I use this blog to track time, and in many ways it’s a chronicle of my warped history of the world. Many of the most regularly recurring themes on this blog, such as WordPress, UMW Blogs, ds106, Domain of One’s Own, etc., were part and parcel of the work I did while an instructional technologist at UMW. I spent 10 years at UMW, and crazily enough it will be 4 years this September since I worked there. Part of me will always be #UMW4life because I recognize and appreciate that that small, liberal arts public institution provided me a prolonged opportunity to dream about the possibility of edtech in partnership with some amazing colleagues. It’s hard for me not to look back with pride at the work we did together, and it makes Tweets wherein public higher ed is simply lumped in with for-profit that much harder to stomach.*
One of those colleagues who was particularly central to my professional development during my time at UMW was Martha Burtis, who recently announced she will be taking a job at Plymouth State University. In many ways this post is not only a congratulations to Martha for her new position, Plymouth State just got that much more awesome, but also as a way to mark history on this blog. With Martha’s departure does definitely mark the end of an era for edtech at UMW. Martha’s accomplishments in the field are legend, and there is no need for me to rehash them here. So, in an attempt to mark the occasion I just wanted to recount a memory of one of my earliest professional interactions with Martha.
When I was just getting my feet wet at UMW, not on the job more than a week or two, Martha came over to Campbell Hall (at that point all the instructional technologists were embedded in buildings rather than co-located as a centralized group) to accompany for one of my first faculty visits. We were to meet with Linguistics faculty member Paul Fallon, about what exactly I don’t remember. But I do remember strange details like Martha was wearing a brown overcoat, it was really cold outside, and how much that meeting set the tone for my career at UMW. Martha brought me to the meeting and modeled for me what it meant to be an instructional technologist at UMW. After the meeting we walked across campus and I remember her telling me how excited she was we finally had a team (Patrick Murray-John and I had just been hired, rounding off a 5 person team that would be more or less in tact for 10 years) and her genuine sense of the real possibilities for all of us was both inspiring and prescient. I’m not sure why this moment still sticks with me, but I think for me it was my formal initiation into a career in educational technology that I have come to love. Martha is one of those people who “made me.”
We did go on to do a lot of amazing stuff together, and while I wasn’t always the best colleague—I was unbearable for a while when Martha was director—but coming back to UMW after my 6 week sabbatical at the University of Richmond was the beginning of one of the richest professional collaborations I’ve ever had. Martha’s work on UMW Blogs, her WordPress development chops, the building of the ds106 infrastructure, the co-teaching ds106, the framing of Domains, the building of DKC, and on and on. I promised I would not re-hash her long list of accomplishments, but how could I not?
So, here is to the end of an era at UMW, but more importantly the beginning of a new chapter of possibilities for Martha and her family in New Hampshire.
*The edtech landscape is increasingly dire these days and it has been depressing for me to think about. I am struggling with writing more about it, but until then can I say how much I am missing Audrey Watters’ voice online these days. She did a lot of heavy lifting fo the rest of us.