400 Words

Start time: 5:29 pm

Writing. So many people in academic environments struggle with writing, and I am no exception. My typical problems include procrastination and overcommitment, which then combine to paralyze me at times. Rather than writing anything, I write nothing (not to fear, I’m still working because there’s always plenty to grade, edit, report on, etc.). For the last several years, I’ve tended to put myself last, which means that writing has been last on my to do list. I would have inner dialogues that went something like this:

Okay, it’s 9 am. Why not give yourself 30 minutes to catch up on email, then knock out those letters of recommendation, check in with the online class, do the manuscript review for the journal, and then you’ll be clear to write your own manuscript for the rest of the day. 

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Who’s your people? On building online networks

“Who’s your people?” She demanded, looking him straight in the eye.

“Ummm. Pardon me, ma’am?” He replied, tentatively.

I was not sure if he couldn’t understand her thick southern accent, or if he couldn’t understand the nature of her question.

“Who’s your people?” She asked again.

After a moment, her daughter – my great aunt – who was playing hostess and serving up delicious slices of pecan pie jumped into the conversation to help out, “Oh, Mama, he’s not from around here. You don’t know his people.”

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Twitter: for the birds?

This spring, my research collaborators and I interviewed more than 50 people about (among other things) their Twitter use. This was on the heels of spending 3 days in two high school classrooms last year interacting with teens about their social media use and attitudes (including Twitter). And now I find myself once again with 35 of my own students in a course focused on social media, in which I alternately introduce my students to, reunite them with, or simply play alongside them on Twitter. All of this is to say that I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about how people perceive and use Twitter. And tonight I’m thinking a lot about how to discuss Twitter — and why/how some people use it and others don’t — with my students.

My bracketing statement, before I go any further:

I am primarily a situational Twitter user, and I tweet mostly on topics related to my profession, although occasionally share something that amuses me or that is more personal. Mostly I tweet during events, such as conferences. I also tweet each summer when I teach my social media class. (Full disclosure, I also tweet with a class during the school year, but not from my personal account so I’m not really counting that. It’s a very deliberate and scheduled act then, not at all naturalistic or exploratory.) Passively, I use Twitter sporadically (sometimes I go a month without logging on). If I’m killing time, I’ll open the app and see if there’s anything interesting to read. If a ‘news event’ is unfolding, especially something local, I may go on Twitter to try to figure out what is going on. Hurricane Hermine (hiding in my basement while 2 huge trees fell on my house) and the shooting at the FSU Library (I heard the many sirens) would be two such instances. So, who do I follow? A collection of local places, thought leaders, professional organizations, colleagues, media outlets/magazines, and some random accounts that amuse me. Put that all together, and that’s my Twitter experience. Oh, and let’s not forget that I’m American. Although I follow people in various countries, I know my perspective is an American one and the people with whom I’ve discussed Twitter recently are either American or living/studying in the United States.

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Presence is a blessing, omnipresence is a curse

I’ve been thinking about an instructor’s social presence in learning environments a lot lately. I just wrapped co-editing a special issue of Distance Education on Social Presence and Identity (still awaiting issue assignment), and also facilitated a module on social presence for online educators (for those who are interested, see some of my teaching resources on this topic linked below). Plus I’m teaching online all summer, and I find that I’m constantly thinking about how I am — and am not — present for my students in different ways and at different times.

Instructor presence in a course is expected. In classrooms, it cannot be avoided other than through absence. If an instructor is teaching, she is present. Even if she speaks softly and doesn’t exude much personality, she is still present. We can describe how she speaks, how she dresses, how she moves, where she stand, and how her gaze falls as she faces the class. We learn a lot about her from these things. She is more than just a volume of information tumbling across the room.

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burden or opportunity (on leadership … and transition)

Twenty years ago, as a new graduate student, one of the things I didn’t really expect to think about much in this career was leadership. Then I discovered that there are so many things to lead. Faculty members lead classes, research projects, committees, academic units, journals, and professional organizations, to name a few.

