Following the release of the results of our first assignment, there has been some soul searching and discussion on how better results can be attained and what went wrong etc. I’ve seen this on various Facebook groups I’m a member of too. I’ve referred earlier to the whole privilege thing, and I’ll say it again. No one mentioned it, but of course some of us (myself included) had an unfair advantage. When I write “the whole privilege thing” and then so easily reference the exact article, it’s because I’ve read it, and stored it on Evernote, and can easily access it.
Let me ‘fess up on where my starting line was when this course started. I’m not doing this to brag, but to give courage. I started at ground zero in August 2012 and I too had the shock of getting back grades from assignments and not only beginning to understand where I’d gone wrong. My starting line this time around:
* A collection of 3,350 academic, professional and lay articles on Evernote, to which I’ve added 269 articles since I started this course in this course’s notebook. I can only find 5 articles for my first course (in electronic form), because then I was still printing it all out. And I threw out all the printouts in my last house move. I don’t even have the course overview or modules. That’s how bad it all was. In fact it’s even worse. I naively thought that Interact was forever so I didn’t even save my marked assignments! So I don’t even have a hard copy of that. I cringe when I thought how stupid I was. How little I knew, how I bumbled through the first year. How scared I was to ask for help. How I didn’t even know who to ask for help.
* A Zotero library of 1,697 references to articles I’ve read (the difference with Evernote above is I only put articles in that I’ve used in assignments, and Evernote has a lot of my “life” in it, not just academic life). Most (but not all) of those references are “clean” i.e. I’ve sorted out the metadata and added the fields I need to make my referencing better. I also have the email of people at Zotero if I find it behaving strangely and not doing things the ‘correct’ APA way.
* I’ve passed 14 subjects at CSU. If I wasn’t starting to get the hang of things by now I’d have dropped out a while ago.
* I’ve discovered the APA blog, and experienced first hand their 24 hour or less (sometimes less than an hour) response time to queries if you can’t find the answer you need. I’m a regular at OWL Purdue (I even know what OWL means!). I also have just been through an exercise at work whereby I’ve been making reference posters for our students. There I had to make 6 posters each for APA, MLA and Chicago, which are the referencing styles we use. That sure was an education on referencing! Even after weeks of tweaking things and getting it ‘right’ after we put it out in the open (this link is the first version – so not all correct! first link is the latest version), we kept getting comments and corrections from people with more knowledge and experience – talk about crowd-sourcing!
* I’d been blogging privately since 2006 and had written 1,931 blog posts with nearly 200,000 page views by the time I stopped in 2013. When I started this course I’d done about 100 blog posts professionally. I also re-started blogging reluctantly, and totally intimidated by those older and wiser and more experienced than myself and then was forced to by my courses, and now find it a way of releasing pent up thoughts and organising my jumbled thoughts on what I’m reading and experiencing. The community is not the same as 9 years ago, I’m not getting the steady stream of comments and encouragement that I had in the past – so it is less motivating if one speaks of external motivation. But it is still a learning tool for me, and the more I write, the more I can write and the easier it becomes.
* I work with a terrific person. Katie Day (googleplus link) is the best boss a starting out TL could wish to have. She pushes me when I want to hold back, she challenges my naive and unformed and uniformed thoughts. She throws articles and books and websites and blogs and names at me when I get stuck. She takes me out of my comfort zone and encourages me and supports me when I have self-doubt. And most importantly she knows her S***. Whether it’s on the literature front, the technical front, the digital front, the teaching front, the working with teachers and students front.
* My family is supportive. We’ve just come back from a weekend in Chengdu – but we haven’t had many weekends off in the last 2.5 years, where I’ve not been tied to my laptop or iPad reading articles or writing assignments. And to be completely honest, the fact that I wasn’t this weekend is only because the wifi was so unbearably slow it was better to just give up and quit trying to study than to keep battling it. My 12 year old daughter reads through my assignments and picks out bad grammar and discusses where things don’t make sense. My husband reads through my assignments and tells me if I’m becoming too academic. Neither of them always know what on earth I’m writing about, but they do make me a better writer, since if I can’t write well enough for them to at least understand the gist of what I’m saying, I’m doing something wrong.My 11 year old son gives me hugs and moral support. And reminds me that everyone learns in their own way and at their own pace.
Of course my privilege didn’t start there. As Gee would point out, I had parents who spoke to me and read to me. I grew up in a bilingual environment. English is my mother tongue. I had a tertiary education. I am surrounded by intelligent people who read and write and discuss things.
While writing this I’m just humbled by what a long journey this learning thing is, and if anything each of us should have a handicap that we start with, like golf, to make it a little fairer and more equitable. But on the other hand, looking back I can say there is hope and it does get better. A lot better and a lot easier. I also both care a lot more and a lot less. That may sound strange. On the one hand I’ve become very passionate about learning (care more) but on the other I’m a lot less scared of making mistakes and putting myself out there (care less). All these processes take time. A lot of time. And while I may be a few metres past the starting line compared to some, I’m nowhere near others, and I can’t even see the finishing line. And that is life. And that is fine.