Club Admiralty

v7.2 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Multilitteratus Incognitus

Pondering what to learn next 🤔

ChatGPT Poetry Jam

An AI image creation using the prompt "robotic poet in the style of robots from futurama"

I thought I'd post a little comic relief before the week begins.  I decided to play a little bit with ChatGPT this week as well as DALL-E. I've been thinking about AI in Education, connected with an upcoming project, and I was thinking about the history of the pondering and discourse around AIEd.

My goal here was to see what ChatGPT does when it is presented with prompts to produce something in a language other than English and to assess the quality of the non-English output.  It's not great, but it is rather humorous...

Prompt: please give me a poem in greek about how yummy gyro souvlaki are

Output:
Γυροσουβλάκι, πικάντικο και νόστιμο
με τη ζωή να σε δουν, δε θα σε στοιχειώσω
πλάτη στο σκεύος, και μπριάτσα στο παράθυρο
παραδειγματικός για την ελληνική κουζίνα ο κύρος.

(Translation: Gyro souvlaki, succulent and delicious
With life to see you, I will not enumerate
Loin in the dish, and tomatoes in the window
An example of Greek cuisine, the lord.)


Prompt: write a poem in greek in iambic pentameter about a teenager searching for the best souvlaki

Output:
Νεανικός και απόψεις με δυνατές επιθυμίες,
συνεχώς ζητώντας το καλύτερο σουβλάκι
σε όλους τους τόπους, και σε όλες τις λειτουργίες
με σκεψές πλούσιες, και μυαλό δυνατό.

Περπατώντας δρόμους, και διασχίζοντας δρόμους
σε κάθε γωνιά, σε κάθε καταστήματα
ερευνώντας πάνω από τα παραδείγματα
της ελληνικής κουζίνας, και της γεύσης.

Και με την ώρα που πέρασε, και με την προσπάθεια
ευτυχώς βρήκε στην καρδιά της πόλης
το πιο νόστιμο σουβλάκι, και στην επιτυχία
ευχαριστεί τον Θεό, και την καλή τύχη.

(Translation: A teenager, with strong desires and opinions,
|constantly searching for the best souvlaki
in all places, and in all functions
with rich thoughts, and a strong mind.

Walking streets, and crossing roads
in every corner, in every store
exploring examples
of Greek cuisine, and taste.

And with time passed, and with effort
happily found in the heart of the city
the most delicious souvlaki, and in success
thanked God, and good luck.)


Prompt: write a mantinada about a greek student desperately seeking a freddo cappuccino  at 3am after a long night's marathon exam preparation session

Output:
Πολύ σκληρά δουλεύω και σπουδάζω,
Για να πετύχω ό,τι θέλω να έχω,
Αλλά στο μεσημέρι και στο βράδυ
Έχω πολλά όνειρα για καφέ.

Μα και στην αρχή της νύχτας
Έχω έναν καφέ που με θυμίζει,
Έναν freddo cappuccino που μου αρέσει
Και που με κάνει να νιώθω καλά.

Και στην ώρα που ο διάλογος μου ξεκινά
Και πολλά βιβλία κλείνουν τους σελίδες τους
Εγώ σκέφτομαι πώς να πάω για ένα freddo
Και να σταματήσω να σκέφτομαι για τους εξετάσεις.

(Translation: I work hard and study,
To achieve what I want to have,
But in the middle and in the evening
I have many dreams for coffee.

But at the beginning of the night
I have a coffee that reminds me,
A freddo cappuccino that I like
And that makes me feel good.

And when my dialogue starts
And many books close their pages
I think about how to go for a freddo
And stop thinking about the exams.)

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A look back to 2022 - Part V

This is Part V of V of a look back to 2022. The first part discussed peer review requests in 2022, and the second part discussed professional development more broadly.  The third part branched off a bit from the second part, discussing professional development a bit more from an academic development frame.  The fourth part reflected a bit on research and publishing. Concluding this look back at 2022, part V will explore some of my ponderings about...

Determining where teaching fits in for me...

This was an interesting point to ponder. My entry into teaching was about as predictable as my educational path: in other words, it really came out of nowhere! I was an average high school student and an average college student. It was during my first Master's when the change from average to academician began.  When thinking about my foray into teaching, looking back on it, I honestly think it was done on a dare! I was advocating for a couple of courses to be offered in the MEd program that I had just graduated from a few years prior.  After graduation, I kept in touch with the program folks and became a bit of an unofficial archivist trying to document the history of the program. After a bit of lobbying, I was asked if I wanted to design and teach that course.  I was a bit surprised that they would ask me, but I jumped at the opportunity.  That class (research methods for instructional designers) only ran once, but another course (the design and instruction of online courses) became available because the previous instructor decided to step down and pursue other opportunities. I jumped on that next opportunity and taught it every semester for a few years. Over the years, I jumped into teaching other courses, and I definitely spend more time designing, prepping, teaching, and grading than the 10 hours/week that I was contractually compensated for.  During the first few years putting in all the extra hours didn't even register.  I was high on excitement, and I wanted to try ALL THE THINGS.  As I was getting into the thick of my own doctoral studies, however, I started to get burned out and something needed to give.  For me, those two things were research & publishing (see previous blog post) and teaching.

