Ottum (Music) and I co-directed the NEH grant Energizing the Humanities which provided a three year interdisciplinary humanities program for faculty focused on the San Joaquin Valley.  Over 30 faculty participated in the program, having a chance to read and meet authors from diverse interdisciplinary perspectives all invested in writing about California’s Central Valley.  In 2021, the NEH awarded $190,000 to CSU Bakersfield for a Landmarks in American History grant, which will fund 72 teachers from across the United States to have a resident learning experience in Summer 2023 and visit local historical landmarks associated with California farm labor history.  As co-director and lead author for that grant, the ideas generated for the project stem directly from the oral history practices I’ve done at the BC Delano campus for a decade. 

I find my own learning is continuously advanced by embracing culturally responsive teaching in Delano.  I’ve become fascinated by the use of ArcGIS and geospatial technologies and its capacity not only to create new forms of digital archives, but also how technology can be used to visually map communities in new ways.  The intersection of the work I’ve done in Delano and ArcGIS technologies informs my approach to the Whiting Foundation’s Public Engagement fellowship.  This $50,000 grant is currently funding my professional development with ArcGIS technology, as well as providing teacher professional development and public humanities programming in the spring of 2023 related to local landmark sites in the San Joaquin Valley.  I am thankful to my students in Delano for enthusiastically engaging the history of their local communities, as well as to the Bakersfield College and Kern Community College District administration for always supporting faculty innovation.  I am hopeful readers of this blog will consider attending public humanities programs next semester, as well as embracing culturally responsive teaching and innovation in their own classrooms.  There are many opportunities for faculty to be a bridge between student learning, innovation, and stakeholder groups interested in improving educational outcomes across the Kern Community College District.

References

Author Bio

Oliver A. Rosales, Professor of History and former Faculty Coordinator of the Social Justice Institute at Bakersfield College, earned a B.A. in History at the University of California, Berkeley, M.A. in History at California State University, Bakersfield, and a Ph.D. in History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is also a former Visiting Faculty at the Bard College Master of Arts in Teaching Program and Visiting Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Studies at Harvard University. He is contributor to The Chicano Movement: Perspectives from the Twenty-First Century; Civil Rights and Beyond: African American and Latino/a Activism in the Twentieth Century United States; and The Journal of the West. He served on the Nominating Board of the Organization of American Historians and is Board Chair with California Humanities.

Opening Doors with Open Educational Resources

By Clara Hodges Zimmerman

In April 2021, I responded to a call from a colleague at Berkeley City College for collaborators on a project funded by ASCCC Open Educational Resource Initiative (OERI) to write a textbook-style advanced-level OER for students who were learners of English. It was a year into the pandemic and I was back to teaching after having a baby in October. To be honest, I was feeling a little isolated and disconnected from my vocation (although maybe that was just the sleep deprivation!). So, I eagerly emailed back my enthusiastic response and joined eight other community college ESL instructors from around the state interested in filling a gap in the OER/ESL world.

Goals

We had several goals in mind as we started.

First, we wanted a text that truly addressed the mix of language and composition skills for a reading-and-writing focused course one level below transfer English composition.

Next, as ESL teachers, we spend a lot of time making materials that address our students’ unique needs and identities, particularly since most ESL textbooks are geared toward an extremely general, international audience. We wanted to create a text that was narrower in its intended audience but reflected the diversity of the students in our classes; it was just our luck that the participants in this project represent rural, urban, small, and large campuses from around California.

Finally, we felt strongly that students need authentic models of student writing as well as other authentic texts not edited for an “ESL audience.” To that end, each of the six chapters in the book contains an unedited student essay and authentic readings from a variety of sources.

Process

Since most of us didn’t know each other, one of the first things we did was discuss and create a values statement to make sure our goals aligned. Central to this statement was a firm belief in the need for broad, equity-minded representation in images and examples used throughout the text and an emphasis on writers and writing that mirrors the diversity of the California Community College population. We also agreed that, because we each bring our own biases to the table, we would keep an open mind throughout the writing process and be open to suggestions for revision. In retrospect, I believe that this discussion was crucial to the success of this project since it provided a focal point for our large team of contributors.

To select content and frame the structure of the book, we pulled course outlines from our colleges’ English composition classes and advanced ESL courses, examined and compared them, and made choices based on what we felt students would need to be prepared with for success in transfer-level English. We also reviewed existing OER for ideas and pooled activities and lessons we’d developed for our own classes. Then, we drafted the chapters. After completing a draft, we peer reviewed each other’s work, filled in any gaps, and put the draft on LibreTexts, our publishing platform. Finally, the book was peer reviewed for content, accessibility, and appropriate licensing by a team at ASCCC OERI.

Takeaways

I was fortunate to be able to present the text with my colleague and project lead at October’s CATESOL conference and, as we prepared, we spent some time reflecting on the project.

We agreed that the process of creating this text was far more intensive and laborious than we had imagined going into it. Since our team was large, weaving together everyone’s voices to create a cohesive text was a challenge. However, we came to think of these different voices as a strength of the text and a feature to highlight. Other challenges were much more mundane; for example, learning how to import and edit the textbook in LibreTexts was a learning curve we hadn’t anticipated. Personally, though, despite the tremendous time and effort spent on this project, I still came away with my cup filled; I felt, and continue to feel, a greater sense of community and am reinvigorated about my vocation.

More than anything, this project underscored for us the power and importance of inter-campus collaboration in service of our students. A shared vision and set of values that reflect a commitment to student success will lead to projects that create an impact in our students’ lives. And, the more high-quality OER that are created, the easier we can meet zero- and low-textbook cost goals for our classrooms.

Now that it’s out in the world, our text will, we hope, be useful in a variety of language classrooms and situations. While we designed the book for an ESL class one level below transfer English, much of the content could be easily adapted for to levels above and below this – in my case, I’m teaching a transfer-level English class this semester and have adapted activities and examples to use in my class. (This flexibility is one of the benefits of using OER; I don’t feel guilty about assigning a text and only using bits and pieces that suit my class’s needs!)

As an English teacher, I love a good call to action. I encourage you to think about creating, adopting, and sharing OER in your own classes as it feels useful and appropriate for your situation. These high-quality resources can help alleviate financial strain on our students, be customized for real students in real classrooms rather than an imagined audience, and create opportunities for valuable cross-campus discussions and collaboration. What are we waiting for? 

We’d love feedback on the text, particularly if you have adopted it in some form in your classroom. You can find Reading, Writing, Research, and Reasoning: An Advanced ESL Text here.

