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As a fourth year doctoral candidate, in addition to having completed comprehensive examinations and prospectus and working on the dissertation, my thoughts are also turning towards the job market and securing that first academic position. This purpose of this blog is to chronicle the trials and tribulations of completing my Ph.D. and finding that first job.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Wireless and AECT

Okay, so a few days ago I told Rick Xaver, over at Disruptive Technocrat that I was anxiously awaiting his thoughts on "Next: is wireless Internet access at the conference a perk or a necessity?" (see More on AECT). Given the inside knowledge and attention to detail that Rick displayed in his first shelling of AECT, I was hoping that he would again offer up some specific criticisms and some specific suggestions on how to more ahead in the future.

While I wasn't disappointed with his specific criticisms, I was a little disappointed with his suggestions on how do we improve this. Beyond stating that "wireless Internet access at the conference is definitely a necessity" and suggesting that "we shouldn't even visit a potential conference site until we know everything about what our Internet options are," there was little there in the way of how do we move forward.

If you recall, wireless access and Internet access in general were the topics of a couple of the entries that I posted about AECT this past year (see First Impression of AECT 2005 - Continue to Disappoint, More Internet Woes, Post-Mortem on AECT, and Final Thoughts on AECT 2005 - I promise). The common thread between all of these entries (and there were two or three more on AECT that didn't include this) was the lack of Internet access for conference participants - be it through the promised wireless network, the lack of facilities provided by the trade show, and the lack of coverage to all of the conference's resort areas.

In more than one of these entries, I compared (and have done so many times in the past) AECT to AACE. Both organizations have similar missions. The AACE on the other hand manages three or four times the number of academic journals as AECT and has three conferences to AECT's one (although this appears to be expanding to two with the proposed research symposium). I've been told that AACE also also has a bigger permenant staff to AECT - four or five to two or three I'm told.

Having made these distinctions, I have been to two AECT annual meetings now and have had very spotty Internet access at the first and little to none at the second. I have been to four AACE conferences now and have had wireless Internet access at all four and have also had access to a computer room three tims the size of anything I have seen at AECT. How you might ask? Well, AACE brings it with them. They bring their own wireless system to the conference hotel for participants to use, through two staff members and a host of volunteers (did I mention that eight hours of volunteering at AACE gets your free registration compared to twelve hours fora $50 registration at AECT - and don't get me started on scheduling) to manage both systems.

I have asked a number of times and have yet to receive what I consider an adequate response as to why AECT can't do this. I mean with all of the knowledge and volunteerism that we have in the organization, why can't AECT just go and purchase the necessary equipment and then have a dedicated team of volunteers (why not even use all of the computer literate and technically savy graduate students running around) to manage the system?

This is what I should, but won't see in Dallas. I'm still waiting for someone to tell me why I won't.

[I should note that posted only a few hours ago on Ward's Ruminations was a Dallas Report which states that with the prospective conference hotel AECT will be bring their own wireless equipment to blanket the conference area. While we've been promised this before, based on this report, it looks more promising that this may become a reality.]

Tags: AECT, graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Back to Gaming Again

Okay, so I have been saving blog entries about gaming in general and, more specifically, about gaming education in my Bloglines feedreader and it is about time that I actually post some of them here. Unfortunately, the mass of what I have come up with over much of the semester leaves me with really too much to comment on, but I will try to organize it at least.

Video Games - General

Violence and Video Gaming

Gaming in the Classroom / Teachers and Video Games

Types of Games

Reviews of Video Games and Books

Well, I'm sure that there is a lot there to go over... Some of the categories are a bit better than others and the main purpose of this post is to clear out my Bloglines account of these entries, but still have access to the links myself. But anyway...

So, any of these entries really jump out at you? Anything there worthy of further discussion?

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, December 26, 2005

Prospectus Defense

Well, a couple of posts ago (see Okay, getting back to task) I promised that I would talk a little about my prospectus defense. Unlike the oral defense of my comprehensive examinations, where I had seen two or three other people defend their comprehensive exams, I did not have a first-hand sense of what the prospectus defense would be like. Essentially I went into this defense sight unscene.

The defense itself went fairly well, so well in fact that I believe that I have less work as a result of my committee. It was interesting... Originally, I was going to have two students per district over four school districts that I would interview over the telephone for four or five months and these eight students would also complete weekly reflections. I also had two schools (none of the original eight students would attend either of these schools) that I would spend two weeks in each, observing the students engaged in their distance education. I was also going to conduct a focus group at the beginning of each of these two observation periods and have two students in each of these schools that I would conduct weekly interviews and daily reflections for me.

While this would have given me a lot of interesting data, across many different contexts that all could have been points of comparison within the case study (e.g., schools that are new to distance education compared to ones that have a long history with it or students taking their first distance education course compared to students who have already completed one or more courses), however, none of these comparison points were really important to addressing my four research questions:
  1. What are the students’ experiences during their synchronous time online?
  2. What are the students’ experiences during their asynchronous time online?
  3. What is the nature of the assistance students seek?
  4. After they feel they have successfully mastered a piece of content, what do students attribute their success to?
I guess the interesting part was that my committee was more interested in focusing upon one school to address these questions. To the point that one member asked me what I would gain by having more than one school, and before I answered another member cautioned me to think about how much I want to fight this. As I answer the question, I too realized that while these would make interesting comparisons and things I could do with the data post-dissertation, they did not help me address any of the research questions I was asking.

