Ph.D. Adventures!

Puppy Dogs Are Distracting (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 2)

TL; DR

First student presentation class went well, my TA is killing it (he’s been very great), I feel mostly on top of things, and I really like being Professor Blackburn. Missed the FDG deadline for my first SGD , so retargated to CHIPlay. Doggies are good for emotional wellbeing therapy. Etc. (Read below.)

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since Last Update

  • Research Writing (SDG theory)
    • Completed writing the paper from start to end! Phew! I’m so tired! Lots of refining left to do. We’re aiming for CHIPlay. If we miss we’ll find another venue. It’s a lot of work!
    • I have another paper, a lit review, I’ve already started writing and I am targeting IEEE tog. The good thing about that one is that I can submit anytime the paper is ready. It’s good to have a deadline, but it’s nice to have a paper that I don’t have stress about deadlines for too.
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • I got to lead the meeting last time! That was fun. We went over “How to Read a Paper,” MDA+GFI and FBS frameworks, and discussed gameplay.
  • Teaching
    • First student team presentation went really well.
    • My TA, Joseph Conrad, is killing it. So grateful I got a B.S. English TA. He’s great and keeps up with the class very well.
    • Wrote up Game Design Snacks end of module assignment instructions
    • Feel like I might be on top of things. I maybe spend too much time on the course, but it is fun for me.
  • Dailies
    • Self-Care
      • It’s good to have the get the top two done + 1 more and call it good because that was pretty much every day last week.
      • I didn’t stick to my fitness goals as much as I would have liked, but I still did something most days.
    • Achievement
      • I realized that I wasn’t working on my more focus areas (anything other than my top priorities) because I had no set tasks planned for the for the day like I do for the top ones So I finally wrote down tasks to complete
  • Executive
    • I remembered about Sunday Meetings! I can’t remember exactly how to do them, but I did sit down and write out my Achievement areas, the top goal(s) I want to accomplish in them, and then the tasks I need to do this week. I already have accomplished more this week on my more goals because of this.

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SDG Theory)
    • Finalize the paper for CHIPlay submission
    • When that is complete, IEEE tog lit review paper 🙂
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Use the SDG theory to start design of our artifact (we need to get cracking!)
  • Teaching
    • Create/Publish Quiz 4
    • Post Game Design Snacks Instructions
  • Dailies
    • Self-Care
      • Get up at my alarm time and start on self-care right away. (Maybe have the kiddos send me text messages if I’m in my office when they are ready/leaving).
    • Achievement
      • Do my Sunday Meeting and week review with planned daily tasks for each achievement focus area

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Research Writing (SGD theory)
    • I don’t know the deadline for CHIPlay.
    • If we miss CHIPlay, what’s next?
  • Teaching
    • I think I might be spending a little too much time on teaching tasks, but it is really fun for me. I am enjoying it.
  • Executive
    • I don’t recall exactly how to do Sunday Meetings, and Dr. Rogelio mentioned doing a task review, but I don’t remember when/how that is supposed to happen.
  • Puppy Dogs
    • Yesterday I spent more time playing with my dog when I needed to be doing other tasks. She’s just so cute and I wanted to make her happy. Then this morning I spent a good two hours shopping for dog food storage, customizable collars, and other doggie items. Was supposed to be doing teaching tasks… That said, when I was really despondent on Tuesday (after missing the FDG deadline) she was a great emotional support to me. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so distracted??

Ludology, Ph.D. Adventures!

Being Called Professor Blackburn Is Fun (Ph.D. Year 2, Spring Update 1)

TL; DR

Taught my first class. Have the first round of student feedback about the quiz (So the questions were hard enough, but I struggle to know how lenient I want to be, whether to award some points back or not…). I feel like I finally have a whole paper idea for my serious game design (SDG) theory paper, now I just need to finish it by Monday for the FDG deadline. My semester schedule and self-care and achievement dailies are keeping me on track and centered. Struggling with my sleep schedule which has made sticking to my designed schedule a bit of a struggle. 

