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Posts from the ‘finding meaning’ Category

Nanowrimo: Day 15

November 16, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Halfway complete! I do not even know what my total and very rambling word count is on this whole business but I am proud that I have (mostly) stuck it out and written and proved good on my desire to pound out the words no matter how half baked or unresolved or just plain casual they manage to be. Writing really has seemed to beget writing and when I needed the words for the big stuff (or rather the big stuff that is graded and academic) I do think the words came a bit easier than in the past when I have not been quite so writing prolific and reflective.

Does writing a lot of nothing help you in writing a specific something? I am sure there are studies and research and lots of many syllable words to illuminate the subject from an official manner but from my own view, I would say it does indeed. From my own view, I would say that as in almost anything there is brilliance and there is inspiration and there are all those romantic and life affirming flashes but even more there is lots of mundane work and daily decidedly non romantic stuff that makes the bulk of life….that makes the foundation of what might be genius. And so I am glad I stumbled into this very real way to turn my good intentions into a rhythm and into an every few days habit because I think it will indeed pay dividends. This feels like exercise to me and like all good exercise, I am hoping that the phase when you first realize how totally out of shape you managed to get is passing and the phase when you realize you are not going to die and you may even be getting stronger is beginning.

And in the words of the great academics words of Monty Python….for something completely different.

This week we lost another cohort member. Well, we did not actually lose a member which would be particularly hard to do given that we are geographically dispersed and do not in fact really know where anyone ever is at any given time but rather we had a member decide to withdraw and defer course work until a later date, essentially leaving the cohort.

We have had this happen three times in the past year (and even before we had our first official orientation another person decided to leave) so the concept of losing a member is not new to me but…this member was one of my original small group orientation team members and thus felt a bit like one of the pillars of my own doctoral journey. She was an always positive, always professional, always freakishly organized force of good in my life and also in the whole way the cohort functioned. With the others who left, I was sad because in my head I knew that it was appropriate to be sad at the idea that someone was leaving but for this latest loss…my head knew enough to get out of the way because my heart was having all the feels from anger to sadness to betrayal to finally a somewhat shaky acceptance and resolution.

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Nanowrimo: Day 11

November 12, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Yesterday I passed the very momentous moment of turning in my second assignment and being almost halfway finished with my 803 course. As I’ve written about previously, this course has been the odd ball, chaotic outlier in my doctoral journey thus far. It sounds overly idyllic and like I am going all Pollyanna, but my first full year in the program was difficult but not breaking and personally stretching but not exhausting. When each class ended, I will confess, I was totally happy to have survived but also a little sad to have it end as I could see tangibly that what I’d learned over the course of the 15-16 ish weeks really did change me and expand my mind for the better. Reaching the end of them was like reaching the summit of a little mountain…exhilarating even though you’d lost feeling in your toes.

803, though neither particularly difficult nor stretching has–due to a somewhat Bermuda Triangle of events– the dubious honor of feeling like the first course that upon finishing I’ll feel almost nothing about because even as I am engaged in the course itself, I am feeling very little. The assignments are interesting, the readings are thought provoking but the overall course and it’s lack of discussions and formalized sessions is somewhat more exciting than going to a library and somewhat less exciting than going to a museum….the content seems not so approachable I can essentially see if from my front doorstep but not so engaging that I actually have to physically move and make connections to find new and fabled frontiers of knowledge. I would love to say that because I am not feeling super challenged, I have taken it on myself to explore and learn and be an autodidact. Sadly, not so much. More that because I am not feeling super challenged I am transferring the part of my brain formerly devoted to school to serve my job, which is good for my job but does make me feel a little guilty.

Last week when I was working on my discovery based instruction paper (and consequently seeing everything through a discovery based lens) I was telling my parents about what I was writing and the ideas/philosophy behind the discovery based instruction model. In addition, like a well balanced academic, I was also telling them how, ideally, a discovery based classroom might look and also some caveats and what can happen when everyone is n0t quite on the same page. When I got to the part about all the things that can go wrong, my mom said, “Wow! That sounds like all the things that are going on with your course this term! Do you think you’re in a discovery based instruction course but the instructor has yet to discover it??”

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on doing it well versus just doing it…

October 15, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

The last few weeks have been a bit like a personal practicum in the study of communication/presence in a distance education venue. As I’ve written previously, the “missing professor” has been catalytic in the practicum and also quite influential has been my own faculty team and our student population, all of whom are distributed across the States.

The questions I’ve been rolling around a lot are: what is presence in an online classroom? What is presence in a place where you’re not physically present? How do you occupy the somewhat inanimate spaces of an online world with the sense of real humanity that marks the best face to face interactions of a physical world? I know direct correlation, because of the form itself, isn’t possible but there has to be some connection because though the form changes, our own basic need for relational connection at its core doesn’t change…so, how can one use the technology and use the interfaces to produce something similar enough to the feeling intrinsic in us all that produces a positive feeling of connection and out of that a learning moment?

