Reflections

Mind the Space

Mindfulness is “the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to content and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement” (Langer, 2014, p. 4). It seems simple, right? But did you know that most of us spend nearly 47% of our waking hours thinking about something other than what we’re doing (Killingsworth & Gilbert, 2010)? I was concerned I might fall into this percentile, so I decided to take a look at what I was actually minding on a daily basis. With the help of a few reads and an app, I decided to set out on my own inward journey to see what my own mind was up to these days. It’s been almost three months of this mindful journey, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so far.

With the amount of information and media I consume on a regular basis, I thought it was about time I inserted some mental workouts into my mind. Apparently, a wandering mind is not a happy mind, and the following benefits Goleman (2017b) share for being more mindful:

  • stronger focus
  • better concentration
  • staying calmer under stress
  • better memory
  • cultivates an attitude of kindness

I have been thinking about what consumes my mental space and how my work is changing the way I process things. I try space my work into chunks and take time away from a screen or project deadlines to process in an analog way (e.g. run, read a real book, walk my pup, doodle/draw, or play ukulele). I am wondering how much my response or reaction to things is being molded by the devices I use or the work that I do, so it was helpful to learn how mindfulness and a meditation practice might curb this shifting response of my own thoughts, emotions, and reactions. In the HBR Mindfulness book, Goleman (2017a) also shared that mindfulness has the potential to help us:

  • pay attention to accomplishments
  • enhance creativity
  • less evaluative
  • develop charisma
  • improve productivity
  • be fully present
  • appreciate/understand why people behave the way they do
  • make moments in life matter
  • focus on what is important
  • hear the signals in the noise
  • recognize patterns
  • label/accept own thoughts and emotions
  • act on values
  • practice empathy

Sign me up! I think we could all use a bit more of the above list — so let’s give this meditation thing a go and improve how we think about things. Our brains need a bit of a workout or even rest, right? Goleman (2011) describes the ability to build resilience either by talking to yourself or retraining your brain. I decided to opt for the latter, as I typically talk out loud to process ideas. I figured it might be time to look at my inward dialog to examine what I am thinking about as the cogs of my brain turn. For a mindful practice, Goleman (2011) shares these simple instructions:

  1. Find a quiet, private place where you can be undistracted for a few minutes — for instance, close your office door and mute your phone.
  2. Sit comfortably, with your back straight but relaxed.
  3. Focus your awareness on your breath, staying attentive to the sensations of the inhalation and exhalation, and start again on the next breath.
  4. Do not judge your breathing or try to change it in any way.
  5. See anything else that comes to mind as a distraction — thoughts, sounds, whatever — let them go and return your attention to your breath.

We can reprogram our brain to be more rational and less emotional for how we react, make decisions, and deal with life situations. “Mindfulness is being present and aware, moment by moment, regardless of circumstances” (Gonzalez, 2014). The process of leaning into emotions or dealing with difficult times through meditation has an acronym for coping:  R.A.I.N. = Recognize, Accept, Investigate, and Non-Identifications. This is how to deal with overwhelming situations, stress, or to connect to the situation better by leaning into these feelings.

That being said, I have never meditated. Sure – I enjoy my Shavasana pose at the end of a yoga class – but I have never really tried this meditation thing. I’m too busy for that! Or I get what I need for my mind from taking a walk, going for a run, or yoga, right? (Is what I thought.)  This is probably why I appreciated reading Dan Harris’ (2017) book and advice for fidgety skeptics who was to meditate. Harris is a journalist who started meditation after having a panic attack live on the air and I heard about this book from an episode of Note To Self (Thanks, @manoushz!). Here are a few simple steps he offers  for anyone who is just starting a meditation practice (Harris, 2017):

  1. Approach the establishing of a meditation habit as an experiment.
  2. Be willing to fail – it might not work every day or always, but that’s okay.
  3. Start small – don’t take on too much too soon. Even 1 minute of meditation each day counts.
  4. Try attaching medication to a preexisting habit, for example, I meditate after I brush my teeth in the morning.
  5. Stay on the lookout for the life benefits, let them pull you forward.

More resources from @danbharris at http://www.10percenthappier.com/ & The Consciousness Explorer’s Club

That being said, I do have to thank Andy Puddicombe for his 10 mindful minutes TED Talk where he shares WHY we should mediate. I had heard this before and replayed it after reading a few of these books on meditation. Additionally, I had tried out (10-days are free) his meditation app, Headspace (https://www.headspace.com/) last year — but never moved forward with this practice. This year, I make the purchase to commit to trying meditation for a longer period of time (at least one year, per the investment).  Also, I decided to designate a space in my house, get a meditation cushion, and anchor my morning practice to something I typically do when I wake up in the morning (anchor action: brush my teeth, start the coffee, and then sit to meditate). Adding this app and anchoring my meditation practice to the regular routine has become part of my morning ritual before I start my day to work, write, or something else.