Clara Hodges Zimmerman grew up between Indonesia and California and developed a love of language and learning at a young age. Her family moved to Porterville when she was in high school, and her first college class was English 101A at Porterville College (thank you, Professor Mills)! She has a BA in Anthropology and Sociology from the University of Redlands and MA in English with a TESOL emphasis from Central Washington University. Prior to coming to Porterville College as an adjunct instructor in 2015, she lived and worked in Washington State and Guangxi Province, China. She teaches English, ESL, and Linguistics courses at Porterville College. In her free time, she loves reading, being outdoors, and spending time with her family.

Building Community 15 Minutes at a Time

By Leslie Pelon

I will never forget the first day of my British Literature class during my final undergraduate semester. I was excited to have made it onto the roster from the waitlist the week before, since it was a popular course taught by the most beloved English Professor on campus. I knew the class would be excellent. I had no idea that it would be transformative.

There were almost fifty of us crammed into that basement classroom when Professor Walker came through the door and proceeded to greet us, each by name. No, he did not call roll or go alphabetically. He went down each row, looked each student in the face, and greeted them, “Hi Sarah, nice to see you. Ethan, welcome. Hello, Sam.” At first, I assumed he knew these students from other classes, then that they must all be students who spent a lot of time in the English department offices. It was not until this man whom I’d never met greeted me by name that I realized what was happening. Dr. Walker, a man who taught 200 plus students a semester, had memorized our names and faces off his roll sheet before coming to class.

Ten years later, I still have no idea how he accomplished that feat of memorization. From the moment I stepped into his classroom, I felt seen.

While I have yet to imitate his first-day roll-calling trick, I have worked hard to emulate many of the practices I observed him use in class. And one in particular has made an enormous difference in my classroom cultures – and student outcomes.

When it came time to submit our first writing assignment, Dr. Walker had us sign up for a 15-minute, one-on-one meeting with him. I turned in my writing assignment in the meeting and watched as he read and graded it in front of me. We spent the rest of the time talking about my writing, goals, and concerns about the class.

When we went into lockdown in the spring of 2020, all of us were looking for ways to connect with our students and keep them engaged. I was trying to figure out ways to get to know my students and impact them, when I read an article that mentioned requiring students to attend office hours. I immediately thought of how impactful that 15 minutes with Dr. Walker had been and decided to try it.

Unlike Dr. Walker, I do not grade a paper in front of my students. Instead, starting in the second week of the semester and going through week five, they are each expected to sign up for a slot and meet with me to discuss their final paper topic. I expect them to come having read the assignment instructions and with ideas on topics that might interest them. We usually spend about half the time talking about the final paper and the rest of the time discussing other concerns and interests. The meetings all end the same way, with me asking them to repeat after me and say, “I promise not to suffer in silence.”

I will admit those three weeks of the semester were long and hard. During this semester I have ninety-five students on my rolls, and I met with each one for fifteen minutes. That comes out to about twenty-four hours of student meetings over three weeks. And, of course, there is the rescheduling and the no-shows. That first semester I began doing this I thought, “Well, that was cute, but we are not doing it again.” No way could that much upfront work on my end be worth it.

I was wrong, and I have continued the practice every semester since.

After starting to require these meetings, I have seen my students’ success improve drastically. They do better on the assignment when they meet with me because I can explain it to them and answer questions one-on-one. They show up to student/office hours more often throughout the semester. Because my student has had the chance to get to know me, they have been eager and willing to ask me for help and share their insights. And best of all, I have seen them feel more confident participating in class and engaging with their peers.

Committing to intimidating or time-consuming practices is scary, and I understand why many of my colleagues call me “nuts” when I tell them about these meetings. Still, I am reminded of what I learned as a student in Dr. Walker’s class again each semester. It always pays off when instructors put forth the energy and extra effort to create relationships and connections with students.

Leslie Pelon is an Assistant Professor of History at Porterville College. Before being hired full-time, Leslie had been an adjunct instructor at PC since the Fall of 2019.  Leslie holds a B.A. in History from Brigham Young University and an M.A. in History from Southern New Hampshire University. Her master’s thesis centered on women preachers of the Second Great Awakening. When she is not teaching, Leslie keeps busy performing in plays at the Porterville Barn Theater, listening to audiobooks, and being a dance/swim mom for her two children.

Entering A Brave New Metaworld: VR and Education

By Rachel R. Tatro-Duarte

In 2017, a colleague introduced me to virtual reality (VR). I got an email from him that said, “You have to come to my office and try this VR set!” There was a clear tone of enthusiasm in the email that intrigued me, and while I wasn’t too sure about what VR was, as soon as I could, I went to meet him at his office to try out this exciting new VR technology.

When I put on the goggles riddled with cords connected to a high-end gaming laptop, I was instantly teleported and transformed into a wizard. I was blown away. It was like walking into a world I imagine J.R.R. Tolkien saw as he wrote Lord of the Rings. But this VR world was not imagination; everything I touched was real in that fantastic world; I could interact with the objects in the room just like we do in our physical world. I could also manipulate the objects in a way we can’t do in our physical world. I could make myself as small as a mouse and roam the room as a tiny wizard slipping through cracks in the walls. 

It didn’t take long for me to start thinking about the potential of VR to enhance teaching and learning, especially at the college and university level. It became my mission to get this technology into the hands of our students. 

So, I set up borrowed VR goggles in my office and invited students to come to play VR games with me during my office hours. I had interested students spilling out of my small office and into the hall. My office became a popular place for my students to gather together and explore the limited VR experiences I had to offer.

Together we went to museums to see the Mona Lisa; we teleported to Italy to visit the Sistine Chapel in all its glory and to see what it was like to live on a scaffolding like Michelangelo. We assembled robots and explored the complex human body through CT medical scans. Sometimes, when we just needed to get away from the stresses of finals week, we would teleport to the top of a mountain to view the sublimity of nature and remember that life is big.

Then the pandemic closed my office door. I left my VR goggles to sit still and gather dust for the next two years. 

Today, three years after the pandemic began, as the world eagerly transitions back to face-to-face, the momentum of using VR in the classroom has arrived, and I dare say, it’s here to stay. My office is no longer a rare hub that carries VR goggles for students; the potential of VR caught fire and has made its claim in education. There are now metaversities that offer most or all of their curriculum via VR, such as Moorehouse College, an HBCU in Atlanta. In fact, data suggests that VR has higher levels of engagement, retention, and deep learning in universities and business training.

