Hayfields in March

Haytime in March

Kevin and I have been to and fro today with some raw materials, words for play like legos.  Here is how it went.
First, I did a freewrite as part of a post I wrote describing a couple of tools for minimal distraction writing
Here is a raw freewrite I put in the post.

Hulk no like.  That is how I feel sometimes [image of Hulk hanging over my writing space]. I know some folks won’t read because I don’t mince my words. I am not going to brightside you unless I really feel my subject is an optimistic one. Realistically optimistic.  

But I really don’t want to be like those Silicon Valley freaks who seek to destroy for the sake of their products and to make money.  They are killing our country.

I look down at my screen and think about the bloviations of despair that have flowed from my digital bleedings and wonder if really understand how the world works.I subscribe to the belief that the biggest cynics are also the strongest idealists.  I think the cynic’s acid tongue is the direct result of gap between what they see in the world and the way it might be.  I have seen stuff work in education, but mostly I have seen it fail.  And not just in an experimental way, I have seen it fail all of its principals in so many different ways.  We keep foisting the same failures on our students. I don’t mind failing, but failing in the same ways over and over and over again. That I cannot abide. And we all know, the dude abides.

The failures are often very pedestrian. A lesson plan that sort of worked for vanguard but not the most. An experiment that sated my voyeuristic desire to see if my ideas hold water. Mostly not out and out failures. Mostly just null results.

That is the unforgiveable gap that the cynical side of me engenders every day I teach. That is the problem, isn’t it. I teach, they learn. The power dynamics are all fucked up. Students should have most of the power when it comes to learning. They can share that power even to the point of handing over some of that just like an apprentice gives power to a master, but it is their’s to hand over and their’s to revoke.

These are messy, potentially abusive relationships.  I can’t even imagine how we could make this work in an institutional setting. One on one?  Yes, I can imagine it.

I consider this freewriting above to be the ‘hayfield’, full of grass and forbs and herbs and diverse eating.
Kevin cleaned up the metes and bounds of the pasture with his Notegraphy poem.
I took the first cutting from his “poem hayfield” here.
Then I took a second cutting, what farmers of old called “the aftermath” (very interesting etymology).
And finally all that is left are ‘staubs and stubble‘ for the beasts to graze down.
Below was the original ‘field’ as ‘mapped’ using SnagIt. I started by grabbing a screenshot of Kevin’s Notegraphy poem. Then I simply cut words from that and made “First Cutting”. Next I did the same ‘cutting’ to “Aftermath” by subtracting words.  What I was left with was “Staubs and Stubble” Maybe ready to grow again?
It is haytime on the internet. Get the barn ready.
I think that this is what connected learning means. This is a little slice from a timeline extending back and forward. It has alternate timelines built in if others choose to grab this open seed. 
It is a powerful metaphor for the kind of learning I want my students to grab with both fists.  It is only possible as a world of small pieces loosely joined as Kevin and I have been over recent years. 
It is complex, messy, and not amenable to being reproduced. Not intended to be reproduced. It is a unique form all its own and that is what I strive for with my students.
Which brings me back to the original force that drove the freewrite seed to send down roots and true leaves:  the power to grow one’s own learning in one’s own way must live mostly in the learner.  Any system or institution that does not midwife and husband that growth is not worth the calling of ‘teaching’.
I am including a Hackpad version here for anyone who wants to carry on.  Just click on the link and there is an open pasture for you to do with what you will.  It has lots of stuff growing there, but you can dig in as you wish and as you will.

Nuzzel to Narro: SoundGecko Redux or How to Create a Podcast from a Newsletter Automagically

Not very long ago in a tech universe really pretty close in time, I had a handy dandy browser/app program called SoundGecko. Alas, RIP, but it appears to have been resurrected in the form of Narro and in ways that make it even more useful.

With Narro, you can turn any text from a post into voice.  My favorite voice is the UK one called “Brian”.  These bot voices have come a long way toward humanity in the last year. Brian’s voice is delightful.

I love how easy it is to convert a post. If you are into podcasts or in this case audio newsletters, then here is the link to mine on Narro.

Here is a copy of this post I created on Narro and then downloaded and added here.  Easy, so easy.

 

Schooling: A Fable of Sharks and Fish by Bertolt Brecht

If sharks were people,’ his landlady’s little daughter asked Mr. K, ‘would they be nicer to the little fish?’ ‘Of course,’ he said, ‘if sharks were people, they would have strong boxes built in the sea for little fish.
There they would put in all sorts of food, plants and little animals, too. They would see to it that the boxes always had fresh water, and they would take absolutely every sort of sanitary measure. When, for example, a little fish would injure his fin, it would be immediately bandaged so that he would not die on the sharks before his time had come.
In order that the little fish would never be sad, there would be big water parties from time to time; for happy fish taste better than sad ones. Of course, there would be schools in the big boxes as well. There the little fish would learn how to swim into the mouths of the sharks. They would need, for example, geography so that they could find the sharks, lazing around somewhere. The main subject would naturally be the moral education of the little fish. They would be taught that the grandest, most beautiful thing is for a little fish to offer himself happily, and that they must all believe in the sharks, above all when they say that they will provide for a beautiful future.
One would let the little fish know that this future is only assured when they learn obedience. They must shy away from all lowly, materialistic and Marxist inclinations, and inform the sharks immediately if any one of them betrayed such tendencies. …
If sharks were people, there would of course be art as well. There would be beautiful pictures of sharks’ teeth, all in magnificent colors, of their mouths and throats as pure playgrounds where one can tumble and play. The theatres on the bottom of the sea would offer plays showing heroic little fish swimming enthusiastically down the throats of the sharks, and the music would be so beautiful that its sounds would lead the little fish dreamily to the chapels and, filled with the most pleasant thoughts, they would stream down the sharks’ throats.
There would certainly be religion. It would teach that true life really begins in the sharks’ bellies. And if sharks were people, the little fish would stop being, as they are now, equals. Some would be given offices and be put over the others. Those a little bigger would even be allowed to eat the smaller ones. That would only be delightful for the sharks, for then they would more often have bigger crumbs to gobble up. And the most important of the little fish, those with offices, would look to the ordering of the little fish. And they would become teachers, officers, box-building engineers, etc.
In short, there could only be culture in the sea if the sharks were people.’
Bertolt Brecht: Kalendergeschichten
This parable was taken from Everett Reimer’s book School Is Dead.  I am shocked that I never ran across this book in my unschooling days.  He was a compadre to Ivan Illich. This is his take on Deschooling Society.  If you want to know more about Illich and his take on informal education drop in on infed (informal education) and browse their ‘stacks’.