Monday, August 16, 2010

The Genius Bar

I grew up with Macintosh computers. I got my first Apple, a IIe, in 1984, and I have upgraded every few years with new Mac computers at my home, with my current computer, an iMac with a 17” screen, sitting on my desk. In fact, not until I came to Palmer College had I ever worked with a Windows-based computer. When I first started, I did not know how to do even the most basic functions, for most of them were not similar in any fashion to how the interface worked on a Mac. This is just history. I do know that it would have been nice to have someone to walk me through the initial intricacies of working in a Windows environment.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Last week, during the Palmer Davenport Homecoming celebration I met with Dr. Tammi Clark, a faculty member and president of the Faculty Senate from our West campus. She related a story to me about her purchase of a Mac computer, and how she had both some problems and questions about working with her new platform. She noted that she learned about Apple’s Genius Bar, sort of by a serendipitous mistake; she was visiting an Apple Store and simply saw the Genius Bar inside. This led her to make an appointment with an Apple Genius, and that provided her skills and answers to her questions and needs.

Let me step back a moment and clarify. The Genius Bar is part of every Apple store. It is a tech support station that provides users with help and answers for their Mac-related questions. You make an appointment to visit the Genius Bar, and when you do you obtain the help of an Apple Genius, a person extensively trained in the use of Mac technology. This person will work with you to answer your questions, problem solve and offer repairs. But more than this, this person will do more than simply help you figure out what is wrong; he or she is as likely to say to you “well, let me ask you, what do you want to do with your computer?” And from that, they will help you learn how to use your computer to do what you want it to.

For me, this is sort of a powerful metaphor for how I see the Center for Teaching Learning working. There are challenges in working across three campuses when you are based at one of them, and can visit the other two only infrequently. And keeping the CTL in the front of faculty can be difficult as well. But the CTL exists to help faculty become more productive at what they already do so well. And I can work with you to meet your needs, if I only know what they are. I continue to gather information from as many sources as possible; in fact, my meeting with Dr. Clark generated a number of possible general interest topics for future in-service sessions. But beyond that, if you, the reader, can but contact me and let me know your needs, I can work with you to meet them. What is you want to do? I can provide resources, training, advice, ideas and more. Consider, for example, this simple list of possible ideas: how to effectively use PowerPoint in the classroom (and the corollary of how to use it at all, for those who may not have yet made the switch to this technology), Generation Y learning styles, classroom engagement techniques (already in discussion, so I understand), website development, test writing workshops, how to use rubrics, team-based learning, etc. This is all related to teaching, not to research or publication, making us better at our primary assignment and responsibility.

So I urge you to feel free to contact me (x5302 or and let me know your needs. I promise to help all I can. I am no genius, but I am pretty tenacious and I will certainly do what I can to help.

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