Friday, June 24, 2016

NMC Session (last one?) - from last week with Michael Berman

One last session that I was in last week.  Fascinating discussion, and definitely some food for thought on membership-based organizations!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Graduate Teaching Education

While the DigPedChat on the topic is a month behind us, I am only now getting to it ;-)  So, after reading this post by Sean Micheal Morris on Digital Pedagogy I thought I would tackle some of the questions posed for discussion.  Feel free to leave a response, or link to your own blog post via comment :-)

What does it mean to perform teaching? What does it mean to perform learning? 

These are some pretty complex questions, which makes then juicy topics for discussion!  Performing Teaching has looked differently to me depending on where I look at it from, and what my own stage of development has been at a time.  As an undergraduate I would tell you that performing teaching looked like a sage on the stage. Preferably TED Talk style where the person is really engaging and he keeps yours attention focused on the subject. In the end, once the experience is complete or concluded you are left with a "wow" feeling.  As I've grown, and have been more and more on the doctoral and independent learner end of the spectrum I am not  all that certain that the sage on the stage is really what performing teaching is, at least not in all instances of teaching.  Teaching can take on a variety of shapes, forms, modes, and means.  However, I would say that the result is the same: at the end of a successful teaching performance I am left with a wow aftertaste.  I want more.  The teaching performance blows me away, fills me up, and leaves me to eagerly anticipate the next learning opportunity.  It's fine dining, where at the end of a meal you are full and content, but you foresee coming back to that establishment.

What does it mean to perform learning? I know that the programmed answer is:  As an instructional designer the "appropriate" response is that performing learning leads to a measurable change in knowledge, skills, (and/)or attitudes. However, the answer for me, really, is that "it depends".  As human beings we never stop learning.  There is formal learning that happens in schools and organized venues, or as described the other day by Gardner Campbell this could be called "study", and learning that happens every day.  When I drive through an intersection, on my way to work, and there is roadwork happening there that makes me late, I learn that I should avoid that intersection (or leave early).  While this is a change in behavior, albeit temporary while the roadwork is happening, no one taught me that.  I received some data (sensory, societal, communications, emotional, etc.) and I made decisions based on those factors. The key thing here is that performing teaching and performing learning don't necessarily have to happen in the same spatiotemporal nexus.

What does the role of a student who is also a teacher look like in a college classroom?

I assume that this question is aimed toward doctoral students who are concurrently acting in the capacity of TA (teaching assistant) and are the teachers of record for certain undergraduate courses. However, I think I'll take a more philosophical perspective and say that all teachers are students of something. Even once my doctoral degree is done (and assuming I won't go for a second one) I will still be a student.  I will be (hopefully) continuing to conduct research, and read, and write, about topics in my field.  I won't necessarily be in a classroom, but I will be a student.  That said, I think that we all wear many hats in life, in general.  So, in the classroom I can be a teacher, and outside of my classroom I can be a learner. However, I do think that (1) there are many opportunities for us, as instructors, to learn from our own classrooms, through our interactions with our learners, and through observing our learners interact; and (2) it's important to let our learners that we just don't know everything.  We are human beings, we tends to focus on things that pique our interests, and while we might know more about a specific topic compared to our learners, we can always learn more about it.  Knowledge is not finite, and as such it is important for us to acknowledge that.  We, as instructor-learners should be humble in that we don't know everything, and jump at the chance to learn with our learners as situations arise.

Should graduate teachers be made aware of their potential future in the job market? Should they be encouraged to be part of the dialogue of labor practices at the university, the community college, and in their own departments?

Reply Hazy. Try Again.  In all seriously though, I think that the actual prognostication of job markets isn't that great.  Instead of focusing on future markets which we don't know about (I for one did not think I would be where I am today back when I was an undergraduate student), we should focus on current aspects of the market, and look at those with a critical eye.  This means that graduate students, students in education, need to be part of the dialogue that takes place around the labor practices, environment, sustainability, and employability in their related fields.  If you are a PhD or EdD student and your goal is to be a professor, tenured, in higher education - you need to know that tenure track jobs don't come up that often (or so it seems to me), that adjuncts appear to be the majority of the workforce, and they are not paid that well.  Starting with your own department is not something that I would start with.  Perhaps I'd keep it in mind, but depending on how open that department is, it's potentially setting up some bad vibes between the student and the people that have power over you.  I am a firm believer in getting done with school first, before risking upsetting mentors (in case mentors are thin skinned).  Looking at academia in general, and institution second, would be my way of approaching a dialog over this. No matter how you approach it, a dialog must happen so that people have a five year plan (even if it's hazy).  They can't believe that they'll go on the tenure track if there aren't jobs on the tenure track, and we can't - as profession - be saying "Oh, they'll get a job if they are good enough" - because that severely impacts your reputation.  Why take someone into your program, and invest the time and energy to mentor them (and take their money) if you don't believe that they are good enough to get a tenure track job? Food for thought.

How can graduate teachers prepare to be pedagogues in non-teaching careers?