Let me share a few of my favorite VR experiences I have discovered and plan to use in my classroom:

The Book of Distance

The Book of Distance is a 30-minute animated virtual experience that is both the first and second perspective of a young man leaving Japan for America, hoping for a better life. The experience also uses archival documents and photos to bring the event to life. The experience is also a family folktale shared with the player in story-telling form. Players follow the young man’s journey from Japan and end with his grandson retelling and recreating his grandfather’s life and experiences of being taken from his family and home to living in the Japanese internment camp.

The Key 

The Key is a 15-minute interactive short film/narrative in a first-person perspective with many interactive moments. The poem and the VR experience both focus on journeying into the unknown, the plight of a refugee, facing challenges, and making difficult decisions. Participants will experience a virtual journey from danger to safety in a beautiful yet eerie, dreamlike animated world.

The VR Museum of Fine Arts

Players can get up close and personal with the Mona Lisa (without the limitation of a glass case), Michelangelo’s David, The Quinn Dynasty Terra Cotta Army, Monet’s Water Lilies, etc. 

The Lab

The Lab invites players to test out a variety of VR experiences showcasing the vast potential that VR has to offer, such as virtual travel to various locations like Italy or even the solar system. It allows users to look closely at the human body via CT scans.

Perhaps it’s time for us to — not say goodbye to what learning in the classroom used to look like pre-Covid — but welcome VR, the newcomer, into our brave new post-Covid educational world. As a professor and researcher in VR, I have learned that VR provides a way to bring experiential learning into the classroom in ways we have never been able to do before. It allows users to connect to experiences, build empathy, and enhance learning through knowledge transference. One student described after playing through The Book of Distance that in the VR experience, it felt as though they were “taking on the heaviness of the situation,” and that helped them “start to connect the dots” and better understand poems relating to life in a Japanese internment camp. The VR experience enhanced their ability to empathize and better understand the readings. 

Rachel Tatro-Duarte has a BA and an MA in English Literature and an EdD in Higher Education Leadership. Her dissertation research focused on using learning technologies, specifically Virtual Reality, to enhance deep learning in the higher ed classroom. Rachel has also developed the VR Learning Model, which articulates concatenated stages by which participants experience Adaptability, Transitionality, Fusion, Enhancement, and Knowledge Transference. As a student, Rachel had the opportunity to study Sappho in Greece. As an NEH scholar, she traveled to southern Switzerland and Italy to learn about the Etruscans and early Italy. These immersive experiences allowed her to learn at a deeper level. Rachel hopes to recreate this kind of immersive experiential learning in her classroom using VR. 

Room to Fail

By Robert Alan Simpkins

My first job as a community college instructor came about in an unplanned manner due to a combination of three factors: 1) an unexpected need arose at a nearby college; 2) I met the CCCCO minimum qualifications for the position; 3) a faculty member at the college knew me from graduate school and recommended me to the Dean.  But as may come as no surprise to anyone reading this, I quickly learned that my qualifications and self-confidence (mostly stemming from my successful experiences as a student and a graduate Teaching Assistant) were hardly adequate preparation for the job.  In fact, it was a lengthy trial-and-error process with my students as unsuspecting test subjects that slowly led to my improvements as an instructor.  In some ways, over twenty years later, I feel I still have significant room to grow.  What made it possible for me to be here at all, as a tenured faculty member collaborating on diverse campus and district initiatives, was the support of and patience by key individuals who gave me the room to fail – which I did repeatedly.  Looking back, I suspect that it was the evidence that I was learning from those failures that gave them the confidence to continue supporting my evolution as an educator.  I have in turn tried to bring that insight to my work leading my degree program and adjunct faculty, as a two-time division chair during which time I oversaw some of the largest numbers of adjunct evaluations at my college, and working with a cross-section of colleagues across the college in initiatives, in which sometimes there was no precedent for what we were doing, no road map or template, and in which to succeed at times we also needed that room to fail.

I have so many stories of failure that I could probably fill a book with them, not that I am eager to admit them all.  There is one in particular, however, that I will share here as an example.  In this case, it is not a community college experience, but instead an experience as an adjunct teaching at a four-year public institution, where I taught simultaneous to my community college teaching for just over a decade before coming to my current position at Porterville College.  There I was asked to teach a course that was cross-listed in four departments, and was created by a group of full-time faculty members, and part of the Liberal Studies teacher-prep program.  It was a course that required extensive and interdisciplinary knowledge.  My struggle in it was not with the subject matter, but instead with the pedagogy and student culture.

In the case of the pedagogy, I was provided with a sample syllabus and assignments and asked to follow it precisely, including the use of a specific textbook.  I quickly realized the scope of the course required a massive amount of reading each week, and the expected quiz format was insufficient to representatively sample the material.  I gave the quizzes, and students took them, but I doubted that the quiz scores were any representation of their knowledge of the subject and felt arbitrary.  I tried to encourage them to teach each other by assigning chapters for discussion led by assigned students, seminar-style, which quickly turned disastrous as students came unprepared and I often ended up leading the discussion anyway – but not without awkwardness and complaints that students wanted me to just lecture.  A required large end-of-term assignment seemed hard for them to understand, and their research skills seemed inadequate – and being such a large percentage of their grade, it adversely impacted those who waited too long for help or submitted something contrary to the directions.  In the end, scores were low, students were frustrated, and as adjunct faculty were evaluated in every class in every semester there, I ended up with an embarrassing trip to my Department Chair to discuss what had happened.

Two things came out of that experience.  First, the Chair, who had known me for some time, allowed me the opportunity to share my observations of the experience.  Second, due to the course being cross-listed, the actual evaluation was to be overseen by a faculty member in another program, and at that time there was a change of oversight.  The new faculty member assigned to my course asked for a meeting, and since at that time I was a new parent and living only a few blocks from campus, offered to come over for my convenience and talk with me at my home.  That new faculty supervisor turned out to be one of the most important figures in my future career, and that conversation became one of the most important moments in my demonstrating my ability to learn from failure.

That Department Chair asked me very simply, “So what do you think happened?”  Fortunately, I had a lot of ideas, which I discussed at length.  She then asked, “If you could do whatever you wanted to fix things in the class, what would you do?”  I had ideas about that as well, to which she patiently listened.  I was able to show that I had been thinking about it all for some time, and not just because she had asked for the meeting.  I had gone through different ideas, I had researched other kinds of materials to use, and other ways to teach.  What I did not know was if the results would be different, if students would be less frustrated, and if they would learn the subject matter more effectively.  She told me to go ahead and try out my ideas, and we would see what happened.  Fortunately, the class the next semester was a totally different experience, with much stronger student participation and enthusiasm, and enabled me to break the mold of my own teaching style, increasing my confidence in the process. 

