Posts Tagged “NYU”

?a dark or sweet yeaR by 27147
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It’s not in my normal way of doing things, to review the year and sum up all I’ve done professionally, in a public manner. Nor do I usually follow The Rules of blogging and prepare a standard “looking back” post at the end of the calendar year. I’ve never done it before and really was not going to do it this time.

But…

But…

But…

2009 was not an easy year for me — one of the most difficult on record, actually — and sometimes it is the pain that helps you realize just where you are and where you might be going. Pain can be a powerful motivator.
Not that I am really motivated by pain to write this — it’s more accurate to say that the pain has allowed me to see more clearly. And so I felt it appropriate to do some public reflection, as a way of documenting this small but significant moment of clarity. We’ll see how it goes…

I began 2009 hoping for a fresh start from a tumultuous end to 2008. While 2008 was not a terrible year, it ended with much uncertainty and emotion — I had resigned my position at UNIS, but not yet submitted applications to grad schools, and had no idea if I would get in. I knew big changes were ahead, and was scared to death about what they would be. On this blog, that fresh start to 2009 meant a post about my visit to Green School in Bali, Indonesia. That post came about as I finished up my time in Ubud at an incredible yoga and meditation retreat with two of my favorite teachers (read more about Twee and Rebecca if you are interested). It was a magical time, refreshing, energetic, full of learning and personal awakenings. And my visit to Green School woke me up also to some of the realities of the dream of providing an ideal school. I only wish I could return to Green School in January 2010 to see how far it’s come since my last visit. Alas, that will have to wait.

The early part of 2009 was full of more reflection for me on some areas vital in being a good teacher: assessment, understanding arguments, and the importance of communication. In my case, the latter was focused somewhat on communication via Twitter, the main point of access into my PLN for me. I participated in the Great Tweets challenge and found myself opening up to new conversations with new people about issues I really cared about.

During the next few months, many changes occurred: I was accepted into NYU and began planning for a massive move from Hanoi to New York; I attended EARCOS Teachers’ Conference in Borneo and began implementing some professional development changes at the school I was leaving; Jeff over at U Tech Tips graciously invited me to join the blogging team there.

I began thinking quite carefully about changes still to happen in education — the kinds of changes that I believe are long overdue. I was becoming a bit soured in this education game, most likely because I was looking ahead, knowing that I was leaving the teaching side of it for a while. For several months, I felt discouraged and wondered if I should just leave the teaching profession altogether, because dammit — this revolution was taking way too long.

I took a rather long hiatus over the summer — from June to September, in fact. I took one last big trip around Asia — a very memorable one. I visited Hoi An, Bali, and Thailand on my own, visiting friends along the way but spending a lot of time alone. I was fearful of the changes ahead of me, as I tried not to allow that fear to overcome me. I distinctly remember a conversation with Gaby in Bali about The Next Chapter. I listened intently as Gaby coached me over coffee about the importance of writing the words on the blank pages ahead. I knew she was right, but knowing it and being ready for it are two different things.  The summer was difficult.  Leaving Hanoi was painful. Being in “no man’s land” without a home for 2 months was also difficult.  I was in transition, waiting for visa papers, one of my cats died, and I was in the process of moving my 3 bedroom house into a 250 sq foot apartment in Lower Manhattan.

i sprung forward way too fast by squacco
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Once in NYC, I also was struggling with the changes that come with going from having had a rather decent salary for the past 11 years, to now having no income and watching my bank account dwindle. That, ladies and gentleman, was one of the most difficult challenges for me in 2009. Not to mention the complete lifestyle change that accompanies it — and being a student again, to boot. Suddenly I had all this time on my hands, most of it unstructured, and had to read, annotate, highlight, submit, write, align, research, diagram, create, and present things I had never done before. This semester kicked my butt a little bit — and perhaps it needed some kicking. I can say now, though, that I’m quite proud of the progress I’ve made in my first semester as an M.A. student, and I am eagerly awaiting the next semester’s challenges. In the past 4 months I have learned an incredible amount about designing for education, using technology. In fact, I will write a separate post about my learning in that domain because there is so much for me to process and debrief on before the next semester begins that I think it warrants something distinct, and should not simply be lumped in with everything else in this post.

