Halftime

We’re now halfway through the term and it’s an ideal time to look back over my reflections of the past five weeks and reflect on my voice, writing, and how successful I’ve been reflecting on my readings, what I’ve learnt, and our discussions in class. It’s that point in the game where the players stop for water and the fans line up for beer; I’m not sure what crowd I belong in.

Our instructor has asked the question, what makes us uncomfortable about this type of writing? and my answer is that I’m uncomfortable about how comfortable it is. I struggle with the ingrained idea that academic writing should be a struggle and should require a lot of editing and research. To borrow the opening metaphor from Watton, Collings, and Moon’s Reflective Writing: Guidance Notes for Students, I feel like I’m in a Pensieve when I should be hooked up to that machine from The Cell. I’m made even more nervous after reading some of the resources for reflective writing and learning journals provided by my instructor because they all focus on the academic requirements, the Grading Rubric for Reflective Assignments even has a suggestion for page length. As much as I focus on making my assignments readable with an engaging voice and good ‘flow’ it’s always been a comfort to me that if I follow the requirements for font size, paragraph style, length, and references then I’ll meet some expectations. In university, the arts is always the hardest area to achieve 100% in because unlike maths or sciences there is no right answer.

In Jennifer Moon’s document on Learning Journals and Logs from UCD’s Teaching and Learning Department, she discusses deep reflection and a phrase jumped out at me that made me think of VARK, “familiar forms of learning” (Moon, pp. 8). She writes,

“We
 tend
 to
 use
 reflection
 when
 we
 are
 trying
 to
 make
 sense
 of
 how
 diverse
 ideas
 fit
together,
when
 we 
are 
trying 
to 
relate 
new
 ideas 
to 
what 
we 
already 
know 
or 
when 
new
ideas 
challenge
 what 
we 
already 
know” (Moon, pp. 8)

and I immediately thought of what I wrote about my Kinesthetic result from my VARK test a few weeks ago. I interjected myself and added the following note,

Note: I would say that I prefer Kinesthetic because I have trouble grasping abstract concepts and I learn something faster if I can relate it to an experience.

So even though I’m uncomfortable with mixing the academic concept of reflective writing with the personal nature of reflection and the blogging format it’s perfectly suited to my learning style. And I find that what I enjoy most is being able to include asides about humourous aspects and connections to popular culture.

For example, in another class last week I used Jim Carrey’s famous Self-Defense skit to describe the pitfalls of controlled experimentation in usability testing.

References

 

Albert-Peacock, Betsy. (2007). Grading Rubric for Reflection Assignments. Educ 1100 Human Diversity. Retrieved from http://www.d.umn.edu/~balbert/humandiversity/grading_rubric.html.

Moon, Jennifer. (2010). Learning Journals and Logs. UCD Teaching and Learning: Resources. Retrieved from https://elearning.ucd.ie/bbcswebdav/pid-870447-dt-content-rid-60191_1/courses/IS40370/Learning%20Journals.pdf.

Watton, Pete, Collings, Jane, and Moon Jennifer. (2001). Reflective writing: guidance notes for students. Retrieved from https://elearning.ucd.ie/bbcswebdav/pid-872987-dt-content-rid-2101328_1/courses/IS40370/reflective-writing-guidance.pdf.

Captain’s Log: First Entry

It hasn’t escaped my notice that I’m embarking on a blog and that my first entry will be a reflection on Andrew Sullivan’s essay for The Atlantic, “Why I Blog”, which is equal parts definition, history of blogging, and personal journey. Increasingly meta is the entry on his blog, The Dish, about the article itself, as well as the many responses in other blogs such as Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit. But this is what blogging is; it’s self-referential and self-aware, but rarely self-conscious. As Andrew explains, what separates a blog from other forms of journalism is the personality of the blogger. As a casual reader of blogs I can already think of two or three off the top of my head where the blogger is the main attraction and the content would be fairly mediocre were it not for the personality of the author. A good example is The Bloggess, who refers who everything from taxidermy to her personal battles with anxiety and depression, but who wouldn’t have such a huge following if it weren’t for her wit and humour and her wonderfully candid dialogue with her readers.

Andrew’s essay is a etymological definition of Blog; it traces the origin, the development, and the history of the form, but it is also an ostensive definition; it give examples, or defines aspects by example. For instance, Andrew calls blogging a dialogue between reader and blogger and an evolving editorial (bits and pieces of his essay had been appearing in is blog for years). However, he also describes it in terms of a chain of links and claims that by being linked to a blog is validated and that this serves as an effective form of quality control. Blogs that are obviously pandering to the biases of their readers or that write controversial opinions just to watch the ensuing flame war are supposedly not linked or referred. Here is where I disagree. More times than I can count I’ve witnessed friends share links to blog entries on Facebook or Twitter that are clearly troll bait and they immediately beg viewers not to follow the link and give the blogger the satisfaction of hits or attention. This doesn’t work. Humans are drawn to train wrecks or things that explode; it’s just our nature. Where I think Andrew is correct here is in saying that eventually the good blogs rise to the top and achieve longevity.

In “The Five Minds of a Manager” by Jonathan Gosling and Henry Mintzberg, the authors introduce the topic of the Reflective Mindset. The reflective mindset is when a manager finds meaning in his/her experiences. They “are able to see behind in order to look ahead” (Gosling and Mintzberg, 2003, 57) and in this way blogging, despite the possibility of it being unprofessional due to it’s personal nature, is the perfect management tool. Blogging, as Andrew draws the analogy, is a ships log, it’s a history read backwards without hindsight and it turns the mind of it’s writer inwards but with the expectation of an audience. In order to have a reflective mindset, a manager must be both a mirror and a window. As Jim Taggart writes in his analysis of the article,

“Organizations do not need managers who see the world through their personal behaviors (“mirror” people) or those who are unable to see beyond immediate situations (“window” people). What they require are managers who are capable of seeing both ways: through their personal reflection they see the world around them” (Taggart, 2011)

I hope this first blog entry, like the original ships logs, will mark how far I’ve travelled this term, and I’ll end it on a lighter note:

writer-cartoon