Choosing a Research Topic - Criteria for Choosing and a Digital Tool

Posted on Friday August 30, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

At any education level, choosing a research topic is a complicated and difficult task. The topic that we pick can really have serious ramifications both in how we go about researching that topic and can impact us in classes or our career direction. Whether you identify as a knowledge worker, a social worker, or a scholar, having the competency and ability to complete meaningful research starts with first determining what you will be investigating.

This video discusses some of what is happening in my life around choosing research topics, some criteria that we really should take on in selecting a research topic, and using MindNode as a tool for planning what research typic you are going to select.

Reference

Alderman, J (2014) Choosing a research topic. Retrieved from https://digitalcommons.unf.edu/bliss/17

Montuori, A. (2010). Transdisciplinarity and Creative Inquiry in Transformative Education: Researching the Research Degree. In M. Maldonato & R. Pietrobon (Eds.), Research on scientific research: A transdisciplinary study (pp. 110–135). Portland: Sussex Academic Press.

The Mise en Place for University Class Preparation

Posted on Wednesday August 14, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

Summer is quickly coming to an end. I’ve been knees deep in preparing for my classes for this upcoming semester at Heritage. This semester I will be teaching three classes. I will be teaching SOWK 486 - Theories of Practice I for one section and two sections of SOWK 459 - Social Science Research Methods. I’ve taught my theories of practice class for a number of years now, and have a format that both I and the students seem to like and find useful. A couple of years ago, we changed textbooks (not just editions) and it took a lot to modify my class to incorporate the new textbook. This year, I’m keeping things pretty much the same… and as I go through and prepare each week I will be just making some incremental improvements to the class.

Scientific Inquiry in Social Work Book Cover

Teaching a class for the first time, like I will be doing for the social science research methods is a pretty big undertaking. I met with the fellow faculty that will be teaching the course on the Topanish campus, along with the instructor who previously taught the course at the beginning of the summer. We got a chance to see how she had previously implemented the course. I was also able to download the book and start browsing through it some. It’s seems to be very well written… I’m liking some of the examples and stories the author has used so far. Even the way in which the textbook is published is kind of exciting. While most textbooks cost hundreds of dollars, this one is free. It is being published by the Open Social Work Education, which has the ambitious goal of turning the core curriculum of social work open by 2025. We are using DeCarlo (2018) Scientific Inquiry in Social Work.

Because the previous instructor did not include use this textbook last year, I decided that I would follow her flow of class lectures from the previous year, and went through and skimmed the various chapters to try to pick what chapters the students would be reading for that weeks class. It’s not my favorite way of preparing for a class, as I’d prefer to have read the book already, but I can only do so much. I’m sure I will be going through and reading the chapters a week or two in advance of my students every week.

Knowing that my Ph.D. program I will be starting next year, I will have to write a dissertation, I’m kind of excited about this class as well. I think it will be good to be deep in looking at research methods, and should be additive to my studies and my program. The next couple of years, while I have some other examples of program evaluations I have previously completed, my research will really add to this class as well. All that being said, it’s going to be a pretty busy semester.

Being busy and having a lot going on is not something that is new to me, and one of the ways that I manage is by trying to be over-prepared. In some ways, some of what I do might seem a little crazy, but it does really help me from going crazy. A term that I heard by way of Merlin Man, on Back to Work (a wonderful podcast that I’ve been listening to for a long time and only one of the probably three different podcasts where I listen to Merlin at, is Mise en place.

Mise en place (French pronunciation: ​[mi zɑ̃ ˈplas]) is a French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place”. It refers to the set up required before cooking, and is often used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging the ingredients (e.g., cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components) that a cook will require for the menu items that are expected to be prepared during a shift. – Wikepedia

While this is a cooking term, and is probably mostly applied to physical items… I find that I really have to put everything in it’s place in my digital life as well. I can really relate to this idea of wanting to have everything in order. In some ways, as I am getting ready for a new semester I feel like I have to take things and organize it all so that it can all be in order. I figured I would open the kimono a little bit into some of the madness of what I all do.

As I described planning what my reading assignments, looking at course assignments, updating the dates, adding clarification to the assignment descriptions, and making sure that the syllabus is well formatted all take me quite a bit of time. I think about my course syllabi as a kind of contract I have with my students and try to put everything that they will need for the semester in it. After I get my syllabus mostly up to date, it’s time to start putting everything into place.

