Archive for May, 2007

A funny thing happened on my way to a blog post

I’ve been trying to formulate a post since FA but, I have not been able to sit down and do it. Not only do I have thoughts on FA and the ronco discussion but, Steve recommended I read “Clueless in Academe” this summer so I’ve been flooded with ideas. So in attempt to pull some strands together, finally a blog post.

Last night, as I was taking a walk, I thought ‘Why am I doing this? What is the point of dedicating all this time to learning about this? Heck I’m not even a prof! What is it about this whole thing?’ It is kind of ridiculous in many ways, I don’t consider myself a great thinker, I am a relative “n00b” to a lot of this but, as I have discovered it doesn’t really matter. I suppose I have incredibly lucky timing coming to Mary Wash at the point where class blogging, wikis, etc. are just starting to take hold. In fact I have feared that next year some super freshman will rise up and somehow take my position at DTLT and then promptly take over the world. It is my belief within a relatively short period of time there could be great discussion among students via blogs and if I had shown up later I would be another voice among many students.

Besides impeccable timing there are other factors that have led me to jump on the caravan. In early February, Steve e-mailed me and asked what I thought about a post over on Gardner’s blog. I had actually looked at the post he was talking about a few days before but, after two sentences or so I had skimmed the rest and decided it was way over my head. Not wanting to ignore the call to analyze I wrestled with the post, ‘God, does that word have another meaning? Purpose? Sense? Turtles?’. I had read it enough that I began to memorize parts of it and I finally e-mailed Steve back with what I hoped was a response to what Gardner was actually talking about. In turn Steve told me to blog it so I nervously posted and was excited and surprised that Gardner said what I had said made him think. How could my wimpy post contend with the lofty thoughts of Gardner? This was one of my first invitations in “The Conversation” and I don’t mean just a conversation on education or technology but, the dialogue that exist between people who take time to reflect, respond, and so much more. I realized there was a conversation going on that I wanted in on and I wasn’t even sure why.

I understand now that small pieces loosely joined don’t only foster conversations about things I am interested in (as much as I would like to think the world revolves around me) but, chemistry majors could engage in deeper learning and with the possibility of ronco on the horizon those conversations can extend past our specific interests and majors and lead to conversations where we can all utilize what we know towards a better understanding of…whatever! So perhaps I don’t have to fear that super freshman who will take over my position at DTLT and then the world because there could be other conversations out there for him/her to engage in (and Jim is taking the world over anyway). Even if SuperFrosh did get involved in the dtlt conversation, I might even be ok with that. ūüėČ Everyone can contribute to the conversation and the more reflection the better the conversation gets. It isn’t about whether someone has better ideas than me or blogs better, it is about the conversation their ideas can generate. It is hard to admit when you are being self-centered and I’ve been guilty of some of that. What I really like about “this thing” (whatever this thing is) is it allows me to reflect individually and take time for myself but, also encourages me to share those thoughts and be open to conversation for a greater good.

I actually wanted to discuss something completely different in this post but, sometimes posts have a life of their own. More posts to follow soon, hopefully about things I actually intended to discuss, for now it just feels good to get another post out there.


…and exhale

The FA has ended and I am already feeling withdrawal. I can’t say much now because I am borrowing my friend’s laptop but, as soon as my laptop is returned to me (with working shift keys hopefully) there are many things I want to say. First, it may seem silly but, I know there is something special going on when I¬†willingly miss the season finale of my obsession, CSI.¬†Lastly for now,¬†I just want to comment on the after dinner activities. As each person stood up to say something I knew they weren’t¬†doing it because they felt they¬†had to but, because of the genuine love and friendships that have formed. I’m just in awe of all that is in front of me and I wonder what wrinkle in the matrix has placed all of these people together. The lovely music being played and the¬†song being sung by the choir is like a siren song, and I am lost in it. I feel beyond blessed that I should have stumbled across¬†this community¬†of thinkers, learners,¬†and innovators. This is going¬†to be a long strange trip the next 3 years and hopefully beyond that too.