I dubbed my break from teaching my sabbatical (even though I wasn't paid 😂), and once my dissertation was on a better path and I had recharged some of my batteries, I returned to teaching. I think my break was about a year. The thing I've noticed since my return (circa 2018) is that my excitement for teaching does wane precipitously the closer the semester is to starting.  I really like the subject matter that I teach, and I like the students, but teaching sometimes leaves me a bit m'eh. I am not really sure what it is.

In thinking about it, it seems like my feelings toward teaching seem to be related to how close my course is to cancelation, or sometimes how close a colleague's course is to cancelation, which invariably bumps me from my teaching spot. That level of uncertainty makes planning for course changes and updates an issue because you may end up sinking a lot of time into course updates and your course might get canceled, or reassigned.  If courses do end up running, and I am still teaching what I was scheduled to teach, then there really isn't much time left to do course updates, so the course ran as it ran in the previous term 🤷🏻‍♂️. This isn't optimal, but it is what it is. It feels like procrastination, but it isn't. Even developing a new course (or redeveloping an old derelict course) has been mired with bureaucracy these past few years due to university-wide re-orgs. The joy of creation feels snuffed out by heavy bureaucracies 😬.

Another thing that I started pondering in 2022 had to do with my teaching title.  Now, I'm a staff member and I teach as an adjunct, so I don't expect some crazy title at my teaching gig, but I came to the realization in late 2022 that no matter how long I've taught (since 2012) and/or been involved with the department in a voluntary capacity (member of the faculty committee since 2010) my rank (and thus pay per course) will always be Associate Lecturer, which is the same as someone who is just walking off the street teaching their first course.  I've been involved with this department since 2010 🤦‍♂️, and I am probably the second in seniority (as measured by continuous time in the department). I acknowledge that this is not the department's fault, but rather a result of a set of institutional processes, procedures, and norms that don't account for someone in my position, but the adjunct nature of academia does tend to wear you down over time. There really ought to be ways of recognizing the longevity of employees, even part-time ones, in ways that are both tangible (pay/benefits) and intangible (titles).

All these things considered, over the winter break I decided that I probably will only teach courses that are already developed by someone else, and will only probably take on graduate courses that are sort of guaranteed to run. While it's fun to design courses from scratch, it is time-consuming and I feel like institutions need to pay for that kind of work, in some way.  It seems like this kind of work is expected of tenure-stream faculty (which makes sense), but adjuncts seem to fall in between the cracks in a system that appears to be increasingly relying on contingent labor. Course creation, updates, and in some cases general department business can't rely on contingent labor. This is not good long term for anyone involved :-)

Thoughts? 🤓




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A look back to 2022 - Part IV


This is Part IV of V of a look back to 2022. I know, my blogging is lacking a bit of urgency LOL 😂.

The first part discussed peer review requests in 2022, and the second part discussed professional development more broadly.  The third part branched off a bit from the second part, discussing professional development a bit more from an academic development frame.  Continuing with that academic framing, part IV will explore some of my ponderings about...

Determining where research fits in for me...

At the end of last year I was reflecting on where research fits into my professional and hobby life; keeping in mind that my job does not require, nor does it make provisions for, me to do research - thus it's mostly a hobby.  My relationship with doing research, and where it fits in for me, has really evolved over the last decade. When I was attending my last Master's degree (before completing the degree), I had a hard time even imagining writing 7000 words, let alone publishing something in a book or journal! That is something other people did, but certainly not me. I did find three topics that piqued my interest enough to polish up into something resembling a journal article. I was never mentored on how to do this, so much of it was mimicking what I had seen in my classes and filling in gaps from conversations I had with professors. I might have read an intro textbook on doing research on my own at some point - I don't remember 😬.  Anyway, I lucked out, in a sense, because my first two works were published in collected volumes that were about teaching and learning on campus and I got feedback and encouragement from people I had known in my day-to-day work setting over the preceding decade. Their feedback was not "reviewer 2" style 😜

When MOOCs came along and I got sucked into that whirlwind, I found interesting folks who extended and expanded my thinking, and together we did some great work.  The things researched around this time were things that piqued my interest, and the interactions with journals were mediated across a group of us.  If revise-and-resubmit was the result, we worked on it and we did it. Here, I'll admit that the citation metrics were a bit inebriating as well. I never really cared about citation metrics, and I still don't to a large extent, but it does leave me in awe to see over 1500 people have cited publications that I was part of. The citation counts were something that kept me motivated to continue on new projects even though they don't really do much for my present career path. I had kept an eye out at tenure track style jobs, but due to pay and job security in your pre-tenure years, I don't feel like making that jump makes sense for me (if anyone wants to hire me with tenure, let's talk 📞😉).

