The bad news: Our brains are wired to be negative. The good news: Happiness doesn’t mean you have to be naive, just think realistically.
I know for certain that I would not have thought these thoughts without Susan’s promptings. You can give her the credit for any good that results and me the blame for the any of the nonsense. Fair enough here is my response to her comments to this blog post. Perhaps you could read that first? Or not.
Susan: Terry, damn you, you always fire my neurons to the point that I have too many things to try to communicate. This is a good thing. But you know that.
Terry: Always hoping for a good signal to noise ratio. Often failing and forcing my reader to generate the signal through the noise as best they can.
S: First question is why you used the word ‘narcissism’? I didn’t feel narcissism in this piece!
T: Writing is inherently narcissistic (seems like too many s’s there). Reflection is part of the original Echo and Narcissus story. Reflection cuts both ways. Sometimes you get that endless rabbit hole recursion and you don’t even realize it. So the narcissism reference is a big fat “Caveat Emptor” that is the proper assumption for every type of writing, but especially blog posts.
S: Second, thank you for sharing your immediate failures and reflections. Failure and reflection are (at least to me) the keys to substantive progress. Now, trying to explain that to a.) freshman and b.) old-school in-a-rut teachers are, to me, parallel problems. There are teachers at my school who do no reflection and have no interest in risk-taking. One teacher’s PDP goal last year (at least in its first iteration) was (and I kid you not) – “Chapter Two.”
T: Yes, I love the realpolitik in this. I know that you know that we know that the world is way more complex than either of us can effectively map out so we use narrative and metaphor and image and song to do the best we can. And making. Always with the making. Deeply empathetic with your milieu. All I can say is that there are different connecting strokes for different folks and that sometimes the key is not obvious and often counterfactual and even accidental. Keep watching. Maybe it all boils down to shared Precious Moments (you know, the ones I mean)
Susan: Which brings me to the liquid syllabus – how do you conceptualize this to students? Because I need to conceptualize it to teachers and this is the first and biggest roadblock for some. What if you are trying to connect with people who aren’t curious, motivated learners? What if they just want to sign off on a sheet that they “completed the professional development module”? These aren’t people who will explore a viral concept in a syllabus. We have begun to evolve our staff into a learning community, but still have some who literally don’t care if they learn anything new.
Terry: I suppose you need to think of those liquid robots in The Terminator movies. Endlessly Protean. That’s what we have to be as teachers. And that is a dodge of your question so now I need to re-focus.
Part of me wants to lay the task onto someone else. For example the idea of a shadow syllabus that Tanya Huber lays out here. Living her syllabus is something you can do on your side of that unbalanced equation we call the classroom and what she calls “that strange box with chairs in it.”
Part of me wants to ‘operationalize’ the truths in this marvelous RSA Animate video by Manuel Lima. Instead you can join the discussion down this Vialogue prairie dog den.
The liquid syllabus is making the network come to life in any way possible. I want to conceptualize it as a wiki that is barebones. Yes, I have assignments in my liquid syllabus, but I also have a wide range of agency inside that assignment. If that isn’t liquid enough, then I have a Google 20% project that is a wide open channel. I suppose the point is that for a liquid to do its work it has to be contained somehow. In the end the more you can get the learner to make their own cup and fill it with the artesian well of their own soul, the more apt the syllabus becomes. I know that sucks as a conceptualization, but that is about as far as I am right now. Field reports to follow.
S: I love the fact that you are trying the google 20% idea. I actually think this would work better with my kids than my teachers. I think modeling your own 20% and meditative practice is genius. I guess I am trying to create Connected Learning in two modes – one for staff PD and one for students. Too many things in my head right now, and not enough people ready to jump in. And as you said, I will also be the “putative benevolent center of the learning hub” by default. I’m the one excited by it, needing to figure out how to light that volcanic flame in others. I keep thinking that in its initial phases of implementation, it really will be about engagement and taking a very strong leadership role in order to create buy-in, which hopefully can eventually become more distributed as the fire [hopefully] spreads. I just feel such a huge responsibility to make that happen. (So it seems my comment is far more self-centered than your post.)