So… here’s my progress report: I am almost 3 months into this meditation practice and being present in my own (head) space is going alright. I am not going to say it has been easy or that I want to do it all the time, but I am finding that this regular practice to pause in the morning (and at other times throughout the day) is helping me to chill when I’m stressed and be more present with those around me (I think). Like any new training routine, it’s not an overnight thing — it does take time and continual practice. So onward with the mindful journey, I go!

Do you have a meditation practice? What grounds your mindful practice? Tell me about it, and I welcome suggestions as a newbie to the practices. Please feel free to share in the comments below.

References:

Goleman, D. (2011). Resilience for the rest of us. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2011/04/resilience-for-the-rest-of-us

Goleman, D. (2017a). Mindfulness (HBR Emotional Intelligence Series). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review.

Goleman, D. (2017b, September 28). Here’s What Mindfulness Is (and Isn’t) Good For. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2017/09/heres-what-mindfulness-is-and-isnt-good-for

Gonzalez, M. (2014, March 31). Mindfulness for People Who Are Too Busy to Meditate. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2014/03/mindfulness-for-people-who-are-too-busy-to-meditate

Harris, D.  (2017). Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-to Book. New York City, NY: Penguin Random House LLC

Killingsworth, M. A., & Gilbert, D. T. (2010). A wandering mind is an unhappy mind. Science330(6006), 932-932.

Langer, E. J. (2014). Mindfulness, 25th-anniversary edition. Boston, MA: DeCapo Press.

 

#AcDigID, edusocmedia, Higher Education, Reflections, Social Media, SocioTech

Re-Evaluating My Digital Self

Over the past year (or longer), I continue to think more about my digital self. This should be no surprise, as I am currently researching higher ed’s networked practice and I facilitate a workshop a couple times year about what it means to be an academic and professional online in postsecondary education [Note: The NEXT #AcDigID Workshop Offering for grad students, early career scholars, academics, faculty & researchers is January 8-14, 2018 if your 2018 New Year’s resolution is to sort this out for yourself, please join in!]. Typically, at the end of the calendar year, some people like to look back at 2017, “in review.” You might read/write end of year blog posts with a top ____ list of highlights/happenings. Or perhaps you’ve joined in on the Instagram “best9” of 2017 photo montage posting. This year, I am doing something different. Thanks to conversations I’ve had with JeffPaul, Katie, Chris, and others both offline and recorded [on the @BreakDrink podcast check out episodes 5, 7, 10 & 13] in 2017 — I will be setting aside some of my winter break to examine what it means to be present and connected online for ME. My personal review might be less merry or bright as I examine what I’ve shared or exposed to data/information in digital life. Festive? I know. 🙂

It has to be done. I need to really take a hard look at my digital self. This personal online audit will help to clean up and prevent potential hacks; however, this time I am including bigger questions beyond use/activity — as I plan review platforms terms of service, digital rights, data access, digital security, data extraction, and, ultimately, outlining if there is a purpose/need for “being” in any of these virtual locations. As net neutrality rules are killed and social (+ other) media continue to scale, I have a lot more questions I need to think about for my own work, learning, and life. The last few years there has been a reckoning for social media — more than anyone once thought over a decade ago. “Facebook is just a college thing” and “Twitter is just a fad,” were some of the things once said. Who thought these social networks would impact how we learn, work, vote, share, and more?

My digital self “under review” is not only a result of my distrust in sharing over media, the Russian hack of social media during the US election or even my aversion to having any “smart speaker” in our home that records and gathers data each day. Nor is it the fact that I live with a cybersecurity professional or that Black Mirror‘s sociotechnical sci-fi drama offers an eerie foreshadow to what lies ahead of us in the not-so-distant future. I embraced online and a connect being for over a decade now, so there’s no wonder why my digital footprint has me grappling with issues of digital security, personal wellness, individual safety, and the privacy paradox of living/working in a connected world.Image c/o The WIRED Guide to Digital Security

That being said, the free and open collection of knowledge on social media cannot offer regular fact-checking or verified expertise. This is critical for those who are a part of this shared, collective community online. The future of knowledge can be misleading if we are letting these platforms guide us by the information we share and the interactions within the network. As Tim Berners-Lee stated in his open letter written about the internet, he is concerned we have lost control of our personal data, misinformation is easily spread on the Web, and online transparency and understanding are needed in political advertising [as well as other spheres online].

