because #thoughtvectors

Yep. That’s me. Failing at a MOOC yet again. Did you (did anyone) notice how I started out right…then just f a d e d   a   w   a   ……???

I was in the MOOC where the term all started way back when. I didn’t finish that one either. I’ve tried again and again. I even signed up for a programming MOOCy thing with the best of intentions to learn Python. Hahahahahaha.

I pledged in my last post to stick with #thoughtvectors, and look at me now…here I am again, the abject failure at yet another MOOC. Well, not completely. But you get what I mean.

I started #thoughtvectors thinking this time would be ever so different. After all, I CARE(d) so much about this course. I respect the faculty so much. I have read the readings already…some of them more than once:

Augmenting pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WANTED to engage fully and be an encourager to the first timers. I started off so well. My little blog had not seen so much action in such a long time. What could go wrong?

Well, at the end of the course, I was on the sidelines (basically) lurking…again. I won’t try to elaborate on why. It will just amount to excuse making.

But… that’s really not the point of this post.

I want to (try to) capture some things my participation HAS brought me to – and then some other things very closely intertwingled (with the deepest respect for Ted Nelson). It is (some of) my own ‘associative trail’, if you will of my lurking and observing the course.

Thing 1:

Reading is at the heart…

It started when one of the #thoughtvectors faculty (I am so sorry I do not recall which one exactly. MANY thanks to you….whoever you are!) in the first hangout mentioned How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. I bought it. I am reading it. It is one of those things that makes me feel sad that it took me so long to look at full on: how woefully ill-prepared our students are by what should be their basic education for reading (and understanding) at the level we expect in college. (But this post is not about education failures).

Then, Alan Kay mentioned how important basic skill in reading is as a foundation to building an understanding of computing and the computer and how they work and why.

Then Ted Nelson talked about the small vocabularies he has observed and his own thinking about why that is so.

I think I am stuck on this because I intuited a long time ago that facility with words/language were tied to so much of what we deem to be ‘success’ in life. Not the least of which is educational success. You see, growing up in the deep, deep south – where language facility is not all that valued….and traveling ‘up’ to Atlanta once and being made fun of for my drawl made me resolve to eradicate as much of that ‘bad’ language from myself as I could…that signifier of ignorance. I understood at a deep level that I had to learn to be good with words and to speak better. Mostly what I know how to do now is self-taught. I won’t even start trying to chronicle the failings of my early schooling along these lines. (Remember where I grew up. Enough said). I still struggle with my own self-perception of inadequacy (cue all the imposter syndrome angst you want here) with precisely those skills because of those early humiliations. Fast forward to now when I am realizing again how important reading and writing and facility with language truly are. Thinking is highly intertwined (‘intertwingled’) with words.

More on reading: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/mariakonnikova/2014/07/being-a-better-online-reader.html?utm_source=nextdraft&utm_medium=email&mobify=0

Thing 2:

Teaching and learning as personal, reciprocal soul-making.

In my last post, I tried (briefly) to say some things about my observation and experience of ‘the personal’ in #thoughtvectors. And, about the importance of joining soul and role (HT Parker J. Palmer). This is not new territory for me. I tried to write about it some back here: http://odnett.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/game-changing-or-missing-the-boat/

Cue Mike Wesch at Pasadena College in May:

The critical importance of the teacher and presencing as a pedagogical practice is something I have been thinking about for a long time.

I have just begun to explore “Theory U” via the Presencing Institute as a framework to inform my own understanding of the importance of ‘presence’. So what? What does that have to do with #thoughtvectors? Well, I’ll note things like Gardner talking to his students from his own back yard and from within library stacks (which alas, because I procrastinated so long I cannot find now to show you how very personal and ‘present’ that makes him. REAL to his students even in their online course). And Bonnie Boaz reflecting on her experience with remaining ‘present’ in spite of great distance from her students during the session….which brings me to…

Thing 3:

The open enactment of reflective practice

All I can say is, folks at VCU are ‘living MY dream’ that we would ALL be as thoughtful and deliberate about narrating our daily practice as they were/have been. For example, go to the blog of Enoch Hale and browse around…especially note his recent writing about assessment. The narration of practice and work and thinking started before and continues after #thoughtvectors. (And to be fair, there were several others who did the same….who did and continue to do that as a matter of course. I should also note that although I have great intentions, I just don’t capture my thinking as often as I should for it to function as a narration. Here’s a small noteworthy example How to write an inquiry/research question from another #thoughtvectors section lead by Jessica Gordon. I am omitting other equally important posts by ALL of the folks involved with #thoughtvectors. Singling out just a few should in no way minimize the efforts of all of the people [including the students] who were a part of this amazing experience this summer).