When I started working on my dissertation, for better or for worse, a lot of momentum was lost when it came to these kinds of collaborative research experiences that had given me so much energy.  I needed to finish my dissertation so I could graduate, so I dropped off a lot of potential collaborations.  Now that I am done with that, I am left pondering:  Should I return to that previous path?  Should I not? Should I just be more selective about what I do?   It's not like I've rested on my laurels these past couple of years, but the publication process does leave A LOT to be desired.  For example, in the past 4 years, I've completed four book chapters and one article.  The article is basically dead on arrival because as I was finishing it, the journal I had in mind for publication had a moratorium (and still seems to be closed for business).  I honestly don't have the energy to redo it, so I just released it in the wild for people who might find it useful.  One of the book chapters was a collaboration with a member of my EdD cohort, and that book editor seems to have gone dark...publishing that chapter now would require a lot of work to bring it up to date, so I am not sure it's a useful way to spend one's time.  That chapter was also released to the wild in case people find it useful.  The other three book chapters appear to be moving along and hopefully be out on in 2023. A sixty percent completion rate might not seem bad, but considering that I do this as a hobby, it seems like I best choose higher throughput means of publishing to make my hobby worth it.

I could simply write, and not pursue peer-reviewed publishing, of course, but while citation metrics don't really matter as much to me it does make me ask (and ponder) what is the benefit of writing if you're not going to be viewed and/or cited?  There is a concurrent strand in my head pondering about blogging when the number of your views per post is in the single digits (as is the case for my old blog). Part of me is wondering whether citation metrics have ruined part of this hobby for me 🤔

What are your thoughts on research and publishing?  I am especially curious to know if you are an itinerant/unaffiliated scholar and/or an adjunct faculty somewhere.


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A look back to 2022 - Part III


This is part III of V of a look back at 2022. The first part discussed peer review requests in 2022, and the second part discussed professional development more broadly.  As I was pondering professional development, a branch from that thread started vining out and sort of developing in my mind as related to, but distinct from, professional development.  Thus, part III will be dealing with...

Charting out the next phase of academic development

As I was pondering professional development in my previous post, I started to veer into the area of academic development.  I continued to write my previous post, but I decided to stop myself and separate this section out because I realized that I think of PD and AD as two different (but sometimes overlapping) entities.  In my view, PD tends to relate much more closely to one's work. What you learn is usually applicable to your work environment sooner rather than later.  Professional Development is also something that you might be able to do on company time (at least to some extent), with examples of this being going to a conference, attending time-bound workshops, or being given some unstructured time every month (as is the case with my IT colleagues) to explore some topic that interests you professionally.

Academic development, on the other hand, tends to be a little more of that geeky side that I mentioned in my previous post; the reason I studied Applied Linguistics even though I didn't have any concrete plans to become a language teacher (or teach in K-12 for that matter), or the reason I jumped into cMOOCs back in the day.  It's also something that tends to be more of a hobby and "off the clock," so you don't do these kinds of activities during your day job. In my dissertation, I called this kind of learning kefagogy. I think one of my RhizoMOOC co-participants framed it best when they said something like: the learning experience being about what it made them think rather than getting through some content (yes, I am really paraphrasing here). Ultimately these kinds of ponderings make their way into my more academic pursuits, like teaching and writing, but they start off with mere curiosities. 

I think my biggest challenge is really picking a topic (or a narrow set of topics) to explore. While I was working on my dissertation I had mentally bookmarked a lot of topics that seemed of interest: ludology, games in education, developing a TTRPG to run as a class on instructional design, stuff about lurking in educational settings, stuff about networked learning, broad topics on distance learning, I wanted to do a deeper dive into communities of practice, go back into linguistics-related topics, heck even some stuff about XR in education settings (I know there are XR geeks out there reading this!😜). My bookshelves are full (and my "to-read" folder on my desktop is bursting with academic articles📂), but I find myself in a sort of m'eh mood 🙄. It's not like these topics are not interesting, but I think they've gotten a bit dusty on the shelf while they've been waiting for me to be "done with school."  This has got me pondering: Has the sheen worn off these topics for me?  or do they need a bit of a dusting off?

One of my friends from my EdD program messaged me the other day and suggested seeking a research associate position (something part-time) to get those academic neurons firing again. This isn't a bad idea!  For a few years now I've been thinking about asking a friend in the field of linguistics if they'd be willing to have me tag along on a research project of theirs so I can learn more and dive deeper into the linguistics side of things dealing with corpus and computational linguistics while taking a "break" from (or slowing down a bit in) distance education research. After two waves of "OMG, online learning is the new hotness but it's so good/bad that it's good/bad" these past 10 years (once with MOOCs and then again with ERT), I feel like I'm living in groundhog day. I am not sure I want to dive deeper into topics relating to distance education just yet. IDK...maybe all fields have this issue, but it's exhausting at times 😅

What are your thoughts? How do you differentiate PD and AD?  What do you do with those topics that you've bookmarked that seem like cool rabbit holes, but when you return after a while you have no energy for them? 🤔  

Also, as a fun and irreverent side-question: I have a tagline in this blog "Pondering what my next degree should be 😂".  Pitch me your ideas!  What field should I study next? What BA, MA, or PhD should I pursue? No answer too silly (or too serious)!

