Re-blog and reflect: Is your PhD stuck on Mars? Apply the Martian Method

via Is your PhD stuck on Mars? Apply the Martian Method

I read this blog post this morning, and it resonated with me. Much of what the author describes is what I went through last year. Below is my first blog post in a long time. I reflect on how I have moved my PhD forward, using the Martian Method as an analogy.

Firstly, the ‘Stay alive’ was the most important part. I sought support from student services and counselling as soon as I realised my PhD world was unravelling. Of course, I was also supported by my husband, family and friends- they knew there was a problem much earlier than I would admit, and were my first port of call. They made sure I was fed, encouraged me to take breaks, have a coffee (well- chamomile tea- caffeine was not good for my stress levels) and go for walks. Those in my workplace bought me little trinkets or flowers or left notes on my desk to let me know they were thinking of me. There were many hugs too.

As part of ‘stay alive’ I did cut off some of my contacts with the outside world, like this blog, which I just couldn’t write in for a multitude of reasons. For some reason, today, over twelve months since my PhD world unravelled,  the linked blog post from the thesis whisperer has prompted me to write again.

My “call earth” included the amazing people who supported me to ‘stay alive’ and who believed in me when I didn’t. I also extended my support crew by contacting some people I had lost touch with over the course of my studies, these people knew me when I was strong, and reminded me how to be that person again. It took a while, but this act of reaching out and extending my support crew helped me reconnect with who I used to be before I got lost in academia and my studies. It has led to me taking my life off the ‘hold pattern’ it had been in for almost seven years. Basically, I stopped holding my breath, waiting to be finished my thesis, and got on with life. I got a new job, changed my workplace, and became active in a professional association again. I am balancing my time differently to meet various deadlines and expectations. I am also saying ‘no’ to certain things, and ‘yes’ to others; like demonstrating at a local craft afternoon, entering my craft in an art show and making time for family fun too. These are the things which ground me, fill my soul and give me perspective. They had become a source of guilt during the time I put everything on hold. Now I let them be a joy and feel so much better for it.

The “just begin” I feel I need to add ‘again’ to. I have begun my thesis writing again and again. Each time the focus is sharper and the argument I am making is clearer. But it’s not just about beginning the writing: I read a range of other theses, I went to writing workhops, I re-visited my data sets and analysis, and I re-wrote my third and fourth full versions of my thesis over the last twelve months. My fifth version is being shaped now and I feel so much more in control and sure of my thesis this time. Part of my ‘begin’ was building a new supervisory team, and building the personal confidence to keep moving forward to finish my thesis.

So, here I am. Still determined to complete what I began. Stronger than I was twelve months ago. I am certain that post-PhD life will be great, but I am not waiting until then to live my best life. Learning to live my life alongside the PhD has been a revelation- thanks to all of my support crew for helping me find my joy again.

Until next time

Fiona T

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Ethics, Gamification, Evernote, Multimodal learning….just another week really.

First I want to invite you all to join me in a ‘happy dance’…My institution approved my ethics application this week. As a PhD student in my first year I am having a ‘moment of clarity’, realising that this journey is a series of milestones and many learning ‘hurdles’, and after last weeks blog I feel more and more comfortable that I don’t know it all, and am allowing myself time to develop my ideas and skills.  This ethics journey has been a longer process than I anticipated, but has taught me much about myself and my study that I hadn’t considered before, and I feel that I am in a better position as I progress in my study.

I am also developing ideas about how I best present my work to different audiences. Being absorbed in my reading and study of gaming and gamification of education is wonderful, but I need to hone my skills in framing what I now know in a way that is accessible to a wider audience. I need to remember that not everyone has accompanied me on the reading journey. I can do this more easily with science concepts, but I developed that skill over a 15 year teaching career, while I have been a student in this area for a much shorter time. With that in mind, I am adding a ‘gamification’ tag to my blog, and will re-tag posts that address this topic and so that I can use my blog more effectively as a learning journal too.

I have a couple of students at the moment who are emailing me links, or sending things on twitter that they think are interesting and want to discuss. The first one I want to share might help to situate the ideas of ‘gamification’ in classrooms. It is a link to the gamification wiki: http://gamification.org/wiki/Gamification_of_Education, a place I had explored early on in my work, it is a good introduction to the main ideas, success and players in this exciting field.