Lately, I have been struggling with how our society is entrenched and relies on technological platforms. My true concern for self-auditing my digital life is to understand more about the impact and influence I have let technology and platforms invade my everyday way of living. As a reminder, platforms are:

“digital infrastructures that enable two or more groups to interact… [and] bring together different users… with a series of tools that enable their users to build their own products, services, and marketplaces” (Srnicek, 2017, p. 43).

The reliance on online networks and digital platforms might be more problematic than we think. There seems to be much power owned by these digital platforms. For example, the digital curation website, Storify, plans to shut down and delete data by May 2018. Like a few of my peers, I too am questioning the use of services and accounts we don’t own or control. I understand why a growing number of higher ed and ed tech colleagues are thinking the same was as they trim their digital contribution on Twitter, close down their accounts on major social media platforms, like Facebook, and take by control of the web by creating a domain of one’s own.

For me, this virtual audit exercise will include and go beyond social networks and connected sites to also examine WHERE, WHY, and HOW I live/work digitally. I think it’s a critical time to reevaluate the platforms and technologies we are using, in general. Where the data is stored? Who has access to what? Who owns the rights to my created or uploaded content? Am I utilizing appropriate _____ platform/technology for my personal/professional life? Are there other means that are not “free” I should be considering? It’s not like I have not done this activity before — but this time it might mean that I took “break up” with a platform or connected sites. For 2018, I want to be more diligent with my personal data, private information and online “being,” to limit surveillance/tracking online and to align my own values and ethics with networks and platforms I use.

Reference

Srnicek, N. (2017). Platform capitalism. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

#SAcdn, Reflections

#SAcdn Chat: What Does it Mean to “Be Productive” in #HigherEd?

We always seem to push forward and do more in our daily working lives. Being productive seems to offer many bragging rights for more hours worked, more emails replied to or even more things on our plate. But does this “productive” work leave us time to ponder and reflect about what we are working on? How do we take pause and find quiet time during each academic term? How do you step back from your daily, weekly, or monthly grind on campus? Are there ways you can be productive and find time to ponder each semester? Let’s chat about it and share HOW we are working to be our best selves in post-secondary education. Join us TODAY, November 21, 2017, from 12-1 pm CDT as we discuss the following topic on Twitter: Productivity vs. Pondering in Higher ed

HOW TO: Participate in the #SAcdn Chat

The #SAcdn hashtag has been embraced by student affairs (SA), student services, and professionals who support students in Canadian higher education. The goal is to connect and communicate what is going on in universities and community colleges across the country.

Here’s a quick overview of how to participate in #SAcdn Chat:

  1. Set up your Twitter Account (HOW TO: Set Up The Twitters).
  2. Follow the in #SAcdn hashtag on Twitter for the latest tweets.
  3. Follow @cacusstweets who will moderate the Q & A for the Twitter Chat.
  4. Get ready and excited for TODAY’s (11/21) chat by checking out the #SAcdn hashtag NOW!
  5. JOIN US Tuesday, November 21st from 10-11 am PT/12-1 pm CT/2 pm AT for the LIVE, synchronous #SAcdn Twitter conversation. We will “talk” about TOPIC: Productivity vs. Pondering in Higher Ed

Be sure to contribute to the LIVE #SAcdn Twitter Chat by:

  • Logging into your Twitter account as the#SAcdn chat will happen ON THE TWITTER platform.
  • Follow along in real time during the #SAcdn Twitter chat by following along on the Twitter hashtag: #SAcdn or this Tweet Chat Room: http://tweetchat.com/room/SAcdn
  • The MOD (moderator) @cacusstweets will ask 4-6 questions during the 60-minute chat; please respond with the Q# in your update, e.g. “Q1: Your Answer” Plus you now have 280 characters to respond!
  • Invite your higher education faculty/staff peers to join the conversation – all our welcome to join!
  • Include the#SAcdn hashtag in your tweets and responses (“@”) to others.

To help you prepare, here are a few of the #SAcdn chat questions to ponder IN ADVANCE of our conversation:

  1. How do you define “productivity” with regards to the work you do in higher ed?
  2. On the flip side, how do you ponder or reflect more about your work and role in #highered?
  3. What are the challenges of productivity you face on a daily, weekly, or semester basis in #highered? Please describe.
  4. Think of your last great “success” at work. What role did productivity and/or pondering (reflection) play? Please share.
  5. Instead of #inboxzero (email), when was the last time you bragged lately about getting 8+ hours of sleep, eating a healthy meal, or leaving your desk/office on time? Share 1 thing you do for your well-being.
  6. We always are on the go & trying to be productive. What is ONE (1) thing you are going to do to PAUSE and PONDER (reflect) during the busy end of year/semester time?