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A look back at 2022 - Part II


This is part II of V of a look back to 2022. The first part of this series did a bit of reflecting on professional expectations in the form of peer review requests that I received in 2022. This next section is all about retooling, pondering, and...

Figuring out what PD means for me

I think that 2022 was really about recovering from my doctoral work. I completed my defense in July 2021, and all edits were accepted and published, and the degree was granted by October 2021. This, in essence, left me the entirety of 2022 to just let my brain air out a bit and recalibrate. Looking back, 2011-2016 were my MOOC years (free-range learning), and 2014-2021 were my Doc years (structured learning), and lots of time and brain bandwidth were allotted to that endeavor.  While there were bumps in the road, I am really happy with the committee I had in the end, and they supported me in reaching that finish line. The completion of a doctorate means that I "won" at academia-ing right?😂  I've reached the end of the track and there are no higher degrees (and no, I don't consider post-docs to be a continuation).

Up until this point, much of my professional development was guided by the question of "what's next?" and more specifically what's next for work (or my career). This question really guided me in most of my academic work. In fact, I think that my only truly geeky and "just for the love of learning" degrees were my degrees in Applied Linguistics and my EdD in Distance Education (although this latter one had applicability to work). I would also say that much of my MOOC-based work was also just geeky fun which I didn't have any immediate use for (even for things like learning analytics and connectivism), but without a certificate to certify some natural end point, does it count?†  

This kind of "what's next?" thinking has also led me down the path of various certifications for things like digital and social media marketing (free through places like Hubspot), various education-related certs (like QM and Google educator), or stuff from past work roles (like the Avixa CTS). These certs dealt more with the present (the immediate future needs of the current job), whereas degrees were seen as a bit more medium-term (what's the next job after this one?). I think that much of my "what's next?" frame of mind was predicated upon going up the rungs of the professional ladder. Getting that next pay bump, that next title, or that next workplace challenge, something for which I needed to be in a different department, hence the necessity for job hopping.

What's changed over the last few years (beyond our uninvited guest, COVID...) is that I've reached a level on that metaphorical ladder where I can't go up any higher from my current rung. To reach new heights (in the grand scheme of things within the university), I'd need to Tarzan my way over to another ladder, which invariably would involve higher degrees of uncertainty. It would also involve leaving my current department (which I actually like), applying for jobs and interviewing (which I dislike*), and taking on a degree of uncertainty with regard to job security. One of those ladders is that of a tenure-track position, but the job (in)security aspects while you're pre-tenured don't seem worth the risk IMO when you've been at an institution for close to 25 years.

Thus, since my major goal isn't what's next in my career but rather what cool things can I learn? my mindset has changed, and my PD now has a new focus: Structured Serendipity (Zweig), which I came across during my dissertation work while reading some of @cogdog's work on DS106. The basic idea behind structured serendipity is that you expose yourself to fields that you wouldn't normally expose yourself to and maybe that will develop into some future aha!!!! moment wherein ideas from one field help you rethink your current structures and help you become more innovative.

Restructuring your PD from a highly structured goal-oriented focus into a fuzzier serendipity-based focus does pose some problems. First of all you have the question of abundance: what do you pick from? Being at a university means that there are a lot of structured courses that I could take, in addition to opportunities outside of the confines of my institution's walls. Do you pick something totally random that piques your interest?  Do you pick something you know nothing about? Do you pick something related to what you've already done? Since PD funding comes from the employer, how do you convince goal-oriented (and ROI-minded) upper managers to permit loosey-goosey learning paths and embrace the unknown?  Documentation is another point to ponder (which I brought up above). A degree or certificate program leaves you with something tangible at the end that you can show off, whereas more free-range paths to learning do not.  How do you document your learning and present evidence of it? While I prefer free-range learning, kefagogy learning opportunities, and geek-based learning, I am aware of the need to document things with major milestone just in case of an unexpected downturn.  These are the questions that I'm still pondering.

What do you think?  How do you approach your PD opportunities?


Marginalia:

† Don't answer that! Or do! It's actually an interesting topic to ponder!

* It's not that I dislike applying for jobs. What I dislike is the performative aspect of job interviews which seems to stretch on and on and on. The best interview I had (IMO) was for my current department where I just sat down and had a conversation with the department about my vision for the job, listened to where they wanted to go, and we mutually decided whether this partnership would work for both of us.

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A look back at 2022 - Part I

 


Happy New Year fellow learners and ponderererers (that's spelled right, right? 😜)

Looking back, 2022 seems like an academic blur. I know that lots of things happened, and I've jotted all of them down on a notepad so I can add them to my CV as some point in the future, but as I look back five distinct threads (points of pondering) come up as trends that emerged, or became more clear, in 2022. As I started writing this, it seemed like the length was getting out of hand, so I decided to break it up into many different blog posts. My first point of pondering is...

A deluge of peer review requests...

