Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Creswell at the Beach

If only the greatest challenge of grad school was getting sand out of textbooks. The beauty of being a teacher on the West Coast is that I get to read on the beach in July and August. My usual ritual is as follows: research ideas, print papers (4 pages on 1 page, double sided), read papers on beach, come home with new ideas, realize limitations of ideas, and find more papers to read at the beach.

Time at the beach used to stand still. Now, with papers to read, 2 hours goes by quickly. This is a good thing. The challenge, of course, is that once I get home, after a reflective drive of about 30 minutes in traffic, I realize just how little ground I’ve actually covered. This is not to say that I’m reading limited or somehow deficient research. Instead, I realize just how little of a certain subject I’ve actually covered. Creswell, for example, is pretty good. Then again, one can buy entire books on the ideas the Creswell covers in a chapter. I’m experiencing the same sort of thing looking at the lit review for the Dr. Jacobsen course. I’m examining measures of progress in the use of educational technology. As soon as I think I have one area covered, I find a new area that needs exploration. The idea of a lit review can be a bit frustrating in this regard. Just when one is happy to have one piece of knowledge squared away, another emerges. It’s analogous to academic whack amole. Then again, lifelong learning, especially with/about technology, requires constant vigilance for new ideas. It’s not so much about knowing, it’s more about knowing how to keep up.

Anyway, tomorrow, I’m off to the beach with new papers and ideas to examine. I suppose current knowledge fades at about the same pace as a tan. I suppose an indicator of academic progress is self-awareness and the limitations of what one knows (or of what is currently known in any given field). The challenge, I guess, is twofold: 1) keeping up with the knowledge, and 2) being able to apply the current knowledge. Easier said than done –like getting sand out of the Creswell text.


Friday, July 24, 2009

AECT Definition:
“Educational Technology is the study and ethical practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate processes and resources” (Januszewski & Molenda, 2008, p.1).

I’m deeply appreciative of having worked with Jean Slick (among others) for the Wiki project on grassroots video. As a K-12 educator and ICT administrator, my perspective on educational technology is biased. Worse, I didn’t realize my bias until last week. In conversations with Jean, the notions of non-formal and informal learning emerged. I began to appreciate educational technology applications beyond academia. Some of these are ethical, such as helping people respond to natural disasters (Suarez, et al., 2008). Other applications, such as military exercises, are not always ethical, but still need to be considered uses of educational technology (Mordvinov, 2007). It was my conversations with Jean, along with the observations of Hlynka (2008), that have informed my perspective on my definition. I no longer see educational technology as specifically for formal academic settings. I see educational technology fitting into the broader world as well (in both good and questionable ways). For this reason I’ve removed the “ethical” portion of the AECT definition.

My perspective on the definition:
“Educational Technology is the study and practice of facilitating learning and improving performance by designing, developing, implementing, managing, and evaluating appropriate processes and resources.”

My understanding of my research question at this stage is:
"The following paper will explore the journey of elementary schools in the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA) as they progress from environments with little or no Information Communication Technology (ICT) towards environments that more fully integrate ICT for student learning."

AECT Domain of best fit:
My research will undoubtedly touch upon each of the AECT domains (development, utilization, management, evaluation, design). The area that is perhaps most central is utilization. How teachers and students use technology for learning will be at the heart of my research.

Hlynka, D. (2008). Educational Technology: A Definition for the 21st Century. Educational Technology, 48(6), 48 – 50.

Mordvinov, V. (2007, January). Remote Education Technologies as a Part of the Military Training System: Opportunities and Prospects. Military Thought, 16(1), 90-93. Retrieved July 24, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Suarez, P, Ching, F., Ziervogel, G., Lemaire, I., Turnquests, D., Mendler de Suarez, J., & Wisner, B. (2008). Video-mediated approaches for community-level climate adaptation. Institute of Development Studies Bulletin, (39)4, 96-104.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Bit About My Life: Simplicity

A suggestion came forward in Dr. Patterson’s 719 course that we should post introductions/reintroductions. We’ve spent the week introducing ourselves to guest speakers, and most of the introductions are in the form of “Peter, Vancouver, Ed.Tech” I’m finding these reintroductions useful as they help me keep the more detailed stories of people’s lives straight in my head. Blackboard is good for scholarly things, but I think a blog is a better tool for personal expression.