T: I suppose the point is to start somewhere. That is the philosophy I have adopted from the Japanese industrial model–kaizen. In kaizen, there are three types of improvement: innovation (new ideas/processes/projects/organization), change (new elements in existing ideas/process/projects/organization), and imitation (already existing blahdiblahdiblah). Perhaps as you try to implement change with your teachers you need to provide a very simple process to execute. Then you will want to have that process be integrated into existing processes. Finally, you will want that to lead to personal and perhaps idiosyncratic innnovation. Most kaizen practitioners don’t include innovation as part of kaizen. They leave that to the technocrats, but I think that teachers need to be technocrats, aka edupunks.
Practically speaking, this might mean playing the Name Game straight from the book. Then it might mean adapting it for other purposes. Finally, it might become a memory system for learners or…who knows. Idiosyncrasy, iconoclasm, quirkiness? Whatever you want to call it, that final stage sometimes involves a profound cussedness. It must be who you are, whatever that is, and only you know who you are. Teaching is more than semi-tough, isn’t it? It is volcanic flame, putative benevolence, perhaps even intentional confusion and a bit of aikido thrown in for good measure.
S: Your Name Game is such a simple but powerful reminder that we are connecting to REAL PEOPLE. You have driven that home to me with your human compassion and willingness to connect on a human and friendship level.
T: Reciprocation and recursion backatcha. I think you speak the deepest truth here. To succeed we only need access the best humanity we are at any given moment. As if….that adverb ‘only’ is damned slippery. We are imperfectly moving toward that best humanity, two steps forward, half a step back, fall down, get back up, and so on and so forth oobiedoobiedoo. That’s why I call this weblog “Impedagogy”. Sometimes it means impolite pedagogy, sometimes imperfect, sometimes impertinent or impolitic or imperceptible or even impossible. Situational imp, that’s me. Progress ain’t always progressive.
Susan: I have added no edification to your post but I share your willingness to fail loudly.
Terry: With all due respect (and respect is due), I disagree. I stand edified, inspired and in awe of your capacity to connect. Over distance and circumstance and written language there is every opportunity to muck up, but you have not. You have made me make a greater effort. Hell, I would not have written what I have here without your prompting. Plus, that model is one that I can carry with me and that will carry me to do better as a connector and encourager and questioner. That is a gift both rare and useful. Our new t-shirt motto: Fail Loudly and Carry a Big Stick.
And now for something completely different, yet apt I think.
I Hate the Ten Best Apps Ever
I hate app posts
That ten best apps like best friends
when I see
when I look on thee
your thousand apps
to help me…
To channel my soul
through dry sand…
Take your myriad app.
They make me mad.
Instead give me queries
And real anger
1. It is a course-in-a-post.
2. She notes why we should pay attention to it, i.e. why buy it.
3. She points to connected practices and communities.
4. She guides you to info that makes the book more useful than it already is.
Well.Done. I bought Rohde’s book and am playing about even now with it. This is a good model for being a curator/teacher/learner. We don’t just put the food down where the goats can get to it, we contextualize it with the reader, audience, and learner in mind. As I begin the Connected Courses MOOC over the fall, I will try to keep in mind that my role is to connect with others in order to learn more deeply how to connect others in my own courses. Yeah, yeah,yeah it is a recursive mirror of a rabbit hole wrapped in fractal and viewed through an electron microscope backwards, but I will try any way.
Yeah, I know the image above is kinda fuzzy, but that is how feel right now. Fuzzy, indistinct. A lens desperate to focus, but failing because it isn’t designed to shoot what it is trying to shoot. Too micro, but I will try especially since I promised my web compere, Susan Watson, that I would.
