Mobile Ethnography and the Dystopian History Classes My Grandchildren Will Take

“The goals of mobile ethnography will be augmented by the growth in self-tracking mobile apps, wearable technologies, and other types of personalized sensors – making integration a critical market and personal need. People’s “quantified self” activities can help those conducting field research to observe/capture “in the moment, in the emotion” experiences that are difficult to contextualize through other means.” – Mike Gotta in “Lessons Learned From EPIC’s Mobile Apps & Quantified Self Workshop,” available online at

I first encountered the concept of quantified self last night, so I’m certainly not an expert, but it seems fascinating so far, and I’ve been spending a great deal of the intervening time trying to figure out how it relates to my (and others’) educational journey(s). I’m especially curious about the significance to future historians of the availability of this magnitude of recorded data, or the potential lack of availability of any data. Papyrus, paper, and tablets can be partially destroyed and still have decodable parts, but our electronic data storage formats might be an all-or-nothing historical record: either everything is saved, or nothing is readable due to encodings that have long since been abandoned or the need for certain kinds of technology to undo the computer encoding before language can even begin to be worked on. While a consistent policy of backing things up into the newest data formats to ensure that a semi-recent copy will always survive in uncorrupted format seems nice in theory, it would likely take up an unreasonable amount of space, both in memory and physical area, within a matter of decades, making it infeasible on the scale of millennia.

How will this data be stored? Will flash drives be misinterpreted by the future as some sort of jewelry or symbolic objects, or recognized as the data troves they are? Is there even a precedent for backups on this scale? How will we teach materials that survived only in electronic formats?

EDIT: This post was originally a “quote” formatted post, but that was largely an experiment with formatting. It failed, as the quote format seems to be for short quotes accompanied by minimal analysis.


Party Projects, Rejuvenators of the Learner’s Spirit

What do 24-Hour Theatre Project, 48 Hour Film Project, and a Hackathon all have in common? They’re an adrenaline-fueled rush to see what you can produce in a short period of time. They also help fuel creativity and rejuvenate the desire to learn more about one’s discipline. By creating an absurdly-short time period in which a thing will be worked on, we both allow ourselves to work on a project only for that first “honeymoon” period where we’re enjoying every bit of it and allow for creativity, even at risk of mistakes. If you work on a script, for example, over the course of three years, you’ll not only face periods of apathy but also feel pressure to produce a good final product. A project into which we’ve invested a great deal of time becomes valuable, and, to feel justified in having spent so much (time, energy, money, what have you) on it, must be well-received by its intended audience. By working on a project for a brief but intense stint then having the option to drop it if it’s not working or continue if you really like it after the flash development period, we give ourselves the freedom to explore, to enjoy, and to expand into areas of lower confidence.

I’ve found that my personal projects unfailingly benefit significantly when I reserve some weekends for periods of flash development from which valuable new learning can be folded into the important stuff post-experimentation. This development of new knowledge in a low-risk environment that I can pull back into my higher-stakes project is a critical part of my learning and growth process, and I’m very much enjoying this in my attempt to create an English as a Second Language study program based on crowd-sourced, peer-reviewed pictorial definitions at MHacks this weekend. While I’m hoping to develop something that can eventually become a functional app, it’s a project too big to be really finished in one weekend, especially considering that I changed my strategy eight hours in, threw out the gui I had built as a web app, and began writing it for Android with Facebook API (neither of which I’ve used before). Because I’m investing, at absolute maximum, thirty six hours in any one aspect of it, though, changes like that are entirely possible. Additionally, this being a hackathon instead of a normal development environment allows me to produce a product for myself with the features I find important and in the timeframe I feel suitable. 

While I might not produce a fully functional app and I certainly won’t be winning any awards, I’ve already worked out some new strategies for interface design and userflow mapping, and I’m only a third of the way in about to start learning a new API! Hooray, learning opportunities! 

Seven Ways Any Classroom, Of One to One Hundred Students, Is Better If It’s Connected

Today, I read Joan Young’s edSurge article 7 Ways My Classroom Is Better Because I Connect. It provides great advice for classroom teachers about the benefits to students of their teachers’ online connections, but it included, at the general level, advice that equally applies to self-directed learners. While many of the specifics, such as participation in the Global Read Aloud Project, apply mainly to school-affiliated classrooms, the seven points themselves are totally applicable to a “classroom” of any size. Additionally, if you want to participate in one of the groups-of-young-students-only projects, you can always volunteer to be a mentor! Most schools are usually desperate for volunteers to help expand their students’ learning opportunities, and you can almost-certainly find an opportunity by just asking! (Note: Background checks are required for volunteering with children, but many schools will pay the small fee for you.)

This post will focus mainly on the ways that aspects of an effective classroom (specifically, the ones mentioned in the article above) also make you more effective as a self-directed learner. The rise of the internet has made self-directed learning more diverse and accessible than ever before, but not all of the most important online educational tools come labeled as “educational.” Most people have figured out by now that online articles, MOOCs, and overtly-educational tools like Khan Academy can be used for learning, but is your Facebook educational? Twitter? Your Blog? It certainly can be. Writing regularly is the primary goal of countless formal courses in effective communication, and a blog allows you to get feedback on your writing in the form of comments. When you’re asked to clarify something, you’re really being asked for a revision, and, even if it doesn’t need to be incorporated into the body of that specific post, you can take that comment into account when editing your next post to increase the clarity of your writing. Facebook and Twitter offer you the opportunity to network, and Joan Young does a wonderful job of itemizing why that’s important: 

1. “New ways to solve problems.” Just as new means of learning, whether it’s apps and programs or more active strategies like blogging or screencasting, are useful in a classroom setting, they can be useful to you as an independent learner, and you can find new ways to learn by interacting with other learners regularly. Your choice of social media tools (I’d suggest using both Twitter and LinkedIn) can open doors to new means of learning just as surely as any teacher-directed classroom can. 