The second one I want to share is a link to a blog on using Evernote with Kindergarten students:  http://www.coetail.asia/bsheridan/2012/09/10/kindergarten-students-help-to-build-evernote-e-portfolios-by-using-skitch/ .  I think that one of the main blockers to using technologies in classrooms is that teachers and students need to develop ideas of what using these technologies can look like for them. The kindergarten blog is one example of how new technologies can provide a number of benefits to students and teachers alike, and it is easy to fit into what already happens in classrooms.

The third link related to one of the topics we were exploring in our classes this week, multimodal learning. As a class we were thinking about meeting the specific needs of the range of learners in classrooms, so thought about various sites and tools we could access, that present media in a variety of ways. Things like:

  • The app ‘Show me’ that works like an interactive white board, allowing students to create and record presentations to share, and
  • Inanimate Alice that is an interactive multimodal story with clear support and links to the Australian Curriculum. This in particular provided some great discussion about how it could and shouldn’t be used in my students future classrooms. I had seen talked about on twitter, but not explored it. I see some good applications for this in a variety of settings.
  • The wiki: http://cooltoolsforschools.wikispaces.com/, lots of tools for classroom use, categorised and listed for easy access.
  • A student sent me a link to this paper on multimodal learning from Ascilite 2010, Sankey, Birch and Gardiner article: Engaging students through multimodal learning environments: The journey continues. This article shares research linking students’ learning styles, their responses and perceived learning to particular multimodal stimuli in classroom activities.

So this week has been very busy, and I am glad I am on this learning journey.  Clearly my students are glad too as we are talking, sharing and re-shaping our ideas of what learning can look like. Please feel free to share blogs or sites that are helping you to re-shape your ideas of learning and possibilities of new technologies in our classrooms today.

Until next week

Fiona T

Happy New Year…New year, New Classroom?

Recently I have been reading about different teaching styles. Teaching styles that give students ownership and responsibility of their learning. One of these methods is to structure experiences around a ‘flipped’ classroom.  So, as 2012 dawns on the world, perhaps it is time to think about how we can learn from those around us and try new styles and approaches to what we ‘always do’. Here is a link to a great summary of flipped classrooms:

7 Stories From Educators About Teaching In The Flipped Classroom | Emerging Education Technology.

What ideas does this link give you? I am looking forward to trying some of these things in the coming year.

Have a Happy New Year, all the best for 2012. I am looking forward to being a student and starting this PhD. What are your goals for 2012?

Fiona T

Sampling the PhD blogging world

This week, as I am waiting for confirmation of my candidature in the PhD program (and am stalling writing the ethics paperwork) I have had a bit of a look on the web for other PhD blogs. One of the first ones that kept my interest was this one: http://malenel.wordpress.com/
from a  student in Denmark. She was investigating Children’s use of Social Networking Sites. This will link in to my own work…I will try and find an English translation 🙂 She has also linked papers etc. Very exciting find!

Another paper popped up which is an Australian PhD study:  Blogging PhD Candidature: Revealing the Pedagogy, I have just send the PDF to my evernote to read tomorrow while my Son (LT) is at Taekwondo class (yes, a bonus 30 mins of study time for Mum). Perhaps my own blogging about learning caould become a valid part of my thesis? Who knows how the academic world will change in the next few years? A girl can hope!

Of course there was a ‘top 50’ blog that popped up, so I am linking it here purely for future procrastination purposes!   your reading enjoyment: http://www.phdprogramsonline.org/top-50-blogs-every-graduate-student-should-read.html

Do you have a blog? Please link it in the comments below and give yourself a plug!