Weekly Update Breakdown

Accomplishments Since Last Update

  • Teaching
    • Taught my first class and it went really well
    • Made my first two quizzes in Canvas (and made a couple mistakes)
  • Writing (SDG theory)
    • Made not one, but TWO pivots in my theory paper this past week! Both called for starting over from scratch! LOL. I feel like I’m never going to get published, so I am just reminding myself that, especially for design theory science, I am actually write (ha ha!) on track! However, this is the first time I feel like I have a complete paper idea!
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • Had our first meeting and met the rest of the team. They are really great and I feel honored to be the student lead on the project.
    • Learned how to do reflexive journaling. I imagine it will improve as I do it more frequently. It was actually really fun and insightful.
  • Self care dailies
    • I’ve accomplished this every day and I always feel so much more centered and healthy because of it. I also have more energy, both physically and mentally, to get through the important tasks on my list.
  • Executive
    • Set a semester schedule and bought a notepad for tracking weekly/daily tasks
    • Started (but have not quite completed) my semester plan
    • Rogelio told me at the end of last semester some tips for managing my time this semester. It is essentially a dress rehearsal for what it will be like when I am faculty — You know what, so far I am really enjoying it! One of the things he suggested was to make my class day a full teaching day. Great advice! I essentially split my week evenly into teaching and researching. The other really great advice he gave me was to keep up my dailies. I’m so glad he said that because as soon as the semester started I felt overwhelmed, but I am sticking with my dailies and they help me 1) stay centered and calmer, and 2) ensure I’m spending a little time every day on essential goal-oriented tasks.
    • I also wanted to keep my updates shorter. I did include some good news and a write-up on my dailies though, so I put my reasoning for that below. (This update is under 700 words not counting the good news and dailies)

Next Week’s Tasks

  • Writing (SDG Theory)
    • Have Monday deadline (got extended) for FDG. Going to aim for it, but okay if I miss. Will submit to CHIPLAY if I miss.
  • Teaching
    • Create quizzes 3 and 4
    • Respond to questions on quizzes 1 and 2
  • Research (Project CODE)
    • I want to have the SDG theory paper complete so that we can use the theory for designing our Project CODE artifact.

Speed Bumps & Obstacles

  • Teaching
    • I’m not sure how lenient I want to be specifically for the quiz answers. There were three questions on the first quiz that students struggled with. The first one I am sticking to my guns, they should have been paying attention in class and to the readings. But the other two… ??? 
  • Executive
    • I’m having a hard time with my sleep schedule. My day started anywhere from 4am (not on purpose) to 9am, and ended anywhere from 5:30pm to 10:30pm for work and fell asleep anywhere from 11pm-2am. I haven’t been falling asleep/staying asleep. I don’t usually struggle with my sleep schedules so much all in one week, but it’s been very erratic. It’s making it difficult to stick to specific timelines and accomplish everything on my achievement dailies and sometimes just my needed daily tasks.

Good News!

We got our Lady (that’s her name) dog back! I call her Lady Bug. She’s the sweetest, easy-going dog I’ve ever known and she’s so cute. I just adore her. This is my first time being the owner, so I’m learning all sorts of things, but Lady is such a good dog that she makes a lot of it very easy.

More on Dailies

I share this for a couple reasons:

  1. I think it’s a good system for me and so it could be helpful to others
  2. Writing is thinking. I am still refining my dailies process and it has improved loads! I know that many of the important changes I have made have come from my sharing my ideas about it on the blog. 
  3. To help keep me on track with what’s important. By writing down what is important I have actually reevaluated what my most important activities are which continues to help me move in the direction I desire.
  4. To help me keep my goals (and not just work priorities) front and center. In writing this “More on Dailies” section I realized that when I wrote my weekly tasks these past several weeks I have forgotten to check them against my goals! 

Since last semester I have been developing a system of dailies. I am still working on them, experimenting with the time I spend on them and what days, whether I do one day a week for one goal, or a little every day. 

This is where I’m at this semester:

Research and Teaching Schedule

I am essentially a full-time employee of the University this semester so having a set schedule is crucial. I specifically chose to alternate what I start with each day (teaching or researching), with my biggest priority being research, so that I am appropriately spending my time on needed activities each day throughout the week.

  • M: Teach
  • T: Research
  • W: Research/Teach
  • Th: Teach/Research
  • F: Research/Teach

My goal is to start my day at 6:30am with self-care dailies, then move on to achievement dailies, and around 9-10am start my M-F above schedule. I want to end my day by 6pm each day, with a hard line at 8pm.

Self-Care Dailies

I do my self-care dailies (updated name) first thing in the morning. There are four items on the list. As long as I accomplish the first two I’ve accomplished my self-care.

  1. Centering
  2. Joyful Movement (i.e. exercise, walk, yoga, etc.)
  3. Games
  4. Enjoy

Centering: The Centering activities are a similar list to last semester but I have updated the items and their order. I still try to keep it to 30 minutes, but to complete everything on the list takes about 45 minutes. I make sure to always do the top two every day. Then, select the ones I want to do the most until my time is up, setting a timer for 2:45 for each item. On really busy days do the top 2 and then 1-2 more and call it accomplished. These are my centering activities:

  • Prayer (Who doesn’t need a little divine guidance and support, especially in research!)
  • Scripture Study
  • Journal
  • Affirmations
  • Meditation/Deep Breathing (sometimes involves an inverted yoga pose)
  • Vision Board
  • Gratitude+ (Adventures, Victories, DoGoods, etc.)
  • Uplifting Book (Helps me enjoy life more)

Joyful Movement. I revived my workout habits last fall, but didn’t include them under my self-care dailies. Joyful Movement is all about enjoying how my body can move in space. I usually do this with some exercise, walking, stretching, and/or yoga. Since starting this back in September I am almost flat again in my side splits, and have lost 8.5 inches. Wahoo! It only takes 25-60 minutes but is broken up throughout the day.

