Tag Archives: dissertation

NCTE 2014: Integrative and Innovative Pedagogies, E-05

Hello from Washington, DC! I’ll be presenting with my amazing colleagues and National Writing Project geniuses Troy Hicks (@hickstro), Dawn Reed (@dawnreed), Jeremy Hyler (@jeremybballer), and Aram Kabodian (@AramKabodian) today at #NCTE14 in session E-05 in Maryland 5-6 — come find us!

Our session is entitled “Integrated and Innovative: Five Stories of Technology-Rich Instructional Partnerships.” It focuses on how practitioners in K-12 with partners in higher education have integrated technologies in meaningful and innovative ways with their students. Specifically, we’ll showcase the practices of teachers and provide frameworks for thinking about what innovative practice might “look like.” We’ll also share how our partnerships within and beyond our institutions brought us together, shaping our thinking and practice.

Session Resources

I wanted to share a few resources here for people to access during and after the session. My section will be short, because I want to hand it over to Dawn, who is the real star of the show. I’ll describe a few frameworks for thinking about innovative practice, along with a framework I developed out of my dissertation work with Dawn, which argues that teacher practice with technology can either facilitate classroom tasks or fully integrate technology with content and pedagogy.

Here are our slides:

We will also be tweeting throughout our session (#ncte14) and hosting a backchannel on TodaysMeet. Hope you can join us — digitally or physically!

Update: here’s a PDF of the TodaysMeet Backchannel (link below!) It was a great session, thanks to all who attended!


The Story of A Defense

Along the back wall, my parents. A doctor, a father, a fisherman, a teacher… a peacemaker, a wine connoisseur, a guitarist, a mother. At the end of the impossibly long table, my program-mates and forever friends. My best friend and partner in life and love. Two of my mentor-friends, who have traveled over an hour and taken time out of their ridiculously busy schedules just to be here, now. Some of the most important people in my life sit before me, and now I have to talk about the most important work of my life.

Sure, my committee is sitting closer, immediately to my right and left. They are there to ask questions, to challenge my thinking. But as I take a deep breath and launch into my acknowledgements, I know who I am talking to — these people at the back of the room, who have supported me, cried with me, laughed with me, told me their teaching stories, listened to my teaching stories. My little sister — a new teacher — is, in this moment, conspicuously absent, but I feel her presence. I think of her first as I begin to speak.

I began my Second Year Exam, one of many benchmarks in my graduate program, with the following sentence: “Many people begin at the beginning, but I am going to begin at the end – or, I suppose more appropriately, at the present.”

And so I start with the strangely still moments before I began my defense, moments in which I felt very present, very aware of what I was doing, where I was, and incapable of imagining a world beyond that very long room. I shook a little, relying on the notes gleaming from the tablet I held in my left arm a little too much as I started speaking, but soon my rehearsals took hold and I eased into the next hour and a half.

Beginning in the Middle

But before I go too much further, let me tell you a bit of the middle part of this story. The beginning part starts when my mom read me my first book, so I won’t bore you with that.

The middle: I moved to Boston this fall to start a new job. Alone. If you want to know all about that crazy thing I did, I’ve written about it before. A few times. No, really.

And I wasn’t sure, when I moved, whether I would (a) like this job, (b) stay in this job for more than a year, or (c) be ABLE to stay for more than a year. This was because we didn’t know what my partner’s job search would bring, or whether he would be able to move out here and join me. Really, all was temporary when I moved to Boston. The dissertation was almost done, but what would follow was very ambiguous.

And then he got a job offer the day I flew out for the defense, and everything fell into place like the universe was playing Tetris and got dealt the perfect block combination. Suddenly, we knew what the future held. Suddenly, there I was in Ann Arbor, saying goodbye to my house (for good), to my friends (for now), and to a town that had been oh-so-good to me, excited — but a little shocked — about beginning a life in New England with a job I love and a partner who supports me.

Back to the End

In a weekend that can only be described as one for the record books, Kristoff got an unbelievable job for an excellent company, I said goodbye to the Midwest with a 26.2 mile run through beautiful Detroit, and I successfully defended my dissertation and became Dr. Homan. And the weirdest thing?

Nothing changed.

The eeriest thing about defending (for me) were the moments that followed. After all the buildup (and my friends will tell you I’m good at the buildup — I’ve been chronicling my dissertative journey on Facebook for the past few years in order to keep the “social” in what can be a very, very solitary process), I defended, and then… all was the same. I don’t mean for this to sound depressing, because it felt in many ways poetic. Musical. As though someone struck that final resolving chord and then launched right into the next movement, no seam, no pause, no new stanza, no denouement. I celebrated, I got on a plane, and I went to a conference the next day. 

Lost in what has been the chaos of my life for the past couple months, the defense was beautifully anti-climactic. Perfectly there and very exciting, but completely surrounded and consumed by other shit that also mattered, and in many ways mattered more.

And also, it was fun. Short of a minor freak-out the weekend before, I didn’t worry about the defense, because I didn’t really have the time to do so. As we launched into the questions segment — the part that most terrified me because really you never know what they’re going to pull out of Batman’s underpants and smack you with in these thingsI was okay. Comfortable. We talked. They handed me some revisions that I agreed with. We hugged. And it was over.

And then I looked to the back of the room, at those people who have supported me every single day, no matter what. Who have been there to listen, to cry, to laugh, to raise a glass, share a pizza, run a marathon, read a paragraph, or sip a coffee. And I know while the doctorate is great and all, it wouldn’t have been possible without them.




Sooo… tomorrow I defend my dissertation. WHAT?!

I wanted to make a few materials available here, for purposes of accessibility for those attending my defense. Enjoy!