That's a good question.  I actually don't have an answer for that. My mental gears are turning, and I am thinking of community-based organizations, volunteering, and advocacy options - but I simply don't know at the moment.  What do others think?

Monday, June 20, 2016

NMC session with Maya Georgieva

Another session I was in this past week at the New Media Consortium's Summer conference, in case you missed it.  Fun stuff :-)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

NMC 2016 virtually connecting with Gardner Campbell

A session I was part of this week, from the New Media Consortium's Summer 2016 conference :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Rubber, meet Road: On starting the dissertation process

So. It is finally upon me!  The time to put pen to paper (or in my case tap some keys on the keyboard to throw some stuff called text into a Google Doc) in order to start putting together my dissertation proposal.  In some respects I am doing this backwards.  I am taking a Research Methods course this summer as a way of getting re-acquainted with some things, and to get better acquainted with others.  I think that the more you practice something the better you become at it. And, heck, one of the assignments in this course really lends itself to (1) getting at least part of the research methods section done, and (2) getting some feedback on it before I go into my actual dissertation prep seminar in the fall (EDDE 805).

So, what am I doing "backward".  Well, typically (as I am told) you are meant to start with an intro chapter which talks a bit about your setup.  This is generally something like 15-20 pages.  Then you have a chapter on the review of the literature on the topic (another 20 or so pages), and then you work on the methods section (I guess another 15-20 pages depending on what you are doing.  Since I don't have to do chapters 1 and 2 yet, I am jumping straight into chapter 3.  I am providing a brief introduction so that my readers know what the heck I am trying to research, but it's really a 2 page synopsis, not the whole introduction, more on that in the fall - perhaps I will ask for some pointers while I am at it :-)

So, I've written my chapter outline,  I've made some notes in bullet point format for each section, and I've written my introduction (that brief synopsis I was just going on about). I am in the process of looking over my research methods texts, getting my citations and concepts "straight" before I commit them to virtual ink.  Then it hits me.  This is the first solo project I've done in a while.   While working solo is fine, and I would argue a prerequisite in order to prove myself as a capable researcher (that is OK to be left to play unsupervised), I tend to really like collaborative research. The type of research that I've done with colleagues from Rhizo, from MobiMOOC, and from work (if I am forgetting people, my apologies, I don't mean to be exclusive by listing those three groupings).  I like collaborative research because not only am I working on projects that I like, and want to produce new knowledge, but I am also learning, learning collaboratively, with others.  While I learn something from doing literature reviews when I work alone, I think that I learn much more when I work with others because I am often exposed to frames of reference and viewing things that are not my own.

As I start this journey for the dissertation proposal, I am wondering how I can make the process more collaborative.  So, even though the final deliverable (dissertation proposal, and dissertation) is really my own product, one that I will have to alone conduct, write, and defend, - is it possible to make the process collaborative so that I am not just some lone dude in a (virtual or physical) library reading, crunching data, and writing?


Saturday, June 11, 2016

A little weekend humor...

One of my friends posted this on their facebook wall the other day.  I thought it was quite pertinent for PhD students and other professionals out there :-)

In case you don't speak German, it says: "Errors are for beginners.  We produce catastrophes" ;-)

Friday, June 10, 2016

When the MOOC dust settles...

A long time ago (in technology terms), in an academia very close to us, there were stories of professors who suspended their MOOCs, or decided rant in the class forums and ultimately to walk away because the MOOC wasn't what they expected, and we all (probably) rolled our collective eyes.

OK, maybe we didn't all roll our collective eyes, but I remember thinking that the "participate or get the heck out" and "read the fine textbook" were really incompatible with the MOOC framework. Initially I was somewhat anti-lurker.  I'm not saying I am pro-lurker now, it's just that I don't think that lurkers pose tragedy of the commons issues, so just let them be.  They don't detract from people who want to learn and experiment.  To me, at the time, it seemed like an instructor who wanted to do what many have done in the past. Take a face to face class, and translate it, almost one for one, to online without really thinking about the affordances.

This past week a story came out in the chronicle that talks a little more about what went down with that particular MOOC.  It's a fascinating read for me because it really highlights some serious breakdowns in communication.  After reading this story I am a little more sympathetic McKenzie, but I don't think that he is completely in the clear. It seems to me that his big idea (video lectures on DVDs) were really harkening back to the video professor era and in the age of OER I don't see how a retired academic would aim to have a video professor-like product that would sell. Personally I wouldn't do it for the money, I'd let the content be under creative commons and reap the benefits of recognition†.

In any case, McKenzie seems to have approached his affiliated extension school willing to do this. The extension school seemed to want to do it, and coursera was on-board with this.  Considering the length of the contract with coursera (that we've seen posted online from other universities) I think that the various parties needed to do a better job at reading it and knowing what they were getting into.  So, that's on McKenzie.  On the other hand the extension school seems to have thrown McKenzie under the proverbial bus (at least that's what I gather from the Chronicle story), which I think is wrong.  I think that there is an unwritten understanding between professors and their respective colleges/schools. The professor does their best to represent the university, since the course is offered by the university and the university's reputation is at stake.  At the same time, the college/school has a moral obligation to support that professor in their endeavor.  They can't just say that they entered into this agreement at breakneck speed and just brush it all off.

