My first Masters residency at Royal Roads University begins in a few short weeks and I am in the process of getting my spaces – both physical and head – in form and ready for the next 2 years. To say I am excited is a vast understatement. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time.
Lately I have been pondering about what it is I want to get out of this experience. There are the obvious goals – knowledge, better career opportunities, a degree and professional credibility (not that I believe a degree on its own brings credibility, but in my experience credibility is very difficult to archive without those letters behind your name as a starting point). But beyond that I am also trying to set some deeper, more personal goals ahead of the experience. I am also trying to take a hard, objective look at what I think are some of my strengths and weaknesses.
Goal 1: Better focus and reflection
When it comes to my personal learning and professional development, I often feel like the birds that visit my garden feeder. They swoop in, grab a seed and take off, zipping to the next feeder where they stop, grab another and zoom away. Like those birds, I tend to zip from topic to topic, grabbing seeds of information from here and there. It’s not a great trait to continually consume and not critically reflect on what I am taking in. At some point, you have to stop and digest.
I am not sure why I have this very strong (and completely delusional) desire to KNOW EVERYTHING. In doing so, I often end up knowing nothing or knowing just enough to make me dangerous and/or annoying. To stretch the bird analogy, I am not sure what the metaphorical cat in the bushes who waits to pounce is. Fear? Pride? A need to know all the answers so I can fix all the problems? I don’t know what is at the root of my need to know everything about everything, but I hope that the academic rigors of this program will help (force) me to focus and reflect and develop better self-discipline.
Goal 2: Become a better collaborator
I sometimes fear that I am a better collaborator in my head than in real life. This Masters experience will put that to theory to the test and hopefully prove it wrong.
That’s not to say I haven’t played significant parts on successful teams, but when I look back at both my career and my personal life I can see that I have had a great deal of latitude and personal space to deviate and explore in my own time. Maybe this goes back to my radio days where I often spent 4-6 hours a day by myself in a little room with nothing but a microphone, a CD player and a newswire. It was a place where I lived and died on my own wits (or lack of, as was often the case).
A psychologist might trace this trait back to my youth where, as the fat uncoordinated kid, I never really shone in all those places where the teamwork ethos is is first fostered in a life – team sports. Sure, like most good Canadian kids I played hockey. But I was a goalie; not because I was any good, but more likely because I filled the most space in the net (it’s okay, I have long since moved on). Any hockey player will tell you that goaltenders are the lone wolves of the team. They tend to be a little bit different than other players. You have to be if you are willing to stand toe to toe with a frozen hunk of rubber traveling at a hundred miles an hour. But I digress.
The Masters I am taking is cohort based, meaning I will be working closely on group projects with many different types of people. This both excites and terrifies me. I do love meeting new people and, having gone through this sort of intense program before, I know that I will develop deep and lifelong connections with my group. We are all about to embark on a transformative event together, and overcoming common obstacles together not only develops strong team dynamics, but also strong personal connections. I only hope I am up to the challenge and am able to contribute in meaningful ways.
Goal 3: Get the tools to work
This is more pragmatic. I want to discover whether these tools I use daily in my personal and professional life will work in my academic life. Will delicious, Twitter, Netvibes, Google Reader, Feedly, a tricked out Firefox, Zotero and all these toys I play with on a daily basis become indispensable or a pain when I am deep into the throes of deadlines and due dates?
What role will my PLN play in my education? I feel extremely fortunate to have close at hand a virtual network of educators and friends and I think that this network will be an invaluable resource and sounding board for me as I progress through the program. You included. Yes, you. You know a lot more than I do. And I know that you like to share. I am hoping you will share with me when I need it. I promise to do the same back.
So, the question is – will these tools and resources will be just as invaluable to me in the context of my academic life as they have been in my professional and personal life? I am eager to find out if my gut feeling is right on this.
Goal 4: Fill in the blanks
I also have a gut feeling that education (and, for that matter, society) is at the tipping point of something big with regards to knowledge and how we learn. But whether this is true and what this “something big” might be I don’t know. Or maybe it isn’t really something big? Maybe we have all been here before? This is the point – I am missing the intellectual context to back up my visceral gut.
It may be because I spend a lot of time in my EdTech echo chamber. It’s a place where the word “change” reverberates off the virtual walls like a sonic boom. But one thing is clear – I am lacking context to both critically analyze and accurately articulate my thoughts into something solid and tangible. More importantly, if it is true that we are in the verge of tranformative change, what does it look like? It’s hard to have vision when you lack context, and it is some of that context that I hope to gain by undertaking this Masters.
Too ambitious? Perhaps, but something I am looking forward to with great enthusiasm and excitement.
I have started a new category on this blog called My Masters. My plan is to document the journey as much as possible, mostly for myself as I hope to turn the blog into a bit more of a reflective tool. I hope that you will still find this useful, and continue to join in on the conversation. There may be more questions than answers over the next little while, but that’s okay. After all, isn’t that where all learning begins?