Social Media-ing the NASA Space Apps Challenge

Tomorrow, another doctoral student, Julia Skinner, and I will take part in the NASA Space Apps Challenge. (Julia’s also a blogger –http://juliacskinner.com/ !) We will be tweeting, facebooking, instagramming, and other social media-ing during the two day hackathon challenge. Julia and I look forward to responding to questions, comments, thoughts, encouragements, and/or suggestions directed to us.

How Can You Follow Us??

Twitter: @abigailleigh (me) & @bookishjulia (Julia); hashtags – #spaceapps & #spacecats.

Instagram: antiquatedabby & bookishjulia

Tumblr: I’d Rather Talk About Books (me) & Bookish Julia

Vine: abigailleigh

We’re EVERYWHERE! Maybe even more. I lost count.

Why yes. This is our team logo. Image courtesy of Blayne White.

Why yes. This is our team logo. Image courtesy of Blayne White.

Our team name is Cats in Space (naturally). Also naturally, our project involves cats and space images. Our team is a mixture of FSU and FAMU college students, teachers, local professionals, all interested in science, technology, and arts. The local location for the challenge will be Making Awesome, a Maker Space in Tallahassee. It will be a long (but fun!) two days, fueled by coffee and weird cat related space jokes. Please check out what we are creating and cheer on Team Cats in Space!

More information about the Space Apps Challenge:

2014 NASA Space Apps Challenge – Official site

Media Invited to 2014 International Space Apps Challenge Main Event in New York

 

Twitter & Librarianship

Recently, I’ve found myself reflecting on how librarians use Twitter as a source for professional development, encouragement, and support. (I’ve discovered that everything become researchable once you begin a doctoral program.) For me, Twitter is a professional tool. I use it to solely as a way to engage with librarians, libraries, researchers, and colleagues. I’ve only been actively engaged with Twitter for just over one year. During this time, I’ve participated in librarian related discussions, such as #libchat, and watched library trends rise and fall. I feel more connected to libraries and librarians through my Twitter use even though I’m not currently working in libraries. Unlike Facebook, which I consider my “personal” social media profile, there’s a strong sense of community among librarians and libraries on Twitter. A similar sense of community exists on Tumblr, FriendFeed, and to a lesser extent, Facebook (at least for me). I’m sure there are more examples of librarian communities on social media, but I can only be engaged so much.

The librarian community looks slightly different on each social media platform depending on the users, capabilities of the platform, and how engaged its users are. I’m addicted (in a professional way) to Twitter. The conversations on Twitter move quickly, are more focused (perhaps because of the character limitations), and encourage participation outside of a narrow set of users. It feels as though users are engaged in real time, dynamic discussions within a group of people. I’ve experienced this in a limited way on Facebook as part of the ALA Think Tank group. Yet, for me, Facebook is more exclusive and geared towards drop-in discussions (I’m thinking of discussion boards). This isn’t a  critique of Facebook, but just an observation and something to reflect on.

I’ve become fascinated with the controversies, uproars, and hypes that can spring up on Twitter. If you are part of a community or network for a decent amount of time, you can watch these events rise and fall from beginning to end. Last Thursday, Rainie (2014) from the Pew Research Center discussed the six types of Twitter conversations. This report inspired me to think about how the trends, hypes, controversies, etc. could be classified in the librarian Twitter community or even if they could fall neatly into one type. I’ve spent some time attempting to figure out where the conversations within this community would fit best. My guess is ‘tight crowds’, especially during conferences and other organized events. But then again, when disagreements occur within the librarian community, could this conversation be considered ‘divided’. Are these conversation categories all or nothing? Can a community shift from one to another or balance between two types? What type of Twitter conversation is missing from this list (if any)?

References

Rainie, L. (2014, March 20). The six types of Twitter conversations. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/20/the-six-types-of-twitter-conversations/.

Guest Blogging for Overworked TA

I’ll be guest blogging for Overworked TA over the next couple of months. My first post, published last Friday, is called Don’t Panic! It’s Only Your 1st Semester as a Doc Student.

Blurb about the post:

“This guest post provides guidance and suggestions on what to expect and how to cope during the first year of a doctoral program. Although this experience can be challenging, stressful, and anxiety provoking, don’t panic! This post will provide some words of wisdom(ish) from someone who has survived and thrived during that first year.”

