Virtuosity 11.11

Where words become worlds…

Archive for the category “Grad school”

Thoughts That Go Bump at Midnight

I used to be an avid roleplayer, and have roleplayed for years. In fact, throughout grad school, roleplay and writing were ways to escape the stress of real life for a while, and become the person I wanted to be. Little did I know that all the things I loved about my roleplaying alter ego were things that were already inside me all along. It wasn’t until after I passed my dissertation defense that I realized that I had become the person that I had envisioned — and my roleplaying self sort of…merged with me.

However, this is not the subject of this blog. Rather, it is the background to explain why it’s almost half past midnight and I still haven’t been able to get to sleep. See, after graduation, a lot of my writing stopped. Whether it was for roleplay, prose, or grad school, I used to write every day, and I loved it. No one told me — or I should say, no one could prepare me — for the existential crisis that blindsides you once you finish and they start calling you “Doctor.” For a short, unpleasant while, I was in a space where I had finally become, after all those years of grad school, the person I wanted to be, and now I had to figure out the person I wanted to be next! In other words, I spent seven long years trying to become a “Doctor,” and not that I had received the title, I had to quickly figure out life after. Was I going to be a professor? A post-doc? A researcher? A consultant? For over a year, I had to push back that nagging in the back of my mind that I had to become an entrepreneur. However, once I graduated I knew that the only way to fulfill my life’s goals and dreams was to pursue it and create my own company.

Again, this is more background, and not the subject of this blog yet, but I’m getting to it (I promise that it will be in THIS paragraph). My point being that once I decided to become an entrepreneur, it left me with very little time to do anything else but panic, reach out to any and everyone for help and advice, and to basically get my sh*t together (I can’t curse in this blog, because my mother reads it). So here I am, and on April 5, Qi Learning will be a year old. Tonight, I’ve been reflecting on this, and I realized that in the past year, I really stopped writing. I mean, I write reports, professional papers and blogs, but not writing like I used to — writing with heart and with the “me” of the writing in it. ..and I miss writing this way.

I miss the addiction of staying up late, writing that one roleplaying passage about my alter-ego facing some challenge and somehow conquering it with wit and guile. I also miss writing about theory, staying up late talking and learning about people, and writing to feel free.

Writing, to me, used to be as addicting as coffee, and I asked myself tonight: (because I’m in my head a lot) WHY DONT YOU WRITE ANYMORE? And my answer shocked me. It was because I had forgotten to include myself in that writing. The work I’ve been doing, even though it’s a labor of love and a mission for me, has been missing the ME in it.

Why, you might ask? I think it’s because I’ve spent all this time trying to be an entrepreneur, and trying to be this person that I’ve had little experience being. I thought that I had to act a certain way, and show myself in front of the public in another way, etc. etc. But in doing that, I left out the part of myself that loves to have fun — the person who writes passages to make people smile or laugh. That used to be left for roleplay, and real life was oh, so much more serious. But since I’ve become my alter ego, in a sense, I realize that it’s time to come back to my roots, again. I need to write for myself, and I need to write for fun.

Thank you for staying with me, if you’ve read up to this point. This is my long way of saying that tonight, I stayed awake because I’m starting to grasp an important life lesson. While I’ve been pursuing the things that drive me professionally, I also need to pursue the things that make me laugh and smile. I’m in a whole different place than I was last year. However, in roleplay, in grad school, or here, sitting in a dark room after midnight, I need to remember to write things that make me addictively happy.

What I mean by addictively happy, is that I need to find things to write that make writing addicting, again. That means writing about the things I love to talk about — like theory, education, and crazy things that happen in life (as opposed to my old way of writing about the fictional life). Life has become such and adventure, and while I love it, writing about it will make me love it even more, I think.

It might take me a few tries (well, maybe more than a few) to get into my groove again, but hopefully I will find it soon. Wish me luck, and I hope to be writing with you. Thank you, and write on, everyone! Write on!