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detangling paradigms…

January 28, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

I’ll be the first to admit that when I think about paradigms, epistemology, and ontology all that really comes into my mind is a tangle of large words with no real connections together. I know in my head that they all build together because I’ve seen the clever animated PowerPoint Slides that seem to show that, but as far as personally constructing anything….yeah, my own assemblage is more like an abstract expressionist painting than a Dutch master.

But…I’ve just found this website created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and it looks like a winner in writing paradigms in real people explanations. The Qualitative Research Guidelines Project…nice indeed.

a day in the life…

January 27, 2014

lisa hammershaimb


DAY 3: Qualitative Questioning…

January 22, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

While doing class readings in Creswell’s Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches, I came across three potential research approaches to explore. So, in tonight’s writing I thought I’d reflect on each and try my hand at writing a question in the theme of each and see what happens. The chapter overall focuses on Research Questions and Hypotheses and summarizes qualitative and quantitative research and how to create a compelling qualitative research question or quantitative hypothesis to be tested. It’s interesting stuff and admittedly nothing I’ve had any familiarity with before.

What is a qualitative study?
An academic study that is more focused on getting understanding of the “why” and “how” of human behavior and decisions. Researchers in a qualitative study state questions rather than objectives or hypotheses.

My question:
Does this mean they are more open to the process rather than achieving a set of objectives? Or are objectives also needed but not as explicitly stated? Is a qualitative study more contextual and factor-focused as opposed to generality based?

How is a qualitative study structured?
The study begins with a Central Question. The Central Question is a broad question that asks for an exploration of the central concept in the study. The Central Question is very broad. To construct the Central Question researchers ask, “What is the broadest question I can ask in the study?”

In Qualitative Research, the intent is to explore the complex set of factors surrounding the central phenomenon and present the varied perspectives or meanings that participants hold.

What is my central phenomenon?

  • Learning via an online environment (how is knowledge of a hands-on nature passed along?)
  • Identity transformation (how do mindsets shift to designer status? how do students shift mindset from one correct answer to many creative possiblities?)

Some different research approaches…

(descriptive emphasis; based on interviews and specific people; asks about personal experience)

  • What is it like to learn a traditionally studio-based artistic discipline in an online classroom?
  • What is it like to learn a very “hands on” trade via an online format?

(like studying a people group, thus more culture focused)

  • How do transformative communities form in an online graphic design undergrad program?
  • How do graphic design students, with the absence of a traditional studio, gain self efficacy in their skills and creative vision?
  • How can curriculum be designed to move students from a positivist view to a post-positivist view of creativity in graphic design?
  • How do students view knowledge upon entry into the program and how does that shift as they progress?

(Use observation, analysis, interviews, etc. to come up with a theory of learning graphic design via online methods. Works opposite of other approaches as it gathers in everything then sifts and threshes it to see what might remain)

  • How do students develop as graphic designers in a fully online education format?
  • What concerns might be important to students who engage in a fully online graphic design education?
  • What is the process by which graphic design students interact in a fully online environment?
  • What is the process by which graphic design students learn how to be designers, outside of a traditional studio space, in a totally online environment?
  • What is the theory that explains the process of discovery for graphic design student learning in an online environment?

So…those are the big three I’ve explored thus far. I’m kind of taken by the grounded theory idea but it sounds really hard and really complicated and totally scary. That said, I love that you’d first collect everything and then see what emerges because it has that element of unexpectedness to it. I think one of the harder things about this exercise is being so broad. I was thinking I needed to be as narrow as possible with this but in reality open is much much better because it allows you to explore the wide fringe connections you might otherwise dismiss.

Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chapter 2: Philosophical, paradigm, and interpretive frameworks (pp. 15-34).

epistemology defined

January 15, 2014

lisa hammershaimb

Etymology: Greek, combined form of knowledge + discoursing

Definition: The theory or science of the method or grounds of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion.

So…it’s the nature of knowledge and your personal epistemology is your personal beliefs about how you acquire knowledge, how you communicate knowledge, and knowledge’s nature–whether it is hard and tangible or subjective and fluid.

(from the Oxford English Dictionary)

first. day. of. school.

May 30, 2013

lisa hammershaimb



February 23, 2013

lisa hammershaimb

acceptance letter

Cappuccinos and Wisdom in Sausalito

December 12, 2012

lisa hammershaimb

I wrote this in late June of 2011…about a year and half ago when I was on the brink of beginning my own distance education teaching career. Carolina DeBartolo was one of my grad school profs who also became a thesis adviser. You may know her from such books as Explorations in Typography. Her eye for type, printed material, and great design is truly amazing. And, her ability as a visionary…believing in her students and pulling the best work out of them (even when they have long given up hope for themselves) inspires me through every grading session and lecture. We met in a cafe in Sausalito on a foggy, rainy day and for a couple hours she told me some of her story and gave me lots of wisdom….which I immediately wrote down and have re-read many many times.

