Report on the League of Innovation Conference, March 2, 2014, Anaheim CA
(article by Kathleen de Azevedo Feinblum, English Professor)
The League of Innovation Conference had an overwhelming selection of sessions. The sessions focused on 3 demographics: 1) Administrators (deans, assessment and research specialists), 2) Instructors (professors and counselors), and 3) Educational Technology Professionals (including online instructors, and web designers). I opted to focus on my own professional development such as: 1) new ideas for my ENGL 100 human rights curriculum, 2) the new Learning Community linking ENGL 846 and CAA Paralegal program, 3) new ways of implementing critical thinking in the classroom, and 4) finding a better way to do what I’ve been doing. If and when future opportunities for attending the League of Innovation Conference arise, I highly recommend that online instructors and technology specialists attend because technology is the focus of so many presentations.
Though the workshops I attended were numerous, a number of them resonated with my classroom experiences and issues/concerns particularly relevant to Skyline College. I’ve highlighted a few of them below:
“Success Strategies for African American Males in Community College Environments”
The speaker took his experience as an African American counselor/professor, his anecdotal knowledge, and his work on a dissertation to explore the challenges African American males encounter in the classroom. These challenges include the high rate of incarceration, lack of motivation and confidence, a lack of good role models, and certain maladaptive behaviors that stand in their way. His suggestions for instructors are to listen to their black students, yet hold them up to high standards and make them think of the repercussions of their behavior. He also underscored the need for institutions to include pre-college workshops and other supplementary assistance so that African American males are more comfortable in the academic world.
“Designing Significant Learning Experiences”
The current educational system is modeled after industry. The new system must be based on Real World Learning (a term the presenter used) such as global awareness and innovation. To meet these challenges, instructors need to provide engaging, peak learning experiences in which students are engaged, and learning produces that promote cognitive mastery with lasting value. The presenter broke down clear recommendations, how real World Learning could be applied to today’s classroom.
“Program Collaboration on Global Genocide Project from St. Louis CC”
This was one of the strongest presentations I attended. St. Louis Community College created a learning community blending a human rights sociology class (IDS Universal human Rights) with ART 275 Photoimagery on the theme of genocide. The rationale for the course was that genocide could be prevented with education. Another semester, this learning community replaced genocide with refugee issues. The student artwork was fantastic. As expected, one of the biggest challenges was the stressfulness of the topic.
“TDC Jury Ambassadors Project: Engaging Students in Inspiring Jury Participation”
If I were to give prizes for the best League of Innovation session I attend, this one would receive a blue ribbon. This fine workshop was presented by Verdis Robinson, an African American history/political science professor at Monroe Community College in NY who confronted the following questions: Why am I never picked for Jury? And, why are so few African Americans selected for a jury while most of the incarcerated are African Americans?
Robinson’s African American history class aimed its jury awareness project at community college students through the Jury Representative Initiative (JRI). As part of the project, students did an on-campus drive, distributing jury volunteer forms (they exist!) and doing one-to-one outreach on the importance of being a juror. As well, students in his class were briefed on the trial protocol and assigned to observe jury selections. The project then became a larger discussion into the possible bias and racism of the voir dire process.
“Teaching Grammar in Literature and Composition: Adding Meaning, not Stress”
The purpose of this workshop was to show how grammar is infused in classes using “just in time remediation” so that grammar is organic to the writing process. The workshop was focused on students of literature and creative writing. One great idea was to create a 1-page “cheat sheet” of clauses that students can use as a quick referral. Another idea presented was to use passages from literature so that students could see grammar not only as a set of rules, but also as a means for an author to convey mood and message.