Alright, maybe "deluge" might be a bit overdramatic, but it does feel like requests for peer review increased in 2022.  I've been peer reviewing since 2012 and I am not sure what exactly changed.  Did someone see my publons/WoS/ORCID profiles and decided to add me to their regular reviewer's circle? Did the addition of a doctorate to my credentials make me more visible?  Was it the reported crisis in peer review that was making the rounds in 2022 that impacted those who were still reviewing?  Was it all or some of the above?  I don't know!  What I do know is that the number of requests I received increased, and the number of declines on my part also increased.  My two most common causes were "lack of time" and "I am not able to adequately assess this".  

For the second reason, I noticed that I was getting requests for things that I am not necessarily an expert (or familiar) with, but they do fall under the general heading of "pedagogy." Hence, I received requests like one asking me to assess papers that dealt with PE class (aka "gym class") which isn't something I feel confident reviewing. I also received requests for reviews for papers that seemed to be Media Comparison Studies, or papers authored by folks new to online education (usually in a non-western context) that seemed to be rehashing research from the past 20 years.  These latter two categories I totally noped out of.  Prior to 2022, I would have entertained these two kinds of papers (keeping in mind that I didn't get that many requests) so I could at least give people some feedback.  

This past year, for better or for worse, my relationship with peer reviewing changed, and I think that I started thinking about it more selfishly.  If I saw an article that piqued my interest, I'd agree to review it (provided that I had time).  If I saw something that I would most likely reject (based on the abstract), I decided to not review. I think that if folks are in a tenure track position this kind of service to the profession is paid for by the university. In my case, as an occasional adjunct, I am not compensated for this effort, so my only compensation is choosing things to read and review that are of personal interest to me (which happens in my non-work time). I don't think paying reviewers for reviews would do the trick. I honestly don't know how that would even be calculated.  Peer review has issues, something which I have brought up in the past, and something that recently resurfaced in my social media threads (a blog topic for another day), so I don't know how adding payment for reviews would solve anything. It may, in fact, make things worse because the economic incentive to undertake reviews, even when you might not be an expert in the field, just muddies things up.

In any case, looking ahead at 2023, it seems like I'll need a better game plan for peer review requests and figuring out where this kind of activity fits in my professional and academic life. I do wonder, how do non-tenure folks deal with such requests for peer review?





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My semester on FutureLearn

People hold large puzzle pieces putting a puzzle together

It's the end of the year, and the end of the term, so I look back at my own learning this past fall semester. This fall, I decided to revisit FutureLearn.  Over the past few years (since 2018ish?) I've been signing up for FutureLearn courses so that I can have them in my queue (in case they disappear). I guess I was optimistic in 2019...and 2020...and 2021 that I would get to these, so the queue of courses kept getting larger and larger 🤣. So, with the queue so long I decided to do something about it:

The total number of courses I went through this fall (August through December was 36.  Some courses were outside of my wheelhouse but seemed interesting, while others are peripheral to what I am doing, so things were not always new.   Unsurprisingly, the courses that were on subject matters that I already knew something about went by rather fast since past information kept coming up, both my own previous knowledge and things that came up in previous FutureLearn courses. Being able to binge courses in this manner really highlighted the duplication of information across related courses on the platform (which isn't necessarily a bad thing).  The courses where I didn't have any background in went a little slower, but they were quite interesting nevertheless.  The one that stands out to me is the Business of Film.  I don't know when I'm going to use this information in my life, but it was interesting to learn more about how this industry works.

One of the interesting things that I observed is that instead of having courses retracted from the platform (as seems to be the case with coursera, for example), in FutureLearn, if you're enrolled in a course that is no longer maintained you get a warning of when the last update was, and that information in the course may no longer be accurate.  I prefer this approach to simply booting users who registered for it.

In terms of pacing, I was able to get through two or three short courses per week (short = 2-3 modules), or 1 longer course per week (long =  6-10 modules).  I have noticed that compared to when FutureLearn launched, a lot of courses on the platform appear to be on the shorter side (2-4 modules) rather than 10-14 module courses that seemed to be the norm when the platform launched.

One annoying thing about all xMOOCs is the assessment piece. Most courses that I undertook just had Quizzes peppered throughout the course. For some, if you got over a certain score you'd also get a certificate of completion (nice!) The quizzes rely mostly on MC questions but every so often you get a "fill in the blank".  Let me tell you that I absolutely hate fill-in-the-blanks! If you mistype something or put a synonym...you miss out on a point.  Another poor assessment use was using "pick as many as are correct" (aka checkboxes), when there is only one right answer in the list.  That should be a radio button.  I think we've all been conditioned by the heuristics of computers to expect more than one box to be ticked when you have more than one correct answer 🙄. Since I wasn't doing this for a grade it doesn't really matter (I could have skipped the quizzes altogether), but it as a designer this kind of stuff irks me at times.  Another poorly thought of element of usability: If you do end up getting less than the minimum score on a quiz, you have to email FutureLearn support to rest a quiz for you.  It seems like a user should be able to reset quizzes after a certain amount of time has elapsed, and the server should be keeping track of how many times a user has reset a quiz.

I have another dozen or so MOOCs on my wishlist on FutureLearn which I might sign-up for early in 2023 to go through.  The problem with new courses is that there is a time limit to complete them.  One of the ways of monetizing the platform is giving participants the option to keep the course by subscribing, or having access to it for a limited time. I guess  I need to start courses one at a time from now on ;-)

Is anyone still on FutureLearn?

