Thursday, November 30, 2006

Plugging along

I'm sure you all can guess why my words have not darkened the door of this here blog. I'm basically spending every waking moment reading (not yet writing). Every day this week, I've gotten up at 6:00, read until 7:30 with kids running around eating cereal and getting dressed. Then I go to work where I have a two-page to-do list. I've gotten through half a page. I know this isn't the recommended way of doing things in GTD, but I'm in a sprint to the finish. So I wrote down every loose end I could think of. When people come into my office and ask for something, I say, "I'll put it on my list" and they watch me, rather wide-eyed, add it to the end of my list. It will all get done. Some of the things are small things. Some bigger. But it will get done.

When I get home from work, I make dinner with whatever we have available. Last night, we ate pancakes. Mr. Geeky's been sick and I don't want to take the time to go to the grocery store. Also, I've developed a case of TMD. So I'm trying to eat soft foods. Fun all the way around.

After dinner, I spend a little bit of time watching Harry Potter with the kids. We've been going through all four movies over the last few days. Then I start working. Monday, I went to *$. Tuesday and Wednesday, I stayed here. Tonight I'll head back to *$. My goal is to get the first section of this chapter written, which I estimate will be about 10-12 pages. I have two articles left to read before beginning the writing, so it's unlikely that will happen tonight but it will certainly happen this weekend. I'm taking Friday off, but will work Saturday and Sunday and continue the routine through next week. My hope is that I can be finished by next Sunday, but I have another week after that as a buffer. It's so close.

I'm pushing myself both because I'm past my initial deadline I set for myself and because I really want a true vacation over Christmas. I'm looking forward to baking cookies, watching movies, playing games, drinking hot cocoa, and just hanging out. I don't want to be thinking about the dissertation at all. I can come back to it refreshed, ready to dig into revisions.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Back to the grind

It was quite difficult to drag myself out of bed this morning. It's the home stretch and there's so much to tie up before winter break begins.
  • Finish the dissertation chapter
  • Comment on the final papers
  • Work with students on web zine
  • Fix up the program for the conference I'm organizing
  • Finish two projects I'm working on
  • Write two articles (short ones)
  • Christmas shopping
I'm sure I'm leaving something out. I think I'm ready to tackle these things, but I think it's going to mean a concentrated effort without much family time for the next couple of weeks. I think I can. I think I can. It's certainly much easier to deal with this amount of work after a nice hiatus like Thanksgiving. What's on your to do list?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving thanks

This year, I'm more thankful than I've been in years. The last two years we've traveled for Thanksgiving and this year, we're home with no one else coming. Though it might have been nice to invite another family or two over, this will make it a nice intimate Thanksgiving.

I think I'm most thankful for feeling like myself again. After about 6 months or so of feeling truly depressed, I feel more confident and hopeful than I've felt in a long time. I feel like I can actually be thankful instead of looking at the abundance around me and thinking only about the negative. Yesterday, Geeky Boy got home from school at 11:30. We had some lunch, played a round of Word Racer and Text Twist and then headed out for errands, which he gleefully wanted to go on with me. First, we went to get our hair cut, then we stopped by a department store to pick up a couple of things. He picked out some new cloth napkins for Thanksgiving and while we were there, he also picked up some Christmas kitchen towels. They were too cute, he said. After the mini shopping spree, we headed to Star$ for hot chocolate and decaf gingerbread latte with a snowman cookie and a slice of pumpkin loaf. We sat in comfy chairs and talked while we had our drinks and snacks. We then hit the liquor store to pick up some wine to go with dinner. Next, we went to the grocery store. Geeky Boy is an excellent companion at the grocery store. He checks the list, picks a couple of items and then heads off to get them and then comes back to find me. It's an adventure for him and often by the time I get to the 4th aisle, we have everything we need. At home, we unloaded the groceries quickly and put them away and then played games the rest of the afternoon. It was the first time in a long time I can remember enjoying daily errands.

