Caution  – Domain Construction

Caution – Domain Construction

It is hard to believe that we are into Week Five of the faculty Domain of One’s Own initiative!  I wanted to offer up  a few insights  as many of the themes/topics/technical areas have carried across these past few weeks.  Last week we hit the half-way point – not only are faculty reading, discussing, blogging, sharing, and tweeting – they are learning about each other as individuals and learning about each others disciplines, pedagogy, and scholarship. There have been some fantastic conversations that have resonated and crossed disciplinary boundaries. Reflection is a powerful tool – reflection on digital pedagogy, digital identity, digital presence and ‘owning’ our domains!

I would like to say how much I have enjoyed spending time with each of faculty groups this year. Attending the one-hour sessions has provided me a unique opportunity to listen, laugh, and participate in a variety of discussions with amazing faculty who are wrestling with identity construction, online voice and presence, and domain construction/revisions. Each group has developed and co-constructed their own community; individuals’ insights and experiences related to teaching and scholarship have helped shaped and informed our conversations. And contrary to Jim Groom – each cohort rocks! Just ask them! #teamryanrocks

Caution – Domain Construction and All Things Digital

There were a lot of conversations related to domain construction and all things WordPress. Time has been spent on themes, pages, posts, menus, categories, tags, how to install a plug in, and C panel. One of the features of our one-hour session is the opportunity to ‘trouble shoot’ individuals technical issues. Faculty receive immediate feedback and help.  What I find useful about these mini-tech help talks is that they are embedded in a real need – learning a new tool now matters and doesn’t remain some abstract thing.  Grounded help in a real problem that gets solved – BAM!  The DTLT folks are masters at providing faculty support. I often hear them sharing their own experiences and hurdles as they entered the digital world – we each have a professional journey and stories to share – I think it’s important to ‘remember where we came from’ (something my grandmother would say).   It somehow feels reassuring to know that others have felt and are feeling many of the things faculty are sharing as they begin and continue their digital journey. What I also appreciate is how more seasoned faculty are ready to offer up their experiences, advice and strategies – real world examples that mattered enough for faculty to share across a variety of disciplines. Again, amazing faculty who are putting themselves out there and taking risks while exploring what a domain can mean to them.

Another theme was related to the professional – personal – private.   Faculty have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on how personal is too personal, what is private, and what professional information is important.  There is a tension and finding comfort in that balance is an individual process. What ‘feels right’ to one faculty member doesn’t ‘feel right’ with another.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ and that is one of the strengths of this faculty initiative. Faculty get to ‘create’ a digital space that matters to them. And a lot of conceptual thinking is where many of our faculty are currently at as they figure out the right balance for themselves as they build a domain that represents them.

With ownership comes the realization and responsibility of faculty owning and shaping (active engagement) their online presence.  One faculty member shared, “really glad I have this [Domain of One’s Own] to allow me to take control of my identity.” And then acknowledged that “this is a huge learning curve – with carrying teaching loads, scholarship, and manage an online identity. I am figuring out how to manage expectations.”  Managing expectations was a central theme for faculty (all at very different places with digital work). Cohorts spend time talking about various ways to manage (recurring theme) and construct a digital identity that made sense in terms of workload. Talk often turns to ‘efficiency’ in terms of using digital tools within the initiative and beyond. How do faculty integrate digital identity work into the rhythm and flow of academic life?

