Posts from the ‘804’ Category
February 16, 2015
This long weekend I am deep in my 804 Assignment 2 which is a 45 minute (yeah, that’s right….45 minute) presentation grappling with a social/economic issue and showing how education in general and educational leadership in particular could bring positive change. It’s all speculative (meaning we don’t have to actually do what we’re investigating) and the overall thrust of the assignment is for us to test drive leadership ideas.
The good news is that it’s meant to be a partner assignment and I’ve got an amazingly capable partner. We’ve chosen to grapple with persistence in distance education and look particularly at how The Landing, Athabsca’s social site, could play a more proactive role in building community thus increasing persistence.
The even better news is that The Landing also happens to be the focus of my partner’s thesis project. But, lest it sound like I’ve been savvy in partner choice and topic (which admittedly I have) and am now coasting for the next month, I have been pulling my weight as much as possible and though I’m not the main force finding articles (since he’s basically got the library already) I’m enough of a control freak that I can confidently say my fingerprints will be on the final product to present a convincing argument that we are a team. In addition because he’s been living in these ideas for awhile, I think my fresh outlook is a good reality check. I know for me the longer I live in ideas the more I’m unable to see how things could be any other way…then someone peers in and it’s the emperors new clothes all over again as I realize what I thought was set in stone was really only written in sidewalk chalk.
February 10, 2015
I was driving tonight to a friend’s house and listening to the Through Process podcast. (If you don’t know about Through Process…you’re totally missing out. It’s targeted toward design educators and design students but really, like design itself it’s about life as a human…whatever that may look like.) So, I was driving tonight to a friend’s house and listening to a Through Process podcast episode called “It’s okay to like things” where design critic Chappell Ellison joined the usual combo of Mitch and Namdev to chat about criticism, feedback and the general atmosphere around both in both design school and the profession of design.
It was a long and rambling podcast so I won’t try to summarize it here in any sort of pithy way (legit just listen….road rage decreases exponentially when you’re listening to something interesting). That said, there was an interesting point about raised about the weird image media saturated culture we live in and how that in itself has changed the student/learning experience.
At one point someone said that there’s so much access to design blogs and image banks and Pinterest and everything visual that rather than put work out there that is unique and personal and engaged with the project that has been tasked to the student….students are more likely to recycle back something “cool” they encountered on the internet—more likely to blind copy styles with little to no thought as to the why’s behind it all. When pressed into explaining the why of a piece, students come up short because there’s actually no why at all….the work is all face value.
Somebody else said that school was perhaps the safest place ever to be a designer because you can literally go off the deep end with conceptual/crazy/risky ideas and though an instructor might give you a hard mark…they’re not going to be like a client who will fire you. In school, the whole system is set up to nurture you so rather than just copy whatever the cool of the moment is, why not take the deep dive into whatever obscure inspiration you find and then just run with it and see where it takes you? You most likely will fail a bit (or a lot) but you’ll find deeper parts of yourself as a designer and the skills you learn in the engagement itself will pan out in the end.
As the sage design educator that I am, I said a hearty “Amen” to these ideas and wished that my own students would have this courage to find their own cool and not keep recycling the same stuff over and over. I even began thinking how we could shift our curriculum so that it would be more conducive to these things…be more intentional about stating what a “safe space” we actually are and using that as a catalyst to see how much deeper we can go into the learning process.
Then I began to think about the “student” thing currently happening in my own life and wonder if the same issues are in play, but just called some other stuff since this is doctoral level education. Admittedly as things got a little more close to home, they also became a bit more uncomfortable.
Here’s the truth…I’m not a tenured track academic who needs to do massive research or publish stuff in order to keep their job. I’m a student exploring these ideas for the very. first. time. In addition, I’ve got a support system in place with my supervisor, my cohort, and various other closely linked outliers who are more than willing to nurture the heck out of me whenever needed.
I’ve got all the head knowledge but…in what ways have I become like those mindlessly trolling not image banks, but articles repositories? In what ways am I so captivated by whatever is the “cool” topic/methodology/argument that it’s seducing me, ever so slightly, off course and following it is replacing looking for my own pathway? Do I realize that I could literally explore the conceptual/crazy/risky ideas to my hearts content because I won’t be fired from this experience? (I will most likely be confronted by my supervisor but still…wouldn’t it be amazing to go so deep into a path that you would get called for actually too much?)
So, this is my next new plan…my new goal is to be fearlessly courageous in probing and pushing and pursuing not because I have some weird anarchist bent but rather because I want to revel in this process as much as humanly possible. Like all my students, this is such a unique and special time and it makes zero sense to live it in such a self limiting manner. As I know from my day job, once you’re finished you get lots of limits and schemes placed on you….for this time and in this season, it’s time to delight and see just what might happen….just what I might discover.
