It is quite difficult to find time to write a dissertation. In fact, “finding time” is impossible. “Making time” seems to be the only viable path to move from ABD to professor, particularly when working full time.

Until this past Saturday, I had worked exactly ZERO minutes on my doctoral dissertation since the spring of 2006. When I left my last position working for the College of Education at Texas Tech University, I had completed all my coursework for my PhD in Curriculum and Instruction and drafted an initial three chapters of my dissertation as “concept papers” to be admitted to candidacy for my doctorate. I had vaguely wanted to work on my dissertation last year, as I started a completely different job (with much more travel than I was previously accustomed to) but that did not happen.

One of the very tangible outcomes of my Learning 2.0 conference experience and Shanghai visit was a conversation I had with Sheryl Nussbuam-Beach (who is also working on her dissertation) regarding different schedules people follow to get their research completed while working full time. Sheryl mentioned some people she’s known who have dedicated every Saturday to writing their dissertation until it’s finished. That struck me as a workable idea, so I started a new routine this past Saturday at our local Panera restaurant.

I have created a dissertation wiki on wetpaint to document and share my work and process in writing this expected tome. Although I will be primarily working with members of my doctoral committee back at Texas Tech, there are several people who I have already contacted about potentially providing me with input and support in this writing endeavor. The transparency now available for writing a dissertation and sharing that writing process online is certainly novel to me, but I have a strong sense it will be beneficial to share this learning journey rather than keeping it strictly private until I’ve written “the final draft.”

I decided to share my work on a wetpaint wiki because it permits commenting on different pages in readily accessible ways, and will email me if/when others comment on any of the pages or content there. If you do have input on any of my ideas shared there I would welcome them. Currently the wiki just includes my “draft” initial three chapters of my dissertation (68 pages I think) which I finished in spring 2006. I’ve titled this post “dissertation 2.0” because I am essentially starting over in the writing process with a more narrowly defined focus. In the 11 page prospectus I wrote on Saturday and added a few edits to this evening, I attempt to explain the research focus I’m proposing to take. My basic research question is:

I want to research the impact ubiquitous and sustained access to wireless computing devices (laptop computers) and digitial reading and writing curricula can have on middle school student reading and writing skills. Specifically, I want to statistically analyze Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) reading and writing scores, along with reported district “benchmark scores,” of the Class of 2011 at Floydada Junior High School (JHS) in Floydada ISD, Texas.

The next chapter of my formal educational journey begins…..

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On this day..

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  • Very cool Wes. I also had a very 2.0 moment in my dissertation writing. I had started with questions related to edtech PD in a teacher education program. However, that all I changed when I accidentally ended up in a session re: open source software. I decided at that moment that it was important to me to finish something I was truly passionate about … that was my moment.

    All the best in the coming weeks and months on your journey. Just remember, the best dissertation is one completed.

    All the best.

  • Wesley, congrats on restarting the dissertation. A formidable challenge – that’s why there aren’t very many of us with doctorates…

    As someone who works with doctoral students on a regular basis, all I can say is, “Make your writing / research time inviolable, much as you did your class time, and you’ll get it done. Don’t, and you’ll never finish.”

    Best wishes. Let me know if I can be of any help.

  • Why wetpaint? Seems like the Mark Wagner style of posting on the blog when you reach a stopping point (each chapter, etc) worked well. And it certainly kept comments associated with that portion of the work.

    The wetpaint wiki just is so hard to read and full of ads.

    Chris

  • Wesley,
    I’ve attended several of your conferences. I think your ideas are innovative
    and what we need in the school system. I am doing a presentation at an upcoming
    professional development meeting about online reading. I was just going to see if you
    had any good tips or websites about how to bring this point to teachers. I would
    appreciate any advice.

    Thank you,
    Matt Pollard
    matthew.pollard@edmondschools.net

  • Hi Wes and Matt,
    My principal came by yesterday seeking information on Online Reading, English, and Math in order to better prepare students for testings. Techniques and strategies for how to prepare and take tests in these subject areas when given online. Searching for remediation sites as well.
    As we move toward online testing in the schools this may be a continuing issue. I am wondering if research has been done as to retention and understanding of material read online vs. material read from paper.
    Can you let us know if you have resources along these lines?
    By the by. Wet Paint Wiki is also blocked at school.
    Andy

  • Wes, hang in there. I’m around a year or two from finishing coursework on my Ph.D. at UNT and it’s been a run, but a good one. Still a ways to go before I hit dissertation stage, but I also know that it will be here before I know it. Needless to say, I’ll be dropping in on your wiki to get some ideas, and maybe contribute if I have any worthwhile.

