Author: dswain14

Description of Derek

I am a little bit quirky but that’s okay. Life isn’t nearly as interesting if you try to be “normal” in my opinion. Sometimes it’s better to chuckle and move on or ‘laugh at the darkness’ as I like to say. I am currently torturing my students by making them set up their wordpress sites to be even more awesome then they already are and it’s going to be Legen-wait for it – dairy.

Unit 3 Connected Courses — Web Literacy

Disclaimer: This is more of a rant than a coherent post There were a couple of ideas and quotes in these webinars that resonated quite powerfully for me both personally and academically. One of the things that I always enjoy thinking about is stakes and how the landscape of education and especially the academy is not one that is particularly friendly to the idea of failure. I’ve always found this ironic since I started studying pedagogy because one would think that, we as educators, would be more understanding of the process that learning takes — in the beginning you’re going to fail. Maybe a lot. This is why I really loved the point raised about “trying out loud.” It reminds me of tacit knowledge, which is I view as embryonic nascent ideas still under construction even at the time of articulation but more importantly this idea of trying out loud really implies a willingness and an acceptance that ones current efforts will likely fall short. It often feels like an invisible or unspoken dogma that we as students are not supposed to be transparent in our struggles. The default attitude is “supposed to be” I am good or I am gettin’ it. Likewise it feels like, as teachers, we are trained to never struggle, fail, or appear weak in front of our students. This attitude feels so natural — you’re the teacher, and you should be able to do everything perfectly right away for your students but this assumption completely excises any potential human moments that Howard Rheingold mentioned. I was very moved when he explained that he enjoyed it when he failed at something in front of his students because it becomes an opportunity to say that it’s okay to try and fail. I completely agree because nobody is ever really done learning how to do everything. There’s always more or different things to try. And speaking personally this correlates very strongly to my experiences as my previous post demonstrates. In fact a colleague and I came up with an acronym that I really enjoy — F.A.I.L = First Attempt in Learning. But I also enjoy thinking about this in terms of my current research into games. Professor Jaxon and a few other expounded on acquiring web literacies and how we can no longer excuse our lack of literacy because “I am not technical” and I feel that this ties very neatly into game theory. Those outside the field of digital media or game studies tend to hold very parochial ideologies about games that say things like “I am not a gamer”, “Games are just a waste of time”, or my personal favorite “Games aren’t rigorous enough to produce learning.” And these are used as excuses to not experiment with the field or to push (sometimes quite vociferously) against its implementation, but as Professor Jaxon, a lot of learning is identity work. In other words, nobody is born as a gamer, and depending on the intent of the player anything can prove didactic or productive so don’t be afraid! “If you’re not falling off it, you’re not exploring the edge.” In many ways I feel like gaming and the idea of gamifying is new and on the edge in terms of the archaic institution. An emergent idea that is being resisted in terms of what is rigorous or “educational.” And maybe gaming or the element of play could become the new-best means to approaching education but what is more likely is that it will supplement current pedagogy. So the question becomes one that was asked in the webinar by Chris Mattia: Do you want to shape the new or do you want to fight it.

Why Higher Ed?

In 2012 I was preparing to graduate from college at the age of 23 after five changes of major and one ill-considered effort to transfer universities that I thankfully decided against at the last minute. When people ask me about this, normally I answer with a smile and a practiced statement about how changing majors so many times gave me the opportunity to experience all the trajectories that I might have been interested in pursuing before I began my degree in English Education. But the truth is that at the time, I still felt a significant amount of confusion surrounding “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” In the five years that I had been in college, I had watched all my friends struggle, grow, mature, and leave me behind as they finished school and relocated to different areas or jobs in their field, while I was still mired in the mud that is choosing a vocation. But as the theme of this weeks connected course will surely highlight, these questions were all firmly planted in the what — What do I want to be? What job do I want? What should I do? What’s the next step? Were all questions that swirled in my head on a delightful daily basis.

Ironically, it wasn’t until after I applied to grad school that I started asking myself “why”. Even that came as a happy accident. When I finally started working to get my degree in English Ed, my entire attitude towards school took a very visceral shift. I wanted to go to school. I was excited about my teachers and my budding experience as a writing mentor, and this was reflected in my GPA. After finishing college I decided against applying to a credential program since I had decided that what I wanted to be was not a high school teacher. Based on the rumors I’d heard about people not ordinarily getting denied to grad school and the fact that I worked with/for many of the people who granted admission I figured I’d be fine.

