Let Me Introduce Myself: From Pasture to Post, Tacit Knowing All the Way Down

I have been thinking about learning spaces.  Digital ones like #CLMOOC and analog ones like my pasture.  There is tacit knowledge in both, but for me the pasture is much more akin to what London cabbies call “the knowledge” than any of my digital spaces.

The collage above is an attempt to introduce you to some, but nowhere near all, of the tacit knowledge that my pastures represent.  Or as Michael Polanyi writes, “We can know more than we can tell.”

I keep hearing from #CLMOOC veterans about how difficult it is to describe what this connect learning thing is.  Perhaps it is because of this idea of tacit knowledge.  I think our attempts to explain #CLMOOC is fraught with natural blindspots not the least of which is that something is lost when it is codified.

For instance, I have been and continue to try to codify some of what it means to be a facilitator on a MOOC.  For the last couple of months I have been sifting through  two years of the #CLMOOC GooglePlus Community for examples and non-examples of facilitator behavior.  I have created a checklist with examples (incomplete). I have created case studies for facilitators to explore.  I am codifying facilitator behavior.

I should probably be having the same kinds of embodied cognitions for #CLMOOC as I am having for my pastures.  In some ways I do. I rebel against the checklist even though I use checklists in the field when I observe my flock. I should feel that my attempts to explain facilitator knowledge are not complete. This digital imcompleteness feels much the same as my Thinglink introduction above feels almost bogusly empty.

But there is weight and depth of knowing on my farm that is in no way comparable with the weight and depth of my online knowings.  Why is that?  Is it just length of experience or is this something very different in our bodies that will always be there.  Perhaps digital knowledge will always be as shallow as physical knowledge is deep. But that bothers me.  It seems to me that tacit knowledge is tacit knowledge.  Both digital and physical live in the mind and they are both the products of experience.

So I introduce myself. I am the product of time and practice in several worlds.  I feel alive in both just more alive in my pasture than in my post.  Yet I use digital to share my tacit knowing and that always feels good.  I invite you to share your thoughts on this after you look and listen to the thinglink above. That, too, always feels good.


  1. // Reply

    Love this Terry. I keep trying to explain CLMOOC…and why folks might want to dip a toe in. And each time, it feels incomplete, shallow… and while there is fun in CLMOOC and the making, there is so much more there and much that I have trouble putting words to. (And I’m going to have to find some more time to really explore the thinglink of the pasture. I could probably do one of the beach where I do all my walking!) Phew! So much more to think about and learn.


  2. // Reply

    I would love to read more about your tacit beach knowledge! Then we can figure out where it overlaps pasture knowledge. I bet they do.

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    It’s funny how reading about the nettles and the ticks gave me a better idea of who you are. Does that understanding reside in the information itself? No. It’s part of your environment and I’m filling in gaps while you’re informing me about the ticks and the nettles I’m imagining you paying the kids, mowing down the nettles, evading ticks. I’m connecting to my own experience with ticks in Australian forests picking mushrooms, and remembering how anxious my father was about the ticks he got, and wondering whether it had to do with his hydatid cysts (which finally caused his death). The collection of information about you here is like a Pointillist landscape which I pick from or, actually, you pick for.

  4. // Reply

    Thanks for pointing me here from my post. I replied there https://explorationsinlearning.wordpress.com/2015/06/28/conversation-spaces-for-deep-learning/comment-page-1/#comment-525, but thought it relevant as a response to your post here too:

    when I read this I got the sense that there is an intersection between what I am trying to articulate here about the types of conversations / spaces that facilitate a certain type of learning and knowing what you are trying to articulate in explaining the depth of knowing in your physical vs digital space, as well as the experience of connected learning. It seems there is something indefinable but clearly present, and clearly FELT at an emotional level in experiences, learning and knowledge that is complex and profound. I think your quote from Michael Polyani “we can know more than we can tell” is appropriate – we can know more than we can explain – and the entirety of a subjective, sensory experience can only ever be ‘known’ I think through direct experience. There is an element (probably quite a large element) of experience and subjectivity embedded in tacit knowledge which is probably the reason why it is so difficult to ‘teach’ or codify in its entirety. (Not to mention the filter of it goes through when someone else interprets / reinterprets your codified knowledge..). The apparent difference between physical and digital experiences / knowledge? Still contemplating that one…I’m also not entirely sure why, but often it feels like there is a qualitative difference.

    I really love how you have tried to incorporate elements of your experience in your farm thinglink above. But equally can see how, to you, it barely scratches the surface of your subjective experience ON the farm. I don’t think we can begin to truly understand unless we were to spend some time with you on the farm itself. Video might perhaps provide more immediacy than just imagery, text or audio but still doesn’t give insight into what it feels like, how hard the work is, and the other joys and challenges you face.

    1. // Reply

      I think the problem for me is that I am not good at carrying over my experience in words or other media and that is combined with a an incapacity in most readers to shift gears, wonder, wander, turn over digital rocks, respond, annotate and otherwise slow down enough to make sense of what someone else has to say. They are quite unlike you, who took the time to do that. I hope you are continuing to think about this. I am very grateful if tardy.

  5. // Reply

    Thanks for a wonderful introduction, Terry. I share your sentiments. From my point of view, the more a teacher empowers the learner, the less important we feel. Fortunately, the opposite is true, and I love your farming metaphor. The field will grow on its own, but will it mean anything? Is it of any use if it isn’t tended and nurtured?

    I shared this post in my post, CLMOOC Unmake: Unintroducing inquiry learning (http://ideasymphony.blogspot.jp/2015/07/clmooc-unmake-unintroducing-inquiry.html).

    1. // Reply

      I am wandering about in your field even now, turning over rocks, exclaiming, putting the rock back and always moving about.

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