Ways to stay sane in a social media world

I co-presented an Issues at CHED seminar with our new director Associate Professor Laura Czerniewicz entitled “The inmates are running the asylum: Why social media is driving us crazy and how to stay sane”. Read more about CILT’s new director here – I wrote this piece too:) Laura did the ‘why’ and I did the ‘how’ part. It was more of an interactive session where I used some of my colleagues’ work as examples and asked them to tell us more in between the talk – thanks again to Henry Trotter, Sukaina Walji and fellow CILTers who shared their stories:)


On being an early career academic & playing the Higher Ed game

I read an interesting article (The game of higher education – what’s the best way to play it?) which compares Higher Education to a game: “you struggle with the feeling that the higher education system is a game, the rules of which are difficult to navigate and set by others?” It made me think of the NAPP (New Academic Practitoners) programme I’m doing at UCT with fellow early career academics. Many of us agreed that the induction provided by the university through HR is not enough and that NAPP is essential. During the programme we had a discussion around what we expected when starting our new roles but didn’t get and for many, including myself, mentoring came up. On the one hand, we are thrown into the deep end and expected to swim (without having had training on things like convening courses, developing course outlines, etc) but on the other hand, one is being trusted with new responsibilities which can be scary and exciting.

So, what does self-leadership mean for academics? We have conceptualised it in two ways. First, self-leadership means a proactive approach to getting the most out of ourselves and those with whom we interact. Note that the responsibility is on us to take the initiative and not be purely selfish in our intent. Second, self-leadership entails an outward-looking mindset – being conscious and careful in sharing our ideas and opening up our networks. (Joy & Saunders, 2014)

Images source: http://blog.thefoundationstone.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/31dec09-looking_forward.jpg
Images source: http://blog.thefoundationstone.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/31dec09-looking_forward.jpg

Self-leadership in the way they are using it is not anti-social nor individualist. I have been proactive in seeking out people who can assist me with particular things. Interestingly, I think the people I have sought out as mentors have learnt things from me in the process. Knowledge collaboration is always at work in these interactions. One is not necessarily seeking a power relationship (authority implied by ‘mentor’) but a form of collaboration and information exchange that results in instances of informal professional development. Sometimes these become more formalised over time, such as when you meet to discuss a shared interest and later co-author an article on this topic. Whether it’s getting someone to show you the ropes or share insights on climbing the ladder it is never these things alone. There is always more to it. Acknowledging this dynamic is forward looking.

On pointe: learning to ‘dance’ with PowerPoint

In the LTHE (Learning and Teaching in Higher Education) course today we finished presenting our critical reflections of a planned teaching activity. Our course convener mentioned that many of us read from our slides and perhaps would have been more creative if not for our approach to using PowerPoint. The dreaded bullet lists – you’ve done it, seen it, been there…

For many of us, presenting with PowerPoint keeps us on the tips of our toes. HODs want lecturers to submit these artifacts as part of their lecture material, students want it as notes, lecturers like it because it helps us to structure our lessons. But how can we do things differently with PowerPoint?

We can start by using visuals instead of words or only include key ideas.  I found some websites with good tips that can help us get started with learning to ‘dance’ with PowerPoint:

Steve Jobs & Guy Kawasaki — Powerpoint Best Practices

Top 10 Evidence-Based, Best Practices for PowerPoint

Garr Reynolds – Top 10 Slide Tips

The best of SXSW 2014

Please forgive the dance metaphor. As an amateur belly dancer I could not resist:)

Interestingly, science writer John Bohannon also makes a connection between dance and PowerPoint, using dance INSTEAD of PowerPoint. Watch his TEDx talk here.

I attended a workshop on teaching with visuals a while ago and feel that my presentations have improved, but I am not ‘dancing’ yet. I guess I’m still working on a choreography without bullets.

Academic or public intellectual?

This is the kind of blog post I would do to explore ideas as part of a thesis or book chapter, journal article, etc. Linking is very helpful because you can always go back to these websites and writing a blog post can assist you with recording your thoughts in relation to these sources at a particular time. I would call this type of post ‘research exploration/generation’ or ‘academic engagement’. For me, I’m not too interested in researching this at the moment, it is an idea that I am parking for later. Also notice that I have inserted ‘Continue reading…’ to avoid an overly long, visually uninteresting post. Note how images are referenced and linked to original image locations on the web.


I was reading Noam Chomsky and the Public Intellectual in Turbulent Times which cites Terry Eagleton’s definition of how academics are different from public intellectuals:


Julio Cortázar, Argentine author and intellectual 1967 (Source: WikiMedia Commons.) This image is in the public domain because the copyright of this photograph, registered in Argentina, has expired.

Intellectuals are not only different from academics, but almost the opposite of them. Academics usually plough through a narrow disciplinary patch, whereas intellectuals …roam ambitiously from one discipline to another. Academics are interested in ideas, whereas intellectuals seek to bring ideas to an entire culture….Anger and academia do not usually go together, except perhaps when it comes to low pay, whereas anger and intellectuals do. Above all, academics are conscious of the difficult, untidy, nuanced nature of things, while intellectuals take sides. … in all the most pressing political conflicts which confront us, someone is going to have to win and someone to lose. It is this, not a duff ear for nuance and subtlety, which marks them out from the liberal.

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