What I learned at Mary Washington

First, a travel update as the westward trek continues.

This is the last night on the road for me and daughter Jenny. (Alice and Ian are coming later, after house stuff in Fredericksburg is complete or as complete as we can get it.) The trip has been interesting, enjoyable, and only occasionally fraught. We’ve connected with friends and loved ones along the way. We’ve eaten at Lefty’s BBQ near Crossville, a gift from our GPS’s “nearby food” listings at lunchtime on Monday. We reasoned that a place named “Lefty’s” was worth a look. Our reasoning was sound and the food was delicious. We’ve driven about 200 miles on the Natchez Trace Parkway between Nashville and Tupelo, Mississippi. On the parkway we visited Meriwether Lewis’s grave site, saw one of the more impressive bridges we’ve ever seen, and cruised through countryside so brilliantly sun-drenched that the green turned to gold on the trees on every side. In Tupelo we stayed at a pretty ratty HoJo Express (not recommended) but began our Tuesday with a visit to Elvis’s birthplace. That pleasant morning outing was followed by over three hours baking in the flat hot afternoon outside an Atlanta Bread Co. in downtown Tupelo, where the free wifi and my trusty cellphone meant I could continue to transact various kinds of business as we sell one house and buy another. Then, a drive by Faulkner’s Oxford in a driving rainstorm, more rain on the road from Batesville to Vicksburg, and an evening meal of perhaps the blandest Chinese food I have ever tasted.

But we’re here and safe and on our way to Waco today, where we will pause in our travels and make a  new home. On Sept. 1, I begin a new job at Baylor University–of which more anon.

What have I learned since I arrived at Mary Washington in 1994? I’ll be mulling that answer over for the rest of my life, and thinking aloud about it from time to time here in this space. To begin, I offer this presentation from the UCEA pre-conference on distance learning last March. I was a bit nervous about this talk. I was on a panel of pretty high-powered folks, including the redoubtable Phil Long. I was going to say some things about metaphor and disruption and deschooling and reschooling that might not cohere or make sense. The whole thing was in a bit of a roil in my mind, especially because (in a neat synchronicity) I was going to Baylor later that morning to begin two and a half days of interviews.

For some reason, though, the whole thing just … came … out. It was a strange but welcome experience, as if the talk was giving me instead of the other way around. Whatever its merits, it felt right.

I hope it resonates with some of you, too. What you hear in this presentation represents at least some of what I learned at Mary Washington.


9 thoughts on “What I learned at Mary Washington

  1. Wow Gardner,

    This is a masterpiece, what you do with the course/curriculum metaphor here is fantastic. The power of the metaphors you employ so masterfully makes ever more certain that an English professor will lead the way. We are on an imaginative, linguistic quest to frame the metaphors for this new world of education, and none are better than you when it comes to EdTech. I have to collect my thoughts about both this and your class blogging post. I need to think about how your work at UMW was not about open educational resources, but an open educational experience, because that is the essential difference that needs to focused upon. Amazing stuff.

  2. This reminded me of so many things–my own new venture into blogdom with my students, choices made and yet to come, the way I think about teaching and learning. You always say so well what I’m not quite on the verge of thinking and could never put into such eloquent words even when the thoughts finalize themselves. Thanks for giving me more to think about. Three students in my UR Advanced Academic Writing class have already written to say their blogs are up and running. I’m in the process of posting another “thot” to my own, classes begin next week, and listening to your words was a great way to start the academic year. Waco and Baylor are so lucky to have you. Safe journey.

  3. Completely unrelated to the educational thoughts here, I was struck by all the mention of food. In Waco make sure you eat at a Schlotzsky’s. We always stopped at one near Baylor on the drive between Austin and Dallas growing up. The sandwiches are wonderful.

  4. I was among the fortunate to be there at this talk. I was an extraordinary experience. My most pressing need afterwards was to tell Gardner that it’s humbling to have colleagues of his caliber. I wish more of my professors in college were as thoughtful, thought provoking, and intellectually generous as he. Transitions are catalysts of more than location but also of of one’s place in the broadest sense of situated meaning. They bring out the best in those who are. Congratulations on your new venture. Thankfully the net brings you to your friends wherever you are.

  5. Hey Dr. C,
    You’re going to be in Waco? I just moved to Austin a week ago for AmeriCorps (thank you for being a reference!). Will you be doing the Paradise Lost reading there, too? I would go there for that!

  6. Hi Dr. Campbell,

    I stumbled across your blog today and want to wish you the best of luck at your new post in Texas (although you’ll be missed in Fredericksburg, I’m sure). I truly enjoyed your Shakespeare class at MWC and regret not taking your seminar in Milton. One of my favorite memories from college was the discussion on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein held at Dr. Faunce’s home.

    I’m a speech therapist in Va Beach with 3 small children, and literature and linguistics are still my passion.

    Maureen Thompson Brand, class of 1995

  7. Heh, I grew up in Tupelo (or just outside it) … ‘can’t believe I’m seeing it mentioned here. And the Natchez Trace made for a beautiful drive home (from Nashville — during my college years — many of them) in the fall. I hope you enjoyed your travels.

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