It was also important to me to show that her faith in me was validated, and in giving me that room to fail, learn, and grow, was leading to my being a more effective instructor.  Now I was not free from failure at that point – a year later I had some struggles in the same course, as it appeared that some students were figuring out how to work around some elements in my course design, and as I tried to close the loopholes it provoked a new backlash, but she and I again went through the same process of discussion.  We had a meeting, we reviewed what went wrong, I showed my understanding of my role, how I thought it could be corrected, and she again gave me the opportunity to change and improve, which I did, and I continued to teach that course until I left for my current position at Porterville College a decade ago – an application for which she was one of my references.

Because our work as educators does not occur in isolation and is always embedded in a complex web of changing perspectives, expectations, and requirements, some degree of failure is probably inevitable for instructors, regardless of the number of years of experience in the profession.  Achieving success in the long-term then means that faculty need a support structure that expects occasional failures and supports the correction and experimentation needed to ensure the success of the student learning experience – yet that support system is rarely placed systematically and intentionally for all faculty, including adjunct faculty as well as tenure-track and tenured faculty.  Some may have similar stories of supportive peers or supervisors, and understanding and patient students.  But others may have been scarred by experiences that lacked such support, perhaps causing them to leave an institution, or even the profession of education altogether.

To ensure equity for our educators, then, perhaps the solution is to embed the support for faculty into our institutions from the start of their time with us.  Dedicated mentors who are experienced educators can help faculty experiencing unexpected trouble in their classes.  Specialized instructional designers can work with new faculty to help with their course design choices.  Supervisors can meet with struggling faculty, giving support and allowing for them to have that room to fail, when they can show that they understand why they faced difficulties, and that they are growing as educators in response.  The faculty evaluation process could place a premium on the evidence of this self-reflection, and the evaluee’s evidence of self-directed investment and improvement.  My hope for future educators at my institution is that they can avoid some of the lengthy and disheartening trial-and-error experiences I experienced early in my career with a stronger, institutionalized, cross-college support system.  Although to some degree we all have to learn on our own and in our own way, perhaps failure is better experienced when not hidden from view, but in a supportive, sympathetic room surrounded by those who understand because they have been there too, and remember the support they received, and would have wanted others to also have.

Robert Alan Simpkins has been a Professor of Anthropology at Porterville College since 2012, where he also is currently the Academic Senate President and faculty lead for Guided Pathways.  He previously served two terms as the Social Science Division Chair, and organized PC’s CHAP (Cultural and Historical Awareness Program) series for five years.  Prior to coming to PC, he was an adjunct at De Anza College and at San Jose State University.  He has an MA and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and BA from San Jose State University.  As an Archaeologist, he is interested in the relationship between roads, architecture, cultural landscapes, and socio-political organization.  His particular focus has been the Golconda kingdom in the Indian Deccan region, which was the subject of his doctoral dissertation and on which he has presented his research internationally and published extensively, most recently in the article “Inferring Road Networks and Socio-Political Change from Elite Monuments of the Golconda Kingdom” in South Asian Studies in 2020.  Although a native of the Bay Area, he enjoys the farms and orchards of the central valley and the proximity to the mountains, and going on drives and exploring the region with his family.  He has a weakness for books, toys, classic movies and animation, art, stories, and anything that he finds amusing. 

Having Each Other’s Back

By Ana Ceballos

I recall at a very early age having to take care of my father and support my mother.  I began to work at the young age of 11 helping my parents pick the bountiful fruits of the Central Valley.  And at the age of 15 I started to clean tables as a “busgirl”.  I did this to help support my family when at times my father could not provide due to his constant drinking.  As I grew older, I realized that I had developed a lack of trust in others and a mentality of “do it yourself, don’t rely on others”.  I was determined and perseverant, and I knew that I could count and rely on the survival skills that I had built growing up to help me through any situation.  Despite having been a first-generation college graduate and the first in my family to pursue a professional career, there were times when I did not trust in my own capabilities.  I have had moments where I also felt alone, working in silos, wanting to reach out to others, to ask questions, or ask for help, yet not doing so out of fear that I would burden people, or that I would come across as not capable.  I remember thinking, “Well, I will just have to figure it out and do it myself,” and many times I did.  The experience of accomplishing something by myself was gratifying, but at times it also left me feeling bitter, drained, exhausted, and in need of a break.  Yet I have also worked in various settings of higher education and collaborated with colleagues on projects which have all been fruitful, satisfying, and rewarding.  I now look back and realize some of those experiences opened the door to my own individual personal and professional growth.  From them, I would learn to trust, be resourceful, and rely on others.  From this I would experience what it was like to “have each other’s back” at work.  I sometimes still find myself reflecting on those experiences, the people, the goals, the triumphs and fears – all part of the continuous journey and growth in the profession – and what having each other’s back at work means, how it feels, and how it can be developed.

For example, a few years ago, I was presented with the opportunity to explore this notion of offering and receiving support from colleagues at work when I was asked to form part of a new team – the Porterville College Education Careers team – whose mission is “to prepare, support, and inspire students along a successful path toward teaching and careers in education.”  What I learned quickly through our first team meetings in 2018 is that each member possessed areas of expertise that I like to refer to as gifts.  I knew that I also came with gifts to offer as a Counselor, and while I knew my colleagues had gifts of their own to share, part of me felt that I still needed to trust more fully in my gifts.  Perhaps this feeling of needing to trust more was due to my upbringing where I was taught to be strong, that to get something done you needed to do it yourself, and that no one else would do it for you.

Over the years as I worked with teams, I learned to trust more.  The Education Careers team developed a rapport over time through consistent and constant meetings, and as we did I could feel myself opening more and accepting the other team member’s gifts, as well as offering my own.  As I began relaxing, trusting, and allowing for support to flow naturally – as well as opening to creativity – I found myself actively engaged and excited with our team’s mission and everyone’s willingness to share their gifts freely.  The moments where I felt tempted to figure it out and do it myself diminished as the memories grew of my team, our experiences, and the support each member offered generously.  Trusting became more natural for me, and I found that our efforts as a team continued to strengthen, expand, and solidify.  This experience would challenge me to put fully into practice what I had learned over the years, and let go of some misconceptions I had acquired growing up.

