(The title of this post should become clearer by the end of these ramblings, so kudos if you make it through. Click on this TL;DR  (Too Long, Didn’t Read) to skip to the bottom, if you’re just skimming.)

So, I didn’t intend for this blog to become a place for me to ramble on about events all the time… but there are just way too many amazing things going on in this city and at Harvard more generally for me not to! Okay, quick events update and then an academic update. :)

Events

1. Advance Film Screening of “Won’t Back Down”–so, thanks to HGSE’s relationship with Walden Media (through one of my TIE professors, actually), the Ed School has been offered a free advance film screening of this film that’s going to release next week. It’s featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal and is about two mothers, a teacher, and dealing with the bureaucracy of the US education system. They had a lottery for the tickets and I (and a couple other friends of mine) managed to score tickets! Very cool that we get this opportunity.

2. Aung San Suu Kyi’s public address at the Harvard Kennedy School–a ticketed event, once again, but I’ve entered my name in the lottery and am *desperately* hoping I get picked because getting to hear her speak in person would be beyond amazing! A Nobel Peace Prize winner, phenomenally inspiring activist for democracy and one of *the* leading women of our time–it’d be just incredible to hear her speak.

Academics

Even though I planned and carefully thought out all my class options for the semester over the summer (and made five thousand lists and an elaborate Excel spreadsheet), with every passing day here, my ideas about what I want to get out of this program are changing. And while it is a little frightening on one hand (so many options!), it’s also been an important reflective experience. What I mean by this is that each class I go to, conversation I have with a peer, and readings I go through, teach me more about myself than I ever would have expected. I’m fascinated by so much of what’s going on here–at the Ed School, the Kennedy School, MIT, everywhere!–and could happily take one of a hundred courses this semester and learn a lot from it and enjoy the experience. What’s been challenging then, has been figuring out what it is I need from this year and which experiences are most suited towards fulfilling those needs.

This is really just a long way of saying that I’ve changed my class schedule about seven times in the last three weeks. :P

Finally settled on what I’m taking for the semester yesterday and I’m feeling really good about my choices. My main TIE course this semester is T-561 (Transforming Education Through Emerging Technologies), in which I was lucky enough to get selected for a research team project. Basically, I’ll be working on one of Professor Dede’s ongoing research initiatives and both contributing towards their larger project goals and working on addressing my own learning goals. There really are a number of ways to get involved with professors’ research here and it’s so cool that I get to do so through a class!

My two non-TIE classes are H-107 (Introduction to Educational Neuroscience) and A-801 (Education Policy Analysis in Comparative Perspective). While one is taking a very micro-level approach towards education and learning, the other is incredibly macro… but I love them both! The educational neuroscience one is largely a lecture-based course, which is a big change from my seminar-style undergrad experience, but the professor is just fantastic and the most engaging lecturer I’ve ever encountered. The class is also organized and scaffolded really well, with a central research project guiding our thinking about the material through the semester. I love the connections I’m drawing out between the neuroscience of learning and the ways that ties into perpetuated inequalities within educational structures–it’s not the most obvious link, but once that “click” moment happened, it’s all I’m seeing and I love that this perspective is giving me so much fuller an understanding of educational inequities.

Finally, I decided on the international education policy class because I realized what I was missing in my semester was that international development element, which is what my background is in and also what inspired me to come here in the first place! This class addresses my underlying questions about how do you go about designing and implementing educational interventions in low-income and low-resource settings. After the first class, I came away from it just stunned because how is it I’d never really considered international education policy as an option? It seems so clearly up my street–the combination of a research-based approach towards problem solving and work that calls for creativity in data analysis and lots of writing and communication, within the content area of international education just sounds amazing. So I’m definitely keeping this option open and we’ll see how things progress.

I know I started out this year thinking that I might explore the educational technology design side of things, but I found fairly quickly that in all my classes, the voice in the back of my head that keeps chiming in comes back to issues of implementation, consequences of decisions, and how things play out on a larger scale. Edtech design is fascinating and with more time, I’d certainly look into it more, but I’m finding that I’m more excited about the “what next” that follows the product creation. I’d rather think about how you go about making sure the tools are used effectively, how they fit into a larger dialogue about educational pedagogy in the 21st century, and making sure the infrastructure and societal networks are supporting the learning outcomes (and by proxy the tech itself) most effectively. Turns out, I’m more of a macro-level ideas person than I thought! :P

It’s wonderful watching my ideas change about what next post-HGSE change from week-to-week and I hope that a couple common threads emerge by the end of the semester.

TL;DR
There continue to be an amazing buffet of events to attend here. Two I’m especially excited about include an advance screening of “Won’t Back Down” and a public address by Aung San Suu Kyi (Nobel laureate and Burmese political activist). On the academic front, I changed my classes around a couple times and finally decided on one on emerging technologies, one on educational neuroscience, one on comparative and international educational policy, and the fourth is my internship. My ideas about post-HGSE have been changing from week to week, but it’s been fantastic to encounter new ideas and possibilities about where I can start out my career.

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