I firmly believe in judiciously choosing a handful of things and trying to do them well. Here is what I do:

Work. I work in a high school as the Chief Information Officer. I tutor autistic and ESL children on weekends. Outside of those two things, I manage my family’s properties. All of these things I love doing because I have strong personal connections with the people. My jobs I take personally.

When the school year ends, I either do course work, travel, or renovate my home. One year it was the second floor, another year it was the main floor, this spring it was landscaping the yard. My thinking is that if I’m going to be staying/studying somewhere for a long time, the place might as well be nice.

Friends. I love travel (about 30 countries visited) and I often meet fascinating people when travelling. The type of travelling I do isn’t the all-inclusive kind, so I tend to find wonderful and often like-minded people in remote areas of the world. Friends are a major part of my life, though I don’t really get to see them much. This is rarely a problem though because my friends are usually driven like I am, and so they understand what being busy is all about.

Sports. I enjoy sports. I play basketball and hockey with many of the same people I went to elementary and high school with. I love the authenticity of being with my friends in such an environment. It’s hard to be anything but authentic when you’re covered in sweat chasing after a puck or ball.

Nice things. I like nice, classic things. I like mechanical watches, woodwork, and fine furniture. I was a poor child growing up. We used to buy things at the Salvation Army. When something in my house was new, it was a rare event; when something in my house was nice, it was even rarer. Now that I’m older, I still remember those days. I like nice watches and furniture because they’re simple, yet well made things that one can keep for a lifetime.

Motorcycle. I was always the kid with the worst car. Even now, my 1999 Ford Escort is the automotive equivalent of an anticlimax –especially if you consider the previous paragraph. The problem is that the Ford Escort never breaks, sips gas, and can move lumber as well as people --I have guilt around selling something perfectly good for next to nothing. My motorcycle is the shiny impractical complement to it. I love it. I think it looks classic and timeless (a weird thing to say about a sports bike I realize). Lastly, it was my reward to myself for my second Master’s. I custom ordered it from Germany in March and picked it up in June on the same day I turned over my thesis to the printers. It’s kind of my icon of delayed gratification.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Audio Blog: A Really Good Idea

Yesterday afternoon I met with Jean, Lisa, and Belinda for a nice chat on the lawn.

They told me about their audio blog effort. I thought it was a wonderful idea, but wanted to see it in action before commenting on it.

From an efficiency point, it’s wonderful as people’s times are used concurrently. This opens up more time for reading or group work.

From an academic point of view, the ideas of one’s peers do wonders for completing ideas in one’s own head. The conversation today took me places in my thinking that I otherwise wouldn’t have gone.

Another benefit is that it’s difficult to stay focused in class on a Friday at 3:00pm. The speaker was excellent, but the problem was with the exhausted audience. By knowing that I’d have to participate in a panel discussion with my peers immediately after, I had no choice but to listen. The immediacy of applying what I’ve heard in a critical way through discussion actually enhanced my understanding. Lastly, the act of participating and sharing with others similarly enhanced my retention.

Anyway, I’m really happy about ending my week off with such a wonderful discovery. Thank you peers for sharing your brilliant idea.

A good weekend to all,

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Educational Value of Gaming

Steve’s "Scratch" blog inspired this post as I share his sentiments. Dr. Li’s commentary on failure within video games as a learning tool resonated with me. In traditional education, failure has exaggerated negative consequences (social stigma, parent “feedback” –in every possible form in my childhood--, grade level implications, etc.). In games, failure has very muffled consequences. You fail/die, you put in another quarter and try again. Eventually you master the learning/game and find new challenges.

Life’s much more like a game than I ever realized. Thanks original Nintendo.


Pesonal Reflection: “Slow is better. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”

My thoughts on taking multiple courses simultaneously and finishing the doctorate quickly:

No one got here without being ambitious, highly intelligent, and an overachiever. Also, everyone I’ve talked to here has a high-level job –no one is a parking attendant who gets to read while waiting for customers, for example.

I’m going to take things as slow as I can and try to do them as well as I can.

