Dec 132010

No, I’m not talking about doing yoga in my teeny tiny apartment, as was recently suggested when I mentioned this phrase (you know who you are). I’m talking about this final week I’m heading into right now, the last days of my life as an M.A. student.

On Friday, I presented my thesis at the NYU ECT M.A. Colloquium. The event was livestreamed (thanks sava!) and recorded. At some point I will take the video recording and sync it with my Keynote slides and put it all into one pretty movie and post it here or on my main site. But it’ll take a bit of time because:

  1. I’m not done yet, and
  2. I haven’t used iMovie since early 2009 and .. uhh.. it’s rather different now and I’m slightly intimidated, so it is going to be a bit of a learning curve.[1]

Anyway, my presentation went surprisingly well, and I was (am?) quite pleased with myself. In the days and hours before, I had rehearsed it but not nearly enough. I was crazy nervous. I’ve been a teacher for a long time and have also given many workshops to teacher peers, but I have never before stood in one spot and talked for 30 minutes.  (Which, btw, is a bit ridiculous — I’m not sure anyone needs to hear me talk for 30 minutes. I’d so much rather do something with an audience!) Anyway, when I was rehearsing, nothing came out right. I’d get to a slide and completely forget what I wanted to say, or I’d use the wrong word, or I’d jump ahead, or say something off-the-cuff that I shouldn’t, and so on. I was thinking I was going to be a bit of a disaster. Even in the moments leading up to when I got behind that podium (I hate podiums!) and my computer, my heart was beating insanely. I was sure it was going to leap out of my chest and land on the floor in front of me. I had to have a glass of wine to calm down — not even joking. (It helped.)

But somehow, the minute Francine Suchat Shaw introduced me[2] and I began to speak, everything was fine. My heart was still pounding but somehow my mouth knew exactly what to say and how to say it, and my brain did a mighty fine job at pacing, too. At times it felt like someone else was speaking, not me. It was a bit like an out-of-body experience, and watching myself on video later it feels like that even more.

I’m glad it went well — I feel really good about it. Friday was a huge high. :)

However, as I said above, I’m not done yet. I still have to finish my thesis document (that is a design document, and will be roughly 40 pages-ish — my estimate, anyway) and then write two independent study papers. Eek. Yeah, a bit to do.

Worse, in all of the frenzied nervous activity and excitement on Friday, I somehow lost my NYU ID card. Yeah, less than a week to go and I lose it now. Nice, huh? Have to pay for a new one, too. What that meant was that all weekend I was essentially “locked out” of NYU buildings — including the library, where my locker is which contains all my research documents and books. I could have worked on my thesis document a bit, I admit, but I pretty much just turned into a lazy sloth all weekend and vegged out at home, sleeping and getting some much-needed house cleaning done. I also find it quite difficult to do any intense work at home because there is so much else to do there. Not to mention my cat is always clambering onto my lap or shoulders. Anything beyond reading or note-taking is not really going to get done in this space. So, really– I did nothing all weekend.

I’m not feeling too guilty about that, honestly — I know my body needed the sleep and goodness knows my apartment needed to be cleaned. But it’s going to be a very intense week ahead.

Here we go! See you on the other side!

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  1. [1] In the meantime, you can access my Keynote slides here.
  2. [2] For anyone who was wondering, the correct phonetic pronunciation of my surname is Mi-KET-tee. In Italian, “ch” is pronounced like a hard “c” in English.
 13 December, 2010  Posted by at 2:21 am Academia, On the Personal Side, ThesisLand Tagged with: , , ,  3 Responses »
Dec 062010

I’m not sure why I’m writing this.

Let me clarify.

After my unintended hiatus, I kind of got into a routine of blogging every Sunday — similar, I discovered, to how Kim Cofino blogs regularly. And I was happy to be writing again.

But now, here I am at 1:17am (okay, 2:30 after editing) and completely burnt out. I’ve stayed away from Twitter nearly all day (unusual for me as of late). The past 5 weeks, I’ve spent an average of 9 hours/day at the library. My wrists and elbows are sore, my back aches, and my brain feels like mush. But I must go on. I have no choice.

My thesis presentation is on Friday. The final document is due on Wednesday, December 15. I’m stressed and bogged down. I am not where I thought I would be at this moment, despite meticulous planning and organizing, and mountains of work already done. I’m insecure about my entire thesis project and fearful that once I present, people’s reactions will be, “That’s it? You’ve spent the last 4 months on this? Really?” I am afraid that what I have to show will not be representative of what I’m capable of doing. And this saddens me. I hate that this fear lurks inside me.

