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Can I Still Buy New Crayons and a Box of Tissues?

August 16, 2010

I love new school supplies.  The smell of unused notebook paper, the shine of a pristine three-ring, binder, even the unmarred spines of textbooks thrill me to this day.  In preparation for my first semester of graduate school, I treated myself to a three inch binder with enough dividers to last me half the program, a sheaf of loose leaf paper, and the smallest flash drive I have ever owned.  But I’m not done yet!  I still have to find the right calendar to keep track of my assignments and manage my time.  As much as I love technology, I’m still a Luddite in many ways.  I prefer taking notes on paper to using a handheld device or my computer.  I do much better with a physical calendar than Google.  That being said, I have already started using Delicious to bookmark ANGEL tutorials, the ODLIS, and various other online resources.  Everything to do with my graduate work is dutifully tagged “mlis” and “sjsu.”  All my files (and I realize I don’t have that many so far) are backed up not only on my itsy-bitsy-flash-drive, but also in Google Docs.  Still – the most important thing I need to have is the right attitude and personal preparation before jumping into a 100% online graduate degree program.

The trick I have found in taking online classes is finding the right tools.  You can get any old calendar, or sign up for any online scheduling tool, but if you don’t like it, you won’t use it.  All the organization in the world won’t help you if you don’t make it your own system.  I’ve had success with synchronous online courses in the past, but I am less confident when it comes to asynchronous, “at your own pace” formats.  For this reason, I think adopting a schedule wherein I make sure to log-in to ANGEL at least three times a week (MWF, or something similar) will make it easier.  Also, with my husband also in school, setting aside “thesis writing” and “ANGEL” time won’t be too difficult, and it might even be a nice few hours of geeky bonding.

I’m also glad to see, at least in LIBR 203, that many of the lectures/materials are presented in more than one format.  For instance, it was easier for me to print out Haycock’s lecture for my binder rather than sit at my computer and listen or watch it.  With the printed version, I was able to take it with me to read (and highlight) whenever I took breaks or lunch hours at work.  With the audio, I’d be able to throw a file onto my phone or iPod and do the same (but I’d probably be most comfortable with either PowerPoint slides or a transcript to follow along with).

I wasn’t that surprised by my results for the Online Learning Readiness Assessment (above 45).  LIBR 203 is my fourth online class since I was in undergrad, and while working on my BS, I had a few classes that were supplemented online with discussion boards and dropbox assignments.  Whereas I am a very vocal student in traditional face-to-face learning environments, I am a little more reserved online.  I tend to read all the posts on a given subject before chiming in, but once I’ve lent my voice to a discussion, I continually check back to see how the thread has progressed.

I am definitely not someone who looks forward to working in a team, so I have to admit that I was skeptical when I saw that this particular lesson put so much emphasis on it.  I had no idea that so much research had gone into how people work in teams, but that was naïve of me.  With as commonplace as teams in the academic and professional/business world are, of course someone has done research on it.  Apart from that, team dynamics are an essential part of human interaction, from a sociological standpoint.

Looking back on the lectures, I have to say that the guidelines for a successful and effective team look like they could work – assuming that everyone on the team is on bored.  I can imagine the prevailing attitude being one of “let’s just get it done,” without any thought to the process.  I’m as excited as I have ever been about working on a team after reading Dr. Haycock’s lecture and listening to Enid Irwin’s presentation, mostly because I know my fellow SLIS students have done the same.  If we all come at it from the same perspective, including similar negative experiences with academic and professional teams, then it should be easier to slow down that first day and take the time to assign roles, lay down ground rules, set performance goals, and define a process.

It is a very self-aware approach to teamwork, which is new to me.  I have very high expectations of my own work,  and I wasn’t aware of it until I took my DISC assessment prior to being hired at the library, but I “[judge] others by the quality of their work […] find it difficult to recognize others’  strengths, if their work does not meet [my] high standards.”  It was one of those startling moments when a computerized test actually gets something write about the complex human psyche, and I was floored.  But, with the steps outlined by Haycock I think it will be easier for me to overcome/work on this in a SLIS team setting.  In the past I have contributed to the “monster” of academic teamwork by being controlling or not collaborating as much as I should, but being aware of this tendency is the first step to correcting it in practice.

Currently, I’m on a “strategic plan workgroup” made up of two other staff members from my department (Public Services), several people from Circulation/Technical Services, someone from the Business Office, the Facilities supervisor, the Director, Assistant Director, and PS/CTS Supervisor.  We were assembled as the library’s representatives as we begin the process of building a new branch in partnership with a local technical college, so there’s a lot of reporting back to our various departments and bringing concerns forward for the team to discuss or to gather answers.  I’ll definitely be watching to see how we progress through the stages.

Part of me wants to pass along these lectures to colleagues I have in secondary education as well as my library co-workers.  We often use the vertical team structure in the library where I work.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 6:50 am

    Hello! I just wanted to say that I think you have a wonderful point about the fact that all of us have had to watch the video – it will speed up the process of rule/role setting considerably and we will all be on the watch out for the negative aspects of teamwork in ourselves. I had not even considered that positive aspect until you mentioned it! And I completely agree about school supplies – they were always my favourite part of back-to-school shopping!

  2. August 24, 2010 11:31 am

    Hi ZoZ! Yep, I had to work hard to convince myself that I don’t need a new pencil case for grad school! Splurged on a Moleskine academic planner, though. And some new ink refills.

    I am looking forward to the teamwork lesson. When I worked at a large bank, our division took an enneagram workshop, which typed everyone’s personalities and showed the positives and negatives. It was supposed to get us to understand each other so we could communicate more efficiently and kindly. However, it ended up in some unintentional “teambuilding.” “We’re fives, we do things this way, so let’s stick together.” That kind of thing.

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