My big philosophic goal this semester is to create a connected learning classroom. As far as I can discern from my own incomplete understanding of connected learning principles this means that “I” must move to “We”. I must give up my centralized, hub structure and move through a decentralized one and ultimately be one node in a distributed systems. Suffice to say, so far, I am at the abject failure portion of the narrative. I am almost as far from my goal as I can get. Of course, the system I am working within does not think that way at all. Here’s what I mean.
Take the syllabus…please . The syllabus is the classic, expert-based, top down hierarchical tool for making sure the map is laid out and that everyone gets on the bus to one destination. I am there although I am working on what Michelle Pacansky-Brock calls a liquid syllabus . They are probably anathema toward each other so there is that. I have rendered unto Caesar with my university syllabus. I hath covered my ass.
If I was to move more toward the distributed mode I would likely want to …well…I am not sure if there is an alternative to a syllabus that truly supports the distributed model that I think connected learning is. It would have to be something that encouraged disconnected nodes to begin to “fire and wire”. That would mean learner choice over projects, learners ‘wiring’ toward other, learners moving freely both inside and out of the institutional structures, learners taking the initial conditions of the course and emerging toward other nodes in the distribution grid.
I think this means that the syllabus needs to evolve from a control mechanism with system feedbacks and feed forwards (status quo syllabus) and toward a simulated ecology where there are a very few initial rules that are allowed to emerge as they will. The one area where I am doing this is the “Google 20%”-style project that I set up at the beginning of the semester. It is a call to “make”. And it can be anything so long as it has a culmination of some kind by semester’s end. It doesn’t have to be completed, it just has to manifest as some “thing”, some process, some showing.
Students hate it. At least at first they do until I model it with my own 20% version. This year mine is going to entail adoption of meditative practice and an ongoing ‘noticing” of what is happening in my life as a result—online journal, Scoop.it site, blog posts, audio, multimodal creations (PopcornMaker, Zeega). I will show them my barebones plan next Wednesday.
Other notable failures to move toward distributed, rhizomatic systems include the fact that I am still the putative benevolent center of the learning hub. I make assignments that return to me. They are one group. I lead discussion. And many more failings that are a direct result of the structures we swim through, the initial, institutional contexts–registration systems, discipline requirements, email systems…you know, the full catastrophe that is university life. (See image below.)
Interesting deviation from centralized norm, from my own fail mode? A game and a discussion. The basic premise of the my composition philosophy is the academic conversation. My central text is Cathy Birkenstein and Gerald Graff’s book, They Say/I Say. In our discussion I am moving to get students to stop looking at me when they are responding to what their classmates are saying. I want to just be the referee. I get to call penalties. In fact I should get a ref’s flag and a whistle. I did something very like that when I played the Name Game yesterday.
I play with icebreakers throughout the year especially ones that require the use of names. I mean it should be pretty obvious that one of the initial conditions needed for connection and community to emerge is that those involved should know each other’s names. If you don’t know the Name Game or its multiple variants, it is simple: you are responsible for knowing everyone’s names. The first person speaks her first name. The second person speaks the first one’s name and add his own. And so on and so forth. I act as referring and game master. If you just go around the room one at a time it is unfair to those who have to recite all the names at the end, so you switch it up. You interfere. You try to confuse. You put James next to Jamiel. You make them move randomly in the naming. You tell them to close their eyes. You have them compete, but you don’t say they can’t cheat. Mostly, I improvise as the game keeper. That worked.
Maybe there are more simple games I could play that would hinge on other important initial conditions. Maybe turn the choosing of research questions into a game. But, again, I am thinking in terms of what I can do. I need to switch to node mode. How can I be part of an equitable community or move toward that distributed network? Awareness is my struggle right now. I will continue to hail my failings. Perhaps I will learn from my fellow node-lings.
This will be my introduction to my students tomorrow.
