Category Archives: Uncategorized


I’m enrolled in a Survey Methods course this quarter and have really enjoyed it! I’m designing a survey to describe the uses of educational technology at UC Davis, with the hope of being able to draw conclusions about the digital literacy skills our instructors expect from our students.

It’s kind of incredible how much detail goes into designing a survey. First I drafted the questions, then had a focus group with seven professors, revised my questions, sent them to ed tech experts for review, revised again, and am now actually building the survey on a webplatform. I’ve opted to go for SoGoSurvey, partly because it was recommended by a survey expert who presented to our class, but also because I found the demo video incredibly useful.

Plus, if I like their page on Facebook and put up a blog post about them, they’ll give me a student license for free!

I’d been playing around with the program and it’s pretty nice—easy to use, lots of color schemes and question types, and it seems like it will be easy to track who has and has not responded to the survey once I send it out. The program also lets me export my data to SPSS, or I can conduct analysis within SoGoSurvey.

Thanks for the student license, SoGoSurvey!

The Woman Who Taught me How to Write

I shared with a friend that my college mentor, Dr. Susan Colon, recently passed away, and he asked me what she was like. My answer was perfunctory – I said we “worked together” on Baylor’s academic journal. But I don’t want that to be the way I describe a woman who influenced so much of who I am today. So here’s another go:  

In my second semester at Baylor, I was a freshman in Dr. Colon’s course – Intellectual Traditions of the Ancient World, my transcript tells me. I remember we met in that big conference room by her office, the one with the long table and the confortable chairs. It was my first “seminar-style” course, and I liked it. I loved the debate, the feeling of community, and the challenge of the rigorous reading list and tough standards. I’m sure I got too excited, talked too much (and much too loudly), and annoyed the other students in my class. Thankfully, Dr. Colon saw something in me and gave me an invaluable gift: she took an interest.

One day near the end of the semester, after a particularly memorable lesson on Plato’s cave, Dr. Colon asked me if I would be interested in applying to the The Pulse, Baylor’s undergraduate academic journal. As was my style at the time (erhm, and maybe still is), I wasn’t completely sure what I was signing up for, but plunged forward full-steam and found myself in the fortuitous situation of joining the editing team the next fall.

That was 2005-2006, the second year of The Pulse’s revival, when Sarah Jane and Musheer were our fearless leaders. The next year, Zoe and I stepped into their rather large footsteps, meaning I spent my junior and senior years as Chief Editor of The Pulse. The website tells me they’ve just published their 9thvolume. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a decade! But it’s not so hard to believe that within that decade, The Pulse has remained one of the things for which I am most grateful.

The truth is fairly simple: Dr. Colon taught me how to write. Part of that involved showing me how me watch for common errors and requiring me to study Chicago style so I could edit and format the articles we published, but it also meant showing me how to identify the gap between what a writer is trying to say and what the reader thinks she is trying to say.

And then Dr. Colon went a step further. She taught me how to talk to writers and help them recognize these gaps. This skill has been helpful in my marriage to a writer, and it has been the catalyst for my passion to teach.

Through her kind encouragement, steep expectations, and wonderfully subtle sense of humor, Dr. Colon gave me the confidence to reach for the seemingly unobtainable while I was at Baylor, and afterwards.

Her recommendation facilitated my acceptance to Durham University, where I earned my MA in Twentieth Century Literature, and my work on The Pulse qualified me for an editing gig that helped me pay for that degree. Later, the same qualifications helped me land a copywriter position at Bridgepoint Education – easily the best job I’ve ever had (certainly the only one that turned my head enough to make me consider a non-academic career).

It was Dr. Colon who brought me back to the academy, encouraged me to apply for PhD programs, and then coached me through the decision of which program to attend. And it was Dr. Colon who I wrote first when I accepted UC Davis’ offer.

So, what was Dr. Colon like?

She was an inspirational teacher who gave me my first taste of everything that’s good about academia. She was my model of a successful woman in higher education who was also raising a lovely family. She was the one who helped me uncover my greatest passion and nurtured in me the skills to do it successfully. She shaped my life in more ways than she probably knew, a debt I can only hope to repay by serving the same function for another.

Collaborative Learning

As part of my attempt to stay in the grad student game over the summer, I’ve been reading Kenneth Bruffee‘s Collaborative Learning. The second chapter details how to set up a successful collaborative learning activity, including group size:

  • Groups of 5 are best for consensus
  • Groups of 3 are best for long-term projects
  • Groups of 2 are not advisable

Bruffee goes on to talk about Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development, saying that, in successful collaborative learning environments, groups have overlapping ZPDs and can thus pull each other along – as Bruffee puts it, the “distance between what the group as a whole already knows and what its members as a whole can’t make sense of for love nor money – the area of what as a whole they can learn next – is likely to be fairly broad. As a result, I may be ready to understand a good deal more as a member of a working group than I would be ready to understand by myself alone” (1999, p. 37).

Bruffee also talks about how collaborative learning needs to be situated – the small group is situated within the full class, which is situated in the academic discipline the teacher represents. The group comes to a consensus on an issue, which is tested and explored alongside other groups in the full class. Then, the full class’ consensus is compared to conclusions accepted by the academic community. Bruffee stresses the importance of this layering, arguing that it results in welcoming the students into the discourse community of the discipline.

As always, my mind wanders to how this could work effectively in an online environment. If it’s synchronous, you could use break out groups in Adobe Connect, then a full class conversation, and then a group exploration of videos or websites that promote the discipline’s conclusions. Or you could do something in a virtual environment like SecondLife.

But could it happen asynchronously? We know that discussion forums can stimulate critical thinking, but I don’t know if it could function like a collaborative consensus group because collaboration hinges on getting immediate reactions to a concept and comparing and evaluating the different reactions of the group members. Has anyone seen effective collaboration in your asynchronous experiences online?

Winter Quarter is over!

::whew:: I just submitted my last final and I’m very happy to close the books on Winter 2012.

Here’s just a quick overview of what has happened to me in the last 10 weeks:

Dad and I spent a super-fun weekend in Point Reyes
Andy and I explored Napa and San Francisco with Steve and Linda (the in-laws)
Andy and I explored other parts of San Francisco with fellow Baylor alum, Adam
Jenae and I explored still other parts of San Fran at the DML conference
Aside from a couple of hours of TV before bed, pretty much every other moment of the last ten weeks as spent on schoolwork. So what did I learn this quarter?

I can now use Stata (statistical software) more or less successfully and can apply and evaluate multiple regression models. I understand what a p-value and a t-statistic and a slope coefficient are; I can check data for outliers and perform sensitivity analyses; and, hell, I can even generate and evaluate a studentized residual plot.

Apparently socioeconomic status DOES influence how well a kid scores on her SAT-Math

On the qualitative research side of things, I completed a full pre-pilot research project. I took field notes at two site observations (I observed Andy chatting with his Clarion group), created a protocol and conducted a semi-structured interview which I later transcribed, and then I coded and analyzed all of my data.

It turns out that “data analysis” requires a lot of highlighting.

I also started this blog, learned several new technologies, led a class discussion, and created a website.

I’m actually kind of proud of this; it’s a resource for composition instructors that promotes the use of online tools to teach invention:

And I’ve continually added posts to the blog I write for Academic Technology Services, the Wheel, have become increasingly active as @ucdaviswheel, and have begun to enter the worlds of Digg, Pintrest, StumbleUpon, and Reddit.

I write this blog as part of my job as ATS’s Graduate Student Researcher.

I’m tired.