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Posts tagged ‘athabasca university’

assignment 2….finished.

March 24, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

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.

 

survival…

March 13, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

presentation

…of an EDDE804 Assignment 2 presentation style.

I’m much too close to giving the presentation (and still too hyped up on post-presentation everything is awesome adrenaline) to be capable of any logical reflections on how it actually went but, I’m going to tentatively say that it was a good one. My partner and I didn’t talk over each other, didn’t have awkward pauses, and best of all seemed to channel a good synergy from point to point. I thought it would be a stretch for us to hit 30 minutes but we cruised past 40 and could have easily hit the hour mark had there not been another group. In addition everyone seemed to love the slide designs and visual metaphors. As I had such fun designing these and could (if ever asked) go into a very long winded deconstruction on each element….this feedback especially made my own little designer heart very very happy.

Overall verdict: thankful.

And now, to the co-authored paper we go carrying this happy energy with us…..

To view all slides, presentation deck can be accessed here.

the honeymoon is officially over.

March 1, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

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. 

thesis aspirations…

February 26, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Last night my Assignment 2 partner and I met again. As we’ve made some very solid progress over the past week, it was a good chat and notably free from any underlying anxiety. Though we still have much to do, we have adequate time left before the “big reveal presentation” and most importantly we have a shared vision and a solid sense of trust in each other. I think it’s no small victory that my partner (who also happens to be “the new guy” in the cohort) said that this process has gone “much better than he anticipated.” Though I told him it felt a bit like a backhanded compliment, I agree completely and feel that we do make a good academic team. I have no doubt that though 45 minutes is a long time to present….we will succeed.

As mentioned before in such places as here, we are in fact using a portion of my partner’s thesis research as the jumping off point of our project. Whenever I admit that, I feel a knee-jerk reaction to point out all of the ways I’m not just the sous chef in the kitchen, I can lead too, I’m not just a coat-tail-rider, tagalong, etc. and yet…the hard truth is that in many ways I am learning more and more that I actually am the sous chef in the kitchen and that’s a totally fine and very valuable role.

Last night as we were talking through some ideas and I was asking for clarification about the whole sets, nets, group thing we began talking about his past research which led to his story which led back around to the story of how he originally integrated into this ongoing project which once more turned to his thesis research. Luckily I am very non-linear because it was a roundabout pathway. (Also as a disclaimer, he was originally part of the cohort ahead of mine thus he’s been at this all for a year longer than me. A doctoral journey is like dog years so being a year older equates to roughly seven years further along!)

As he spoke, it was fascinating and the one clear thing that kept coming through was that my partner is able to talk about his thesis like someone talks about their favorite relative or a really great mentor. As he spoke I could feel his excitement and it made me excited for it too. Ideas I cared little for a month ago came alive and for a couple minutes I found myself wondering what I was doing with weird outlier graphic design online because clearly…social media learning was where it’s at! (Lucky for everyone…those feelings quickly dissipated.) It wasn’t all evangelistic fervor as he freely admitted it’s a hard topic and he is frustrated at times but it wasn’t complaining rather, it was like the allowances you make for a good friend…knowing that no one is perfect and in the end grace wins.

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in praise of nets

February 19, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

In The Distant Crowd: Transactional Distance and New Social Media Literacies, Dron and Anderson discuss the many different circles of interaction that compose social media/internet communication and how each of these circles may or may not impact a learner’s experience of Moore’s ideas on transactional distance. For those not in the know (no shame….this was me about 4 months ago) transactional distance refers to the cognitive span between learners and teachers in an educational setting. Though in distance education “cognitive span” often means physical things like time zones and geography, transactional distance can occur even when all participants are present in the same room yet because of any one of a number of elements just aren’t connecting fully. Large amounts of transactional distance tends to be bad because they mean learner isolation and all the negative baggage that isolated learners tend to bring. The three magic keys of reducing transactional distance are: dialogue between learner and teachers, structure/instructional design of the program itself, and learner autonomy.

Dron and Anderson identify four main enclaves that define social interaction. These are: groups, nets, sets, and collectives. Though it’s a bit awkward, you can think of each of these four constructs as concentric circles with groups being the most closed/exclusive (think of the internet version of the “no boys allowed” club you formed in grade 2) and collectives being literally the Amazon.com community where your algorithm just happens to match someone else (think this is where you may totally impulse buy the rhinestone encrusted small dog dress that was recommended to you…I speak hypothetically of course.)

For me (and I think for them but…don’t quote me), the most interesting enclave isn’t what lives on either extreme but rather what’s almost right in the middle…the “net” or more appropriately the “network.” Dron and Anderson say that nets are the social form that, “most characterize tools and environments such as blogs, shared bookmarks, media sharing, and social networking systems is the network.” In addition, “Networks are, at least in principle, unbounded, and we only ever have a partial view of them, connecting with other nodes that are, in network terms, “nearby.” Nets with their very blurry boundaries and macro views have some pretty awesome potential, particularly when you add in the whole adjacent possible proposed by Siemens and Downes.

Because these ideas are so critical to my 804 presentation, for the past few days I’ve been subconsciously tagging every piece of social interaction I have with one of these four labels. Turns out, my own personal taxonomy has been very net heavy. In my day to day busy life, groups seem to require too much cognitive/emotional load on me because I am so vested in them that I have to really think about contributions I make, words I write, etc. thus I don’t contribute regularly…more I contribute on an every few days basis. Collectives I could care less about because they’re just too big and feel too impersonal. Sets….maybe but again they still skew a bit large for my taste.

Nets are like Goldilocks and her porridge…not too big, not too personal…just. right. In nets I don’t need to give large portions of myself rather I can get in and get out and still manage a good level of interaction, challenge, and general stretch so I feel something worthwhile has occurred. It seems the keyword in nets is “fuzzy” and the key traits required are both courage to jump into murky waters and spontaneity to see where the tide will take you–sometimes nowhere, sometimes so far along at such a rapid rate all you can do is keep your head above the water. Either way as long as you’re in the right frame of mind….it’s pretty dazzling.

Is it selfish that I am skewing toward these low commitment, loose tie relationships rather than giving myself to the hardcore groups where I also belong? Perhaps, and yet I think that by virtue of the very construct of nets it’s almost expected that there’s a level of transiency and that’s okay, in fact that’s what makes nets the excellent place that they are.

 

You can find the Dron & Anderson article referenced above here.
Also, long live creative commons and open publication.

 

assignment 2 begins…

February 16, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

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.

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Distributed Leadership

February 8, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

distributed_graphic

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!

on meetings and narratives…

February 6, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

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.

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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.

first day of 804!

January 16, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Welcome_804

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. : )

2015 Goals:
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.

 

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