Education School


Yesterday, I finished my last paper that was due for 2010; my independent study paper is due 15 January 2011. Yay! I wanted to post yesterday, but my hands were quite tired from typing and I wanted to enjoy the world again. I went to the ICA in Boston and had dinner in Chinatown with my SO, who has been rather neglected this past week.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a finals period that was strictly paper writing. I learned some valuable lessons, namely that paper writing is physically exhausting. The veins in my hands were gigantic on Sunday, because I had been pumping my veins from typing. I was glad to go to the recital at Melina’s, because I think my hands needed the rest. The good thing is that I don’t feel exhausted. I remember many finals periods ending with me sleeping and being a bum for the next day. I am definitely a bit tired, but it isn’t as bad as the other finals periods.

The past week had been quite busy in general. In addition to final papers and the work that they entailed, I attended Meiver’s “Exploring the Arab Style Oriental Routine, Part 1” and performed in Melina’s recital with my class. I’m still catching up on emails, paying bills, all that stuff, but I hope to review those two events in the near future. I also have a DVD to review.

Speaking of reviews to write, I found a use for my SO’s name generator, Essa while writing my paper for my qualitative class. I decided to use pseudonyms for everyone (sample size was 5), and I didn’t want to bias my name choices. For instance, if I gave names that have a positive association to some people I like and names that have a negative association to people I don’t like or who came off poorly in the research. I used Essa to generate names for that, because I figured the program wouldn’t have a bias compared to me. Because I like names, despite not actually liking my first name (or last name), having to pick out names would’ve taken longer. I just selected Greek names (because a lot of names are Greek) and took the first 6 creations; I also chose not to use names that were too similar. In short, I recommend using a name generator like Essa to create plausible names for your research pseudonyms.

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Classes have been finished for me for a little bit, but I haven’t had much time to blog about it. I had a final last Wednesday that was technically in class, but we had received the question earlier and could write outside of class. Because my handwriting isn’t so nice and I didn’t want to deal with writing in class and having the time constraint over my head, I wrote the entire thing outside of class and showed up for the last little bit of lecture and to hand in the essay.

The past few days (essentially, when entries ceased to exist) have been full of dance (to be written about later) and schoolwork. Schoolwork = paper writing = lots of time in front of the computer. Yesterday, the veins in my hands were especially plump from all the typing. I’ve been trying to give my hands and eyes breaks from typing and staring a screen, so blogging will be a minimum. I have two papers down and one more due this week; the fourth isn’t due until January 15th, so I’ll take a little break in between and hopefully have some time to work on my personal projects. For now, though, it’s paper writing time!

When looking at a syllabus today, I realized how fast the semester is coming to a close. Of course, there is still plenty of work to be done, but my classes are only meeting about 5-6 more times.

Reinforcing the idea that this semester is almost over is that I registered for classes for the next. Unlike this semester, I will be at school Monday through Thursday; I decided to take all required courses, and that’s how it worked out. Unfortunately, there were no electives that worked into my schedules. I’m a little hesitant to take all required courses, but I’ll only have 2 or so more required courses for the next year. The only other negative is that I cannot attend Najmat’s class for the next semester. Not only is it good for my dancing, but it is also good for the social side of things. A few of the students and I are fairly good friends, and it’s nice to have that consistent group there; I suspect next semester I won’t have classes with the same people I did this semester. On the plus side of things, I think it’s a good opportunity to try some new teachers. As amazing as Najmat is and as much as I intend on returning to her classes after spring semester, I also know it’s good to try new teachers and be taken out of your comfort zone. Also, an acquaintance may join me for some private lessons, which would be fun.

So now off to tackle the pile of schoolwork and not get too sad about the dreary weather.

This was just mentioned briefly in my class on educational technology, and we didn’t delve into it. I think it’s partially because the social networking thing just became huge relatively recently.

Perhaps I’m uncreative, but I’m struggling to see how something like Twitter or Facebook could really enhance education beyond small administrative things, like informing students that school is canceled via Twitter. Any ideas?