Games. I log in to 4-5 mobile games to complete quick puzzles or a single round of Really Bad Chess. It only takes 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy. This is taking time for myself to do an activity I truly enjoy such as a hot bubble bath, running around in the snow with the dog, or listening to a good book while I walk.

Achievement Dailies

My achievement dailies (previously goal dailies) have been refined as well. I realized that I had too many things on my list and scheduled one of them for several years in the future, and the other I do 1-2 every couple weeks, but not on a daily basis. 

The idea is to 30 minutes each of the achievement dailies. However, it’s not quite working. I have been doing teaching and researching every day (probably because of my semester schedule), but I’m still struggling with accomplishing the others. So I am going to try something a little differently this week. I’ll do the top three every day at 30 minutes each day, and then spend 15 minutes or less on the remaining three. If it is a particularly busy day, then as long as I accomplished the top priorities I have accomplished my achievement dailies. 🙂

  • Top Achievement Priorities (30 minutes each)
    • Write (this is research paper or funding writing)
    • Teach (teaching tasks)
    • Research (Any needed research tasks, including more writing)
  • Get-It-In (15 minutes or less)
    • Indie Dev
    • Online Course to support LLB, NG, and possibly even NDG
    • Service (NDG, Service Roles, etc.)

So, I’m going to try that and see how it goes!

Ludology, Ph.D. Adventures!

Good News Arrives! Sometimes Slowly… (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Wrap-Up)

After pitching a class I’ve been wanting to teach FOR YEARS it was REJECTED at near instant speeds because it was too technical (the need was for general games undergrad, not technical grad). My advisor had already kindly offered to help me co-design a class in case that one got rejected. So that’s what we did: created a brand new, never been taught before course, I pitched it to the director of EAE, and then we waited… and waited… and waited (there was also some praying involved)! I waited NINE long days post when I was told I would hear back. So maybe nine days doesn’t seem that long to you, but it is long when you are waiting (and praying) for good news! Well… it got ACCEPTED!

I am teaching Psychology of Games at the University of Utah for my favorite program: EAE! (Shhh! Don’t tell CS I said that!)

I’m like legit faculty! Just call me Professor Blackburn!

I am super stoked!

Since the class is new we get to play with the design of it quite a bit, but we already have the syllabus and readings down. Still a lot of work to do but it is going to be a killer class!

If you’re a student at the U definitely look into it! It’s going to be a fun class as we discuss the inner workings of our mind and how to use that knowledge to design stellar video games! We already have enrollments and it was just posted this morning!

More info is on the course webpage. To enroll use Class #19047 which will enroll you in EAE 4900-006 (all Special Topics courses have the same course number:4900, but different sections. Psychology of Games is section 006).

See you in class students! (That’s fun to say!)

Ph.D. Adventures!

Waiting on Good News (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Week 15)

TLDR:

Designed two different potential courses from the spring. (Thanks to Rogelio who co-designed one of them with me… will hopefully be hearing good new soon!). Tons of grading, worked on some, have lots left to do. Helped students feel better about the semester (a couple regrades). Gave a presentation on formal game design to the EAE 6000 Game Engineering III course. Had a great holiday.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

We cooked/baked (and by we I mostly mean my amazing husband) everything from scratch for Thanksgiving. It was so delicious. I have now had Thanksgiving leftovers every day for nearly every meal. We got a little creative and made sandwiches and tacos with leftovers. And most surprisingly, my kiddos have been eating salad without me having to ask them to.

We also got a mini fridge for our bedroom. It currently houses water, and my husbands chocolates. These are not small bags of chocolate. The man has the right priorities I think.

I was asked, 30 minutes prior to class last Tuesday, to present something during an approximately 15 minute downtime. “Sure,” I said… so I threw some slides together with zero time to rehearse on formal game design (specifically the FBS and MDA+GFI frameworks). I think it went well as few students thanked me and the professor, who had been busy setting up the next AI fight round and so missed some of what I was saying, said he was going to go back and watch the recording of my presentation!