Here’s what I want my thesis (and its presentation) to demonstrate:

  • that I can apply learning theory and research to the design of a digital space intended for learning
  • that I can design a digital space intended for learning
  • that I know what tools and features support the creation of a community in a learning space
  • that theory and practice need a bridge
  • that designing learning spaces isn’t easy
  • that formal learning environments can still have a community element
  • that teachers need a community of practice to learn, thrive, and grow
  • that the teaching profession is dependent upon communities of practice if it is to develop and evolve
  • that the IB wants teachers to learn and grow together in a supported environment
  • that I don’t have all the answers, but dangit I have a few really good ones

And here is what I fear that my thesis (and its presentation) will actually show/say/demonstrate:

  • Dude, that’s one sad-looking website.
  • Is that all? You mean there’s no more?
  • Wait, don’t all websites have social elements these days? You did how much research to figure that out? Man, I coulda told you that in 10 minutes looking at one page of that “learning environment.”
  • Huh, what’s the theory again? and why is it relevant? Theory schmeary.
  • That doesn’t look like a place where any learning will happen.
  • This would be cooler if she designed something totally new.
  • That Adrienne doesn’t know how to design anything — she went to grad school for this?
  • Wow, the IB sure has strict professional development guidelines.
  • I don’t get it.

Put your money down, folks. Which side will win this battle — Thesis wants or Thesis fears?

So why am I laying it all out here in the open? I guess to make it real. That’s part of it. Another part of it, I think is to document what I’m thinking and feeling, so that I can look back on this and remind myself that sometimes insecurities make us stronger (at least I’m hoping that in the end of this I come out stronger!). I guess I’m also sharing with you in the hopes that you’ll give me some feedback, push me along, tell me what I’m doing is worthwhile, etc. — yeah, so maybe I’m fishing for a bit of an ego boost. That’s what happens when we get insecure, isn’t it?

I’ve been giving myself a pep talk the last couple of hours but it isn’t working so well. I think being sleep-deprived isn’t helping my mood. Sava‘s been trying to puff me up a bit too — her feedback has been tremendously helpful and I’m infinitely grateful. But she is also in the midst of designing her own projects, and I know she is stressed and tired, too.

It’s finals week for everyone.

Whose idea was it for me finish my thesis project in the weeks leading up to Christmas, anyway? That person needs her head checked. She’s obviously never before done a thesis project involving research and design.

What was she thinking?

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Nov 292010

I’ve been putting off this blog post for a while. Not because I have wanted to avoid this blog; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I miss blogging here immensely. But I’ve been putting off this post because I knew it was going to be big — epic, really. Or so I thought.

You see, I didn’t even post ONCE in the entire time from January 1st, 2010 until now.* That’s nearly 11 months, and marks my longest absence from blogging ever. I’m saddened by that, and embarrassed even, particularly because I do consider myself to be A Writer Of Some Kind. You’re possibly wondering why the absence. It’s nothing earth-shattering, really: I just had a really rough Spring semester. I mean, the Fall 2009 semester was rough too because of the whole lifestyle adjustment thing, but Spring semester felt like a steamroller compared to Fall semester’s mountain climbing expedition.

Yeah, so this is my (very late) reflection post. And I hate that I’m reflecting on something that A) happened a while ago now, and B) was such a big chunk of time. I usually prefer the as-it-happens, contextual kind of feedback, the kind that’s most aligned with my educational philosophy (y’know, formative assessment and all). But here we are with all this time since my last post. I guess I have some answering to do.

If you know me personally or follow me on Twitter, you might be saying to yourself, “Huh? But your Spring semester ended months ago! What gives?” And you’d be totally justified in saying that. See, the semester was such a doozy (that’s for you, Clint) that I needed some serious steeping time to get back to my “regular” life (whatever that is) and let things sink in. So, first, I give you…