First, I like to keep everything in plain text, written in markdown (you can read my Review of David Sparks’s Markdown Book an Investigation to Formatting Documents for more of an understanding about what this is). These bits of text get put all over the place and let me do all kinds off things with them. For example, I have a colleague that is teaching a the SOWK 486 class with me. For each week of my class, I have a text file that has all of my lecture notes. This semester I went to the last year and copied all of the files, exported them into a word file so that she could use them if they were helpful for her.

Screenshot of Shortcuts Gallery Showing the shortcut Create Multiple Calendar Events in Fantastical

Along with updating my syllabus, I also am making sure my calendar is up to date and that I am planning the best dates to make sure that I can reasonably grade papers based on my schedule. I love the Shortcuts (formerly Workflow) App, and if you aren’t using it… you really should be. One of the shortcuts that they have listed in the gallery is the “Create Multiple Calendar Events in Fantastical” shortcut. This is so helpful, and it is pretty amazing. Basically, it lets me write in more or less natural language a long list of calendar events, and then it creates them all for me. I use this shortcut pretty frequently. But in preparing for my course it might look something like this:


8/21/19 from 5:30-8:15 PM Week 01 SOWK 486 - Theories of Practice I at Heritage University /h
8/28/19 from 5:30-8:15 PM Week 02 SOWK 486 - Theories of Practice I at Heritage University /h
9/4/19 from 5:30-8:15 PM Week 03 SOWK 486 - Theories of Practice I at Heritage University /h

The shortcut goes through and parses each of these lines of text and creates a separate calendar entry for each date, during the time I say with the title “Week xx SOWK 486 - Theories of Practice I” at the location of Heritage University on my Heritage calendar. I actually create these text dates using the Numbers App (but would work just the same in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets) so that I don’t have to figure out the calendar dates. In the first row of the table, I add the date of the first class, and then the date adds seven days. As well the week with it’s number increments and I can just use the fill function and I have all of my course dates.

Screenshot of Numbers Table Showing the Creation of My Soon to be Calendar Entries

I can then take those and copy and paste them into my text editor (drafts on iOS and Sublime Text on macOS) and use find and replace to delete the tabs that get inserted into the cells. I then take that and copy it and run the shortcut… where all of my class sessions get accurately placed onto my calendar. I do the same with all of the dates listed in the academic calendar, like when the last day to drop a class is and what holidays there are (well, and because I’m me, I do this for my university where I teach, the university where I am taking classes, and for the school district where I work). While I could add the address in the lines of text above, I like it to use the address (along with the title) of my contacts card entry for the university. So I go through each of the calendar entries for my classes and just start typing a space after “Heritage University” and the contact address comes up. I then add the travel time toggle so that I can get notifications when it is time to go to class. I come back and do a second round with my calendar entries, but more on that in just a second.

I mentioned that all of my lecture notes are just text files. I go through and create all of those prior to starting my classes as well, even though until I’m actually preparing for an individual class I don’t fill them in. I like them to be organized in a way that I can easily access them. I go through and use the same ways of not having to manually re-write everything for all of my classes. I end up creating a number of text files that start off looking like

Heritagex SOWK 459x 2019x Classx 01 Planningx
# SOWK 486 Fall 2019 Planning: Class 01

**Location**: CBC Campus - Tuesday T-336 & SWL-220  
**Time**: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-8:15  
**Week 01**: 08/19/19 — 08/25/19  
**Reading Assignment**: N/A  
**Topic and Content Area**: Course introduction, overview, and Expectations  
**Assignments Due**: N/A  
**Other Important Information**: Special Joined Class

## Agenda

Each of these files is named something like Heritagex SOWK 459x 2019x Classx 01 Planningx.txt where the having the “x” in the name allows me to search for only the file names that have these little types of tags. For example, I can search for all of the files I’ve created for anything in 2019 or that is related to planning. This is another little trick that I originally got from Merlin.

I use a drafts action of saving a draft to dropbox where the first line becomes the file name, and it saves it to my notes folder on Dropbox. I then take and copy the information section into the notes section of my calendar entries. It’s super helpful to have this same information at my fingertips on my calendar, so that I know exactly what is going to be happening that day.

