Podcasting for the New Books Network


Last summer I started co-hosting on the Education channel of the New Books Network (which I wrote about here). It’s taken a little while to get my own set up for podcasting, but I think I’m ready to roll, hosting my first online interview tomorrow morning. Here’s the new set up:

  • Yeti USB condenser microphone – new in the box for $80 on craigslist
  • Sennheiser HD 206 headphones – about $30 on Amazon
  • Skype – free download
  • Zencastr – free, web-based platform, hobbyist account

Today I spent some time prepping my set up. I found some online video tutorials, including one specifically about microphone use, and ones specific to podcasting with the yeti. I’ll admit, I didn’t know which was the front or back of the mic (volume dial should be facing me), nor did I know whether it should be upright or tilted (upright), nor did I know what “gain” is (how sensitive the mic is to picking up sound)! I have no background in recording, so this is all new to me.

My plan is to start the interview via Skype, go over the way the interview will proceed, then ask the other person to mute their Skype mic and audio and open the Zencastr link. Zencastr creates two audio files, one for each person, then zips them together once the recording is over. This avoids the audio “hand off” jumps that happen in regular video chats.

Continue reading “Podcasting for the New Books Network”

From Consumer to Producer


This summer I’ve started doing podcast interviews for the New Books Network. I just produced my first interview with Jim Rickabaugh of the Institute for Personalized Learning. I’ve worked with Jim for the last 3 years on our research project, so this was a natural way to start. Now I’m starting to line up more fabulous academics that I want to talk to. I listen to more and more podcasts, and it’s pretty exciting, though not without apprehension, to make this switch.

Educators are increasingly asking students to find authentic audiences for their work. As I sat preparing for Jim’s interview, I was nervous, unsure of some of the details, frustrated that some of the logistics of the audio recording studio didn’t work, and knew that I’d have to listen to my own voice on the recording! But, I knew that I would enjoy talking to Jim, the interview itself would be meaningful to others, that doing it would improve my interviewing skills, and that it is a good way for me to connect with scholars in my field.

In other words, there was interest, meaning, and personal value in my learning. I read about interest-based learning (like Brigid Barron or Nichole Pinkard), Connected Learning (Mimi Ito), and participatory cultures (Henry Jenkins), and now I’m doing it!

The next 500m


A little over a year ago, I wrote about managing the second 500m of a crew race. Catch – send. Catch – send. There were moments that weren’t pretty, and work that I’m glad is done, but I made it through. I’m into the third 500m now, and it’s time for a power 10: 10 strokes as hard as I can pull.

It’s spring break. Campus is quiet, undergrads are off to Florida or Mexico, other grad students are working from home, and I’m in the office, frantically writing a first draft of my dissertation proposal. In two weeks, I need to have an executive summary for the Clark Seminar, which I’m honored to have been selected to. Next week, I’m off to another Carnegie Summit to present a poster about our PiPNIC work. So this week is it.

The third 500m is when you started to feel the send. You feel the glide of the boat under you, the water beside the boat smooths out, and there is a crisp snap against the oarlocks. The power 10 feels good: a sense of power, possibility, and strength.

I’m starting to see connections between what I thought was an interesting idea and the good work happening in schools. I use words like epistemology and distributed cognition and (at least I think) I know what they mean. I have definitely developed an appreciation for the time it takes to develop from an idea to a study.

Focus on the rhythm, keep the course, send each pull.

The second 500m

womens rowing pair
Olympic rowers – Women’s pair, as they finish a stroke.

I rowed crew my freshman year of college. In the fall, the races were longer distances and a waterfall start, so you rowed your own race and just listened to the coxswain, who did the thinking for you. In the spring, races were a 2000m sprint, and they were raced head to head. Mentally, you could break up these races into four 500m stretches. The first 500m was to get going – quarter, quarter, half, full – shorter strokes to get started. This burst of energy and intense concentration would carry you 500m before you realized it. In the second 500m, you needed to calm the adrenaline surge, settle into a pace, ease the anaerobic burn in your quads, and pull together. By the third 500m, you have a rhythm and are ready to really pull, and the last 500m is everything you’ve got to propel the boat as fast as you can. Then it’s over.

It’s the second 500m that was always the hardest for me. The adrenaline surge of the start had peaked and my mind would be jumping all over the place. My quads would burn and I’d want to quit. I remember struggling to manage my breath, which was coming shallow and fast from the jump start.

The highlight of rowing that year was winning the pair race at the SIRAs regatta. In a pair, there is are just two rowers, no coxswain. I was in front as stroke seat with my pair mate behind me. In the second 500m of that race, I had to set and settle into a stroke rhythm that wasn’t so fast we’d burn out but also not so slow we’d lose. There was no coxswain to listen to and offload the thinking, and I remember the responsibility that I felt as the stroke seat. It was up to me to calm my body and mind into a sustainable rhythm for myself and my partner.

The start to my fourth semester of graduate school feels akin to the second 500m. With three semesters behind me and the birth of our second child this fall, the first 500m jump start is behind me, and the adrenaline carried me through the end of last semester. Now I face settling into a sustainable rhythm that balances and focuses my efforts into my responsibilities as a parent and as a student.