In time, we began to see the fruits of our labor.  The program began to grow, student graduation and retention rates increased, and partnerships within campus, outside of campus with universities, K-12 schools, and community partners solidified.  The work we started and gradually opened ourselves to experience began to pay off not only with students but within us.  I had grown and I knew I would continue to grow as a professional – not alone but with the support of my colleagues.

I like to say that “having each other’s back” at work, for me, means trusting one another, offering our areas of expertise freely to the team, relying on each other, being open to growing together and as individuals.  It also means finding the anchor that keeps us motivated to do the work to show up and be vulnerable, creative, and open to the experience.  In the case of the Education Careers team, I considered our anchor to be our common goal of supporting students in their path towards a career in education.  Another key component of forming a team that has each other’s back is being comfortable with vulnerability to see our own strengths, as well as the areas where we can grow, and in turn demystify.

Overall, I felt that I had found the answer of how it felt and looked “to have each other’s back”.  I felt supported, secure, and confident.  The team offered diverse areas of expertise, experiences, and thought processes.  Such a team can be developed gradually and progressively through openness, trust, vulnerability, and a common goal.  I am grateful for the experience, and for my colleagues – excellent individuals whose strengths have helped me grow in more ways than one, and who have fostered a greater understanding of what it is to form a team and have “each other’s back”.  These great colleagues, humans, and mentors are:  Dr. Robert Simpkins, Kimanthi Warren, Primavera Arvizu, Professor Karen Bishop, Dr. Michelle Pengilly, Professor Jacqueline Pennell-Meredith, Michael Carley, DJ Vanderwerff, Jacqueline Escareno, and Frida Mendez.

I opened myself to the experience of forming part of the Education Careers team, and the experience not only produced fruits for students but for myself as well.  I take the lessons learned to take risks more often, be vulnerable and open, try new strategies, be resourceful, and to trust more in the capability that lies inside myself and others.  I felt that I had grown in leadership skills, creativity, and determination.  I led several of our team meetings, coordinated events, formed and strengthened partnerships, and – most importantly – grew in trusting not only myself but also my colleagues.  I grew in gratitude for the diversity of the Education Careers team that united us in accomplishing a common goal.  Most importantly, the experience also helped me to see myself and my own gifts more clearly which led me to grow in gratitude for my parents and the upbringing that shaped me to be the person I am today.  I always say I would not be here if it was not for them, they are my rock and my motivation and continue to play a positive role in me.  We are all part of various teams in life, and if we are actively open to the experience we will continue to grow.  I can now see more clearly what it means to “have each other’s back” at work – and in life.

Ana Ceballos is a Counselor Faculty member at Porterville College.  Ana was born in Michoacán, Mexico and immigrated with her family to the United States at the age of five.  She attended Porterville College, earning an AA degree in Social Science, before transferring to CSU-Fresno and earning a BA in Psychology and an MS in Counseling, Student Services option, as well as the Pupil Personnel Service (PPS) Credential.  For over 15 years, Ana has dedicated her energy and time in working in the field of education, including the K-12 system as a Substitute Teacher for Fresno Unified School District & Project Specialist for Fresno County Office of Education, and at UC-Merced as K-14 Education Preparation Specialist.  She has also served as a facilitator for Parent Institute for Quality of Education (PIQE) and Parent Empowerment Program (PEP), and the CSU-Fresno College Assistant Migrant Program (CAMP) and Educational Opportunity Program (EOP).  For the past 8 years Ana has supported students at Porterville College as a Counselor for EOPS/CARE & CalWORKs, the Student Support Services (SSSP) program, undocumented student support services, online counseling, and the Teacher Education program. She has also served as Counselor lead for AB705 and assisted in its 2019 implementation. Ana finds it rewarding to work alongside great colleagues at PC who are passionate about providing equitable opportunities and a safe, welcoming, and resourceful environment to all students.

Rethinking My Teaching Policies: What I Learned From the Pandemic

By Rebecca Baird

In March of 2020 I, like so many other instructors, packed up my classroom and left for Spring Break, not knowing that I wouldn’t see this group of students in person ever again.  My office, with its remaining graded midterms and papers for students to pick up, would sit empty for the rest of the semester.  As I walked the last students out of my classroom that March day they expressed fear and anxiety over the growing pandemic, but also hope that we would return to normal in a few weeks’ time.  Little did any of us know at that time that those weeks would stretch into months, semesters, even years. 

While the pandemic certainly upended life, it also gave me time to reflect on my teaching philosophy and the strategies I used in my classrooms, both in-person and online.  For me, the pandemic and the chaos it wrought created a space for me to re-evaluate some long-held teaching styles, policies, and ingrained beliefs about best classroom practices.  Ultimately this self-reflection helped shift my teaching style and enabled me to enact changes in my classes that would benefit both my students and myself. 

One of the big changes I implemented in my online classes centered on due dates.  For a long time, I believed that my goal as an instructor was not only to impart knowledge but also to make students understand the necessity of due dates and to learn time management skills.  I had a zero tolerance late policy, meaning late work was not accepted in my class (outside of certain documented circumstances) and students who missed an assignment would receive a zero.  But as the Covid-19 pandemic progressed, this policy seemed increasingly untenable and frankly rather cruel, given the number of students getting ill, caring for ill family members, or dealing with the myriad of obstacles associated with moving class online or just dealing with the Covid-19 crisis in general.  That first semester, as students (and myself as well) grappled with the constantly changing circumstances, I received a steady flow of emails asking for extensions; by early April I had revised my late policies entirely to allow students to turn in late assignments without having to ask first.  In Spring 2020 it seemed like a small gesture to help us all get across the semester finish line without punishing students for living through such tumultuous events.   

The pandemic also required me to be more connected with my students, working closer with them to better understand their needs and the variety of issues they were facing in their lives.  Although we were now physically separated by the pandemic, in some ways we were closer than ever before, drawn together by our shared anxieties, fears, and struggles.  When a student told me it was difficult to find space to work where they wouldn’t be interrupted by their younger siblings, I thought of my own difficulty finding space and quiet in my home.  As students expressed enormous fears about the state of the world, I heard my own fears echoed back at me.   

I used the Summer of 2020 to reflect on my course policies and consider the ways they impacted students.  One of the questions I really began to ask myself was whether I wanted my students to focus on due dates or the course content.  Clearly there were students who were unable to achieve those due dates and now received a zero and could no longer turn in the work.  Was it that important to me to punish them harshly for missing an assignment? Or was it more important for them to learn about Reconstruction, or World War II, or the 1960s, albeit slightly past the due date?  What were students learning from my zero tolerance late policy, and how was it affecting their performance in class long term?  Could a student still keep or raise a grade after missing a deadline?  Did they lose motivation to continue working hard in the course after missing an assignment?  I began to develop a new framework for my course policies, one that will last even beyond the pandemic and will help address both student equity and completion in my courses.   

