#26: No Teacher is an Island (Summer Shorts)

Welcome to Wired Ivy… Summer Shorts! Dan here. Are you ready for some island time?

Sometimes you just want to get away. And if you’re teaching online you can! Bouvet Island in the Southern Ocean is the place to go. It’s the most remote land on Earth, with the closest neighbor being the Princess Astrid Coast of Antarctica, 1100 miles to the south. Your company will be elephant seals and macaroni penguins — and the occasional passing scientist. But even here, bivouacked in a shipping container station, with your satellite-connected laptop, you don’t have to work by yourself.

Online faculties come in all shapes, sizes, and distributions. Some are entirely online with longstanding instructors, like mine, but we’re largely part time so we tend to be spread out — Washington DC to Washington state, the piedmont of the Appalachians to the piedmont of the Himalayas.

Other faculties are new to the game because they suddenly find themselves locked out of their buildings. Ingloriously, they’ve traded crowded lecture halls for tiny cameras in the guest room.

In some respects online teachers are islands. I tend to think of myself as a floating mangrove island. I seem to move my home base every couple years, and I travel a lot too.  I love having a job where I can work towards full digital nomad status.

No matter how you got here, it’s easy to feel isolated. But it’s important to remember, no teacher is an island — the Internet is your bridge.

If you’re on a desert island here are a few tricks to make sure you stay connected to the community and the resources you need.

FIRST, you’ve already done the most important thing — and that is listen to the Wired Ivy Podcast to connect with a like-minded community of online educators!

TWO,  don’t be shy about reaching out to other instructors in your program. I frequently confer with my colleagues just to compare syllabi and to see who is covering what. I also like to have a welcome chat with new instructors. I’ve gotten to know several of my colleagues quite well, and we have a text group where we troubleshoot problems or just share jokes.

If you’re part of a standing faculty, you’ll know each other already and have Zoom faculty meetings. But the one-on-one outreach is still a good idea since you’re not bumping into each other at the coffee pot.

THREE, look for organized groups. My university set up Communities of Practice this summer for instructors in online teaching. These are primarily targeted for folks making the sudden pivot, but it’s a good weekly hour to meet faculty from other programs and trade experiences.

FOUR, besides talking with colleagues on other islands, remember you’ve got a support team on the other end of the wire. Use the resources that are there to help you. Your library is number one. University libraries are well equipped to work for you even if you’ve never set a foot inside. Digital resources are extensive. Find your library liaison and let them know who you are. And for legacy resources, my library will send me books by mail with prepaid return postage.

FIVE, every school I know has a center for teaching excellence and an office to support online instruction. Some of these are more accustomed to working with faculty who are on campus, but I never hesitate to make requests for distance access to training or for advice on instructional design.

SIX, also remember you don’t have to be your own tech team. Your LMS has a help chat, which I bet is very responsive to faculty questions. There’s no point in struggling with how to make software work for you. Your school likely has its own tech support as well.

And SEVEN, one great university resource, which isn’t for you directly but can assist you with your students, is the school’s writing center. Find out how the writing center works with remote students and include this information in your syllabus and assignments. Gone are the days of needing to drop into the writing center to get help.

Island time is one of the benefits of online teaching, but remember you don’t have to work in isolation. Even a professor in paradise has a community and a team to connect to.

We’re working this summer to put together an exciting Season 2. Our theme will be Innovative Techniques. Are you on the Acropolis engaged in the Socratic method? Maybe you’re running a chemistry lab from your basement? We’d love to talk with you and share your experience on Wired Ivy.

You can leave a voice message at speakpipe.com/wiredivy, send an email to kieran@wiredivy.org or dan@wiredivy.org, or help Wired Ivy by subscribing, rating, and reviewing us on your favorite podcast apps, and by sharing this Summer Short with your friends. 


First and foremost, macaroni penguins (Eudyptes chrysolophus) are not some mythical creatures Dan made up to entertain his grandsons during lunchtime. Kieran confirms and stakes her professional reputation (Wildlife Biology BS, MS, PhD) on this fact, while also admitting they do look rather Disneyesque. (Photo: Serge Ouachée, ccl-by-sa-2.0).

southern elephant seals by Outward_bound, ccl-by-nc-nd-2.0The southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) of Bouvet Island look like cartoonists had a hand in their design as well but as the largest marine mammal that’s not a whale — 6-7 times heavier than polar and Kodiak bears (Ursus maritimus and Ursus arctos middendorffi, respectively) — they should definitely be taken seriously. (Photo: Outward-bound, ccl-by-nc-nd-2.0).

Bouvet Island probably isn’t what immediately comes to mind at the mention of an island getaway. Due to it’s sub-Antarctic location in the South Atlantic Ocean, visitors (or which there are few) are more likely to be wearing an anorak than Bermuda shorts. At the center is an inactive volcano and 93% of the 49 square kilometers (19 sq mi) of Bouvet are covered by a glacier (the west coast glacier is pictured below). It was declared a Norwegian dependency in 1930 and became a nature reserve in 1971. (Photo: François Guerraz, ccl-by-sa-3.0).

btw, LMS is short-hand for Learning Management Systems, of which there are several popular platforms used higher ed, including (in no particular order) Canvas, Blackboard, Moodle, Mindflash, Joomla, etc.

And now for a little Island Time from the Bumpin Uglies, performing live from Bonita Springs, Florida, on February 28, 2019. Take it away, Brandon Hardesty (lead vocals & guitar), Dave “Wolfie” Wolf (bassist), TJ Haslett (drummer), and Chad Wright (keyboardist)!

Wired Ivy is wholly owned by Kieran Lindsey and Daniel Marcucci, and we are solely responsible for its content.   Views expressed in this podcast and affiliated media are those of Kieran, Dan, and our guests, and do not represent Virginia Tech or any other institution.  Our audio engineer is Star Path Images, and a license for our theme music, Breakfast with You, was purchased from SmartSound.

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