by Melissa Johnson
Classes ended at UF on Wednesday, so today is our second and final Reading Day before finals begin tomorrow (yes, there are Saturday finals). When I was an undergraduate, Reading Day was spent sleeping in after the last day of class celebrations. As a faculty member and administrator, my Reading Days now typically are spent catching up on e-mails, grading final papers, and looking ahead to summer projects…and maybe counting down to vacation in a week.
The faculty in my doctoral program decided last semester to implement a new Reading Day event for all of the graduate students and faculty in the department. The faculty would provide pizza, and all of us – students and faculty – would bring a scholarly article or book that we had read outside of class this semester to share and discuss in small groups.
Most people don’t know that I didn’t start in the educational technology program. I actually started a doctoral program in a different department. I had even completed coursework and was starting on my dissertation, but due to certain circumstances, I made the necessary switch into ed tech. My former program was in stark contrast to what I’m in now. Territorial does not even begin to describe it, but I can talk more about that off the blog.
Although I ended up taking a little longer to make it to the finish line (aiming for graduation next year!), I relish these opportunities like Reading Day to come together with other graduate students and faculty members in the spirit of a scholarly community. Part of the reason I started a doctoral program in the first place was to have the opportunity to engage in intellectual conversations about research, research-to-practice, and other areas of interest. For better or worse, this is not really an opportunity afforded through work.
It just so happened that my small group mostly was made up of graduate students from our capstone seminar – we’ve been slogging through our dissertation proposals together for the past 2 semesters. Even so, the conversation we had was incredibly engaging and enlightening – each one of us presented our book or article, tying it to our full-time jobs or assistantships, outside research interests, and even dissertation work.
Even though we already spend every Friday afternoon together in seminar, we brought up new revelations about our work and even made new connections – both with our material and with each other. Personally, I found greater validation for my dissertation study, initiated a collaborative writing project with a colleague, and may have found another department opportunity for this summer.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have access to such supportive and scholarly colleagues. Spending my Reading Days a little differently these days is not such a problem – they’re an opportunity to engage with my friends and colleagues on a deeper level that we might not get to in the classroom.
Whether you are in a graduate program or not, how do you participate in scholarly communities? Are there opportunities to develop such communities at work or within your graduate programs? If you are not in a graduate program, do you still feel moved to engage in scholarly dialogue?
For those who are interested, these are the books and articles we shared in my small group today:
- Carnicorn, S. (forthcoming). Honors education: Innovation or conservation? The Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council.
- Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press.
- Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (report available for free online – just Google “Jenkins” and “participatory culture”)
- Roblyer, M. D., Porter, M., Bielefeldt, T., & Donaldson, M. B. (2009). “Teaching online made me a better teacher”: Studying the impact of virtual course experiences on teachers’ face-to-face practice. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 25(4). 121-126.
- Tapscott, D. & Williams, A. D. (2006). Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything. New York: Portfolio.
- Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books.