Screenshot from Omnifocus for iOS of my Class task list

I also go through and use the taskpaper format that is used in Omnifocus to put together tasks for the semester. I have a project for each class with defer dates and due dates that remind me of what I have to due each week along with the assignments. It feels good during the semester to check things off as I go. These tasks end up looking like the following, but it allows me to pretty quickly go through and find and replace things. I also used the date calculator in Alfred on my mac to copy the date, type dcalc 2019-08-14 + 1w and paste in the date for the next weeks tasks. That task paper format look like the following:


- Week 16 Course Preparation @parallel(true) @autodone(false) @context(Roles : Heritage University) @tags(Roles : Heritage University, Activities : Creation) @due(2019-12-03 23:00) @defer(2019-11-24 00:00)
    - Week 16 lecture preparation @parallel(true) @autodone(false) @context(Roles : Heritage University) @tags(Roles : Heritage University, Activities : Creation, Activities : Planning) @due(2019-12-01 23:00)
    - Week 16 posting course materials @parallel(true) @autodone(false) @context(Roles : Heritage University) @tags(Roles : Heritage University) @due(2019-12-01 23:00)
    - Week 16 weekly communication @parallel(true) @autodone(false) @context(Roles : Heritage University) @tags(Roles : Heritage University) @due(2019-12-01 23:00)


While this isn’t all of the preparation I do for my classes, it helps feel like I can know what exactly is going to be happening as I go through the semester.

New Republic of the Heart - Book Review and I’m Going Back to School

Posted on Wednesday July 31, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

Several months ago, as I was deciding whether or not to move forward with my application to the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) for their Ph.D. Program - Transformative Studies, my mom recommended this book, the New Republic of the Heart. While in general, I could probably talk about an integral perspective, it’s not a topic or understanding that I have fully fleshed out. While this book is not just really about the integral perspective, it describes things from that perspective. So she shared the audiobook with me. I listened to the first 75% of the book pretty quickly, but I knew I wanted to write about the book as well. Life was pretty hectic, and I was also in the middle of making the move to have my content in this website format (I’m pretty happy with the move so far… although I’m still pretty sure eventually it might bite me in the butt).

Basically, I haven’t been exposed very much to a specific viewpoint on transdisciplinary work or even work that integral in nature. My experience in social work, and especially coming from a more generalist perspective, has given me some good foundation looking at how we use the scientific method to determine the work we do. Furthermore, my mostly eclectic practice style lends itself pretty well to trying to integrate those perspectives into a bigger understanding. With social work, especially from a mezzo and macro perspective being able to connect and understand other disciplines is a vital skill. I’m sure in the future I’ll write more about these topics, but it seems to be a pretty great connection.

I am really and truly excited about moving forward with my Ph.D. and completing my studies at CIIS. That being said, there is always that fear that is there. I know a number of people that are ABD (All But Dissertation - meaning they didn’t finish their doctoral programs). College is expensive (I’m still paying on my loans for my MSW) and I have to figure out again how to balance family/ school / work / and life.

School, Work, Family, Life Balance?

Especially as I was initially considering CIIS, I was worried about the program and what my degree should be in. Is this the right program, is this the direction I should be going in, what’s the best course of action. Not only in general about what the program is, but about the Transformative Studies program specifically. Could it be that it is a bit too “‘Hippyish.” I sat in on a zoom meeting with some of the faculty and prospective students and when they were talking about the dissertations that people completed, two of the examples were around ayahuasca. Really it’s not that I have a problem with ayahuasca or for that matter studies using hallucinogens for medical purposes (it’s fascinating and there is quite a bit of literature around the topic). If you are interested, you can read my blog post New Experiences and Broken Things, where when I was in the Peruvian jungle I went through an ayahuasca ceremony with some shamen. My hesitation was more around if they are a bit too much on the scientific fringe.

I don’t know exactly what I want my dissertation to be on, but my current school of thought is around trauma and kids. I talked to my advisor about this as I did my admissions interview, and they thought it sounded like a very viable option. Really, it was like I was as I was going through this minor existential crisis (I’m sure it is not the only one I will be going through), that my mom recommended this book to get some perspective on integral practice.

A New Republic of the Heart Book Cover

A New Republic of the Heart -- An Ethos for Revolutionaries -- A Guide to Inner Work for Holistic Change

by Terry Patten and The New Republic of the Heart

Jacob says
A Great Book!

The book was pretty great. Like many of my book reviews, this isn’t really a comprehensive review of the book, but more some stuff that stood out to me. It’s also been a while since I listened to the majority of the book. I ended up listening to a couple of the books in the Red Queen Series books that I recently wrote about that I recently wrote about.

In general, it is a very soundly put together book that is interesting and has some pretty common-sense arguments. It is especially interesting in that he uses the kind of integral perspective and really applies it to a specific subject, that of climate change. But really, it is a pretty generalist in its thoughts and approaches.

