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Posts tagged ‘lisa hammershaimb. athabasca university’

on sandboxes, concrete, and being in third year doctoral studies…

September 27, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

805 has officially begun which means my third year of doctoral study is officially underway. I have survived all required coursework, words ending in ‘ology’ are making greater appearance in my vocabulary, and I feel no imposter syndrome when introducing myself as a doctoral student. I am at the halfway mark, which means that in the not too distant future I’ll proudly add some letters to my name, and add some robes to my wardrobe.

Looking at my position from a cool, collected, impartial, fully bracketed viewpoint I seem to be in a great spot as a positive statistic in the doctoral journey (which in doctoral education is no small task). And yet from the inside, totally bracketed, personal view…I am anything but cool and collected and in fact “hot mess” is probably a more apt descriptor of my academic state.

I’ve spent the last two years happily frolicking in the fields of knowledge—doing my part to be the kid playing in a sandbox that seem to be such a favored metaphor for learning. In the process of such delightful play, I’ve become amazing at constructing elaborate turrets of sand quickly–dazzled by my own cleverness–then just as quickly smashing it all to begin again on something different. Creating artifacts out of transient materials has become my specialty and I’ve become the poster child for all the buzz words like “iterate” and “explore” and “embrace risk.”

But here’s the thing…though I have no regrets about how I’ve spent my time in the sandbox of doctoral education, I’ve forgotten what it means to have ideas be precious—forgotten what it means to construct in material that solidifies and hardens into a foundation that supports something that will withstand a bit of rain and wind.

Perhaps “forgotten” is too kind a word—if I am quite honest with myself, I’ve become afraid of the commitment.

And so here I am on the 805 flight that will convey me to a proposal, research, and eventually a robe with billowy sleeves. When I imagined what entering this place would feel like, I envisioned solid confidence, quiet wisdom…peace. Instead what I feel more than anything is serious longing to be back in the sandbox giggling over my own cleverness, playing with tools handed to me by others, safe and supervised while my imagination transports me far far away. I long for the low stakes that come from knowing wrong turns can be easily obliterated in the fluidity of transient materials.

But much as I may look back longingly, I know I cannot go back. Year three is the time to transition the sandbox architecture that worked best into a solid structure that will not only last but also become a place of connection—a place where others can gather. It’s a privilege to be at this space.

So, time to trust the wisdom gained from the past two years and most of all be brave. The sandbox ethos will always be part of me but it’s time to take responsibility and use my agency to create something larger that will harden…intimidating as that thought may be to a sand lover like me.

Dear all future dissertations students who have managed to reach the somewhat holy grounds of dissertation proposal writing and realize that they actually have no idea whatsoever what they are doing. Though it feels like you’re completely stuck in the endless maze of your own thoughts and you’re paralyzed by the weight of a hazy imagined future, know that you’re not alone. Acknowledge that its terrible for right now—wallow in it even—then keep moving forward in whatever small baby steps you can manage knowing that your hard work will someday result in a party far greater (and less gritty) than anything that could have happened in a sandbox.

the customer service narrative

February 22, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

This week in my 804 course we’re focusing on K12 education and the ways distance ed can be integrated into the lower educational experience. Admittedly, I have very little interest in K12 education because:

1. I don’t have kids

2. I don’t work with kids

3. when it comes to kids…I have a small dog with an extensive wardrobe who travels by purse…this kind of says a lot without saying a lot about who I am

My sister is an elementary school librarian and I have four nieces and nephews who are all enmeshed in the K12 education system so I think it’s vital and important but as far as actual passion and engagement…not so much.

That said, there was one reading this week that wasn’t about K12 DE but rather was about “Changes, Challenges, and Choices” which means that it presented a lot of “this is where we are” and “this is where things are headed” and “choose if you either want to get on board or bail.” That might be a bit simplified but I do think that was the general gist.

One thing that came up quite a bit in the reading was the need for great attention to customer service in education. The narrative is:

1. the old ways of doing things with the ivory tower and the eccentric academics and all the research and headiness and tweed is gone

2. in this new era customer service for learners is a huge thing

3. for educational structures to thrive (or even survive) they need to adopt radically different attitudes toward their customers i.e. their students.

Had the Lisa-of-three-months-ago read this, she would have said “Amen!” and then raised her fist in solidarity with these prophets who proclaim good customer service to learners everywhere. In fact I cited poor customer service as one of the key things that contributed to the 803 debacle last term. Learners are customers and when their needs are overlooked or the system isn’t ready for them…customer service fail 101 where the only logical response is an uprising to bring better service for all.

So, today when I read the text once more that proclaimed a need for greater intentionality in customer service, I thought it would be the same and I’d once more think the same thoughts but…turns out I didn’t.

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802 Reflection

April 20, 2014

lisa hammershaimb


So…802 is almost over. Yikes.

In some ways it feels like this class has lasted over a year because of the sheer volume of information covered. In other ways (as the crazy intricacies of research are only now beginning to not just be meaningless scribbles but resolve to some more beautiful whole) I’m only just beginning to feel like I’m understanding the complexity inherent in research design and methodology. Ironically where I am now, I don’t want this class to end! What if I fail on my own???