I spent quite a bit of my time writing up potential spring course offerings for the undergraduates in the EAE program. Unfortunately my favorite idea was too technical, and more for graduates. So I had to go back to the drawing board. In total I pitched four ideas and I am hoping that the one Rogelio (whose original idea it was) helped me create will be accepted. Should hear back today. We’re thinking good news is coming as yesterday I was asked to send in a draft syllabus under the email subject “Urgent.” So Rogelio rearranged his morning schedule to help me craft the syllabus, he said first-pass it looked great, and then helped me add the necessary missing components. It looks totes legit now fools! Fingers crossed!

Besides the course designs, I feel like all I’ve been doing is grading! And there is still so much more to do! OH. SO. MUCH. GRADING!! Doing my best, but it is definitely a lot of work!

What’s next

  • GRADING
  • Gra…ding
  • GraDInG
  • GRADING 😉
  • Looming deadline: Apply scholarship (Due date Dec 4th!)
  • Research
    • Finish reading through cognitive load theory 20-year review paper.
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
    • Read through a school “research” paper I wrote last semester to glean the theory I want to create from and to also highlight the papers I want to cite in my new paper.
    • Write, write, WRITE! (January deadline!)
  • Continue dailies and personal health goal
  • Continue house projects: Learn to compost! Find furniture for the house (dining room chairs), etc. (I don’t have time for house projects this week)
  • Get some sleep (me tired!)

Roadblocks

Man, I need a nap. I’ve been up two hours and I’m tired already! But really I was up late and I need a nap… sleep, how I’ve missed you…

Other than that I feel okay as long as I don’t think about the scholarship deadline or all the grading that needs doing, or my impending January deadline on the paper. Then I start to feel panic rising.

So, I just focus on one thing at a time and hope I don’t forget anything.

Game Dev Adventures!, Ph.D. Adventures!

It’s been a while! (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Weeks 10-What week is it again?… 14?… Nope! 13!)

TLDR:

Read through lots of theory papers to support my educational game design theory. Found more appropriate publishing venues for the type of research I am doing. Lots of work grading. Upgraded my game project from Unity 2018 to Unity 2019 (an error was keeping me from doing this earlier). Made some excellent, albeit small in some cases, strides forward in my personal goals.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

Dang, so many weeks went by without an update that I forgot which week I’m even on! … Okay, I checked, it is currently week 14, so the update is for weeks 10-13, my longest week span evah. 🙂

  • Research
    • Read up on VR for vernacular from Munzer’s paper
    • Read three game design theory papers my advisor sent me (Two he co-wrote, and one that he based his other off of and has been a standard in game design theory)
    • Been reading up on Cognitive Load Theory and prepared a presentation for my QED lab on it.
    • I now have a clear idea of where to take my paper
    • Came up with another paper idea
    • Found better publishing venues. We uncovered that the Computers journal we were originally targeting with a February deadline is most likely a publishing venue that will not value the type of research I am doing. So I made a list of three, no four (and counting), publishing venues that value more human-centered and theoretical research:
      • The venues:
        • FDG
        • CHI Play
        • Meaningful Play
          • which publishes their own conference proceedings and submits the top six papers for publishing to the Journal of Serious Games
        • JSG (Journal of Serious Games)
      • So our new target is FDG… with a January deadline (a month earlier)! YIKES!
  • TA/TM
    • Graded lots of assignments
    • Helped my advisor with some instructional design
    • Got to see how to handle a difficult student
  • Game Dev
    • Got my project updated from Unity 2018 to Unity 2019!!
    • I got my little brother to set up a gitlab repository on his server computer for me. 🙂 So I spent some time uploading game projects to the gitlab repo to easily transport my projects between computers as my laptop has been dying.
  • Self Dailies… maybe more like 3-5 times weeklies?
    • Definitely has helped me feel more centered and sane even as the workload continues to increase as we come upon end of semester (which is only three weeks away if we count finals week!)
  • Goal Dailies… maybe more like weeklies?
    • I’ve been making progress on five different goals by working on them at least once a week for a small period of time. This gives me a greater sense of accomplishment
    • I’ve also been refining how I go about my goal dailies and prioritizing, since I have a timer set to five minutes, the tasks that need to be done for each goal.
    • Something else I did was I assigned two-three (of my five) goals to each day of the week. That way if I don’t have time for everything, I know exactly what to focus on first, then second and third.
  • Personal health goal
    • Outside of my self and goal dailies (remember these have 3-5 minute time restrictions), I have a personal goal that I have been working on: completing 100 days of workouts, and getting flat again in my splits within those 100! I am on day 20 and I’ve already lost several inches and am nearly, properly flat in my front left splits. Very exciting!
    • My husband let me get a yoga hammock! So I am also building up my time for inversions. I used to be able to do 15-20 minutes completely inverted, but now I start to get a headache around two minutes. I love my yoga hammock! It makes me so happy. Also my husband makes me happy! When I bought the hammock he told me, “Merry Christmas,” because he was a little hesitant about having it… but once he’d installed it he had fun playing with it too.
  • House projects
    • Have finally started to slow down, though there are still several on our list. We graded our backyard properly and laid down some free sod my little brother got for us (he got it from the neighbors by helping them move their sod), put up a retaining wall, and made a raised garden area in our backyard. We also got a matching living room set with a quartz electric fireplace. It’s beautiful! I’ve never had a matching living room set before! Ha ha. I’m not one to buy something new when the old is sufficient, well the old wasn’t sufficient anymore. And I love sitting by the “fire.” I’m doing that right now!
    • I’ve been learning how to compost for the garden we’ll plant in the spring. Now is a good time to go get a compost bin since I’m sure not all the Thanksgiving leftovers will be gotten to.
  • Funding for the Spring
    • There is a need in an EAE for special topic courses. I proposed one, but it was too technical. So Rogelio said he would help me design a course that I could teach in the spring. If it gets accepted it would be a dream come true. I’ve been wanting to teach my own college-level course since I was an undergrad!
  • Fun
    • I’ve been cross-stitching some frogs. They’re really cute. I’m never doing a cross-stitch again though. Jeez. It takes for freaking ever!
    • I helped my daughter make a stuffed animal cat for her mom.
    • Went bowling with my husband and the kiddos, wherein my son beat me! 😦 … 😉
    • I continue to play Dr. Mario on occasion with my lil’ bro. I went up to level 19, he plays on 10 and I usually play on 18, and he demolished me. Sometimes we’ll do speed rounds on level zero, but they are all anxiety inducing!
    • Been playing Don’t Starve Together with my little brother and sister. I got to kill a tree guard with my catapults, but the best was killing the spider: I let it chase me to my three catapults, dumped some nitre in the generator, and then all three catapults came alive and immediately demolished that spider! Bwa ha ha ha ha! He made some good meatballs too. 😉

