‘Salsa dancing’ into my second year p/t PhD: A MOOC reflection

I just re-enrolled for 2016 (confidence) and promptly got a response that I hadn’t been successful in so doing (frustration) only to have a third email relay difficulties the university is having with re-enrolment processes and reassuring me that I had indeed been successful in re-enrolling (confusion). Phew! I remember thinking at the time – Really? I’m not re-enrolled? (fear) Is this a sign? (confusion again) Should I be re-thinking this? (and fear) But my good sense (more confidence) told me I should just let it go. If there’s one thing I’ve learned on MOOC #survivephd15 with @thesiswhisperer et al. is that everything I’ve felt, am feeling, will feel throughout my PhD journey has a name, some research to back it up, and strategies to deal with it (curiosity).

This week I’ve been reading Kristin Luker’s book Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences (2008). I like how she writes. I can hear her saying the words, giggling when I do and reading seriously when I am. Infact the first chapter begins “I’m serious. Really I am.”

Me too!

Reflecting on my own blog posts about my PhD I can pretty much put a label on each entry. Everything I have written about fits into an emotion from the MOOC. Extraordinary!

In my first post about my PhD I discuss my reasons for beginning the journey itself:

This research is relatable – in fact it relates to a very important part of my memory and attitude to teaching and learning. I do this because I will never forget what it felt like to not understand what other people were talking about.

It’s personal.


In my first blog about my journey beginnings I promptly announce that I have been preparing for this all my life. Now that’s confidence!


There’s been plenty of frustration this last year, including potential supervisors telling me ‘you can’t do that type of research, just too much work.’ Reading between the lines it really meant “I’m too busy.” Luckily my existing supervisor who was very supportive helped me find my current supervisor -an inspiring individual who had no issue joining the team. In fact our team meeting just this week was a really fun and engaging learning experience!


Lonely? Are you kidding? Not anymore with my great new PhD mates on MOOC, twitter and facebook.  This experience has been terrific and I hope that it continues into the future. My final submission was an idea to begin a tweetchat using the #survivephd15 1st Thursday of every month beginning Dec 3, 2015 at 8:30 – 9.30 pm AEST. I’d be happy to moderate/ co-moderate and have guest moderators if anyone is willing

I have prepared the first three months worth  – 6 questions per chat with the themes of MOOC running through each but with a twist. More details will follow via social media as the time draws nearer. I do hope you will join me in helping to maintain the wonderful support network we have shared throughout the MOOC and retain it as a place to continue to post and share ideas and resources and even get a pat on the back or a supportive word when needed!



For me fear is a motivator – I work well under pressure.




There have been plenty of times when confusion and self doubt creep into my thinking. The process of becoming continues and I think it’s just one of those things that will be just out of reach until perhaps one day I will be submitting my PhD and it will be good – no more confusion or self doubt. Well, at least until the next process begins.


This post is part of the November #HDRblog15 challenge @debsnet announced as her final activity for MOOC. Never a dull moment. I look forward to sharing and hearing about all of our PhD journeys.



Thanks for reading 🙂

I will survive my PhD


Inside front cover of my journal

Over the last five weeks or so I have been privileged, as have been many others from all over the world to be part of Inger Mewburn – The Thesis Whisperer’s MOOC course “How to survive your PhD” via EdX and ANU.

To date we have covered, amongst others, modules to do with Confidence, Frustration and Loneliness. Each module has related readings and videos to read and watch as well as a weekly periscope live chat, twitter feed and a myriad of Facebook pages that have been set up to assist in sharing resources, feelings, and whatever else we may need or seek. Sometimes we even get homework! Last week’s was to go out and meet up with other PhDs over coffee!


Homework complete!


For me as an older PhD student, at 51, the MOOC course was something that I jumped at – not to mention – I love the Thesis Whisperer.

My favourite module to date has to be the Loneliness topic only because all of a sudden the social network seemed to have exploded as the course becomes ever more popular. I have had the opportunity to connect with great fellow PhD students including the ever growing Facebook page PhD Owls -Older, Wise Learners.

PhD Owls

My cup tipped for all PhD Owls

While there has been discussion in regards to whether loneliness is good or bad and if it needs to be cured at all. I feel there are instances where some ‘alone’ time is essential to all but especially to me as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, neice, friend, cousin, educator, learner, teacher, PhD student and a human being. Alone time allows for me to read out loud, to walk around the house with a book or my laptop, gesticulating and making weird expressions – now they know – without having to answer to anyone. I like breaking up my learning with cooking, cleaning, folding, washing, etc. – they call it procrasti-something (replace as required)! Right now I’m sitting at my kitchen bench having moved from the study, to the lounge, into the dining room and finally to here, all after having done three loads of washing, made our bed, stripped the one in the guest room, baked a chocolate cake, and put the dinner on. My friend cancelled lunch on me today and secretly I am quite happy as it’s given me more ‘me’ time. I miss catching up with my mate but just today it seemed better for me to stay in and just get on with things, including this post that I started early this morning -now almost 5:30 in the afternoon.