This perspective is informed by the experience of my second Master’s. First Master’s wasn’t all that hard because the courses were spread out over a longer period –I wanted to speed through them, but couldn’t because they weren’t offered sooner. My second Master’s was much more compressed. Added to that, my work demands rose along with my family responsibilities. By the time courses were done I was pretty much burned out. I then did my thesis juggling recovery and production, finishing on-time.

The challenge of a doctorate is that it’s about 4 years and not 2. With a Master’s, you can somehow drag your wounded, injured body across the finish line since it’s a relatively short process. The doctorate is a different story...

Anyway, that’s my humble perspective.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Personal Reflection: Dorms

After 3 hours it’s hard for anything to be good or enjoyable.

First I was reading Januszewski, then it was grassroots video wiki stuff, then it was the Creswell text... This fun began at 3am and it’s now 7:45am as I write this draft. At some point this morning the fun disappeared.

I believe one of my greatest strengths is that I can do things well even when they stop being fun. Being raised by Polish parents who were born in a WWII German labour camp, I was raised with the belief that enjoyment was the optional part of any task.
Things that needed doing got done. Enjoyment was nice, but not necessary.

This morning my parents would have been proud. No enjoyment, but I still kept reading. This was until I got to chapter 4 of the Creswell text. Things changed then. I loved the advice on producing a thesis, particularly writing strategies. That chapter was better than Pulp Fiction.

Have you ever said something negative about people in general terms, and then realized it applied directly to the person you told it to? Yeah, that kind of moment …

The funniest thing about the morning was page 82 of the Creswell text:
One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark. When I furnished this study seven years ago, I pushed the long desk against a blank wall, so I could not see from either window. Once, fifteen years ago, I wrote in a cinder-block cell over a parking lot. It overlooked a tar-and-gravel roof. This pin shed under trees is not quite so good as a cinder-block study was, but it will do. (Dillard, 1989, pp.26-27)

That’s exactly what my dorm is like here at U of C. It’s a terrible place to live, but a great place to read and exercise --like prison.

Anyway, that eerie/comic moment on page 82 was a wonderful end to my morning. Good day everybody. Happy reading/writing wherever you may be.


Resource: Roger's Diffusion of Innovations

I didn’t really understand how blogging would help with anything other than reflection until today. That was a pretty big discovery for me since I didn’t really have a system for dealing with all the information that we’re about to go through in our doctoral journey. I agree that it can be a good way of tracking thoughts, resources, etc. The alternative seems like a loose-leaf filled hell.

Here goes:

Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations
Yesterday I was introduced to Roger’s diffusion of innovation
2.5% are innovators on the bleeding edge, 13.5% are EA, then EM, then LM, then Lag.

I want to do research on bridging the gap between where people are with Ed. Tech use and schools and where they should go. This is a pretty useful piece of the puzzle. Not sure where I’ll use it, but I’ll definitely use it. Thanks.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The good old days...

I miss the good old days. When I was in university I would work nights in a high school gym, cleaning up after bingo. My shift would begin at 10pm. It would be over at 2am. I loved it.

It was one of the best jobs I ever had because even though my body was occupied my mind was free.

I would finish classes in the day, begin my readings, do my homework, and then go to work at 10pm. I would start work with two-fifths of an essay written and finish work with four-fifths. I would then return home, pour my new ideas into the keyboard as quickly as I could, and then craft a careful, unifying conclusion. I’d then go to sleep for an hour or two and catch the bus to UBC at 7:15am.

The best part of being a janitor during my university years was that there was the most work during my holidays. Summer was renovation time (painting, moving lockers, etc.). Christmas holidays were for waxing floors. The beauty of it was that I was needed most when I was most available.

Like I said, I loved my job as a janitor. The beauty of physical work was that I could reflect while I mindlessly move chairs and tables, mopped, and vacuumed. By the time my shift was done, my problems also were gone (or at least I had an approach to solving them). This eventually extended to girl problems, parent problems, friend problems, etc.

When I began working as a teacher things changed. Intellectual work can be all consuming. No longer did I have an opportunity to reflect about things I wanted to at work. I had to think about things that I was paid to think about.

I reflect at every opportunity, but I don’t blog. I blog only when I must. First and foremost, I’m very private. Secondly, there isn’t a lot of time between full-time work, family, and grad school for formal blogging.

All this said, blogging (because I must in this case) is a nice return for me to the good old days of focused, dedicated reflection. Not such a bad thing after all.