It's a cold and rainy day here, a good day to be thankful for a warm home and a loving family. A good day to enjoy those things you're thankful for. I'm glad to have these people to go through my life with. Here's wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving with friends and family and people you love.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Boxed in and other weekend observations

Over the weekend, we bought a new printer, inspired by my need to print some of my documents out (don't worry, ianqui, I'm trying to keep this to a minimum). We'd been thinking about this for a while since I have a crappy inkjet and Mr. Geeky has a 15-year-old laser printer that we sold plasma to get back when we were in grad school. The printer came in a large box, which Geeky Girl proceeded to lay claim to. First, she took out the styrofoam. Then, she used the cardboard inserts as doors, on which she wrote warnings such as "No Boys Aloud! This is the fashion house!" Then she brought in furnishings--a blanket, a Cooking Light magazine, and a pillow. When it was time for bed last night, she asked if she could sleep in her new home (located in Mr. Geeky's office). We agreed, if she would clean her room in order to make space for her box house. And so, she slept in the box house, snug as bug. (Picture coming soon.)

I mostly spent the weekend organizing, using Zotero to organize my sources (as Steve suggested below). I'd been wanting to try this tool out since I installed it about a week ago, so it worked out well. I like it so far, I think. I especially like the tagging and I've been linking a copy of the file to each entry as well as making notes about how I intend to use the source. I didn't work that much this weekend because I felt much too disorganized. It was seriously making me anxious. I think I'll be starting over a bit on Chapter 3. My work just wasn't coelescing very well. I kept writing and thinking, "I think have an article on this that would support my point, but where is it?" Not a very productive way to work. I don't think I'll have to completely trash what I have now, but there will certainly be some substantial rewriting.

We also spent the weekend as a family playng Word Racer on Yahooligans. Surely, you knew we were this geeky by now? Geeky Boy almost always beat us, but I won a couple of times. Geeky Girl often got bored pretty quickly and would help one of us instead. But it was still fun. Then we all watched BSG in the evenings. We're almost done with season 2.5--one more disc to go. It looks like there'll be a season 3 marathon later in December (yes, I'm planning already).

This will be a short week for all of us. I'm looking forward to a good chunk of down time.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Going undigital

I've been reading through/sorting through the many articles I have collected in digital form. I finally realized this morning that I was having trouble keeping them straight and so I've decided that I'm going to print them all out and sort them. And then hopefully use many of them in the writing I'm doing this weekend. Despite loving all things digital, sometimes you just need the physical instead.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It's all relative

With the upcoming holidays, I've been thinking about relatives. I have quite a few of them, especially since my parents divorced, giving me two sets plus inlaws to contend with. All my relatives live far away, the nearest being ten hours away. I see my dad and stepmother quite frequently since they are willing to meet us halfway. I don't see as much of my inlaws. And they are a very close family and I think they see our not visiting as odd somehow. Doesn't everyone want to be around 30 people at holiday time? Well, no. Not really.

Mr. Geeky is the only sibling to have moved away. The other two are still there. Single sister-in-law I really like and wish I could see more often. I also like my father-in-law. My brother-in-law is fine, but his wife drives me crazy and they now have 4 kids under the age of three. It's going to be a hard holiday season for them since my mother-in-law died in the spring. Everything is going to be different, but they have a large close family and good traditions. Except not this year. For Thanksgiving, bil and his wife have decided to have a separate celebration and didn't invite fil or ssil. A cousin, who traditionally has Thanksgiving at her house, is still having that celebration, but bil and his wife and 4 kids won't be there. Christmas will be worse. The immediate family used go to the grandparents house in the morning and an aunt's house in the afternoon. Since the remaining grandparent is in a nursing home, the morning event is no more and the bil and his wife are having Christmas dinner (inviting the whole family this time). Ssil thinks this is too much change all at once and feels like the bil (but mostly his wife) is grandstanding.

This kind of stuff was par for the course in my family when I was growing up. Thanksgiving and Christmas plans changed year after year. Sometimes we went places. Sometimes people came to us. Most of the time, it was just me, my sister, and my parents. And that's how it is most of the time for us now too. Thanksgiving and Christmas have become for us a time to reconnect with our immediate family without the hassles of everyday life. We have our own traditions now and my kids (especially Geeky Boy) say they prefers my food to anyone else's. I know the various families want to see us, but I'd prefer to see them some other time when there isn't so much craziness with the holidays. Plus, our kids don't get a huge amount of time off at either holiday and since we have so far to travel, it's difficult.

