Maintaining motivation and momentum throughout the summer is a challenge for a lot of academics; we are scattered, somewhat isolated and for those of us not teaching, have large swaths of uninterrupted time. Without the urgency of other work (like grading) or deadlines (most of which come before or at the end of the summer), its easy to get lost in academic rabbit holes or spend more time than necessary tweaking a presentation powerpoint.
I also lately have been searching for an outlet to discuss my research more; while the classes I teach often touch on these topics and I am surrounded by smart, brilliant postdoctoral fellows engaged in fascinating research of their own, I do miss a little bit of the structure of dissertation group meetings and a research advisor to touch base with from time to time. So I’m going to experiment a little with some of the same digital pedagogy tools I’ve been using in my composition courses to help my students with their research projects.
In the Writing and Communication program here at Georgia Tech, the program emphasizes using digital pedagogy to help students adapt their communication skills to a multimodal environment. Using the acronym WOVEN (written, oral, visual, electronic, and non-verbal) to help emphasize a wide variety of communication forms that can help students expand their concept of “English” beyond the 5 paragraph essay for English class and into workplace-ready forms of communication. I have recently been encouraging students to use Twitter as a brainstorming and researching tool (more on that in a later post) and have long used WordPress blogs in place of response papers. I have found that incorporating social media elements into informal writing has helped students feel more comfortable with sharing their “unfinished” ideas and can help a classroom full of disparate personalities come together into a community of scholars, if only for a brief semester. I have found over the past few years of using social media in my composition and literature classrooms that the students who engage with their peers and embrace the informal nature of these assignments often feel more confident in their more formal work, have a deeper and more nuanced set of research questions, and have benefitted from the informal peer review and feedback from their classmates over time, (not just in the formal peer-review exercises in class).
So with all of that in mind, I’m engaging in a couple of social media-based experiments to help me with my own writing. The first, using Twitter, is more motivational/structural. Each work morning, I will tweet a specific goal for the day- given that Twitter is limited to 140 characters, this helps me be clear, concise and specific in setting my goals. I’m also hoping to use the Forest app on my phone/web browser to help me keep track of my focused writing time. By sharing these goals on Twitter each day, as well as the very pretty forest diagrams that demonstrate the time I spent focused on work, I hope to build an accountability system for myself. There are other perks to this system (one which I’ll perhaps discuss in a future post), but on the whole, I see this as mostly a useful exercise to help me keep the ball rolling and to build a demonstrable record of how much I accomplish in the next few months.
The second social media experiment is this. I am adding this active blog section to my professional website in the hopes of giving myself an informal outlet to outline budding thoughts, keep track of progress, and “talk” to fellow scholars, even if there isn’t clear evidence that anyone is reading or talking back (though if you are reading this, feel free to chime in). I’m hoping to post a few times a month (maybe as much as once a week) but mostly when I need some space to think though ideas or start putting words to paper.
Stay tuned to this space for more!