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Multilitteratus Incognitus

Traversing the path of the doctoral degree

And just like that, it's fall! (or Autumn, same deal)

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It's hard to believe, but the summer is in the rearview mirror.  Next week the fall semester begins and as I look back over the summer  I see some things I learned (or observed) in these coronatimes:

The FoMo is still strong!

I thought I had beaten back FoMo (fear of missing out) but I guess not :-).  This summer many conferences made the switch to online this summer due to the ongoing pandemic and their registration was free.  This made them accessible both in terms of place (online) and cost (free) for me.  So I registered.  I might have registered for far too many because there weren't enough hours to participate synchronously and attend everything I wanted to.  Luckily most sessions were recorded, so I was able to go back and review recordings of things I missed.  Between the Connected Learning Conference, IABL Conference, OLC Ideate, Bb World, HR.com's conference (and a few more that I can't remember at the moment), I got more Professional Development done this summer than any other summer.  By the end of this week, I'll also have caught up with all recordings.  The "AHA!!!" moment for me was this:  About 10-12 years ago when I was first starting out (as a starry-eyed designer) all this stuff would have been mindblowing.  I think online conferences for me are more about filling holes and making me think differently rather than building new knowledge in mind. And that's OK.  I discovered a lot of resources that I forwarded to friends and colleagues who would find them more useful than I did because they are at a different phase in their PD. Just like a garage sale (maybe a bad analogy) can yield nothing at all, it can yield a treasure you never thought existed, or it can yield something for your friends and colleagues. You never know what you will find until you start looking.

Quick startups are possible (darn it!)

This summer I was invited by a friend to co-facilitate a couple of weeks of a bootcamp course for teaching online (Virtual Learning Pedagogy). The learner demographic are educators in Nigeria (the course might have been open to other countries as well). The course was offered through Coderina. I think from the time we were all invited to the first week of the course we only had 2 weeks.  Last week was the last week of the course. I am not sure how much John slept these 6 weeks, but I think that the course was a success.  We talk about agile instructional design in our courses, and I think this was a good example of different teams working on different weeks, checking in with one another, and putting together a course while the course is being taught.  Could it be done better? Yes, everything can improve, but I am proud to have been part of such an agile multinational collaboration. I also got to meet a lot of new colleagues that I didn't know before. I think this was a good case study for agile ID. I can't wait to see what the next iteration of the course will look like :-)

Back into 601!

This summer I taught Intro to Instructional Design and Learning Technologies (it's got another title formally, but that's basically it). I had taken several semesters off from teaching in order to focus on my dissertation proposal (which needed a major rewrite - perhaps more on that after I graduate), and I've been looking forward to getting back into teaching. This summer I used the version of the course that Rebecca designed and uses, opting to not use what I had created a few summers back. Part of the reason for using her course was that she had baked into the course consideration for synchronous sessions.  I tend to be more asynchronous in my designs (so that people can have flexibility), but I wanted to be experimental this summer with sync-sessions.  Another reason I wanted to use someone else's design is to extend my thinking and collaborate with others.  I've got my own version of what an intro course can look like, but looking at another designer's design can add to your own toolkit and thinking,  Additionally, if there is one version of the course that many people contribute to the design of, I think differing student cohorts benefit both from the stability of the curriculum and from the process of collaborative design in the course. This way if cohort A takes the course taught by professor A, they won't get radically different core content than Cohort B taking the course with professor B. Your learning experience may differ, but core knowledge required down the road by other courses should be more or less similar. I really enjoyed teaching this summer. My students were awesome, and we had good exchanges both via synchronous and asynchronous means.  I also loved that I was able to invite friends and colleagues who work in ID to have some candid chats with our learning community. I think this was much more effective than reading articles about what an ID does.  If I could hop into a DeLorean and go back to June: This summer I only had 6 students.  Such a small number of students can make for a nice seminar-style course, but the course was designed with a class size of 10-15. The dynamics are definitely different with such a smaller cohort. I think that if I could go back in time I'd give students an option:  We could have asynchronous forums each week for discussing ideas and topics of the course, or we could forego (most of) the forums and meet synchronously each to accomplish similar means. I think a smaller number of students makes the forum feel a little like an empty playground.  It's got a lot of potential but it's only actualized when many kids go play.

Dissertation ahoy!

Finally, a little bit about this doctoral journey thing.  In May I successfully defended my proposal (yay) which allowed me to apply for IRB/REB clearance (yay!).  At the end of June, I got that clearance (yay!) so I could start reaching out to study participants.  It's hard to believe that a (somewhat) random MOOC I signed up for while waiting to hear back about my application to the EdD program ended up becoming my dissertation topic.  I may have bitten off more than I can chew in terms of story (data) collection but Narrative Inquiry is all about the story through someone's position in that metaphorical parade.  The parade keeps on moving, and so do participants in it, so I am OK with presenting a sliver of that experience (knowing that it's a sliver of it). It's not possible (for a dissertation anyway) to be a completionist when exploring an experience (which I guess pushes back on my FoMo mentioned above).  Hopefully I'll have a good draft of this thing by the end of the semester in December.