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Sticking with the fail whale... for now

 

A lot of digital ink has been used up in the past few days with Elon's purchase of the big blue bird, both in blogs and Twitter itself, and news outlets (not that I think of it) To be fair, it is a little concerning when your social network changes hands, but then again other things are concerning in the land of social media (where "you're the product"), like most social media ownership, privacy, uptime, and what companies are doing with user data.  However, is this most recent panic enough of a cause to move over to another platform (or protocol) like Mastodon?🤔 Perhaps...or perhaps not.  Earlier this year I created an account on Scholar.social (based on where colleagues seemed to be moving)- which took forever to verify - because their servers were kneeling under the weight of the many people who were "leaving" Twitter after the last Elon scare. I see today that Scholar.social no longer accepts new members.  Just for giggles I also created a mastodon.social identity because I was having issues logging into Scholar after months of not logging in. I did end up logging into scholar eventually, but I haven't really "tooted" much. What to does one say when creating an identity on new network? "Hello, world?  I am eating a ham sandwich!"😜

Migrating is a such pain...😕

Having multiple social media accounts isn't the issue. What is the issue is the ability to follow conversations and have an opportunity to be part of the community. Accounts are easy to create, after all, I still maintain accounts on discord (which I rarely use), several slacks (which I also rarely use), Facebook (mostly for family), Instagram (just for photos...although that's been changing lately thanks to Meta🙄), Swarm (for location-based stuff), Untappd and TV Time (to keep track of things), and two Twitter accounts (one of which isn't as active).  Heck...I am still on Plurk (not that I use it...😂)! 

The social platform is just a means to an end. The biggest thing about social media is the social, and it's where your communities are available to connect and share.  The nice thing about Twitter is that the main timeline has everything from edtech, learning, higher ed, VR/AR, language and linguistics, and even silly pet videos. I don't need to go into separate communities to get different sorts of content. I know, that in theory the Fediverse (the mastodon protocol) allows for bringing together such various communities, but only if your communities are part of a service that uses this federated connection. The other thing about Twitter (as it stands) is that I don't get sucked into it the same way Discord and Slack tend to drain your time. There are no "unread messages" on Twitter. Just jump in and engage from whatever point.

In any case, over the years I've experienced a few migrations of the various communities I am (or was) a member of.  Every migration hop is a chance to lose connections, and every connection lost basically makes the new tool less useful.  Sure, some connections are more valuable than others based on your rate and quality of interaction with them, but every so often a connection surprises you (in good or bad ways), Here are three personal examples of migrations from the last 20 years:

MacOS Forums: Back in ye olde days, before social media... at least as we know it and understand it today,  there was a time when the public beta for MacOS X came out (ca. 2000).  At this time, there was a forum that sprung up for enthusiasts and professionals to discuss the next big thing from Apple. The community had a lot of members, and along with technology, software, hardware, and other geeky discussions, there were off-topic forums that hosted general discussions.  These kinds of phpBB-based forums still exist today for various communities around the web. This forum was basically the Twitter/discord/slack of its day because in addition to all the tech news discussions we ended up making friends online over the years. One year the owner of the forum was vocal about something that was non-tech related (something politically conservative if I remember correctly). People got temp-banned for voicing concerns about this (you know, the "owner" exercising power over the community to promote their views), and ultimately it made a lot of members jump ship and join another apple-focused community. The owner of the community did change his tune and members came back, but I did see a breakup of the discussions across two or more online forums at the time, which really changed the tune and feel of the community. The community has rebounded, it seems, over the last 20 years, and the forums are still going strong, but much of my own network seems to have moved on (and from visiting today, I see that some people have passed onto the next realm of existence). While I still maintain my logon info there, it's not a place I frequent much.  It's fun, and nostalgic, to see that some threads that started 20 years ago are still active! To be fair, around this time I also changed jobs, so the forum was less relevant in my day-to-day work life, but I would have stuck around for the off-topic threads if the vibe of the community was different 🤷‍♂️.


RSS & Google Reader: The third big wave (yes third, I skipped #1) of migrations really came when Google Reader was killed off, and more and more social sites (like Facebook and Twitter) entered the scene. The social web brought together individual authors/publishers via their blogs and RSS. I used to read a lot of Greek blogs back in the day, left comments on the author's posts (and some left comments for me), and discussions were had over distributed means and digital places.  In Google Reader, you were also able to follow others and see the items that they shared with others from their RSS feeds. In this way, you were able to discover the blogs they were reading, get an opportunity to subscribe to those blogs yourself, and have a kind of serendipity in content discovery.  This made Google Reader more than just an RSS reader, it was also a social network in its own right.  When microblogs came out (Twittr, Pownce, Jaiku, Plurk, etc.) I do still remember the discussions questioning why one would use a microblogging service to post something that was 140 characters long.  Their regular blog (Blogger, Wordpress, LiveJournal, etc...) would handle 140 characters just as well 1000 characters. Of course, we know how that ended. Many people did gravitate to services like Twitter, Pownce, and Jaiku.  While they maintained blogs, the quicker discussion was happening on microblogs. With the loss of Google Reader, however, I ended up following a small subset of the people I followed on Reader on Twitter (and to a lesser extent Facebook). I still use RSS, but that social component is lacking in Feedly, and The Old Reader replicates google reader's look and feel, but the paywall means that my community isn't there.