I think that McKenzie, on his part, though is pretty disparaging to the extension school (and I think that extension schools in general are painted in a pretty disparaging light), when he says that this "would never have been tolerated by the faculty and administration on campus." It seems to paint a line that clearly separates online (extension) from campus ("regular") in a dualistic and perhaps not equal role.  Most universities tend to go toward being hybrid universities, offering both online and face to face options, and I think that this distinction between extension schools and the "regular" university will go away.

In any case, I think that this is yet another example of organizations and people experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) that they don't realize that there are many things that are just not worked out yet. It's too bad that something like this happened, but I hope we can all learn from this.

† my assumption is that I am retired and living comfortably having worked as long as McKenzie worked. If I were in need to cash I'd probably try to sell my knowledge - but knowing that the marker for that kind of stuff is tough, I probably would not bother.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Social Research and community informing

In my quest to finally catch up with everything that I've saved in Pocket for the last month, I came across a post written by Rebecca (luckily not that long ago) where she asks:

Should those who study social media communities be required to  inform the community of the research results?

I think that this is both an easy, yet a very complicated question!  I believe that the ethical thing to do is to post to that community once your research is done (if not earlier) to let them know.  If it's on twitter for example I would expect the researcher(s) to post something on that community hashtag to indicate what the research was about and what the results were.  It's fairly easy (and free) to setup a Google Site or a Wikispace, or even a Weebly site to post a few pages about the research, you as researcher, and the findings.   Personally I think that it would be good, for research purposes, to invite commentary from that community so that they could read what you wrote and provide you with feedback if you completely misunderstood something.  This would be valuable to include in your published research.

If I quoted someone I would personally feel very weird about contacting them and saying "Hey!  I did this research and I used one of your quotes anonymously".  The reason I feel weird about going that extra step is that I've met many odd people (in real life and on the web) over the past twenty years who even if they said something publicly on the web, and even though I quoted them anonymously they would try to get me to remove it from my paper.  I get that some people can be weird like that (heck, I have momentary "WTF?!" moments when I meet people and they tell me that they read my blogs) but I don't want to argue with someone who's said something publicly about removing something from my paper. I think it's fair game.  Had they been participants in closed research where they signed on and they had the right to drop out at anytime, then that kind request is perfectly fair (even though it can mess up the research process). So, for me, not contacting the quoted people is more of a way to prevent headaches for me.

I think that internet community research has opened the door to a lot of interesting research.  In many cases it's also made it easier to join communities and do internet ethnographic work. However, it's also made it much more easy for people to not do the traditional things that people do with ethnographic work, such as getting the consent of people to be studied before joining a community. Since we can lurk and go undetected by the average member, I think it's made it easier for researchers to ignore the human element and treat  people online in a sterile way.  I think that this is something that we in the profession need to do a better job at: humanizing online research.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A lifetime of homework...

The title of this post sounds a little Sisyphean, doesn't it?  After all everyone dreads homework...don't they?  Perhaps if you are Lisa Simpson maybe you do not, but for most people the idea of homework does conjure up the mental image of a chore.  Something that isn't particularly pleasing, yet we have to do it.  It also seems to be other-regulated.  Homework isn't something you make for yourself (usually), but rather it's something given to you!  I think that the best word that describes homework for me is the Greek word αγγαρεία (agga-rhéa).  In English it translates to chore, but as with many translations there is something lost in the translation.  Αγγαρεία also has the connotation that the task you are given is pointless and lacks pleasure.  So, with this in mind, I was reading Maha's post the other day Academia = Lifetime of homework.

After reading the post I was hit by two thoughts.  The first thought is that we might want to reclaim the word homework to mean something that we enjoy doing.  After all, many of the things that Maha described in her post (things that I do as well at home and during my commutes) are things that I enjoy.  And, when I have downtime in the office I use my office time to undertake those activities as well. For example, Virtually Connecting sessions tend to usually happen when I am in the office.  I do get tired as well, and when I can't read any more, I have my iPad and Nexus read posts to me (thank you Pocket!) so I can keep "reading" and thinking.  Every so often we do need downtime as well (for me it's video games), but unlike regular "αγγαρεία" homework which weighs on you if you don't do it, the reclaimed homework is happy to wait for you to come back to it. After all, it's regulated by you and not some other party

The other thought that came to mind is that while academia is a lifetime of homework, it does not mean that we are the only ones doing homework!  In many cases the things you do outside of the context of work, things that you do for pleasure, are called hobbies.  Hobbies have their own homework as well, but we never really think about it as homework because they are fun.  Everyone is a geek about something, and in order to keep up your knowledge or skill in that something you need to practice (also known in some circles as homework).  I do wonder if because we are working in academia that we are predisposed to think about work outside of work as homework?

Your thoughts?