Polyphonic, Peripheral, ‘Provisational: a ConnectedLearning Mashup

I grabbed several voices from the periphery where I am connected and improvised a multimodal mashup from Susan Watson’s post that brought them all into the same jam session. I remixed the whole session down to this zeega for good or ill. I felt that most of the time I was way out of my depth and leaving out way too much. Or translating with too free a hand. I accept the mistakes and I gladly give credit to @Bali_Maha, @EatcherVeggies, @sensor63,and @dogtrax for lightning in the night.

If Thou Beest a Moon Calf…More Stories from My Dark Night of the #CCourse Soul

Moon-calf, speak once in thy life, if thou beest a
good moon-calf.  (The Tempest: Act 3, Scene 2, 21-22)

September 08, 2014 at 0439AM

What a moon calf I am!

I am writing about my connecting classroom. I was preparing for class Monday morning and I wrote what at the time seemed both profound and tres Captain Obvious simultaneously.

“Maybe the problem is that we do these ‘activities’ separately and unconnected Maybe we need to do them together.”

No duh much, Terry. The problem I referred to above was an assignment to annotate a video. Let me rewind. Here is what I wanted us to do.

1. Summarize stuff.
2. Summarize stuff because it is a mad skill that needs constant refinement in the academic environment. It is especially needful in a digital flood tide. Summing up is just filtering and crap-detecting 101. Hence, we must do it, a lot.
3. Summarize media of all kinds.
4. Write/text/tweet/voice products of this summarizing activity.

That’s what we want to do. Well…OK, that’s what I in my omniscient infinitude want to do. This is the problem of the connected classroom how can one give up the hiearchy, trusting that the course of things will be taken up in manifold ways and products? But there still has to be some few initial conditions that guide, right. I try to ensure that those conditions are “right”. Summary has a lot of research behind it as a way to learn. My personal and professional experience has shown the need to get competent at doing it. Every job I have ever had has required this of me. In my business experience, my teaching experience, and my personal learning experience, summing up is a core skill.

Ok, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Or my rationale anyway. This assignment required them to take an RSA Animate video by Barbara Ehrenreich about the perils of positive attitude and to comment, respond to, sum up and otherwise annotate.  Then they followed with an essay taken from one of Ehrenreich‘s books on roughly the same topic.

What I discovered was that the first ten annotators got it pretty much wrong. They did not sum up what the author’s purpose was. In fact they wrote pretty much the opposite of what Ehrenreich was arguing.

This is where the conventional schema of teaching and learning may have ruined this assignment. In response I doubled down with the scaffolding. I worked in class on actively close reading both the video and the text. We discussed what it means to ‘sum up’. I provided them with a template for introducing a summary paper. I strongly suggested an algorithm for creating a first draft taken from some ‘expert’ texts. I even gave them some crazy options (treat the essay like a “black-out poem”, just black out everything that is not needed and then sum it up from there). I sent them a document that amounted to a summary checklist. I even gave them an “acid test”: if a random reader can “get” what you are summarizing without reading the original, then you have succeeded in your purpose.

And therein lay the rub: in response to the fear and confusion I sensed in my students I became Uncle “Hub Central”. Understanding how to summarize became an external act outside their own minds consisting of checklists, algorithms, and templates designed to connect the dots that I so faithlessly put on the page. But in the end I believe that summing up needs to be an internal algorithm that rises up as a personal exigency, a massing together of sets of neuronal allies, firing and wiring like a mosh pit of nodal  “hands” holding up the crowd surfing madman named Summary.


So…I am trapped in my own tar baby, too clever by half. Yet in this excess, perhaps we can still work together as a learning community to see what happened this coming Monday. I can stop being the hub. I can ask them, “Would you mind leading a discussion together about what happened as you wrote your summaries?” No scaffolding of the discussion. No questions from me, just repeating back to them what they have already said. Infuriating? Confusing? Guilty on both counts. Meaning making and perhaps internal connecting? A consummation devoutly to be wished.

I have fallen victim (and continue to fall victim to) one of the classic blunders (well, besides the most famous one which is “never get involved in a land war in Asia”): post hoc ergo propter hoc. The rooster crows, then the sun rises; therefore, if I kill all the roosters the sun won’t rise. It is classic confirmation bias where we think time is the only connecting thread between nodes.