This past week and a half has been my self-proclaimed “10-days-of-adventure-and growth.” I  ventured out to Utah, Oregon, California (and several points in between) to both meet my profs from grad school and my future co-workers. The trip amounted to an odd mix of long days in the car, long coffee dates with people i’ve only ever previously emailed (something I, thankfully, seem to get better at with every meeting) and near constant positive expletives at the dazzling views, mountains, ocean, and food.

One of my best meetings was early in the California leg of my trip with one of my most revered profs, Carolina DeBartolo. Carolina is an author, designer, teacher, and all-around super amazing woman. She’s from the east coast, well-traveled and has an inscrutable eye for typography…kind of the complete package in my eyes. Carolina’s tough love and eye for detail engrained humility and perseverance in me throughout my grad school years. Her lessons deeply marked my grad education and continue to influence how I conduct my daily deisgn-filled life. Needless to say I was overjoyed that she had free time to meet with me during my Cali stay.

And so we met on the Sausalito coast and drank cappuccinos and ate teeny gourmet muffins and Carolina talked about her recent book release and the process involved and also imparted some amazing teaching wisdom. I sat across the table from her and felt both exceedingly giddy with caffeine and adrenaline and exceedingly awkward and unprepared for the new lifestyle into which I was about to plunge headlong.

What follows are seven summary high points of our talk, specifically regarding the teaching of design. As she was speaking I kind of wished I’d begun recording all that she said but, as I didn’t quite have it together enough to think of that as she was speaking, I furiously reflected on everything we’d covered once I’d returned to my hotel room. Something tells me I will be returning to these points, and my elegant cappuccino experience, many times over the next few months…


7 Things I Learned From Carolina About Teaching

1. Start at the beginning with your students.
Find out what students’ “ground level” is and teach from that point. It may be lower than the level of the course, but if you do not find their true knowledge base what you teach them will not connect to what they already know. Meet your students on the rung of the ladder of knowledge where they are and teach step by step upward from there. Avoid simply asking “do you understand?” as their answer will invariably be “yes” because people are often embarrassed to admit that they do not know or understand. Instead, ask them to explain what they claim to know to you and, if they stumble, guide them and assess their true level of understanding.

2. Don’t teach people what they already know.
Teaching students what they already know results in them tuning out your info and disengaging with you, the lesson, and ultimately the class. A disengaged student is very hard to bring back and indeed once you begin building past what they do know to what they do not know, they’ve already tuned out so they won’t be paying attention to the new information.

3. Let the students teach each other.
Begin every session with a brief review. Ask students to “teach you back” an abbreviated version of the previous lesson, consisting of key points or actions. Teaching a concept shows mastery and successfully sharing with their peers builds confidence in every student. Never take for granted a student’s verbal assertion that they understand a previously taught concept. Cold-call on students for information, explanations or commentary. Create an atmosphere that makes them feel that when they are in your class, they are “on the spot.” Like all aspects of design, actively showing is better than passively telling.

4. Never re-teach a lesson.
If a student asks you a question about a lesson or concept that you’ve taught in a previous class, don’t put your current day’s agenda on hold and begin re-teaching that material. Instead, ask the question back to the class. See if anyone else in the class can explain the concept while you monitor their explanation and adjust or guide accordingly. Teach students to teach each other, teach themselves, and take control of their own learning. As the teacher, you are their initial guide but ultimately they must be responsible for their own growth and retention.

5. Condescend your lessons to the level of your students but always demand perfection in outcome.
Make students’ tasks simpler, but push them to make their design artifacts as perfect as possible. Confidence and design success are born from small triumphs. Unnecessary complications in the name of style or “design cool” will only mislead students and degrade their performance. Do not be afraid to “send it back” and tell students to redo their work, even if it means redoing it from the ground up. The very act of scrapping it and starting again will make it better because all students learn through repetition. Students will feel frustrated. Students will rebel against the prospect of redoing. But in the long run, they will make a stronger product and someday be better designers because of it.

6. Reflect regularly upon what’s been learned.
End every critique session with a “what did we learn” review. Elicit the key points from the class and make a list that each student can take away. Always promote reflection on the design process and contextualized results over prescribed process or dry memorization.

7. Have boundaries.
You do not need to be available to your students at all times. You should have a robust life outside of your teaching. Students need to learn that, as in a client relationship, there are times when their teacher can and cannot be accessed. Students have to learn to manage their own project schedules. As their teacher, you are their coach and biggest fan, but you are not there to hold their hand every step of the way, create their projects for them, or put your life on hold for their convenience.

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