This is the second part of a two-part interview with Professor Joanne Tompkins, who currently seconded from her position at the University of Queensland to work with the Australian Research Council as Executive Director of the Humanities and Creative Arts panel. (Click here for part one.)
On Classroom Behaviour and Technology in the Classroom
KB: How do think technology has shifted in the classroom for you? Or has it?
JT: Hugely … I’m still getting used to the fact that people are on their phones throughout my ARC presentations for many different reasons. I get a lot of people leaving half way through. An academic may be upset if a student leaves their class, but they have no compunction about leaving my presentation. There may be 50 reasons why they’re leaving and that’s fine. But, I find it fascinating that most don’t make the connection that in effect they are students in this context. And they are doing exactly what bothers them about their students.
KB: 100 per cent. I came up against my own learning moment around that in September. I don’t love it when students take pictures of my slides. And, during my French classes last month, I totally caught myself taking pictures of the board. On the one hand, I was like: “Kelsey Blair, you’re doing the thing that you hate when students do it to you.” And, on the other hand, I thought: “But, it’s way easier this way!”
JT: Yes … yes. But, I guess if I think back to when I first started teaching, we would also have to remind students to bring a notebook and pencils. We’d get the students who would come to a tutorial and assume that they were just going to ‘perform.’ It’s been a huge shift.
KB: And, as a teacher, there is always the issue of how to use technology. I often have heated debates with myself about whether or not to post lecture slides, and, if I do, whether it will affect in-lecture attendance.
JT: One of the things I’ve seen over years with students is exactly that: assuming that lectures are optional. Apparently “nothing really happens in them; I don’t need this material. I can find it myself.” I would explain to students at the beginning of the year, perhaps too soon in the semester, sure you can find all of this information out there on the Internet. But think about how much work I’ve done to narrow it, to select the best information, to shape it, to winnow out the stuff that is out there. Take advantage of the work I’ve done: I’m giving you this information.
Looking Backward; Looking Forward: Advice to Past and Future Selves
KB: If you could offer three pieces of advice to your former teaching self, what would they be? And: where do you want to grow in your teaching self, whatever context that might take on?
JT: Good questions … Three pieces of advice to my former: relax, trust, enjoy. Don’t be so panicky. Trust that you do know more than you think you know. And, enjoy the experience. Not that it’s always enjoyable. Sometimes it’s hard work. But, it’s wonderful in those times when you actually make that connection, whether it’s with students or, for me now, with my peers.
Looking forward: It’s really hard because when I finish next year at the ARC, I have a semester of study leave to work on a book and then I don’t know what I’m doing in 2021. I’m thinking that I will still inevitably be in a role that has a pedagogical element to it but it’s very much a “watch this space,” for me. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing but I’m actually happy with that. That’s not the scary thing I would’ve thought it would be. Can we talk in the future?
KB: Of course. You can expect to hear from me in 2021!