Teachers Spa and Garden: A Presentation for the International College Teaching and Learning Conference, April 2003, Jacksonville, Florida by Dr. Selia Karsten

Technology used in teaching and learning displays ever-increasing complexity in variables and configurations that connect them. In this session, find strategies for developing simple templates and resource collections to move from strictly face-to-face curriculum to a hybrid or blended model. Discover blueprints for building a special online Teacher's Spa and Garden.

mountain view of Hot Springs, 

glass ceiling: bath house interior

view towards the Majestic Hotel
photos thanks to http://www.hsnp.com/

I grew up in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas in a big resort hotel (the Majestic) where my dad was the manager. Just as the Greeks went to healing centers, folks came to visit Hot Springs and Bathhouse Row to relax and heal. They drank pure mountain valley spring mineral water while taking the baths and were attended to and massaged. Visitors could hike one of the small town's two mountains or paddle about in one of three surrounding lakes. They could watch horse races, check out the alligator farm, attend fine arts auctions, gamble at casinos, hear the popular musical artists and entertainers of the day, play golf or tennis, go horseback riding. Many enjoyed fine dining - or went window-shopping, strolling past the large fountain on Central Avenue. It was an atmosphere designed for rest and relaxation.

The years roll by and I have travelled many miles from that early oasis. Much of my life has been involved in education.  I find the more exhilarating and challenging the teaching and learning, the more the need to renew myself, to go back to "square one" to better address the ever-changing needs of me and my students. I begin with a reflective and invigorating review of ideas that nurture teaching and learning and I follow this with the refreshment of a Spa visit and I spend time in a lovely garden. I suggest the combination of  these three exercises may help you bring about stress reduction and a kind of healing so that you are refreshed for the coming term of teaching.

First: a review of my teaching...as I go back to SQUARE-ONE

I teach a number of courses at Seneca College and at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto - courses that are hybrid or blended courses and also online courses. In addition, I have developed supporting materials online, including course home pages with weekly "lecture" notes, links to guides and tutorials, projects and project criteria, resources and discussion forums (the latter are password protected and kept within the LMS BlackBoard framework). I find that having reviewed the feedback and course evaluations posted by my students, I am inspired to do a "spring cleaning" of the course materials.

student feedback

Keeping in mind the learners' ideas, I think about revisions that will help to clarify the course and the intended learning outcomes. I look at each course overall and go through a checklist for review and revision.  For example, I survey the resources given to see what needs to be renewed. The SQUARE-ONE slide show gives you a starter list of elements that may enhance whatever courses you are teaching. Ask yourself how these ideas might apply to your learning materials be they online or in the classroom or computer lab. These are elements that can be incorporated into a hybrid or blended approach to your curriculum. By creating this Power Point slide show, I reviewed for myself what was really important to the success of my courses. This practice gave me guidelines and a form of checklist for revising and renewing my work. Create your own 'Square One" slide show in order to review your teaching.

Square One power point presentation

Teacherís Spa and Garden

My reward for having completed my spring cleaning of courses is to visit my Spa and Garden sites. I offer these sites as blueprints or models for your own Spa and Garden sites.

The Spa is a site I constructed back in 1995 when I discovered the fine art of creating web sites in conjunction with declaring myself a holistic educator. The structure of the site is a simple one. The main page gives a list of links to areas of interest that I find stimulating and inspiring. On each page linked to this, I have assembled a list of links (and descriptions of the links) related to the theme of the page. On my annual pilgrimage to the site, I note which links need to be updated or replaced with newer ones.

The Garden is a site that grew from a need to take a break during the long hours at the computer. One of my therapies is taking pictures of flowers - a study in concentration and composition, finding the focal point that works with a long lens and relatively fast film in natural light. Another practice of mine is meditation and the rainbow meditation of going through the chakras, is one that lends itself to visual interpretation. And so I have combined the two ideas, flowers and meditation in a simple and reflective site.

Notes and Sketches:  An alternative Exercise.  This is an exploration into the nature of fountains and the planning of gardens as regards life and contemplative thought. I found this activity a refreshing and relaxing thing to do. In this case, I spent a day in a library browsing through books to do with fountains and gardens. I took notes and drew sketches and put them together in a web page.

Teaching Portfolio
Teaching has links to Seneca College courses.
Projects are current and recent: my OISE/UT work is linked here.
Websites are both independent and collaborative works on the Web.
Addenda includes resources used in my teaching.

email: drkarsten@astralsite.com