I would argue that this final blog post has particular requirements that I will not be able to meet. Specifically, this post should communicate my thinking in a clear, succinct, focused, and organized fashion. However, I was permitted to name my blog “Clay’s Cloudy Consciousness”. Any reader will tell you that this blog is a great example of a critical reader riding in a boat down the meandering stream of inconsistency, so this is simply unfair.
Nevertheless, I will do my best. Luckily, the last three weeks have lead to the discovery of particular truths and tools, all of which I have been happy to unearth. The first week, I read Research Diary: A Tool for Scaffolding by M. Engin (2011), and I immediately connected back to my experience in EDCI 490, Transformative Inquiry (TI). During that course, I was extremely dissenting to the very idea of TI, and fought it all the way to the end of the course. When I was able to re-read my notes and treat it as a research diary, I understood the autoethnographic implication of what was happening. Suddenly, I had a whole new appreciation TI. Since then, I have reached out and begun a conversation with my former TI professor, which has been an enriching experience.
The second week of class, I was tasked with critically analyzing the Action Research methodology as presented by Mary McAteer, in her article Getting To Grips With Perspectives And Models. At first, the article seemed so absolutely contrary to every (well, only) philosophy of research I had been taught. Throughout high school and my undergrad, I was taught that observations, data, results, and conclusions would always have to be objective as humanly possible; if something was not objective, then it was tainted and useless for broader analysis and discussion. Action Research, on the other hand, champions the subjective analysis of ones own research methods, as it allows for a researcher to analyze themselves critically from various point of views. These various analyses then allow a researcher to plan and act on their various observations.
It was in my presentation of Action Research that it clicked: based on my macro view of middle school education, Action Research is the formal framework for what a master teacher does. This of course, is my unique interpretation. However since I have had the epiphany, I have felt refreshed, energized, and excited, as if I am just entering service as a teacher.
The most concise way to explain my growth in these last three weeks, I think, is I have begun to nurture to my critical self.
When I think about my critical self, I need to unpack the word critical.
What I thought to be my critical self was my tendency in my blog posts is to play the devil’s advocate; I love to find deficiencies in arguments and exploit them. I probably enjoy this as I often believe I have figured out a concept after one reading and want to show that off. However, I am usually immediately shown that I did not really understand the concept in the first place, and should have just waited for my instructors and peers to comment on my posts or engage in discussion with me during class. Adam, in particular, probably should be assigned as my project supervisor.
While there is a still place to read and understand things with a critical outlook, I now see it is merely one sliver of all criticallity. Perhaps I was so focused on this one aspect due to prior education; the pressure we teachers/instructors place on students to question the text/media they engage with is quite strong in the information age. Now, I’ve learned that I will need to be critical of much more. I could make a long list, but I will keep it to several aspects. As a potential researcher, I need to be critical of:
The text, as always. But I need to be open to all avenues of argument; grand-standing on one strong point or flaw in a text only leads to a narrow understanding of the said text.
The author. I often do not bother with researching an author before or after I read a text. In this term, that neglect burned me several times. I was skeptical of Shaunneen Pete’s writings regarding teacher training and settler ignorance, only to then meet her and learn of settler re-education; a term which has given me extreme clarity in my role as a settler who educates indigenous and non-indigenous students alike. In another instance, I absolutely went after Chet Bowers after reading his article on the Digital Revolution. I was angry! At the time, he seemed to come off as a bitter old man. The next day, upon learning from my instructor that he wrote in that sort of tone in order to engage his readers, I realized that I had been played. Had I understood his method in the first place, I could have begun asking questions early, rather simply ‘getting my back up’.
My reflexes. In every reading this term, I was ready and willing with my proverbial red pen. As I kept notes digitally, I would cite parts of text and write my own questions and reactions alongside them. These citations have almost always been either something I have very much agreed with, or the opposite. In a reflex sense, I would read and something very positive or very negative that seemed to jump off the page, and I would record and react to it. I tend not think twice about this. Furthermore, I overlook what is not immediately “exciting” and can miss important caveats or qualifiers. This also goes beyond reading the text. Once in class, my heart beats faster and I sit up straighter when I am challenged on what my views are. In my previous undergrads, I was there to learn through arguing, which has led to a habit of being adversarial. Lately, I have been coaching myself just to wait, and see where I have gone wrong.
As a digital professional, I believe that I will need to exercise my critical friend more often as I think about my personal learning network (PLN), technological integration, and open learning.
While I have reaped benefits from my PLN (as mentioned earlier), my reflex towards it is one of skepticism and elitism. I have a hard time believing it will persist. However, my critical friend holds me to account to listening to the advice of my instructors as well as reminding me to simply look at the data; so far, PLNs have always been a positive/helpful aspect of my career, even if in the most minuet way.
As one can likely extrapolate from my final EDCI 568 presentation, I am an early adopter of technology who wants to find reasons to integrate. My reflex towards any technology is excitement and brainstorming. I will ‘run’ with one or several ideas I have in integrating technology while not considering if there is a true benefit to the integration. Worse, I sometimes work to find a way to justify the use of the technology, which turns out to be a stretch or pseudo-benefit. When I engage in that sort of behavior, my critical friend is frantically asking me to stop and slow down, but I ignore him. Interestingly, it is the prospect of writing a literature review that will reign me in. Once again, the logic of considering the existing data is changing my reflexes. After reading several literature reviews, as well as Scholars Before Researchers by D. Boote & P. Beile (2005), I understand how a formal process of background research can lead to new possibilities of technological integration; ones that may not have excited me, but are more viable and valid.
Lastly, I have a difficult time considering the idea of open learning. Of course I am for the equal education and access for all that want it, but I am pessimistic about open learning in a capital world. The bottom line for any institution, publisher, or author (and so forth) is monetary wealth. While some can do more with less, everyone needs to get paid, and our socio-economic system does not seem to be on its way out. In this domain of thinking, my critical friend engages with me, asking why I am willing to surrender to the larger problem. I have not yet come to an answer, but I am now at the very least willing to approach this type of question with multiple point of views, rather than just a defensive one.
Overall, I feel much richer after this term. If I had to summarize what kicked off the nurturing of my critical self, I’d use the following picture to describe where I have come from.
I ask myself, why do I tend to challenge inherently positive change while ignoring a seemingly insufficient or negative status quo?