I’ve been bit by the twitter bug

Today I finally opened a Twitter account at the encouragement of Joe. I had been tempted for awhile but, I¬†had that feeling I didn’t need another reason to feel like I was stalking the UMW faculty. Twitter was acting a little wonky today but, I finally got an account made and started to friend, yes you guessed it, faculty members. I think I came in on Twitter at the perfect time, with all the flurry of ideas and activity there was plenty to read and soak up. Great, just what I needed another reason to get distracted from school work, well I have the whole summer to work through an addiction.

Leave it to XKCD to have¬†an apt comic for¬†today. I’m sure¬†many people ran into something like this¬†at Twitter on a couple occasions. ūüôā


Small Pieces Loosely Joined

Shannon Hauser

Panel Discussion: Small Pieces Loosely Joined

Steve/Jerry: It was quite a curious feeling having the class I was in discussed and dissected right in front of me. One of the first things mentioned, “first year students are moldable”. Couldn’t agree more just look how I have been brainwashed ūüėČ Especially first semester if it is made clear to students that college isn’t just “13th grade” there is greater chance for sending them on the right track. One of the keys to the right track is the idea of ownership, without it than a student’s education isn’t personal but, rather a pre-packaged product to be consumed. I was never really fond of pre-packaged anything.

Gardner/Jim: I actually stumbled across the els blog feeds and followed it over the last half of the spring semester. As Gardner said (more eloquently of course) he was trying to create as many opportunities to allow students to observe connections between classes. So as I followed the class I felt like I was almost there without actually being enrolled in the class and I contemplated if I could somehow sneak into the class just to listen in on the in-class conversations that I read about on students blogs. I lurked over a few weeks and in passing mentioned to Serena about following her films blog and she encouraged me to comment, sadly I never did. Since setting up my Netflix account I have added many of the movies discussed in class to my queue, the discussion on the blogs sparked an interest to see and analyze these films. Lastly, as Jim pointed out, he formed relationships with students (such as Serena) that he normally would not have really known and in the process is also learning from students.

The Good Stuff: FA 2007

Shannon Hauser

After driving down from Jersey I am slightly sunburned and a little exhausted but, I have arrived at the Faculty Academy.

Currently I am sitting right next to Alan Levine (zomg the CogDog!) and listening to Barbara Ganley share words of wisdom on slow-blogging and deep learing, it doesn’t get much better than this. Here’s a quote from one of Barbara’s students, “There’s links on blogs that don’t exist in real life” Exactly!! I couldn’t agree more. So many pieces of brilliance are flying at me that I cannot grab them all but, thanks to technology I’m sure I will read other people’s posts on her inspired lecture and hear the recorded version online.

More goodness to come!

A Little Clarification

Steve left a comment on the second half of my freshman year recap post. In my post I discussed being discontent with the way most students go about getting a degree and in addition, how I was starting to come out of a student hypnosis. He posed these two questions in response to my post “What is the student hypnosis? What is the way students try to get a degree?”Leave it to me to throw out ideas and not define them, so here is a little bit of clarification.

I think of the student hypnosis as a couple things. First of all, it is a sort of social conditioning that probably started in middle school, continued in high school, and has carried over into college and it is the idea that we are not supposed to enjoy school and classes. School has such a negative association because it something we are forced to do for so long that we can’t help but carry over the negative feelings. I feel like I am almost expected to complain about classes just to be normal. Maybe students think that it is safer to not like a class than to risk being a geek and *gasp* enjoy the class experience. I don’t think anyone hopes for a bad experience but, sometimes our attitudes towards class can set us up for disaster. This has been my experience in a lot of the intro courses I took this year, they were just full of people who rather be somewhere else. But if classes are just something to get through, why are we even at college? The student hypnosis is also the idea that there isn’t something more to education and that learning is just a checklist. Doing the minimum requirement is all that is really necessary, otherwise you are wasting your time. If there is not intrinsic value in each class and each class is its own separate sphere of pain, what is the point?
This student hypnosis leads to pursuing a degree in ways that are not at all fulfilling, in my opinion. A degree becomes another thing to be suffered through and again just another checklist. Students want what the degree represents but, are not willing to put in the real effort to accomplish it. It is kind of weird really, why would anyone subject themselves to the same mundane regurgitation they had been experiencing all those years in school? Perhaps it is because students don’t expect anything out of their professors and in turn we don’t want them to expect too much of us. It is an unspoken deal that has been made, the professors give us a checklist that we can dutifully check off and then at the end of four years we can add up all the checklists and be handed a degree. It may be the easy road to the degree but, God does it sound boring. And just because something might be challenging does it have to automatically be a negative thing? I would argue that it doesn’t have to be and I’m sure many other people would too. Yes, at times the challenging nature of things is not enjoyable but, doesn’t that make the end result all the more rewarding when reached? Again, this kind of goes back to the student hypnosis that has students avoiding anything challenging (unless it could appear on a resume or something else that could get them visible recognition). I’m sure at this point I sound horribly cynical (I am prone to pessimism) but, this is what I have seen my first year.

