These days, I spend more time than I would like on the road in my car.  For those of you who have an actual, daily commute, I apologize in advance for my whining, but my twice weekly commute between Eugene and Corvallis for school and monthly or so trips to Portland for work- really add up! As a consummate multi-tasker, I resent wasting so much time just sitting and driving (and don’t bother quoting any of that anti-multi-tasking research at me! I have heard it all before!).  I had heard about podcasts from a few friends and hadn’t really found the time to listen to them in my daily life, but my commute has turned out to be the perfect excuse to learn as I drive.  While I am a fan of audio books for doing chores and exercising, I wanted something more stimulating for my drive time and between pursuing my hobbies and professional interests, I sometimes have more hours of listening to do than hours of driving. Not a bad problem to have.

I have tried to keep a balance between things I listen to just for pleasure, with things that I feel are more educative, although, they have all turned out to be both educative and enjoyable.  I actually look forward to my new downloads.  For more of my personal life, I listen to a knitting podcast, from Knit Picks that comes out biweekly and a few food related ones.  My local NPR station had a great one for years, called “Food for Thought”, but they have recently ended their run (a problem I have had with a few other podcasts too…), so, I am on the lookout for a new one that talks about local food if anyone has any suggestions. There is also a defunct one on crafting, Craft Rock Love with Vickie Howell, that had a short run, years ago, and I dole out the few podcasts created for when I really need a boost.  I also listen to a few nerdy science ones, just to keep up with the field, “Living on Earth”, for my enviro-girl fix and “Science Friday” to keep up with the broader field.  For my Maker interests, the best I have found is “Destination DIY” out of Portland, that is about the larger idea of “do it yourself” from home repairs to home funerals.

The harder finds for me have been education related, but my perseverance has paid off. For a few years, all I could find was a well-made podcast out of Australia, “EdPod” which was interesting and at least in the field.  Just in the last few months, one of my friends who initially turned me on to podcasts, found two new ones- “American RadioWorks”, that may be the best one on current topics in education, and it even presents multiple sides of an issue, and Slate Magazine has started occasionally producing a show called “Schooled” and I have enjoyed all three I have found so far.  Lastly, while not directly related to education, I thoroughly enjoy “Dan Pink’s Office Hours”. He interviews authors, more often in the area of entrepreneurism or the psychology of business, but a surprising number of them turn out to be relevant to our field, and I have even bought a few new books, inspired by the interviewees.

All in all, I still resent my commute (oh Google car that will drive yourself, where are you?!?), but I will miss my podcast lifestyle when I am no longer doing the regular trek up I-5.  I might just have to find a new hobby that will enable me to listen to podcasts!

By Jennifer Wyld

Taking a break from beating my Maker drum this month, I thought I would write about the actual paid work I do while working on my degree.  I have a research assistant position on a longitudinal study happening here in the Northwest, in which I was lucky enough to get hired my first year of this PhD process and will see me through to my graduation.  Lucky indeed, in this world of expensive educations! The project I am part of is called Synergies, and the PI’s I work with from OSU are John Falk and Lynn Dierking- the other two-thirds of the FCL staff in our department.  We also have some colleagues from other universities, such as William Penuel,  in Boulder, Colorado.  The goal of this project is to follow the interest development of a cohort of early adolescents from 5th through 8th grade.  While we are particularly interested in STEM, we are noting other interest development as well.  To gather data, we are using both quantitative and qualitative techniques.  Each academic year, we are surveying every member of the grade cohort (who we can get a consent form from!) with a questionnaire covering topics such as interest in STEM fields, career aspirations, family practices, and out-of-school activities.  We are supplementi

The first two years of the study focused on establishing a base-line of understanding about what is currently happening in the community and with this group of youth.   We are using this data to start creating an asset map for the area as well as an “agent-based modeling system” that we intend to use as a predictive tool (if we tweak the community ‘x’ way, ‘y’ happens).  Our next step has been to build a collaborative relationship with both in-school and out-of-school organizations that we will leverage to create interventions to see if we can positively impact interest development around STEM.

Two graduate projects that are hoping to use these interventions are around gardening and Maker experiences.  You can probably guess who is working on the second one! However, the one of the overall goals of funders of the implementation part of  the study is to help create sustainable programs, so Deb Bailey (the other grad research assistant) and I will be working with groups already established in the greater area of our study, but who are not currently active in this particular community.  We are both still just in the planning stages- but we will keep you posted!