The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A paradigm shift in education

I am presently at a conference here at UND called the Beyond Boundaries Intergrating Technology in to Education conference. Halfway through the first day and I have learned quite a bit. The keynote speaker today was a gentleman named Marc Prensky. He is an advocate for significantly changing the way that we educate today's Digital Natives. Listening to his speech today, I was in agreement with several points: Students need to be motivated to learn and being engaged in learning will increase motivation and passion for learning. However, I also disagree with many of his statements.

He argues that today's learners are different. This may be true, but I don't really agree with his points that argue for this. He says that learners today are bored in class up to 90% of the time. Hmmm, this was also true when I went through school. He also says that students today are likely to fill this bored time with other activities, such as web browsing, games, etc. We also did this, just in less sophisticated ways (pass notes, doodles, write letters or poems, etc.)

Perhaps the one thing that I tend to also disagree with is that teachers do not really need to fully understand the technology that their students use. Let the students figure it out for themselves. He gives the example of a parent giving their child a digital video camera to learn and then teach the parent how to use. I agree that this can be ture for fun new toys, I myself can become very occupied in learning a new toy. But he argues that this can be translated into the classroom. For example, giving an assignment to create a podcast. The teacher may not need to know the ins and outs, the student can do that and will likely not mind doing that. In my experience, students do not like instructors that tell them to use technology that they have never used and are unable or unwilling to give a tutorial. There is an old saying that a boss should never have his or her people do things that they themself are not willing to do. This should also be especially true in education. Teachers should be willing to learn the technology that they require their students to use.

So I am torn on Mr. Prensky's ideology. I agree that implementing technology can be a benefit to education, but I think he may go a bit too far. This definately signals a paradigm shift in how education is implemented and perceived. I forsee people like me who are somewhat stuck between the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants will be the one's to really start this shift. But until the instructors are also true "digital natives" will any of Prensky's big ideas start to be seen.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Technology is time consuming....

As an individual who needs to keep up with some of the recent fads in technology I now find myself both on and These site can really be somewhat addictive though I use that term loosely. I have been more of a Facebook user because that is what most of my friends use as we are mostly grad students and faculty with access to .edu e-mail. But now I am also tinkering with MySpace and I find that I also know people who use that...a bit to my surprise. I must be on something of a cusp of the age of person who uses these social networking sites. There are a few of my friends there, but many, actually a majority who do not use these sites.

What is the reason for this? People my age are more used to making our own webpages and therefore do not depend on these sites. Or could it be that people my age do not want to use them because of the bad press that these sites are getting and are worried about what others will perceive if they do use these sites. Personally, after my experience and the newer safety controls that are available, I find these sites to be fun. MySpace allows for quite a bit of creativity with users being able to include other backgrounds and other items of interest to them. It is also a way for people like me who are not big phone users to keep in touch with people that are not near me.

However, though I see some benefits for sites like these, there are downsides. Primarily for me it is the fact that I can devote nearly 3 hours a night just tinkering with stuff, looking at new music and backgrounds, uploading new photos, checking out my friend's sites, searching for people that I know, and generally wasting time. The other downsides are well advertised. These include a degree of openess by users that may get people into trouble, and the ability for strangers to view people's profiles. However, I do not think that sites such as these need to be eliminated. They have their place and if users can learn to use these sites without getting themselves into trouble they can be very beneficial in keeping people connected and networking with others.

So in sum, I like Facebook and MySpace. Right now MySpace is more fun because I can do a bit more with it, but then I have more friends on Facebook (about 9 compared to my lowly 1 on MySpace). Just give me time. I am not one to try to compete to have the most friends, I really only want people I know in real life to also be my virtual friends.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

A new course to teach

I am currently scheduled to teach Abnormal Psychology next Spring. I have not taught Abnormal before, but am excited to add a new course to my teaching. Abnormal will be an interesting course to teach because of the nature of the students in the class. There will be a healthy mix of both psychology and nursing students so I must take into account the health care issues with abnormal psycholgy and make it one of my priorities in my teaching.

I think that prepping this course will greatly expand my flexibility as an instructor. This is outside the typical course that an experimentally oriented person teaches, at least in larger departments. Usually a clinician will teach these courses. However, I am confident in my abilities to teach this course. It will further reinforce my knowledge of an important area in psychology and show my flexibility as an instructor as well.


My husband and I just received some significant news about our current situation. In short we will be released from the confines of Federal Service (in terms of military service) and he will soon be living a civilian life. This is big for both of us, but mostly for him. As long as I have known Caleb he has been active (in some way) with the military. He was recently granted an Air Force sanctioned early release. To me this brings up the idea of how one's identity is often woven into the jobs that we do.

Caleb will need to deal with changes in his personal identity, from Air Force Captain, to civilian. A big change that I am sure he will deal with well. I expect for him to experience a sense of personal loss once he finishes his last day sometime in March. However, this will likely not happen in such a dramatic fashion. He plans to join a guard unit and hopefully this will fill his desire for service to his country. In this way he will soon be what is often called a "citizen soldier." He will retain his officer rank but now not as an active duty officer, but as a guard officer. So the military will still likely be a part of his life - his identity.

However, what this does is free us up in the next year or so when making decisions about our future. After March we will not need to address difficult questions such as living in different cities dur to our different career paths. Now the difficulty is a bit more common, how do we find a location where both of us can find jobs that we both want and will hopefully enjoy.

This also allows more flexibility for me as far as finishing my schooling. I now do not feel pressured to finish my dissertation sooner than later this year. I can take more time to write and just finish with a potentially lower quality document. I can take more time to do the further analysis and thought and produce a document that will be up to my higher standards. No more pressure of December graduation deadlines and more freedom to finish early spring semester.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Coming out of the weeds...

It is now just the third week of school and for the most part I have felt in the weeds since the start of classes. Everything seemed to happen all at once and NEEDED to GET DONE. Completing lecture notes, updating online notes, finishing my hyperlinked glossary, Job packets, literature review revisions, etc., etc. I now am finally feeling like I can breath a bit.

I have most of my lecutre notes for class done now, just a few chapters to finish and for the most part they are only sections of chapters. I've also been keeping up with composing test questions and constructing my exams for my class.

I have also finished getting the first wave of job packages out. The next wave is coming through and I will probably work on these next week, depending on the deadlines for the jobs.

Finally, I have also completed the heafty job of revising my literature review. This involved some reading of new articles that my reviewer suggested, only one of which I really felt fit my manuscript's theme. It also involved major overhauls of organization and simple elimination of several pages. My paper is now 14 pages shorter than the original version.

All I have left now is to write up my cover letter to the editor outlining my changes and how I addressed (or why I didn't address) the reviewer's comments. I should have that done today.

All in all now I should be able to really focus on my dissertation and at least get the results written up so I can start to organize my discussion. Finally, getting done what really needs to get done!

I have spoken to my advisor about my possibly December graduation and he stated that if I do end up moving I should try my best to make a clean break. I have thought about writing the rest of my dissertation off site, but he made the good observation that being off site can often result in a loss of motivation and focus on one's dissertation writing. I agree with him and for now will push to meet the deadlines for a December graduation. However, I will know, hopefully in a week, whether or not that will actually be a necessity.