Into the Labyrinth : A PhD Comprehensive Portfolio

Self Directed Study

"Literacy, the visual technology, dissolved the tribal magic by means of its stress on fragmentation and specialization and created the individual" (McLuhan, 1997, p. 124)

     As McLuhan suggests, "I am created" by literacy. This creation resulted from a deep immersion into the field of media and digital literacy in the field of education that occurred in this Self-Directed course. For this self-directed course, co-designed with my supervisor, I spent time conceptualizing definitions and understanding of what it means to be literate. For four months there was a balanced but intensive schedule of reading, writing, and creating. With ten books and twenty five research articles collected on the course outline, and three writing tasks that included an annotated bibliography, a book review, and a literature review, I knew this course was going to challenge my ability to stick to a personal learning plan. In reflection, I now see the value of this course to develop skills in time management and research organization that is essential for PhD research and dissertation writing. The steps I accomplished in this course confirm my ability to conduct and manage a research plan, extended over a structured period of time. 

     From this course, I emerged with three 'literacies' in academic and scholarly work. First, I acquired strategies for finding, managing, and reading to determine a fit for research articles and reference materials. It was during this course that I booked a consultation session with my university librarian to revise and review my research process. I also began using Zotero in earnest to group and catalogue literature references, making note of the ones I could use for the annotated bibliography and the literature review. Second, I focused on defining a research topic by narrowing down on search criteria, cataloguing search terms and details, and ruthlessly eliminating items with little relevance to the stated topic. The annotated bibliography Media and Digital Literacy in Preservice Teacher Education written in February provided a foundation for the literature review Infusing media and digital literacies into preservice teacher education: A literature review I completed in April. Finally, my skill and fluency as an academic author was realized when I discovered the thrill of being cited, which in turn enhances feelings of authorial prowess and reduces the perception of being an imposter. Finding that first citation was accidental and random, but has subsequently occurred in other search results. This renewed confidence encouraged me to submit the book review written for this course to a Canadian journal for publication.

     Conceptualizations of literacy are contested and problematic, emerging from researchers and thinkers holding a range of ontological, epistemological and ideological positions (Stordy, 2015). Examining literacy instruction within teacher education is equally challenging since technology usage and web literacies compound and complicate the terrain (Hobbs, 2017; Hoechsmann & Poyntz, 2012). While my primary focus for research continued to connect media and digital literacy to the field of education within the context of faculties of education, an insight from the literature review done in this course foreshadowed a shift in direction that occurred in the Doctoral Seminar 2 course. From DS1 we were encouraged to 'dig where you stand' when determining the direction for your dissertation. While I stand within faculties of education, I do so from a teacher educator's perspective not from the stance of a teacher candidate. For my PhD doctoral work, I recognized the need to 'dig' from a teacher educator's position and perspective.

     One piece that evidences deeper understanding of concepts and terminology that resulted from this course is the Taxonomies of Literacy graphic created from research (Stordy, 2015). This exemplies my ability to create "multi-genre work that reflects widely divergent forms of knowledge in a text or series of related texts focusing on a single topic" (Ellingson, 2009, p. xii) and models the crystallization methodology that will inform my research. 

     Shortly after completion of this course, I accomplished two additional self-directed academic tasks that emerged as a result of this course. First, I spent thirty days entering, cataloguing and categorizing my references into Zotero (Citation Creation), shared to recognize skills and fluencies in managing research collections. Second, I analyzed my writing using visualization software – Voyant – for the first time (Research Proposal Paper: A Reflection). By selecting these two artifacts as belonging to the step-by-step process of journeying into the PhD program, I acknowledge that these are not neutral choices, but an act of criticism and a means of crystallizing a "path toward pushing or even breaking generic boundaries" (Ellingson, 2009, p. 6). 

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