But while we’re on the topic of learning, here are the top 10 things I learned in 2009, in no particular order. Note that I am keeping this on a professional / academic level; my personal lessons will appear elsewhere, likely on my Posterous blog.

  1. Keynote is one damn fine piece of presentation and creation software.
  2. It is possible to teach yourself an application in a short period of time, and be functional with it, if you are a quick and dedicated self-learner.
  3. Change within educational organizations is slow, and my experience has taught me that this is because admin, teachers, parents, and other stakeholders are often skeptical, sometimes uncomfortable, and occasionally lazy. Find ways for the skeptics to remain, for the uncomfortable to be comfortable, and for the lazy to leave, and you have a recipe for a potentially innovative environment.
  4. My students have been — and I hope they will continue to be — the best teachers. Ever. They are real, down-to-earth, and much better at communicating than many adults I know.
  5. Assessment and Evaluation at the tertiary level still has a very long way to go to becoming fair, accurate, transparent, and equitable. I realize it does in many secondary and primary educational institutions as well, but I was rather shocked at how archaic it still is at university level, particularly in the Faculty of Education at a prestigious private college!
  6. All the best intentions in the world still do not create the ideal school. So many factors are necessary to good school design. I’ve learned this from observation, experience, and my attempts to Be The Change. I’ve not completely given up — no way — but I do feel now after 11 years in 6 different schools (and having worked with many colleagues from countless other schools) much more confident in my understanding of all the ingredients necessary to Create The Change.
  7. Good design is crucial to any one “thing” ‘s success — from a Starbucks travel mug to a school district, from software to salary structures. Design is a concept I think I previously underestimated. I now feel like it is an important and often overlooked aspect of education at all levels and layers.
  8. Technology can be a catalyst, but not the reason, for change in education. The world is the reason.
  9. Education in the USA is a political monster. In fact, most things in the USA are political monsters, and my still-evolving belief is that politics are a major factor impeding growth in social and humanitarian causes in the USA. This is also something I greatly underestimated before living here — and my parents have lived in the USA for a long time, so I thought I understood the issues. My current point of view is that until Americans are ready to put politics aside, real and genuine progress in the areas of education, health, immigration, and many many other areas will never happen.
  10. One of the best ways a person can learn about him or herself is to travel. Yep, it’s true. I always suspected this, and therefore my lifestyle reflected it, but now, having not traveled so much recently, I can certainly say it’s changed how I learn. Visiting other cultures, learning other languages, dealing with things outside of one’s comfort zone is the best education one can have. I can confidently say that nothing else is so mind-opening. I would like to see K-12 education acknowledge and integrate this philosophy somehow in a widespread manner. Dreaming? Perhaps. Worthwhile? Absolutely.
  11. (OK, so there are more than 10!) I miss teaching. I really, truly miss it. So I guess I won’t be leaving it altogether, because I have really missed those interactions with young people on a daily basis. In many ways, I feel as though teaching is something I am meant to be doing — it almost feels like a calling.

And I think that’s all I need to say for now. Oh — but no. There is one more important thing as I wrap up this post and this year:

THANK YOU.

My growth has not been in isolation. So many of you in my PLN have contributed to my learning, and I am so lucky to have found you all. For this, I am full of gratitude. My cup runneth over.

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This post is the first of several as part of a Design Journal for a class I am taking in Representation and Interaction Design (E19.2015) as part of the ECT Program at NYU Steinhardt.

Please note that I include some bibliographic notes only as a courtesy and reference; this is by no means a properly annotated or formatted bibliography, though it is possible it will evolve as such.