UPDATE: #SAcdn Chat TRANSCRIPT: Pondering vs. Productivity in Higher Ed

 

BreakDrink, Podcast

Podcasting, You’ve Changed… @BreakDrink Meanderings from Episode No. 1

Once upon a time, there was the original BreakDrink podcast. You might know them from the collaborative efforts of this podcast network from 2010 to 2013. Well… we’re back. Sort of. It’s not a comeback or the same @BreakDrink you know (and love?). This BreakDrink podcast will share the real conversation Jeff and I typically have … and perhaps a perspective from any guest who might be willing to join us for a bit of a chat. I have no doubt we will have random conversations. It could touch upon higher ed issues and possibly a bit of technology — but really, this podcast will dig into other relevant topics like tacos, coffee, travel, parenting, the NBA, rescue dogs, and more.  Why are we podcasting again? Apparently, we need a podcast to talk and record this banter on a regular basis — and, if you subscribe, then you can reap the benefits of these meanderings in our chats. 

breakdrink_logo_color_stackedrss

In our first episode of BreakDrink in January, Jeff and I reflected on how much podcasting has changed (or not changed) with the infusion of quality content productions and shared what’s in the podcasting realm we listen to these days. We both appreciate the storytelling meets investigation journalism, and love the audio format. For others on the podcasting bandwagon, I blame/thank Serial for the resurgence of this medium. 🙂  Since we’ve been out of the podcasting game, there are a few others podcasters who have emerged and this episode is a deep dive into just a few that sit on our podcast playlist that we enjoy. 

Here are a few recommended podcasts that Jeff & I have listened to … as of late:

    • Reply All hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman (from TDLR)
    • Crimetown
    • Homecoming starring Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac, and David Schwimmer.
    • Wiretap (archived) by Jonathan Goldstein
    • Heavyweight with Jonathan Goldstein
    • We thank Serial for bringing back podcast love.
    • Startup chronicles the Gimlet Media podcast network startup (season 1)

And a  few, of MANY, higher ed podcasts to add to your listening cue:

You can listen directly below, or check out the notes from BreakDrink, Episode No. 1:

To share this podcast with friends, families, or foes, feel free to do so with the following links:

If you have comments, questions, or feedback about this podcast episode OR want to share your own input/resources, please feel free to post a comment below, or follow us on the following “BreakDrink” podcast channels:

MOOC, Online Learning, Reflections

The Student Story in Open, Online Learning

In starting a new year and a new term, I am thinking more about student stories and learner experiences in my courses. From my teaching in K-12 and now in higher ed, I continually strive to be a “good teacher.” We know that quality education comes from instructors who are reaching students and by improving learning design, delivery, and engagement. There are multiple intervals during an academic term where I stop to reflect on the lessons learned in online education and to think about my own instructional practice.

Like a number other instructors in higher ed, I review learner comments from the course evaluations at the end of the term. Beyond the evaluative score of these instruments, I think it is critical for instructors, learning designers, researchers, and administrators to listen to the student story in our online (and open) learning environments. Additionally, I solicit student my own student feedback at the beginning and end of the term to learn more about their goals and individual experiences. I also take short notes about each course assignment, project, discussion board prompt, or journal entry reflection to remind myself of how students engaged with/learned from these activities. Much of my instructional reflection involves pedagogical considerations, rather than technological applications. I want to encourage my learners to persist, so I offer opportunities to improve with draft assignments and provide on-going feedback/follow-up. In thinking about my communication practices and technological tools, I want to ensure my online classroom is interactive and offers opportunities to meet both the learning outcomes and student needs.

open_learner_stories

What do students really want from their online instructor? Here are a few things I have learned over the past few years of online teaching:

  • Provide a purpose of each course section connected to the learning goals
  • Easy to follow course design and navigation for online learning
  • Transparent expectations for requirements and how they will be evaluated/assessed
  • Clear directions for course assignments, projects, and activities
  • Meaningful online activities and projects that apply beyond the course or connected to their own career/academic goals – relevance!
  • Relatively quick responses to questions and/or communication standards as to when/how the instructor/TA for course support
  • A connection to the instructor via  “presence” or involvement in the course, e.g. video lectures, lecture/screencasting, audio files, course discussion participation, etc. to make it personal and meaningful

As I research online learning strategies to succeed, and continue to teach online each semester, I really want to know more about how my learners persist in online — so I can improve my own practice. In George Veletsianos‘ (2013) book, Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning, ten graduate students immerse themselves in open online learning experiences for two months and share their own narratives. This collection of peer-reviewed, learner essays offer further insight and reflection on the following questions:

  • What are learner experiences with open online courses, MOOCs, and other forms of open online learning?
  • What is it like to participate in open online learning?
  • What are learners’ perspectives of MOOCs?

