The “pedagogy of abundance” Newt style??

Newt Gingrich is thinking about some of the same things we are, and he’s optimistic about the same sort of “abundance” model Weller metions in Chapter 8–that is in the style of Google’s Sebastian Thrun!

 (pardon the crass commercialism with the ad at the beginning–the price I must pay to embed and MSNBC video!)

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So what does it mean when politicians see this free, open-to-all-model as the future? Of course Gingrich is somewhat of an academic himself, so he believes he speaks with authority, not just as the typical politician. But the worlds of politics and academics are coming into conflict more than ever, regardless the party–President Obama’s SOTU is further evidence of this,(Chronicle of Higher Education “Obama’s Accreditation Proposals Surprise Higher- Education Leaders“) . I agree with Weller that the scarcity model of education might be coming to an end, but what do we need to consider as we academics (hopefully) help shape the abundance model? And where do the liberal arts fit? Where does a small institution like Mary Washington fit?

What’s the point (of research)?

#umwdomains. Weller, in his chapters on research and the idea of digital research (4-5), tries to define just what constitutes research. But I find myself not asking “what is research”? but rather “why research”? What’s the point? The answer to that question has a very different answer for different people depending on where they work, what they research, what stage they are in their careers. For me, when I first started down the path to becoming a professor of Spanish, I did research to please others–first my professors, then my dissertation committee, then the readers at various journals to, in turn, please potential employers, then to please my supervisors and senior colleagues.  Not that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, but personall fulfillment wasn’t my main objective. Then when I came to Mary Washington, I actually felt a freedom I hadn’t felt before in my research. Proving a “pattern of professional activity” for tenure and promotion was not a very big hurdle for me, which then allowed me not to worry so much about a certain number of articles, or publishing in certain places, or getting that book by a certain point. It allowed me to pursue my interests in research. I went after publishing a book, which took time with my heavy teaching load, but research began to provide real personal and professional rewards to me. I began to see how my research and writing spilled over into the classroom and vice versa. Still, I didn’t really see myself as part of a larger researching community. Sure, I went to conferences and I read others’ articles, but it wasn’t until I started keeping a blog, briefly, in 2006-2007, as I started a new research project that I understood my research as part of something much larger. I started the blog for my students–to include them in on my research and writing process. But then I got a comment from a doctoral student from Madrid who was researching a similar topic. That initial contact led to wonderful and very fruitful professional relationship that then led me (and my new colleague in Spain) to other connections.  Since then I have come to see my work not in isolataion–not as something that I do for others, or even for myself, but rather that I do in dialogue, and as a small part of a much larger process of knowledge creation. Last week, Cervantes Virtual–an important digital library in Spain–announced its new page on María Rosa Gálvez, a late-Enlightenment playwright who was one of the women I wrote my dissertation on (and eventually a number of articles and a chapter in my book)back when only a handful of people even cared about her work. Another wonderful colleague at the University of Alicante, Helena Establier (whom I’ve never met in person actually!), coordinated this effort, which brings together research from many different scholars, including me! I think it represents a little of what Weller was getting at in his chapters about a new way of thinking about scholarship. Certainly my thinking about research has evolved.



Open or Closed?

Below are some questions and thoughts I think I’ll raise with my cohorts that were sparked by the Weller reading this week, all related to the idea of open education/open access:

How do we deal with the ever-present tensions between open and closed access? Between exclusivity and inclusivity? I see this tension in so many ways in my life as an academic. On the one hand, there is so much more information available to me as a researcher than before. When I was writing my dissertation in the 90’s, only those who had the money to travel and spend months in the libraries and archives of Madrid had access to many of the texts that today are freely  available on Google Books. However, an exclusive private enterprise like Gale-Cengage can also sell digital access to the collections of the British  Library at a price only wealthy institutions can pay, thus excluding small public institutions like our own. MOOCS offer free and open access to the masses (for now) to professors and courses that previously only the most elite could come in contact with, but is it really open education and is it access at all? The digitally native teenagers referenced as part of the net generation represent only one demographic–those wealthy enough to actually be consumers (and sometimes producers) of technology. What about the rest of them–for most of whom their only real engagement with technology is through their phone? I’m guessing some of our students fall in that category when they come to us.



Hello Domain of One’s Own

Think I’ve figured out this subdomain and subdirectory distinction finally. I decided to keep my blog separate from the  main domain site, at least until I have a clearer idea of what I intend to do with that site for #umwdomains ..

A word about the title I chose for this blogging site: “Bosquejos”. Here are the definitions from the Real Academia Española website:

(De bosque).
1. m. Traza primera y no definitiva de una obra pictórica, y en general de cualquier producción del ingenio.
2. m. Idea vaga de algo.

en ~.
1. loc. adj. No perfeccionado, no concluido.

I like the title Bosquejos for many reasons. First, it comes from the word “bosque” or “forest” and I certainly feel like I’m entering a dense forest here–both exciting and scary at the same time. It can mean a sketch, either visual or of “any product of ingenuity” and I hope to be sketching out some interesting ideas at least.  The second definition–“a vague idea of something” is certainly what I’ll be posting here. Lastly, the associations with the last definition listed “not perfected, not concluded” is an apt description of a blog I think. That and “Bosquejo” begins with “b”, like “blog”.

The header picture is a photo I took of the entrance to a walled garden in Salamanca, Spain, where fictional hero Calisto might have met Melibea in the early Renaissance work The Celestina.  You can see where the star-crossed lovers might have fallen for each other, and how they could have fallen to their deaths from this hilltop garden that overlooks the Tormes River. I took my URES students there last May and it certainly sparked our imaginations! Hopefully my leap in the Faculty Initiative will have a much better end than for the poor young lovers!