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David Woodring, PhD

Professor of

Sociology, Criminology, and Criminal Justice

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My Story

The last year of my PhD program, I was giving heavy thought to what direction I should take my new knowledge, skills, and understanding. I could see that the research/publishing, combined with the teaching responsibilities of being a tenure track professor, were not going to allow me to spend the time I wanted with the family I just started. I moved back home to Northwest Arkansas to be close to my family/friends and establish good support networks for my growing family. 

 

I started working part-time as an adjunct online instructor for a community college in the fall of 2019. This was a great change of teaching/learning environment, because the student population was much more diverse than the 4-years I had been working for. Not only did I have more time to spend with my family, I was able to be, in large part, a stay-at-home dad with my daughter. I taught her everything I could possibly teach her, from music to physics. This was the beginning of the transformation of my teaching philosophy. 

After teaching courses at 4-year universities, both my professional and personal teaching were requiring me to change what I knew about teaching/learning. I had to adapt to teaching the new community college audience, as well as my audience at home. I did my best to inform my department chair of ways I thought we could improve the online courses, and teaching my daughter brought me back to the imagination/play that is child learning. 

 

This adjustment took about two years. My courses were going well. My daughter was super advanced in her academic skills. I kept looking for opportunities to improve courses at my community college; but I began to feel like I was missing something. At the beginning of 2022, I decided to set out on a personal/professional journey to become a better educator, both for my family and my school. 

 

Then, I did what I always do when I want to learn something new. I hit sites like YouTube and Coursera. It was at Coursera I found Bill Cope and Mary Kilantzis from the department of education at the University of Illinois. They spoke of “new learning” and the power of technology and e-Learning ecologies. It was all foreign at first. But after about several of their courses, it all started to click. Not only did I have room for growth as an educator, my discipline, and academia at large, had great room for improvement. 

 

I started trying to write a teaching philosophy based on all I was learning but it was turning into a huge document. I thought about possibly making it into a book. But then inspired by the philosophies and concepts of New Learning theory, I decided to do exactly what that approach/philosophy calls for: building knowledge ecologies around a subject matter to harness the power of productive diversity and collaborative intelligence. 

Then, I set off on my journey to find innovative teaching/learning resources and strategies based on my new philosophy, only to find there are very few. And the one's that do exist are scattered all over the internet. Some were free some were not. Some thoughtfully designed with the art and science of teaching/learning, some not. Which has brought me to where I'm at now. I'm currently doing a needs assessment to see if other faculty have had the same experience and to discover what teaching/learning resources faculty in sociology, criminology, and criminal justice might need around the world. 

 

The ultimate goal is to provide these resources in order to create the most engaging/effective teaching/learning activities and learning environments. 

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