Tag - masters

That's bullshit, man (or, observations at the exchange counter)

I’m taking a research methodology course for my master’s program in educational technology.

One of the requirements was to do a ethnographical study of some common setting. I chose the exchange counter at Future Shop, a major Canadian electronics retailer.

Ethnography is challenging!

I decided to go to Future Shop and observe the returns and exchanges counter. Here are my notes – hastily scrawled between visits by suspicious sales staff!

They’re punctuated by my hasty attempt at categorization while in the store … and are pretty raw, pretty much straight from my notebook.

1. Scene
Future Shop in Abbotsford. Big store, jammed with electronics, computers, media, appliances, etc.

Near the front entrance of the store there’s a long counter with several electronic cash registers on it. Service staff face the entrance; clients walk up to them. The cash register screens are visible by service staff only; not clients.

Clients enter a line at a sign. There’s a roped-off section suggesting where the line-up should be. When a cashier is free, people move forward.

Service staff have a fairly informal uniform – black shirt, tan pants, with a security ID tag around the neck. Clients are widely varied in dress from jogging pants to jeans to suits.

2. Bearded man
A bearded Caucasian 40-ish man steps up to the counter. He’s got a boxed product and a variety of papers – receipt, and some bigger sheet of paper. Phones are ringing. The PA system repeatedly pages various people in various departments. He talks to the cashier; there seems to be an impasse. He leaves with his papers and box.

3. Bald man
An 60-ish Caucasian man steps up to the counter. Strained expression on his face. Cashier (20-ish, female, short, dark-haired, Indo-Canadian) checks his receipt, checks his box, asks questions, taps data into her cash register. I hear him say “whatever.”

There’s little eye contact between him and the cashier. He has on hand on his hip, one hand on the counter.

She scans his credit card, seems to be finishing up. She cracks a joke, pointing at some place in the store. I don’t hear her words. He laughs.

She continues tapping on the cash register. She smiles again, saying another joke or anecdote. He smiles. The register spits out more paper for the client’s signature. He signs.

4. Self-assured man
My attention is captured by a self-assured Caucasian man in his early 30’s. Suit, tie, dress shoes. Goatee. Short, slim. Walks up to a 30-ish couple in the line-up with a Guitar Hero 3 box in hand. “That’s the wrong music game,” he says, loudly. “You should get _____” (can’t hear the name.) They smile, nod, answer shortly and quietly.

5. Finished
Meanwhile, the bald man finished, and is walking away.

6. 2 young guys
Two young Indo-Canadian guys in jogging suits and white runners step up to the counter. They say something. Cashier says something … I catch “buy something else.” They leave the counter, walk past me into the main section of the store. One says while passing “that’s bullshit, man.”

7. Self-assured man #2
The self-assured guy steps up to a recently opened position on the exchanges counter. He’s loud – I can hear him half-way across the store, although I can’t make out every word. He makes eye contact, unlike some others, and says confidently “I need to exchange _____ for _____” (couldn’t hear the names of the products).

8. 30-ish couple
Meanwhile, the 30-ish Caucasian couple step up to the other station. He puts the Guitar Hero 3 box on the counter, talks to the cashier. She opens the box, checks the product, and checks his receipt. I hear a few words she says: “what happened?” They seem to want to check if the guitar is still working.

The couple does not make much eye contact with the cashier. The stand slightly turned towards each other, talking very quietly.

The guitar inspection seems over – the cashier taps on her machine and and it produces a 3-foot long receipt. He signs it, and she hands over cash. Must have been an original cash transaction.

9. Self-assured man #3
He’s just finishing up with the cashier. Is still loud and somewhat perfunctory: “Thank you very much and have a good day.” He turns, walks away with his newly exchanged-for product, and walk out the door. The alarm sounds … he slows, half-turns, then continues walking out. No Future Shop employees do anything.

10. 2 young guys #2
The two young guys are back, with some small product in a plastic case. I hear the word “here” as they plunk it on the counter. One faces the cashier as she processes the exchange, the other faces his buddy. Both make little eye contact with the cashier.

The transaction is over quickly. They sign the receipt and walk out. The alarm goes off again – they continue walking out. No-one does anything.

11. Diffident woman
A Caucasian middle-aged woman sidles up to the counter, but stays a couple of feet away. After a minute or two, the cashier looks up, speaks, and the woman walks closer. They start talking.

12. End.
My time is up. I’ve been approached 4 or 5 times by Future Shop staff with slowly increasing levels of interest. Maybe they think I’m secret-shopping them, or work for a competitor. Time to pack up and get out.

. . .
. . .

This was very fun and very challenging.

I really felt a need for a video camera to capture information that could then be analyzed in depth later … I really felt I was missing so much detail that I wanted to capture.

Deconstructionist question

For my current course in my master’s program, I’ve been looking a number of different theoretical perspectives from which educational research can be conducted.

The prof asked us to come up with research questions from each. As I was doing so, I was thinking of web 2.0 technologies like those listed under the Virtual Me header at right … web services that allow anyone to record personal information, history, events, thoughts, experiences. Here’s my question for deconstructionism:

How does recording personal history and artifacts – which necessarily presents a static, freeze-frame version of the self – subvert the concept of identity by representing a dynamic, mutable substance as a stable, unchanging essence?

A good deconstructionist question should be subversive of itself … should deconstruct itself and its own language just as much if not more than whatever concept it purports to analyze.

Coming up with that was fun.

Semester finished!

I almost can’t believe it’s over.

One of the most busy/crazy 3 months of my life is over. I started a new job, was still doing most of my old job, and trying to do two courses for my master’s degree. A little insane.

In any case … that’s over as of last week Thursday, when I did the final bits of work for my courses. Now I can focus on the job, family, holidays coming up, and get back in shape.

Seriously, the past few months have been horrible for fitness: no hockey, no weights, no running. Yesterday I worked out for the first time in over 2 months. Fortunately, I only lost about 10% of my strength, but I’m sore today – good sore, but still sore. I’m also a little flabbier than I’d like.

More later …

Unbelievably busy

Well, I haven’t gotten around to doing anything at all on my new combined blog in the past week or so.  Part of the problem is the new job and the tremendous workload as I transition out of the old and squeeze into the new. Another part is the two courses I’m taking for my masters program. (That was a huge mistake: two courses plus a full-time demanding job plus a family plus some friends equals absolutely no time for numero uno.) I’m looking forward to December, because on December 1 I will have (God willing) completely all my papers and assignments for my courses, and I’ll be able to slow down a bit. I just submitted my last assignment for ETEC 522 – a education venture capital course – last night at midnight … and I have one last paper due for my ETEC 511.

It’s a 3000-word paper, though, so it’s not a minor project. Such is life: intentional imbalance for short periods of time to accomplish set goals. But I hope to regain some semblance of balance soon! 

Master of Educational Technology

I’ve been slowly taking my MET graduate degree over the past few years. The course I’ll be taking next semester sounds like it’ll be the most interesting one to date: ETEC 522.

ETEC 522 is an online immersion in the global eLearning marketplace with particular emphasis on the environmental dynamics, evolving business models and success characteristics of eLearning enterprises in public and commercial domains. The course will be delivered in a case-study modality from a venture analysis perspective. The primary learning materials will be a “pitch pool” of authentic 12-minute venture finance presentations by the leading executives and leaders of current, real-world eLearning enterprises spanning the diversity of approaches to eLearning business opportunities. Examples representing entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial ventures will provide a balance between corporate and institutional enterprise. As the foundation for practical learning, students will undertake the critical due diligence analysis of these ventures individually, in groups, and with professional venture finance guidance.

Learning? This is fun!