Connecting to “customers” means attending to “customers”. And by “customers” I mean any folk you relate to and connect with. You curate for them by all means reasonable and ethical. The lesson for me in this Ars Technica post by Sam Machkovech is that whoever you are and whatever you do, you are a magnificent and unique filter for the world. Your neurons fire in ways that no one else does or can. If you are attuned to that and share that, you will be adding signal and not noise to the world.
That is exactly what this for-profit, old skool video store did. It re-tuned its signal so that it broadcast on a new, non-profit wavelength whose mission is to preserve the best of a still considerable body of work–the VHS tape. Beautiful aikido move. Just beautiful. Anybody else done anything similar to this in a school setting?
If my classroom is analogous to VHS, then what would it mean to retune that classroom’s wavelength with all its baggage? I am weighing this now especially because I have had a devilish time all summer considering how much my classroom seems to resemble more and more a well-loved but increasingly obsolete museum piece.
How can I take the ‘me’ that created the content with care and experience and transform it into something of greater value to my audience/students/customers/clients? I am my classroom, but that is the VHS of future ed unless I find a way to become a something else. I don’t want a total teacher makeover. I want to shift what I already do in a way that makes similar sense to the main point in this article. I don’t just want to just recategorize the tapes on the shelves of the Titanic Video Store. I want a different mission that drives what I already am.
Perhaps the way to do that is to view the classroom with its attendant content and affordances as a fully-functioning connection jukebox. You measure its effectiveness by how much it brings together the players in the service of both their own interests and something larger than their own self-interest.
That will be where I am headed in the fall monster of a meta-course, Connected Courses (#ccourses) this term. Tomorrow as I begin my school term I will present this connection jukebox to my new clients/customers/audience/students and we shall see what they have to say about shifting their stance a bit and recalibrating their vision of what constitutes success in a writing “classroom”. I am a zombie, but I can be cured.
IJCCI’s special issue on “Contemporary Curation: Theory and Practice” is now available on www.ijcci.net
The role of the curator, aircraft carriers as curated destinations, private, personal curation, Aboriginal curation, academic research as curation–and much more. Curation is maturing in the scholarly realm and the digital realm.
The first article is about the new role of curator and is a profound one. I feel that it has a new vocabulary that fits in with my work on connected learning: peripheral vision, polyphonic voice, and improvisation. Money quote: the curator is an agile decoder.
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I am beginning to think that, while hand-made by humanity, the enormous pulse of energy we call the Internet can be treated as a sixth sense, the feel of information in the world. If it is a ‘sense’, then perhaps we can treat this information in much the same way our senses do. In his book, Levitin tries to tease out four major ways we could and do attend to that task.
According to the reviewer, Levitin divides this attentional system into four parts:
The review also mentions that Levitin regards the key to ‘managing’ this information maelstrom is to remain calm, even Buddha-like in order to drain fear and uncertainty from the system. I know for certain that this is first step in creating any effective classroom learning environment so it makes sense to also do this in one’s own personal learning ecology. I had not consciously thought of this before. I know that in my on again, off again meditative practice (vipassana meditation) I focus on the breath as I sit. Might the same practice work in doing research? Instead of focusing on breathing, one would center on a particular question in calmness before the monitor. One’s research question? Or if you are earlier on in the research process, perhaps a topic of a few words. If you move away from that topic, then you gently bring yourself back to the center just the same as in vipassana meditation as you return to the breath.
So…I haven’t read the book, I have only read a review of the book. This post is rife speculation. Still, I am very excited by its prospects. I will grab a copy of this book. Perhaps we will run across each other via Kindle comments or the comments in this post? Wherever we find each other, we will be connecting outside ourselves just as when we read we connect within ourselves. I think this inner connecting through reading, writing, thinking is the work I need to refine and make public so that I can model it and share it with my students. They can then do what they will with it in their own inner struggle to connect.
Enjoy seeing and connecting with the video below:
Connected Links of Interest:
Need to see this movie.
Music for a funeral to see a soul off into the mystic.