Our first week’s readings were:

  • Hall, Stuart. “Representation, Meaning, and Language.” (excerpt)
  • Robert E. Horn. “Information Design: Emergence of a New Profession.” (from Jacobson, R.E. (ed.), Information Design)
  • Plass and Salisbury. “A Living-Systems Design Model for Web-Based Knowledge Management Systems.” (from ETR&D, Volume 50, No. 1, 2002)

composition n.1 by PEC_86
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First: Hall’s article. I have read selections from this text previously, though it has been several years. This kind of stuff fascinates me. It is one of the primary reasons I love teaching and learning languages. I love also that it is so abstract and philosophical — about how language and visuals construct meaning, but that it is conceptually created by the system of representation. There is a very strong argument here for teaching visual and spatial literacy skills alongside traditional textual literacy; any teacher who feels reading/writing is more important than other language strands must read Hall. Additionally, this is so crucial to understanding when setting out to design anything for learning purposes: the context of the culture, the meaning, the representation, and the language. They all work together (or against one another, at times). In a multicultural society, this makes design difficult, because meaning can never be fixed. No wonder countries like Finland have the “top-rated” educational systems; they are designing learning materials for a largely homogeneous society.

“Language can never be a wholly private game.”p.25

I LOVE this quote! The essence of language — and of communication — is that we share these representations and codes.

“This means that our private thoughts have to negotiate with all the other meanings for words or images which have been stored in language which our use of the language system will inevitably trigger into action.” p.25

Sit and think about that for a moment. To simply exist in the world, we must “negotiate” an understanding with others via words, images, and representation. That is a heavy-duty task, which we do without thinking on a daily basis.

I wonder how much better communicators we would all be if we were conscious of this challenge in each moment?*

The constructivist view of representation is also the reason, in my opinion, why things like poetry, music, and art are so beautiful — the meaning constructed at the “other” end (ie., the reader/listener/viewers’s end) is so unique. It is also the basis for the Reader Response instructional technique / philosophy in literature instruction — that there is no right answer. And, it links neatly to another reading from this week, from a different course: that of Paulo Freire‘s objection to the “banking” concept of education. Learners are not receptacles to be filled: we want them to make their own meaning.

Horn’s article was also interesting, but mostly because this is an aspect I know little about. Thus, it was a great introduction to Information Design, a relatively new “profession” and niche. I had no idea that the UK was (is?) a leader in terms of resources and development in Information Design, so this was interesting to read about. Again, I found a strong argument for teaching of visual and textual literacy in Horn’s article when he discusses Structured Writing:

“Structured writing . . . is foundational to some areas of information design. It provides a systematic way of analyzing any subject matter to be conveyed in a written document.” p. 23

Thus, the importance of learning how to organize and arrange information: it is a crucial skill in any kind of analysis. The section on p. 24 about iconic signage was also interesting (another argument for visual literacy in schools), particularly the study of international symbols. I especially think this quote is relevant:

“To create a true linguistics of visual language we need new concepts that focus on how words and images work together.” p. 28

But most interesting was the final conclusion, in which Horn basically says that this profession is still evolving. Huh. It is still evolving 10 years after the publication of this article!

The Plass / Salisbury article was the least interesting to me because it was so technical, and in the end I felt like the conclusions were a no-brainer to me, and therefore somewhat of a disappointment. Not that I think their research & development of the living-systems model is not important — it most certainly is. But their conclusion — that a design cycle to create an instructional knowledge management system works best when there is constant evaluation and regulation by participants — is pretty much a given when you come from an educational background like I do. Of course a system of learning works better when the students have a part of it. Of course a system of learning works better when you are constantly asking the question, “How’s it going?” and “What can we do better?” and then actually implementing the suggestions. To me, it is all summed up in the final sentence:

“The living-systems approach we described in this article aims to support the development of environments that not only allow individuals to regulate their learning process, but that indeed grow and change in order to accommodate learners’ needs.” p.54

I recognize that designing and implementing an instructional tool (particularly a web-based one) to do this may not be easy. Heck, judging from the lengthy process that Plass & Salisbury describe (approximately 20 pages), I have to surmise that it is major task. I get that. But in the field of education, the conclusion stated above is really old news and something that educators try to do daily — particularly if they agree in any way with philosophers like Freire.

