Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Qualitative research

So here I am now completing my final course in the doctoral program. I am so glad I left this one until the last -- only because it is really bringing the past year and a half into focus. This time last year I had just started the doctoral seminar course and was being exposed to a whole new lexicon. That course gave me such a wonderful opportunity to explore worldviews and paradigms and as I muddled my way through I found that the middle ground that works for me. Pragmatism! Thankfully my supervisor shares this perspective and has built his academic world around it.

Now that I am doing this qualitative course I see how the program has been scaffolded. First I had to know the paradigm language, learn more about the specific discipline, and then be exposed to the methods. Some peers chose to do the 700 seminar and the methods courses in parallel but I don't think I would have had the same mind-enriching experience had I gone that route. I am very happy that I chose to do the courses in the order in which my dissertation will be written...paradigm, problem, methods.

On a concluding note, the first formal assignment for this course is an autobiographical reflection. Of all the papers and presentations in the program this is the one I have struggled with the most. The struggle continues...so an update next week on how I have addressed the paper.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Year 2 - day ?

It has been about a week since the last post. This is the second of two weeks here in Calgary--the second and final of my two week residencies. Today I spoke to the first year students. I was so honored to have been asked to speak. Of course, immediately after agreeing to speak I thought "aghaaa...what do I have to impart?" Last year the people who spoke to me had such life changing experiences occur (cancer, deaths in the family, etc.) that I felt inadequate to address the possibilities of the depth of their experience. As humble as I feel, I hope my 'tips and tricks' will help the first year students adapt to their new environment. A large part of what we are doing as graduate students involve the idea of being mentors and co-creators of knowledge so I hope the first year students this year embrace the idea of collaboration and sharing knowledge as well as supporting each other.

And now I am off to work on my individual papers.

On a completely 'un-academic' level...no, I won't go there now...but stay tuned.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Year 2 - Day 2...accessibility

Today we had a field trip to the Computer Science area. There are endless possibilities for content using the development structures discussed today. At the end of today I will focus on two ‘access’ issues in two very different geographic and economic contexts.

First, these kinds of virtual world/media rich projects are incredibly expensive to create. There is a valid argument to be made that in Canada at a publicly funded university or where grants come from the federal government via a funding agency all the materials produced should be openly available and shared. As a tax payer, yes, I want that access for students and professionals! What I wonder is what is in it for the producers in an academic context? Is it like MIT where you get bragging rights for developing the materials and build your resume that way as a student or faculty member?

Aside from the expense to create, what about the implicit expense passed on to students. Sure it is fair to say that this might replace expensive texts and that one of the key responsibilities of educators is to prepare students by ensuring they graduate able to interact with sophisticated technology they may be using in the workplace. My problem is when developers force students to buy a specific device. Surely we can start to get some convergence going with regards to interoperability. I don’t have a problem being told I need a laptop for my program (in fact I take that for granted). What I have a MAJOR problem with is being forced to purchase from a specific company regardless of the name of the company. How is it that publicly funded schools can mandate that you must have an iPad? Why would educators want to be Apple salespeople? (We could just as easily substitute Dell or whatever company here.)

Secondly, still on accessibility, as I have been telling many of you I had the absolute honour to have delivered a workshop in Zambia at the eLearning Africa Conference. Here were all these bright young people who just were thrilled that they could work uninterrupted on a computer for a couple of hours. The connectivity was unreliable, the computers ranging in age and loaded with open source products because the university could not afford licenses…The lab director made do with what he had and under the circumstances did an excellent job. Even if we shared all the educational resources we saw today freely with the world, where does the bandwidth heavy Second Life fit for educators in Africa? Where do the device-specific applications fit in a region where an iPhone goes on the black market for 1,800 dollars because there is no business case for Apple to invest in Africa and only the very rich can even contemplate owning such a status symbol?

I wish I had answers to the questions above! For now it is just a confused mix of endless wonderful possibilities punctuated by indignation and outrage.


The shallows

I have not yet read "The Shallows" but I definitely will! I have heard the premise is that the Internet has made us consumers of shallow but broad information. Jack of all trades, master of none?

I studied English literature as an undergraduate and part of the program was learning to appreciate how much the actual spoken and written language changed over time. Chaucerian English (spoken and written) is totally different to Shakespearean/Elizabethan to 18th Century, etc. What we have witnessed is that speech patterns became less complex, and reading and writing became more accessible to the ‘masses’. As such the transfer of information, theoretically, became more accessible. Is not the Internet just the continuation of that process? A new lexicon is developing (shorter, quicker) because we type it not speak it? The shallowness did not start with the Internet; it is just its latest iteration.

We live in a culture of multi-tasking and whether it is the internet, a report for work, a tv show, or a book, we just don’t have the time to focus on ANYTHING in great depth. So are we shallow because of the internet? Was the Internet just in time to address our need for shallow but broad knowledge? Or is it like the great vowel shift that took place somewhere between the 13 and 15th centuries in England…No one really knows but it is alive and embedded in our speech.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Year 2 - Day 1...Public vs Private

OK-So it is the first day of classes and even though I am a second year student I am feeling just as overwhelmed as I did at this time last year. On the positive side, it has been great to re-connect with many of the colleagues from last year and to meet the new cohort. One funny thing is how much everyone's area of interest is becoming more refined.

In class today we had an interesting discussion of the public versus private environments. I am conflicted to some degree between the benefits of an open and accessible environment and a closed, secure one. On the one hand, why am I paying such high fees if all the technology I am using in the program is open source and free to the university as well as, in many cases, open to the public. Yes, I realise I will get credit for participation while the general public who have interest in the area won't.

