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.

Ph.D. Adventures!

COVID-19 Craziness (Ph.D. Year 1, Spring Week 10-13)

TLDR:

Crazy couple weeks! I went from a laid back lovely spring break and celebrating my wedding anniversary early because we didn’t have the kids that weekend (week 10) to the craziness that is the COVID-19 pandemic. online courses, increased workload, locked indoors, homeschooling my stepchildren, trying to keep up with research (which we’ve had to redesign due to the pandemic), and major depressive episodes (week 13). Man, I’m tired. 

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

Eliane and I are in the middle of redesigning our research project and updating our IRB application in light of the pandemic, school closures, and recent stay at home orders. We can no longer perform our field observations as schools are shut down. I am continuing to work on the PhET simulation redesign based on our HCI and educational design theory to test in a lab study most likely as an A/B test.

Homeschooling two kids as a Ph.D. student is no joke. I’m pretty proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish despite losing half of my days, and I didn’t quit any of my classes, However, there has been a marked decrease in performance in my most time-consuming class. I simply don’t have time for it. I have been in conversations with my professor and he has given me some lee-way, but not as much as I really need. He was really nice though and told me he thought I was doing well in his class especially considering my extra constraints since the pandemic. I am most likely switching that course to CR/NC to relieve some of the stress I’ve been feeling, which is in alignment with the advice I received from my doctorate mentor.

Eliane and Rogelio both independently sent me an email about the same fellowship which is meant to serve as an augmentation to other funding. I’m going to start working with them to apply for that.

What’s next

  • Finish up work on the IRB application. We only have a few sections left now.
  • Continue making updates to PhET
  • Apply for the SigHPC fellowship
  • Survive the rest of the semester
  • Reach out to my therapist

Roadblocks

Not enough time in the day/week to accomplish all the extra tasks that have been put on my plate since the pandemic hit the U.S.

COVID-19 Craziness, and LIfe

Homeschooling my kids has thrown a huge hurdle in my path. I spend mornings and early afternoons with them, basically not accomplishing anything of my own (though I do attempt it), and then spend the rest of the day trying to fit my stuff in, including some self-care,  and trying to get enough sleep. It’s not really working for me, but we don’t have any alternatives.

I’ve been struggling with a depressive episode triggered by the fallout of the pandemic (the pandemic itself hasn’t worried me, it’s been all the repercussions in my life and the lives of people I love that has caused it). So to look on the bright side, it’s a great time and opportunity to work on some old issues that resurfaced and to reflect on how far I’ve come! Depression isn’t a norm in my life anymore and I know that this will pass. In the meantime, I recognize it would be wise to get some professional support so I can stay safe and be the best mom/wife/sister/friend possible. I can’t do that if I don’t take care of myself.

I told Eliane I really want to focus more on games research and so I’m going to be working with Rogelio as my advisor, and that I want her on my committee. She was super supportive and I’m looking forward to having her on my committee as all my interactions with her have been extremely positive and she knows a lot about educational technologies which will be great insights to have. She was going to fund me over the summer before that conversation, but she has other students she’s working with that she may throw that funding behind now (which I completely understand and support), so I most likely won’t have a job this summer. I haven’t decided if that’s good or bad, but it’s definitely an added stress. My husband is an essential worker, but if he gets sick… well, I’m praying he stays well! 

Right as the pandemic started to spread in the U.S. I (made my kids) play the board game Pandemic. As a mathematics undergraduate, I learned about the basic SIR (Susceptible, Infected, Recovered) models used to study infectious disease. I wanted my kids to understand how infectious diseases spread and that there are things that people, public health specialists, medical professionals, as well as scientists and innovators can do to help when a pandemic happens. It wasn’t much of a success the first time, however, I played again with my daughter a few days later and I am proud to say that we beat every outbreak quite handily.

