Showing posts with label higher education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label higher education. Show all posts

The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #2

So in the last blog post, I merely stated my ideas but in this post, I want to drill down a bit further with them and see where that lands me.  My advisor has given me a handful of questions that I think will be useful for me to articulate what it is I'm trying to get at.  As I start to pinpoint different ideas to consider, I feel like this will help me refine my ideas and translate them into something more coherent.

Accessing the Digital University

What does this subject/topic mean to me?

I think about the span of my higher education experience (19 out of the last 20 years, I have been in higher education as a student, faculty, or staff--sometimes all 3 at once) and I think about the increasing digitalization of higher education.  I came into higher education just as computers were becoming ubiquitous, colleges were using websites, and libraries were using databases but they were still overwhelmingly analog spaces.  Over the years, I watched as classrooms gained whiteboards and projectors, as email became a space of dialogue between instructors and students, where learning management systems became a home, not just to online courses (initially, largely textual) but also to face-to-face courses.  I've seen the student management systems become robust (though still flakey) enough to be able to do many different things that it significantly reduces the trips and time one had to waste in lines in years past.  None of this even touches upon how social media, tablets, and smartphones have changed colleges and universities.  

All of this is to say that there has been many changes to how students, faculty, and staff engage with an institution and many of those entail a digital interface of one means or another.  A college is not longer just a physical space (if it ever was) but a digital one and that is fascinating to me on all three levels (student, instructor, staff) and how that changes (or doesn't) experiences and meanings of college.  


What's the problem to study?

While digital has many different opportunities to positively change and influence the access to, experience in, and success at college for all players, the move to digital is not without its challenges and problems on many different fronts.  The digitalization of processes, information, and communication means that accessing services and resources requires digital access.  Those with the best access are likely to make out better than those with limited access.  More importantly, it also requires different skillsets--technical skills on top of the other skills needed to manuever through a complex environment.  


A drawing of a computer with the screen reading, "Access Denied; #SorryNotSorry"

Higher education already demands various cultural and social capital (to speak nothing of financial capital) to access and succeed.  To this, we are adding techno-capital (or rather, adding the requirement for more techno-captial as it can be argued there has been a techno-capital requirement prior to the last twenty years).  Techno-capital is the ability to both access and manipulate technology.  This becomes a problem because just like social and cultural capital are not spread out equal, techno-capital isn't either.  Those with social and cultural cpaital are already likely to have or to easily acquire digital capital. 

It also seems clear that at the K-12 level, techno-capital isn't distributed equally with some schools having a plethora of technology including a one-to-one programs while others have little-to-none technology in the students' daily lives.  A digital presence is likely to help build a student's techno-capital, making them more capable in knowing how to use technology and possibly even more knowledgeable about how to access it (e.g. they may encounter more tech-hacks when technology is present such as being aware of a rental program for tablets if they forget their tablet at home could translate into knowing such services exist on an as-need basis).  Thus, often, students lacking equitable social and cultural capital (of the the kind that is valued in higher education), are potentially furthered disadvantaged as colleges become increasingly digital and it decreases a student's chance at success.


What's the thing that needs solving?

Ultimately, as colleges continue to digitalize their processes, they increase the need for techno-capital by all members.  While those already part of a college environment (e.g. faculty), may be able to push back (e.g. refuse to use the learning management system beyond the bare minimum) or at least get training on the job for catching up with the new digital processes, the students desiring to become part of or just recently joined with the instution are left to fend for themselves.  So how do we undo the harm and limitations put upon students lacking techno-capital through the digitalization of higher education.  


What am I addressing?

Great question.  When I look at what I've written thus far, it would seem that I'm thinking mainly about access to higher education and techno-capital's role within it as the institution becomes increasingly digital, does it replicate so many of the issues of access that we have seen in the past in higher education.  That is, are we just reshuffling the board rather than improving access to higher education?
  

What does this contribute to?

