A #MyFest23 Session

This is a post in support of a #MyFest23 session that I am collaborating on with George Station together with student views from Nadia (CSU) and Paul (Tec de Monterrey).


During an early planning session for MyFest, George mentioned wanting to do a session with this theme. I believe that a couple others expressed interest in addition to myself. George and I agreed to work on this and an early inspiration was this article at EdSource from Nadia who was a student at CSU Monterey Bay (where George is faculty) and will join us as well. We were off and running. I put out a request to my students to participate and was very pleased that Paul accepted to join us.

Reflection on my Past Three Years

In many ways, I was ready (at least from an academic perspective) for teaching during the Covid19 pandemic. I had been teaching online for a couple years already and the bulk of my classes in that February-June semester were already online. As a Canadian living most of my life in México I had also made connections to friends and family over the internet a normal part of my daily activities and had been doing consulting work remotely for twenty years. I was ready for the work side of things, but definitely not so much for the personal and family side of things. This post focuses on the academic/work side.

We all saw the writing on the wall with “lock-down” coming: the reports were all over the news including the pause of professional sports prominent in my experience. I had just attended a presentation by Salvador Alva that week on March 11th (part of his farewell tour leading up to retirement) and as I always sit in the front row of these events, I remember commenting to him that we needed to be proactive and get ahead of preparing this. He didn’t let me know that details but let me know that planning was in process. The announcement came to the full Tec community later that week on Friday the 13th of March that we were moving into MFD (Modelo Flexible Digital) after one week of training/planning. It got real.

If you really want to see the details of my life during the pandemic, it is (mostly) documented in a series of 593 daily blog posts here which started on April 14th of 2020 and ran until November 26th of 2021. I joked about using a three digit sequence (starting with 000 and ending at 592) and definitely could have met that roll-over number if I decided to continue. I could have continued but I decided to stop. Glove tap to Kin Lane for telling me that sometimes you decide to just stop something and that it is okay.

I threw myself into helping other educators that first summer. I led and participated in many workshops and talks about doing “Emergency Online” teaching. We were not kidding anyone that we were preparing anyone for quality and planned online learning but we did our best to keep the human aspect in our online “not real life” teaching. I do believe that I did some good for other educators and in return for students during that marathon of teaching but it definitely took a toll on me. In addition to giving many talks I also threw myself into recording videos for my YouTube channel (which gained traction and even passed the magic 1000 subscriber threshold).

I also created a project called #educoffee, anticipating a need for social connections during the pandemic. That started earlier in March of 2020 and still runs to this day and by some miracle using the same Zoom link. You can find more about that project at Educator Coffee (or Tea) Time, as well as on episode 22 of OEG Voices when Alan Levine decided to do a live recording of that episode during an #educoffee, it also led friendships and to some amazing stories of connection including a special video I put out on YouTube connecting my father to a friend and colleague who I got to know more during these sessions.

Feel free to reach out to me for that link and join us sometime!

I actually enjoyed teaching online and had the setup, mindset, and course content that led well to teaching online. Many of my students thanked me for making them feel heard and human in this time of “walls of letters and icons in Zoom”. Faculty thanked me for lending a hand for a difficult transition for many. My struggle was not the switch to online but that push in the Fall of 2021 (on my campus) to a “back to normal” transition to in-class teaching. We didn’t go straight back either. We dealt with a confounding hybrid model of teaching from the classroom, all masked up of course with loud (but appreciated) ventilation systems, while also piping at least half of the students in via Zoom into the room. We actually had “pro” setup with cameras and microphones to support this but it was awkward at best. Students online complained of the constant noise from an (unable to mute) ambient microphone in the classroom and as the lone teacher in the room I would find myself struggling to “manage the audio/video production” so much that I could not pay proper attention to the learning. It was rough but we did our best. That mode continued through the following February-June semester of 2022 but with the majority of students in person. I pledged my support to continue hybrid for my students staying at home while the bulk of our campus had returned to (often mandatory) in-class only sessions.

For the August-December 2022 semester we removed the online sessions in my classes except for the rare session we used as support for when faculty were away and could only deliver via Zoom. We took advantage of the experience gained giving online sessions with mixed feedback from students. This mix of modalities continued in the February-June 2023 and partly due to necessity. Some of our instructors were not living in the city (or country) so their sessions would be given over Zoom. I was coordinating the 6th semester computing courses which were in essence a semester long project course that was the entire academic load for the students. For me, this involved coordinating 15 other professors across three sections with 88 students. I came up with a “great” solution of attempting to schedule the online (Zoom) sessions principally on Friday and Monday in anticipation of this allowing students the freedom of not coming to campus on those days and doing “Zoom Days”. I expected a little resistance on this but received more than I expected. The “but why did I move to Guadalajara just to be online ‘all the time’?” was something I empathized with but tried my best to point to the affordance that we were creating for other students (and faculty) by doing some days dedicated to online. It was all exhausting but in general went quite well based on feedback from students and faculty.

Oh, the other factor of the 2022/2023 academic year was I had pretty close to a double load of teaching.

I find myself reflecting on this wild ride of three years and trying to make adjustments for the next year. I have worked with my leaders to ensure that I have a normal academic load. I felt able to participate more actively in MyFest this year (I decided to not participate in 2022) including this presentation. I am blogging again and recording YouTube videos. I have done some traveling this year as well and feeling more comfortable about it.

So maybe I am ready to move forward and head Back to the Future. We shall see.

Featured Image Credit

Picture of the front of a DMC DeLorean with a Virginia license plate "JIGAWAT"
“Back to the future” flickr photo by bionicteaching https://flickr.com/photos/bionicteaching/14149508944 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Today’s Reading/Listening

Same as my post earlier today titled Certificate Course: Educational Leadership and Collaboration. Yes indeed two blog posts in the same day.

Video Release

Soon I think.


2 thoughts on “Back to Normal? Back to the Future

  1. This blog is humming along like some kind of sports car with weird doors ;-) I really appreciate holding this session with both faculty and student perspective. I just read and respect Nadia’s article of such a not normal first year university experience. It reinforces my belief that while life feels “usual” on this side of lockdowns, that we likely underestimate the long term impact especially on students. Let’s not forget that this normal may look and feel like the old normal, it’s not. If there ever was such a thing.

    Gracias, mi amigo!

    1. Thanks my friend. If you get a chance, listen/watch the recording. I think it went well and you will also get the perspective of my student Paul and of George.

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