The Updates #4

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

In this 4th update, I think I am getting the hang of this and may be able to hold onto it.  Thanks for folks who have reached out and mentioned they appreciate the updates. I'm finding it a really good reflective practice for the week.

A close up of a large sunflower
One of the garden sunflowers

I had the final pilot interview and it went well.  I think I'm getting the hang of interviewing.  The next stop is getting feedback from one of my committee members who is a specialist in the methodology (phenomenography).  Having done these three, I can really see the value in the method and thinking about how collectively the experiences of the participants could help to unearth the structural relationships with the phenomenon.  Meanwhile, while folks have been elated or having conniptions about some loan forgiveness, the White House also dropped this news about pushing for more open access research funded by taxpayer dollars. While there's much to be figured out, it feels like a step in the right direction.  For me, I'm just glad there will be more awareness and consideration of open access and its importance for a democratic society.

The first week of classes is always brimming with optimism and warmth at many institutions but at College Unbound, it's hard not to believe it. To see our students arrive, begin to talk to one another, come out of their shells, and get so excited for the experiences to come is so magical.  There's still lots for us to figure out but to see the students reminds us of how important it is to figure those things out.  

This week was also interesting because, at the end of last week, I took what some might be considered a reasonable risk at work in challenging leadership. I did it respectfully and earnestly (at least I felt like I did and feedback seemed to indicate that) and with a desire to rethink certain assumptions about modalities of learning and community. I am thinking a lot about how we all have the capacity to lead and where and how to do it. For me, this was one of those moments where a confluence of forces and considerations, led me to think that this was an appropriate time to raise questions about how the organization comes to conclusions about things that rub up against my own expertise and ideals of the organization.  And maybe it wasn't as big of a risk as it might sound but that's mostly because of the type of leadership we have--still, to challenge leadership in public still comes with a bit of "well, will I be let into the building on Monday?" energy to it.  

It's a strange thing because I can appreciate and feel more grounded in my work for being able to do this and yet, I also have to recognize how many things are in place that allows this to be a largely safe thing to for me to do.  That includes my identities (white, male, cisgender, educated) and my abilities (someone with specialized knowledge needed for the institution at this particular moment).  And that's something that's not always clear for others.  Challenging leadership or problems with those in power always is contextual and grounded in various degrees of power and structure.  So while I'm glad to do what I did, I'm also wondering are there others who don't feel so empowered (even at this organization, nevermind others), and what would they say?

What I'm Reading

We Had to Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets
A photo of a statue of a man with clouds, sunrays, and ocean in the background.
A shot of the statue at Colt Park in Rhode Island

A novel about the experiences of a group of friends (or coworkers) who work for a company that is contracted out to do content moderation on one of the "big platforms".  What follows is an account by one of them that explores the different ways they become shells of themselves, desensitized to violence and vitriol, and even, succumbing to believing to the more extreme ideas offered up on the platforms.  It's a dark story about capitalism itself and the ways it pushes us to dehumanize and commodify one another and the escalation of that process in the digital age.  

Rhyme's Rooms: The Architecture of Poetry by Brad Leithauser
Leithauser's love of poetry and its magical use of language, sound, and visuals is clearly evident and center stage in this book.  He loves poetry and explores the ways that he appreciates its many different foundational elements to which he wants to share with the reader.  But I often judge books about poetry to how accessible they are to readers (a good on on this is Thomas Foster's How to Read Poetry Like a Professor) and this is not that book.  To appreciate and feel fully immersed or even on the same page (pun intended) as Leithauser, you must have a deeper well of knowledge and experience about poetry.  It's not a love letter to poetry but only for the already-initiated.  

Yellow cab by Christophe Chabouté
A graphic novel about a filmmaker who attains his license and becomes a taxi-driver in New York to gain experiences and stories for a film about a woman cab driver.  It's a reflective tale as we meet different passengers to capture just a glimmer of their life while the protagonist (Cohen) shares both this thoughts about this life that he's living and the story he yearns to create.  

Training Reinforcement: The 7 Principles to Create Measurable Behavior Change and Make Learning Stick by Anthonie Wurth
Some interesting tips and ideas about how to do training; a chunk of it (chart-heavy) is hard to process in audio.  Meanwhile, the author focuses too much on his training and experience as an Olympic competitor for judo that it's often distractive and feels a bit different for the kind of professional training that exists outside of Olympic training. It also feels too heavily focused on the trainer and not enough on thinking through the learners and the plurality of approaches needed to successfully help them.

Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School by Andy Hargreaves
So this book is about 10 years old and it's an updated version of a book by another title. At its best, the idea of more unifying the teaching profession and leveraging a mixture of experience and science to better improve the standing of the profession is ideal (and given that in 2022, some states--ahem, Florid--continue to lower standards for who can teach and with what qualifications, much needed).  Still, digging down in the framework of capital and production and knowing that capitalist tendencies of individualism and neoliberalism are at the core of many of the problems and woes of education, makes me leery of both the name and the approach.

What I'm Watching

Everything, Everywhere, All at Once
What a visual and contemplative feast this movie offers. It has its moments of charm, earnestness, and hints of the sublime while all the same raising interesting questions about the meaning of life, intergenerational conflict, and the totality of our decisions. I had heard folks saying this was the better of the "multiverse" films that came out this spring (there was also Marvel's Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness" and I can see clearly both in how it constructs family, motherhood, and parallel lives, it gave its center much more attention and care.  

What's on My Mind

What it takes to make a routine stick
As the semester starts with a setup where I'm in the office for 3 days and working from home for two, along with some range of hours depending on the day that changes up from day into evening with work.  I'm good at creating routines and making them work so I can get different things done. I've been able to do this work working out (set out clothes and coffee at night; get up, get said coffee, bathroom trip, and off to run/cycle) dissertating (come back from workout, shower, breakfast, and sit my ass down for an hour on Focusmate), or bedtime routine (walk with my partner, hottub, play with cat, reading, bedtime).    

But I'm trying to add a few more things regularly into my schedule.  While I'm good with cardio every day, I need to build in more weights and flexibility (yoga) routines as I can tell my body does well with these and trying to figure out where these fit best and how to do them consistently. I'm also looking to do more consistent journaling.  I can see places it might fit but need to see how well I can make it happen. 

I know it's something many of us grapple with--doing things that we want or know are good for us.  Two books that I can recommend on the topic are Tiny Habits by B.J. Fogg and Atomic Habits by James Clear.  I might need to revisit them to think more about this. 

Data Overreach
I was excited to hear that some practices related to online proctoring for tests are considered unconstitutional. I have lots of thoughts about data privacy and the ways data is used by institutions, facutly, and third-party vendors (so much so, I wrote an article on it last year). I was also in conversation with a colleague recently as we think about what it means to use learning management systems that track students' actions and where is the right line of useful information to help support students and overreach that may cause harm; and where in all of that do students have agency and a say in it all.  

Well, that's my week!  See you next time!

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