I suppose being in this space is the perfect position to begin a summer research adventure to narrow into my own dissertation topic, bond with my supervisor, and continue to grow into myself as an academic, but I will admit it feels almost dangerous to strike out without the framework of a class–like I might come to the edge of the paradigm world and find dragons and not be fit for the battle. But, I will say it’s exciting too because the world has gotten quite a bit larger with this class and even more my own confidence level has increased exponentially. I never knew I was capable of this type of work but now there is no doubt in my mind that– while it won’t be easy–I am more than up to the task.

Regarding this class itself, the posting that I made that proved most helpful to my own learning happened early in the term. We had just started trying to de-tangle ontologies and epistemologies and I was unexpectedly offered a job promotion. Though I was honored to be asked, I was also quite concerned because I had recently whittled down my own personal ontology and epistemology and realized that my supervisors didn’t share my own views. I was concerned that these differences of opinion would prove divisive should I accept the position. When I put the posting out there initially, I was somewhat hoping that everyone would agree with me and say that yes indeed the only safe bet was to always surround yourself with those who share your ontologies/epistemologies because then you can form a happy, safe clan and never face conflicts. Instead, it seemed everyone universally praised the dynamic environment that comes when people with differing views work together because in that conflict and negotiation–in that atmosphere of constant challenge and risk–there is much more potential for real and positive change because everyone builds on the ideas and differing viewpoints of everyone else. Rather than fearing the conflict that comes with difference the general consensus seemed to be that it’s valuable to identify it and then in a respectful space, use that diversity to build something greater. It’s challenging scary work for someone like me who craves peace above all, but ultimately it seems like the best outcome. I did end up accepting the promotion and it was in large part because of the wisdom I’d received through the cohort and our discussion.

The posting that I made that I think helped the learning of others in the course most was the work that Lynne and I did together on Arts-Based research. Lynne had initially chosen the topic when we’d agree to be partners and as we dug into it together we both got quite excited about how it really has the ability to join the previously at odds worlds of art and more scientific research. Given my story, I feel like in many ways most of my educational life has been an exercise in arts-based research (though I had no idea the title even existed) so reading articles others had written and learning more about its applicability and scope, felt a lot like coming home to me. When we posted our own reflective prompt for the class to engage in an arts-based reflective exercise it was great to see everyone jump in and give it a try. We got several positive comments from others particularly describing the fun they had in leaving the well worn path of text reflection to use visuals to capture more of the tacit feelings they had. It seems that there is value in re-imagining the metaphor of academic-as-writer only and I was glad, with Lynne, to open up a new way for everyone to express themselves and also feel like through the exercise they may have gained a little more insight into how I naturally tend to approach the world.

Regarding my own level of participation and learning exchange in the Landing, I will confess that I feel some guilt that I should have done more, been more present on the landing, added more comments/blog posts/links, etc. Though I always read what had been posted during class I think the sheer volume of information to take in overwhelmed me. Rather than take the time to reflect on what I was encountering, I kind of just kept on taking in more and more and more information hoping that once inside my head it would all sort itself out. It turns out, instead of sorting it out…I just got bloated with too much. Looking back I wish I hadn’t felt so compelled to “learn it all” and instead paced myself more and built in intentional reflection spaces where I wouldn’t force more info in, but rather I’d process what was already inside me. I think a lot of my own personal feelings of being overwhelmed stemmed from the fact that I ignored how I learn best. This class was a bit like an all you can eat buffet of research strategy and instead of pacing myself, I kind of just gorged on it all. The subtly of the flavors were lost in a kind of binge on ideas and concepts that were totally new to me. The good news is that the Landing has kept an archive of all the interactions, postings, etc. so I can go back in and target specific areas that interested me. The bad news is that it might take a couple weeks to regain my appetite.

I found the Adobe Connect sessions to be super helpful in my own engagement with the material. I think in these sessions we all communally could reflect on what we’d been wrestling with and together make some context for these ideas and applications. For me these sessions were grounding because the actually did provide the intentional space to reflect and think and not just try to consume in such a frenzy. My only wish would be that there would have been more of them as sometimes the every two week schedule felt like too long to be apart from the group. I found myself craving a little community campfire time with a bit more frequency than the every-two-week regiment.

I also like the additional technologies that were introduced in class. I am quite comfortable with Moodle and Adobe Connect and it was good to also be introduced to Voice Threads. I think that the more ways you can introduce new technology the better because it forces us as students to apply what we’re learning in new ways. We all can read and then write a summary, but adding in voice reflection and even video forces you to re-think your ideas in good ways. My only recommendation would be to have more of it, if possible.

Overall, I think it was a great class and I know that regardless of my letter grade outcome, I have indeed learned a lot. Not only has my academic vocabulary been supplemented but more importantly I feel like I actually do have a strong grounding on which to build whatever happens next. The qualitative research world is quite broad but it’s ultimately nothing to fear. Though there were times I was pretty sure I might implode, I am glad that I kept with it and had the cohort by my side every step of the way. I don’t think it is too bold a statement to say that our synergy may have been what carried us all through.

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