On the Blissful Satchel Paige Philosophy (or I’m Not Where I Want to be, but I’m Getting There)

Every year around this time, I’m required to pause and take a look at what I’ve accomplished over the year.  It’s our institution’s end-of-spring-semester ritual of self-evaluations and performance reviews.  I don’t care to review my accomplishments too much, as I tend to subscribe to the Satchel Paige philosophy (“Don’t look back.  Something might be gaining on you.”) and I’ve such a propensity for over-analysis in the moment that any lessons I’ve learned from my failures never stray too far from my mind.

But when I do look back on the past year, I see some pretty astonishing accomplishments.  We’ve completed our migration from ANGEL to Blackboard.  I coded the scripts that take data from the SIS and convert it into a format that the LMS can understand.  I co-presented two sessions at the Innovations 2015 Conference in Boston. I lost hearing in one ear, have had vertigo for seven solid months, received a cochlear implant (making me only the 4th person with single-sided deafness to receive such an implant from UPenn Hospital), and have achieved stellar results training my brain to understand the signals it receives from the implant.

But there are other things that were not such great accomplishments.  I didn’t do such a great job at updating this blog (partially because I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time becoming a seasoned Blackboard administrator and partially because the room won’t stop spinning long enough for me to write too much).  I didn’t get to the point in my Blackboard admin life where I can really make all that back-end data work for me.  (We’re hosted by Blackboard, so I don’t get easy and direct access to the data I could use to generate analytics reports.  But now I’ve learned of BIRT for Blackboard and will experiment with it in the hopes that I can get this data to work for us.)  And most of all, I didn’t get to complete  the courses I started in the Fall.  I was working toward my next degree when my hearing loss occurred and I was forced to drop all my classes.  Major bummer.

So there’s all of that.  But at the end of the day/week/month/semester/year, the goal of my work is simple.  Improve student success.  Have I, in my own way, found a way to contribute to the success of our students?  I like to think I have.  I like to think that I’ve developed and employed some innovative strategies that will help our students focus more on the content of their courses and less on the technical aspects of the learning management system, which, IMHO, is the best thing I can do, and it’s a project that never ends.The more time students spend learning how to use a system, the less time they spend learning the course material.

Next, I have to do the same thing for our faculty.  My goal is to make it so their time is spent teaching or developing exciting, innovative new course content rather than struggling with the idiosyncrasies of the LMS.  But sometimes, that’s really hard to do.  When it takes folks months to follow up on a simple “How would you like your course for the upcoming semester to be configured?” inquiry, I’m not able to do what I do best because I’m having to track people down to get the information I need to be able to provide the service they expect.

But I digress (as usual).

The next year at our school will be very interesting.  We’ve got a new (yet-to-be-named) president coming on board within the next few weeks, a synchronous learning pilot launching this summer, and a whole bunch of other nifty initiatives planned, including my foray even deeper into the world of analytics and data mining.  So, it’s an exciting time to be alive and to be working in this community college.

So yeah, there was nothing substantive about this post, I know.  I just felt compelled to say something, and here it is.

’til next time.



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