One of the topics that I found the most interesting was the concept of the “We-Space”

“People are already spontaneously evolving a new global tribal practice by meeting in camps, seminars, group outings, and online conversations, as well as classes, conferences, and celebrations with international participants. There is an inherent systemic necessity at work: the urgent need for human maturity to guide our collective decision making. How will these global conversations evolve? One thing is clear: we will need two kinds of conversations. We need open forums that welcome new participants and draw new people into this practice of conversation. But we will refine our praxis and be personally transformed by deeper, more personal and intimate conversations in closed groups of people we can get to know. These can become communities of practice where we and our tribes can actually evolve.” (pp. 575-576 from the Apple Books version)

Having a strong community is something that I’ve always wanted to have more of and be more involved with. If you are interested at all in climate change, and really we all should be, I’d really recommend the book. You might take up some of the mantels of an advocate that is so needed in these days.

Floating the River - Summer Fun

Posted on Tuesday July 23, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

I absolutely love doing anything outdoors, and one of my favorite things I do every year (hopefully a couple of times this year), is being able to get some people I care about and getting out on the river and just floating. It’s slow, but to me it is so relaxing and a beautiful experience (even if we don’t get out of the water until it late in the evening.

You can see this on my website, Floating the River - Summer Fun or on the GoPro Sharing Service - Floating the River.

Snapchat image of a Tree Filled with Lost Items Photo of river with floating cooler Photo of the river at sunset Photo of the river with a Bokeh with the inner-tube in the foreground
Some selected photos from us floating the river. Being on the river at sunset is one of my favorite reasons to float the river, even if we don’t get out until it’s completely dark.

Soundtrack: KRANE - Daylight
Shot on my Hero Black and my iPhone 10.

Getting Out of my Head - My Latest Audio Book Series

Posted on Sunday July 14, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

Several years ago, I started going out for walks every night. It has been good to me. When I first started losing weight several years ago, I think that starting to have an exercise regiment (while it is not very hardcore) was what really started it. While I have plateaued in the last six months and started gaining some of my weight back, having that simple daily exercise has been good for my body. For my weight I probably need to start working more on my diet and changing my eating habits to move to the next level. Over the last year I have averaged over 10,000 steps, 38 minutes of exercise (normally it is walking, but sometimes my own form of yoga, swimming, hiking badger, and if you follow my snapchat often my bike).

Graph showing my exercise based on distance walked or ran for the last year. Graph showing my exercise based on steps taken during the last year Graph showing my exercise based on minutes of exercise
A gallery showing graphs of my exercise during the previous year.

Getting out and walking has been good for my mental health as well. There are some days that I just can’t leave and walk, and those days I feel like I’m going to go a bit crazy. With my crazy schedule and doing more things than I probably should (between my two jobs, family, and social life), being able to go out for walks seem like less of a nice thing and more of something mandatory.

As I’ve written about many time on here, I am an avid listener to podcasts (by the way, anybody want to make a podcast with me… I’d love to be a creator of one someday as well). I listen to some music, but I spend most of my listening time listening to a number of great podcasts. I decided that I needed to also have some input into my brain that is just fun as well. In my life, I find if I can box things around something I already do I can get really good at doing it. Basically, if I can find something that I already do regularly and just add a little bit or do something a little bit different to that… I find that I am much more able to keep those changes going in my life. Building on something that we are already doing can really make making changes in our lives much easier.

So about a year or year and a half ago, I started listening to audio books as I walk. I pretty quickly went through all of the Game of Thrones books (they are great… and I’m still excited to get HBO at some point and make it through the TV seres as well). I listen to Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard series, another one that I would highly recommend for a good read / listen.

Various Red Queen Book Covers
The various covers for the books in the Red Queen Series
Book Cover for Broken Throne

Red Queen Series - Broken Throne

by Victoria Aveyard

Jacob says
A fun series

As you can see, my interests tend to be pretty focused on being able to be taken to some sort of fantasy world. I’m a big fan of both Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. My latest series I’ve just made it through is the Red Queen Series by Victoria Averard. It’s another great selection to listen to. It is around a world divided by red and silver blood types and people with superhuman powers. But as always, it is more about the people that you learn to love and hate in the book and the stories that get told.

In particular, one of the things that I especially enjoy about the Fantasy and Science Fiction generes is that they can step outside of our lives and make a case for some larger societal norms and how we treat each other. Anyways, I did really enjoy the Red Queen Series.