I’m looking forward to writing more about my experiences as a doctoral student for this wonderful blog. Please keep an eye out for my future posts!

On Structured & Unstructured Chaos

Now that I’ve completed the coursework portion of my doctoral life, I’ve lost the structure of designated class meetings, assignment due dates, and syllabi. Now I’ve entered the unstructured world of independent study and writing. This semester I’ve been gearing up for my prelim statements, working on a pilot study, and writing (writing, writing, writing….). It’s been a significant adjustment from the first year and a half of the doc program. I have been surprised at how much of a challenge this change has been for me. I’ve always prided myself at being an independent worker, working best without a rigid schedule. I struggled in a 9 to 5 work environment, so more flexible schedule of the doctoral program has been a welcomed relief. But with this freedom has come more responsibility and a bit of chaos.

For the most part, my educational career, from elementary school to PhD, has been designed for me by an instructor. Usually, I didn’t have much input into what the assignments were, how the information was presented, or how I could organize my time. Over the course of this semester, I’ve learned (slowly) how to develop my own schedule, complete with self-imposed flexible deadlines. Last week I shared some of  my anxieties over the unstructuredness of this semester with a couple of doc students. It seems to be a shared feeling. I felt much better about myself after learning this! While we have always been good students, it has been within the confines of an organized and pre-planned coursework. At first, this relatively complete freedom is somewhat terrifying. It’s an intimidating load to take on, especially after an intense couple of semesters worth of coursework. For me, it feels as though I’m trying to multitask at an nth degree. I’ve never been a believer in multitasking, but I keep finding myself trying to juggle all these different tasks. Over and over again I would construct a to-do list that would only result in stressing me out more. The opposite of helping me get anything done. But after this initial nervousness and confusion, I think I have figured out how I can organize it all (for the most part). My approach is not easy, pretty, or even logical to other people. But it works for me and I’m finishing stuff. The chaos has been managed(ish).

Part of my approach is to cut myself some slack. My perfectionism has a habit of sneaking in and preventing me from working as confidently as I’d like. Nobody expects perfection, so why should I?

Talking About My Research With Non-Researchers aka How I Bore Friends, Family, and Random Strangers

How do you talk about your research with non-researchers? After spending some time earlier last week talking with other LIS researchers about my work and then spending time talking with non-researchers, this question popped up in my mind (not for the first time). I’d rather not have my work, something I feel quite excited about and proud of, to sound terribly boring and pointless.

When someone asks what I do, I respond that I’m a doctoral student. I’ve learned not to say ‘doctoral student in information studies’ because that generally gets confused or weird looks. This is completely understandable. Information studies is a pretty vague and odd sounding area to study. Library-ish studies or library related stuff, while not completely accurate, is close enough and often how I describe my field. Then, the next question is, “what are your research interests?” or “what are you researching now?”.  Most of the time I say some combination of social media, young adults, and libraries. But sometimes I feels as if the questioner wants a more thought out response. And there is the unexpected moments when I am so excited about what I’m working on that I feel the need to gush.So, how much is too much? How much is boring? How much can I get away with? But mostly, what does this person really want to know? (If anything.)

I’ve come up with a few guidelines for myself in response to these questions. I’m not sure if they make sense to anyone else, but here goes:

  1. Avoid talking about theories/theoretical frameworks/models/paradigms/etc. – Not to suggest that whoever I’m speaking with can’t understand these theories, but who outside of my committee, colleagues, and advisors could possibly be interested in hearing about my particular theory or model? I’m guessing nobody…
  2. Avoid using the word “context” – This word just sounds pretentious and snotty.
  3. Try not to sound like you’re regurgitating a journal article – This probably applies when you’re engaging with researchers too. Journal articles aren’t the most exciting of reading, even if you’re interested in the topic.
  4. If you have another doc student in the group, avoid talking about committees, IBR, the peer-review process, your advisors, colloquiums, etc. -  In any conversation, it’s important that those you are talking with have some working knowledge of whatever is being discussed. These words have little meaning outside of the ivory tower, so why bring them up. It’s just rude. I made this mistake during a conference last week. Silly Abby.
  5. Try to find the fun and interesting parts of whatever you are researching and highlight those – If you are interested in it there must be something that others will find amusing, thoughtful, surprising, vaguely curious, or at the very least not boring. Maybe this could be thought of as the sales pitch for your research.
  6. Ask what he/she/they think about your research – Maybe they know something you don’t. Maybe they have some insightful feedback, first impressions, or confusions. It’s fun to get a fresh perspective from someone outside of your world on what you’re passionate about.

