At InstructureCon 2012 Josh Coates, the keynote speaker and CEO of Instructure told us the story about monkeys. His keynote speech is here. You can fast forward to the monkey story at the 30:00 mark. It’s worth listening to.
The gist of the story is: Why do we do things the way we do? Is it because we’ve always done it that way? What if we stop and assess things? What if we at least ask ourselves why?
An example: I keep a box of Kleenex in the bathroom. Always have. Always will. But why? Of course, it’s because that’s exactly what my parents did! And it makes sense. But I took some time to think about it. Yes, Kleenex in the bathroom is good… and I’m not going to change that, but where else might I put some Kleenex? Well, in my car, of course. But where ELSE? I always seem to need a Kleenex in the kitchen; I’m always grabbing a paper towel. So into the kitchen cupboard goes a box of Kleenex. And the best location I’ve found? In my coat closet. I take my dog for walks in early, cold mornings and my nose is always running as we walk. So now I grab my coat, leash, and a few Kleenex tissues and we’re out the door.
So are you a bad monkey? Do you keep doing something the same way you’ve always done it, just because?
I was thinking about a syllabus in an online environment. Of course, teachers make the syllabus available to our students; often in Week 1. Often it’s a link to a Word or PDF document. That’s great! But, where else might a teacher put their syllabus? Just because my Kleenex were in one place, didn’t mean I couldn’t put them other places to make them handy. What if a teacher put a link to your same syllabus document in Week 3? We know our students are blitzed with information in Week 1 of their course. I’m guessing many of them say “yeah, yeah, another syllabus”. But we know it’s an important document. Why not give students easy access to it, again and again?
And why is the syllabus one huge document? (I’ve seen a 20-page syllabus this quarter, and it was for a good reason!). Yes, our students need that document, but what about also “chunking” it into smaller pieces ? Maybe a weekly announcement with a paragraph or so from the syllabus that pertains to that week’s content? Starting a term paper? Remind students about your plagiarism policy. Starting your first discussion? Remind them of your online etiquette guidelines! End of the quarter? Do you allow for incompletes?
Don’t be a bad monkey! Take some time to re-assess!
(now… where else might I put some Kleenex?)