As I was talking to ssil about the holidays and she was describing the soap opera-like negotiations, I said "All the more reason for me not to come." And she said, "All the more reason to come. I need support." I suggested she come here. Maybe she and fil. I'd be happy to host relatives even though I don't have a huge house or a dining room table that seats 12. We can sit on the couch with paper plates for all I care. And ssil thought about it and she thought getting out of the fray might be a good idea.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lack of motivation

I'm finding myself dragging a little, looking forward just a little too much to Thanksgiving break and then to Christmas break. Part of this is simply the sheer amount of work I have right now that I know will be completed by Christmas. I certainly need the break. But part of it, too, is emotional as I'm wrestling with issues I can't really blog about. And I wish I could because I value the collective intelligence of the internets. I feel a little bit stuck and am bombarded by conflicting advice. I'd love to say more but can't. Sigh.

I wish running off to Aruba were an option because that's what I'd like to do. You know those Calgon commercials? I think I'm that woman right now. Everything *will* get done, I know, and decisions will be made and things will happen and the world will continue to spin on its axis. It's like when I was kid and desperately wanted to sleep through long car trips. That way, I'd wake up and we'd be there, and I could skip the drudgery in between. Unfortunately for me, I could never sleep in the car. Instead, I had to invent ways to entertain myself. Much as I'm creating ways to motivate myself now.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Long time no post

Lots has happened since I last posted. There was lots of catching up to do after the election and I have quite a few irons in the fire in addition to regular work, so it's been busy. The dissertation is chugging along, slowly but surely. I'm faced with another stack of papers to comment on, but it should be okay. One more batch after this and then final portfolios.

The most fun thing that has happened was getting to meet three fabulous bloggers. Timna, What Now and Margo, Darling all met me for lunch in the city on an absolutely gorgeous day. It was so fun chatting with them all. Honestly, it was a lot like hanging out with old friends. It reminds me of why I like being in the academic world to begin with--such good conversations. We talked about our work, but we also talked about the profession in thoughtful ways and a bit about the world at large. There was personal stuff--partners and husbands and children. And we discussed food and travel and living in cities. I knew timna and what now from their blogs and I have to say that they were and weren't like their blogs. It was kind of like seeing an old friend after a long time. There's still a lot that's recognizable but there are new aspects to get to know. And margo, who was new to me, was equally fun to get to know and I hope we successfully convinced her to blog again.

The second most fun adventure of the last few days was shopping. Mr. Geeky and I are on a bit of a shopping spree after coming into some extra money from a large grant Mr. Geeky has been working on. We bought a new tv a couple of weeks ago. Our old one had begun to have this horrible high-pitched whiny noise that would eventually go away but was obviously a sign of decline. We also got ourselves a new comforter. This weekend, we got new pillows and some new sheets. We need to get a new mattress, but we haven't had the time to shop around. I got a gift certificate for Eddie Bauer and so bought a few things there and then decided to head over to Zappos and buy the shoes you see above. Aren't they cute?

I mentioned, I think, that we've become addicted to Battlestar Galactica. Well, we're plugging away on season 2, having two marathon sessions on Friday and Saturday night (yes, I know, we're total nerds). I think we're all going to be sad when we're done.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

w00t!

While there are still races too close to call, here in my neck of PA, we can claim victory. Rick Santorum, out! Curt Weldon, out! Yahoo! Just as an indication of how bit a deal this was, in my precinct, which normally votes 2 to 1 Republican, went democratic in every race. We had about a 75% turnout, not as big as 2004, but still very good. I stayed up as long as I could to watch returns. Mr. Geeky stayed up longer than me and came up to tell me about the Webb/Allen race. I'd love to take the senate, too, but I think that's still a long shot. Man, do I feel better, though.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Let your voice be heard!

Go vote!

