In my classes, I tell a story about the roots of my hatred of the wind. Some faculty may have heard it at the first Generative Interviewing workshop we had last year with Melissa Peet. All of my students of recent years have heard it. One even made a short movie of it. The story itself is apocryphal in that its authenticity is questionable, or should be, since its ending is too far-fetched to be true. Yet, in the story, there is a lot of truth, and I am serious when I preface it by saying, “This is a true story.”
Interestingly, many of my students tend to believe me, literally, and think the story is true. They are amazed that what happens to my mother in the story could have really happened (I cannot give away here what happened in the story or in real life). And these are smart kids. Even those who do not get it have questions that get at not only the meaning of the story but also how it was told and why—and at its relationship to me as the one who “experienced” it and lived to tell it, which is the key to why I tell it.
So last week, when I read over some of the work samples created by students piloting the integrative knowledge portfolio (IKE—you gotta love the name), I wanted to be sucked in and left wondering. I wanted to read a good story. In some cases I got one, in others, not so much. This got me to thinking about how we want our students to think about, and even communicate, what they know and what they can do.
I appreciated the students’ experiences, and how they made sense of them in terms of what they learned and how those experiences inform who they are as educators. Yet, very little drew me into conversation with the students and made me want to know more, made me see how those experiences reach down to the students’ very being and reveal the transformation that got them to where they are now.
Granted, it is unfair to expect every story to do this, and possibly even to expect it to be done in an e-portfolio embedded in the tension of appealing to multiple audiences. It is really unfair to expect it when it has only been a few weeks since students began thinking about the experiences about which they wrote.
Yet, I raise the issue not as a criticism, but to raise a marker as to where I hope we are going with the IKE and technology, in general, and, to a greater degree, with our programs. How is it that all these things can be tools for deeper—maybe our deepest–reflection that moves others and us beyond the experience to create new experiences, both vicarious and real?
I know that this is what the faculty who are piloting the e-portfolio are grappling with, and having said what I just said, I know more than ever what I daunting task it is. How do we help our students reveal the hidden meanings of their experiences, the meanings that intermingle with the marrow of their bones to make them who they are and aware of what is possible? After all, real meaning is not in the facts of what happened but in the possibilities we take from it and in how we talk about it with others and ourselves.
Thus, I am excited where we are going with IKE, and with many others discussions I have heard over the past quarter, discussions about programs and about technology integration. It kind of makes me sad that the quarter is coming to an end, and in many cases, we have to wait until January to resume these discussions. The only thing that can alleviate this sadness is a good story. Do you know any?