I don’t know if I am making this out to be worse than it is or if this is all a temporary sort of thing. What gets me the most and makes me so angry is that I see so much of myself in the aforementioned things. I think I need more time to sort out my thoughts and follow this up with another post, my head hurts just looking at all the stuff I just sort of word vomited on to the page. There is also something else I am missing that I can’t put my finger on, I think I’ll sleep on it.

Will my laptop finally be fixed?

Back in September my Toshiba laptop mysteriously decided it no longer thought its shift keys were useful and they promptly stopped working. I recorded my misadventures here and here and finally after all these months I’ve decided it needs to be fixed. Carrying around an external keyboard is not my definition of cool.

My original plan was to go back to the store where I purchased my laptop. I arrived at the store only to find that they were going out of business! I walked in and they recommended I call 1-800-CompUSA, well I wasn’t about to be bothered with that so I called up India, I mean the Toshiba Helpline, to see if they could give me the closest authorized dealer to fix my problem. Apparently the closest place is in Brooklyn and even though I certainly love my laptop, I am not about to drive to Brooklyn to get it repaired. So being the globalization savvy consumer I remembered that Toshiba has a program where you can go to a UPS store and drop off your laptop and they will take care of the rest. I asked the tech person about this and he transferred me to another department. On a side note, before I had called Toshiba I remembered the option of taking it to a UPS store, but I couldn’t remember if I had to call Toshiba first or just walk into the store so I did a google search and what do you know my own blog posts popped up (and yes I did have to call beforehand). I was given a service order and an address for the closest UPS store.

So with my service order number in hand I drove dutifully to the local UPS store, located right in my town. Apparently they don’t get a lot of Toshibas going out so it took them a few minutes to figure out the proper procedure, but we all took it in stride and we had it set to be shipped. It should take about 7 business days to get it repaired, but knowing my luck I’ll probably get a call saying that my laptop was swept away in a spontaneous flood, but they’ll send me two new shift keys free of charge!

For now I am stuck using the slower than molasses family computer. Thank goodness for online tracking of shipments, that way I can know when my baby laptop is coming home. I think I am already showing signs of withdrawal.

Freshman Year:Recap and Reflections Part Deux

I’ve finally got the opportunity to sit down and right some stuff out, so here it goes…

At the end of my first semester I had that awful feeling college was going to be a lot like high school, except more expensive. Over the winter break I had plenty of time to think and just work out some thoughts and for whatever reason I decided to continue blogging. I had also sent off a rather depressing e-mail to a professor, who in turn, responded with a thoughtful e-mail. I think I can pinpoint that as the beginning of the change in how I view education. One line from the e-mail in particular resonated, “The point of real education is to learn how to make sense out of the world, which is a lifelong goal.” I had never really thought about this before, what the heck is this real education all about? I had come to college because I had to and realistically you can’t get a well paying job without one. No wonder why college can be such a soul-sucking experience (well at least for me), if you are doing it purely to get a good job then the degree is all you are really after. Not that getting a degree is a bad goal, it is the way students (including myself) try to achieve the goal that I had come to greatly dislike. I’m only now starting to break out of the student hypnosis. Waking up from “the matrix” perhaps? This summer I plan to do a lot of thinking and planning (for lack of a better word) on what real education is and what it means in the context of my classes at college. A revolution of sorts or maybe a few changes, I’m not quite sure yet, either way I’ll have practically 4 months to explore the idea.