February 8, 2015
In addition to doing all the other stuff I seem to record on here, I do occasionally also write in way more formal, academic-y ways. Here’s a link to what I did this past week for my first assignment of 804. I also made a presentation on the same topic and here’s a link to those slides.
Though I gave the presentation last Thursday, I just turned the paper in for marking. As it’s the first assignment written for a prof I’ve never had before…I’ll confess hitting submit feels a little first-date-nerve-wracking as I wonder if she will get my writing style, if I really understood what she asked for, if she’ll like my APA, etc.
Overall I’m happy with the paper and even more I’m happy that I got to explore distributed leadership. After learning more about it “officially” I realize I’ve been trying to do a hybrid version of it for the past several months with my own team. Now that I’ve got the actual info (and realize what I’m doing is legit part of something that’s actually “a thing”) I’m excited to keep tweaking how I distribute leadership and truly find ways to nurture my team members so that they feel safe enough to bring their own passion areas to me and see how together we can partner to make our team and our department the best it can be. Who knew school learning actually can apply in real life too? Amazing, eh?
I could sound quite enlightened and say that I’ve learned so much already that it doesn’t really matter what my mark is. This is quite true but also….yeah, as I’ve never gotten all that great of grades in the past and thus far in the program I’ve managed to get some pretty excellent ones…shallow as it sounds, I’m beginning to give into the siren call of the letter grade. So, we shall see what happens!
February 6, 2015
Today I met with my supervisor one to one. He’d contacted me last week (as he knew I’d had quite a rough one) and asked about a potential chat in the near future. As it had been awhile since we’d spoken, I’d gladly replied that it would be great to connect. After sending the response and setting up a time I didn’t give the meeting much thought until this past weekend when it dawned on me that I was a second year doctoral student and in a program that is about 4-ish years in estimated length that would put me right in the middle. I wasn’t totally sure where I had read it, but 2 years in seemed like when all the cool doctoral kids probably had at least have written a dissertation rough draft, or was the 2 year mark when said “cool kids” had already completed the revisions? Either way….eek!
So my supervisor has contacted me about a potential chat in the near future. And though it was most likely a chat inspired by things unrelated to my academic progress…I’m a second year student with a gut feeling that a potential chat wasn’t going to be a time for us to swap conspiracy theories about the Bachelor or who we thought was going to win Project Runway. If I was chatting with my supervisor the mental health check in is just code for checking up on me and my research direction, making sure I’ve got a clean APA record, am up on my article reading and generally conducting my life in a manner befitting a doctoral student. Suddenly meeting with my supervisor sounded way more like going to the principals office meets getting caught sneaking in after curfew meets executive interview and if I’m not prepared and ready to impress with some serious doctoral student-y data…I’m in big big trouble.
February 3, 2015
Or rather Fordism, which though based somewhat on Henry Ford who we all know and love doesn’t actually mean that it’s education you can do in your car (though legit, who doing an online program hasn’t “been in school” while in the car? Indeed when I was homeschooling in high school I completed a lot of my work while in transit on trips and outings or in the words of my mom the “real stuff of an education” but anyways….)
Fordism is a system based on industrialized/standardized mass production. In layman’s terms, it’s factory precision and predictability. It’s also proven reliability at a reasonable price, able to equip the masses with consumer goods and not bankrupt them in the process. The beauty of Fordism is that whole swathes of people who were previously out of the loop now have purchasing power and provision.
Post-Fordism is, as the name suggests, what happens after Fordism and is the era that we may of may not be living in now. In post-Fordism, the production aspect doesn’t go away instead a world of specialties and specialists emerge. Rather than the factory notion of workers popping out products in rigid lockstep, there is a focus on distribution, separation, and pleasing the individual. In Fordism, it seems it was enough to just get stuff. In post-Fordism…there’s attention to the unique human element of individualism and personal choice. I think this distinction makes post-Fordism pretty amazing but also adds in all sorts of temperamental complexity.
Education–as is often the case–has followed these themes as well. Where once the “Fordist” values of getting it done prevailed, now we’re a bit more into the post-Fordist space where we must not only get it done but allow people to be changeable and specialize and do all the quirky things people tend to do. I again think post-Fordism a good thing in theory but it’s a rough thing for education, particularly education that is distance distributed.
January 30, 2015
Today I am so glad it’s almost Friday, almost the weekend, almost the time when I can be safely ensconced in two non-working days and not have a pavlovian reaction to my email alert tone. It’s been one of “those” weeks where you almost become conditioned to the fact that the sky will fall and you will completely shatter at least once per day (and indeed just once per day becomes grace.) I’m sure I’m being overly dramatic and in the long view of things this week will resolve but legit in this moment I’m pretty confident I’ve had more energy shortly after completing a marathon than I currently have now.