I imagine a coxswain calling, hearing what she says as she feels the unsteady rocking of the boat. “Catch – Send!” This drops our oars into the water together for maximum efficiency, drawing the stroke through to the fullest. “Catch – Send!” This narrows our minds onto the task at hand, getting the last bit of pull off the oar. “Catch – Send!” This settles us into a rhythm to carry us on, because there is still a lot of race left to go. “Catch – Send!”

PhD Year 2


I love the first day of classes: The anticipation of new ideas to explore, the possibilities of papers and projects, the expertly curated reading list (i.e. syllabus) handed out that will map the course through a new world.

But there is also doubt: Will I be able to understand these ideas? Will I complete these projects? Will I get the reading done and be able to speak articulately about it in class? Can I do this?

Then come the introductions: My name is… My program is… My advisor is… I’m from… I used to… and – the hardest one – I’m interested in…

As I start my second year as a PhD student, what I’m interested in researching/doing/becoming/contributing is much harder. This past year I had a pretty good answer – something about trying to understand how schools change – but it was so new, all about exploration and learning. I feel like I spent this past year backpedaling through paradigms and theories, trying to find an epistemological framework that resonates with me and a topic area that I’m passionate about and can actually study.

As my colleagues went back to work, the school year starting, I found myself longing for the predictable to do list of preparations to make for students arriving. I wanted that productive, task-oriented work where you know what you’ve accomplished. Maybe I could go back to that world?

My advisor said to me that starting your second year is when you look up and realize how far away you are from shore. I didn’t even realize that I’d been keeping tabs on the shore, the back up plan, my escape to safety – you know – in case this whole PhD/academia thing doesn’t work out.

But it will. Books will get read, papers will get written, projects will get finished. I’m sure this year will fly just as last year did, though hopefully I’m closer to identifying my interests at this time next year.

The days are long but the years are short. So I’ll tamp down the doubts and plan out my work and just keep swimming.

Book Notes & Thoughts: Communities of Practice, Part I

Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, by Etienne Wenger

At the end of my first two semesters in graduate school, I think I know just enough now to know that I do not know what I want to study or how I want to study it. I am still interested in networks, leadership, and change, but do not know the level at which I want to resolve those ideas, much less how I would study it. Much of the work I want to do this summer and fall is searching for a conceptual frame that helps me describe my observations in a way that moves understanding (mine and research generally) forward. I’m beginning this here with Communities of Practice.

Reading this was slow, especially coming off of the three previous books I’ve written about (Connected, Where Good Ideas Come From, and Disrupting Class), which were popular nonfiction, written to be engaging to a general audience. Communities of Practice is definitely aimed for an academic audience, and “presents a theory of learning that starts with this assumption: engagement in social practice is the fundamental process by which we learn and so become who we are.” This assumption is not how I have previously conceived learning. I think it is pretty typical in a Western, individualist society to think of learning as something individuals do, with teaching as something we do to others, not as something created between us. Continue reading “Book Notes & Thoughts: Communities of Practice, Part I”

Currently Me

The best inspiration sometimes comes from fellow bloggers… thanks to RunSingTeach’s Sarah Barton Thomas for posting this today, with her list inspired by Lindsay’s List.

Here’s my list

Currently: Dogs are fed and waiting for their walk, drinking coffee, husband is at work, kid will wake up any minute (must type fast!).

Current Inspiration: Minimalist and tiny houses. We need to downsize and get a handle on all the stuff in our life.

My favorite from a tiny house on Sauvie Island, near Portland, Oregon. Picture from: http://www.jhinteriordesign.com/tiny-house/ http://tinyhouselistings.com/sauvie-island-tiny-house/

Current Book: Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. Seriously. Must catch up on blog posts this week.

Current Tune: Wisconsin Public Radio has Sunday afternoon program called Simply Folk that I LOVE. Yesterday they started with the Indigo Girls playing In the Bleak Midwinter, which is one of my favorite holiday tunes.

Current Drink: SO Delicious non-dairy egg nog

Current Foods: Homemade applesauce. Making and freezing batches for reusable pouches. For the kid, not me.

Current Show(s): (guilty confession) I just finished watching the final season of How I Met Your Mother. We used to watch it but lost interest when it dragged on too long, but I wanted to know it ended!

Current Outfit: Leggings under skinny black jeans (it’s cold here!), striped black and beige shirt from the Loft, silver hoops, Frye’s boots, and curled hair. When I dress up. Otherwise: well worn jeans (plus long underwear – have I mentioned it’s cold?) and nike sweatshirt with grey Lululemon Vinyasa Scarf.

Current Indulgence: Coconut cream dark chocolate and Pinterest and aforementioned coconut egg nog.

Current Want: New book bag – must be classy, waterproof, possible to bike with, backpack/shoulder bag, fit my computer and water bottle but not too heavy… I don’t think it exists.

Current Gratitude: My kid LOVES books. We read “Are you my mother?” over and over, first thing when he wakes up and before bed. He also loves “I am a bunny,” and when we found a hollow log at the dog park yesterday, he recognized it as “Nan-itch” (Nicholas)’s home. So sweet.

Nicholas the Bunny Image from http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/518Ae2Zwt9L.jpg

What’s happening with you, right now?