on learning & my 804 capstone project
March 26, 2015
No more words…or perhaps too many words.
Not sure if the churning inside me is due to anxiety at the thought of all that must be done and I am empty or because it is too full and too confused to ever hope to make sense of all I’ve experienced the past four months.
No more ideas….or perhaps too many ideas.
What I’ve learned is jumbled and bouncing endlessly around in my head, not in neat pathways or ordered, linear lines but in colors and images—in quotes and misquotes—permanently tied to other memories and emotions that have little to do with the content itself. Though I wish A led to B led to C, etc. when looking through my notes it’s apparent that everything is tied in some sort of story…scaffolded by things that are mostly mundane. I am not sure I can (or should) make learning and living two separate categories.
These articles were read while I was doing laundry.
This was the book I read over Christmas break, laying in front of the fireplace.
This article I read in Omaha, when some rougher personal things were going on and the full brain technical focus it required was a welcome reprieve.
Here’s what I was reading that fateful week in February when everything went wrong.
These articles were given to me by my Assignment 2 partner. We stayed up way too late discussing on Skype and when I finally did go to sleep it was in the happy glow that comes from a totally unexpected and delightful connection.
Here is the seminal distributed leadership text I read when I was in the midst of re-writing my first assignment. Though its no fault of the author, looking back through this work makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed…small and like I want to hide because the re-write process brought up a lot of insecurity in me I thought I had already worked through.
And here are the articles I read after streaming sessions from the LAK Conference and realizing there was much more to these ideas than I initially thought. I never knew these discussions were happening and this one makes me feel super hopeful about my future.
The list goes on and one as each element has both content of its own and content that I have managed to tag onto it because its entered into the stream of my own life. That’s both the problem and the magic of learning in this manner…nothing happens in an ordered manner and even more nothing happens in a vacuum. Reflecting back is fragmented and assembled and indeed learning itself seems to be fragmented and assembled. To show learning, what one needs to be is not clever at being assessed but rather clever at finding some sort of narrative (or perhaps creating a narrative) to externalize and communicate the internal mania that has been happening all along.
Part of me thinks this is wonderfully exciting because it means that learning is interwoven into every section of my day and myself and the knowledge I produce goes into the world, mixes and remixes with the other stories out there, and it’s a grand adventure of connections. The other part of me thinks this is hugely inconvenient because making sense for yourself is much harder than ticking boxes to show that you’ve learned. Making sense for yourself means that you don’t memorize what is correct but feel and think and assess at each turn what, for you, is correct.
And so back to creating and curating—assembling and sorting in an effort to understand all that has happened these past four months. Back to teasing out all the messy human parts in process and like a mosaic, see what larger image might emerge so that I can let it go and send it out. May it be a good one…may it be a gift.
March 24, 2015
Or, at least finished for now as per Assignment 1, the words “rewrite” and “resubmission” are very much in my vocabulary now.
Good news is the words “co-author” and “collaborate” are also very much in my vocabulary as well. Overall, the experience of a collaborative project mediated over open spaces like with a person I’ve never met face to face was a good one. It humbled me more than a couple times as I had to put aside my time schedule and see beyond the range of my own limited experience. It also encouraged me so much as I did literally get to see how much I don’t know and even more how much you can learn from someone if you do come with a fairly open mind. Though I don’t know what will ultimately come of the initiative we proposed I am very certain this will be the first of many collaborative, co-authored adventures.
Should you be interested, you can read the full paper here.
One year ago….
March 15, 2015
I am writing this one day post-Assignment 2 submission thus will freely admit what follows has been born from mostly half-formed ideas created while running, while drinking, and in pre-dawn hours while trying to go back to sleep. Please forgive the ramblings, unformed ideas, etc.
Due to the magic that is the Timehop app, I realized that one year ago this week I was at the AIGA Design Educator Connecting Dots Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Timehop informed me that apparently I was a Tweet-writing machine as I was encountering so many new ideas, meeting so many new people, and in many ways coming out as not only a design educator of the online tribe (which is rare in design education) but the dean of a fully online graphic design program (which in the graphic design education world is pretty much the equivalent of being a unicorn.) As it was only a year ago, re-reading what I’ve tweeted has brought back the memories and the overall context of the experience which has been the catalyst for a good nostalgia session as I compare where I was a year ago with where I am now.
The main theme that seemed to stick out to me last year was the need for designers to be engaged in Research (yep….cap R for “Research” because designers love a good capital whenever possible!) This checks out with my own memory as it seems a lot of the keynotes rotated around the fact that design pedagogy kind of has its own “cold start problem” going on because it wants so desperately to be a legit academic field but because graphic design is ubiquitous, young, and practice/apprentice based and designers are very much an “other”…it’s just an academic hard sell.
In addition, I think what really might contribute to these notions is that designers and even design educators don’t interface with more mainstream academia because they have so effectively established their own communities of practice. Don’t get me wrong, these communities are amazing and I love designers almost as much as I love people from Canada. But…this year has convinced me that designers have done a fabulous job establishing their own niche at the expense of becoming part of the larger education conversation, and especially educational technology/digital literacy conversation that is going on.