What’s next

  • Apply scholarship (Due date Dec 4th!)
  • Design a course to teach in the Spring
  • Research
    • Finish reading through cognitive load theory 20-year review paper.
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
    • Read through a school “research” paper I wrote last semester to glean the theory I want to create from and to also highlight the papers I want to cite in my new paper.
    • Write, write, WRITE! (January deadline!)
  • Do grading for TA and TM
  • Continue dailies and personal health goal
  • Continue house projects
    • Learn to compost!
    • Find furniture for the house (dining room chairs)
    • etc.
  • Continue something else that has slipped my mind…
  • Get some sleep (me tired!)

Roadblocks

I feel I am in a pretty good place right now. I have a lot of things on my to do list, but I’m in a good emotional state, at least today! 😉

I’m tired, just physically though, not mentally or emotionally, which is different for this time of the semester. Those dailies and workouts must be paying their dividends!

Ph.D. Adventures!

Lest I forget again… (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Weeks 7-9)

TLDR:

Most importantly I got one step closer for my research paper by writing up an abstract and locating appropriate references to use in the paper. I also read the comments made by Rogelio who reviewed it. The rest of the time was filled with lots of TM/TA responsibilities, dealing with more fun home ownership issues, and an impromptu fall break. And lest I forget again, several weeks back, I made some of my own very simple game art which also resolved a programming issue! Hooray!

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

Dang, three weeks went by quick!

Lest I forget again… again, nearly a month ago I made my own game art, a rounded corners square, to not only make a highly casual game I’ve been making look more polished, but it also had the wonderful side effect (after a few iterations) of solving a programming problem. I have never made my own 2D art to put in a game, so yeah me! Second, I did it using GIMP, so it’s all free to use. Third, I don’t know what I’m doing! Fourth, the first iteration of the rounded square improved the look of not only the gameplay quadrants, but the buttons as well. When I played the game I was thinking I might have to replace rounded squares in the middle of the game with regular squares except on “corners” (of which I would need to each iteration of gameplay discover whether or not a square was a “corner”), but I conjectured that if I made the art just right, when I scaled to just above 1.0, to say 1.1, then I wouldn’t need to swap or turn off any images. It took me a few iterations but it did work. I was not only correct, but I also didn’t have to spend a lot of extra time on programming. (I realize that this description may not make sense, but this is for a game I plan on publishing, my goal is by end of year, so no screenshots… yet!)

Lesson: if you can solve a programming issue with some intelligent art decisions, do it! I’d already learned this lesson at Waterford Institute when the technical artists beautiful artwork caused a load time of mere seconds to expand to 45! By making an intelligent switch, without actually changing the look of the scene, I got it to load faster than the original scene! So, smart art choices => faster load times.