Happy Blogging

Fiona

An exciting week…

What an exciting and busy week. As my teaching year winds down (and the last couple of months turn into marking) I also made sure that my application for my PhD went in on Friday. Unfortunately the process at the admissions office changed 4 months ago from online applications back to paper applications, so this first (and important) step of my PhD was not paperless. I did however have a soft copy to type on,  used Evernote to store it so I could work on it where ever I was, and only printed 2 copies of it…one to proof read properly and run past my BB and then the final copy which was submitted. I suppose I should generate a paper count, at this stage I am up to 40 pages.  So in 6-8 weeks I will be a student…I can’t wait 🙂
Now to the ethics application, which is partially online…wish me luck 🙂
Until next week
Fiona T

Reveiw of “Mama, PhD” Book

I want to thank one of my new PhD colleagues for loaning me this book. I also want to state, for the record, that my BB was right…I needed to be cautious in my reading of this book. Now I know why. This book didn’t really grab me at first. The first writers were really presenting their daily struggles of juggling life and work…not unfamiliar stories, but there seemed to be no reflection upon the ‘how’ and the endpoint…were they happy? I suppose that when I started to question and define my expectations of this book. I found that perhaps it wasn’t wholly what I was looking for.  Here is a book of the embattled lives of mothers (and fathers), not the triumphant stories of hope that really inspire others. I mean, life is full of choices and sacrifices, and only a few of these stories at near the end of the book really address this and affirm women in their choices to either continue in Academia or abandon this pursuit altogether.

Much of the first part of the book read like this: Loving research, needing to meet demands of tenure/tenure track positions, relying on a work or scholarship to fund health insurance and working in male dominated colleges…blah blah blah. It makes me very glad to live in Australia, and be working in the field of education. This book highlights concerns of the American college and academic tradition and how feminism (I read that as equality, choices for both genders) seems to have not been considered in many American Tertiary institutions.

It was the stories near to the end of the book that were what I think I was searching for, the stories of how others have handled this journey, how they have planned and actually lived it, not just to get through to the end but have a quality life throughout.

This has forced me to consider why I didn’t really like the book, and then refocus on what I did like. Here is a list of the ‘positive’ gems I have taken from this book.

* stories about not having time to consider having writers block, and using every available free second to think or write. (Angelica Duran and Tedra Osell both touch on this)
* stories about having many ‘bags carried” (Caroline Grant) (I have a similar story of my own about how I orgainised the various roles I held in addition to part time study and full time work by using a bag and pile system.)
* Stories of competitive mothers juggling everything. I have to say my focus is on a fulfilling journey, not dragging myself through this, if I don’t enjoy the experience then it is time to reconsider the “why” and “how”.
* The idea of learning to say “no” to things that will distract me from my goals. One writer (Jean-Anne Sutherland) developed a mantra that helped her to prioritise her daughter, her own health and her dissertation. Anything that didn’t directly fit required the “no” response. I liked this and have used a similar idea recently when considering which part time work roles I wanted to pursue and trying to balance this with LT’s school.
So, in conclusion, while I found some interesting ideas and projects some of the contributing writers have been involved in, there was still no real guideline of ‘how to’ juggle PhD and family as I had hoped. I think that perhaps my search should move away from traditional books and head back to the internet and PhD blogs to try and find ideas of how it can work. Or perhaps it’s time to have faith in myself, that this is something I really want to work on and that I will find a way to make it work for my family. Perhaps the organising focus of my blog is a focus that is needed out in the real world, not just regaling readers with the frustration but trying to forge a solution.

I have listed below some of the sites and blogs that I am pursuing from the book, more out of a sense of service to ‘the sisterhood’, as there may be something of value to someone out there in the ethers…

* Jennifer Eyre White: http://www.havingthreekids.com
* Jean Kazez: http://www.kazez.blogspot.com
* Megan Pincus Kajitani: www.having-enough.com
* Amy Huddock, Caroline Grant, Elisabeth Rose Gruner, Elrena Evans (and others): http://literarymama.com
* I have to mention Susan Bassow and Dana Campbell, who wrote stories about promoting science through the everyday activities they do with children, I felt a connection with these women.

Do you have a favourite Study/PhD blog? Please share it….I would love to find out more current stories.

Until next time

Fiona

Games and Learning

This week has been exciting on a number of fronts. I have been writing my Expression of Interest for my PhD application and getting paper work in order. I have also been working with a friend of mine on a lecture about games, ICT and learning for a tertiary lecture. I have heard back from an international conference that I will be involved in. And on Friday I finally got to use ‘Elluminate’ and join 11 others for an international meeting in relation to Games and Learning. It has brought to light something I have been mulling over in my mind for a long time: how can you learn to use something if you are never given the opportunity?

