DIY Doctorate?


I’m looking at doctoral programs and not really finding what I want. I see lots of things that will lock me into what others think I need to know, lots of chances to end up stuck in a program I hate.

I’ve had a number of people say to me “It’s not the program, it’s what you put into it.” Yeah, I know but, you see, this program is going to take time away from what I’m already trying to learn, so it needs to be worth it. I’m going to have to do whatever work they require no matter how useless, mundane or repetitive it may be. I already did that to get a master’s degree2. I got some good out of it but there was lot of wasted time and energy3. That’s time and energy I could have used to do things on my own, to learn things.

What I want to learn about is that area where design, cognitive science, advertising, data visualization, gaming (mainly ARGs) and education overlap. Where’s that program? Who would let me build that program? I don’t care about EDD or PHD or whatever. I just want a few people around to help guide me and talk about things. I want the stupid letters checked off so they don’t stop me from doing something I may want to do in the future.

I want a program that is flexible and focused on the real-world intersection of education and technology. I want to be able to set my own goals and play a major role in deciding what I need to learn in order to accomplish them. I’m not an ego maniac, I’d love to do this in an environment where I consult with people better and more experienced but I want that experience to based on more than writing obscure papers or playing tenure games.

Am I screaming “where is my jet pack?” or do I have any hope of a program like this?

1 Photo credit – Jennifer Buehrer

2 and to graduate from college and high school for that matter

3 Granted probably half of that was me ranting and raving about what a stupid waste of time it was but still.

11 thoughts on “DIY Doctorate?

  1. When you find the kind of doctoral program you are looking for, please let me know. My time is too valuable to spend it on less-than-worthwhile ventures. (Maybe I’ve just become too selfish with my time, but still…it is mine to be selfish with!)

  2. I hear ya’ Tom. I ricked my teaching certificate expiring to hold out until I could get accepted to the Master’s Program that I feel is really going to let me explore what I want to do with technology. It’s half online, half real world summer courses, so I’m hoping that the human element will play a huge factor in helping us work with our own ideas.

  3. My doctorate program is taking quite the build-it-yourself approach. The goal is for the program to provide you with the learning theory, statistical research abilities, and guiding faculty for you to build the program you want.

    I’m doing it, and researching an area that has not been researched in the history of my program.

    Unfortunately it’s a brick-and-mortar degree primarily done in person, so unless you’re willing to uproot everyone and move to South Carolina…

    Find a faculty member somewhere who is doing what you want to do. I know folks at Washington State University who’d impress you, but it’s far from VA too.


  4. Heather- believe me, if I find it, I’ll be proclaiming its goodness from the mountain top.

    Cathy – I’ll check them out. Did you take some classes there?

    Ben- I’ll be interested to hear how it goes. I tend to think that blend of online and face to face is the way to go. All online seems alienating in a lot of cases and tends toward faceless, mass production models but all f2f seems overly burdensome in terms of schedule.

    I guess Chris brings up one a good point. Not only am I looking for the perfect program, it’s got to be online or in VA. Greedy, arent’ I? (although moving to SC does have some allure. I always liked Columbia.)

  5. Funny, my family loves the mountains of VA.

    There’s something to be said about studying under folks who can provide you the tools. I’ve learned so much in my Ph.D. program already and I’m only 1.5 years into it.

    I originally wanted the letters after my name, now I really want the knowledge.

    I love to learn, and I’m doing loads of that and studying under experts in the field. Consider it! Our University would benefit from your presence…


  6. I think it is important to think about how important the actual credential is for YOU. Here is the thing: if you get the phd, do you want to go into higher ed? Because as far as I can see, that is what phd’s do. And then you are in the tenure mess. If you want to learn for yourself, and to keep improving in your work life, would that lead you another direction? If you want to move up in K-12 world, what kind of credential will help with that? I am hearing of more and more Dr. Principal, but that job drags you even deeper into administrivia. Don’t know the answers–still searching myself.

  7. Tom- Thanks for the info about greader and google gears. I will try that. I also want to thank you for turning me onto Wordle. I live in Manchester, MI and it is serene and beautiful and most times not realistic since my commute is 1hr 15mn. I have a 4yr old which takes me away from her but we also get to experience sand hill cranes flying over our heads and walking to a lake to fish and watch deer lay in our backyard.
    I found your idea about your doctorate program intriguing and enlightening because that is the future of education, where we design our programs and find mentors and collaborators to assist in the learning. Your just a little ahead of your time. Maybe you could create a school with that concept.
    I was looking through your blog and saw the submission for lesson plans. I work with emotionally impaired high school students, probably similar to your first teaching experience-very spirited. They are survivors and have been through more than most humans have to endure. I educate them with the affective in mind. I would like to see a plan that combines technology with the emotional aspect. NPR has a program called Story Core or something like that…creating a podcast about their story but I’d also like to see them design something visually.

  8. I’m basically looking for the same program. 🙂

    Last year, when I was doing some research (and also looking for online programs or ones in VA), the closest I came was the Media, Art, Text program at VCU ( I assume you’ve seen it, since it sounds like you’ve been doing some serious research. It was a bit more MFA, arts focused than I was looking for, and lacked any educational focus. But I was thinking that if I got in, I could find folks to work with in some other departments to add the flavor I was looking for (they do seem committed to interdisciplinarity).

    In any case, when you find that magic program, let me know, too!

  9. Terry- in all honesty I could care less about the letters. It does seem to be necessary for lots of things I might want to do eventually and that includes the k12 world. Lots of our principals have PhDs or EdDs. Not that I want to be a principal but it seems to be a first-sort qualifier for certain jobs.

    Jen- Appreciate you taking the time to write. It sounds like an interesting job. I’ll think some about what you’re talking about in terms of a lesson.

    Martha- You and I have reached the same conclusion. The VCU Media, Art, Text program is the best thing I’ve seen so far but I wonder about the educational component as well. I think that the only way to figure out how flexible they are is to go talk to them in person.

    In the mean time I’m going to keep looking. You never know- after all, virtually everyone at the WordCampEd worked in some crazy program like “The Center for Incredibly Awesome Technology and History.”

  10. I’m pretty late to this party, but wanted to chime in because I’ve got interests that overlap yours, Tom–infovis, HCI, design, social networks, and education (you might enjoy my latest project, FeedVis.)

    I’ve got two suggestions for you: first, Stanford’s Learning Science and Technology Design program (in their college of ed) might fit you quite well. Lots of work across disciplines, and lots of creation of useful tools. Unfortunately, you’ve got to move to Cali for that one. It’s also not that easy to get in; I’ve applied with a 1590 GRE and lots of work and programming experience, but talking with faculty, it looks like my chances are pretty slim.

    The other suggestion is LIS (library and information sci) programs. They tend to be pretty interdisciplinary, and there are quite a few that can be done online. It’s not education per se, but quite a lot of LIS faculty focus on or do work relating to teaching and learning. HCI and infoVis seem to be pretty hot topics, too. I’m applying for LIS at UNC-Chapel Hill and FSU.

    The big challenge right now is in getting into a program at all; grad school applications tend to increase in sour economy, just as schools are getting the dollars they have to fund new students cut. So we kinda picked a bad time to be doing this 🙂

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