I recently recorded a Research in a Minute video thanks to the FSU College of Education. It’s difficult to encapsulate all that you do in a mere 60 seconds (give or take), but I think this video gives a pretty decent overview of the main interests that drive my various projects, whether they reflect research, practice, or a combination of the two.
Life (or at least my life) tends to move at a fast and furious pace. I want to slow down. I want to learn HOW to slow down. Work and family obligations tend to conspire with each other, filling my days and nights. At any given time I have a zillion thoughts floating around my head, and lists of tasks I need to complete. I try to do as much as I can in small pockets of time, and often feel fragmented and frustrated. About half of my official work day hours are spent in meetings or in the classroom, and prep, grading, and follow-up tasks occupy much of the rest of those hours. Other obligations (as well as my writing) get pushed to the wee hours, when I’m exhausted.
But this past week was different.
It’s been a long week, thanks to Irma. Longer than a week, actually. It’s difficult to remember when I first became aware of Irma. I’m pretty sure that it was last Wednesday – a week ago Wednesday – that the local reporter came by to get my story for the one year anniversary of Hurricane Hermine (which was Friday, and yes, I was in the local paper!). I know I was thinking about Harvey and already watching Irma at that time.
From the first moment I saw Irma, I had a bad feeling about her. I was pretty sure she was coming my way. However, she was still quite far away then. What that meant was that I had a few days to worry when there was nothing to worry about, and then a few more to worry when there might be something to worry about. Finally, by Tuesday, it was time to worry. And prepare. This whole week that has been about trying to get work done while preparing and assessing the overall danger (should I stay or should I go?). Irma is not quite here yet, and she’s taking her sweet time to get here. Until she does arrive, I have to prepare.
Prepare. Prepare? What does that mean to prepare for Irma? Let me share with you everything that I’ve been doing since Friday, when school was canceled:
• Shopping for groceries and supplies to make sure we have everything we need when the stores are closed for a few days. We need everyone’s favorite foods and a few surprises! And let’s not forget enough toilet paper – that’s critical. And wine! Do we have enough wine?
• Checking multiple times to make sure there are enough batteries for all of the electronics.
• Doing all of the laundry – pretty much whipping it off peoples’ bodies and sticking it into the washer – to make sure I can go for a week without doing any laundry.
• Cleaning the fridge and freezer.
• Preparing foods in advance, so I won’t need to be in the kitchen slaving over a stove and we can just plate and serve (ha! My stove has actually been broken since June 2, with a new range top sitting on my living room floor waiting for the installer most of that time, but that’s another story).
• Cleaning the house so it doesn’t need to be done again for a few days.
• Getting the yard in shape – trimmed up, everything put away.
• Rearranging furniture in some rooms to accommodate everyone hanging out together.
• Checking in with friends to see how their plans are coming along.
• Continuously checking the time and the calendar, feeling anxious because time is both passing quickly and slowly. How much time is left to prepare?
• Doing all of this with kid under foot because school is out, and all while trying to keep kid from getting too pumped up about it.
You know what? It feels a lot like preparing for Christmas. The only difference is that I won’t be getting any presents.** Then again, if my house gets through this storm without any damage it’ll be better than any Christmas present.
Anyway, I’m done preparing. Now I’m just sitting here, exhausted, waiting for
Christmas Irma to arrive.
**Although there will be no opening of gifts, there will surely be a massive cleanup post-Irma. Instead of boxes, wrapping paper, and ribbons it’ll be branches, twigs, and leaves.
I wrote this piece earlier this summer, but didn’t post it. I’m not sure why I held on to it, but now that summer is ending and the new school year is about to begin, I’m finding myself standing face-to-face with old habits and patterns, wondering who or what will win.
I’ve long known that academe will suck up all of the time and energy that it can, and it will tell you that it’s still not enough, but this past school year a series of challenges came at me with full force and as I struggled to allocate attention between my life (home, family, friends, my scholarship) and work (the teaching and administration of academe), I started to think that my values, the ones that pushed me to stay up late and put in just another 30 minutes or agree to yet one more small service task, were messed up. I can’t do it all. I can’t prioritize it all. And it’s not worth trying.
So here are my ramblings from May. It’s interesting to consider the ways in which my thoughts and actions have (not) progressed since then. Continue reading
Some links to slides from my AECT presentations this year …
- Using electronic diaries for data collection: An online learning case study (Vanessa Dennen)
- Designing digital badges for a college course (Vanessa Dennen & Jiyae Bong)
- Digital badges and learning analytics to explore learner participation in a MOOC (Jiyae Bong & Vanessa Dennen)
- How an online community promotes graduate students’ professional development(Zhongrui Yao & Vanessa Dennen)
This is a post about AECT, and yet also not a post about AECT.
Recently (is 2 weeks ago recent?) I attended the AECT annual convention in Las Vegas. AECT was the second academic conference I attended, and over the last 20 years I’ve attended more often than not. When I was a graduate student, I was excited to meet faculty at other institutions and see presentations by the people whose work I was reading. I also developed my confidence as a presenter, and made several friends. And then, over the years, my participation and attendance faded. I was still there, and still presenting, but during the last 5-7 years I’ve done what I call “drive-by” attendance. I show up briefly, give a few presentations and support my students, attend a session or two if time allows, and then head out. I’ve stayed for one or two nights, and missed most of the events.
This year was no exception. I arrived in Vegas Wednesday morning, and flew back out Thursday morning. While there, I (c0)presented 3 papers, met up with a collaborator who lives abroad, and had dinner with a dear friend and a few others. Along the way, I checked in with my grad students and exchanged greetings with old friends.
It’s not that I don’t like AECT. I do! But as a mid-career academic with a lot of stuff going on and a mom of a young child, I’ve found it difficult to travel much and I’m often just plain exhausted. And that’s where I’ve been for the last few years.
But this year as I flew home from AECT, I found myself wishing I was staying another few days. For all sorts of practical reasons I couldn’t, but I really wanted to just attend, just hang out, just socialize with people in my field. I’d like to find a way to get more involved again, although I’m not sure what path to take with that at the moment (and admittedly my plate is on the full-to-overflowing side).
I’m going to keep this in mind as I plan my calendar for 2017. AECT will be held close to home (Jacksonville). It would be easy to just jump in and out — but this time I’m going to plan to attend. Really attend.
I’m also thinking about what keeps me so busy and overwhelmed all of the time, and how I can adjust my commitments so I’m not rushing around from activity to obligation all the time and instead can find some time to actually take in the moments.