In the end, it came back to my desired course goals and outcomes, all of which related to History content – the due dates were really secondary to content.  My new policy takes off a slight deduction for late work, which increases day by day, but also has a limit, all of which is managed automatically by my Canvas grade book.  In the semesters that followed I found that students responded really well to this small change.  Students who missed an assignment would still turn it in late 99% of the time.  Usually students were only a day or two late, so it also did not make grading any more difficult for me – in other words, I was not getting a hundred late assignments in the last week of the semester.  And even better, once I made the new late policy very clear, I no longer had to deal with the weekly emails from students begging for mercy, as some measure of mercy was now built into the course policies. 

Best of all, students still were getting the course content and were doing better in class overall.  I have found fewer students giving up mid-semester, and more students making it to the end, often in spite of tremendous personal obstacles.  Students have much more of a safety net now, and one small incident in their personal lives or in another class won’t blow up their whole grade in my class. 

For me, the pandemic has really thrown into sharper focus the variety of challenges our students face on a daily basis and how those challenges impact their work in my classrooms, both virtual and face-to-face.  Knowing these challenges has helped me redevelop my courses to better engage with students and their needs, to grow with the changing times, and to help ensure student success without sacrificing rigor or content.   

Rebecca Baird is Professor of History at Porterville College. Before joining Porterville College in 2013 she worked as an adjunct at community colleges and universities in Connecticut, New York, and Arizona. Rebecca holds a B.A. in European History from UCLA, an M.A. in History from the University of Connecticut, and a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Arizona State University. Her doctoral dissertation centered on health care and the 1960s counterculture in Los Angeles. Before becoming an historian, she worked at veterinary hospitals in Connecticut and Los Angeles, and still has a house full of animals. In her free time, she enjoys reading about history, visiting historic sites, and learning historical sewing techniques. 

LEARNING AND DRIVING?!

By Ed Kollmeyer

Introduction: In this blog post, Cerro Coso ASL Instructor Ed Kollmeyer shares some observations of his students’ habits that alarmed him, and led him to advise his students to change their habits, and his own. 

Did I catch your attention?  I am not talking about Driving School – I am talking about students who are driving while learning in your course.  Sometimes I can see from my students’ background that they are in their vehicle during my class.  I have seen videos on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms, that many people are chatting while driving, and I worry for the innocent people that could be injured or even killed by distracted drivers.  I always let my students know that they should not watch videos while they are driving.  Please when you notice a student who is driving while you are instructing, tell them to find a place to park their vehicle until the class meeting has ended.

Do you doubt that this happens?  I have personally seen a pedestrian trip over a crack on the sidewalk while texting, and injure his nose.  I have seen a boy playing basketball while on his smartphone.  You may have heard about a train engineer who operated a Metro train in Los Angeles and caused an accident while texting few years ago.  Another story involved a distracted airline pilot.  I have learned that they often have video cameras on such drivers, engineers, and pilots to make sure that they stay focused, yet this seems insufficient to prevent such situations.  I cannot believe how addicted people are to their devices.  When I got a smartphone two years ago, I decided to put it in my trunk while I was driving.  Friends tried to text me.  I instructed them to be patient.  Later, my smartphone cracked when I sat on it, and then I quit using it.  I felt such freedom from my addiction.

I personally do not use telephone or voicemail because I am deaf.  I use e-mail to text from my laptop computer, and I now use televideo from my laptop – which is similar to a videophone.  The telephone or wireless companies charge for voice unless you want to add data to billing.  I wanted data only but they do not offer it separately, so I decided Wi-Fi was best.  I have to find Wi-Fi locations to use while I am traveling, which I do not mind, until I find company that offers a data only device to plug into my computer (If anyone has had experience with this, please let me know).   

Thank you for reading.  Please be safe and be sane.

Conclusion: Despite the busy lives of our students, we as educators have an obligation to encourage good study habits, and discourage potentially harmful ones.  We can add a short message to our syllabus and course Canvas pages, and a gentle reminder in weekly announcements.  We can also ensure that we offer students flexibility in our course requirements and our own policies, so that those who feel faced with the dilemma of missing class or attending live sessions where their focus is divided and their safety and that of others are at risk do feel pressure to make such choices.  As much as technology provides access options that were once simply not possible, we can create the conditions for students that ensure that more flexible access options are also safe options. 

Edward Kollmeyer has been an adjunct professor at Cerro Coso Community College since Fall 2014, where he has taught American Sign Language at the Lake Isabella and Ridgecrest campuses.  He is a Certified Deaf Interpreter with federal immigration court system, and a pastor, an evangelist, and a missionary.  He has been to Brazil, Canada, Grenada, Guyana, Mexico, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad, and has learned and taught sign language from each country – which is why Federal Judges used him to interpret, because most interpreters who use American Sign Language and cannot translate foreign sign languages.

  

The Solitude and the Camaraderie of Teaching

By Robert Alan Simpkins

During my now more than two decades as a college instructor, I have often felt that teaching can be a surprisingly lonely profession, considering how much of our work involves interacting with others.  Part of that feeling may derive from the nature of the interaction, and part of it may derive from the reality of how our time is actually spent, but some experiences in the past couple of years have changed aspects of those long-standing feelings for me.  To explain, let me share in more detail what I mean about these experiences.

As a former adjunct instructor for a dozen years, that feeling of loneliness was sometimes due to being a ‘freeway flyer’ and crisscrossing Santa Clara County to my different institutions, unable to have the luxury of time among colleagues at any one place.  In the classroom, it was sometimes due to the imbalance in the relationship of instructor and student, in which interaction is so unlike that of peers, friends, or family members, and no matter what teaching style one employs – friendly or distant – the fact is that we hold significant power over their education and future, and as such are authority figures to our students in a way that impacts our interaction with them regardless of the style of interaction one employs. 