Ok, back track a little to when I first started blogging “on my own”. I started to do more clicking around and finding links to other people’s blogs, blog-stalking if you will, and my RSS feeds began to grow. Now I can say I am an obsessive Bloglines checker. First thing in the morning I check my e-mail, followed by Bloglines, and then Facebook. I wish I had some sort of counter to see how many times I actually click on Bloglines, I am sure it is an embarrassingly high number. I digress though, as I clicked around I began to see connections. Bloggers were having conversations and bloggers I followed were showing up on other blogs I followed. I started doing those random clicks, finding articles and posts, and I would later discover a blogger I followed would mention the same thing. Increasingly it feels like people are reading my mind. During the semester I broke out of some of my lurker tendencies and commented on other’s blogs. Knowing how much I get excited (maybe a little too excited) when people comment on my blog I thought it was only fair to do the same. At the Student Academy I met people who’s blogs I had been reading, it was a surreal moments in many ways. I kind of compare it to meeting a celebrity, you’ve seen them in pictures and read their blogs and there they are! They really exist! Some of my friends thought it was a little weird to get so excited, but they aren’t bloggers so they wouldn’t understand. ūüėČ

In the midst of all the exciting discoveries in the blogosphere I almost forgot about the work I actually have to do while I’m at college. I’ve never been a very good school student and have often been on the receiving end of “you could do so well, if you tried” comments. My favorite incident has to be at the end of my senior year, me and my friends were talking with one of our former English teachers who we occasionally hung out with during our free periods and knowing that I had a younger brother she told me she might end up having him because she was going to teach sophomore English the following year. She asked me, “Is your brother like you? Smart, but lazy?” My friends still tease me about that one. In reality I would rather not be the smart, but lazy type. In fact it really bothers me when people insist that they are smart but, they don’t try, as if that justifies laziness. I’ve given up using that excuse because it is not, if you were truly smart you wouldn’t be wasting your potential and it just perpetuates the problem. So along with the other things I will be thinking about this summer I need to find a clear course of action for change, something that is tangible. God knows how many times I’ve said “this time I’ll do it differently”, but I never do. If only I could study for a test with the same intensity that I watch a new episode of CSI I would have an A in every class. This is a common plight, isn’t it? Turning ideas and words into action and progress.

My mind has been thoroughly saturated with all sorts of ideas this school year and hopefully the summer will help me sort out the pieces of debris floating in my mind. It feels like just the other day I was moving in, not knowing what to expect, and excited about my new found independence. I’ve had some lows and highs, cried a few times, laughed a lot, been inspired by people, challenged to think, given up, tried again, and managed to not go completely off the deep end. Thinking back to my freshman year of high school, I went through a lot changes, mostly due to events that were beyond my control. It was a year of a lot of growth and life changing experiences, for better or for worse. My freshman year of high school completely changed my outlook on life and surely changed the direction of my life. Now, looking back at my freshman year of college I see a lot of the same things again. There has been a lot growth and surely the things I have experienced this year have changed the direction of my life. In the beginning of the year I often asked, “what if?”, what if I had gone to Ithaca College like I wanted and what if this and what if that. Of course a person could “what if” themselves to death, but now I am just thankful for whatever confluence of events caused me to end up at Mary Washington. It may sound dorky, but I’ve honestly met some of the most fascinating and awesome people I’ve ever known and I wonder how did I get so lucky that I would even know these people. The thought of leaving Mary Washington three years from now is already a depressing thought, but I am glad I still have so much time left. There is a bright and shiny future ahead and who doesn’t like shiny things? So as I pack my boxes and finish my first year I know that this is not just an ending, but a beginning. A year ago I don’t think I could have envisioned being where I am now and in another year I hope to be in the same exact place. I don’t want any of my expectations to be met, I want it to be beyond that. Here is to all the things that will come!

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