Welcome! This site, rolinmoe.org, is 100% a site of my creation, ownership, development and maintenance. I manifest in many ways on the Internet, and this is a nice hub for those various extensions of my digital identity.
How does my digital identity intersect with my tangible identity? What brings me to a place where I, to paraphrase Etienne Wenger, realize my digital identity is integral to my growth and development as a human?
There has been a great deal of school, starting with the K-12 area. I was identified as dysgraphic at an early age, which provided me access to various Apple // computers through primary school age. There was never education, training or pedagogy with these devices; it was assumed that Rolin + computer = mitigated dysgraphia. That assumption meant I needed to make the computers work in the manner expected, and I became a folk technologist, bolstered through the rest of my schooling by being the student who would help teachers in times of technological strife.
I had no intention of doing anything with technology in college; I attended Centenary College of Louisiana to receive a degree in English Literature. Of course, within a month my work-study position had been moved to IT, where I would provide technical support for one year and then move into a web development role. It was here I met Bryan Alexander, at the time an English professor with a keen interest in the role technology could play in education — together (well, I contributed maybe 5%) we built a campus MUD. At this time I kept technology and pedagogy as distinct silos in my mind; even though I audited a course of Bryan’s on the Vietnam War & Vietnam War literature that involved online interaction with students and courses across our consortium, the contents of the literature and the mechanisms of the collaborations had nothing in common from my perspective. I did not worry about the stigma that came with a B.A. in English (what job does that qualify you for?), and my work-study work morphed into teaching web design to faculty and students, my first real experience as the titular head of a classroom
English B.A. in tow, I worked a slew of odd jobs for a year before pursuing a M.A. in Radio-TV-Film at the University of Texas. In short, I wanted to write movies, and there was no better place to study outside of the Coasts than Austin. The program was co-sponsored by the Michner Center for Writers (with a generous grant for tuition), and it was here that I found my fascination for teaching. I was substitute teaching for rent, and at the same time gaining close exposure to dozens of the writers-cum-instructors who rolled through Michner for workshops, many of whom approached teaching with no involvement of pedagogy beyond panache, insistence and casual disinterest. Rare was the teacher whose feedback involved anything more than opinion, rarer still any assistance in implementing said opinions. The best teachers were those dedicated to the program, but those with the fame and fortune were less interested in feedback and more interested in retelling war stories.
During this time I began working with Duke University’s Talent Identification Program (TIP) as an instructor for gifted students of secondary school age. My first position was inheriting a course called Writer’s Workshop, which parents assumed meant essay skills and I interpreted as creative writing with reckless abandon. We were wildly successful, and this resulted in creating a Screenwriting course for the program (which I taught in-person on six occasions), and revamping a Short Fiction Workshop for the institute’s online wing (which I taught for five years).
I moved to Hollywood in 2005 and began work at the bottom of the mailroom at a boutique talent and literary agency, The Gage Group. It was an opportune time; the writing side of the agency was expanding and the heir apparent to the position was leaving to work as a paid writer, so the good impressions from my early days had me on the fast-track as a junior literary agent; three months from my start date I had taken charge of the television sci-fi wing of the lit side. And I hated it. I really tried not to; everyone at Gage was wonderful to me, but there were two problems:
- There is a lot of desperate in Hollywood. As an agent, you are taking phone calls and query letters from people desperate for representation. When you bring someone on (at the most, 3% of the stuff you read results in a further conversation or a contract), that person is desperate to get to the paid gig. And even those clients who are in a position or selling scripts, they are worried about if their show gets cancelled or their script never gets the green-light and ends up in option purgatory.
- This is not a good environment for a person who wants to help every writer they come in contact with through the problems in their script and their pitch approach. I remember one person who had a script I read; I knew from the query the script wasn’t ready but something about the query resonated with me. The script was at least 50 pages too long and it needed a good deal more than tightening. I called the gentleman and told him, and even offered to read any changes and help out, and his response was, “I think I am good with how it is; you are the first agent to call, but you did call, so it means I just need to find the right person out there.”
My position did not allow me to be a teacher, and I realized that is what I wanted to do. I left Gage and started teaching part-time in media studies at a school for students with learning disabilities, Park Century School. They were expanding their offerings and growing due to community need, and one area of growth was in technology. With my background as a learning disabled student using technology, I was fast-tracked to running the assistive technology program, and later overseeing technology in teaching across the school. And it was here I realized I had been teaching for nearly a decade and had never had one moment of training or coursework in teaching. MacGyver might work as a TV show, but it’s not a good approach to take when students are on the line.
I found my way to Pepperdine University’s Ed.D. program in Learning Technologies (a scholar/practitioner program for in-career people to personalize scholarship with practical application), and assumed I was going to focus on assistive technology usage for LD students. However, I became interested in informal learning, non-formal learning, online learning — and I saw the theory and criticism courses from my BA and MA had application in the emerging landscape of distance and online learning. Upon finishing coursework and beginning my dissertation, I left my teaching position to focus on my research and engage a consulting practice, RAM TEC. Consulting provided me the affordance to be at home, researching, reading, theorizing and studying while I built my thesis. In May of 2014, I graduated with an EdD in Learning Technologies.
Today, I am an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Institute for Academic Innovation at Seattle Pacific University. In this capacity I partner with faculty, staff and administration to create a community to support innovative and progressive research, practice and scholarship dedicated to the improvement of teaching and learning on campus. This is a brilliant blend of my backgrounds — there is a great deal of untapped potential in the marriage of A/V production and education, there is a keen interest in engaging technology in viable and executable spaces, and thoughtful research is necessary to further the field and resist dominant assumptions regarding technology as a solution in and of itself. I am blessed to have a space in this emerging field and emerging discussion!