I applied to several grad schools and got accepted to them all except for the only one that I actually wanted to go to — CSU Chico, my alma mater and place where I thought I had the best chance. I remember not even thinking twice when I friend told me that the committee had only denied one application that semester, because it was such an alien and ludicrous thought at the time to believe that one application was mine. It wasn’t until several days later when my inconsiderate roommate came home and brought me a letter from the school that I learned otherwise. He handed me the letter with a glib smile and told me that “it feels pretty light to be an acceptance letter” as he chuckled over his shoulder. But he was right. It was a rejection letter that thanked me for my application, but suggested that I reapply later or elsewhere. This was four days before my graduation ceremony, and once more I found myself back in the mud surrounded by what questions. What should I do now? What can I do? What did I do wrong? What do I want?

I found it impossible to sleep from that day forward so I spent my nights trying to figure out how or if I even wanted to circumvent the decision, and I spent my days trying find someone to help or advise me. Unfortunately I suddenly found myself walled off or stonewalled from all the people I had come to rely on for support or advice and told repeatedly that there was a protocol for how these things work, and that this protocol had to be followed. This protocol stated that I had to talk to the coordinator, who told me that I had to present new evidence for why this decision should be reconsidered or overturned. This left me back at square one as person after person told me they couldn’t or wouldn’t be my sponsor in this appeals process — as these people, all of whom I I had come to respect, idolize, model myself after, and aspire to be like one day, turned me away I began to grow bitter and irate. Luckily one person agreed to meet with me (even though I don’t think they were technically supposed to) and in the midst of my juvenile effusion about the whole ordeal, he asked me two questions that I’ll never forget.

The first question he asked after listening to me explain the situation when we first met. He sat there kindly and patiently until I was done and told me that it was clear that I could articulate the reasons that my rejection letter had laid out for my rejection, but asked me why I thought they hadn’t accepted my application. “Based on the criteria given, you meet all the stipulations for this program but you didn’t get in. Why do you think that is” he asked.  The second question he posed as an interruption to one of my overwhelmed rants about the protocol for appeal: “So why do you want to go to Grad school then?”

It took me a couple of days before I could start to answer these questions. Why grad school? Why here? Why didn’t I get in? One day we were going over yet another draft of my letter for appeal, trying to eloquently write the reasons why I should be reconsidered before I could actually articulate them myself when finally I just blurted out “Because I can fucking do this! Helping students do college writing makes me happier than anything else I’ve ever done, and I want to dedicate my life to it.” He just smiled a small smile and turned back to the letter. Later that night, I recounted the story to my friend of seven years and I noticed the same small smile that I had seen earlier creep across his lips as I finished the tale. He said I seemed different somehow now, and that he couldn’t help but smile as he thought about the kind of teacher I would turn out to be after I got accepted. He said the people who had ruled against me were probably right to do so but even they hadn’t witnessed the effect it was having on me. “You know your path now, but nobody said it was going to be easy.” Only your best friend is really allowed to tell you things like quit your complaining or get out of your own way doofus, but when they do it seems to have such a magnified effect, and it did. I spent the entirety of that summer writing, rewriting, and revising that that letter of appeal and showing it to anyone and everyone who could or would give me feedback. That same faculty member wrote a recommendation letter for me as did another person who had first made me realize my interest in teaching several years prior. Augmented by these letters, my appeal was accepted and I was admitted into the program which I am now preparing to graduate from this coming spring.

But in retrospection, that cavalier kid wasn’t ready for grad school and there’s no way anyone should have let me in if that’s the kind of student I would have continued to be. That rejection forced me out of the what and into the why. And today I have no trouble answering the question of why I am in grad school: Everyday I get to wake up and do the thing I love most — the thing that makes me happier than anything else, and I get to become just a little bit better at it each day. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

In the beginning there were blogs

Hello everyone, I am proud to be participating in Connected via Chico State this Fall semester. My name is Derek Swain and I am currently a third year Grad Student at Chico State, who is working closely with Dr Jaxon on a Thesis concerning the implementation of Augmented Reality Games or Alternative Reality Games in different domains that have a pedagogical efficacy. To that effect, I’ve started calling myself the gaming guy. I look forward to participating in this community both as a way to gain and share ideas but also potentially get some constructive feedback on the ideas I am trying to work through.