In an effort to model good reflective practice (and also with the hope that if I can write a significant portion of this out it means I will actually free up my racing mind and I will get to sleep a full night…finally) I’ll embrace objective academic and just list and annotate what I’ve observed in this week’s ethnography of lisa.
1. saying goodbye to people when they leave roles in your life that have been pillars in who you are is hard. always. even if you know it’s the right thing and you know they’re not leaving you and you know all the nice sounding stuff is true. it’s still a gut wrenching feeling of loss because there’s now this part of you that’s raw and missing. i’m old enough to know that it fills in and it resolves but yeah…this kind of somewhat internal ache is so hard and I’ve spent the week with what feels like a bruise on my soul that won’t heal anytime soon.
2. being humbled because you’ve been called on your own tendency to live in shades of gray rather than be black and white rule abiding is hard. always. My key strengths are my ability to take risks, try out things with confidence, and have a free thinking non-linear explorative spirit…except when I have to explain myself to a system based on rigid check and balance process and then the above become my key weaknesses. while I’m no longer actively in trouble, I’m glad that I know the boundaries of the play ground and have adjusted my scope of experimentation accordingly. “I’m sorry” has become the script of my week.
3. being completely vulnerable and transparent with those you lead is hard….but always the best way. When the above situation happened I was very open about my struggles and what was going on with my closest team members. It literally felt like i was about 12, I was going to vomit, and they were finally going to see me for the sham that the darker voices in my head talk about on a daily basis. Yet after I’d gotten it out, totally cliche but, it was freedom because they saw new parts of me and even more were allowed to speak into me rather than the usual me-to-them transaction.
4. the hardest thing about being a leader is opening your own grabby little fists and trusting your team. (indeed, the hardest part of being a person might be opening up your grabby little fists and trusting others, time, and process.) when I accepted this job almost a year ago, I was so concerned that I wouldn’t be able to give presentations because I was such a poor public speaker…I was petrified that I wouldn’t know how to balance my time and I’d burn out…I was convinced that no one would follow my lead and all my ideas were too crazy or bizarre to ever inspire others. Turns out, presentations (or at least distance-mediated ones) are cake. Balancing time is tricky but luckily I do have a pretty good “stop or I will stop for you” balance on my body itself. Ideas? Position and passion pretty much ensure that people will jump on the bandwagon…keeping them is anyone’s guess but getting them isn’t so hard.
But yeah…letting go is something so completely different. For whatever reason (and I’m taking the Leadership Theory course right now so you’d think if anyone knew the answer it would be me) it feels natural for me to say that I’d be willing to sacrifice myself for my team as I am their leader but to give them stuff to do….eek! I’m not weak! I’m not needy!! I’m all powerful and in charge!!! Or at least I like to tell myself these things.
In truth, I am strong and courageous but so is every person on my team. By virtue of timing and choosing and who knows what…I ended up as the “leader” but with that title I didn’t suddenly also get superpowers.
Then things like this week happen and you end up messy and human and anything but a superhero in front of your team and turns out…just where you end is the perfect place for all of them to begin. It turns out that you’ve been feeling noble as you shelter them but really they’re more than willing for the relationship to be reciprocal…more than capable of holding you when you need it, if you will only let them.
I didn’t have many proud moments this week but I did have a proud moment realizing that the culture I’ve been hoping for for oh the last year is actually a reality. We can be open. We can be real people with each other. We can open our grabby hands because it is safe. I can (and have) opened my hands to them because it is safe and in a act of grace and beauty…they’ve opened theirs in return.
So, what’s next? Hopefully lots of sleep and some quiet. Though I’m finding resolution more and more, this week scarred me pretty deep and I want to grow and not gloss over these new places in me that have opened up.
Ahh life….What a fun and frustrating challenge you often turn into.
January 26, 2015
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.
January 25, 2015
This past week my supervisor posted (and clearing expressed his disdain of) a link on twitter to an article that said something along the lines of… “if computers replaced teachers in online learning, the world would be a better place.” (Admittedly, this is a bit of simplification on the article but the overall gist was: teachers cost money, need benefits, have all sorts of emotions/personalities/quirks and generally are a major drain on institutional finances but magical computers work endlessly, need no benefits and only have the feelings one programs into them thus are an institutional win.) I responded off the cuff about how my Mac was probably going to replace him in the near future since as the article said, who needs humans if computers can teach everything? He responded back in a sage, supervisory way by saying that the focus is never teaching but rather learning and that computers can’t actually “teach” rather they aggregate. Then he continued on by saying that as I already spend way more time working on my thesis with my Mac than working on my thesis with him…maybe we are already at the point where my Mac had replaced him….As I spend about 18 hours a day with my Mac…yeah, I’d say he makes a valid point!
