Melissa A. Koch

Adult Learning reflection blog


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Adult 650, Reflection nine

If you have talked to me since Friday you know I took the day off to catch up on some schoolwork and I was really really excited about it. Last week, I had begun analyzing my qualitative data for the 1-2-3 Project but that was as far as I had gotten. My eyes were crossing and nothing was making sense to me–I was too “in” the material and couldn’t get perspective.

Caitlin happened to be off Friday too and she brought her computer over in hopes she could get something done as well. I was pleasantly surprised that we used the power of social constructivism to work through our project. We helped each other hone in on themes and find supporting quotes in our interviews. Within two hours I had most of my presentation and hand out complete. I’m impressed with the connections I’m making and quite proud of the work I have done this semester.

Since it’s such a short presentation, I feel like there will only be time for themes, supporting quotes for the themes and a few overall implications. I’m closely following Dr. Muth’s rubric. Is that how it’s working for everyone else?

Right now the hardest task for me is to get images for the slides and handout. I just don’t feel this project lends itself to anything except borrrrrinnnngggg screenshots of the pre-approval form. Usually I have no trouble landing on the best images but something about the nature of this project is leaving my visually uninspired. I already tried to add gifs to my PowerPoint (my favorite source of visual inspiration, thanks to tumblr) but they only work as movie clips.

How do you get inspired to complete not-so-inspiring projects?


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Adult 650, Reflection eight

After everyone telling me I’d bawl for hours I put off reading Push. I just didn’t have it in me to cry so much. But because I hate being surprised, I read the synopsis on Wikipedia when the movie came out (side note: it is how I decide if I want to see something, especially if it’s sad). But I loved the book and I only cried a little (yay for being pro-spoiler!). Here are a few observations:

I thought it was really interesting how she became more aware of her situation, as well as her own possibilities, as her literacy level increased.

It was subtle, but I loved how Sapphire made her “writer,” Precious, become better with spelling and grammar as the novel wore on. Because Precious WOULD get better as she wrote more and more.

Is Blue Rain like, the most perfect person ever? She totally seems like it. I am very sensitive to these things, but I hope Sapphire didn’t make her a lesbian so Precious could see her as less than perfect.

I was not prepared for all the uncomfortable sex stuff, but she seemed to work through that in a similar fashion as she did everything else. Before, she did not have the knowledge or vocabulary to express what was really going on, and then, after the incest group, she realized she was not alone and you could tell she understood what she felt was shame.


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Adult 650, Reflection seven

I forgot to blog last week… but the articles we read were (of course) right up my alley.

I have been on twitter since 2008, under the name I use for everything online, bunnycaper. I was public and open and didn’t think of people outside of my circle reading my thoughts, because I guess I didn’t spend a lot of time reading through tweets of people I didn’t know and I projected that belief to others, I guess. I sent my twitter to private a few years ago so only people that I approved could follow me, and started another account for personal and school.

This was ok for a while: adult learning-related things were posted to one account and TV/music/all the hilarious things I say to another. It felt like I was splitting myself in two. Like the Marwick and boyd article, I was having a hard time maintaining public and private information so I stopped using the (public) school account and switched my personal account from private to public.

Right before I read this article, I began to have similar thoughts about authenticity and self-presentation on my own. Was I really being myself online, when I filtered my thoughts to different places with different settings? After all, my personal account was used less and less for weird personal rants–I was learning to present myself in a certain way and filter the comments I didn’t want anyone to read. I felt like my social media usage was maturing, and I was growing up, but there was some self-censorship going on. After reading this article and seeing what I was really doing… I am ok with self-censorship. I don’t think you need to post everything you are thinking all the time. I guess I was figuring out how to balance.

I think “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately” is going to be one article I come back to repeatedly to analyze & get deeper insight into my own social media usage.


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Adult 650, Reflection six

 

Honestly, I have been breathing the all-consuming Capstone project lately (and my final reflection and my digital story) and haven’t spent as much time on the 1-2-3 Project as I would like. So I am going to use this space to work out some of my questions. One of the things I have learned in completing nine (!!) in person interviews in the past week for Capstone is that bringing a set of broader questions with room for more specific probes (in italics) really works.

We drafted an intro that we use to explain to the interviewee and I have modified for this project. While I will not read it word for word in the interview, it helps to have it in front of me.

As you may recall, this interview is part of a project I am doing for my Literacy and Diversity graduate class to examine the role of the Travel Authorization form at VCU. While I will be taking notes today so I can remember all the good points of our conversation, I want to assure you that our discussion will remain confidential. In my final project, I will remove your name and will attribute comments to your role (“fiscal administrator,” “director,” etc.). 

  1. Name and job title.
  2. How long have you been working at VCU?
  3. Please describe your role.
  4. What is your experience working with the travel authorization form?  Any knowledge of the history? What is your role in the process? Who completes them in your area? What training have you had? What information do you need to know to complete it? Approve it? Where do you go for policy information? (To whom?) 
  5. What is working well with the TAF? How has Chrome River changed the process?
  6. What can be improved?

