Sunday, April 15, 2012

So, what is your dissertation going to be? (Reading, Reflecting, and Thinking #10)

Quill Pen

Dear Dr. Rodrigo,
Thank you for the open reflection blog, and I hope you will indulge me as I veer a bit away from your particular course only to see how it fits into my PhD puzzle.  Read on ... there just may the seeds of a dissertation planted somewhere in here.

I have no idea what I am going to do for my dissertation.  There I said it. And in public. Or at least to any of you who read my blog.

My PhD Memory Lane ...
I have been told that my dissertation topic will come from the ideas I build in my coursework, and hearing that is comforting ... until I pause and think, "I do not even remember what I wrote about last year. How can a dissertation topic rise from that??" Therefore, I am taking the opportunity of this blog post to travel down PhD memory lane ...

Major Debates in English Studies 
  • Debate 1: "Digital – The New Literacy?" The visual and written digital discourse possibilities are too powerful to ignore: we need to learn to use them as both creators and consumers. If we do not, we risk being left behind in crucial communication skills or, possibly even worse, left out of the global exchange of ideas ...
  • Debate 3: “'Who Killed Poetry?' Not New Media , Maybe No One" Will the tools of new media become the refiners of poetry by offering an audience of critics beyond academia?
  • Debate 4: "What Does Technology Bring to the Classroom?  It Is More than Bells and Whistles"  The web provides access to an instant and responsive audience. People are researching technology in education, but maybe this focus is wrong. Maybe the research focus should be not on the tool – technology – but on the goal – the true democratization of writing.
  • Conference Paper: "The Democratization of Writing: How Writing Thrives" The tremendous things happening with writing through new media, both in pure production and true innovation, should be studied and understood. What is important to recognize as we embark on this study though is that technology should not be the focus. Instead, we need to see technology as what it truly is: the newest means for widespread writing outside of academia.  
  • Reflections ... My work focused on digital literacy and what it can bring to writing.  I looked a little at visuals, but I chose to focus on how digital writing is breaking through the strictures of academia.
 Pedagogy and Instructional Design
  • Blog 1: Ultimately, this study found more positive results of using social software than negative ...
  • Blog 3: Ultimately, as a high school English teacher, I take away from this article a clear idea of how to enhance students’ writing preparedness ...
  • Blog 4: Davis and Hardy assert that students must know how to engage in public collaboration. It is up to us as teachers to thoughtfully expand the limits of these online spaces, guiding our students into full participation with their collaborative world ...
  • Blog 5: When I read Stuart Selber’s first chapter of Multiliteraries for a Digital Age, I was struck by his inclusion of “rhetorical literacy,” that is a literacy where students are “producers of technology” (25), as part of computer literacy ...
  • Pedagogical Article: "It Takes Half of College to Be Ready for College? Connectivism and Emergent Learning Offer a Bridge over this Gap" 
  • Reflections ... I was very excited to use this class to research the foundations behind a Ning collaboration I had been doing for a few years, and ultimately my VA Tech colleagues and I have gotten a version of this paper accepted for publication.  This work builds on what I saw online writing doing for students in my Major Debates research. 
 Tracing Digital Culture
  • SIGDOC Article: "Alohomora Pottermore: Creative Control Tries to Own Participatory Culture"
  • Reflections ... I loved writing this paper. Using a theory like ANT is something I had never done before, and to see how such a tool could uncover intentions and connections was fascinating.  I am a secret math lover, so to be able to logic out ideas was right up the secret-non-English-teacher part of my personality!  I would love to do something like this again and wish I had pursued publication of this paper.  I am not sure though how this fits into my study thus far ... mapping online collaborations of my students and their VA Tech mentors?  Now sure what the purpose of that would be ...
Research Methods
  • Research Paper:  "Student Perception of Writing Quality in Online versus Traditional Environments"
  • Reflections ... Here I decided to apply the logic of research (not ANT but still fun to play with the logical processes of research) to what I had been doing with my students online.  My partners and I discovered that the main benefit the students see with online writing is feedback.  It did not matter to them what the platform was. What mattered was the fact that they knew they would get feedback from different sources,and they did get feedback readily.  I am now working with my partners to get IRB approval to run the survey next fall with a larger group to rework our article and try to get it published.
This brings me to New Media Theory where I have explored the coding behind the sites I have been using with the goal of creating a more robust class site for my freshmen.  I have these ideas bouncing around in my mind:
Dissertation Tree
The Dissertation Tree?
  • Knowing that the platform does not specifically matter to my students, how can I create a site that supports what is important (interactive feedback) without hampering it?  I have to keep in mind that as much as I would like the platform to disappear, McLuhan has taught me that cannot happen. So, I need a platform that invites the kind of work I hope my students will do as well as mirrors the energy I hope they bring to the work.
  • Visuals ... this is an area I have not yet explored enough.  I know I will this summer through DMAC, and I hope to see how I can use visuals to achieve what I want for my class site.
  • One of the hardest things I have found as a teacher in this digital age is to find other teachers and their students to connect with.  The grand promise of digital collaboration is much dimmer in the reality of classrooms ... which has me thinking of whether I can help this problem.  Could I create something ... a site ... an app ... something digital that brings together classrooms?  Is there a simple way to bridge this gap -- the gap I have found is so important to bridge because it is feedback beyond the classroom teacher that is most important?
  • And tied to the prior bullet ... are teacher education programs the hidden resource to be tapped? This is where I finally found my collaborative partners, and I am now talking with a few of them to see if working with my students offered them something specific once they entered their own classrooms.  Are digital classroom connections strong replacements for some of the physical classroom placements? And if so, could I facilitate collaborative pairings between teacher ed programs and elementary, middle, and high school classrooms?
Now let's see if a dissertation tree grows out of any of these seeds ...

(Ink Quill image from Tumblr)

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