It was a fun short twitter exchange to begin my day and yet it did make me think a lot about this very odd distance mediated world of teaching and learning that I’m living in and that has become my own default framework.
For example in my day to day job…
100% of the interactions I have with my own team of direct reports are mediated by a computer or a phone.
100% of the interactions I have with the students enrolled in my program are mediated by a computer or a phone.
100% of the assignments created, books read, lectures attended, etc. in the program I head are are mediated by a computer.
And then in my doctoral studies…
100% of the interactions I have with my cohort (who I consider to be almost family) are mediated by a computer
100% of the content of my doctoral program is mediated by a computer
and regarding the supervisor mentioned above, thus far…
95% of all communication over the past 18 months has been mediated by not just a computer but primarily using the 140 character microblog format of Twitter
I am an educator working to teach students the skill of graphic design—something that has always been taught via close proximity studio methodology—and 100% of what I do is geographically distributed and technology mediated. I am a human, my students are humans, my staff are humans, my cohort and supervisor are humans and yet as we’ve never “seen” or even been in the same timezone…it all could actually be a gigantic sophisticated Turing test.
It feels so mundane when I live it day to day and yet to see all these facts written out…so so so crazy that the system is even allowed to exist, let alone thrive.
There is no part of me that ever thinks that my computer could replace my supervisor just as there is no part of me that ever thinks that my computer could replace any of the instructors on my team because I believe so strongly in the power of the humans behind all of this new fangled technology.
And yet, how does one get to this place of seeing the human even as it’s fully interpreted by blind code and then transported via cables and satellites and flat screen projectis? How do people become real in such a different, non-human atmosphere? For me it feels so natural because I’ve lived in this place for so long and been learning in this distanced mediated system for almost 10 years, beginning with my MFA.
I’m beginning to think I’m not the norm…I’m beginning to think I’m the anomaly in all of this and yet if I could understand myself better perhaps I could help untangle these ideas for others.
January 16, 2015
What’s a first day of school without a first day of school picture, eh?
Thus, here is mine complete with fur scarf to reflect my pseudo-Canadianism, iPhone headset to reflect my graphic design heritage, and no makeup to reflect my new-found commitment to letting my inner beauty and the light of my intellect be what shines through. To quote the great work of cinema that is Clueless, “…as if!” More like today was filled with lots of administrative busy work and trying to tie up loose ends thus in the grand scheme of time usage…something had to give. Luckily we’re a webcam off kind of class!
Verdict on day 1: awesome.
I am pretty sure I want Dr. Marti to adopt Ruby and I so we can just be around her. With other instructors I’ve said that they have parts of them that I hope I can emulate in my academic practice—their student engagement, their curiosity, their absolute passion for detail and precision. For Dr. M. I pretty much want to be just like her when I grow up. She’s amazingly grounded and humble and yet she’s literally written the books on so many of the most prevalent ideas in distance education. When she listens, she really listens and then responds with something drawn from her past explorations that make you think she’s not just listened for a pause in your speech so she could interject but that she’s listened to you because you’re a human who she can learn from and she’s totally eager to build connections with you. And it all happens in a distance mediated format! Which is awesome.
I know this week I’ve been sheepish at best about this course as I’ve felt totally beyond my league and yet after this week I’m thinking my main goal is to soak up as much as possible of this privilege that is this course from this genius of distance ed. The content will be good I’m sure as will the assignments but I think what might be the best part is learning from Dr. Marti a bit more.
Which leads me easily into my next point. Because I never officially made new years resolutions at the turn of the year (and tomorrow’s my birthday so what better day than tomorrow to set some things in ink?) I have a somewhat short list of what I’d like to “resolve” this year. In prepping for writing tonight I looked back at what I was writing last year at this time. It was fun to revisit the Lisa-of-2014 knowing what I now know about how the year unfolded. Apparently I was all ready to have clarity about my thesis topic by summer and once more that will enter into things since maybe this summer I will actually have something! But anyways….if nothing else I am getting much more open-handed each month with this whole process and I think perhaps that is a very good thing…perhaps process really is where it’s at. : )
1. read more both academic stuff and fun mental-break stuff
2. be curious about people + listen actively (no really….LISTEN and BE PRESENT)
3. use ALL my vacation days
4. before doing any project ask myself: am I doing this because it’s the absolute best fit for me to do it? OR am I doing it because I want to be in control of the situation/want to receive credit for this/am afraid to ask for help?
5. return to affirming the humanity in people. start with myself.