Many races are very close. Your vote counts!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Catching up

I end the weekend with a sense that I might just make it. I got the chunk of papers that I wanted to comment on done. I have more to do, but it seems much more doable now. I got 4 pages written on the *last* dissertation chapter. It will probably all be rewritten, but for now, it's going to stay. Mr. Geeky did the grocery shopping. This is *huge*. He hates grocery shopping, hates it. He offered; I didn't even have to ask. So this freed up a couple of hours of my time. Yay. Got some laundry done--most of it, in fact, in between commenting. I did all of this, actually, just today. I took yesterday off completely. I had judge training in the morning, so I figured I'd just write off the day. Mr. Geeky got me hooked on Battlestar Galactica. I know, I'm late to the game, but I didn't want to commit to another tv show. But we have the first 2(?) seasons on DVD so we can watch whenever we want. That was a nice reward at the end of the day.

The fear of learning

Since my dissertation directly addresses teaching and learning with technology, I'm constantly thinking about what the implications are of teaching in news ways.  Will Richardson's post earlier this weekend got me thinking more about what I'm doing and what I think teaching and learning should be.  Will expressed some disgruntlement about the fact that people just don't get it, that the Internet--and specially tools like blogs and wikis and podcasts--are changing the way people learn.  Teachers, he thinks, should model what they're teaching. They should, in essence, learn right along with their students: blog with them, collaborate with them, etc. And I agree with that.  I expect my students to contribute as much as I do. I never go into a class with all the answers. I expect, as a class, for us to discover them together. I expect that we'll explore, together, other issues on our class blog. But I find it hard to convince students that this is an acceptable way to approach teaching. I sometimes think that they expect me to have the answers and while it's true that I am older and have more years of schooling than they do, they are extremely intelligent people with different points of view, different ways of seeing things, and much that they can bring to the table.

When I'm feeling that students aren't living up to my expectations, aren't contributing, aren't bringing new ideas to the table, I start to get fearful instead of frustrated. And then I often lapse into old methods of teaching, of just talking at them or something.  And this has definitely happened over the years and I think that it happens to a lot of people who have good intentions. I think at the college level, when we use new technologies that bring with them new methods of teaching and learning, we're learning along with our students and we're often having to convince our students that this is okay, that there is value to this, that, in fact, in may be more valuable.

Alex Reid, puts this a bit more succinctly, suggesting that most people see the point of education as determining who has authority, of imbuing our students with that authority, so that when they go home with their B.A's, they will be seen as having been filled with knowledge that grants that authority.  But, he says, new media and networks disrupt that sense of authority:

The ongoing development of media and networks requires us to keep moving. It doesn't mean that what we've learned has no value; it means that it cannot establish us as authorities. . . . I know public school teachers often cite the limitations of testing requirements as a roadblock to innovation. However I think the limitation is more fundamental than that, closer to their own sense of professional identity. As much as the tests may limit teachers, they also secure them within a defined space of authority.

digital digs: the threat of the network

Teachers and professors are seen as "experts," as people who have a certain kind of knowledge. If we take that away, if we say that that particular kind of authority no longer qualifies one as an expert, then what do you call yourself. What was all that education for? I would argue, however, that someone with a Ph.D. didn't just absorb a bunch of facts; they learned how to find facts and analyze them, to question them, to present their questions to others, to find and create new knowledge. It's not about the content; it's about the process. And that's what I try to focus on in most of my classes; it's what I try to convey when I talk to people about using new technology, about using blogs, wikis, Flickr, del.icio.us, etc. to make the process more visible, to help students learn how to learn, how to participate in a broader conversation instead of spitting out information on a test.

If K-12 environments are resistant to change, Alex points out that higher ed might be even worse. At least with public education, there could be a new administration that might enact some kind of sweeping change, but that rarely happens in higher education. However, in both cases, changes from the outside might force people to change. There's already, as Alex points out, a tension between higher ed and the "outside" world:

I mean the tension between academia and the mainstream culture is heavy enough as it is based strictly on ideological differences. What happens when academics continue to insist on providing an increasingly irrelevant education and charging more and more for the privilege?

digital digs: the threat of the network

I think Will and Alex are both right. There are shifts happening outside of educational institutions that those insitutions seem to be stubbornly ignoring.  I think that they ignore them because they're afraid to learn; they're afraid to model learning, as Will says, and they teach instead. I understand that feeling. It does feel a little scary to look vulnerable in front of your students, but imagine how much more vulnerable they feel in front of you. I think this is a difficult time to be a teacher. But it's also an exciting time, if one can embrace some new ways of doing things and have a willingness to learn. Isn't that why most of us got into this in the first place? Because we enjoy learning?