Embedded in so many college missions is that idea of access or a similar social justice mission that looks to create a more equitable space.  Higher education masturbatorily speaks of itself as a meritocracy but stacks the deck regularly and the digitalization of higher education, whether knowingly or not, contributes to a further disenfranchisement of access and support for students whose circumstances, rather their abilities preclude them from being made members of a college community.     
    
I've found this quite useful so you can expect more them laid out like this.  So in the next post, I'll tackle the idea of techno-capital and its role within learning in the same fashion.  


Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. The PhD Chronicles #26: Dissertation Journal #1



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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: Reframing Academic Leadership

Reframing Academic Leadership Reframing Academic Leadership by Lee G. Bolman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bolman's work does a good job of highlighting the many different challenges to leading in higher education with accessible prose and good examples or anecdotes to illustrate his points. He succeeds that problematizing the role of leadership in higher education and the many different ways there are to fail. What is provided is not a fool-proof guide, but a general map that shows readers where they are likely to fail and how best to recover. Additionally, a strong value that Bolman addresses that many other texts leave out is how to lead upward. Many texts focus solely on leadership from the top of the hierarchy but he spends a reasonable amount of time, guiding people moving upward.

View all my reviews



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

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The PhD Chronicles: Dissertation Journal #1

Word cloud of this post in the form of Rodin's Thinker.
Welcome to my new series within the PhD Chronicle series.  Herein, I will writing reflections and thoughts about where I am currently with thinking about my dissertation. I'm 30 courses in and if I haven't already, I should really start thinking about what I'm doing for my dissertation.  To be honest, I have been thinking about it, but this semester, my goal is to actively journal about it in the insuring months to see if I can find a strong focus and direction that I want to commit to.  In the next year, we will be writing our qualifying paper proposal (QPP) and qualifying paper (QP), which we will need to submit to move forward int he program.  Ideally, your QPP, QP, and dissertation proposal (DP) all align and I hope by working through these entries I can maintain that direct line of thinking.  

So let's start with some of my initial thoughts and consideration about what I want to focus on with my dissertation are.  


What is the current direction for my research interests/potential dissertation? I find myself coming back to a two areas of interest for my research.  These topics all relate in some way or another so if you see some thread that connects them all--by all means, share away!



Digital Access


As a college becomes more digital than brick, how does the institute respond to the question of access for students?  A century of writing and lore has focused entirely on how students prepare for physical institutions but how do they prepare and universities prepare them for digital institutions?  Institutions have digitized a variety of systems and processes from requests for information to applications to submission of and receiving of financial aid to student information systems to course materials and assignment submissions to digital portfolios and much more.  How does the move to digital create challenges or problems for student populations that may already encounter limitations or challenges in accessing higher education.  While students may increasingly have access to the digital world, how does techno-capital (not just access but ability) contribute to students' success in college?

Key terms:  techno-capital, academic capitalism, access, digital university, 



Digital Public Good


How do universities use the level of scale afforded by the digital world in order to more systematically engage in, quantify, and illustrate their essential role as contributors to the common good?  Higher education often fails to quantify their individual and collective contributions to society and particularly for public higher education, this reinforces the idea that higher education is a personal good, not a public good.  To that end, I am interested in looking at ways in which higher educations are using the digital environment to better capture and quantify the impact of their work.  Several topics come to mind with this particular topic including the exploration of open educational resources, open data and research, and also digital service learning.  With each, it becomes easy to see track and extrapolate the impact that higher education has on society at large and thus to be able to argue the value and importance of supporting higher education.   

Key terms:  public good, open educational resources, OER, open research, open data, digital commons, digital service learning, academic capitalism, techno-capital 


So that's where I'm at right now.  In the next post, I'm going to try an exercise to break them down further and see if that leads me in any interesting directions.

With these entries, I strongly encourage and hope that readers will chime in with thoughts, ideas, sources, or interesting questions to consider.  I am grateful for any and all help you're willing to give!
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

My Educational Autobiography

In my recent course on teaching and learning in my program, we were asked to write an educational autobiography.  I have done such activities previously and always found them insightful to who I am at the moment and as a means of seeing what differences influence me each time I re-write it.  I also realized, it might not be a bad idea to share my educational autobiography for those of you who are interested in learning a bit more about my learning experiences.  