“Elluminate” has been around for a while, I have known about it for at least a year but haven’t had the opportunity to use it. Until this week. The Games and Learning meeting was based in the UK, it was scheduled for 10am their time so worked out to 7pm here in Australia. The previous meeting was very late at night, something I couldn’t commit to with my family at this stage. So I was excited to finally be able to join in and hear what is happening in this group. I logged into the meeting 15 minutes early, followed the prompts to set up my microphone and then sat looking at the screen. My WH was explaining the finer points (he has used it for the last few years at work) and then someone else joined the room. Instead of talking she started drawing on the ‘board’…naughts and crosses, so I found a pen tool and started playing. As more people joined we played paddocks too. What a way to start, relaxed and fun.  Once the meeting started we all got a chance to talk and introduce ourselves. It was great to hear from people with similar interests in education and games. The great thing for me was I was able to use “elluminate” confidently by the end of this meeting.  If I hadn’t had this opportunity (and this friendly environment) I would still be waiting for a time to find out about this program. And without this program and technology, I wouldn’t have this network of kindered spirits opening up before me.

I look around at my tertiary students, mostly confident with technology, and then at the children coming through schools. These students will be digital natives, those with no concept of life without technology and the connectedness it offers. Then I am frustrated by hearing management in some schools refusing to support their teachers and their students to use the technology available to allow our students opportunities to grow and shine (eg some schools not allowing junior primary students to access computers other than for literacy use, or funding, tagged for technology, spent on grounds maintenance instead of things like electronic white boards). As a teacher I firmly believe it is our job to provide students with opportunities to experience the world in many ways, but if we are limited in our resources this is a difficult task. I am reminded of the points from my post last week, especially Sugata Mitra’s work: if given the opportunity children (and teachers) are capable of amazing things.

Teacher or parent: How will you encourage your kids to shine?

Until Next Week

Fiona

 

One Hectic Week

Hi everyone, and welcome to my new subscribers. The guest post last week for Organised Housewife has helped generate more traffic to this blog and has doubled the number of wonderful people who want to follow this journey. Thanks so much for following 🙂

This week has been hectic to say the least. My LT has been unwell for the past 10 days, with a range of illnesses, including Gastro and a skin allergy (though we have no idea what caused it). It has led to lack of sleep for all of us and an emergency trip to the doctors. Add to that it is the first week where I have picked up an extra day of work for the rest of this term. I feel a bit snowed under and am glad we have had a really quiet weekend, especially as I have little voice left. Ok…pity party over 🙂

There were good things this week too, like my LT’s first Taekwondo lesson, which he enjoyed and can’t wait until next weeks session. A good friend of mine has set up a page which we hope will lead to a blog/e-zine to support women in their life journey (The Sisterhood). I got to meet another research student and see her blog used with some of my own students Molecules, minds and culture. I also got to talk with a PhD student friend about interviews and conversations, and we did some practice interviews (used Evernote to record them). I was also grateful for my forward planning of meals, was one less thing to stress about in a tiring week.

It hasn’t been a week where I got any reading done, or any craft. It was a week of scurrying and caring for others. I really need to remember to look at these busy times as the exception to the norm. I hope next week will be more balanced and that we get more sleep.

So this weeks blog entry is a bit more of a debrief of my busy week. Next week’s blog will be about one of methodology approaches I will be using : ‘positioning theory and pronoun grammars’.

Hope to see you all next week. Have a great week 🙂

Fiona

 

What does it mean to be paperless? (Part 2/3)

The ‘cloud’ is a fancy term that basically means your data, files etc are stored at a server remote to your computer. I realise that I have been using the ‘cloud’ for a few years for Facebook (I store recipes in the notes section).  I have recently been introduced to Google docs (that stores documents, pdfs, spread sheets etc), Acrobat.com (has the added ability of web conferencing) and Evernote. It seems the possibilities are ample for persuing a paperless research.

