What to do?

Today, there are two very important events at HWC. In room 103, from 2-4pm there will be the 25th annual Sydney R. Daniels Black History Month Oratorical Festival. This is a speech competition which showcases our students giving presentations on people of African descent. There is music by our students, great speeches, excellent food and a great sense of community. 

The other important event is the union meeting in room 1115, 2-4:30. If you’ve been following the emails on your personal account you know that there are some interesting developments which will be discussed. I’ll be there in spirit and will get the 411 from our righteous leader, Jesu.

I hope you remind your students about the Oratorical Festival and if you go to the Union Meeting, REPRESENT!

And yes, Jesu and I will make sure this overlap doesn’t happen in the future because I know many of you would like to attend both events! I call Feb. 20, 2014!

Gettin’ ready for State o’ the College Spring 2013

State o’ the college is days away. This post is goin’ up to ask y’all if y’all gots any questions for our President, Don.

It appears we get micro-phono-anxiety-inis when it comes to askin’ questions at this thingy. Last I checked, we all have questions (and concerns) about the state of our college.

Sure, there are a handful of folks that take their anxiety medication and are able to hold that mike in their hand and ask away. But what about you? Me thinks you sit there with a plethora of questions and curiosities but hesitate for one reason or an other to ask that all important question.

Sure, I understand that when Don says, “any questions?” we look at our watches and smart phones wondering if the questions and answers will be worth the time.
Hmmm, if we all stay silent a few moments, then we can leave real soon and I can get back to doin’ x or y… or maybe do z…

And for reasons beknownst and unbeknownst to me, we sometimes stay and sometimes go.

To resolve the dilemma (I use the word dilemma here to mean neither good n/or bad), here’s what I propose: Lay out the questions via a reply to this post ahead of time. Give Don some time to ponder the question(s) and then have him incorporate the answers into the speech/presentation.

Wouldn’t that be a more efficient use of our time?

I recommend asking questions anonymously. No micro-phono-anxiety-inis to worry about. Your identity remains protected AND you’ll never need medication! (This means you won’t get drowsy, won’t get nausea, and won’t experience sudden vision loss!)

This post is not endorsed by our President and there are no guarantees he will answer. However, you have nothing to lose and a bit to gain if you have a question or concern about your college. A good dose of Q&A can only help to strengthen our community. And get you back to doin’ x or y and maybe z…

Putting the Community Back into the Community College II

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to the earlier post, both on the Harold Lounge and on President Don Laackman’s blog. I’d like to give special thanks to “Hello Kitty” for doing a great job at  filling in my research gap. Furthermore, I would happily take up Don’s call to explore and compile ideas to create a greater sense of an academic community at Harold Washington College.

I am unfortunately unable to provide a worthy response for the next few days as I’ve been enjoying a traveling adventure with family in Portland and Seattle. But I’d like to include at least a few quick thoughts:

If you haven’t already, please read Hello Kitty’s response.  Kitty shows the research supports the thesis that students benefit from a sense of place, belonging, and community. Furthermore, that this community is best strengthened by faculty-student and student-student bonds.

This is big, and everything in my experience supports this claim that a sense of place and belonging is the critical element of community. With respect to Irene, who posted on Don’s blog, I am troubled by the belief that technology will likely be the best way to keep [students] connected.” I think that technology can be a good supplement to a genuine community, but it is incapable or developing the sort of community we need. “Mass text messages,” no matter how creative, do not create a sense of place or belonging. It is a passive, thin, non-receptive message.  Community is built when people can see each other, speak to one another, and be recognized as a person, for one’s ideas and contributions. When we sit down with one another and discuss our classes, ideas, knowledge, and the value of education, we create the rich, emotion-filled human bonds that are the essential ingredient of true communities.

The bottom line, and the entire purpose of my earlier post, was that we need human bodies, together, in a real space, with the exchange of ideas between faculty and student, and students and students, as the bedrock of our Community College community.  This space must be reliable, accessible, and sustainable, and it must prioritize the goals of education and the spirit of academics.