So...what was your summer like?


Image credit: "Zen stones" by rikpiks is licensed with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

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A look back at this summer's PD - Part I: Conferences

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Summer is usually the time for some professional development, after all during the academic year things are going at such a fast and furious pace that it doesn't leave much time (let alone brain/mind-space) to undertake much professional development.  This summer (because of "factors") professional development was not as easy going as it has been the past few years, so I needed to pick a time to do schedule in the PD rather than pick it up throughout the summer.  This year one of my big work projects was  to manage and lead an OSCQR review of my department's online courses.  I started out with a manageable goal of 10 courses (our core courses consisting of 80% of the required curriculum for all of our students), but once I saw that our I am our three fabulous summer student aides were cracking through those 10 courses in about half the time I had originally budgeted, I decided to utilize the resources that I had on had (three great reviewers) and add another 8 courses, for a total of 18 (or - to put it another way: 75% of our entire course catalog).  Because of this massive project I ended up bracketing my PD to a week in August, and a week in June.  Even though it was a bit more compact than previous years, I thought I'd reflect a bit on it, and perhaps reflect a bit on the OSCQR process.

In this blog post I will focus on the two conferences I attended in June: LINC at MIT, and the Mass College Online Conference.  Hat tip to John (@dbeloved) for letting me know of the LINC conference - something that was in my back yard, but I was totally oblivious to.  The Proceedings for the 2019 conference are not online yet (hopefully they will be soon) because I want to dive into the sessions that I missed.  In addition to this thing being local, one of the things that piqued my curiosity was that Peter Senge was presenting (of Firth Discipline fame).  He was one of the favorite people of some past professors I had in the instructional design program, so it was an opportunity to see them live.  Throughout the three days there were a number of very interesting talks (to many to even recall everyone - but names do pop out when I look at the schedule).  From this conference there are two things that are still vivid in my mind:

There seems to be a lot of talk about using technology platforms and MOOCs to teach ESL. As a language learning geek, and a MOOC person (yes, still am!) I find this fascinating.  I WANT to see it happen: language learning through massive online environments.  It is undeniable that English at this point has a massive advantage as being the world's lingua franca, and it's understandable that people want to use technology to teach ESL broadly.  But... what about using the expertise that we have, and the technology at our hands, to teach other languages?  For example why not a Greek MOOC†?  Or an Arabic MOOC? Or Algonquian (the language of the people who are native to Massachusetts prior to colonization)?  It seems like you can't walk a kilometer in Greece (or any other country in Europe for that matter) and not see an advertisement about learning English.  There are so many people that teach English, so why not use our technology and knowledge to promote other languages?

The other thing that stands out is the panel about Educating the Future of Work (see here for schedule) which had panelists from Microsoft, American Job Exchange, and San Jose – Evergreen Community College District.  One of the things that is often talked about are alternative credentials (and related to that micro-credentials).  Not that it was brought up in the panel (as far as I remember), but news (greatly exaggerated IMO) about companies doing away with the college degree as an entry credential to the job market have been making the rounds.  Taking these two threads an putting them together might make it sound like the days of the college degree are numbered.  However, I don't feel like we reached that conclusion with this panel.  A lot, from what I read into the discussion, seems to revolve around trust relationships.  A college degree, as vague as it may be when it comes down the the specifics, comes from a trusted source, whereas some letter vouching for your apprenticeship or micro-credentials (as they currently stand) do not.  Furthermore, there is a bit of an implicit bias favoring bigger college names.  So, someone who graduated from MIT (we liked to pick on MIT since they hosted  us 😜) would have an advantage over someone who graduates from a State college somewhere.  There is lots to unpack here I think, and lots of room for discussion. It's also such a multilevel/complex problem that I think we need constituents discussing this now just from higher education, but from government and private industry.

Anyway - some short reflections from the two conferences I attended this past June.  Your thoughts?




MARGINALIA:
† - MOOC here is just a placeholder. Fill it in with whatever open classroom you'd like.

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VConnecting NMC Carol Sharicz Wendy Shapiro Judith Erdman

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OK, so here is the final session that I was an onsite buddy for from this summer's NMC summer conference.  This session has us join Wendy Shapiro, Judith Erdman, and Carol Sharicz from the UMass Boston Instructional Design Program.


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VConnecting at NMC17 Michael Berman & Eden Dahlstrom

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What is the NMC? What is its history?  Well, see the following virtually connecting session from the NMC summer conference and find out :-)


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VConnecting at NMC17 Gardner Campbell & Christina Engelbart

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Here is a session with Gardner and Christina.  Their session was one of the few that I got to attend and it was really good! The odd thing is that sessions that I wanted to attend were mostly in the same room, and if you didn't get there in time, the door locked behind you (bug or feature?)