2. “I learn from the collective wisdom of the crowd.” The author says it herself, learning from your own and others’ successes and mistakes is an important part of any learning process. By engaging with the internet communities surrounding your area of interest, you don’t have to make as many of the necessary mistakes for yourself, which can save time and prevent burnout. 

3. “A growth mindset.” By presenting your learning process and sharing resources online, you, too, could gain experience presenting at conferences, teaching others (if that’s what you’re into), and taking advantage of other speakers’ presentations at these events to enable yourself to better learn and grow.

4. “My students impact the world through collaborative projects and global connections.” The author’s students are able to connect globally because she has first gone through the process of connecting herself. While organizing projects is her goal as a teacher, it can also be your goal as a learner. Pick a project and try to recruit participants on your blog or twitter! You can also volunteer for other people’s projects to gain experience in an area you like, such as recording books through Librivox or adding resources into the Peeragogy wiki! 

5. “My students learn from entrepreneurs and see themselves as critical reviewers of educational technology.” The internet prevents critical review from being limited to the invited group, and the best way to find yourself into an invited group is by practicing your critical feedback skills through independent reviews. You, too, could learn from primary sources and become a critical reviewer of educational technology, or anything else out there to which you have access! Review articles, music, technology, or food. No matter what you review, you’ll learn about what makes that form work (or not) for yourself and probably others. This is also where comments come in handy again, because they’ll let you know whether other people share your opinions!

6. “Students receive inspirational feedback on their work!” This, once again, is all about the comments! As you get better at producing your work (whatever form it takes), you’ll attract a more skilled audience, who will, in turn, give you more useful comments and possibly include a few names you recognize, which can give you the extra boost you need to jump into overdrive and finish a project that’s been losing steam. 

7. “I keep perspective and avoid burnout.” In any learning situation, but especially self-guided learning, things will go wrong. You’ll have an unanticipated trouble spot in getting feedback, the resource you’re reading will disappear from the internet without warning, or you’ll lose track of your goal and veer off course so far you have to start in a different place than you’ve left off from to get to your intended next step. When this happens, your network become invaluable. They can help you get feedback by recruiting friends-of-friends, find new resources that can be used in place of the old, or give you the encouragement you need to enthusiastically re-immerse yourself in a project to get to your next goal. 

Regardless of what you’re learning, how you’re learning it, whether you have a classroom, or how traditional your educational path is, connectedness can be a great benefit to the learning process. In becoming connected, you increase availability of resources by an unknown and immeasurable amount, and by using those resources you can make real progress on your learning goals. 

Who is this person anyways?

Hello, and welcome to my wordpress! In an effort to avoid appearing out of nowhere with a series of out-of-context posts without a readily visible theme, I’d like to begin this venture by explaining who I am, why this is here, and how I intend to use it!

I am currently a first-semester fourth-year student at Earlham College in Richmond, IN double majoring in Comparative Languages & Linguistics (Two-Language Concentration in Spanish and Mandarin) and Theatre Arts (Dramaturgical Concentration). This semester, I’m writing a linguistics thesis analyzing differences in emoticon usage in English and Chinese. Next semester, I’m going to do partially-funded theatre research including a thesis and a conference presentation on theatrical translation, featuring as a case study the new work “Jiang Gong’s Face” (将工的面子). I work for my college’s Computer Science Department’s Pedagogical Tools group and as a Web Strategy Planning and Implementation Consultant for the Theatre Arts Department, and I volunteer a few hours a week at a Coffee Co-Op. I particularly enjoy technical writing, which I, luckily, get to do lots of at both of my jobs. I also love music and am fascinated by educational theory and educational technology. My Linkedin profile is a good way to find out what I’ve done professionally, and my Degreed is a good way to find out what I’ve studied.

I tend to be an independently-driven learner and chose to attend college because of the access I have to resources and classes on things that can’t be learned effectively (or at least very easily) on one’s own. I’ve lately been increasingly bothered by my lack of a way to share the development of my learning process or cool things I find, other than direct description to the people with whom I learn. Initially, I tried to start a Youtube channel for my thesis as a way of sharing one particular process and what I’ve learned from that, but I found that it was hard to find quiet locations on campus where I could record videos, since my dorm is a particularly active building, and that I didn’t really feel compelled to share in this format. While Youtube channels reach wide audiences easily, videos aren’t my preferred form of learning or communication, so it makes sense that I wouldn’t feel particularly moved to share actively in video form. Written words, on the other hand, are very much my preferred form of both learning and, in many cases, communication, and thus experiment two has begun: I have a wordpress.

Posts here will be divided into two main categories as of right now: Process, about my journey as a learner, and Sharing, wherein I (just as the name implies) share cool, fun, and/or interesting things I’ve recently read and learned! I’ll tag them “Process” and “Sharing” respectively, but will also add other tags according to the specific topic. Ideally, the things I’ll share will be sufficiently interesting that people will care about them, but creating a written record for myself could also be valuable, so I’m not going to put a huge focus on finding followers/subscribers, but anybody who’d like to join is welcome!

Thanks for reading!