Blog Post

I don’t exactly know yet what I’m here to do, but I know I’m in the right place

The title pretty much sums up my academic journey to date, which began at home, Chicagoland, Illinois.

I’ve been in the Geography Department at the University of Washington in Seattle for five years now.  This year I am in Poland doing my PhD dissertation field work on environmental politics and activism in the EU.  (I wish I could pull up a map of HASTAC Scholars, so I could visualize where people are.  Who else is not in the States this year?)  From “the field” I hope the distance from my home institution and the break from teaching will allow me to look with fresh eyes and offer up some international perspectives.  I'd like to reflect on/learn about/share practices around using technology in teaching as well as during the data collection process.  I hope to eventually collaborate on some kind of transatlantic, environmental-pedagogical project.  Given my educational background—environmental sciences, human geography, socio-legal studies, and in between some Slavic language and literature—interdisciplinarity is all I’ve ever known.

During this year I am (remotely) part of a collaboration called Teaching with Technology.  This group was formed after many of us participated in a formative micro-seminar called Learning and Teaching in the Digital Age, framed around Cathy Davidson’s book Now you See It, and her visit to the UW this past February. 

So what brings me to HASTAC is my persistent refusal to stay in any one discipline and my interest in “teaching and learning with technology.”  That said, I need to admit a few things.

First, I am a “late adopter.”  I maintain skepticism about digital and social media tools, not least because access to such tools remains very uneven.  But also because I’m easily overwhelmed by the sheer volume of things going on in this sphere.  And by my perception of steep learning curves to incorporate new technologies into my life and work.  Interacting with students in the classroom, trying to organize my own research project, and the micro-seminar I mentioned above, have pushed me to work on unpacking my skepticism towards technological tools.

Second, I’ve always had one foot out the door when it came to academia.  My favorite part about graduate school so far has been the teaching.  Drudgery of grading aside, it seems to me teaching is where the action is.  It really bothers me that a lot of what academics do, what they are rewarded for, and how they evaluate others, is not relevant to the real world or to doing something about the serious social and environmental challenges we face.  During grad school I’ve had various teaching and curriculum development experiences ranging from TAing, to developing an Environmental Justice 101 curriculum, to incorporating radio documentaries into K-12 lesson plans for use in public schools.  To supplement my non-living wage I also worked in the private education sector, tutoring students with “learning disabilities” ages 10-20.  Before grad school I taught ESL for a year in Poland.  My academic work has always been informed and enriched by exposure to these drastically different educational contexts. 

Third, I tried to quit grad school, I really did.  But it turns out that the constellation of institutions at UW and the people who work in them (namely:  Geography, Law Societies and Justice, the Simpson Center, the Jackson School for International Studies, the Center for Teaching and Learning) made for a hospitable place for me to pursue my hodgepodge of interests and to grow as an educator.  And it’s led me here to HASTAC. 

I don’t know a coding language (yet?), and I’m not pursuing research on digital media per se, but the language of silo-busting is one I speak and live.

I am excited, and a little terrified, to be in this group, which tells me I’m right where I should be.

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2 comments

Hi Tiffany,

David Sparks has mapped the commenters within HASTAC. Here's the map projection:

https://raw.github.com/dsparks/HASTAC_EAGER/master/Images/World%20map%20draft.png

And here's the blog post:

http://www.hastac.org/blogs/dsparks/2013/03/22/geography-hastacorg

Cheers,

Marco

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:) Thanks, Marco!

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