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VConnecting at NMC17 with Michelle Pacansky-Brock, Jill Leafstedt

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Continuing with my virtually connecting documentation activities this week, here is a session with Jill Leafstead and @brocansky. Hey!  Got to meet another twitter buddy in person! Woohoo! :-) We were also joined by Eden Dahlstrom the new executive director of the NMC.  The thing we learned (too late) was that the Mac defaults to the build-in microphone when turned off, so...the wired microphone is just for show :p  Oh well.  The things you learn!


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Virtually Connecting at NMC - with Bryan Alexander

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A bit of personal documenting this week, posting some videos of virtually connecting sessions from last week's NMC 2017 summer conference. This was my second virtually connecting series with me as one of the onsite buddies, and this was a fun talk with Bryan Alexander.  I've been a virtual and an onsite buddy for a while now, and I still haven't gotten the timings right! I guess  I have more to learn.  joining me as onsite buddy for this series is Greg Dillon, a fellow local instructional designer, and vConnecting buddy.


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Are conferences places where we repeat ourselves?

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It's been a long time since I last blogged and it wasn't part of a class (or at least it really feels like a long time!) Last week I received informational booklets (more than a triptych, less than an actual program book, and advertising in nature) for a couple of summer conferences that I keep track of, and some of which I have attended in the past.

Leafing though these booklets I noticed something that hasn't been as evident to me in the past:  It's the same people that are in the presentation spotlights this year as have been in the past two, five, or more years!  Now, the truth is that I had noticed in previous years, but this year some conferences have moved to a new location (which isn't local), and it was a bit odd to have certain locals highlighted as presenters when the new venue is a 16 hour drive (or 3 hour flight). Thinking back at other conferences too - both ones that appeal to academia, and the private industry of learning design - I've noticed that year after year the list of "A-list" presenters and session leaders tends to be the same.

This made me wonder about my own recent distaste (or perhaps burnout is a better word) with EdTech (and related) conferences.  When I started attending these types of conferences (with any regularity, and always only local) about 8 or so years ago they were amazing... well, at least amazing to me.  New ideas, new products (yes, I love gizmos), ability to talk to people who were implementing and getting data from things I had considered doing myself.  Generally I really liked the freshness and the new ideas vibe.  Then I noticed that while presentations were incrementally new, the people never really changed a whole lot.  Don't get me wrong, there are people that I'd like to see again and see what they are working on now, but the "point release"-ness of presentations and topics has made me not care as much about what people present at conferences any more.  I tend to get more intellectual stimulation off virtually connecting sessions than attending conferences in person.  Yes, virtually connecting does piggyback off conferences frequently, but I find it much more potent.  Perhaps because I know I can sign up for one session, attend, discuss, think, and get back to other parts of life rather than feel like the ROI of time-spent/learning isn't working out in my favor.

As I was pondering this, Joshua Kim and Kristen Eshleman posted on EdSurge with their Five reasons [they] will avoid EdTech conferences. It's interesting that they (too!) also bring up things like vConnecting. Out of the things that Kristen and Joshua mention the two immediate things that jump off at me and are echoed in my sentiments about EdTech conferences are the ROI and getting over the hype.  Even if I still like talking to vendors (take note that I don't like your emails most times!), there have been fewer and fewer new products in the marker.  Even presenters are (in some aspects) hawking their wares. In their case it might not be a product, but it might be mindshare for themselves and/or their institutions. This leads me to ROI, both for the intangibles (my time and energy), and the tangibles (money to get there, and for conference registrations). I don't think the product is worth the investment any longer.

That said, I think Kristen and Joshua make a point that doesn't immediately pop-up from my own 'me-centric' view - where are the faculty and students?  Perhaps faculty can have their attendance paid for by institutions, but students are effectively priced out.  Those are the people who I'd most like to interact with after we all get to speak to vendors, or listen to presentations from peers at other institutions, because then we can have meaningful discussions about what we can do at our institution, and what sort of interesting pedagogical things we can do with other institutions.  Most of the people that attend these conferences are techies (like me), and while I can see applicability for the classes that I teach, I am also part of a larger department with colleagues who don't get to see what I see.

In the end, I am wondering: what's next?  If we aren't doing conferences (because we are bored, uninterested, and/or priced out), how do we work on our professional development in meanginful ways this summer?

Thoughts?
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Scholarly networking panel at Winter Symposium

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Part II of January documenting.  This one is the virtually connecting panel on scholarly networking.


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The vConnecting about Cupcakes and Pokemon!

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Another docublog from virtually connecting from a few weeks ago, at OpenEd Berlin with Alec Couros.  This one has the innovation of being the first "pop up" virtually connecting session.  Enjoy!


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