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on the benefits of lurking and looking back…

January 26, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

This term in addition to my 804 course I am a “lurker” in the 802 course that is also running concurrently. I took 802 officially last year (as a refresher, it was the course where I was pretty sure would either lead me to thesis nirvana or make me drop out of the program because my brain would explode. Turns out, neither happened but I did finish up with way more confidence about the research process and way more humility about myself as an academic.)

Because 802 is run not in the closed LMS of Moodle but in the semi-open platform of The Landing (the Athabasca social network site…immortalized in such techno remixes as this one) once you’ve survived 802, you remain a member of the group permanently. This permanent membership means you can watch what’s going on (provided you weren’t so scarred from your own experience that you turned off all notifications) and even participate in the group again if you so choose. Though I’ve had neither the courage nor inclination to do the later, I’ve been very actively engaging in the former, watching a whole new crop of eager students tentatively define their epistemology and ontology as their first discussion assignment and generally begin wrestling with some pretty hefty content.

As I’m the youngest child by many years I don’t know if it’s quite the correct analogy but as I read responses from cohort 7 I can’t help but feel like an older sister to them all…charmed by their earnestness, a little worried for them regarding the “growing up” challenges I know they will face in the next few months, and overall so proud to see who they are becoming. I didn’t think it would be feasible to build cross-cohort relationships that had any meaning or depth but through the looking glass that The Landing has become, I’m beginning to become a believer that it might actually be possible. We all have shared experiences now and there’s no reason this open space can’t be the catalyst to connect us. Granted, cohort 7 will never be the somewhat blood-family that cohort 6 is to me but still…I love that we can all build community and enrich each other through this doctoral process. If we were all at a brick and mortar school for sure we’d be checking each other out and swapping resources and secretly envying/admiring/being inspired by each others work. In the absence of physical hallways and chance coffee shop encounters, The Landing seems to be a more than decent substitution.

In addition, as I’ve been watching their engagement it is taking me back to my own thoughts and ideas when I was in 802. I remember first being asked about my own ontology and my own epistemology and being pretty sure that defining those two things was equivalent to asking me to speak Chinese. But after some research, lots of trial and error, and a healthy dose of rye, I did manage to pin down my own views, namely that truth is contextual, dynamic and changes based on experience, narrative, and environment. Knowledge is personal and subjective assembled through connections and worked out through social interactions. In 802, I called myself an anti-positivist who embraced nominalism and pragmatism with a twist of critical theory for good measure…a year later, those definitions, with a few subtle nuances, still remain core pillars of who I am. As cohort 7 goes through each discussion and project, I’m eager to see how the lisa-of-last year compares to the lisa-of-today.

I am sure there have been articles written delving more into the research, reasons, cautions, and benefits of cohort cross pollination and as I am now beginning to have some good first person qualitative experience…I’m curious to explore.

But…all that scholarship can wait for another day. For now all I have to say is…you go cohort 7! Jump into discussions, wrestle with these gnarly brain-bending ideas, and truly give it your all knowing that you’re not alone in your struggles. In addition to fabulous supervisors and a rock star instructor, you’ve got eight cheerleaders from cohort 6 ready to shout encouragements if you ever appear to be slowing down. It sounds quite cliche but your learning really is all of our learning and your courage to do something so vulnerable in an open space helps us all be courageous and open too. Persist even when it gets overwhelming. This will test you in ways that feel like they are far beyond your breaking point but in the end…this experience will change you for so much the better…just as it did for us.

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One Comment

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  1. Kim Jones #
    January 27, 2015

    Thanks for your encouragement Lisa! We appreciate your words. Please do join us (Cohort 7) in the Landing! 😉

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