For my research I looked into a potential publishing venue my advisor sent my way, we were originally targeting ACM’s CHI conference, but this new journal, which we hadn’t even been on our radar, is doing a special issue on educational games. It looks very promising but has a much sooner deadline (Feb 2021, instead of Sep 2021 for CHI), so I’m going to need to get writing!

Rogelio directed me to write up an abstract as 1) A guide to where we want to take the paper, and 2), and more importantly, to use as a potential submission to feel out the waters for a journal we are aiming to submit to. It was really useful to think through what it is we are trying to create with this new theory and where we believe it will go.

I did a lot for my TA/TM responsibilities: grading, setting up the lab computer with a new account (for me) and the Oculus for VR grading, more grading, etc. I let the professors guide when I would complete the grading as one professor got ill and fell a little behind, but that led to having to grade five assignments within a week of which I haven’t quite completed yet.

My house heater broke. So I got to deal with the fun-ness of home ownership and meeting with HVAC technicians in the middle of class! LOL!

Finally, let’s talk about fall break: I know, I know, the University of Utah didn’t have an official Fall Break this year, but my advisor gave me a week off and I took full advantage and went to one of my favorite places with my family: California. We visited my in-laws, who are wonderful people, and my brother (whom I lived with when I worked at EA). So lots of good old memories and new memories. My brother and sister-in-law have eight wonderful kids and all the cousins were excited to go swimming together on what my brother said was probably the last feasible day of the year to do so as their pool is not heated. So a years worth of telling my kids to pack their swimsuits “just in case” finally paid off!

What’s next

  • Theory paper:
    • Read up in VR for vernacular
    • Read game design theory paper my advisor sent me
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
    • Read through a school “research” paper I wrote last semester to gleen the theory I want to create from and to also highlight the papers I want to cite in my new paper.
    • Write, write, WRITE!
  • Do grading for TA
  • Continue dailies

Roadblocks

Make sure I’m honoring the time I’ve set aside for research. I’ve had a lot of “emergencies” happen, that were legit from my or my kids perspective, but hopefully those things have subsided now so I can focus on completing my paper. However, I think if I miss my designated research times that I need to make sure I am pushing them to other days and not just skipping them entirely.

Ph.D. Adventures!

Honoring My Accomplishments (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Week 6)

TLDR:

Decided to write. Caught up in grading for TA/TM responsibilities. Got very important house issues resolved. Helped kiddos with their schoolwork.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I considered skipping this week’s write-up because even though I did a lot, it wasn’t anything I felt I wanted to report on, and those things I would like to report on I didn’t get to. However, some weeks are just like that and I believe IT’S PERFECTLY OKAY! I want to acknowledge my accomplishments and honor my efforts.

There were several days last week that I woke up and knew I would just be on from morning until bedtime and that I didn’t have time for my self and goal dailies nor my workout. Some weeks and days are just like that! My advisor was clutch in helping me being able to manage my workload by taking on one of my shepherding teams for the VR course.

  • Research: read up on conceptual models and have considered a few for my theory.
  • TA: Completed grading of first large programming assignment — The professor thanked me for my hard work
  • TM: Did a bunch of assignment grading, course organization, project shepherding, and student calming.
  • Got our house warranty people to take us seriously. I requested a new representative who would take care of us and be professional and polite and now we get to work with their sales rep whom we’ve had very good experiences with. He got the important things taken care of for us right away.

I’ve been helping my daughter with her schoolwork, like helping her study for a test late last night. This last week I helped her make a board game and we both independently named it “Kittyland.” She’s a fairly good designer so I mostly helped her organize her ideas and get started. Here is her game design sketch and final product:

What’s next

  • Theory paper:
    • Read up in VR for vernacular
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
    • Look into the publishing venue Rogelio mentioned to me last week.
  • Do grading for TM and TA
  • Return to my dailies and working out
  • Honor my accomplishments
  • Put these todos on my TODO board!

Roadblocks

Right now I feel good, but I now motivation is difficult.

Learning how to organize my time so I can do my research, TA/TM responsibilities, goals, help with kiddos’ schoolwork, work on my projects/hobbies, and still have fun. I think I’m starting to hit my stride, and then I have to deal with a house crisis, or a kiddo school task. Being the mama is a lot of work. I’m kinda tired.

Here’s a serious roadblock though that I think is important to discuss: I have been very sad, dare I say depressed, this past week. I broke down and cried multiple times. There are some people in my house that are also very sad, possibly depressed, and as the leader I feel a responsibility to help them as much as I can. They are of course responsible for their own happiness, but I have felt it weigh very heavily on me this last week, and it made me very sad. It’s a roadblock because it’s important to deal with these serious emotions and that takes time too.