Dead Socials, Abandoned Socials, & Various Messengers: There's no dearth of digital tumbleweed and social tombstones. Like any self-respecting techie, I've tried a lot of services over the years.  Some that come to mind over the past 20 years of social: MySpace, Friendster, Hi5, Orkut, Jaiku, ICQ, Google Allo, Yahoo! Messenger, MSN Messenger, Apple iChat, AIM, Google+, Whrrl, GoWalla, Raptr, Pownce, StumbleUpon, Vox blogs, Yahoo! 360, Yahoo! Chat, Edmodo, HelloTxt, Path, Meerkat, Del.icio.us, Ning, SocialGO, various IRC channels, and the list goes on... Sometimes platforms just go away, I guess that's the nature of things. Sometimes people migrate platforms.  That's also the nature of things. The one thing that seems different now, compared to then, is that there is a lack of discoverability when switching platforms.  Over the past 20 years, the way to find your contacts had been their email (or in some cases their phone number) in your contacts list. So, when you joined a new service, it was fairly easy for that service to harvest your contacts and point you to who's using their service (yes, I know, there are issues with this).  These days, I have no idea what people's emails are any longer (never mind their phone numbers).  Perhaps for some colleagues that I connect with on a regular basis by email - sure, I have that - but for the most part, people's digital identities are their Twitter or Instagram handles. When switching services, there's no way to link up one identity with another. Switching services for the sake of making a point about a rich dude's purchase of the company seems counterproductive.  My network is here...at least for now. A network developed through conference backchannel tweets, MOOCs, and serendipitous discoveries.

Looking back, I don't fret too much about my lost connections on ICQ, Yahoo Messenger, iChat, or any of those other platforms that shut down. The same goes for social networks and forums that I stopped using, and blogs that I used to read that have since gone dark and whose author's real names I never knew. Ultimately, for me, the big blue bird is about one thing: discussion and discovery. So long as it fulfills those functions and the majority of my community remains there, I'll most likely stick around. After all, there is little use in spending a lot of time migrating and trying to rediscover people on the new platform who might just end up remaining on the old platform anyway.  If and when Twitter becomes a ghost town (or has a spectacular implosion), then it would be worthwhile to expend the effort to find other spots to hang, sip my real life coffee, and engage in discussion over the next MOOC or whatnot.

Just my 2c.  What about you?

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An Alt-Ac's publishing dilemma


A couple of blog posts ago I was pondering my dilemmas about peer reviewing as an alt-ac. This week I've been pondering actual publishing as an alt-ac.  Here's how my pondering started (after a long couple of weeks at the beginning of the semester)...

Given that...

  • As an alt-ac I do not need to have published articles to be promoted in my professional work;
  • As an alc-ac I do not get professional recognition for works published (except for some internal delight when I see my citation numbers😅)
  • As an alt-ac I don't get "work release" time from my dayjob to work on this research, so any research work I do eats into my hobby/free time;
  • As a hobby, research publications don't pay (whereas other gigs do, providing an incentive to give up some of your free time in exchange for my expertise);
  • Publication of research is hitting bottlenecks, both with peer reviews and periodic journal moratoria;
  • Even without the bottlenecks, getting through peer review can be a challenge (thanks to Reviewer 2😂) and even with good publications it's been a challenge at times to get published;
  • I have at least two publications (ca. 2018 and 2021 respectively) that I completed but have yet to publish because of journal moratoria or book editors ghosting me after the work was completed - and don't feel like doing the reformatting work (or updating work) to resubmit elsewhere...
The question is: Does it make sense that I continue down this path of research and publication? 

Don't get me wrong.  I do like reading and writing, and I could very likely get a couple of 8000-word manuscripts out each year, I don't think I see the value of submitting these to peer-reviewed publications. I see a bit more value in pursuing book chapters (after all, that process is a bit more staged, and at least there's a book contract in hand!) but getting completed research into peer-reviewed research in journals feels very administratively taxing for something that is essentially a hobby. It's that last mile that feels insurmountable at this point; or at the very least yes it's possible to get over that hump, but the reward for such an effort doesn't seem worth the inputs it needs in terms of time and effort.

Any fellow alt-acs out there?  What do you think of the peer-reviewed pub lifecycle? Do you find it fundamentally worth it? If not, at what point did it lose the luster for you? 🤔

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Faculty CPD: The View from the Bleachers.

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This particular post has been in my drafts folder for a while now.  The post started off as some ponderings, based on tweets from fellow instructional designers (over the summer), that lamented the fact that faculty members really didn't attend professional development opportunities that they had worked so hard to put together. With the start of the new academic year just ahead of us (at least for my campus) it seemed like a good opportunity to return to this post.  This is my local view, framed chiefly from my experiences where I work, but also from chatting about this with local colleagues at other institutions nearby over the last 15 years.  Yes...the problem ain't new!

