Stepping Away from the Day Job – Is it Valuable?

FullSizeRender-3Waiting for my Amsterdam flight from London City Airport to board, I’ve been reflecting on how valuable it is ‘to step away from the day job’. I’ve just spent two days at UCL-IOE for a module residential at London Knowledge Lab.

I’m lucky that my employer supports continued professional and personal development, as this enables me to factor in an MA that includes some onsite days.

Spending learning time in an alternative environment and importantly with a different, although linked subject matter, exploring theory and concepts on an academic level brings heightened reflection, new ideas and perspective.

Those of us in teaching and leadership know that it’s rarely a 9-5 schedule. In recent years, on average, mine frequently nestles between 8-late in the evening. Shoe horning an MA into the mix has been a challenge, but a worthy investment.

I left NL intensely fatigued and somewhat bogged down with day to day. It’s refreshing to notice how quickly a change of scene can reset you! Exiting the flatlands for a Sunday among friends, family, Welsh hills, contoured landscape and abundant hues of green, I then dashed to London and university to research and ‘absorb’ during Internet Cultures Residential 2.

What’s the value in stepping away from the day job?

New Input = New Energy: a change of topic, meeting colleagues to discuss our learning so far on ‘Internet Cultures: Theory and Practice’ led by John Potter & Alison Gazzard – as well as new input on Online Research Ethics (Diane Carr) and Visitor and Residents (Dave White) automatically brings new energy.

It’s Good to Talk: with all the advantages that digital media and connectivity bring, there is no substitute for face2face conversation and the interpersonal dynamic of being the same physical space, in real time.

Reality Check: distance learning sometimes leaves you feeling isolated. This presents a dichotomy: the course represents a community of practice and through blogging, each participant adopts both Visitor AND Resident status while positioning ourselves as curators. However, I realized that while Moodle allows us to post and comment, it is not a zone that elicits input to say how the course is working for each of us. By that I mean that face2face sessions facilitate an atmosphere where reflection about course content, pace and ‘how it worked for us’ is voiced more readily.

It’s healthy to express challenges and to hear from peers that they also experienced, for example, the balancing act of juggling schedules, writer’s block, etc. regardless of whether we are full-time or distance learners.

I must note here that we’ve been encouraged to communicate via email if we encountered such issues along the way (Thankyou John!) which was great as it showed a healthy awareness that ‘life happens’ and can influence our reserves to focus on study, from time to time.

In our reading and practice we’ve explored the positive aspects of forums, but what is it about ours that doesn’t entice us to disclose issues like those mentioned above that are all part of the process of learning to learn? I think it’s part priority, i.e. our primary focus is managing workload + reading, drafting, posting, commenting; and part is the impersonal nature and format of Moodle.

What stats would a vote on ‘Moodle: do you love, hate or avoid?’ generate?

(A weird analogy popped into my head here and I can hear ‘Pod’ saying “Snog-Marry-Avoid” as I type this! Could it be time for a Moodle makeover? [BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00htyc7).

Through our blogs we are all curating our interpretation and reaction to set readings and making links to personal interests and field of work. Moodle serves as a place to register, or comment on each others’ posts, as well as in actual blogs. It’s also the location to submit final assignments. Beyond this it doesn’t hold much appeal.

So – Moodle itself is definitely a ‘Visitor Centre’ more than a Resident space, with partial residentially occurring within the module group space. I feel that to ‘participate’ fully as a member of the course requires Moodle and face2face sessions as both create different emotive reactions.

Meeting up at Internet Cultures Residential 2 also fostered:

Collaboration: teamwork to discuss key themes that ‘spoke most’ to us throughout the course. Finding middle ground from each of our reading and posts helped to locate why some texts appealed more than others and how they related to our various interests.

Shared Understanding and establishing next steps: naturally, assignment expectations are on everyone’s mind! The format of the module is a 50-50 evaluation of the blog + Reflective Commentary that ties the blog and theories together. The latter sounds relatively straightforward, but when you start to unpack what you want to say, and definitely in my case, to achieve this within the word count (although I found I was not alone with this battle!), it becomes more complex.

Social Capital: getting to know peers a little better (some faces are familiar from the previous module) and meeting new ones, albeit at the end of the course, makes you feel more connected to share ideas. Also ‘hearing’ about blogs from the author themselves, I found gave a different impression of the posts I’d read online. Also, with time limited, I’ve been concerned I haven’t been able to comment on other blogs as much as I’d like as there just aren’t enough hours in the day to fit it all in! However, I’ll be exploring more of them in the weeks ahead, as a result of the in-person conversations I had. Knowing more about the background and experience my peers also went through in the writing process makes reading more appealing and akin to my own experience of blogging.

In conclusion, I’d say the value of stepping away from the day job and going back2school is that it leaves me re-energized, building new ideas, human connections and a healthier perspective on the to-do list that awaits my return.

Thoroughly recommended !

Some further thoughts/questions/notions the residential left me pondering …

  • Curation vs. Editing: explaining the ‘what, when and how’ of the reveal vs editing content. (@JohnPP)
  • How ‘Technology disappears into use’ (@daveowhite)
  • Identity and New Literacies – how does this link to artefacts, social practice, arrangements within digital spaces ? (@JohnPP)
  • Manovich (2002 & @manovich), Lievrouw & Livingstone (2004) – old vs. new media conventions, ‘local, interpersonal, domestic, experiential – (..), on the interiority of new media uses and meanings.’ http://blog.lib.umn.edu/swiss/archive/Lievrouw.pdf
  • Identity Online – are participants of online spaces being ‘agentive or allowing the space to subjugate own identity’ (@JohnPP)
  • Ethics and Online Research: social science and humanities models – issues surrounding participant consent. (Dr. Diane Carr)

MA Research

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2 thoughts on “Stepping Away from the Day Job – Is it Valuable?

  1. A really thought provoking post. I think you sum up the experiences of many of us on the course and articulate it very well. I have to totally agree that the f2f element provides a whole new perspective and provides some well needed glue, both in meeting lecturers and fellow students. Thanks for the post.

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