A huge difference between my education grad experience, thus far, and my experience in physics grad school is that I’m mostly by myself, without a pack. I have become accustomed to having the same group of classmates in my classes. Particularly in undergrad, where I was pretty close many people, it was nice to have that community. Sure, people annoyed me (and I’m sure I annoyed them) at times, but we all got along. Considering how lonely college can be, I like having a group of people I genuinely respected and enjoyed.

Grad school in physics wasn’t quite like that, but I still had a posse. Education school? Every class I have is filled with different students. The nature of the classes, as well, don’t foster making tight friends. We have a little group work, but compared to pounding out problem sets weekly, we spent basically no time working together. I’m not sure how much it’ll change with research. I’ve heard universally dissertations are a long, lonely process, but about half the work I did for my masters was in a lab, with others. While I have not fully formed my dissertation topic/research, I am convinced that it’ll be kind of lonely.

Although I was hesitant about staying and committing myself to being in Boston for about 3-4 years, one of the nice things is that I established myself. School/research may not be the most social time for me, but I have other things and other people in my life, so I cannot complain too much.

We watched a documentary called “2 Million Minutes” in one of my classes. It is about cream of the crop high school seniors in India, China, and US. I’m still digesting what I thought about it; while it was somewhat interesting, I don’t feel like I learned much that wasn’t already expressed stereotypically to me (5 out of 6 of the kids were very stereotypical) but there were some small points in the documentary that were interesting, like admitting US students work hard as well but distribute their time differently.

There are some deep flaws in the measurements of this documentary, in my opinion; the idea is that education should help you economically. How do you test that? The students may receive a higher level of math and science and do well in exams, but how does that work with real world problems? I’m not saying that those students cannot handle a non-exam question, but the movie made no mention of that. In my experience in the US, there is a huge emphasis on practical experience. High schoolers not only work to earn top marks but also compete to become leaders in various clubs, typically multiple ones. College students feel the pressure to intern, do research, etc., as well as earn top marks and succeed on entrance exams. The documentary didn’t delve into the college experience or what one needs to do in order to gain admission to graduate school in math and science, but it didn’t show that the non-US students engaged in outside activities with their peers. The Chinese female student did study ballet and violin, but she did so through private lessons. It didn’t appear that she participated in an orchestra or a part of group for ballet.

I also think there are issues beyond the schools that contribute to students not excelling, like home life. The documentary was interesting to watch, and I’m glad we viewed it in class, although I’m not sure if it was particularly enlightening or well thought out.

In one of my classes yesterday, the professor talked to us about picking a good dissertation topic, advisor, and just in general how to handle the dissertation process. In my education, I don’t think that I had ever had anyone sit down to discuss this with me. Some of the advice would’ve been helpful prior to my thesis issues. There are many good articles out there on picking your advisor and all, so rather than repeat those ideas, I’m going to contribute what I wish I would’ve known that I haven’t seen offered as much or at all. Most of these things are for the absolute worse case scenario; hopefully, your thesis or dissertation has smoother sailing.

  • Save every single email and piece of correction you receive. This just helps keep track of what you’ve done; hopefully, you find the corrections decrease with time. Also, if things become grave, you have proof of who said what. For organization’s sake, I keep a separate folder in my inbox and have a drawer of my filing cabinet dedicated to paper corrections.
  • Find a support person outside your advisor. Very late in the game, I began talking to other professors to seek advice and support. My thesis process was particularly difficult, even for a process that has its difficulties, and these outside folks helped me in so many ways. Even if they hadn’t directly helped me, they were supportive emotionally. Make sure the person understands the idea of confidential conversation, etc.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up early if things are awry. If your advisor is delaying your finish, treating you poorly, or anything else you think is unacceptable, talk to someone in authority. If you cannot talk to that authoritative person or are still unsure what to do, use your support person to advise you how to go ahead. If the first person you speak to isn’t effective, keep trying.
  • Make sure that all expectations are clearly discussed early on. If your committee wants derivations fully worked out, references aplenty, make sure that’s well known before you hand in what you hope is your final draft. Going back and adding things is painful, particularly if you don’t save all those documents.

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