As a tenured professor over the past decade at Porterville College, I have felt that even with my most familiar and trusted colleagues, our shared time in meetings is not truly social because there is work to be done, and an awareness that this time is taking us away from time spent working on our classes and other responsibilities.  And then there is the unfortunate fact that our classes themselves – the thing that is the primary expectation for work under our contract – requires significant labor outside of the classroom time in the form of preparation, research, grading, and – increasingly – knowledge of instructional technology and pedagogy.  This work may occur at all hours of the day, and any day of the week, and many of us in our dedication spend far more hours doing the work than perhaps makes economic sense – yet we do it to be sure it is being done well and to meet all of our professional expectations.  This devotion may keep us from other forms of social life, including our family and friends, our hobbies, and other forms of personal fulfillment.  And for many of us, it continues during the ‘breaks’ between sessions as well, when that investment in anything new is most likely to occur, as well as final grading after classes end and pre-semester preparations before the new semester starts.  And in those long and quiet hours over the past two decades, I also often wondered if all this work hindered or helped my own ability to make myself better at the work I was trying to do.

Recently, I watched The Beatles docuseries Get Back, and in being provided an opportunity to ‘sit’ in the studio with the Beatles as they rehearsed songs for what would be their final public performance in January of 1969, I saw things in their interactions that reminded me of some of my own experiences as a teacher.  I saw George Harrison trying to find his place in rehearsals while John and Paul played off each other, with George standing to the side looking sad, lonely, and uncertain of his future – at one point quietly quitting the band, before reluctantly returning.  I saw Paul trying to encourage them all to be more ambitious, and feeling like the others did not share his motivation.  I saw Ringo show up to daily rehearsal – sometime the first to arrive, sometimes the only one to arrive – ready to do the work even while the others were frustrated or distracted.  I saw John trying his best to keep the mood light, and ready to play any song and support any one of them.  And I saw how they all seemed to feel happier, and more able to play together with enthusiasm, when their old friend from their Hamburg days, Billy Preston, stopped by and joined in the sessions, bringing a new sound to the compositions, and a new energy to the room. 

Like a band that has spent years together, faculty in an institution may work side-by-side for years – sometimes harmoniously, sometimes acrimoniously.  Some faculty, like myself, have a ‘one faculty program’ in the sense of there being only a single full-time faculty member – although supported by outstanding adjunct instructors – but work within a larger unit (in this case, an academic division) collaboratively with full-time faculty in other disciplines.  Other faculty work within the same discipline alongside several other colleagues, sometimes collaboratively and sometimes independently.  These differences impact decision-making and what kinds of social interactions we have, yet at some point we have to work with others, collaborate and support each other’s work.  But we can develop entrenched habits that prevent us and our colleagues from growing, which may be to the detriment of the individual, the institution, and ultimately, the students we are charged with educating.

Several times in Get Back, George arrives to the studio to share a song he had been working on, and when we hear it, we as the audience looking back fifty years have a perspective on it that they in the moment it is happening do not.  We know, for example, that one of those unfinished songs will become ‘Something’ and perhaps one of the finest pop songs of all time, but at that moment George is stuck on that first verse and his chorus is initially different, even if the melody is the same.  He is growing as an artist before our eyes in that footage, but to John and George, he is still the youngest of the group, who has lived his adolescence in their shadow.  George later notes with some frustration that now he has so many songs he could release his own album – and soon after would, in the majestic form of All Things Must Pass.  But at the moment we see him in this footage, he is just struggling to be recognized and feel like a peer and equal to his bandmates, John and Paul.

I understood that feeling in my past, wanting to do more, to show what I was capable of, and waiting for the opportunity.  I was fortunate when then-President of Porterville College, Rosa Carlson, gave me that opportunity.  I am fortunate now for the opportunities I have been given by my colleagues as Academic Senate President and Guided Pathways faculty lead, and the work I am currently doing with our District Office, our Chancellor, and with the Office of Educational Services.  In this work, I am able to utilize my years of experience in higher education in the hope of investing in my college and my district to produce institutional change to benefit our students.  I am grateful for these opportunities, but watching George Harrison in the Get Back sessions, I found myself thinking – ‘Who are the ‘Georges’ around me right now?  What do we need to do to ensure our bandmates are heard, and given those opportunities to participate and grow?’  At some point, I will not be in these current roles, but unlike a band that can simply break up and its members go their separate ways, our institution must continue and part of our duty is to ensure that we plan for those times when our jobs will be performed by others.

I got my first opportunity to join a ‘band’ of sorts within my college at the time that we began developing our Elementary Teacher Education AA-T degree.  I was asked by then-Vice President of Instruction Sam Aunai to develop the curriculum for the new degree, including some new courses, and help move it through the processes needed for degree approval.  I already had experience in this area, having served as the Social Science division’s Curriculum Committee representative for four years at that point, and also having developed my own program’s Anthropology AA-T degree.  However, what was new to me was joining a team associated with the degree that also included a counselor (Ana Ceballos), an educational advisor (Jackie Escareno), our Institutional Research Director (Mike Carley) an IR Analyst (DJ Vanderwerff), our then-Director of Equity and Education Services (Kimanthi Warren), and our work was overseen by our Vice-President of Student Services (Primavera Arvizu). 

Our new ‘Education Careers Task Force’ was brought together to help launch and promote the degree, and I quickly learned the value of what the other team members brought to the discussion – and how much I did not know.  Our counselor and education advisor knew much more than I did about the student perspective for a program, including issues about scheduling the classes and ensuring students were taking the actions while enrolled in classes that would prepare them for what they would need to be doing after they left our institution.  Our IR members helped us collect that data to identify prospective majors and adjust our estimates for the program’s growth that our Director of Equity and Education Services needed for the Title V grant reporting.  We organized informational meetings for students to raise awareness of the new program and answer questions.  And we had to hire faculty for a program that did not yet exist – and soon those educators (Michelle Pengilly, Jacqueline Pennell-Meredith) would join the team as well.  And like any group, over time its composition would change.  Our Vice-President of Instruction and Director of Equity and Education Services departed from the college for other positions.  I handed off my role to my division’s new Chair, Karen Bishop.  But the group’s work continued and new members helped the continuing members ensure the program’s success.  And the lessons I learned from the experienced re-shaped the way I thought about my work, and the benefits of working collaboratively with campus colleagues across all areas.  One current endeavor, which I developed with my Guided Pathways co-lead Primavera Arvizu, we called the Guided Pathways Academy and it grew out of forging those connections and linking faculty to partners in each area of the campus to develop strategies for program management that are holistic, and student-centered.  We recently also restructured our Guided Pathways committee to reflect these connections across campus, including a place for a stronger student voice.  These are efforts to bring a new mindset to the college, and an effort to increase our support for each other and show the value of working together.  Those pivotal experiences with the Education Careers team made me feel like I wasn’t doing my work alone.