I haven’t really done too much PhD reading today but I’ll tell you what, I’ve thinking about what I read yesterday. This week is all about Freire and critical pedagogy. You may have come across my post on the PhD Owls Facebook page which got a whole lot more attention than I anticipated and hooked me up with a few others who were interested and/or contemplating Freire themselves. We even exchanged some resources. See, I’m not lonely -well at least not this week so much. I just figure my way of beating the loneliness factor is getting on MOOC and bam! I write this blog with the idea that someone may read and comment and get me thinking differently. That’s how I stay connected -oh – and did I mention twitter? I love twitter. ‘Hello my name is Jo and I’m a twitter addict.’

I felt like I was there with the MOOC gang last night during the live periscope chat on Loneliness, a little awkward that the meet up didn’t quite work out but it was a lot of fun from the ‘outside in’ anyhow. My favourite part is logging in early and listening in as Inger and the gang chuckle at posts and stick their head in view to tell me only 4 minutes till we start, but secretly we’ve started – it’s like my other favourite ‘thing’ to do – taking photos of people I love and care for while they are unaware. It tends to give them this whole new perspective and mostly it reveals how comfortable they are within themselves and when interacting with others.

There’s a party going on around them but these two have got their own little ‘festa’ going on…

Anyhow, I just wanted to give a shout out to all PhDs on MOOC and to The Thesis Whisperer and her gang of helpers just to let them know how much I am enjoying the course and the interactions on social media. I love telling non PhDs about it and watching them roll their eyes or laugh out loud or look at me like I’ve got two heads – Where do you find the time? I make it cause it’s worth it. I will survive my PhD. I am not an imposter. I am smart enough to get into a PhD and therefore I will come out with a PhD. I won’t be scared and I’ll try not to doubt myself. I will survive…wait…is that a song?

Thanks for reading 🙂

Pedagogy over e-asy

The other day @MRsalakas challenged us to write a post reflecting on the Sunday night #aussieED chat; Pedagogy before technology. Now, as I think about it – as per usual I have been brewing it in my head since Sunday night – the title can have two meanings:

1. What was pedagogy like BEFORE the introduction of technology?


2. Pedagogy should be the forefront of any teaching and learning environment and technology should be a tool to facilitate it.

The Sunday night #aussieED chat was centred on the second meaning as @Mr_Kuran’s diagram reveals…

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Needless to say it was a fast moving chat – your eyes water and ‘bobble’ trying to keep up until you realise there’s no way you can. So just look out for what gets your attention and respond or ponder on that instead. You then spend the next week revisiting the archive cause, YES, that’s how long it takes. This week’s chat is in two parts  just to show how popular it was.

Anyhow back to the two points I made above. There was chatter all about how technology fails at times, what with bad reception, wifi not connecting, and how it kills the best laid plans. BUT, we are all teachers and teachers ALWAYS have Plan B, C & D or as @MissBelfiore mentioned, even Plan D, E & F! Here’s one that made me LOL!

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There were lots and lots of ideas about how educators use tech as a tool but I think the one thing we ALL agreed on was that, YES! Pedagogy ALWAYS comes first.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines pedagogy in two ways “the function, work or art of a teacher” and “instruction”. The root of pedagogy for me is the teacher. We will never go out of fashion, we will never become obsolete as long as there are learners around no matter what age. In fact, we are all learners. Are we not? AND as long as there are learners, there will be teachers.

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At the beginning of the Australian school year I offered a post, in celebration, revealing some of my journal entries. Go ahead, click and read  – I’ll wait – it won’t take a minute….

You’ll notice I did not mention tech in any of them but I did talk relationships, getting to know students, learning yourself as a teacher, learning as a holistic experience. You see, relationships are the key in any pedagogy -they help with the function, work and art of a teacher. I’ve said it many times in tweets and elsewhere – “without relationship there is no learning.”

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It’s the human side that gets learners hooked – the technology is ONE tool that allows it – there are many, many other tools in the box – and, as with food – all in moderation.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Love to hear your take on things please feel free to comment.

A week’s reflections: teaching & learning.

I had a really great day at uni today. My colleague PhD students and I attended yet another couple of Friday workshops come info sessions to do with our work as researchers – or should I say our learning -it’s not really work when I think about it. There are three of us who are tight, who studied the post grad in ed research together in 2013 and then moved onto a PhD. My colleagues are now full time students which means they will be up for confirmation this year, one has only a few more weeks to be ready. All three of our PhD research topics are extensions of our minor thesis from two years ago but with a more detailed approach which to me only exposes our love and interest in the topics and our wish to delve deeper and to know more. We have accomplished much over the last four weeks and learned so much about ourselves and each other as research students and I think we all have some desire to grow more and even see ourselves as academics – well at least I do to some extent, but I want to also continue to be an educator and learner.