I put on my expert hat and decided that because the students had failed to sum up the video that they didn’t understand how to sum up in general. Were there other explanations? Yes, but fear drove me to the default response–I am responsible for their learning. Hence, the scaffolding. I see this all the time in expert systems. We study a sequence of events. We carefully describe those events as a case study. The event could be a success or a failure. If it is a success, then all we have to do efficiently mimic all the causative steps so expertly dilineated. Or, if a failure, we stay away from those steps. Best practice/worst practice. The problem with this variant of the post hoc fallacy is that we don’t really know if the strategies all arose as a ‘one off’ case, a sample of one, or as a truly generalizeable theory of action. Heraclitus (and his kissing cousin, Chaos Theory) argues that we really can’t step twice in the same river. In other words, initial conditions are always different from case to case in the dreaded ‘real world’. Those initial conditions almost always lead one astray from the desired results. Post hoc thinking is almost always wrong.

In other words we faithfully build the scaffold, gather our tools, climb to the top, and discover that the soffit we want to replace is out of reach. Sigh. Or as Joseph Campbell put it, “There is perhaps nothing worse than reaching the top of the ladder and discovering that you’re on the wrong wall.”

Perhaps I will discover the best case scenario for each of my classes. Perhaps not. Perhaps the success will come in the constant trumpeting of both “baby step” successes as well as “falling and hitting our heads on the coffee table, let’s go to the emergency room” failures. I just need to move my primary default mode from hub to node. They are more responsible for their own learning than I am. I share a duty to them, but the process is messy. We are all moon calves when it comes to learning. Moon calves.



I Am a Not Quite Multidimensional Connection

This is a comment I made on a post on @Bali_Maha ‘s blog.  Maha’s post is a call to question so I question.  So, hers is the inspiration for my response.

One of the biggest problems I have with connected learning as a particular theory (and with theories in general) is that they, like words themselves, have a hidden agenda. The poet Ted Hughes puts it this way, “Words tend to shut out the simplest things we wish to say. In a way, words are continually trying to displace our experience. And in so far as they are stronger than the raw life of our experience, and full of themselves and all the dictionaries they have digested, they do displace it.” Theories do likewise.

I have not given up on words, but let’s just say I question their motives. I think you are right about what you say about connection above, but I am also worried that our words about connection are like planetariums. They are analogous to the night sky, but they are not the night sky. That’s why I love stories, tales of action, goings on and doings described. Your stories about the conditions of connection and learning in Egypt during January 2011 mean more to me than the phrase ‘multidimensional connection’ does.

Multidimensional Egyptian Meme Connection:

I think I get what you mean by the phrase, but it seems to me in the end to displace your experience of that multidimensionality. That’s eight syllables of blurred and approximate, displaced meaning. I suppose this is why I love poetry–experience approached at a slant. Simon’s poetic post makes multidimensional connections, but I think that if someone summed up one of my zeegas only in such an abstract way, well…them’s fightin’ words.

I know that this comment is a rant against the paucity of words as a measure of experience. I just want us to be aware always that this connected learning is not mostly about digital connecting in digital space, it is about words themselves as a measure of what we really know. It is a cautionary tale. I fear as I write this that I am not getting across how much I appreciate what you have written or that I really find what you say is…convivial.

I want to call on Ted Hughes again because his words fail less spectacularly than mine. Here is a shared link to a scanned page of his from the relatively unknown collection of his essays, “Poetry in the Making”:



Or perhaps listen here:

Choose Your Own Connected Adventure

Monday commute under the pewter slant of a supermoon.

September 08, 2014 at 0439AM










1. Faisal connects with a sad story
2. Students begin to tweet and sing happy birthday to Kaitlyn
3. Naming continues to provoke odd and interesting connections
4. Vialogues works, but not in the way I thought it would
5. I-Search topics and Scoop.it–my question finds me.
6. No duh moment–maybe we need to do activities both separately and together.

This all happened yesterday in our proto/crypto/hemi-semi-demi connected learning classroom.  If you want to read one of the stories above just vote in the poll below and I will tell the ones with the most votes.  If no one votes, no stories.  Seems fair.


Susan’s Confiteor: Lightning Strikes the Sand on the Road to Damascus


I don’t pay for very many cloud services, but I do pay for Diigo especially now since it allows for highlighting and annotating pdfs. They just added that to the mix, but it is the old tools there that I find are still the best. I have become aware that my long comments might not be considered apt by some rubrics and while I do not entirely agree, I am a bit prolix and a bit hyperbolic and I do carry on a bit and …the picture clears, yes? So I decided to use the annotated link feature in Diigo to move my comments off the page entirely and almost off the comments page.

I created the annotated link in response to Susan Watson’s confiteor to the connected learning MOOC, #CLMOOC. You must read her post first then I will provide the annotations. In other words you have to read the post before you “get” the notes. I will stop here for awhile and listen to the sound of water flowing on my farm while you read.

