Having worked through my 4th term here at Oxford as a teacher, I thought it would be a good time to review how I feel about my practice now that I have been through the academic year more than once.
The first thing I notice is that I am more relaxed in the role of guide to the class. When I first joined, I would prepare a class to get through it efficiently and to deliver the course detail in a knowledgeable way. I am still preparing for most classes but this is so that the hinterland around core subjects can be explored. I am much happier wandering off topic for a little time, surer in the knowledge that I will be able to return to a given place when the need arises. The questions students ask are given more time and allowed to shape the class session to a degree.
Fundamentally, I believe this is down to acknowledging one truth: The more I have learnt has given me permission not to have to know everything! Once you relinquish the impossible task of having to know everything, you are free to teach; that is, to explore the subject and where individual students are with it. The questions and obstacles students will encounter will to some degree be personal and I can only help if I realize this means I don’t have the answers immediately to hand sometimes.
These changes in attitude can sound slight or obvious sometimes but my experience is that they have only been earned through putting the hours in!
We were very fortunate to have Garr Reynolds speak at Oxford recently, and his talk on Presentations was superb. His site give a lot of information:
I tried to follow in his footsteps a week afterwards and got very positive feedback from the experience. Again, everything he talks about seems like common sense – but it is not in common practice!
One new strand in our teaching that I would like to raise awareness of is the beginnings of our Online Presence talks in February and March. These start as one hour lunchtime sessions but hopefully more will follow. Recent meetings have left me in no doubt that there is significant interest with our academics and researchers in this area, and that is set to grow. Our podcasting success and the launch of the university’s YouTube Edu pages make it clear that Oxford is committed to supporting new forms of communication for academics and this is something that we are privileged to be involved in at OUCS. We hope that the courses we offer in Digital media and the concepts behind their use will continue to grow and provide effective support for our academics to shine in the new medias.