Professors Purgatory – Learning My Way Out

What is purgatory for a professor? I suspect it is different for each; isn’t that the point of purgatory?  November 2014, I began my purgatory. One of my students, one that I mentored, defended his work… at the defense, he did not display the results of a statistical method according to APA style nor were all the calculated results necessary. One could say, “This was not just your mistake, but your mentee’s.” That makes it worse! The person that I guided made an error due to my lack of oversight! Could there be anything so egregious to a professor! We don’t want to share our ignorance but rather, our insight! Carracci's Purgatory

Excuses – yes, I could make excuses. There was a deficiency of understanding by committee members, who did not complete their work prior to the defense. There was my inability to be insistent on following particular protocol. Regardless of pretexts, the end result was the same. My student was humiliated, and I, probably more so. It was my responsibility, my watch. It was my death.

Wikipedia writers note that Purgatory, is an “intermediate state after physical death in which those destined for heaven “undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven(August 21, 2015). Officially, I don’t ascribe to purgatory, which comes from Roman Catholic doctrine. However, this idea is very convenient for me albeit changing it around – a bit. I didn’t die a physical death but a metaphorical one.

What I found out about this metaphorical death: I survived! It has forced me to re-evaluate goals, say “no” to some tasks, and emphatically state the appropriate protocol in a situation. Prior to this incident, I would easily capitulate to a person’s insistence on issues where I felt less confident. Now, I pause, think of scenarios, review contracts, ask more questions, and I hope, am a little wiser – seeking out advice of experts. I would like to metaphorically think that I was purified in order to move on, to be a better professor and better person.

I love being a professor, but it is challenging if taken seriously. Many of my friends have noted that I have busted the “mythical bubble of professor-hood” when they see me work. They see my long hours, disappointments, frustrations, and probably not enough of the joys. But, they see that I do the work willingly because I love it. Student successes are the best! I have learned that it is impossible to do all things well, which makes me mad. I want to do all things well, but I have my limits! That sticks! The new academic year begins in 3 days. I have learned important lessons, and am ready to move out of own internal purgatory.

AECT presentation: Systemic Framework Supports Sustainability

This presentation at AECT was a lively discussion about the way that systemic thinking can influence that way that we create positive change. Regina Sayles Koilparampil, a former GA – now Alumna, was a great help to explain the roles of trust and how she was able to build the build trust between the university and the school. After this presentation, some in the audience asked that I write about the experience and thinking so that others can better identify leverage points, stakeholder involvement and pressures from supra-systems, peer systems and feedback. I will after the holidays!

Workflow – Water over Rocks

I learn so much from one of my favorite teachers — nature. I walk down the slope to the local stream. I find a stable rock so to stand in middle of the rushing water. With eyes gently opened, I gaze at the water rushing, reminding me of life. Like water, life keeps moving, and there is not a second of a stillness. If there is less motion, it is really because the water gets stuck behind a rock. But, the water doesn’t stop; it revolves in a quick circle, finds an opening and quickly exits to continue finding its way down stream — where it is meant to go. Rocks do not detain water for long. In fact the rocks are shaped and smoothed by the water as it continues to move.

May my activity be like water in a stream. When reaching the rocky obstacles of time, money, and other ideas, may I gently roll over the rocks so that the rocks may be shaped due to my fluid and positive influence. While I move mentally, may beauty be created in the environment so that others moving through either desire to be part of the stream or may  enjoy the milieu. May the stream of my life continue to lead me to where I am meant to go with beauty, persistence and part of the whole.

Question Development – Fallacy of the Linear

There is an observation, that most don’t like to discuss. But, after many years, I think that experience bares me out. The dissertation question is iterative. The question  written,re-written and then, with input from a dissertation committee is often substantially re-written again. The question could be refined for many reasons. Maybe the way that author wrote the question, is not the way that others understood the question. Sometimes the question is written, but the observation instrument looks at something else, and the person says, “Oh… I really want to know this…” Sometimes, the question is even being determined while the instrument is being made a data collect. Ones looks at the data, and may say ahhh… “so, my data actually answers this question!” Why do I bother writing this, as it seems to be known? We should not admonish this evolution of thought!

Chinese character means sun or day (from Wikipedia)

Chinese character means sun or day (from Wikipedia). Similar to our brains, ideas can take on multiple meanings. It depends on the context.

I have worked with colleagues, whom I deeply respect, that seem to simplify the process.  Professors sometimes get frustrated with students who do not have the question, just the way that the professor defines it. The oversimplification causes the student great frustration who self admonishes that he/she did not get it “right” the first time. It seems that some believe that the process is 100% linear. It would be clean if our brains worked that way, but they do not.