Has anyone else thought about this? How do you talk to “normal” people about research or academia? Any other suggestions? Something to add to my personal checklist? Mistakes I’ve made?

6a00d83452194e69e2017ee81ffd85970d

Attending My 1st Conference and Stuff I’m Nervous/Excited About….

Next week, I will be attending my very first academic conference. Hooray! I’ll also experience another first: presenting my research for the very first time to people outside of my school. Sort of hooray! I’m a bit nervous about my ability to discuss my research eloquently (or at least coherently) to other conference attendees and presenters. I feel like I’ve been living with my research for awhile but under pressure I may come across completely lost and not very bright. After experiencing this while presenting and lecturing, I’m not looking forward to what may happen during a conference. Another concern is that my introversion becomes a little more obvious in all-day social situations like conferences. For me, interacting with people takes a significant amount of energy, both mental and physical. But I’ve discovered that my field (and academia in general) is full of introverts who seem to have figured out how to play the socializing game. I can too! I will need to find an ideal balance between socializing time and alone time.

Me sometimes....

Me sometimes….

via hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com 

Aside from this nervousness, I’m excited about meeting fellow researchers and hearing about what they’re working on. During the ALA Annual conference in July, I found myself inspired by the innovative programming, services, and tools librarians across the country have developed. I’m aware of what other doctoral students in my program are working on, but not much beyond that. At times, I become buried in my own research projects and those I’m collaborating on, completely forgetting the creative and intelligent research being produced by others in my field. I imagine I will find myself bouncing up and down in excitement and saying, “How cool!” a lot during the conference. This sounds professional, right?

Helpful Tips from Those Who Have Been There and Done That:

Beginner’s Guide to Attending Conferences

Advice for Graduate Students and others Attending Conferences (I particularly like ‘See Poohbahs and Bigwigs at Panels’)

Becoming Part of the Research Community

What I Learned From Undergraduates

Since my first semester of teaching undergraduates face to face ended two weeks ago, I’ve spent some time thinking about what I learned, liked, disliked, didn’t understand, found funny, etc. about the experience. There has been a lot to process, especially with another semester of undergraduate teaching not too far away. I’ve also talked with other doc students, friends, family, and colleagues about teaching in general. It’s curious to hear how other instructors, not matter what they’re teaching, interact with students, develop their teaching styles, and assess their own successes (and failures) as an instructor. Mostly I’ve been surprised by what I’ve learned!

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed teaching undergraduates this semester. I expected to like working with undergraduate since I’ve worked quite a bit with their age group as a librarian. Until this semester, my experience with teaching undergrads has been solely online, with no interaction outside of e-mail. In the face to face environment of the classroom, I get the same energy boost I got while working with teens in the public library. The enthusiasm and curiosity of undergrads is contagious and motivates me to perform better as a teacher.

However, this energy boost also comes with an serious energy drain.I’ve been surprised  at how tiring, mentally and emotionally, teaching undergraduates can be. Whether it is the significant increase in e-mails or the self-doubt about my own abilities as a  teacher, this semester has been a bit more exhausting than others. To me, it feels as though undergraduates need significantly more, and with a greater intensity, from teachers than master’s students. It’s likely that the more experience I get teaching undergraduates over my career, the less draining I will find my teaching experience. At least I hope so.

Another revelation from this semester has been that I can make a mistake or goof up as a teacher and it’s okay. Students (and fellow instructors) are surprisingly understanding and forgiving. Being a perfectionist, I have a tendency to blow up a small mishap and blow it up to the level of a catastrophe. For every mistake I’ve made over the course of this semester, I’ve discovered something about teaching and myself. For example, if a student feels that you have made a mistake in grading/attendance/participation, they will call you out on it. Repeatedly. Via e-mail. Yes.

janateacherquestions-copy

Teaching Humor!