Word cloud of this educational autobiography in the form of a lightbulb.



Learning As Living


I couldn’t excel in the emotionally and socially-alienating structure of high school even though I was intelligent; it was a toxic environment that led to depression, self-harm (bulimia and cutting), and suicide attempts.  Upon entering higher education in 1997, I sighed with great relief.  In college, I found a home to which I would spend all but one of the last nineteen years as a student, an educator, and a staff member; sometimes, all three at once.

My father encouraged my intellectual curiosity, insisting on being a life-long learner and that the longer one lived, the less one knew.  As the stay-at-home-parent in my middle class, suburban, white family, he reiterated these messages often.  I like to think there was something innate about me that drove me to be a learner but my upbringing, coupled with the privileges afforded it, strong encouragement from mentors all along the way, and being the younger brother of an athlete (leaving me have to find my own area where I excelled), tells me that my circumstances strongly guided my desire to be involved in academia and to pursue what might be considered excessive education (a bachelor and associate’s degree, three master’s degrees, and a doctorate).

However, four other realms strongly intertwine with my educational development:  libraries, the internet, books, and writing. They all overlap and weave into one another; it’s hard to fully untie them.  Living within walking distance meant I regularly visited the library throughout middle and high school, just to explore and learn new things.  Not only would the library introduce me to some of my favorite authors and books over the years, but they would introduce me to audiobooks, a form of reading and learning that has fundamentally changed my life.  Around this same time, I gained access to the Internet and like the library, this allowed me ample opportunity to explore the pockets of knowledge and even teach myself new things (such as website design).  As a respite from high school alienation, I also took to writing fiction and creating my own worlds.  Eventually, I would complete a several-hundred-page novel by the end of my junior year of high school (after re-writing it several times in freshman and sophomore years).  These accomplishments and pursuits stimulated my intellectual curiosity and confidence so that upon entering college, I was already primed in some fundamental ways for succeeding (self-determination, research exploration, dedication to long-term goals, willingness to learn for learning’s sake).   

            I went to the local state college, though I had been accepted elsewhere.  I intended to be a high school history teacher (something that changed upon entering college and realizing, returning to high school seemed a bad choice) and saw no point in accumulating unnecessary debt; I also formed the belief that learning differences between institutions was minimum.  I advocated my way into the Honors Program being on the edge of qualified and here is where things came together with a strong socially, emotionally, and intellectually supportive environment among the faculty and students that made my experience quite powerful.  Between mentors in the Honors Program and in my department, I soon realized by my sophomore year that more degrees would follow, a master’s degree for sure, but now the specter of a doctoral degree was formulating. 

Over the twelve years of learning in higher education, I’ve realized some important aspects about my learning. I learn best when I have the flexibility to take the learning in the direction that I feel is important but that flexibility is tempered by guidance and high expectations.  For instance, my final project in my American studies master’s degree allowed me to pursue a fascinating subject (transpeople representation in media contrasted with the history of transpeople), but my advisors kept pushing me to make my writing stronger through additional application of theory and revising.  By contrast, my final project for my instructional design degree felt less useful in that I was able to explore what I wanted (hybrid flexible pedagogy), but received superficial feedback on my work (grammatical edits).  The failure to provide strong critical feedback has always lessened my educational experiences.  I believe I am a reasonably intelligent person and I’m not interested in affirmation of my intelligence (though it can be appreciated), but rather I want feedback on how to make it better or insight into what I have missed. 

As a student, I become quite frustrated and devalued when artificial barriers are put in the way of my learning (something strongly influenced by my roles as an instructor and instructional designer).  When I struggle with my education, I want it to be on the concepts and ideas of the learning, not with peripherals.  Therefore, if the instructor is using tools, they need to make sure the tool and their use of it are as seamless as possible.  Too often, I have grown frustrated with an instructor throwing 20-30 readings into a single folder in Blackboard with no consistent naming convention.  The result is a few hours, downloading, renaming, and organizing the readings in a manner that allows for me to actually know what it is I have to read.  Such hurdles distract unnecessarily from my learning rather than enhance it. 