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Moving Forward

I took a long break from blogging and my online community to concentrate on the final steps of dissertation defense. This weekend, I graduated with my Ph.D. I could not have accomplished this without all the help from the Builder’s Brewery, my advisors, my family, and my friends. People have asked me about what I will do next! There really is so much to do, and now, I’m in a very good position to do it all. I’ve listed bullet points here of my five-year plan, but this is in no particular order…

  • Present my work to the Builder’s Brewery community – once my thesis is released publically, I will present a lecture to the communities in Second Life to share the foundation for my learning theory, which I call Interactive Spatial Learning, or ISL.
  • Attend the Connected Learning conference in Boston in August, and the Association of Internet Researcher’s conference in October. I present parts of my thesis to these conferences.
  • Publish ISL in at least two journals.
  • Begin my work at Paragon Learning Research Group as both the CEO and the STEM Education Director. This work is a culmination of all that I’ve learned from the Builders Brewery in combination to attending to the needs of teachers here in my local district. Thanks to No Child Left Behind, many students no longer have solid foundation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) because the focus was on literacy and mathematics. Unfortunately, STEM cannot be taught without context and “doing” of things. My goal is to create a digital support system to help with this work, and to help spread STEM education everywhere and to everyone.
  • Continue the direction of Virtuosity, but perhaps thinking of ways where I can make this blog useful. I’ve learned so much from listening to peoples’ stories. My goal now is to continue sharing those stories, with the hope that they are useful.
  • Continue my mission to change the world in positive ways by pushing the different ways we think about learning and education.

Thank you for those of you who have supported me. I would not be where I am, accomplishing this very large life goal, without your help. This was one of many large mountains that I need to cross. Hopefully, I hope you will join me on this journey!

Also, if I can be of any help to you, please contact me. I’ve learned by helping others, we also help ourselves, and the world shines just a little brighter through these partnerships.

Week 0 – Wrapping it up!

Today’s post is brief because I’m literally counting away the hours before must have everything written by this Friday, January 19th. After that, I work on the little details — table of contents, formatting, cross-checking consistencies, and small revisions from people who have been kind enough to review parts of my chapters for me. I finish all the writing this week, then will release these chapters for further comment, since I want to ensure the integrity of my work.

I have my very last chapter to write this week. Once that is finished, I know that graduation will finally be on the horizon!

Adopting a saying from my dear friend Marcy, “It takes forever, then you’re done.”

My One New Year’s Resolution

While 2018 brings new promise, and a rebirth of old meshed with new, I continue to chip away at this thesis until it is finished.

At this point, it feels as if I’m lost in the deep woods, and I will emerge when the work is done. I’ve grown quiet, which is not an unusual practice for me in the winter, but unlike my normal pattern where my work blooms in the spring, I only have one month left to complete this monstrous task ahead.

In the past week, I have continued to type sections of my thesis. It is perhaps, a more arduous task for me because I am very particular about detail and clarity. Also, the Builder’s Brewery community holds me to a higher standard — my work must be rigorous and accurately reflect the views of my participants.

I learned something very valuable this week, though, in that I am blessed with the ability to go back to the Builder’s Brewery community when I need help! Two nights ago, I was stuck on trying to explain the common phenomena known as lag in my thesis. It bothered me that I did not know enough of the technical terminology to write about it. So, I hopped into Second Life, and asked the folks at the Builder’s Brewery. By the time I left, I knew so much more and felt far more confident about writing that section, because of everyone’s help that evening.

This week, I continue to write, knowing that each day and each hour is even more precious as that timeline nears. My dissertation has moved from the (expected) 150 pages to being over 230 and growing. In part, this is because of my attention to detail and rigor.

What’s funny is that for the first time in many years, I approach 2018 without a list of resolutions. Instead, I have focused intently on just one: Finish writing the thesis in January 2018.

Do what scares you

As I write my thesis, I have these self-doubts. Questions in my head of,

“Who is going to read this?”

“How do I build on the work of so many amazing people who have done this for years?”

“Have I honored and respected all those mentors and peers who have helped me?

“What if my work is insignificant? What if no one cares? What if I’m wrong?

“How do I fit this in what we know, and how do I communicate to people how this matters, and why it’s important?