In times of crisis, it’s important to focus on things that bring you hope and joy, and to find gratitude in the little moments. I love that playing games was recommended by health organizations as a way to cope with this crisis! #GamesForChange

The earthquakes that hit Utah really shook our home and did some damage. as well as really upsetting a member of my family. I feel like part of my job as wife/mom is calming down all the anxiety and stir craziness that’s happening. So to anyone who is struggling, remember the good things, be grateful for the small things, and be hopeful for the future of things, and remember it’s okay to have a bad day.

“Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end!” -Unknown

 

Cool Stuff!, Ph.D. Adventures!

Jump on Those Spikes! (Ph.D. Year 1, Spring Week 9)

TLDR:

We went to the classroom this week and did an initial observation just to get a feel for what it is like in the classroom, and to get an idea of what it will be like when we’re in their gathering data. Lots of course work and some personal goals that I’ve been working towards that are taking up a lot of time. I have now collected all 40 charms in Hallow Knight and have received a blessing that gives me soul when I sit on a bench. Right now I’m sitting on the bench outside the last boss.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I listed all of my accomplishments above and so I’ll just go into a little more detail about Hollow Knight. The White Palace, which one must complete in order to receive all of the charms, is a platforming challenge nightmare. For fun I read a walk-through of the White Palace and instead of directions like go here, do this, move left, jump right, etc., the walk-through (besides suggesting different charm combinations which was useful) literally said that the White Palace is a very difficult platforming challenge and you will find yourself very irritated unless you have a lot of patience.

So I got to practice my patience. Ha ha. I want to emulate the kind of calmness while going through tough challenges like the White Palace that I want my children to have. So if I found myself getting too upset I walked away from the game.

Some of what makes the White Palace difficult is, in performing platforming challenges, you never know in Hollow Knight where an implicit checkpoint will be. If you fall back to a previous point you start back from there. And implicit points only occur where the knight can stand still out of danger. There are very few points for the knight to do this in the White Palace with long difficult challenges everywhere between. However, I did feel that tree designers did a good job of placing these implicit checkpoints.

While I was playing the White Palace on Sunday with my brother and husband watching I tried to stay alive while they tried to figure out a good strategy for me to proceed. It worked! An it made the challenges a little more fun as my brother and husband also pointed me to strategies that led to certain death: jump into those spikes! Which I did.

What’s next

  • Mid-semester update to Dr. Eliane Wiese
  • Create some redesigns for the polarity simulation
  • Course work
  • Personal goals

Roadblocks

I know my course work is suffering because of personal goals that have come up. I’m lacking the motivation to work on my course work because of these new personal and professional goals.

Cool Stuff!, Ph.D. Adventures!

So Far So Good! (Ph.D. Year 1, Spring Week 7)

TLDR:

I stuck with my research time and was able to make an outline for my literary review and recoded some of the articles within my literary review. I’ve also set out a timeline for the rest of the semester for the simulation educational research I’m doing with Dr. Wiese. And I went to Nevada for the weekend to visit a family friend. I also now have a 38 out of 40 charms in Hollow Knight.

For the Interested Reader:

Accomplishments

I listed my accomplishments in the TL DR. One thing I didn’t mention is that I started doing Hackerrank challenges in C++. I’m doing one challenge a day pretty much. It’s been a lot of fun; once I finish a challenge I ask myself if I can do it better, if I can do it in place, if I can use a different structure, etc., and I think through those things since that’s usually how my technical interviews have gone. It’s also fun just to see if there is an improvement that can be made.

What’s next

  • I need to create a 3-week plan for Dr. Wiese on for what we’re going to do for the next three weeks.
  • I need to look into creating an IRB for my researcher with Dr. Wiese.
  • There is an article I need to read called fostering the intelligent novice.
  • Figure out how to do citations in latex.
  • The stick with my research times and keep plugging away at my literary review.
  • As always, coursework.
  • Personal goals.

Roadblocks

  • Figure out how to do citations in Latex