OK, here are the annotations and the reason why am I doing it this way. First, this post deserves a wider audience. It is about a connected learning vision, an experience that #ccourses wants to hasten through its various technomachinations. Second, It is good to feedforward to the imagined end if you value the future; otherwise, you are stuck with what you have always had. Susan inspired me to forge more connections. So why is this so much about me and what I wrote. Egomania runs in my gender, but seriously… I want to show you the kind of close reading that I find personally necessary to connect with another writer. This is what I model to my students for good or ill. Diigo helps me do it better than any other tool I use except maybe paper, pen, and a document camera. Besides if you come this far it isn’t as likely you will invoke the tl;dr card.

It's Sarah's

Ahhh… you have chosen to carry on and so we shall. Here are our forgeries, foundings and confiteors. (Forgive me my formatting probs below. Don’t know how that happened.)

Susan: I am essentially an embryo
Terry: Beginner’s mind–enso

S: Feeling like I could not contribute anything of value to such an amazing group of people
T: I went a lot of years just being a lurkbot. I still slip into that role at times. Easier. Inertia carries you into an eddy in the stream of time and space. Pretty peaceful. But isolated can mean ignored, too. Sometimes I just felt better to be alone online because I was very different. I have decided only recently, within the last few years that I can allow myself to be myself and that includes AngryWalter, Tellio the Naif who doesn’t understand, and the Facilitator. Wow. Life got interesting really quickly.

S: [U]nthinkingly protected its ragged remnants.
T: Such image and rhythm and fearless grace in these words: unthinking, ragged, protected remnants. I am reminded of the Yeats’ poem “The Circus Animals’ Desertions” where in the end when all the ladders are gone and there is no escape one is left with “the foul and ragged bone shop of the heart”. Yours is not quite so cinema noir, but it is still a livid place.

S: [N]early ego-less
T: Now that is a story all by itself right there. Return to beginner’s mind, enso, embryo.

S: #flailers.
T: One use of the word that I also had in mind was that of scourge, the Medieval flaggelant pilgrim. Folks who take the flails of self and the flails of the world and press on to wherever it is pilgrims go. I had forgotten that hashtag. I have ample opportunity to use it on a regular basis still. I think I will start using it again. Perhaps luring in some lurkers/samplers/watchers/observers/worriers in the process. That kind of openness and vulnerability is a bit like a NASCAR track–an attention magnet. Calvin and Hobbes said this best, “What could possibly happen next?”

S: [P]ro forma powdered cheese T: I read this out loud and laughed. MDR as the French say.

S: {T]itles like Pigs and Beer
T: “Pigs and beer, come over here.” I swear I heard that at a ball park once from a vendor. Is there anything less pretentious and worthy of careful respect than a pig. I once had a young sow who was such a friendly critter. I began to think of her as my friend until one day a pitch her a black walnut still in its husk. She positioned it in the back of her jaws to one side and made one horrific crack and it was gone. I had a whole buck of walnuts I fed her in this way. She’d catch them, crack them and eat them. After that I never entertained the idea that Mary (for that was her name) could ever be my friend except in my head.

S: [T]he connected learning had a life of its own.
T: Do you find connections in your head still being made? Connections beyond your head? Feral connections hiding like a bobcat? like a possum playing dead? like a centipede in its creepy hillocky humping down the road? Just felt like opening up the little treasure box in my head.

S: [So] much real cheese that I never even knew existed. T: And so much falling, involuntarily down. Learning is often about not being in control. It is about trust and improvisation and taking a pratfall for the audience. Charlie Chaplin, Robin Williams, Chris Farley, Richard Pryor. So often it is the content of our own fears and our own living that must be the context for this falling. We fall away and we fall towards…we know not what?

S: [The] requisite conditions for such living-loving-learning to occur
T: Be careful here. Don’t join the scaffolders and the scope and sequencers and the curriculum packagers and the common corers who promise cause and effect for just a low downpayment and even lower monthly payments, no credit/no job needed. I could be wrong.

S: Basically, can this happen with any group of people? T: It is a fabulous question. It is one all the facilitators asked at the beginning of the second CLMOOC. We wouldn’t have done it again if we had we not thought we could replicate the experiment, but as you can well imagine, I trotted out Heraclitus as well as chaos theory to raise the yellow flag–the former said that you can’t step in the same river twice and the latter argues that you can’t keep the initial conditions the same so you can’t get the same emergent behaviors. But why does that matter as long as you have that improvisational edge: whatever you give I will take and run with it.

S: Here’s what I feel (I was going to say, “here’s what I know”)
T: Feeling gets you out of the language trap. We all know that language can at best vaguely figure forth the magic interior of the felt life. But embodiment, now that is another kettle of bells.