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Feeling a little frazzled

For obvious reasons. I am trying to remain calm and take things one step at a time. I have a plan. I think I'm going to be okay, but until things start to fall into place, I'm going to feel frazzled.

  • Today, I travel down to our Government Building to get trained in election judging, which is funny, because I used to call our old judge on things he was doing wrong. I also pick up the super secret box with all our election materials. I feel a little like a secret agent. So that blows my morning.
  • Mr. Geeky is doing a presentation for parents' weekend, so he's dragging the kids with him. We should all be reconvened at the house for lunch.
  • We have no food.
  • Depending on what my family has planned, I will either work on some student papers or the dissertation. I feel like I need a break, so I'm just going to go with the flow
  • Tomorrow is dissertation first, student papers second.
  • Monday is a day nearly meeting free. I have a few irons in the fire at work. A lot of irons in the fire, actually.
  • On Monday, I need to again work on papers and the dissertation.
  • Tuesday is election day. Aside from setting up and the initial rush, I can actually do stuff, so I will. Otherwise, we get bored anyway.
  • I can't think beyond Tuesday. My hope is that progress will have been made by then and I'll be on top of stuff. If it's not, I can freak out then.

Update on the Geeky Boy situation: In addition to the morning routine problem, Geeky Boy has also forgotten assignments and projects and stuff. I think these are related issues. I actually called the school's guidance counselor. She was very nice and basically said that 6th grade is hard on most kids and there's a lot to get organized. She's going to meet with him and help him organize his locker and discuss some strategies that might help him.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

My mornings are shot

I had been working on the diss for an hour every morning. This still happens, but only about twice a week. I've shifted my work to the evening, which works, but my brain is sometimes a little mushy after a full day at work.

The main reason for the lack of morning work? My children. They're killing me. For the first month of school, Geeky Boy hopped out of bed at 6, took a shower and got himself ready. But about a month in, the newness had worn off and he was staying up too late, not hearing his alarm go off. This wouldn't be too much of a problem if when I went to wake him up at 6, when I got up, he actually got up. Most of the time he goes back to sleep. And so I have to march upstairs at least once and sometimes two or three times to rouse him. These interruptions are not conducive to focused work, as one might imagine.

I have to admit that I'm a bit angry about this. I remember when I was in middle school. I woke myself up with an alarm clock. My mother used to check to make sure I was awake, which after a while, pissed me off because I could take care of myself, dammit. Part of me thinks that Geeky Boy should be the same way. But here's the sucky thing. I've thought, well, I'll just wake him once, and if he goes back to sleep, that's his problem. But it's not his problem, entirely. It will be looked at as my problem, too. If he's late to school, the onus is on the parent to provide an excuse. How bad does it look to say, "My son was late because he wouldn't wake up"? People will be thinking, "Lady, why didn't you wake him up?" Sigh. This is the trap of parenting. You try to give your kids some independence and rather than doing things for them all the time, you give them greater and greater responsibility, but then you're up against the parents who do do stuff for their kids and there's just no comparison. Up until this year, there were always kids whose parents "helped" with their kid's homework. Kids who did their own homework just couldn't compete.

I'm also angry, of course, because this is eating into my (very limited) work time. I estimate that I've got about 2 weeks of work left before finishing this chapter. Every morning I don't work adds a day, perhaps, to my time. Gah. It occurs to me that maybe I should just tell Geeky Boy that. It's obvious he doesn't understand how his behavior affects those around him. I wouldn't mind waking him up if I didn't have something to do. It might bother me a bit, but it wouldn't make me angry. Helping your kid grow up is hard.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Work Convergence

Why does it always seem that everything has to be done at once? Why can't busy times spread themselves out? I have hit a lovely point where I have papers to comment on (had to ask for an extension from my students), a chapter to write, stuff to read for class, an election to judge, and more. Gah! It will get done, but it's gonna be a little frantic. And then there will be Thanksgiving and I gorge myself and put myself into a food-induced stupor. I think I'm gonna need that.