Transcript of my Defense Talk

Defense Talk Slides (PowerPoint)

In other news, I ran a marathon this morning. I ran clear to Canada and back with my friend Ann! Check out the view as we approached (and then ran over) the Ambassador Bridge:

Ambassador Bridge at Sunrise: Detroit International Marathon

Ambassador Bridge at Sunrise: Detroit International Marathon

Easily the best way to spend the morning before my defense — celebrating the marathon that has been this PhD with a marathon tour of Detroit!



Submitting the Dissertation

I submitted my dissertation to my committee yesterday (can I get a what what?!)

 GIF credit: sqider-man.tumblr.com

Let’s pause for a second so I can tell you what that was like. Because it was really unlike any other submission experience of my life. All day I was thinking “okay, so I’ll go home, finish checking references, and submit. NBD.” It was going to be like when I submitted my first year exam or something. Send an email, sit back in my chair, sigh.

Then I actually entered the last page number in my list of figures and went to save it as a PDF, and my world came crashing down around me.

 GIF credit: gifovea.tumblr.com

My thoughts included:

  1. I forgot something. No, I forgot all the things. They’re never going to let me graduate with this piece of crap.
  2. This is easily the best thing I’ve ever written.
  3. I can’t let go of my baby! Why are they taking my baby?!
  4. THANK GOD this thing is being excised from my life.
  5. Nope, not ready. Not ready at all. Maybe I’ll just wait till tomorrow.
  6. Is that a typo? Nope, just a speck of dust on the screen.
  7. HOLY SNOWBALLS, my title sucks.

That heart-in-throat, blood-pressure-rising, omg-I-can’t-even-hit-the-send-button, if-I-fail-at-this-I-fail-at-life feeling was easily unlike any other I’ve experienced up to this point. Once I actually managed to hit “send,” it felt like the world’s largest elephant had been lifted off of my shoulders (but he was quickly replaced with a second, slightly smaller elephant, whose name strangely happened to be Defense). I called my partner, made some zucchini-and-onions (a comfort food fave from my childhood), poured a glass of wine, and collapsed on the couch.

And this morning is weird. I had settled into something of a routine, getting up at 4:15 or so to feed the pup, work on the diss for a couple hours, go for a very short run with my furry best friend, and head to work. But this morning I’m not sure what to do with myself. So I made coffee. Window shopped on Amazon. Checked Facebook (but nobody’s up, so once you look at your newsfeed once, it’s not like there will be new posts the next time you hit “refresh”). Checked Twitter (same problem).

I’m sure I’ll find things to do in the coming weeks (my list is long… now I have to prepare for the defense, among articles that need to be submitted and other such things). But this morning, I’m happy to blog, enjoy social media, drink coffee, and bask in the awesomeness of no more revisions (at least for the next month).

 GIF credit: reactiongifs.com

Tackling the To-Do List

There are actually a number of strange to-do lists occupying my life right now, not just the one I’m going to talk about here. They include:

  1. The Packing To-Do List. You know, cuz I’m moving to Boston in 5 days (OMG).
  2. The Dissertation To-Do List. That’s the one I’ll talk about in a sec — hold tight.
  3. The CV/Cover Letter/Teaching Statement/etc.etc.etc. To-Do List. Because the academic job market kicks into high gear soon, and the partner-person and I might need to go hunting for jobs in the same city, depending on how some things hash out over the next few months.
  4. The What-Do-I-Want-to-Publish To-Do List. Now that I’ve written a dissertation, I should really publish some of this stuff.
  5. The Must-go-to-all-the-Places To-Do List. Because it’s imperative that I eat at all my favorite Ann Arbor restaurants before I leave.

But for this post — The Dissertation To-Do List.

I’ve hit that funny point in the process where there’s simultaneously very little and TONS left to do. Here’s my list as of this very moment:

to do list

Not too bad, right? I mean once you get about halfway down, all I have to do is format (hahaha — I’ve heard so many horror stories about formatting). Really, there’s relatively little writing and revising left to be done (depending, of course, on a bit of pending feedback from committee members). This list feels manageable. I could knock out a few of these in a single sitting, if I dedicated a few hours to the task.

And at the same time, this list feels downright huge. In part because of all the other to-do lists, and all the to-do lists that I’m going to acquire in about one week when I arrive in Boston and start my new job (again, OMG). So sure — not too bad. But still oh-so intimidating.

It’s okay, though. I have a plan.

My plan is going to sound crazy, but here it is: every morning before work, I’m going to get up at 4:30 a.m. and work on this sucker for an hour and a half. YES. I’m going to. I have multiple things that will motivate me to do this:

  1. The dog. Because she’s a weimaraner and thus extremely high-energy, my dog needs a run every morning. But because she’s a weimaraner and thus prone to an awful and deadly condition called bloat, she also needs to rest before and after every meal. This presents a timing conundrum that can be solved by getting her up and feeding her early, then running her right before I leave for work.

    me and my pup after our daily run

    after our daily run

  2. I’m a morning person. You know, once I convince myself to get out of bed, wash my face, and make some coffee. I get a lot of my best writing done in the morning, when my mind is fresh and the world is quiet (including social media).
  3. I’m NOT an evening person. Around 7pm every day, my body starts to shut down, brain first. I have held many jobs that require me to be “on” well past 7pm, including evening teaching jobs, but I have always struggled with working after the sun has set on the day. This means working in the morning is a far better move for me than planning on working after work, which will inevitably just not happen.

So that’s my plan. What do you think? Too ambitious? Probably. I’m hoping, though, that sticking to a schedule and allowing for occasional slip-ups will enable me to get through this particular to-do list without too much trouble. How have you tackled scary to-do lists, I wonder? Tell me on twitter!