Why this semester was a doozy

  • I can sum it up like this: I was much busier than during my Fall 2009 semester, but felt that I learned less. The reasons for this are complex. Some are evident below.
  • One of my courses in particular had me playing the role of project manager rather than grad student. This was troublesome for me, not because I don’t like project management (truth be told, I think I’m pretty good at it, as I’m a big-picture kind of thinker), but because it ate up time that I should have been devoting to research and processing. It also put me in a difficult predicament with my classmates, because I was not an authority but needed to behave as one in order to get the final project done. Color me uncomfortable. It didn’t take long for the project to turn into a game of politics and that left me even more uncomfortable. In the end, all worked out fine, but it was not the route I had in mind when I signed up for the course.
  • Another course had me annotating articles like my life depended on it. Every. Article. Posted. And. Then. Some. This amounted to approximately 150+ pages of reading and 2,000 words of writing per week (just for 1 course!). Annotations for this particular prof required regurgitated information (think: low levels of Bloom’s taxonomy) rather than any processing or reflection, which meant I didn’t really have a whole lot of time to consider just what the heck I was actually learning, anyway. It was a LOT of busywork. My annotations amounted to a 50-page document, which I actually had to turn in at the end of the semester. I mean c’mon — does my prof actually read those? (And hey, if you’re reading this, Dr. You-know-who-you-are, I’d actually really like to know if you DO read them. Really).
    • Let me publicly state here — not that it will be a surprise — that I see little value in this kind of work. I successfully summarized between 56-60 articles over a 14 week period, but what did I learn from them? That’s hard to say, because I did not have time to process any of the content that I was so busily transcribing into notes. Had I had the chance to choose one or two of the 4 weekly articles and spend time thoughtfully annotating them and — even more importantly — reflecting on how they apply to my experience and previous knowledge, I suspect I would be sitting here now telling you more about what I actually learned in that course, and how this new knowledge became synthesized with my previous understanding — or at the very least, how it challenged my understanding. But, sadly, that’s not the case, and though nearly 6 months have passed since that course finished, I still sit here and am not sure how to make sense of it all. That tea needs more time to steep, which is a shame, really, because I suspect it would have been much more of a healthy tonic for me to drink while I was actually in school rather than somewhat removed from it.
    • Note: I must be clear here: I highly respect the professors of both courses mentioned so far. They are well known, prominent, and prolific researchers in their fields and regardless of my criticism, I learned from them (rather than the coursework) deeply. As an experienced educator well-versed in teaching and learning sciences, I have difficulty stomaching some aspects of their styles, but this is fine. Any experience helps me learn — I take what I can from it and accept responsibility in my learning. I offer my criticism here as a reason for why this semester felt like busywork rather than learning. And, lest you think I’m just ranting — as both a professional and a mature student, I’m quite comfortable discussing anything I’ve said here with any of my professors in person, and I did indicate my honest thoughts on the end-of-semester evaluation forms.
  • My aunt passed away. This happened while I was on Spring Break in sunny (yes, really) San Francisco. While my aunt had been sick for many years, I learned that despite how prepared a family thinks they are for the loss of a loved one, they really cannot start grieving until the day of death. It was a very, very sad week for my immediate and extended family, and I missed a full week of school between flight changes, funeral arrangements, and an emergency passport renewal. Stress all around, not to mention the mountains of catchup work required for me when I finally did return. It took me about 4 weeks to finally get back on top of things — just in time for the stress of finals to begin.
  • Finals. This semester I worked on some really amazing projects, some which took me way outside my comfort zone and into areas of research and design I’d not even thought of before. This was good, of course, as I felt really stretched in terms of my skills and knowledge. However, because the learning curve was so steep for me, these projects required considerable brain power, research, and outside-of-the-box thinking. The projects included:
    • a mobile application to teach basic Math skills to elementary-aged children in Bangladesh,
    • a community development program for digital mobile storytelling in Suriname,
    • a combined physical and virtual learning space for future NYU ECT students, and
    • a re-design of a musical instruments exhibit at the Met (which currently is quite boooooring but with our redesign would be quite fantastically awesome and fun).
  • Before finals, I also worked on several smaller projects involving:
  • My parents visited — during finals. Not that having your parents visit is a bad thing — actually, in my case, I usually love it when my parents visit. But it was just bad timing this particular instance. During finals = ugh. So yeah, there was some stress this time ’round.
  • Personal relationships. Without going into too many revealing (and unnecessary) details on this — a professional — blog, I will simply say that some close relationships in my life changed rather dramatically in the 6 months from January to June 2010. It is too soon to tell whether all of these changes are for better or for worse. At this point, I can simply say that the relationships are evolving, and it has caused a significant amount of stress, as these kinds of things do. Nothing to be done about it; this is just the way life is, and I am grateful for having these relationships to teach me about the world and about myself.

That’s just a brief rundown of all I dealt with in my Spring 2010 semester. I haven’t even gotten into the summer yet. Wow. Or this semester, a.k.a. ThesisLand.

I hope that my next post will begin with…

What I actually learned

… in those 4 months of that Spring semester. But who knows. Things have become somewhat unpredictable lately!**

*well, not really now. As you can see I’ve already posted thrice. But this post has been in the works the longest.

**were they ever really predictable?

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