    Keep at it and fight the good fight.
    -D

  • Andrew: I don’t have references to research about using technologies for online prep readily at hand. It’s certainly out there, and there are many promoting that agenda of computer use. If I had a resources link related to that topic I would certainly share it, but promoting greater use of technologies for traditional, multiple-choice assessments is not something I’d consider part of my personal educational advocacy agenda. Certainly here in Oklahoma online testing is the primary driver for district bandwidth utilization, but I think there are so many more creative and effective ways to utilize bandwidth if we are truly interested in student learning. I’m sure the main online CAI companies like Plato and NovaNET would readily connect you with research that supports their online curriculum product lines. Again I’m not necessarily endorsing those curriculum solutions, but you might visit their sites and inquire there for resources related to the benefits of online curriculum delivery and testing.

    In terms of why Wetpaint, I thought it would be helpful to move things related to my dissertation to a separate virtual space that permitted commenting and archival of comments. I may be able to get the ads removed there, which would certainly be less distracting.

    Thanks to all for the encouragements and advice! I agree, the best dissertation for me WILL BE one that is completed! 🙂

  • Wow, Wes. Thoughts are now a swirlin’.

    First, I’ve never actually seen anybody publish their dissertation on the Internet before it was formally finished. While I’m sure it’s been done before, yours is the first I’ve seen.

    Now for a few questions:

    1. Why a wiki? I realize that you want to share, but do you intend to have other contributers (thus taking advantage of the wiki)? I guess a sub-question would be:

    Can you do that?

    2. In sharing your dissertation like this, aren’t you worried that someone will copy your ideas and present them as their own – before you get a chance to formally finish your work?

    Now, don’t misunderstand me. I believe in being open. Hopefully my track record for the last few months has demonstrated my commitment to Creative Commons and open standards. I’m just not sure if a dissertation is something we can/should share.

    Hmmmm.

    Anyway, I appreciate your openness. Thanks for sharing, and don’t worry: my dissertation won’t be about 1 to 1. 🙂

  • Darren: I chose a wiki to share my journey because it will allow for specific comments to be organized there. If I just posted about my dissertation to my blog, comments about that would get mixed in with everything else. It also is giving me a chance to to play with (and therefore learn more about) WetPaintwiki.

    I’m not planning to co-write my dissertation on my wiki– my committee members are used to MS Word, so that is what I’m sure we’ll stick with. The wiki is a place to share progress and ideas, and solicit feedback, but not actual author contributions on the wiki. You’re right in your perception I think: The words have to be my own or cite appropriately, so my dissertation wiki isn’t so much a place where I’m inviting others to collaboratively write my dissertation… I’m not, the writing is mine… but I’m soliciting feedback and input.

    I’m not worried about others copying my ideas Part of the reason I’m sharing the ideas is to provide others with access to them so they potentially can be challenged or enriched by them. If someone else is writing the exact same dissertation, I need to know about that and choose a different topic. If someone else has written something similar or knows of similar research, I need to know about those projects and include them in my literature review. Perhaps I have too much faith in the value of transparency in writing and sharing ideas, but I don’t think so. I guess we’ll see how this goes.

    I do plan to mainly work on a MS Word version of my dissertation which I”ll exchange with my committee members. At some point down the road, if/when I become a professor myself, I can see using Coventi Pages or Google Docs to write research articles and help grad students with their dissertations. I think for my own dissertation, however, I’ll need to use the tool my committee members are most familiar, and that (of course) is MS Word.

  • Wes, I know I’m a bit late on this one, but I’ve been reading your blog at a distance since we met at the eSCHOOL news blog awards, and haven’t felt the need to post until now. I, too, am in the throws of writing my dissertation and can’t tell you how valuable my blog has been to me. I started one just for the purpose of reflexivity (problemfinding.blogspot.com) and it has been great to have feedback from my advisors and cohorts. The advice and feedback doesn’t always come in the form of a comment, but that’s just fine. Ease of access for my viewers and me is what’s important.

    The blog did get a bit out of hand in terms of organization and viewability, so I started a wiki (problemfidning.pbwiki.com) to act as the table of contents. As the science ed guy who always viewed ed tech as another powerful instruction tool, I can’t stress enough the value of having web tools that are easy to use, yet have the capability of interactivity.

    Using these tools allows for community in a process that can at times be very isolating.

  • Frank: Thanks so much for posting this comment. First of all, hello– long time no talk! It’s great to hear from you! Secondly, how wonderful that you are using a blog and wiki to document and facilitate your doctoral work. Since I posted this entry on October 9th I have spent time on only two Saturdays working on my dissertation, and have sadly little to show for it. I need to cut back on my travel schedule and find a hole to write in! I’ve bookmarked your blog and wiki sites and will check them out in more detail. I’m so glad to learn about how you are using them, and I can see how the organizing wiki clarifies the timeline, the subject and importance of posts, etc. So thanks for sharing, and most importantly good luck on your continued dissertation work!

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