S: [W]hen lightning hits sand. T: Even better. Your killing me with the geology. I love it. You are also Saul on the road to Damascus. You are wise to take epiphany and spiritual transformation away from the religious and apply it here. I get the feeling it was religious in the smallest of “r”‘s kinda way.

S: How do we make this appetite go viral?
T: Maybe viral is the right word here, but I might suggest “rhizomal” or “entangled”. T- shirt-worthy: Get Tangled! Or Go Rhizomal!

Susan’s post deserves a close read. After all it is about epiphany and lightning strikes–both near and dear to everyone who seeks real connection and change.


Observations from a Connecting Course: Early Days and More Cowbell

One thing I noticed on the first days is this. Most of the stuff I did had me as the hub in the network and almost nothing had the students as distributed nodes. I am thinking more in terms of becoming by semester’s end the Anti-Hub City and more Distributed Node City.


I am trying to reveal the invisible (or unaware) chords of the spider’s net of presence and connection in the classroom. Today I used the thank you note, the idea of networking,  and Twitter and  G+ communities.


The future of the connected classroom is already here; it is just not awarely distributed.


Is the continuum of the adjacent possible of connection in the classroom potential enough to allow what the affordance of the distributed network? Hah, take that Deleuze and Guattari. Translated: is the structure of the Uni classroom (f2f, hybrid, online) stretchable enough to do the connected learning dance? I suppose one might argue that ds106 is singular proof of that, especially the headless ds106.


Initial condition–awareness of connectedness and pushing connected learning principles and values as the ground of classroom being, tech provided: G+, twitter, name games, f2f groups, thank you letters, awareness building about connections, six degrees of separation. Emergent behaviours– keep looking.


Feedforward–what would I expect that emergent behavior to look like? Helping each other with google 20% project, participating in unexpected ways on the networks provided, and, in general,  expecting to be surprised, collaborate on projects, on presentations, on required stuff. Break the rules. Maybe cross over into other subjects and work with others at arms length.


In a way, the connected classroom is hypothetical, i.e. a total crapshoot. If I apply connected learning principles, then I will get…what? Connected learners, more humane people, better projects. What exactly do I want other than to be surprised–in a happy way. Epiphanic as all “get out” is my dream emergence.



The story of the projector or the tale of hidden connections. Projector. Symbol of the infrastructure of the University classroom. Enables and affords. Bad projector, have to turn off lights, cue Sandman. Good projector. No lights out. Better shared experience. My projector was weak and crippled. It was not properly enlightened. I had students thank the folks who fixed it. I had asked the infrastructure powers that be to fix it, didn’t expect it to be fixed. They did. Thanks all around. Gratitude abounds. Or does it. I am sort of obsessed with laying bare the connectedness of the “already there”. Infrastructure is part of that connectedness. Invisible. It and those who support it are part of the grand, human web of connection for good or ill. Mostly good locally not so sure globally.  Doubtless doing more with the invisible connections.

Point? We are already connected. We are already practicing connected learning. I asked for help. You might imagine that you are throwing that request out into the universe like winging a dying sparkler in the night. You are really casting into a net. Sometimes it is so small it slips through, usually not. This is why I loved hearing about the twenty minute rule in the pre-course Hangout Tuesday: if you can’t figure it out in 20 minutes, get connectin’. I am trying to get my learners to do same. Long story short. I had my students sign a group thank you note. Corny, but as my mother-in-law said, ‘bread and butter’. All the better to spread the wealth, I took that gratitude to those who deserved it. 54 signatures, evidence that someone done good for you. And so those bundles of habit (as William James called them) are begun. I hope these initial conditions in the connected classroom will lead to a climate of constant happy surprise and growing entanglement, preferably visible and not quantum.

Planning to do? Keep revealing connections. Keep playing connecting games in the classroom. Keep advocating for play and choice and equity and all the overt and discovered principles and values of connected learning. Keep showing ways to connect both locally and globally. Keep observing what is going on. Oh, yes, and more cowbell.



Connecting through the Wirearchy: the Wisdom of Firing and Wiring Together

Responding to and connecting with Susan Watson and Fred Mindlin, #clmooc alums and gonnabe connected learners in #ccourses.  Here is Susan’s post and check out the comments for Fred’s response.  Without connection learning is mostly intrinsic.  With connection we fire together and wire together.  We bridge then we bond then we form a ‘wirearchy’,  an adhocracy of the hoi polloi.  If anyone wants to remix go here and here for  a double shot of liquid democracy.  Each of the remix links above has six or more copies to play with.