On a related note, I was quite pleased to notice distinct similarities between the design cycle that Plass / Salisbury come up with:

Living Systems Design Model

… and the MYP design cycle:

MYP Design Cycle

* As I read articles in this course, I am continuing to find many theories and ideas that are philosophical in nature. I am constantly reminded of Buddhist and other philosophical thoughts (for example, Sikhism, and various other yogic philosophies). I often wonder if I should create a separate blog just about those links. It truly is fascinating, especially when you get even further into studies of cognitive behavioural therapy and cognitive sciences in general.

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Hello? Anybody home?

First things first — I am still alive and around.

Yes, this blog has been neglected as of recent months. But I have been around on Twitter, Skype, IM, and a few other places. I haven’t disappeared altogether. It’s just that I find it so hard to properly upkeep this blog when life gets insanely, ridiculously busy. I wish I could be the kind of person that hammers out blog posts whenever I have an idea. But I just can’t. Am I a slow-blogger? I’m not sure. I think it’s just that I am constantly in editing / re-writing mode. So, for me to write a quality post usually takes a long time — at least a couple of dedicated hours, and not fragmented hours. I need time all in one space to write.

Secondly — are you still here?

Is anyone still reading? Or have you all stopped checking into the blogosphere and simply are relying on Twitter and Facebook to keep you in the loop? And really — is anyone still reading my blog? I’ll be honest, if I were a reader of connect. create. question. , I’d be wondering what the heck is going on.  So, here is what has been going on since May 15, 2009 (the date of my last post).

The Nut-shell Version

  • The Final Four Weeks: Not only were the final weeks of the school year at UNIS Hanoi busy with exams, assessments, and clean-up like the end of any academic year, but they were particularly emotional for me as I prepared to leave UNIS and Hanoi, my home for the past three years. There is not enough space here for me to adequately describe my feelings about leaving. (I’m terrible at endings.) Let’s just say that it was difficult, scary, and yet exciting on so many levels. I was a bit of a mess for a little while, trying to sort through all the debris, both figurative and literal. Not to mention packing up my house, cats, and international life to return to the very developed world of the USA. I realize I am highly condensing a very intense time and by doing so I am probably not giving it the full respect it deserves, but I am not certain that this blog is the outlet for such things. Thus, I leave it at that for now…
  • Travel: My final hurrahs in Asia included a lovely trip to Hoi An, a true getaway to my favorite island of Bali, and a brief check-in with a dear friend in Bangkok. All were fabulous, memorable, and a perfect send-off.
  • The Death of the iBook: In the middle of a much-needed creative writing session — in fact, in the middle of the 2nd draft of a poem about the lessons of grief, inspired by Sark — my beloved 5-year-old iBook crashed and died, as I sat on the balcony of my bungalow on Nusa Lembongan, sipping a Bintan and gazing at the sunset. I cried.
  • The Return: because my visa documents for study in the USA could not be sent to Vietnam (postal woes), I had to return to Canada for a few weeks. Plus, there’s family and friends of course, whom I wanted to see. I was able to take in the Calgary Folk Festival, a true treat, and mix & mingle with several cool people whom I love dearly. It was good to be home. I spent a week at my grandmother’s house and thoroughly enjoyed picking garden lettuce, playing bocce, and eating my grandmother’s cooking! Deeeee-lightful. Yet, the stress of The Visa Papers lingered… would they arrive in time?
  • The Fall: shortly after my return to Calgary, I received word that one of my cats, Scout, had fallen off the balcony of the 8th-floor apartment where she was being cared for. She did not survive the fall. This heartbreak arrived the same day as I learned that Michael Franti had to cancel his Folk Festival show due to illness, and I got a $95 parking ticket because my ticket was not completely upright on the dashboard. It was a crappy day all around.
  • The Move: within a very short time, It All Happened. The Visa Papers arrived, I booked a flight, and BOOM — I landed in NYC.