Cognitive Surplus on the Harold Lounge

I can’t believe this is the one-year anniversary of the Harold Lounge. Actually, what is more accurate is that I can’t believe how much I rely on the Lounge and, frankly, I can’t remember what it was like to not have the Lounge as a resource.

Dave is a humble guy. He doesn’t like the spotlight to be directly on him. I respect that, but I think it is important this week to recognize the trememdous effort, thought, and care that has gone into developing, and robustly maintaining this site throughout the year. Thank you PhiloDave!

I’m sure many folks have asked him the following question,
“where do you find the time?!”
It’s an interesting question and perhaps many of us have heard this question before.

Time is so valuable to all of us and the stress that we often feel comes from the perception that we never have enough time to do the things that are most important. And yet, as Clay Shirky argues, we collectively have time to work on things together, and as a group we can put that collective energy into a variety of shared projects like the goofy LOL cats (a site where you post pictures of cats or other animals and include funny captions) or the tremendously helpful Ushahidi (a kind of citizens journalist site that was originally set up to track reports of violence in Kenya through the web and cell phones).

In his TED talk,
TED talk,

Shirky describes what I like to think of as a simple equation:
Human generosity + technology = cognitive surplus
He speaks of using cognitive surplus to create change that has civic value.

In his book, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity & Generosity in a Connected Age, he talks about the difference between a passive reception of experience, like in the old days of long hours of TV watching (I believe he mentions Gilligan’s Island a few times) and the more active experiences that we have now through social media with things like Ushahidi and Wikipedia and yes, even the Harold Lounge.

We look everywhere a reader or a viewer or a patient or a citizen has been locked out of creating and sharing, or has been served up passive or canned experience, and we’re asking; if we carve out a little bit of the cognitive surplus and deploy it here, could we make a good thing happen? I’m betting the answer is yes, or could be yes, if we give one another the opportunity to participate and reward one another for trying.

Shirky (2010). Cognitive Surplus 2010 Page 213. New York, Penguin Press.

So, I’m formally saying thank you again to PhiloDave and now to the Harold Lounge Community for providing a space where we can use our cognitive surplus, and for creating a community in which we can reward each other for trying to make a good thing happen. Well done!

The Future

So, where is this all going, you might ask?

This site, as the opening post suggests, is not going to be a one-man show. It is a collaborative space for HWC faculty members, full time and part time, and a resource to keep each other informed, seek and provide information, and discuss the things that need discussing but cannot be due to our collective, disparate schedules.

It is only as viable as its participants make it, and it will be only as useful as it is a regular part of the faculty members’ weeks.

Over the next week or two, I’ll be asking for information (and contributors) from the various Faculty committees listed as pages on the right side and working to develop a team of people to be regular contributors. If you are interested in being one of those people (either as a representative of one of the committees or as an at-large wild card), please send me (Dave) an email at drichardson2@ccc.edu . If you are a leader of one of those committees/groups and want to have some information on your page (leadership, membership, charge, minutes, whatever), please let me know what you want and I’ll put it up or put you on as a contributor and show you how to do it. For the moment, anyway, there are no rules to this thing, just a little structure and a lot of hope that, as the disembodied voice in Roy Hobbs’ head put it, “If [we] build it, they will come.”

I do not want to make new work for my already overloaded colleagues, and it is my dream to have a thing that has no committee. Yet I want, sometimes desperately, to have a space where we can get and give information, argue, discuss, and understand things that affect us in real time, rather than drabs and dribbles.  I think The Harold can fulfill all of those desires. At the same time, The Harold cannot exist as a viable entity without a team of people willing to do a little of the lifting.

If you’re willing to do a little lifting to help make this thing work, please drop me a line. If you don’t have any time or energy to spare, I understand and empathize; I hope, at least, you’ll come back semi-regularly, vote when you can, and comment when you have an extra minute.

The Harold can be a community or an echo chamber. Which it becomes is, in the end, in your hands.