This lack of voice is curious to me as graphic design in general and design educators in particular seem to have so much to bring to the table when discussing how to navigate the very murky spaces of technology, learning, and human empathy. Perhaps it is because I’m ignorant to the conversations (as I have legit spent more time lately in the edu sphere as opposed to the design sphere). I hope this is the case as I think this bleed area matters in some pretty profound ways.
For the next couple days I’m going to both get back on the writing wagon and engage a bit more with these ideas. What is design pedagogy? Why are designers not integrating with the larger narratives of digital literacy and network learning that are going on? Or are they and it’s me that’s just missing it because my own vision and network is too narrow?
in praise of improvising…
March 7, 2015
Last night, in an act of total reckless academic abandon (because Assignment 2 is due in less than a week) I did not stay home and work like an academic maniac rather, I went to see Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble in their fifteenth anniversary tour. To the uninitiated, The Silk Road Ensemble was founded by Ma as a way to “forge connections across cultures, disciplines, and generations.” It’s since moved into a global movement where musicians from all over the world come together to not only play music but also build cultural awareness, educate, and generally delight in the power of the arts to cross all boundaries. Their manifesto (taken from their website) captures it beautifully:
- SILKROAD IS THE WORLD WHERE EXPLORING OUR DIFFERENCES ENRICHES OUR HUMANITY
- SILKROAD IS THE EDGE WHERE EDUCATION, BUSINESS, AND THE ARTS COME TOGETHER TO TRANSFORM THE WORLD
- SILKROAD IS THE COLLECTIVE OF ROOTED EXPLORERS, INCLUSIVE INDEPENDENTS, STORYTELLING MUSICIANS, PASSIONATE LEARNERS, CONNECTED NOMADS, AND CULTURAL ENTREPRENEURS
- SILKROAD IS THE MOVEMENT TO CREATE UNEXPECTED CONNECTIONS, COLLABORATIONS AND COMMUNITIES IN PURSUIT OF MEANINGFUL CHANGE
Points three and four are especially resonant to me because if you sub the words “distance education” or more specifically “graphic design distance education communities” that’s pretty much my own ethos too. Connected nomads, inclusive independents, rooted explorers….sign me up! And even more…how can I be part of the proactive solution to make that happen?
I first encountered Silk Road fifteen years ago when they passed through Chicago. I remember being captivated by all the diversity amongst the musicians and just how amazing it would be to be part of something that was that culturally rich and turned the world into a community where each voice brought something new and unique. At the time I was 18, working at Starbucks, going to community college, and unsure about what the future would hold but also dead certain I was going to be the first in female in three generations in my family to not become a teacher. I had my sights set on massage therapy to feed my body and being an artist to feed my soul. I was going to have a life of adventure and exploration—discovery and freedom. Fifteen years does indeed feel like a lifetime of change and it kind of makes me smile to think about 18-year-old-Lisa and the crazy twisting journey that turned her into 33-year-old-Lisa. I could never have imagined my life now back then as mine is a job that didn’t even exist fifteen years ago. And the “I will never be a teacher” utterance….further proof that you should never say never!
the honeymoon is officially over.
March 1, 2015
There comes a time in the course of a project where every positive thing you’ve said in the past about how far along, sure of your direction, confident in success, etc. feels like a lie. It seems this time comes with just about every project whether it’s a piece of graphic design for a client or an academic project for the program. Apparently after you’ve been enmeshed in a fairly intense relationship, even in research, the honeymoon wears thin. When you’re in this phase, seeing connections between what you’re researching and your daily life is not dazzling like at the beginning, rather it’s annoying and all you really want to tell your research pathway is to buzz off, leave you alone, and get out of your head for a couple hours.
I am in that place with Assignment 2.
I know I wrote lots of positive things this week about my own happy feelings, how exciting the topic was, how amazing it was to work with a partner who is knowledgeable, how excellent it is to have a topic that has such relevance, etc. While I have no doubt I was feeling all of those things in that moment…now, not. so. much.
I still think it’s a worthwhile and interesting topic but it’s hard because it turns out the easy water tight framework I thought we’d come up with hasn’t proved to be quite as easy to navigate and even more I’m having some major hesitations and every step deeper I go seems to take me no closer to the tidy resolution I was hoping to reach.
Oh, and I’m doing this as a collaborative project mediated by shared documents. In my head I thought working this way (open/shared) would be a great exploration of learning in transparent, vulnerable ways and really jumping into process with another person and building trust/learning as we watched each other learn and navigated issues together. Turns out, adding another person into my own learning process makes me super self conscious and if anything I think makes what I’m doing even more confusing because I am now both reflecting and acting at the same time. Donald Schon praised reflection-in-action and I too thought it sounded like a fabulous idea….but seriously? What I’ve experienced today feels just plain hard because in order to produce you have to forget to reflect and yet in order to reflect you have to remove yourself just enough from the flow of work to look at what you’ve been doing and your own motivations. To me, this feels like an act of mild schizophrenia.
So, new plan is to only work in closed silos because clearly this open business is madness. And also no more collaboration because that too comes to no good ends. New plan is to remember good fences make good neighbors and transparent spaces can easily be covered with blackout curtains. I probably shouldn’t even publish this blog posting because this will only add fuel to the evil fires of open learning.
Or, perhaps new plan is to chalk this experience up to yet more learning of a not so academic but humble human sort, call it a day, and tomorrow once more open the shared doc and also open my own hands and mind and see what might happen in the messy process that is learning.