Then, I came across this quote, today:

You know what breaks me, when someone is visibly excited about a feeling or an idea or a hope or a risk taken, and they tell you about it but preface it with: “Sorry, this is dumb but-.” Don’t do that. I don’t know who came here before me, or who conditioned you to think you had to apologize or feel obtuse. But not here. Dream so big it’s silly. Laugh so hard it’s obnoxious. Love so much it’s impossible. And don’t you ever feel unintelligent. And don’t you ever apologize. And don’t you ever shrink so you can squeeze yourself into small places and small minds. Grow. It’s a big world. You fit. I promise. ~Owen Lindley

Here’s to taking big risks, being true to ourselves, and daring to “dream so big it’s silly.”

Here’s to picking up oneself, even when we don’t want to, we’re tired, we’re exhausted, and we’re scared. Here’s to picking oneself up, despite the fact that it’s going to make people uncomfortable, and that your inner protective self tells you not to because it leaves you vulnerable and open to threat. We do it anyway because we must.

Staying Grounded

We connect the dots better in our brain with things that we might think are silly or insignificant at the time, but we really don’t realize it until we see what other people have created with the same techniques. Then it opens our minds to other possibilities.
~Sen Maximus

This week has been dedicated to being fully immersed in my data and building upon the credibility of my research. While my data collection nearing completion, I must be meticulous about the trustworthiness of my study. Unlike quantitative studies which rely on statistical analysis in order for data to be valid, qualitative studies ensure rigor, or what’s called trustworthiness, through ensuring credibility, dependability, and transferability (see Bloomberg & Volpe, 2008; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; and Marshall & Rossman, 2016). Credibility refers to how well a researcher’s interpretations match and parallel their participants’ reflections.

In order for my work to be credible, I member check my findings. This means that I go back to the people that I’ve directly quoted and/or interviewed to make sure what I’ve used is an accurate and complete account of their thoughts and experiences. I interviewed eleven key informants from the Builder’s Brewery community. In order to member check my work, I sent each person a copy of the transcripts from their interview, as well as the excerpt out of my thesis on what I had written about them. Each person will have an opportunity to read, comment, and add or correct my data to make sure that what I’ve studied is accurate and true to what they’ve shared. This process takes a bit of time, because every transcript must be numbered by blocks of quotes so my informants can easily comment on my work. However, it’s very important to my study that the information in my data is accurate and also that I have their permission to quote the things that they’ve shared with me.

Another thing I am doing this week is processing my survey data. I will be sharing some of the findings from my work to the BB community and again, open a line of communication for people to comment and respond. Although my data collection is nearly complete, I want to make sure that I haven’t overlooked something glaringly important. I could not do any of this research without the help and support of the Builder’s Brewery community, which is why I feel that they should be involved as much as possible in this process. Besides, I’m really excited to share and give back to the community!

In addition to sharing parts of my data this week, I’m also comparing and connecting the work from my theory building with other learning theories that have been used with past research. It’s important that I build off of the work that has already been done while I figure out just exactly where my intellectual contribution will be. So for this week, instead of focusing on the rewrite of one chapter, I’ve focused my efforts on working the completion of Chapters 5, 6, and 7!

Literature cited:
Bloomberg, L.D., & Volpe, M. (2015) Completing your qualitative dissertation: A roadmap from beginning to end. Los Angeles, NY: SAGE Publications.

Lincoln, Y.S., & Guba, E.G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G.B. (2016). Designing qualitative research. (6th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Dissertation updates and other things

I’m sure there are people who have been following my work are wondering where I’m at now, with my dissertation writing. These past few weeks have been extremely busy for me as I focus on making the deadlines for graduation in May.

As of today, I’ve written Chapters 1-6 of the 7 chapters of my dissertation. I need to wait until I’ve completed the formation of my theory, which makes up Ch. 5-6 before I can finally write about Ch. 7. Every chapter undergoes several revisions before they are good enough to submit to my committee. Right now, I’ve finished the first draft versions of Ch. 1-3, 5, and 6. I’ve completed the second draft revision of Ch. 4.

So, what’s next on my docket right now is working on the second draft revisions for Ch.s 5-6. Both of these chapters summarize my findings and learning theory, and there are a lot of holes I have to account for in them. My theory constructs are still very tentative, so now, I must work on making them more concrete and grounded into the data. This week, I dive back into the data, with a focus on:

  • Developing themes from my interviews
  • Member-checking with members of the BB community by making sure that my observations and interpretations are accurate with my key informants
  • Polishing up my code book
  • Developing definitive constructs for my theory
  • Summarizing the findings from my survey

Right now, it feels like I’m on a treadmill, and I just have to keep running to make things in time. Apologies if I haven’t surfaced in a while, but rest assured, that I’ll be sharing bits of my data in the next few months!