Although I am not instructing a MOOC, this free e-book offered suggestions to improve learning delivery/design and identify ways to scaffold online environments for my own students.  This book may only a slice of online learning, as it shares learners’ reflections from MOOCs, it does indicate that distance education is a complex thing. Expectations, realities, and execution of this learning is quite varied.  I think these narratives provided by graduate students offer insight into distance education itself, and perhaps, how we even approach research in this arena. These student stories reminded me to involve my learners in the process of understanding their educational experience. When it comes to online learning, we should ensure the student voice is not crowded out by research ABOUT our students, that is, we need to think about research BY our students. I am thinking more about this key point as I contemplate how to best involve my sample population’s “voice” in my research and discover meaning further meaning that is often overlooked in scholarship.

Reference:

Veletsianos, G. (2013). Learner Experiences with MOOCs and Open Online Learning. Madison, WI: Hybrid Pedagogy Press.

Reflections

#OneWord2016: Focus

With a couple of weeks away from blogging, fewer messages posted in 140-characters or less,  and really unplugging from most things digital over the winter break — I have finally selected my #OneWord2016 to direct my resolution-less new year:

Focus

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Flickr image c/o Mark Hunter

My previous #OneWords the past two years were now and simplify, so word focus seems to be on track. Over the past few weeks, I have taken time off “the grid” for some R n’ R. This practice helped me to turn down the noise, and dedicate my time to particular interests and people in my life. I have formed a steady practice with this developing habit, which includes putting my phone on silence, removing notifications, checking email less, and reading less of ALL.THE.FEEDS!! By designating time to specific digital tasks and directing my attention to specific projects, I am able to participate in a type of deep work and by removing the distractions. Not only has this focused practice improved my productivity and decreased my procrastination tendencies, it has also made feel more balanced and pleased with my personal/professional progress.

habit

Moving forward in 2016, I will continue this focused habit. There will be an increased amount of focus on the important things — and this is not just work/research related. Focus on friends, family, and loved ones. Focus on learning fun things. Focus on being curious with my inquiry. Focus on what is going on the now now now. Focus on new opportunities that are ahead. Focus on health and well-being. Focus on contributing to my community. Focus on the things that matter.

What’s your #OneWord2016? Tell me about it.

blogs, Reflections

2014: My Blog in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Since WP put in the effort, I thought I would review my stats from the year — seems like the annual thing to do and all.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 22,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Who Views

No surprise that America is my biggest audience — as that is where I live. I wonder how US-centric WordPress is in general, and how that impacts those who blog, write, share, and produce content here. I’ve been pondering content sharing online since that talk Laura Czerniewicz (@Czernie) gave on visibility and presence in scholarship in #scholar14.

“Some of your most popular posts were written before 2014. Your writing has staying power! Consider writing about those topics again.”

Maybe I was more interesting from 2010-2013? Or at least my post topics or titles were. Based on my click view stats from this year, compared to the last few years, my overall readership has decreased. Then again, it looks like I posted 48 blog posts total, which is down from from 59 post in 2013 and 62 posts in 2012. Perhaps I was a tad busy writing other things in 2014 (*ahem* Dissertation *cough*). It is no wonder why a number of readers decided to look back into the archives of this blog – top 5 hits included:

I am not concerned. I started and continue to blog to share ideas, reflect on learning and put a few things out there with regards to my own teaching, service and research scholarship. I blog for myself, and the community of practice who shares similar sentiments and values. It’s quality not quantity, right? I am honored to have a number of new followers and loyal subscribers from my PLN who read, respond, and engage.

Top Commenters for 2014

I’d much prefer to get comments and thoughts shared on posts then just click views any day. Plus you never know what a blog post might lead to. Often it has been a new connection, collaborative writing, and even research fun – OH MY! {Yes – this even includes random meet ups and spontaneous dance/beach parties. True story.} Beyond my blog reflections, is where the real networked magic happens. These posts are really just a springboard to more learning, fun, and research.

If you care to learn more about the TechKNOW Tools stats from 2014, feel free to click here to see the complete report. Thanks to the many social platform links and even a shout out to Josie for referrals here. Happy blogging to all in 2015! Blog on.

p.s. Why the heck would I want to use the new WP editor? I much prefer the classic wp-admin mode ANY day for my blogging experience. Seriously.