If you have suggestions, please let me know! I really want to know what to ask that will lead me to the good stuff.
I think the information I am looking for is some historical background and how one’s role (privilege?) plays into how they feel about the TAF. So far three people have agreed to an interview: an office manager (completes these for over 200 travelers), fiscal director and a faculty director who has lots of experience with traveling.[ETA: I just emailed two people requesting interviews next week: a contact from Lauren, an administrator who just did a TAF for the first time, and an employee who has frequently traveled as both a classified and faculty employee who can bring a unique perspective. I am certain I can work out my questions in the next week.]


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Adult 650, Reflection five

I thoroughly enjoyed the chapters we read for this week about the new capitalism. I am not a fan of capitalism anyway, but this reading helped me explore it from a different angle. When we rely on the workplace for literacy and learning, it creates a serious dependence on the capitalism structure. I think that it is very dangerous to tie all of these things together. What about people who raise children or who have disabilities that prevent them from learning? They are missing out on the benefits of being in the workplace. Basically, what the new capitalism does is attach a worker to their workplace with Discourse. It says “you are your job” and “you are what you own.” This is so alienating. What was even more disturbing was on page 31, when they talked about how this change was taking place earlier, in school. Start ‘em young so that the buy in to the capitalist discourse occurs before their time on the job.

I am beginning to see organizational discourse as a structure and how it requires employee buy in, which often blurs the line between an employee’s public and private lives. There is so much that is wrapped up in this capitalist discourse—pushing business programs in college so that students have a “practical” background aka early indoctrination into the discourse. I could even link this to other things, like companies scaring their employees into staying in their jobs because it was better than teaching the organization’s own discourse to new employees.

While I was reading the chapters, I began to jot notes down about my own project. I would like to examine the how the levels of the discourse of the Travel Authorization Form create tension in the organization—such a huge part of these two chapters. How does my project change around a newfound focus on the background of the learners and their own personal buy in to the organization? I can probably find different skill levels in my department. How can I change the questions based on different levels of literacy AKA indoctrination into the dominant discourse, which is pretty much what a TAF is. What would be hard for an outsider to learn? I am looking forward to exploring these ideas through my interviews and research!

Gif from Community episode “Art of the Discourse” from here.


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Adult 650, Reflection four

How is everyone doing on your case studies? I will admit to being very overwhelmed in class when this checklist was given to us—it’s so much to cover and I thought I didn’t know that much about my event (filling out a travel authorization form at VCU). But shortly after getting the assignment, Caitlin came over and we sat on my floor with our laptops and within two hours I had written five pages! I didn’t know I had so much to say about TAFs (this acronym is not really a “thing” at VCU but using it in the paper was better than writing travel authorization form over and over again). There are so many layers to all these tasks that we perform every day–I remember it took me weeks to learn all the policies to do the TAF correctly, and add to that a new computer system and there is so much going on.

I’m with you, J Lo–this project is not giving me “goosies” yet!

The only thing is that the paper, to me, reads really boring. Maybe that’s because I have such a long and complicated relationship with the TAF. I didn’t even enjoy writing that part, as it was pretty tedious and I am sure I forgot a step or two, even after rereading the paper. I cannot see how someone who doesn’t work at VCU would want to read the technical bits of filling out one of these things in Chrome River. But I suppose that is Dr. Muth’s problem—drink some coffee before you read my paper, please!

I am told by everyone in Capstone that this is one of the best projects in the program so I am hoping I wake up when I research and start to talk about the power dynamics that are a part of this literacy event!


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Adult 650, Reflection three

While reading the articles, which discuss critical theory, power and literacy, I was reminded of a wonderful book I just finished—Americanuh by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Americanuh tells the story of Ifemelu, a young woman who leaves Africa to finish her schooling in America, whose position as an outsider allows her to write a blog (that is basically critical theory) about African Americans in the US.

“It helps us to understand that reading the word cannot be separated from reading the world” (Janks, 13). Even though Ifemelu knew English—it is the official language of British-colonized Nigeria, after all—she experienced a new kind of literacy when she moved to the United States to read her new world. It was fascinating how she was able to read people’s interactions and make critical deductions from it that were foreign to her a few years prior when she was in Nigeria. The literacy she experienced was slow, but through her blog, she was able to cause social change because she understood the power differential of groups in the US.

I am not really sure where I am going with this, but this course was definitely in my head while I was reading Americanuh. To me, it’s important to have a real connection to theory that is a part of your everyday life, as reading fiction books are to mine. As I was writing my 123 paper, I was thinking about how uncomfortable I am making judgments about the power struggles in my place of employment (it’s kind of depressing, plus I have zero power to actually change anything). I much prefer to see those in my fictionalized worlds.

Gif from here from Adichie’s first TED Talk.

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