Ph.D. Adventures!

Joyful Movement (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Week 5)

TLDR:

Found a whole bucket load of papers on cognitive load and cognitive load theory. It will take a while to dig through and find some key papers, but I have some ideas. Had a great conversation with Rogelio about how to model and talk about the theory. Started working out! My daughter started M-Th school yesterday and it’s been great so far!

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I had no idea when I went looking for cognitive load papers that I was going to open pandora’s box! My goodness! Loads of research! The hard thing will be just locating the paper(s) that will explain the theory and be a backbone for mine.

Rogelio and I talked a lot about creating models, something visual that explains the theory, and taxonomony, something verbal that we can call these things we know about but don’t know how to discuss. So I’m going to be doing reading in other areas to find vernacular that we can borrow from.

There is a LOT of grading I have to do this week. It is a little overwhelming and… if I’m being honest, grading isn’t my favorite task. It’s why I don’t want to ever teach a writing or reading and essay writing course: it takes so long to grade and you don’t always get a TA.

What’s next

  • Theory paper:
    • Read up in VR for vernacular
    • Read up on types of models
    • Draw up a preliminary model for the current theory I’ve written up
  • Continue with self and goal dailies, as well as working out
  • Do grading for TM and TA

Roadblocks

Motivation and time to grade. :/

Doing the hybrid and homework thing with my kids takes up wa-ay more time than expected. My husband and I discussed homeschooling the kids this year and I told him that if that’s what he really wanted me to do I could do it if I dropped out of my Ph.D. program, because I know from spring semester that I would not be able to keep up. He is supportive of me pursuing my Ph.D. so we put the kids back in school (the best decision for the mental health of our daughter, and myself, I believe). But they are still home, or have been, more than 50% of the time and the teachers haven’t made it easy for us. So I feel I am constantly behind on everything. I’m really stressed, but only about keeping up with grading. Also, we are all struggling, and my professors have been giving me things to grade on days that I don’t have time to grade and asking me to prioritize that grading that day is a little much to handle, so I don’t. Might get me in trouble, but I can’t do everything.

Extras

Adding in the Movement

Been loving my self and goal dailies so much so that I felt I could make the time to workout again, finally. I know, it sounds terrible, but I didn’t have the space in my home, nor the time or care to really make working out a priority last year. It is really nice to be working out again and I have a much healthier attitude about it than ever before I think. It’s okay to not push myself to injury, I can still enjoy myself, and it’s okay to miss a day, or two (or three!), because I’m doing my best and I give God the rest. It’s been really energizing, and reenergizing, to move in a way that makes me happy and honor my body by taking the time for joyful movement again.

Things Keep a Changing!

My daughter started M-Th school and I have to say that it is going great. She liked that her older brother didn’t start that this week because he got to walk her to the bus stop. Thank goodness because she forgot her mask and older brother had to run, neigh, SPRINT home to retrieve her mask before the bus arrived.

Unfortunately, because of the nature of Jr and High School, those schools won’t be starting M-Th school until November. However, I think it works out better that at least it is my son home and not my daughter as she needs more in-person contact for her happiness, and my son will do better at home without his sister constantly distracting him, and visa versa. So it all works out.

Game Dev Adventures!, Ph.D. Adventures!

I don’t wanna! (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Week 4)

TLDR:

PICKED A DIRECTION FOR MY RESEARCH THIS SEMESTER!!!!! I am going to work on writing a theory paper. I’m really excited. I also started doing 5 (instead of 15) minute goal dailies and continued my 3 minute self dailies which have really helped me manage my mood and stay a lot happier. I joined the GradSWE committee.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I realized late in the week that I didn’t want to do an assignment from my advisor, Dr. Rogelio, so it stopped me in my tracks on all things research. Finally, I decided to just start working on my research by doing what I want to do, doing something is better than nothing, and I got myself organized and started to get to work on my theory paper! It’s been so much FUN! I feel that my math degree was a long time ago, so I don’t remember a lot of details about how to solve specific problems. However, I am very good at how to solve problems and write proofs. It feels like I get to write one long proof which sounds very fun to me.

I had a math professor tell us that mathematicians spend months, even years or decades and a whole lot of paper trying to solve a problem, and then when they do they come out of their closets, he mimed a mathematician pointing to a paper, and they say, “See, it’s easy! It’s only six lines!” I’m in the closet phase of the research paper. That’s the fun part.