I thrive as a learner when I begin making connections within the discipline or area of study and how it operates and its overlay.  More importantly, I feel like I’m succeeding when I begin to create new connections, hypotheses, and knowledge within that area.  In my undergraduate program, as I began to consider what to explore for my Honor’s thesis, I found myself being able to interconnect my learning in several different courses (Russian history, Gender in Latin American History, Magic and Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, and Contemporary European History) to understand a historical anomaly about the Russian witch-hunt and be able to explain it, through research.  Being able to speak to something that no one had covered or explored showed me that I had been successful in my pursuit of a history degree.

This reflection would be remised if I did not also consider the informal learning that has played an essential role in my educational autobiography.  As mentioned the library, books, and the internet continue to be my sidekicks to learning, always present and used to further explore what I’m interested in and also to explore other subjects and cross-pollinate different subjects to look for ideas or different frames.  Then, of course, there is the ways in which being an instructor and instructional designer has helped me to understand my own learning and also helped me to learn that same material to which I was teaching.  That is, teaching has showed me there are entirely other ways of learning material and that it becomes one more learning tool. 


-->
In so many ways, this autobiography is insufficient to a degree that I feel like each sentence could be its own introductory sentence to a chapter in the book on my education. Everyone may experience trouble with this but my challenge is that I have above average education even for a doctoral student and have thought deeply about all of it over the years.  That’s not to say this exercise isn’t useful or that I still don’t learn from it, but that I still feel constricted by doing the autobiography justice. For decades now, I have seen myself as a voracious and enthusiastic learner.  I’ve come to understand learning as a fundamental aspect of life and that its pursuit is another way of maintaining one of the most powerful traits that I think humans possess, the ability to change and grow.

If you have enjoyed this post and want to learn more about my adventures in my Phd program, check out this series of blog posts.



Did you enjoy this read? Let me know your thoughts down below or feel free to browse around and check out some of my other posts!. You might also want to keep up to date with my blog by signing up for them via email. 

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Review: Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System

Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System Understanding College and University Organization, Volume I: Theories for Effective Policy and Practice: The State of the System by James L. Bess
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ok, this is definitely not a sexy book by any means judging by the title, right? It was assigned by my instructor in my PhD program (and also, the author, Dee). However, it is actually a really solid breakdown of understanding higher education organizations (or disorganizations, no?). As textbooks go, it is accessible with its language, provides useful tools and resources for further consideration, and provides clear connections as it moves through each topic. One is never lost or feeling like the discussion is off the mark. It provides great examples and guiding questions that help readers better apply what they are learning. I highly recommend it to anyone trying to wrap their head around higher education and how it works (or doesn't).

View all my reviews

The PhD Chronicles: Completing the Second Semester

Papers are passed in and my brain is a sludgy mess.  But that's ok, because that's what I wanted, right?  I said that I wanted a program that was going to push me and make me feel like my brain has been sent through a blender--sooooo, mission accomplished?!?!?

It is accomplished and there is no real need for the question mark.  The course work challenged me and pushed me to think and learn a lot.  It became intense at times as I juggled working, the program, running, writing, running a session of Changing Lives Through Literature, presenting at conferences and other activities into the semester.  It was a lot and probably more than I should do, but it is hard to say no to things that you enjoy so much.  
#braindead #brended (ok, bren ded is when I don't properly pronounce the #diphthong in brain dead - the tongue is not comprehend) and yes I did say DIPHTHONG. Save me @iamfiz @jadesimian
Right now--despite my brain in a gooey state, I am content with the semester.  I'm happy with what I did for my final projects and particularly for my Access and Equity course, I feel it will give me some good material to work with as I move forward and look to understand the impact of the digital divide on the open educational resources movement.  I've found some interesting resources and it gives me a good starting place for my potential future dissertation.  My History of Higher Education project may not be entirely related to my future work, but I also feel I had fun with it, found it interesting to explore the different themes in the Wellesley News during 1918-1920, and it certainly fits in with some of my work in general around media and popular culture studies.  

