By James May, Professor of English as a Second Language
Circles of Innovation (Circles) is designed to create both digital and physical spaces where self-directed faculty, those driven by a sense of mastery and common purpose, can come to mingle, contribute, collaborate, solve problems and create new forms of “Great Teaching.”
Circles is “where good ideas collide and great discoveries are made possible!” Through the Circles experience, faculty members engage in meaningful discussions with colleagues to discover innovative and creative approaches for teaching and learning and reflect upon attitudes, methods and behaviors as teachers.
Started in March 2013 with a session entitled “Where Good Ideas Come From,” Circles has now offered 10 additional sessions on an ever-widening variety of topics.
Facilitated by a faculty fellow on each campus, each Circle begins with a spark, or conversation starter. Faculty members then engage in discussions around the selected topics, share their own ideas and best practices and often participate in hands-on demonstrations of innovative teaching strategies.
Each session is designed to be fun and refreshing. And every session offers both digital and traditional — affectionately known as “brick and click” strategies — for engaging students in and beyond the classroom.
Ideas, strategies, good reads and videos, in addition to handouts, video-on-demand instructions and other information on topics discussed in Circles’ sessions can all be found on CirclesofInnovation.org, a website designed to allow community college faculty from across the country to find and share great teaching practices.
In its first year, Circles has already been nominated as a Top 10 finalist in the Community College Futures Assembly’s “Bellwether Awards.” The Bellwether Awards recognize outstanding community college programs, mainly in the U.S. and Canada, judged to be at the forefront of innovation and worthy of replication. Circles of Innovation also earned the inaugural Valencia Innovation of the Year Award for 2014.
In May 2014, Circles added its very own spin to Valencia’s Destination program. Facilitated by James May, professor, English as a Second Language; Rob McCaffrey, professor of graphics technology; Andy Ray, professor of building construction technology; Al Groccia, professor of mathematics; and Shara Lee, Osceola campus director of faculty and instructional development, 60 faculty members from across the College met each Friday in May 2014 to focus on creativity, content curation, content creation, classroom strategies and the threading together of engaging content.
This crowd-sourced work led to nearly 300 additional posts to CirclesofInnovation.org. Posts include discipline-specific information graphics, great videos, teaching strategies, threaded lessons and much more.
An example of one of the strategies was an infographic from an online English composition class. Created using Piktochart, a free infographic-creation software using cloud technology, the description reads, “The only thing missing? About 10 pages of drollness.”
Upon completion of Destination 2014, participants received $500 or 20 professional development hours that were applied to the 2013 – 2014 term. Participant results from an informal feedback activity may be found here.
Beginning in fall 2014, Circles will kick-start with sessions focusing on fun theory, screen casting and utilizing green screen technology.
Circles will also bring back some of the favorite topics from 2013 with “Circles Rewind,” and offer more in-depth, hands-on sessions in the campus centers. Be sure to stay tuned for more information.
If you have questions, or would like to be added to the email list, feel free to contact your very own campus fellow: James May (East/Winter Park) at firstname.lastname@example.org or extension 2047; Karen Cowden, professor of reading (West), at email@example.com or extension 1960; or Steven Cunningham, professor, English as a Second Language (Osceola/Lake Nona), at firstname.lastname@example.org or extension 4827.