Building a Plane while Flying

Often times we want our professional identity to be ‘professional’ – a finished well – polished version of ourselves. DoOO pushes us to be open about our development, more along the lines of formative and reflective – our thinking along the way. This can be new territory (and considered private) for many faculty as we have been socialized in  ‘traditional academic cultures’ where we put our best work/scholarship/thinking forward in a polished format.  Blogging has been an interesting experience for our faculty as many begin to experiment in this space. Our more seasoned academics in the initiaitve have already ‘traveled the blogging path’ and ‘through that process’ have developed/refined their online persona/identity and are very comfortable in this space. But for many of the DoOO faculty this is a new experience that moves many toward feelings of discomfort and thinking  ‘this will be public’ and taking care to blog along academic lines. The private development path is to remain private. A tension exists between “I want to make sure it is good (summative)” vs. “I’m not that comfortable sharing my development (formative).”  From a faculty development perspective I am interested in the development journey of the ways in which faculty can be supported to grow and develop an online identity, presence, create a space they own and actively shape to capture ‘who they are’ and ‘what they care about.’ Students often share how they like it when ‘their professors have a website’ because they can read about and see the work faculty are engaged in and how they teach. A domain can be a powerful tool for faculty to tap into – showcase teaching, share projects, research interests, blogs – things that matter.  Our students do take the time to seek out their professors online as a way to learn more about them (professional – personal).  Just think of the potential to share our domains so students learn more than ‘rate my professor.’  More to follow…..



Magic Shop Musings – Pedagogical Power

Magic Shop Musings – Pedagogical Power

All the snow and cold weather has really hampered business but yesterday Saptiva’s Magic Shop was bustling with activity. Saptiva (gaming name/avatar) met with various wizards, rogues, warriors, and clerics (students/players from a computer science class at UMW). Various ‘parties’  (teams) arrived in force to trade their gold and gems for potions (invisibility, cure light wounds, haste),  wands (magic missile, cure light wounds), and +1 powers! All who visited received the next homework clue and continued on with their quest. It was a bonus  +1 experience to my day!

Dave WizardDr. David Toth is doing some innovative curriculum work at UMW related to gaming.  He was a participant in UMW’s first Faculty Game Camp last summer and he credits that experience in helping him think about and design a quest-based game layer for his course. One of the things I admire about Dave is his willingness to take risks with his pedagogy. Dave (avid Dungeons and Dragons player) was  inspired to add ‘gaming’ to his pedagogical powers!

Last fall he infused a ‘quest game layer’ into one of his classes as a pilot study. Dave dressed up as a wizard on the first day of class and wrote intricate story lines for his students as they searched for hidden treasures on various quests.  He was curious to know the ways in which adding a game layer supported or hindered student learning. I wholeheartedly supported his desire to solicit student feedback and we learned quite a bit from students’ Fall survey data.  Dave has ‘upped’ his game for his current Spring class with three key modifications.

first day groupOne key change was to more closely link the quest based aspects of the course to course content, a tighter alignment. A second change was the use of an organized party. Students/players are organized into several smaller parties and now need to collaborate in order to complete quests. A third change was the creation of a Magic Shop. Dave wanted students to come to a ‘Magic Shop’ to buy various potions, rings, wands, and powers as they leveled up over the course of the semester. I jumped at the chance to run the Magic Shop – a great opportunity for me to talk with students and join in the fun of quest based learning! Dave and his students headed over to the Magic Shop on the first day of a class to receive their first homework clue, get familiar with the Magic Shop, and make any purchases from their initial bag of gold and gems.

Magic Shop BuyersAt the Magic Shop rogues, wizards, warriors, and clerics (students) traded in their gold pieces and gems for various powers and spells. Part of trading entailed figuring out what each of their various gems were worth and selecting their desired items.  What immediately struck me was how serious students were about selecting the ‘right’ items for their character class. A sense of competition and cooperation was clearly evident.  One party wanted to arrive first so they would be sure they could buy what they wanted for fear items would sell out!  And each ‘party’ spent some serious time discussing, planning, and thinking through how individual player’s class could support and balance out the overall party powers.  One rogue wanted to steal his items but I was able to catch him before he left the Magic Shop! It’s not everyday I get to barter and trade with rogues, wizards, warriors and clerics.  I look forward to their return visits!

Dave is currently engaged in a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project on his quest-based pedagogy.  We will be presenting our SoTL research findings at the upcoming 2014 Lilly Conference in Bethesda Maryland.  Updates will continue as the Magic Shop is now open for business.   

