Most of my recent posts have been reflective ones; it's interesting to note that, and to wonder when they'll swing in a different direction.
Sometimes it's strange to look back and realize how much your thinking's changed in one semester. It's not a full-blown mind-flip like I've had in the past, but given that grad school wasn't exactly my all-consuming full-time gig this term and that a constant worry was that I was shortchanging myself and "not absorbing anything, " it's... nice to know I learned a lot. A few recent events pointed this out to me.
The first was when a conversation about ABET accreditation (which certifies colleges as "real engineering schools") came up on an Olin mailing list. My first thought: "This discussion should be grounded in the knowledge of the accreditation criteria and process at least a little." (I directly blame my professors Senay Purzer, Ruth Streveler, Alice Pawley, and Brent Jesiek for infecting my brain with the "this should be grounded" meme.) And so I typed up a quick-n'-dirty guide to ABET background which I'll post here in a moment.
The second was when David Wiley advertised that he and a new grad student were "currently looking for research exploring the motivational and / or learning outcome impacts that occur when student work is made public." I sat down and wrote out a long braindump in reply (short version: major dearth of empirical work, let's fix this).
Then there was the FIE 2012 call for papers, wherein during a conversation with Sebastian about what we should be submitting, I realized that academic venues didn't seem... so unfamiliar to me now. As I told Matt earlier this month while we were sitting around his mother-in-law's kitchen table late at night, it feels like I'm starting to see the way the fabric of this world is put together. I'm not saying I'm good at this. I'm not. I know I'm a stumbling novice. But I can see, most of the time, where I might be blind, and know where and how to ask for help in it; more and more now I can see the mistakes I've made -- and sometimes the ones I'm about to make, so I can correct myself before I make them...
I've been in this state before with every project, every community, I've ever learned to shape as a whole system; Olin, OLPC, Fedora, others... I'm starting to get the same subtle shimmering sensation that tells me that someday - not now, maybe not even soon, but someday - this world will be my world, and I will be able to shape it, bring others into it, and bridge it into other universes. And I say "my world" not in the sense of possession or control that excludes others, but in the sense of fluid and empowered citizenship.