Leadership is necessary for work to get done, and I’ve come to see how in higher education leadership needs to be communal and distributed. If everyone just leads in their own spaces, the system and infrastructure that support us all will flounder.

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EME6414 = time to blog

I’m excited. Tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow my EME6414 Web 2.0-based Learning & Performance class begins again. I first designed and taught this course nine years ago, and have taught it every summer since. It always has a large enrollment – usually between 25-40 – and is typically a 6-week intensive graduate-level course.

I’m excited for the course to begin, because it is my annual chance to “play” at work, to catch up on what tools are new and to practice using them with a group of similarly interested people. What could be better?

I’m also excited because I decided that this year I’m going to take a new approach to blogging during this course.

How it has been done in years past? I always maintain a blog throughout the course (linked here), and it serves as a hub of sorts for the class. Although we use the LMS for sharing course materials, submitting assignments, and delivering grades and feedback, I require everyone in the course to keep a blog (not necessarily under their real name) and my blog interlinks all of these student blogs. I use my blog to share items of interest to students in the course and to model the blogging process.

Each summer I have enjoyed my 6 weeks of blogging with my class, and at the end I always promise myself that I will shift my energies over to my own blog – my personal blog space – and continue to write a blog on a regular basis through the school year. And then I go on vacation for about 10 days, and the new school year starts to crank up with its retreats and orientations, rapidly followed by new classes with new students, the start of the conference season, the onslaught of student defense season, the heightened activities of the oncoming holiday season. You see where I’m headed with this, right? I have fun blogging with people. I start a blogging habit. Then my blogging community drifts on to other things, I step back from work for a bit, and the prospect of entering a different writing space and starting it up again from scratch is pretty daunting. I let all of the other things competing for my attention win.

So, what will I do differently this year?  I will continue to maintain the EME6414 course blog, because it serves a clear purpose within the class. It’s also a different style of blogging than I want to engage in over here.  In addition, I plan to start blogging again in this space concurrently. I may cross-post some items, but I also have a list of topics in my bullet journal titled “These should be blog posts.” The topics range from thoughts about the profession to ideas I’m noodling around related to some of my scholarly projects.  Clearly I want to blog about these topics since I’ve been keeping a list as the ideas come to me (plus I regularly have ideas and actually think “this should be a blog post”).

I’m hopeful that perhaps some of my summer students (and perhaps some other people) will choose to read this blog and interact with me a bit. Having an audience is motivating. However, I the more important part is that I exercise my writing chops in this short form and that it serves the purpose that I seek, namely an outlet for some formative and reflective thought processes.

At the end of six weeks will blogging here be a habit? Will I have a better sense of how I want to use this writing space? I don’t know. Let’s check back around August 5 and see.

PS: EME6414 folks, if you read this please say “hi!”

Research Group Meeting – Tech Smackdown

The Meme Research Group met, and since no one needed formative feedback or had findings to share, instead we shared what technologies we’ve been playing with. Everyone was invited to take the floor for 5-10 minutes and share. We didn’t get to everyone, but that’s OK — we’ve got some presentations on deck for next time!

Technologies:

Quizlet – Fabrizio took us on a tour of the tool that he uses with his language learning students and in particular shared the “quizlet live” feature. You need a minimum of 6 participants. We played a game in teams — nice way to have a collaborative review of learning content.

Twine – Lukas shared Twine, a tool for creating interactive, non-linear stories. It’s open source.

Lifesaver – Lukas shared this interactive film / learning adventure. Can you help save a life?

Playposit – Fabrizio shared this tool for interactive video lessons and showed how he has his language students watch target language cartoons and answer questions about them.

Research:

Taehyeong shared two articles about Math and Music. They’re both posted in our Blackboard site. The basic gist is kids using musical activities to learn fractions in math and engage students who might not otherwise be heavily interested in math (but who like music). The best part? Taehyeong did beat box for us! He is good! Here is one of his songs.

Open Science Framework – Vanessa shared the OSF site and briefly discussed how you can register a study idea and then use the site to document your project throughout its lifecycle — initial concept through publication.

News at Home:

Amit shared with us FSU’s projected timeline for getting up and running on Canvas.