I also started programming again on a game which my Dad commissioned me to make back in 2014 (I made five whole dollars!). I made it in Unity 5, so I wanted to bring it up to date. I haven’t been able to get it updated to Unity 2019 LTS (Long Term Support), however after a week’s worth of work I was able to bring it up to 2018 LTS, though I am getting two errors in that version the game still works. It was quite the process. I tried porting it directly from 5 to 2019 but it was packed with errors. So then I ported it to 2017, made some updates, then 2018, made some updates, and finally last night I ported it to 2018 LTS, and made some updates!

My next step is to download an older version of 2019 and see if I can get the game working in that version of Unity. If I can do that it should be a much simpler task to update it to 2019 LTS. If that doesn’t work quickly I will be moving on to programming some new features for the fun casual game. I just heard about a competition that Unity is running and I might need to update it to 2020 even. It is unclear right now what I need to do for it, but I’ll make the changes as necessary.

I also took some time and drew out several design pages for the game. There is a lot I could add. So my next step on that one is to pick the most important features I want/need to add to the game, an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) if you will and implement them so I have something to submit to the competition.

I didn’t have a strong desire to participate in SWE, but when I heard about GradSWE, and after talking with the president, I decided to join the committee. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

What’s next

  • Do the programming assignment from my advisor
  • Theory paper:
    • Find papers for background information
    • Continue building my list of mapping items
  • Continue with 3 min self dailies
  • Complete all items on my 5 min goal dailies

Roadblocks

I just need to do something I don’t want to do. I am kind of tired of writing algorithms that already exist in every game engine I will ever use, when what I really want to be doing is programming gameplay. I’m not saying it isn’t valuable to program these things, I’m just saying, I don’t wanna! Ha ha!

Extras

5 minute goal dailies

I just couldn’t get myself to even start on 15 minutes. It just felt so daunting. With six items on my list (research/writing, game development, learn interesting topic, challenge programming problems, a fun crafting project (I have a whole bin of started and want to start projects!), and then do ANYTHING F-U-N), doing 15 minutes each is 1.5 hours.

After not even doing a single thing on my list I finally decided to just start with five minutes, which would mean I would complete them all in 30 minutes, and voilà! I started on them! The idea is to spend at least five minutes and then up to 15 minutes on each item. However, I ended up spending 15, 30, even 60 minutes or more on the first two items and so found myself only getting to one or two of the other items on my list. But as the other items on my list were less urgent for me to get to, it was a good start!

The BEST news!

My daughter and son have been going to school on Mondays and Wednesdays and have been remote the other days. Well, next week my daughter starts M-Th in-person school, and the following week my son will be doing M-Th in-person school as well. I’m super excited! My daughter said she was more excited than me, but I’m not so sure… 😉

Ph.D. Adventures!

The Craziness Continues! (Ph.D. Year 2, Fall Weeks 1-3)

TLDR:

Moved into a new home (Week one)! Unpacked (Week two-three) and got sick but then got better. 🙂 Did TA/TM stuff. Need to pick a direction for my research.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

My accomplishments for school are strictly for my TA/TM positions where I’ve done miscellaneous tasks for my professors and completed some grading.

I moved into a new house (happened at end of week one), have completed 10/15 tasks on my goal sheet for the house (including hung pictures/artwork!), and I am all unpacked, my kids are nearly unpacked also.

I am also finally feeling better!

What’s next

  • Pick a direction for research and start moving in that direction.
  • Start doing a minimum of 15 minutes of writing on school days (M-F)

Roadblocks

I’m still unsure whether choosing to TA was a wise choice and if I should have chosen an hourly research position instead. However, I think I should just be glad that I have a good Professor who supports my academic, professional, and personal goals and stop second-guessing myself. So far I’ve enjoyed TAing and learned a little bit too. So… I guess I just worked through that roadblock.

I am unsure what direction I should be going for my research, though I have several ideas. I need to pick one and start with it.

When I talked to Munzer he told me that we all feel unsure of our next steps in research, so that made me feel better. 🙂

Extra: Self-Care

Something that my first year as a Ph.D. student taught me is that I need to make time for self-care. During Spring 2020 semester that meant waking up and playing games for an hour before classes and work. This semester it means something a little different. This last week I created a 30 minute morning self improvement schedule. It includes three minutes of meditation, working out, reading a self-help book, affirmations, gratitude, scripture study, journal writing, prayer, etc. I get quite a few things done in those 30 minutes and it improves my mood so much. Even after an argument with my daughter this morning, which would usually keep me reeling for hours afterwards, I quickly brushed it off and was able to work on other things. I’ve made several tweaks to this regimen, but just doing it is what is important! It’s so nice to start my day off with meditation and end it with gratitude and some fun reading!

I also created an hour routine for doing self-care and goal projects which includes: research/writing, game development, a fun creative project, and learning a fun topic (something I just want to learn that may or may not have anything to do with school or research). I want to start implementing that starting today. Will need to report on that next week.