I also do not fear the loss of my 'intellectual property' but rather I wonder if people will be more likely to take chances and put ideas out there if they are operating in a secure, supportive environment. Maybe it is a confidence issue? Perhaps one becomes more of an authority and have a discipline-specific rubric/standard by which to evaluate our musings better we may be more likely to embrace a completely open environment.

I am not 100% sure of how the next two weeks will evolve but I am confident that all things will fall into place.

Friday, June 4, 2010

eLearning Africa experience

Being between semesters I am supposed to be reading material related to my thesis topic/candidacy paper. I did start with good intentions but I have been side tracked a little preparing for and attending the 5th eLearning Africa conference. in Zambia Africa. I conducted a 1/2 day workshop there and also did a presentation on ePortfolios. While not related directly to my doctoral work the preparation and attendance was informative and has reinforced for me that I need to get my doctoral credential in order to more fully participate in these kinds of initiatives in the future.

My workshop was on Open Source tools that can be easily incorporated into a course or used by an instructor to improve communication with their students. It was a good experience just preparing for the workshop and I met some great people that afternoon.

The conference was largely focused on mobile technologies and Open Educational Resources--both topics will be covered more this coming summer in the two classes I am signed up for. So ultimately while I am not working specifically on doctoral readings it is all converging on one level or another.

Now that I am back I am reading Curtis Bonk's The World is Open. A fitting transition to the world of being a student again.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Looking forward to summer 2010's courses

I am supposed to be doing some reading related to my dissertation this month. Actually I have done some reading but mostly related to the summer courses for 2010. I am enjoying having a break and need some time to get mentally prepared for year 2 of the Journey.

These past couple of weeks I have been working on getting prepared for a workshop and presentation I have to do at eLearning Africa. I have the workbook prepared for the workshop, the eP presentation ready and am just finalizing details. How does this relate to my doctoral studies? Directly it does not since it is not contributing to my proposal or my dissertation but it is contributing to my professional development and giving me the opportunity to leverage some of the knowledge I have gained in the program. Another aspect of this month is that it has me thinking about my future and what I want to do with a doctorate. Here is where my love of travel, education and technology can come together! Ah, but first things first...do my two courses this summer and the final one next fall and then focus on the next phase.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

End of year 1 (just about)

I am at a loss this week. For the first time in 10 months I have nothing pressing to do. The work for the doctoral seminar course has concluded with each of us developing a mock proposal with a focus on the theoretical framework and worldview and the design being only thoughts at this point. The comments from classmates and the exercise of reading and asking questions to our peers was very informative. I then took a chance and sent the mock proposal to my supervisor who indicated he liked what he saw. I am working on a reading list now to help develop my thinking.

The quantitative methods course is also at an end. It was a valuable experience as well since the focus was on understanding the material and not on actually doing the calculations. I have finished my paper for the course and we have our final elluminate Live session tomorrow evening.

For the rest of April and then May and June I can read, rest and refresh. This summer I will be taking two courses again. With some luck I will be done my courses by Christmas and can then work on my proposal. I am looking forward to the qualitative methods course in the fall because that is really the final piece that I will need prior to developing my own study.


Monday, March 1, 2010

March 1

The critique has been handed in and now we are doing our mock proposals. This is probably the most difficult thing I have done! The ideas are just not flowing. I have a sample proposal that I just read but in order to find something unique I feel like I have to read a lot more. The interesting thing here is that this is the first work in this course that we are doing individually. The rest of the work was group/team based, so it is different and a bit lonely.

I am not going to do a course in the spring and will use that time to read. Two courses this summer, so that will be busy but good. Am eager to get into the research side of the process.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow Day?

A winter blizzard has just started outside but I suspect it will end over night so no chance of a snow day!

Jean, Bob and I have prepared out quantitative analysis presentation and sent it in. The first part of the quantitative course went well I believe. It is really helping me in terms of setting the context of 'numbers'. It is also making me very critical and skeptical about statistics that are reported in various studies.

The doctoral seminar course is also going well. We are currently each reviewing a dissertation and will meet online at the end of the month to share our thoughts. Reading the dissertation has brought all of the items together. I see how the framework informs the methods and methodology and the linkages through the study.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Semester 3 has started

I had a very restful break at Christmas and had the opportunity to re-read and consolidate the ideas from 700A and also read the thesis I am going to critique for part B, so I feel good starting the term. I feel confident that I am on the right track after reading the thesis because I can see how my worldview fits well with my area of interest. So basically I have a paradigm to work from. I also have the Community of Inquiry model which also sits within the Interpretivist/Contructionist area so I am confident about that part of the process.

I have just commenced the third semester of my Doctoral program. In order not to take too long with the program, I am doing two courses this semester. I was worried at first because I am not a numbers person but the quantitative methods course is really well organized and aimed an non-mathematicians. One of the primary texts is Statistics without Tears by Derek Rowntree. It is a very reasonable and readable book which makes statistics really user friendly. I can see the relevance to my thesis and in interpreting the work of others. It is primarily individual work-based but there is a group presentation. I am working with Jean Slick and Bob Sochowsy. I must double check the due dates for the assignments since it is a mostly asynchronous course.

Aside from required work, I am trying to read more to get some work done surrounding developing a proposal. At this point I need to think about research questions. My fear is that I am enjoying the reading and work so much that I am loosing interest in people. How will I be able to have a balanced approach to this program?