"Be reassured: the literature student has learned to inquire, to question, to interpret, to critique, to compare, to research, to argue, to sift, to analyze, to shape, to express. His intellect can be put to broad use."
From a LOR (letter of recommendation) from J.T. Fitger, Professor of English and Creative Writing, Payne University.
Quoted in Dear Committee Members: A novel (Kindle Location 974 - whatever that means).
Dear Professor Fitger,
I hope that this letter finds you well, and that your fall semester at Payne is starting with as much hope and optimism as we are all feeling in Hanover.
As much as I wish this letter was purely social, you will not be surprised that my true reasons for reaching out are to ask you for a favor. Would you be willing to pen for me one of your famous letters of recommendation?
You may think it odd that a technologist and an administrator would ask you for a LOR, given your well known public skepticism to both of these species of academic laborer. In truth, it is your record of critiquing the role technology in higher education that would give your LOR such weight. This is sort of an only Nixon could go to China sort of situation, as a letter from a well-known critic of educational technology recommending an educational technologist would go a long way.
My request for a LOR from you may not be as Machiavellian as I’m perhaps making it out to be. The truth is, a recommendation from you about the value of my work in educational technology to the teaching and learning mission of the institution would provide me with enormous satisfaction. I like to think (and I certainly hope) that even if we sometimes speak a different language (and you are infinitely more fluent with language than I could ever be), that we share a common set of goals and values.
Our work in the university is about helping young people develop to their full potential.
We both believe in the liberal arts model of learning. A system that seeks to engender critical thinking and leadership skills.
A method of teaching that depends on the existence of a close-knit learning community, and the development of a relationship between the educator and the learner.
My goal working in educational technology these many years has been to try to help set up environments, and provide resources, that can assist faculty in their (in your) efforts to improve student learning. Much of my work has been focused on collaborating with faculty to find methods to enable large-enrollment classes to feel like small-enrollment classes.
Together, we have been asking how best to create opportunities for active, collaborative and experiential learning in our larger enrollment courses.
I have become particularly enamored with the cognitive science literature and the growing body of evidence on how people learn. It is my belief that learning technologies do have a role to play in our efforts to re-think the traditional structure of teaching and learning in higher ed.
Experiments in blended learning, flipped classrooms, formative assessment, student response systems, and low-residency programs (for certain populations of students otherwise excluded from our institution), are important as we look to adapt and evolve.
Of course, any use of technology needs to be tempered by the knowledge that technology is only a tool, and that the real value of teaching comes from the expertise, guidance and passion of our best professors (such as yourself). We must be both skeptical and intentional when it comes to the use of any technology for teaching.
What I have been searching for all these years is perhaps a humanist version of educational technology.
An approach to integrating technology into teaching that faculty such as yourself would welcome and embrace.
So I ask you for a letter of recommendation in full knowledge that whatever you write will be brutally honest and most likely critical of my tribe.
That would be okay, as I believe in the power of our shared values and goals, and look forward to learning from whatever you choose to write in your LOR.
Yours in equal parts appreciation and trepidation,