Building in Evidence-based Practices to our Parenting

Posted on Tuesday June 25, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

Parenting can be difficult. I have found that to be true in my personal life, in the lives of my clients, and from what I see in our culture. Different people give different advice as to what to do and how to best raise our children. Long hours working can make being consistent difficult (or at least that seems to happen in my own life).

As a part of my role at the Pasco School District, I worked with the Bridges Program. It is a district level set of classrooms that work with students K-12th grade to help support some of the students who have some of the most severe behavioral impacts. One of the ways that I would commonly describe my role is as building a home - school - community connections.

Graphic depicting that connection between home, school and community.
Graphic depicting that connection between home, school, and community.

I have spent a lot of time during the previous several years working to help support parents learn new skills, and learning from parents how they best work with their children. It has been fabulous. As a part of my role in the Pasco Discovery Coalition, I’ve been able to do some of the same. Several years ago, I was able to get trained to be a facilitator for Guiding Good Choices. It’s a pretty great evidence-based parenting program. I’ve enjoyed being able to implement training in it.

Last week I was able to get certified to implement the Strengthening Families Program for Parents and Youth 10-14. One thing that I find especially interesting and exciting about this program is it has components for both youth and parents. While Guiding Good Choices does have a component that youth participate in, the entire Strengthening Families Program is family-centered and both parents and youth are concurrently and working together learning skills. The program seems very interactive and engaging.

I’m a believer, that just like in therapy (I also just listened to a great episode of the Social Workers Podcast - Therapists as Writers: Interview with Lori Gottlieb where she expressed the same view about therapy), everybody can improve their parenting skills. We should all be trying to learn as many new skills and practices as we can.

2019 Family Trip to Leavenworth

Posted on Tuesday June 4, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

I’m still figuring out how I want to share more personal things about my life. While I’m still currently on Facebook (and probably this post will be shared there), I almost never post there. I’ve actually turned off the notifications (other than for messenger). Sometimes I post to Instagram, but that seems somewhat rare as well. I probably most frequently post things to Snapchat, as I like that it just disappears, but I don’t really have many friends there.

Sometimes I share photos sometimes directly with people through the Sharing Suggestions in Photos, but I’m still figuring it out. I have a couple hundred photos and video’s I took while we were in the Leavenworth area over Memorial Day. I wanted to share share something, so I put together this video using the Quik App on my iPad, which is such and easy way to put together a pretty neat looking video quickly.

You can also also see some some of the photos from our trip.

Photo of Leavenworth WA with Mountain in background Photo of Leavenworth WA with city in Black and White Photo of inside our Cabin outside of Leavenworth Photo of river outside of cabin Viking Hat inside the Wood Shop and Hat Shop in Leavenworth WA Hotdog Hat inside the Wood Shop and Hat Shop in Leavenworth WA Bunny Derby Hat inside the Wood Shop and Hat Shop in Leavenworth WA Hot Tub Photo in Leavenworth WA
A selection of some photos from our trip.
Photo of our Jacks Cabin
From the waterfront side, Jacks Cabin

We got the opportunity to stay in Jack’s Cabin, through airbnb which was a phenomenal experience. The video take you on a bit of tour, but there is really nothing like being able to walk out the back door and have a river and and little waterfall right outside.

Presentation at OSPI’s 2019 Student Support Conference - Better Together: Collaboration, Coordination, and Compassion

Posted on Friday May 24, 2019 by Jacob Campbell.

The classrooms I get the opportunity to serve at the Pasco School District feels like a real privilege. I feel the work that I get to do is meaningful and really get to make an impact on the lives to staff and students. One of the reasons why it feels so meaningful to me is that fact that we try (while we don’t always implement) to use best practices to address our students needs.

Earlier this year, I got the opportunity to join the Washington State Association of School Social Workers and attend their annual conference. One of the presenters there from OSPI talked about the upcoming Student Support Conference and described that they would be making a request for proposals for conference presenters. I decided that I wanted to stretch myself some, although this is not the first conference that I have spoken at, and apply to present about our program and the best practices for classrooms serving students with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

The following is the slides from my presentation (or view on Notist) and I figured that I would share it hear as well. You can see more information about the conference at OSPI’s Student Support Website.

View Foundational Aspects of Evidence Based Classrooms: Supporting Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities on Notist.

It’s a little bit late tonight, but I will also say that while I didn’t get the opportunity to stay for both days of the conference (I had some other stuff come up that I really had to do), the other presentations that I got to sit in on were great and it’s good to see how much focus on both mental health and trauma there is for our students.