Tuesday, September 27, 2011
I’m Dan Thurs. My professional situation is somewhat in flux. Up until recently, I was doing my best to become a professor at a university. In what I take to be a pretty substantial testament to my perseverance, I applied for tenure-track jobs for the last 7 to 8 years, but I’d only managed to get temporary positions, interspersed with periods of unemployment. I’m currently unemployed now.
While I’ve more or less abandoned the idea of gaining a professorship, there is one part of academia I want to keep with me. And that’s teaching—primarily at the college level, which I know best, but I’m also hoping to learn about other opportunities in other places from this course and the people I’ll be meeting (like all of you).
I started teaching college-level physics in 1996 as a teaching assistant (my undergraduate degrees are in physics and math). I kept on teaching through graduate school (I got my PhD in the history of science in 2004) and ever since. I was at Cornell for a little while, then moved out to Portland and taught at a bunch of schools there (University of Portland, Western Oregon University, and Oregon State). Most recently, I’ve been a faculty fellow at a small master’s program at NYU. I’m currently living slightly upstate (the city did not suit me at all well) in a tiny cabin with my wife (who’s a freelance grantwriter), our border collie, two cats, and a horse.
Throughout my teaching career, I’ve had lots of opportunities to come into contact with e-learning, but haven’t yet put all the pieces together into a bigger picture (something again I hope to get out of this and other courses here at PSU). I’ve used both Moodle and Blackboard primarily to deliver course content. I ran an independent study course with two people using a Google group once. I’ve relied on e-mail pretty extensively. I’ve had students do assignments online, looking in databases or for other information. And I’ve dabbled in a few other things (like holding office hours in a chat room). Still, the vast majority of my experience is in the traditional classroom, leading discussion and giving lectures.
At present, my dream job is working in instructional support/instructional technology at a college or university. One of the things I love most about teaching is the problem-solving and strategizing about how to make the best course possible. I’d like to get some background and training so I can be competitive for those positions (I’ve applied for a number over the past couple of years but have yet to get an interview). As I said above, I’m also hoping to learn about other areas I could work in. I know a little something about instructional design in the private sector, but not much. So, in addition to preparing myself for what I know about, I’m really hoping to discover more options.
I suppose the most important thing to say is that I'm very excited about this course and getting to work with everyone here.