Thursday, November 15, 2012

Impostor Syndrome at Home

You've heard about Impostor Syndrome? No matter how successful we appear, many academics feel like frauds . We think we're not nearly as smart and hard-working as we appear to be. When we're praised for our work or intellect, we think "if only they knew." 

The truth is, very few academics are frauds, we're just neurotic.

Yesterday, a colleague saw me with the littlest child and asked, "How do you do it?" I thought to myself, if only she knew

If only she knew how many dirty clothes are on my living room floor. If only she knew I yelled at my son for smearing glue on the walls (and then discovered he'd been making a card for me). If only she knew how many times I'd fed my children frozen pizza for dinner. (I did warm it up first.)

Then it hit me: I have Impostor Syndrome in all facets of my life! 

Then I had another revelation: What if I'm not the only one?

Maybe other people yell at their kids, feed them crap on busy days, and have dirty houses. Maybe we're all hiding this because we all feel like impostors!

I'm just going to tell myself that's true. If it's not, please don't disillusion me.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Go Use tDAR (the Digital Archaeological Record)

Do you all know about tDAR? You can upload data, documents, photos, etc., and share them with other researchers, or keep them temporarily private for your own storage needs. It's currently free, but will cost a fee starting in December, so check it out now.

Karen Gust Schollmayer brought tDAR to my attention when she asked for some data that was part of my first real publication, over a decade ago. I couldn't find my original files. I must have failed to transfer them during one of my computer upgrades. Understandable, but unacceptable. 

I've recently started using Dropbox (which I love) for my active files. It allows me to work from home or office without worrying that I don't have the most recent version of my document, and it stores my files in the cloud, so they can't be lost. I'm now going to upload all my old data files to tDAR. I won't make them public without permission from the project PIs, but I don't want to lose any more data.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Effective Regional Survey Courses

I teach two regional survey courses: North American Archaeology and Latin American Archaeology. I want these classes to build critical research and interpretation skills, not just introduce the basic literature.

In past years, my Latin American Archaeology class was structured around weekly themes (diet, ceramics, mortuary analysis, etc.), and my students were each assigned a region or culture to research. One class each week was a lecture and/or discussion of the class readings, and in the other class each student presented information from their region relating to the theme. Students also write a short (2-page) paper each week.

I like that the class requires independent research, but the quality of that research varies significantly. Some students track down original site reports, interpret the data through the lens of our weekly theme, and synthesizing the results; others use popular secondary sources and take the vast majority of their (overly vague) work from them. In addition to creating a more uniform research program, I'd like to incorporate public writing and outreach in this class, as I have in my North American Archaeology class. Finally, I want to build writing skills by requiring re-writes.

Yesterday, I was reading my Twitter feed, and some alternative ideas that had been percolating in my back brain came together when I saw Ethan Watrall of Michigan State University tweet that his students edit Wikipedia pages for their Egyptian archaeology class. Students write site reports for the class, and those are the basis of their Wikipedia edits.

Eureka! I'm shamelessly stealing this idea!

Instead of having students choose a region or culture to research throughout the semester, they will pick 2 or 3 related sites. Students will be required to track down the critical primary resources on those sites, and report on the actual data from each relative to that week's theme. They will get frequent feedback from me, and revise their work multiple times, culminating in site reports that pull together all of the class themes in one paper. These reports will be the basis for Wikipedia edits.

Check back next semester for reports on the success of this new approach.