Back at It

IMG_0189According to the Wayback Machine, I last blogged in April 2012. That makes perfect sense actually, as I was about to leave the semi-public life of being an industry analyst and consultant, and join the MIT Press as Director of Technology.

Time flies when you’re leading the relaunch of two web sites, the deployment of a new content management system, and the launch and upgrades of several business systems. It also flies when you are teaching a couple or three sections of freshman composition each year,  a role I’ve had off and on at Bunker Hill Community College since the late 1980s.

But I am not complaining. This is the professional life I have happily and steadily carved out for myself. I love the publishing business, publishing technology in particular, and teaching. As much as I can say I am part of MIT and BHCC, I feel that I am part of two jewels in American education fulfilling two very different but two incredibly important missions. In some ways they are worlds apart, but in my life they are a fifteen-minute walk apart, Leaving MIT, I leave a modern office building, and then walk past a luxury hotel and a manicured park. In a few minutes, I am astride the Prison Point Bridge looking down at train yards, the rubble of construction, and a sand and gravel company. BHCC itself is next to a subway line and nearly under a long overpass of an interstate leading out of Boston to the northern suburbs. On the days when I teach an evening class, I often make this walk, leaving the world of academic book and journal publishing behind me, and entering a classroom where students from every corner of the world sit with me, write with me, and talk with me about their lives and ideas.

I have spent a great deal of time recently reflecting on my teaching. I’ve never done it full time, and I defer to those who do in many, many ways. I have been teaching as an adjunct, off and on, since finishing my M.A. in 1986. I taught at a total of five schools over the first two years, and it was as chaotic as it sounds. But once I began to teach at BHCC in 1988, I found the right home for me as a regular adjunct. It is a few miles from where I grew up, and it is the gateway to higher education for thousands of students who might otherwise have none. And I’ve had a great boss there in Tim McLaughlin, English Department Chair, who is just now (semi-) retiring after a long and admirable career. I took a long hiatus (I honestly forget how long) when my work required too much travel, but I returned to the classroom in 2011. For a time, Tim took to calling me Rip Van Winkle, and there was more than a grain of truth in his quip. The BHCC I returned to–and the classroom I returned to–was a very different place. And I was a different instructor. No longer did I feel the need, every minute of every night, to convey every bit of knowledge I had accumulated. Instead I found that I could sit down, get the students working, and let them drive the discussion. We are now partners in the process, and that is a very different kind of classroom.

What’s also very different is how students consume, engage with, and process information. The Internet has changed things in many ways, and it has profoundly changed the relationship between the student and the traditional text. In one of my first semesters back, I realized the first evening that not one of the students had purchased the required text in time for the first class meeting. This would have never happened in the past. There are many reasons for this, and it intersects with my interests as a publisher, so I have the good fortune of being able to see this from more than one lens.

These changes have convinced me that there are many things worth writing about. Most of the writing here will be informal as I work out some ideas. A great deal of it will be short and observational. Some of it will reflect what I am reading. Some of it will be based on my work in publishing and in the classroom. I hope to get some ideas out there, interact with friends and colleagues, and perhaps begin to develop some more formal or in-depth writing. I contributed to three books in the early aughts. I wrote perhaps 75 or more bylined articles in trade magazines and newsletters from perhaps 1997 to 2007. I wrote more marketing white papers and briefs than I want to think about.I blogged from 2002 to 2012. But I have had a long, long pause. It’s time to get back at it.

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