I also started a new job this week. The next two terms will see me working four days a week at a Catholic secondary school as a Peer Support Leader. I get to work, and learn, with the Education Support Department and also have a role to do with peer support – which is peer appraisal but not peer appraisal because it’s a dirty term in schools, so we don’t use the latter term in case teachers think they are being judged.

Well, I have news – we are judged. We are judged all the time every minute of the day while at school and even when we are not. The sooner we realise this, the better it will be and the sooner we can get on with the teaching and learning our students are entitled to, and deserve. It seems to me that some of us could do with a reflective exercise where we take a step back and have a real hard look at ourselves from the perspective of others. Now I’m not one to give a damn about what others think but I really feel that sometimes it’s a good idea to take time out and just watch, listen and learn.

That’s pretty much what I have been doing for the first four day week in my new position. As you know, if you read my blog regularly, I am an avid follower of twitter chats, and have written on some of my favourites in other posts. I always learn much on these chats and have picked up so many images and ideas that I gladly share with others. Tonight’s #BFC530 chat was no exception and thanks to @2learnthink I picked up this little gem.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 10.28.48 PM I really think that not only should it be pinned to every classroom door but posted at every school gate. “In this SCHOOL, everyone is a student and everyone is a teacher.”

There is also another image I have picked up along the way and used many times and one that I have been thinking about all week as I have been watching, listening and learning. This one I think speaks volumes, both positively and negatively.

doing_itPositive because there are those among us who are getting on with it and negative in the fact that we have to say it. Really sometimes we just have to get out of the way and let others get on with it. It’s not about power, or at least it shouldn’t be, it’s about EMPOWERMENT, taking responsibility, allowing failure so as to learn. By this I don’t mean catastrophic failure – surely it is our responsibility to be there to ensure this doesn’t happen, but I mean allow risk taking, with scaffold, supports and sensible direction to enable learning, to enable others to model and experiment and then allow for reflection  – action – re-plan – reflection – action – re-plan. Sometimes we just need someone, many times in fact, we just need someone to shut up and listen.listen We don’t always want, or even need, them to solve the problem or take any action but simply, LISTEN. There’s been a lot of that this week.

And…what have I learned this week?

I’ve learnt that the minute we think we’ve solved all the issues and problems is the same minute we stop learning, taking risks, reflecting and working for the benefit of our future – our children.Do-a-great-job-no-matter

Why do I teach? I like to learn.

Last week we made a pact to write-up a blog on why we teach after a fast paced twitter chat. I have been thinking about it for quite a while – it takes me some time to play with ideas in my head and then, just like the last few posts I wake up in the early morning and have to quickly scribble some notes. At about 4.30 this morning however, my ideas gripped me so strongly I even made my own version of a sketch note.063940

Why do I teach? Well, I like to learn first and foremost and you know what they say… The best learning comes when one teaches what they learned.

Really though, deep down, I LOVE finding out about my students. I love teaching them howlightbulbmoment they learn and about the brain and then watch their gorgeous faces, no matter how old they are, when they discover that they really can do something and now have the strategies to do it. That’s what I love the most. Yes, it is that light bulb moment that many talk about in this profession but while it is a cliché’ it is also something very special that teachers just ‘get’. Think of it, if you have kids, of the time your little tacker learnt how to walk, or actually got the food into his mouth. It’s a bit like that.

I enjoy making a difference to students’ lives.  I like getting to know my students as learners. I like being there in their discovery, in their triumphs and in their vulnerable times when they just want to give up. I get the opportunity to support them through it and open the door, allowing them to take risks and be there to pick them up when and if they happen to fail. Teachers need to make it safe to fail and model how to deal with failure when it comes. It’s part of the growthF_A_I_L mindset where one learns and improves from failure rather than a fixed mindset where one believes that you are born with a certain intelligence and there is nothing more you can do to improve it.

I’m an optimist. For me, there is no point in worrying about something until you know what it is you have to worry about. I have many dreams and I try very hard, no – I work very hard to make them a reality. Sometimes it gets me into a lot of trouble because I’m so passionate about making it happen. I believe everyone will learn, for example, and that some may need longer or may need to travel some other path to get there, so…I allow that in my classes / workshops. Yes, even adults all learn at different paces and in different ways.

NateTellingStories1024I love hooking people in – young and old – with stories. I love telling stories. In fact when I ask,  “Hey, wanna hear a story?” there is always a positive response and even a ‘”Shhhooooshhhh everyone! She’s got a story!” My stories are real – sometimes I change the identities and settings but essentially they are about real life experiences and almost always related to the topic at hand. Sometimes, though, I just want to ensure I’m forming those all important RELATIONSHIPS. Students need to feel like you are actually a real eating, thinking, feeling, individual they could possibly learn to trust with their most important learning journey  – developing into a caring, sharing citizen of the world. Hopefully one who might change it for the better so that we can live comfortably in our old age as we proudly watch them from our chairs.

I teach to learn and I learn to teach. YOU?


Thanks for reading 🙂