Our brains are a huge map or more like a web. We get inspired and make sense of information while we are in the shower, walking the dog, dreaming, making dinner… the list goes on. That applies to question writing as well.  However, there is the expectation that the question is at the beginning, coming from the ideas of the scientific process. In the “scientific process” a linear process has been identified for experimentation: question, hypothesis, data collection, findings, conclusion with inferences and questions.  Here is an awesome article from 1922 attributing our linear expectations and our desire for over simplification to the behaviorist: THE FALLACY OF EXCLUSIVE SCIENTIFIC METHODOLOGY which is not the way our brains work.

Whether we cast blame on the behaviorist or someone else, let’s admit that our brains are messy and make sense of information in linear and non-linear ways.  The words we chose to write may or may not communicate what we want them to say.  We communicate thoughts in a linear way only for others to understand us, where in our minds the thought or question can make perfect sense. We humans take a while to define what we mean which keeps us talking to one another, refining our thought and questions. That is the positive side; the disagreements keep us collaborating to discuss our questions.



A new semester is upon me. I feel the anticipation in the air. This morning, I awoke at 4AM Meditation from an awesome artist on if I can get it all done.

I cleaned the kitchen, put out the recycling and thought about the articles that have not been submitted to publishers.

I washed the dishes and made my tea, and thought the of the syllabi that need to be on D2L.

I found that we were low on the breakfast protein drink and thought about what the students really need to be successful in their careers.

I went to Amazon to check on our subscription order and then thought of the skills and really learning that I want to take place.

I made my green tea and cleaned the tea pot, and thought of the organization that needs to be done to make finding things easier.

I put together my lunch and Jaz’s lunch and thought of other professors’ questions and wondered if I answered them.

I gathered the recycling and think about how long it has been since I wrote in my blog.

Then, I loathe myself for thinking so much.

I breathe. I pray. I meditate. I think.

I am thankful for the the students that are coming.

I am grateful that the universe has trusted me to be their teacher.

I feel the expanse of our technology growing in so many ways to reach all learners.

I know that we are all fortunate to have an education.

I want to reach the hearts and minds of myself and my students.

I seek clarity and wisdom to make choices with my time without resentment, but instead with gratefulness.

I am thankful for the awesome privilege to think about such things.

Good morning it is now 6AM.

Brilliant Students with Adoption of Innovation Story!

This past Thursday’s class, I was feeling so very sick (Today, I am definitely getting better but home, irrigating my nose ever few hours, in hopes of continuing the upward trend.). So, Thursday’s class – Instructional Technology students needed to complete work with very little verbal instruction. I was worried about this since I had asked the students to take  the S curve – Adoption Decision Theory (Rogers, 1995) and Gleicher’s Formula to create a story! To my surprise the students were brilliant! Below are three groups of students who completed their stories.

I was impressed by more than students completing their task with little verbal instruction. The graduate students quickly took the theory and applied it into a story, without seeing lots of examples or parsing the theories/ideas into a concrete questions about each.

I wonder if the structure helped the students do that? Here is part of the structure used:

  • On each Google Presentation side, I wrote a prompt for that slide.
  • Then, in the notes, there was a “step” or concept to address in that slide.
  • Students were pre-assigned groups – on the first page of the presentations.
  • We has an 1 hour synchronous time when we reviewed the assignment (but 2 groups had it completed before the review!)

The class is multi-delivery so that the students are used to figuring out some directions on their own. It will be interesting to hear from students their perception of what helped them to complete the task.  Regardless: AWESOME class! And, I hope that students got some ideas of how they could use group story telling with on-line tools!


Multi-delivery Method – Still Confusion with Open-ended assignments

So yesterday I gave the LMS/CMS assignment. Though the rubric and directions specified each step and how it would be assessed, there was lots of confusion and student anxiety was running high. Luckily the students told me it was high! So, we had decided to have a good draft of the assignment due next Thursday, and the final draft would be due days after that. This way they can get feedback from each other.

It seems, this is a strong advantage for the professor – the onground and online. I was able to probe the onground students who really helped me to think about the students needs, which are very hard to interpret when the students are at a distance.

On both classes (with the multi-delivery system) the students onground were able to give advice to me about about ways that would make easier for them. The one class gave me inputs to the hyperlinks that would help them to complete the assignment. The other class reinforced the needs of the community. It seems that the onground group is tending to the be “voice” for the other.