So, my dissertation study was scaled back to include the students at one school. I was to conduct monthly interviews and receive weekly reflections from as many students from this school as I could for four to five months, I would physically be in this one school observing for a full month, and I would conduct a total of three focus groups with them (i.e., one at the very beginning of my data collection, one immediately before I came to their school, and one shortly following my time in their school).

In the end, there is a chance that I will be conducting more than eight monthly interviews, so it may not be less work. Although my month of May won't be as bad, as I only have one set of students to worry about now, instead of two groups of students to keep track of (i.e., the distance students that I would have been telephone interviewing and the local students in the two schools I would have visited). So, things will be a little less hectic near the end of my data collection period.

Overall it was an interesting and enjoyable time. I got some ideas for potential follow-up studies to this dissertation study, based upon a brief conversation at the beginning about what this dissertation could have been, so once I get that "oh-so-important" first position, I have some ideas on where to take my program of research.

More on the dissertation as I get closer to starting my data collection, and I'm sure I'll have some thoughts on the actual content of the dissertation on my other blog (i.e., Virtual High School Meanderings), as the topic of my dissertation is more focused upon virtual schooling. Until then...

Tags: graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

Saturday, December 24, 2005

More on AECT

Okay, so this new blogger has burst on to the scene with four messages in a three day span about AECT. Rick Xaver, over at Disruptive Technocrat, is a former employee of AECT and the creator of the http//www.aect-members.org site. In a series of posts (see The Challenge of AECT Electronic Services, Symposium sponsored by Denny's?, Beyond complaints: a sense of direction, and Out of date, out of touch), he takes AECT to task over the disconnect between the organization's mandate (i.e., cutting edge of educational communications and technology) and the reality of their main organizational homepage (i.e., http//www.aect.org - which short of an act of God, never gets updated).

As someone relataively new to the inner workings of AECT, I am only starting to realize the real problems of the organization (and they go far beyond the complaints that I had about the annual meeting - expressed in First Impression of AECT 2005 - Continue to Disappoint, Second Impressions of AECT 2005, More Internet Woes, First Real Day, Second Full Day, Post-Mortem on AECT, and Final Thoughts on AECT 2005 - I promise). Since becoming more involved in the Distance Learning Division, I have come to learn that the main AECT website (i.e., http//www.aect.org) is so static and so difficult to get content added, that there was a geniune need to create the members site (i.e., http//www.aect-members.org). I have since learned that it was Rick who was responsible for the creation of this second site - thanks Rick - and did so having to fight against the AECT home office. Now I may be wrong, but other than the Handbook chapters, ETR&D articles, and to renew my membership, I have no cause to go to the main AECT site. But I use the member's site quite often, because that is where the action is. Divisions are able to post regular notices, regardless of content or importance, for their membership. All of the division areas have an RSS feed so that I can plug them into my Bloglines account and not have to continuous check to see if they've finally updated the content of the site (which is what I would have to do with the main AECT site, so I simply don't).

Now Nate, over at Cognitive Dissonance, has posted a suggestion (see Disruptive Technocrat) on how we can start to change the system and improve upon what is essentially litter on the side of the information highway. I personally don't have the server knowledge to help them out on this task, but you might.

And a personal note to Rick, I can't wait to hear your thoughts on "Next: is wireless Internet access at the conference a perk or a necessity?", as alluded to in your The Challenge of AECT Electronic Services entry.

Tags: AECT, graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Six Impossible Things to Do Before Breakfast