One thing I've seen over the years is the reliance on bad metrics and other various bad indicators like foot traffic through the ID offices, the number of workshops offered, and butts in seats at the workshops. This isn't new.  Even as far back as when I was a training manager for our academic library, what the administration wanted was butts in seats, in-person, during the hours of our employment (9-5). The same was true when I was an educational technologist.  Here's the thing: it's not 1999. People who want to learn how to do something can't necessarily come when you're scheduled to work. You can either adapt your hours of operation and/or offer more virtual offerings. In a post-emergency pandemic world, the same constraints exist as before, but people are even more reluctant to go to campus to sit in a room to learn whatever. So, what sorts of metrics make sense for the services that we're offering? And, who is deciding these metrics?  Is it managers who are disconnected from the process? (as was the case with me all those years ago?)  Or is it people who are on the front lines of training?

Second, it's summertime, or at least it was when the flurry of those tweets occurred. Summertime is like Schrödinger's Training Period: It's both the best time to offer workshops and the worst time to offer workshops. When you do offer workshops, you will find out that it's actually not a good time to offer workshops and other sorts of CPD.  Why is that you might ask? Well, faculty are 9-month employees. They are compensated from September to May. In the summer months, they are not paid (or they are paid from a grant fund for specific grant tasks).  Expecting them to partake in our wonderful workshops is not fair.  It's even more unfair if you have to go to the campus where you're charged for parking. Unless your faculty are 12-month employees, or you're compensating faculty for their time, summer CPD shouldn't be a thing. This kind of stuff should be in the "analysis phase" of the workshop design process 😉.

Next, I'll mention something that fellow instructional designers, especially new ones, might find controversial: CPD for teaching isn't something that faculty care about, at least not enough to add it to their calendar and make a plan for it.  The requirement to be a college/university professor is a terminal degree like a doctorate (or in the case where a terminal doctorate is not an option, a terminal master's, like an MFA). What your terminal degrees prepare you for is either research (as is the case with the doctorate), or some sort of practice (e.g., various kinds of art as is the case with the MFA).  Teaching isn't what you're prepared for.  In fact, it's most likely the case that you're basically just mimicking what you've seen done in classes in your previous educational experiences.  Teaching should be valued, but it's usually something that doctors aren't prepared for, and are not rewarded for once they start teaching.  If you look at a tenure-track faculty member's annual evaluation a big component of the evaluation is weighted toward research and service. Yes, teaching is there, but it's there as a token item IMO.  For non-tenure instructors, they are compensated only for teaching, nothing more and nothing less, which means that they aren't compensated for the hours they spend on professional development.

When there is some value attached to teaching CPD by faculty, I would say that instructional designers and their expertise is really undervalued (or not valued at all). At least at my institution there seemed to be a bit of tension between what instructional designers offer and what grassroots faculty-led initiatives (like centers for the improvement of teaching) organize. Even in my own context, another entity, the office for faculty development is led by a tenure-track faculty member, showcases resources by faculty, and instructional designers and librarians are basically not included. This on top of most resources for faculty development seem to be tenure related. In any case, I would argue that institutions are complicit in the undervaluing and sidelining of instructional designers (and librarians)🤷‍♂️. When your own institution doesn't support you in this endeavor, are you just part of an elaborate façade?

Finally, I would say that there is another element that's really inhibiting the participation of faculty in CPD, and leading to a bit of burnout amongst instructional designers.  That factor is the lack of collaboration amongst campuses. I'll focus specifically on Massachusetts State Colleges and Universities. In our state, we have 15 community colleges and 14 colleges and universities (if I lump the UMasses together with other state schools). While there have been instances of sharing materials with one another (at least between personal contacts in the UMass schools), that only includes the training materials.  Why not foster cross-institutional collaboration between state schools?  A more comprehensive training calendar can be developed and offered. I also think that cross-institutional faculty acquaintances can be valuable beyond training.  By working together, instructional designers at every campus don't have to provide all the trainings.  Rather, training can be shouldered by many institutions, in cross-functional teams, and after training is done, instructional designers on individual campuses can act more like coaches. I don't understand why this is rocket science. 🙄

Finally, I think the elephant in the room that no one is acknowledging is the fatigue from the past 5 years In our case it's three years of COVID that came after a few years of austerity.  Austerity looks differently depending on where you look on campus, but often it means that lines that were previously tenure-track are now not replaced and everyone needs to do more with less. That kind of stuff does tend to wear one out, and when you're tired you aren't in a prime spot for CPD.

I say that this is not rocket science, but it really depends on where you're viewing the field. Having worked in IT, and in ID, and for the Library, and now in an academic department (and as an adjunct for the last 10 years...), these different frames serve to show a more holistic picture of what's going on.  I think instructional designers usually only have one view, and it's hard to break away from the butts-in-seats "let's offer more training and hope they come" model. You need cross-department and cross-functional teams to do better, but those aren't always available.

Just my 2c.  Your thoughts?

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