In total, I felt that the semester pushed me, taught me, and encouraged me, despite the challenges I faced along the way.  I believe I accomplished a lot in terms of developing as a practitioner-scholar while also growing in other ways outside of the program.  So here's to the end of one semester, a break, and the start of another!

Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania

Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania Where You Go Is Not Who You'll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania by Frank Bruni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The most important statement I can say about this book is that every student should read this book in their freshmen or sophomore year of high school--yes, high school. Bruni's exploration into 3-Card Monte structure that is higher education when it comes to seducing students should be understood by all students as it has many long-term implications for them. Throughout the book, Bruni systematically breaks down the traditional mindset to aspire to elite colleges, noting how success in getting into them and success as a result of attending them is drastically overrated and over-played. He highlights a range of approaches and strategies that students should use to determine what form of higher education is best for them.

View all my reviews

The PhD Chronicles: Zeroing in on Research

Research, the centerpiece of work in graduate work is always a tricky beast.  Ideally, it should be a time in which students are able to focus solely on their topic, find meaningful and relevant literature to inform their approach, process it, conduct field research (if possible or relevant), and pull it altogether into a meaningful product known wide and far as the "term paper."  But alas, that's pretty much how it never goes. 

Papers are always composed in media res of the semester while we are busy with trying to keep up with the course work, keep up with our own work, and have some semblance of a life.  Like Facebook says our relationship with research is complicated.  But we press on.  In a well-designed course, the professor is likely to be a useful and ongoing guide in our research, providing a few opportunities to check in, provide feedback, and when necessar, course correct.  Other times, we're tossed to the wolves, praying we come through with something coherent.  

I don't feel like I'm in that latter category this semester.  I feel supported in both research papers, though trying to figure them out, devout enough time, and make it all look pretty for submission is still a Sisyphean task.  But that is, indeed, the name of the game.  

So what am I researching this semester?

In my Access & Equity course, I am exploring the issue of the digital divide and its impact on higher education.  As colleges continue to develop their digital presence in the form of online registration, library resources, course resources in the learning management system, online and hybrid courses, etc, what risks does this pose for students stuck on the wrong side of the digital divide.  This paper is an annotated bibliography of the research out there and there is mixed research out there which is both useful and challenging.  Thus far, the most interesting element that I am appreciating is the distinction within the literature between access and ability.  The term "technocapital" has shown up a few times as a comparison to social or cultural capital.  In this way, technocapital is not just access to technologies, but the ability for one to leverage said technologies for beneficial outcomes.  

All of this came together pretty easy.  However, my project for the History of Higher Education was a bit more complicated.  I wanted to explore the history of the textbook in higher education but after a month of footnote and paper-chasing, I realized it is not likely the best to pursue right now as I wouldn't be able to complete it in this semester.  So, enter the:


Paper title of Wellesley College News 1-10-1918


At the same time I was coming to this conclusion, we did an activity in our class where we looked at different editions of the Wellesley College News over the decades and observed interesting differences.  This encouraged me to think about looking at this particular collection (since it is available in full at this site) and I decided to explore this college newspaper written during 1918-1920 and see what the impact of World War I and women's suffrage is upon the college newspaper.  I rather like this idea as I feel it could yield some interesting results.  It's not quite the turn I anticipated but I am excited to pursue it and see where it takes me.

In that regard, I like how research happens.  You sometimes have specific expectations and goals to accomplish and that can be derailed, which gives way to something new.  I've found the papers thus far in this program to be quite useful at getting me to think differently.  That is, they are learning experiences in themselves more than papers have been in some of my previous degrees.  Well, back to work for me!
Want to catch up on my previous reflections about being in a PhD program?  Check them out:
  1. Acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.