Posts tagged ‘distance education’
March 4, 2016
Getting a doctorate is an oceanic crossing…and I am in the murky space, somewhere between one third and one half across. The timelines keep getting redrawn not because I am lazy but rather because the landscape is so vast. I know the place I will eventually land but the process is largely non-linear, meandering. I want my supervisor to be the cool, calm, GPS navigation to my journey…and instead of explicit mandates, we bounce around the Cynefin framework–simple to chaos, complex to complicated, complicated to simple. Winds are unpredictable in the crossing. Even as I’m enjoying a sea-like-glass, I have learned to be ever-watchful, eager for the perfect wind to carry me yet also bracing for potential gale force gusts.
And so every day mostly finds me engaged in the repetition of decidedly unsexy routine tasks: Read. Write. Think. Share. Repeat.
The crossing is teaching me to find insight through process rather than only seek out flashes of brilliance. And increasingly, the crossing is teaching me to be patient and to be part of the complexity rather than try to be master of it. The only way I will eventually land is if I trust the water and the wind–work with them in harmony.
So…back to work for another day: check the maps, adjust the sails, broadcast my own position, check the horizon…and even as I long to arrive, be dazzled that I get to be part of this story, part of this crossing.
February 1, 2016
And here we are back to Monday. Apparently if I were going all quantified self, between this Monday and last there’s been shockingly little data recorded via blog. Last Monday I waxed poetic about landing planes and pounding down posts and then disappeared completely into an abyss.
This past week illustrates why defining yourself and your learning by only one output is tricky business. Though I don’t have the pixels to back me up, in reality last week was a flurry of productivity as I met my supervisor face-to-face for the first time + had some very profitable time with him, wrote an obscene number of potential research questions via analog methods (and may have fallen a tiny bit in love with them all), had a tough-love chat with a fellow design educator who is deeply enmeshed in these ideas, rethought everything, and am now back to circling with another landing strip in sight.
Last week I learned a bunch but it was definitely of a highly rambling, meandering, not-easily-quantified-nature. I have do doubt it will manifest itself sooner than later and yet for right now I very honestly have nothing to distill into words.
This week, once more, my intention is to land my research questions and continue to be uncomfortably transparent with my process and highly intentional about inviting others (who legitimately have experience/investment) into my process. Basically, if I want my dissertation to be an open dialogue there’s no better time to begin building that practice than to be less hoard-y and more open even in its conception…which is deeply scary because I’ve only just begun to feel modestly legit in an academic sphere.
Will this week land my questions for real, for real? Probably not but…I think it can be for real, for now. Maybe.
A few things I do know is that my dissertation will:
1. Focus primarily on instructors
2. Focus primarily on graphic design
3. Focus on experience exploration/baseline discovery
4. Be a connection point/dialogue builder amongst all design educators as opposed to an exotic gaze into a far off world (i.e. present online integration within the context of studio learning continuum not isolate online as a world onto itself)
And now for images of the past week to assuage my own latent guilt at being silent in one venue even as I’ve been quite active in others. And bonus: at some point when all this is over I’ll be able to smile as I remember the hyper reality that marks these days of living in the dissertation tension that is both the now and the not-yet of being a doctoral student.
Photo 1: Meeting the supervisor for the first time. Turns out he’s pretty cool.
Photo 2: Artfully composed post-it notes after meeting the supervisor for the first time…because he told me in pretty definitive terms that research questions weren’t likely to come via sky writing.
Photo 3: Slightly less artfully composed questions + ideas after two days of occasional writing + iteration.
Photo 4: Even less artfully composed questions and ideas after two days of writing + iteration following a meeting where one question amongst many was “So…help me understand. Why are you choosing to ask questions that seem to fetishize online art + design learning? Do you want your dissertation to further separate online + face to face studios?” Oops.
January 5, 2016
In September I began writing my first, draft dissertation proposal. Couched within the penultimate doctoral course, Research Seminar 1, the idea was that we’d all write practice condensed dissertation proposals to test-drive research questions, methodology, and literature review
After writing juicy research questions about the experience of co-presence within the online graphic design studio, I began the hunt for a methodology. (Though graphic design education as a whole tends to skew opposite…I strongly believe in the potential of the computer-mediated + distance-distributed. I think it’s possible to listen well (even if your ears aren’t involved in the sensory process), walk with someone through a difficult season (even if you can’t be there to physically hold a hand), and have learning epiphanies that make you feel deeply connected to the larger world (even if you’re home alone and clad in pajamas.)
Having been impressed by dissertations that used ethnography, I decided it was “the one” and began writing. Though I came to ethnography because I resonated with its embedded focus, I soon began to wonder about if my own ontology might not be quite “ethnographic.” For example, in the literature there were many cautionary mentions of “going native” or losing outsider objectivity.
While I understand the rationale, one of my delights is the ease with which I “go native” with those I meet, actively interweaving my life with theirs. I love being a catalyst in forming/fostering community. I believe strongly in co-creation, collaboration, and that if one is curious–it’s quite possible to find and be accepted into the most significant moments in people’s humble, daily places. To me going native feels in many ways like the best validation ever because it means you’ve moved beyond an “I’m studying you” mentality and into a space of co-construction where we’re both living in “it” and studying/constructing/navigating what that experience might look like.
These realizations made me think that maybe I didn’t know myself as a research as well as I thought and…it might be advantageous to reflect on just what I bring to this process. Though I believe it’s important to choose a methodology that fits research questions and best serves the unit you want to measure, I think it’s just as important to choose a methodology that fits your own ontology as a researcher otherwise….eek…the process could be very square-peg-into-round-hole-awkward.
When I turned in my first draft proposal in early December, it was with the knowledge that I was still on the hunt and even more that I needed to clarify a couple more things within myself before I could commit to a framework. And so…over the past three weeks I’ve begun to window shop once more to see if there might be something else out there that’s a bit more in line with both my research questions and myself as a researcher.
I’ve currently settled into narrative inquiry. Though I have yet to fully decide if we are MFEO, I do know I’ll be spending this weeks #5papers looking at different facets + foci of narrative inquiry in an effort to better explore all it has to offer.
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!
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.
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 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 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.