I have played with Acrobat.com, and it looks very professional and was promising until I tried to tag two different people to share a document with. It informed me I would have to upgrade my account…hmmm. I try to keep all my internet relations as ‘financially neutral’ as possible, and am not interested in a monthly fee for something offered for free at another site. This has lead me to look at Google Docs again. I have now uploaded and shared with four people, all of whom can read and comment on my writing. This bodes well, especially in an age where supervisors (and hopefully one day their students) travel around the country and overseas. I also like the fact that storing this work in progress in the cloud provides another back up of my work, aside from my computer, flash drive and email system.

One thing I lamented to my WH early on is that it was a pity I couldn’t write on PDF copies of articles, like I can on paper articles. Aside from converting them to word documents I couldn’t think of how to do this….My WH was a little startled that I wasn’t already aware of this, and said that yes, there was a way to do this! We pulled out the laptop and started to play. There are so many extra things you can so on a static PDF, I was amazed! I can highlight sections of relevant text, annotate them and even make links to other articles and documents stored on my computer or on the internet. Another light bulb moment: this paperless thing is not just me with my head in the clouds (excuse the pun), it could be an achievable reality.

Again, I feel compelled to mention that I do realise the end result of this journey will be a printed PhD on paper. I think it will be great if I have considerably reduced the amount of paper that could be used in my study be using these online, free tools. I am very excited to be embarking on this journey.

Here is a link to a YouTube about a paperless PhD, there are 3 parts and if you are interested in this online storage and PDF editing, this is quite good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6bPvtmio2Y

Next week, part three of this series:

What does it mean to be paperless? (Part 3/3) which will cover common things on the internet that can be used to enhance study and networking, from Skype to Ted Talks and a few stops in between.

What does it mean to be paperless? (Part 1/3)

The idea of the paperless office is not a new one. With the increased availability and simplicity of computers it is a term that is bandied about a lot. Today there are even more devices, software and networks that can make this ‘paperless’ idea more fact than fiction.

Late last century (1998) I began postgraduate study, and then continued my studies to complete my Masters by research. I completed these studies just under 10 years ago. Study during this period meant attending lectures in the evenings after full time work, completing readings, research and assignments on weekends. Research on weekends always meant going into the uni campus, finding a seat at a reference computer (yes, they had different computers for everything) and looking up various databases to find articles. Then you would write down the reference numbers of the articles and go to either a) find a book/journal on a shelf , to read and photocopy 0r; b) find the microfiche (tiny pieces of plastic that had the articles printed in teeny tiny writing, which could only be read using a microfiche reader and then photocopied from there).  This took ages and cost a lot of money in photocopying…oh and filled up folders etc with articles you may only read once then never use again. Sometimes what you needed was in a book or journal that was not at that particular library or even campus. So an inter-library loan would have to be organised, or if there was no time for that, an emergency road trip to a different University to read or photocopy it from there. Whole days were spent for each assignment doing all that “research” and then the articles read, critiqued and the assignment would still need to be written. EXHAUSTING!

Fast Forward…2011. The INTERNET is an amazing tool. Now we have online journal access, PDF downloads, Podcasts and YouTube. I can find not only appropriate articles and information, I can also find out immediately about the author and if they are truly an authority in the area. No paper wasted, and it all takes only minutes. Oh, and I don’t have to leave home to do it.

A vivid example of this is that just a few weeks ago I received a text from one of my wonderful sisters directing me to read an article in ‘The Age’ that she thought was relevant to my study area. I was on the computer doing my ‘paid job’ so I quickly looked up the article. It was relevant and quoted a professor from the US. I ‘google’ said professor and find a great body of work they had been involved in and a couple of books they had written and edited. Next step is Book Depository, looked up the three books I was interested in, read online reviews and narrowed my choice. Ordered the most relevant book, it was delivered to my door a week later. In under an hour I had sourced and (almost) acquired a book that would not even pop up in an ‘old school’ library search. This is amazing and too easy.

So the research bit is definitely more easily accessible and will mean I can get so much more done to a much better standard because the leg work that used to be mandatory for study is now eliminated. Brilliant 😀

Stay tuned for the next 2 blogs that will expand on this paperless idea. They will explore:

1) the potential of ‘the cloud’ for writing, editing and storage of drafts and papers, and

2) Skype, Ted Talks, academia.com and YouTube and how these tools can open doorways previously unconsidered.

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