Epiphany Summer Institutes

In the face of the challenge of people coming from so many different contexts--some with multiple networked labs, some with no computer in their offices, some with supportive institutions, some with real resistance to work past--what mattered most about the institutes was not so much what formats either offered, but the friendships that participants and leaders formed, the contacts they made, and the mutual interests they confirmed: the camaraderie. At the institutes, varying levels of expertise did not drive people apart, they drove people together as they learned and taught each other. As Michael Keller observed: "One of the wonderful things about a frenetic, sleepless week was watching what good work came from the participants."

Judy Williamson summed up all of the themes that emerged from both institutes:

One thing that seems important to mention is that moving into new ways with technology in the classroom creates a whole lot of needs. These are not just needs for equipment and software, but needs for information, support and training. Our needs move us out of the established order into a new order that can feel pretty darn ambiguous. Even doing the Epiphany Institutes for the first time felt ambiguous since it was all new to the leaders too. While we felt good about what we were doing, we approached our task with openness to learning from participants. This brings me to the main idea: We really *are* in a whole new paradigm. I get tired of using that cliched word, "paradigm," but we're talking about moving out of binary thinking into a more expansive and inclusive way of creating knowledge, and the word works.

During the two Epiphany Institutes, the paradigm kept revealing its different facets, and it was clear to me that we're talking about a whole new technological underpinning to our culture that includes electronic writing spaces and the many new ways of learning, doing research, publishing and teaching offered by those spaces. A grasp of these cultural shifts is essential to move into new pedagogies supported by digitized writing spaces.

As we move into new pedagogies, we need "both/and" thinking: both print and electronic text; both a "slick," polished product and grass-roots approach; both face-to-face and networked communication, and so on.

The "both/and" approach consoles me in the midst of conflict and controversy since our new ways can be tolerant and inclusive, leaving room for many voices and methods. Each teacher, classroom, department has different needs and faces change with unique issues, so what seems important here is to see ways to bridge approaches through collaboration and information-sharing.

The process of change isn't simple.

While some people came to the Institute hoping for simplification of something very complex, they might have found Epiphany further complicated things since changes because of computers in the classroom are more profound, more encompassing, more pervasive than could have been imagined. I was aware of our limitations as leaders who could not make things simple, could not even offer definitive answers to most questions. This was frustrating, but in keeping with "both/and" thinking, I can now see the other side of the frustration: It was also liberating.

While we can't be prescriptive, can't offer solutions, we can point to an array of choices, help people make connections, and facilitate some conversations. Further, Epiphany can serve as an entry-point into a larger community, the computers and writing community, still "grass-roots" after all these years and yet one of the strongest, most technologically saavy and most vital academic communities around.

Judy Williamson

Formats Themes Leaders People

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