Wishing everyone happy holiday productivity!

 

Week 4 – Presentations, Proposals, and Conferences, Oh MY!

My apologies for not being able to keep up with my blog posts! With November 30th looming closer on the horizon, I feel like my work is funneling down, and I’ve had to quicken my pace just to keep up!

Last week was the first of many presentations that I am doing on the learning model derived from my dissertation study. As a hybrid between the folks at the University of Rochester’s Learning in the Digital Age (LiDA) community and a Zoom session with over 25 people from the Builder’s Brewery community in Second Life, it was an amazing collaborative experience! I walked away with many ideas as I continue to clarify my language, strengthen my arguments with evidence, and make modifications to my model. The exciting thing is that so far, it seems that I’m pretty much on target with what people are saying, and that my interpretations are in agreement with what people perceive. This is imperative for the qualitative work that I am doing!!!

This week, I’m completing the final edits to a manuscript (accepted for publication!) from my previous work with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s COMETs program. I’m also submitting two (of four intended) conference proposals about the findings from my dissertation. Additionally, I have one more full chapter to work on (yikes, it’s the big finale chapter!) before going back to do total revisions. So far, things look good, but it’s always going to be a scramble to get everything written in time!

Hopefully, I’ll be at a point where these updates come more often.

Hope you are having a wonderful week!

LiDA talk

Week 9 – Thesis Countdown

One of my mentors in Second Life, Jadyn Firehawk, told me that my dissertation work was like a braided river. You have rivulets and streams — places where water trickles to dry, but when you look at the big picture, the river continues to move. She said that this was like the dissertation process in that we cannot cover the entire river bed at one time. Instead, you must choose which rivulets to run, and continue to progress forward.

As I work on the analysis and writing part of my dissertation, I find that I must spend less time in Second Life. While data collection is interesting and fascinating, and there are so many people I feel I should talk to and connect with, my work would be meaningless unless I graduated.

This week, I have continued to work on the different places and practices found at the Builder’s Brewery. In order to do so, I have woven together data collected from photographs, memos, survey responses, and interview responses to paint a picture of the Brewery and what people do there. It is a very slow process, because I may have to analyze long stretches of data several times to pull out the different patterns from it. However, each pass through my data forces me to become more familiar with it, and what it tells me.

I must submit Chapter 5, my findings chapter on the Brewery’s site descriptions and practices, on Tuesday. Afterward, I must do the heavy lifting of making sense of the learning theory that I have developed based on my findings. This week, I will also begin the process of member-checking — sharing parts of my written thesis with community members to ensure that I have accurately represented and described what I have found.

I have 61 days before the full dissertation draft is due.

 

1280px-stikine-river03

Photo Credit: Sam Beebe

 

Week 10 – Thesis Countdown

I turned in the first draft of Chapter 3 to a classmate of mine, as well as my advisor. Chapter 3 details the methods of my study. This week, I’ve focused on writing out a strategic plan for how I will complete my dissertation as well as accomplish some of my personal goals for the year. It seems that I’ve been investing a lot of time planning, as of late, and for good reason. When I think of the entire dissertation process (the writing of eight chapters), it’s very intimidating. The more I plan and write out the details of how I intend to finish, the calmer I feel. A friend told me once, that you cannot eat an entire whale at one sitting. Instead, we must consume it slowly, one little bite at a time. It take a bit of planning to figure out where to bite next!

By Monday, my next bite will be into Chapter 4, where I talk about my research site. I’m looking forward to writing this chapter, because it details the rich history of my site, its culture, and its people. I’m using documents collected from the site, the web, as well as personal accounts to construct my story. This will be my first attempt at answering my research question: What forms of learning emerge through the practices found at the Builder’s Brewery?

This week, I begin to tell the story about the Builder’s Brewery to the world. Believe me, this is not a story that you will want to miss!

 

BB - Sim 1

Photo credits: Sen Maximus

 

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