Even in the past two years, under circumstances of isolation, stress, and uncertainty, I found solace in working closely with, being inspired by, and learning from my colleagues.  I want to ensure that we don’t lose the value from or forget the positive lessons that came out of this difficult time.  I hope no one will quit the band, no one’s talent will go unheard, and our new bandmates are prepared, heard, and supported.  This way when it comes time for each of us to depart the institution, we know that those who follow us are ready to lead, and that even in that sometimes lonely work of teaching, we find comfort in knowing that we are part of a group that is dedicated to the common work of educating our students, learning from and being inspired by each other, and that we have used our shared experiences to build a something that will survive and be remembered for the work we did here.

Robert Alan Simpkins has been a Professor of Anthropology at Porterville College since 2012, where he also is currently the Academic Senate President and faculty lead for Guided Pathways.  He previously served two terms as the Social Science Division Chair, and organized PC’s CHAP (Cultural and Historical Awareness Program) series for five years.  Prior to coming to PC, he was an adjunct at De Anza College and at San Jose State University.  He has an MA and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and BA from San Jose State University.  As an Archaeologist, he is interested in the relationship between roads, architecture, cultural landscapes, and socio-political organization.  His particular focus has been the Golconda kingdom in the Indian Deccan region, which was the subject of his doctoral dissertation and on which he has presented his research internationally and published extensively, most recently in the article “Inferring Road Networks and Socio-Political Change from Elite Monuments of the Golconda Kingdom” in South Asian Studies in 2020.  Although a native of the Bay Area, he enjoys the farms and orchards of the central valley and the proximity to the mountains, and going on drives and exploring the region with his family.  He has a weakness for books, toys, classic movies and animation, art, stories, and anything that he finds amusing. 

Reflection, Flexibility, and Mobile Design: A Look to the Future

By Dr. Alex Rockey

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Chancellor’s seminar series on the future of teaching and learning at KCCD. In preparing my thoughts for the seminar, I realized three main themes emerged as I imagined the next 15 years at KCCD: reflective teaching, continued flexibility, and mobile design.

As a faculty member in the Academic Technology department, I have had a front row seat to the innovations that faculty have implemented in their teaching in the last two years to support student learning despite unprecedented disruptions to our teaching, learning, and lives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One instructor provides a snapshot of the innovation that has been widespread at KCCD. In just 6 months he went from never having used Canvas at all to providing audio feedback in SpeedGrader. After seeing the innovations he implemented after moving to remote teaching due to the pandemic, I asked him what he’ll do when he goes back to face-to-face teaching. He said that even when he goes back to face-to-face teaching, there really is no going back to how he taught before the pandemic. He will continue to use Canvas to support his face-to-face instruction. Faculty have worked so hard to innovate over the past two years it is exciting to see how faculty will take these lessons learned and apply them in the next normal as we work to continually serve our students. The innovation that we have seen in the past two years in large part has been fueled by faculty reflecting on what is and isn’t working as they teach in new environments, and it is this reflection that guides the work that Dr. Bill Moseley and I are doing to build a Center for Learning and Applied Research (CLEAR) that will create a space for faculty to continue to reflect on their teaching in action research projects. As part of CLEAR, we are offering a faculty fellowship in which faculty will conduct an action research project of their choice over a ten-month period. The application is open now for all KCCD faculty and will close April 30th. 

Flexibility has also emerged as a theme that will and should guide our work supporting students now and as we embark on the future of teaching and learning. At BC, we are currently working on designing HyFlex classrooms so that students in HyFlex courses can choose to attend face-to-face or online. And they can make this choice each class session of an entire semester. As we think about building out these classrooms, I am inspired by the stories of students that this flexibility in modality will best serve. I think of a student parent who has to stay home with a sick kid, but can still attend class while their child is napping. I think of the student who suffers from migraines and can attend class in a room with dim lights. And I think of the student whose car dies 10 minutes before they have to be at class, but can hop on their computer to attend class instead. As we’re designing these classrooms, we’re focusing on the students we’re serving to create equitable learning experiences so that whether a student is in the physical classroom or the Zoom room, they are still able to interact fully with not only their instructor, but their classmates as well. 

Finally, as we consider the future of teaching and learning another theme that emerges is the value of learning that extends beyond classroom walls. Designing courses that students can interact with on their mobile device is an emerging strategy for not only creating expansive learning opportunities, but also for designing for equity. We all saw in the move to emergency remote teaching a disparity in access to home internet. At Bakersfield College for example, the COVID-19 impact survey showed that about 20% of our students don’t have access to reliable home internet. Even before COVID-19, surveys by the Pew Research Center showed that many students depended on smartphones for access to home internet and smartphone dependency varied based on age, income, and ethnicity (Pew Research Center, 2019). Creating courses that leverage the technology students already have literally in their pockets has such potential for reducing barriers of access and closing equity gaps. There is also exciting potential for students to fill the in-between parts of their day with course work. Leveraging these in-between moments in a day for course work can be a powerful tool to support our students who are taking care of children, working full-time or just juggling a lot. Imagine for example if a student can read an article for class on the bus to work on their phone or complete a getting to know you survey while waiting to pick up their kids from school. Leveraging these in-between moments provides a powerful opportunity for us to create learning experiences that transcend the classroom.

Preparing for the future of teaching and learning begins with a reflection on what our students need now and considering how these needs will grow in the future. Time and again in speaking with students and faculty, the power of flexibility emerges as a foundational aspect of serving students. I imagine this need for flexibility will only grow in the future as we create learning experiences for students who are navigating a rapidly changing workforce. Mobile design presents another need that one can imagine will only grow. Smartphones are a nascent technology, but have become pervasive in our lives and the lives of our students. Leveraging the tools students already have access to provides an opportunity for us to engage our students with learning anywhere they may be. The innovation that faculty have brought to their teaching in the past two years provides a powerful foundation upon which we can build a responsive learning experience for our students. 

References:

Pew Research Center (2019). Mobile technology and home broadband 2019. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/06/13/mobile-technology-and-home-broadband-2019/

Bio:

Alex Rockey, PhD, is an Academic Technology Professor at Bakersfield College. As an educator with K-16 teaching experience, Alex has taught online teaching courses to faculty, first-year writing at the college level, and high school English and Puente. Her interests include humanizing online education, accessibility, and mobile learning and design. Alex is passionate about the potential of mobile design to improve student access to high-quality educational opportunities. To read more about her work on online education, check out her website at: alexrockey.com or visit the BC Academic Technology blog of which she is Managing Editor.