Collective and the Individual

Collective and the Individual

As the Spring 2014 Faculty Domain of One’s Own (DoOO) Initiative begins its second cycle I can’t help but think about individual faculty who have joined for various reasons (create Domain, integrate Domain of One’s Own project into courses, enhance technological literacy skills, money, etc.). Regardless of the reason each will seek support to venture into or enhance their digital journey. While a focus on individual faculty is central to the work of this initiative I also like to think more holistically in terms of the collective experience.  As I believe the collective experience (face-to-face and on the Web) can be a powerful experience and is really at the heart of this work.

19 faculty (12 tenure track, 7 tenured) are participating and represent Sociology, Art and Art History, Mathematics, History and American Studies, Classics, Philosophy, and Religion, Political Science and International Affairs, Computer Science, Business, Marketing, Curriculum and Instruction, Foundations, Leadership, and Special Populations, and Historic Preservation. The faculty model design is to ‘mix-it-up’ by placing faculty in one of four small groups (4-6). Each group is comprised of faculty from different disciplines, various career stages, and self-reported comfort level with technology.  Faculty come together six times (once a week for an hour); face-to-face time is roughly divided between discussion (assigned reading(s) and open topics) and technology. What is a particularly interesting characteristic about this cohort is that the majority of faculty are on the tenure track.  I can’t help but wonder how and in what ways participation in this faculty digital initiative supports or hinders their tenure journey. Something I would like to follow-up on.

I am planning and hoping to attend all four faculty groups and listen in – jotting down anecdotal notes to capture conversations, ideas, and sharing that occurs within each group and then ‘look at the collective’ for common themes/topics that emerged during our faculty face-to-face time.

Week 1: Understanding the Web.  Faculty began the work of setting up their Domain and our readings helped to inform our understanding of the Web.

  • Tensions between personal and professional

Many shared their varying degrees of comfort related to how much to share and what to share. The idea of being able ‘to control’ your online identity was something that resonated with faculty as many are taking the first steps in that ownership.

  • Developing/refining  ‘voice’ and ‘identity’

I find this theme to be at the heart of the Faculty DoOO initiative. Getting faculty blogging about the initiative (and what ever else they want) was met with various levels of concern. For many faculty the whole ‘idea of blogging’ was seen as a risk; never done before, daunting. Questions emerged, lots of questions. What do I blog about? How formal do I need to be? How informal?  What will others think about my thinking related to the initiative? It is my hope that faculty will ‘stick their toes in’ and find like minded faculty to share their experiences with and perhaps this work can help support  and enhance their digital voice.

  • Conceptualizing

This is hard work for many of us when we first begin to think about how we want to represent ourselves on the Web.  While there are so many tools to ‘build’ what we envision it is often overwhelming to ‘envision’ something new in a context that one is unfamiliar with.  Who is my audience? How do I want my work to be represented? What matters? This work is the building blocks of our identity.  I think one of the strengths of the Faculty DoOO facilitators is the sense of community they create within a particular group and also the sharing of their own digital journeys. Hearing stories of others journeys helps us to envision and shape our own digital journey.

One group talked about the tension between ‘publishing’ a finished piece of work and how different that would be in terms of ‘publishing’ a work in process (for anyone to see). Faculty question how and in what ways publishing their work in process connects to the online identity they are working towards creating.  And also how finding a ‘online community’ could also support scholarly work as others critique and contribute to ones understandings.  In some ways ‘publishing’ a work in process is very similar to taking a formative stance to the work.  As opposed to ‘summative’ the final polished piece that is judged by our peers.  I would imagine that this ‘summative’ aspect of our scholarly work matters particularly for our tenure-track faculty who are working towards establishing themselves within the discipline. And I can sense and appreciate their struggles.

While everyone is at a different place and have joined for different/similar reasons I am taken by how willing they are to experiment and try out new tools as they craft their own digital identities.  More next week.