And Here We Are

So, I’ve been in NYC for about 3 weeks now. I have a (very small) apartment, and I am a registered full-time graduate student in NYU’s Educational Communication & Technology M.A. program. To say I am experiencing rapid lifestyle changes across the board would still be an understatement. I am adjusting to a major life upheaval. The main challenges for me so far, and in this order, are:

  1. adjusting to being in a very developed consumerist society, after having witnessed abject poverty in far-flung corners of this planet
  2. wrapping my head around being a full-time student, with no $ coming in and lots going out
  3. wrapping my head around being a full-time student in the 21st century, and understanding how to read, take notes, and BE a student in a tertiary program when it has been 11+ years since I’ve had to think about academia. I feel like I am learning a new language and modality, and it’s difficult.
  4. finding my niche in NYC, a huge intimidating city with many micro-communities
  5. managing my time between unpacking boxes and all this school work that is already piling up, while at the same time trying to make new friends (I know very few people here) and take in all that this city has to offer
  6. finding space in my Teeny Tiny Apartment for the whack of stuff I have accumulated over the last 8 years overseas — and that’s after 4 boxes already went in storage in Calgary. I have already called Manhattan Mini Storage for a quote…

The Education: What’s in Store

Classes started last week. So far, so good. (I still have not unpacked all my boxes, nor visited Ikea, but they will have to wait.) I haven’t even bought all my books yet. But my classes seem pretty cool and so do my classmates — a very diverse group of people from a plethora of backgrounds. My courseload this semester:

  • Representation & Interaction Design for Learning
  • Educational Design for Media Environments
  • Cognitive Science and Educational Technology
  • Professional Applications of Educational Media

(You can find descriptions of these courses here.)

So far I am finding my readings to be really heavy on the design aspect, which for me is good. Coming from an educator’s perspective, my understanding of the design process has all been about instructional design and I am quite comfortable with it. However, looking at design from the perspective of media and technology in learning is something new to me, and I daresay it’s one of the main reasons I’m here. :) But more on that later. I will be blogging about my readings for several of these courses, and will save such thoughts for those posts.

Lastly

Thanks for reading, if you’re still kickin’ around! I can safely say that I will be blogging more often now that school has begun. Several of my professors have requirements for us to journal about what we read and learn (I love that they implement pedagogy like this) and I intend to use this space for some of that.

P.S. I do now have a new MacBook Pro and an iPhone, and quite happy about both!

Image credits:

Is Anybody Home? Free Girl Looking in Window by D Sharon Pruitt under this license

Bathmophobia III by Tarnishedrose under this license

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If you’ve been following me on Twitter for any substantial length of time, you’ll know that I’ve been searching for, preparing documents for, and applying to graduate schools for the 2009-10 academic year. Well, after returning from a 4-day field trip in the jungle with 66 sixth-graders, I received this email (abridged) from the program director of NYU Steinhardt’s Educational Communication and Technology program:

Dear Adrienne,
The ECT Faculty Admissions Committee is pleased to inform you that you have been accepted into the Fall 2009 Master of Arts class in the Program in Educational Communication and Technology. This is our pre-notification to you. You will receive your official acceptance package from the Steinhardt Office of Graduate Admissions within the next week to 10 days.

The ECT faculty hope you continue to view the focus of our program — the design of technology-based learning environments, informed by theory in the learning sciences — an excellent match with your professional interests and goals.


You Can Go Your Own Way by andy in nyc
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I am thrilled! Although my first two schools did not accept me — I was initially very disappointed to receive rejection letters from both Stanford’s LDT program and Harvard’s TIE program — the idea of going to NYU is quite exciting! They have a very cool research area: C.R.E.A.T.E., which stands for Consortium for Research and Evaluation of Advanced Technologies in Education. And hey – New York! I have never even visited New York, let alone lived there. Big changes ahead…
And for those who might be going through something similar, I will include here my Statement of Purpose, which I submitted as part of my (very thorough) application to NYU Steinhardt.  But please note: unlike almost everything else on connect. create. question., this work is copyrighted — that is All Rights Reserved.

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