Manchester isn't home for me, but I will feel a bit like I have gone somewhere close to home this summer when I set foot on the hallowed turf of their campus for the first time (since visiting mates as an undergraduate). Strangely, I have been studying 'at' the university of Manchester for the last two years linked only by a VPN (virtual private network), and a series of web interfaces. This VPN has many benefits including enabling me to access a lot of articles, and other texts via the John Rylands library server. I can also watch Eastenders and skip round access issues with blogspot addresses here. What is strange here is that without the VPN I can post to my blog (as the address is blogger.com) but not view my blog (at the blogspot address). Due to the slow web speeds here using the VPN is problematic, and like most of the world I 'suffer' from a lack of connectivity, thus I cannot actually view this, my own blog very often. Your comments get mailed, so please feel free, I will make the effort to get back to you when I am in a place with access.
My studies have been situated in Bulgaria, Switzerland, Mauritius, Lebanon, and Syria and the VPN has been like an anchor chain, keeping my thinking moored in the academy. Each module has been different but most of the communicating I have done has been asynchronous, but there have been occasional adobe breeze (web conferencing software) sessions where I saw a few moving faces. I have met, face to face, just a handful of course mates, and tutors including the i-Boy, the dodgester, and Dr Fry. Of course, I also feel a certain proximity to those I have interacted with virtually as well. This summer I look forward to meeting some more Manchester folks hopefully I will have a spark of research inspiration that will propel me, Olympian-like, towards a September 2012 finish.
As an aside, I am glad Manchester United got schooled by Barcelona, this should make the locals more tolerable, should I meet any who support United. I hope to do some schooling of myself as I learn more about working with teachers. I believe they are a group of Chinese English teachers. That is as much information as I have currently, still a while to go. Hopefully, I will play like Barca when the time comes and plan like Pepe Rena.
This experience with myself and Manchester has been great, I know my thinking about things education has changed, and my confidence is high. As a professional development junkie I know the good hits from the bad and this qualifies as some good stuff! Aside from affective factors I have become more aware of the industry that foreign language teaching is, the relationships between the academy, schools and so on.
Before the MA my topography of TEFL lands and sea was quite good, and like google maps I could go into more detail in some areas than others. Though my mapping isn't anywhere near complete (as an aside, incompleteness, and permanent BETA are concepts I have really taken on board over the last few years) I feel now I can zoom in on, and have street views, as well as having greater perceptual coverage then I had before. It is a tough time as I really need to specialise, both in my career and academically, and go beyond street view . To continue the metaphor I need to go macro, get microscopic and atomic views. The two areas that really stand out for me at the moment are teacher education, psychology and Inter-cultural stuff, but how many 'focus areas' is one allowed? Scott Thornbury has Dogme (a big thing), Gary Motteram has learning technology, and so on. I guess I think it may help to be known as that Dogme guy, that Tech guy, that X guy. Not only will this make me sound like a super hero, it will also stop me spreading myself to thinly, like the earth's crust.