So, one of the blogs in my bloglines feeder is this one called Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast, which is described by the author as "Through the looking glass, on the way to a PhD." A while back now the owner of this blog asked What is Impossible? or, more specifically, what were your six impossible things? As a graduate student, now ABD myself, I thought that this was an interesting exercise so I figured that I'd take a stab at it.
  1. Importing my father's digital tapes into iMovie, editing them and burning them on to DVDs for him. I've had the current three for over a year now, and this has been so long that he has another three or four more to do that he hasn't left with me because I haven't gotten these ones done yet. [I should note that this doesn't include my own that I have yet to do, including my last two anniversary vacations my wife and I took - so one of those is a year and a half old now.]
  2. Fixing the heater in my car - it has been stuck on the option that blows out towards your face and the dial is stripped, so I can't change it to the feet or windshield options. My plan, many moons ago, was to take a look at it myself and see if I could switch it so that it was stuck on the windshield option. I could personally live with that, but that's another thing on my to do list.
  3. Finishing the process of adding entries into my Endnote database and then filing the articles away. As I was working on the writtn portion of my comprehensive examinations this summer, I got pretty good at this. I hauled all of my old articles out of the filing cabinet. Ones from my Master's program or even earlier that were no longer even close to my current or potential research interests were tossed, all of the ones that I actually used as references in my comps were entered into the database and then filed. The remainder were put into neat piles based upon topic areas, presumably so that I could start with the ones closest to my current research focus and work from there. However, like so many other things, there they still sit in less than neat piles around the base of my filing cabinet.
  4. Naming my digital photos - so it was three or four years ago, maybe even five, that I got myself a digital camera (a birthday gift from my family if I remember correctly). It was a year or two before I started using it a lot and for the first year or so that I used it, I was really good at naming the images once I had transferred them from the camera to the My Pictures folder on my computer. Well, about two years ago, that naming thing kind of slipped and there are literally thousands of images on my machine now that I still have to name. I even keep the travel brochures and guides and such that my wife and I pick up at these places we visit so that I will be able to name everything correctly, but alas I think I'll have to resign myself to never getting back to all of these.
  5. Transcribing, transcribing, and more transcribing... I did six or eight interviews this past summer - it seems so long ago that I can't even recall how many it was exactly, but eight I believe - that were the second stage of a project that I had been working on (the first stage was surveys, which I have yet to write up into manuscript form and submit somewhere - but see number six for more on that). These were interesting interviews that I think will have a lot of great data in them, relatively short (roughly 25-40 minutes each), and something I need to get into the habit of doing - given that I am about to start my dissertation data collection which will involve a lot of transcribing. But the tapes still sit on top of the book shelf over there.
  6. Writing, writing, and more writing... These past two months have been very good to me in terms of my writing for course work or for degree requirements, hey I finished my prospectus for example. But there are still at least a dozen writing projects, some former conference papers and others former assignments for different courses - not to mention all of the writing from my comprehensive exams - that I put aside as potential manuscripts. These manuscripts are in various stages, some have been submitted and I have received feedback and are just awaiting time for me to sit and make the requested changes, others were written as "manuscript ready" from their original purpose and have not had those last two or three changes that were recommended by the reader (i.e., professor who graded it or committee member that read that question), while others still were ideas that I had that would still require many hours to get it in ready to be sent out the door - some of these are even group writing projects where I am waiting on a partner or they are waiting on me. Needless to say that I am hoping that the holidays will bring me some time to get some of these things from the inbox to the outbox.

So, those are my six impossible things... What are your's?

Tags: graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Okay, getting back to task

Well, it has been a while since I have had the time to really put much thought, effort, and energy into writing on this blog. I should note, as I did quickly in the previous entry (see Quick Note), I am now a doctoral candidate and, officially, "all but dissertation" - as is implied by the ABD portion of the mkbabd in the URL for this blog.

Anyway, I have had a busy Fall semester. At the very beginning of the semester I submitted my written comprehensive examinations and then successfully completed my oral defense the middle of September (see Theory Question, Foundation Question, Practice Question, Methodology Question, and Well, I Passed). I had one course left to do, which I completed this semester, the capstone course to the qualitative research certificate program.

To distract me a bit, I attended the annual meeting of AECT (see First Impression of AECT 2005 - Continue to Disappoint, Second Impressions of AECT 2005, More Internet Woes, First Real Day, Second Full Day, So, what value do you find in this blog?, Post-Mortem on AECT, and Final Thoughts on AECT 2005 - I promise) and the annual Virtual School Symposium (see First Day of the Virtual School Symposium, Start of the Second Day of VSS, Assessment of the Virtual School Symposium, and The Notes from Mark Milliron's Keynote).

Once November hit, I had to get serious about my prospectus (having only completed a single draft of chapter one at that point). But over the next four weeks, with the help of my two co-chairs and my senior mentor doctoral student, I was able to complete the written portion of my prospectus to the satisfaction of my co-chairs and it was sent out to my committee and then defended the day before I left for Toronto (see Snow that Fell in Toronto During Our Visit for some notes on our trip thus far).

Over the Christmas holidays, I'll try and post an entry about the actual defense and the changes that were made, along with including more information about my proposed dissertation study (both here and on my research blog - i.e., Virtual High School Meanderings), and get back to chatting about the job search some more (including my first academic telephone interview), as I am engaged in that process as well.

Tags: graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Quick Note

Just a quick note to say that I submitted my prospectus about two weeks ago and two days ago successfully defended it. I hope to have more to say about both, as we get a bit of a break for the holiday season, but until then understand that this has been the reason why I have neglected this blog so much this past semester.

Tags: graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Statistics for November

Well, only a couple of entries here this past month, so I expected to see a continued drop in the readership here (as I haven't really given you much to read).

Anyway, this past month there were 129 unique visitors, with 118 of them being first timers and 11 being repeat customers. That's an average of four per day. Given that fact that about half of those spent less than 5 seconds here tells me that a lot of that traffic was from Blogger's "Next Blog" button. Interestingly enough, there were two visitors that spend over an hour here (must have gone out for coffee after they stopped on my blog).

Popular entries this past month included:

Well, that's about all for another month... I'll try and add a bit more nex month...

Tags: graduate student, graduate students, graduate school, higher education, education