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back in the saddle…

August 30, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

I start up school again for real in the next week or so, thus it’s only fitting that I begin moving my mental state from being in overachiever in divergent thinking to one decidedly more of a tweed state of mind (Disclaimer: By divergent thinking I really mean doing a bunch of awesome totally non-academic things and then thinking—in the few minutes I lie awake before going to sleep—“Wow, I feel super guilty because I did ______ rather than reading journals, writing an APA paper or generally any activity more befitting a year-in doctoral candidate…Quick, how can I assuage my own shame? There’s totally a connection between Bachelor in Paradise and the Doctoral student experience, right???)

And, back in the academic saddle I go…where I forsake (or maybe just lessen) my hold on the saying yes to everything mantra and move a bit more back into the drawing set boundaries, mapping out plans, and generally being a bit more academically minded. Legit I don’t regret anywhere I’ve been in this summer or the ways I metaphorically traveled so far from the well trodden path because I think that in many ways things do end up connecting more than they are separated but the key rests in the observer and the overall level of investigation/thought they are wiling to put into the processing.

As my own tentative moving back into the dissertation sphere, here are three potential ways my mind has been traveling this summer regarding research and overall research questions. They’re legit raw and wet and all sorts of unsettled but they’re also reflective of a the two things that keep on coming to the forefront of my mind, namely: how identity gets created in this crazy geographically dispersed learning format and how communities, with profound strength and support, seem to form in spite again of no cohesive geography. So, here’s where I am beginning to begin this year…and the future, pretty much anyone’s guess. (And, this is copy/pasted from an email so please forgive the awkward verbiage and disjointed phrasing.)

This past year I was thinking about going down a phenomenological path and looking at the student experience of being in an fully online arts program. I think that because these programs are relatively rare there is very little understanding of what students are experiencing and a lot of the unique parts of what it means to be an art student may be getting lost in the instructional design/functionality of the program itself. I’m also curious about the identity shifts that occur in online learners and just when they begin to see themselves as “designers” and if the somewhat nebulous nature of the online learning classroom (as opposed to a brick and mortar studio) has any impact on that.

Then recently I’ve become interested in thinking of the students more as real people and less as just “online students” and wondering what role the actual geographic location of the student plays in the online learning process. I know as a graphic designer the space I work in has special meaning and when I was working on my undergrad degree the studio at my college was kind of “sacred space” for creativity and community building. So, what I’m curious about is how or if students in online programs naturally carve out these types of spaces themselves (in their home studios, coffee shops, libraries, etc)  and what role those spaces play both in helping them through their creative projects and shaping their identities as artists.

Finally, I know there’s been lots of traction around the idea of teachers more as curators, assembling learning spaces through open networks where students learn through connections and the classroom itself becomes much more collaborative. I love the curator metaphor and think in an arts-focused program it makes even more sense. For example, one of the very high level goals of all our courses is to get students more aware of looking and seeing the world around them, much like a curator re-frames and re-imagines art and context. I am wondering how (or even if) instructors can curate community for their students or if that is something that rests more on the students who must be proactive in creating their own communal spaces and connections.

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