The point is that we should all be paying attention to how this extends the reach. Looking for effect size?  Here it is…laid out for us all to see and learn from and with. Statistically significant? Just consider for cone moment all of the ‘new’ nodes created by virtue of this effort.…which brings me to my final thing for this post:

Thing 4:

Having the discipline to work in the open.

Yes, it takes discipline….not good intentions. You have to work at making a point to push work out into the open. Especially teaching practice…which is a thing that in the past was closed and private and shared only in the confines of one classroom. Consider for just a moment what we have all learned by the opening and sharing of #thoughtvectors? What a potent testament to the difference ‘open’ makes!

Okay, I have been tinkering with this for weeks.

I’ll apologize for the long rambling mess of thinking here. I have to get it out though…because…

Since I started this post, the formal course part of #thoughtvectors closed. A new semester started here and for all of those good folks involved. A new MOOC is being spun up by an amazing group (including some from #thoughtvectors)- Connected Courses. I’ll make absolutely no assertions/promises/statement of intentions to play along this time – as I find my own plate quite full these days. I will for sure be an informed and curious lurker at the very least. Who knows, I might even write some too.

Whew. I’m tired of myself now for taking so long to write these closing thoughts.

AWMT nuggets and noticings

As We May Think Word Cloud

I am quite certain that I am not the first person to push the text of As We May Think through a word cloud maker (in this case Wordle). I am dashing off what will be a quick post on nuggets and noticings about the essay before a stretch where I will not be able to connect to #thoughtvectors except via Twitter. In fact, boxes are sitting here in my office waiting to be filled in anticipation of a relocation from temporary space. I am procrastinating in here instead.

So, back to the word cloud. I know using them is a bit tired, but I am still curious to see what happens when texts are examined this way to look for patterns. I’ve read this essay a number of times now. I still marvel at how prescient Bush was all those years back. It was such fun to watch this shared yesterday by Christina Engelbart (How cool is it that she is participating with us, and how did I miss this until now??)

Of course, capturing associative trails that Bush describes is an important noticing from the essay. I like to read between the lines a bit. I sense a yearning on the part of Bush to make sense of the death and destruction ‘science’ had just made possible by creating tools of war efficiency. He dreams of putting them (minds) to better use. There is a glimpse of his essential humanity in there/that. I believe he was searching to rejoin the soul with the work of science. (Parker Palmer talks about living undivided:

So what does this have to do with inquiry and learning and thinking and such?
Everything, imho. His thinking was absolutely colored by his (very) human need to find new meaning for what had just happened by suggesting ways to put minds to use in different directions.

I wish I had more time.
My intent for this part was a (digital) blackout poem of the essay. Maybe later.

For a while, I’ll see you all around Twitter!

Oh, another observation about the rhythm and ‘flavor’ of the course so far: I am struck by the personal in all of it. The personal connections of the ‘official’ faculty in the bits and pieces they are creating and sharing. The personal connections in the writings and postings and sharing in Twitter and blogs. The personal connections forming between and amongst participants. I believe (firmly) that when FACULTY/TEACHERS take this much personal interest in what they are doing – their relationships with the ‘content’ (for lack of a better work), with learners and each other – the result is magnificent learning. How can it not be? If you want students to engage and learn…be yourself and share yourself. #thoughtvectors faculty and leaders are showing us how. I am saying this as a perpetual MOOC dropout. This time I think I’ll stick around.

 

On thinking, part 2

By Daniel Stockman (Flickr: Paris 2010 Day 3 – 9) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, somebody had to (use an image of Le Penseur).

Back today with just a little more on thinking and feeling – and a few observations on the early rhythm of my thoughtvectors experience so far.

Thinking about thinking over these past few days has been an interesting meta experience. (And I’ll note here that it is something we rarely ask of our students, though we should).

I have enjoyed reading the posts of others in the community. (A quick aside on that rhythm part…although I know there is the syndicated ‘All Blogs’ location on the course website I find I am connecting first with posts shared to Twitter. Perhaps that is a function of my own time constraints where I am trying to engage in fits and snatches between work tasks…too much moving around to deeply dig into all of the feeds. I hope to do that, perhaps on the weekend)). I keep seeing words like ‘messy’ and ‘flow’ and ‘uncertainty’ and such in various posts I have read so far. I especially loved Gardner’s assertion that thinking changes you…your mind…the WAY you think.  I so identify with Giulia’s recognition of an array of possibilities that emerge from thinking too paralyzing to write about. There is Laura’s poignant story of thinking-feeling-knowing. Beautiful.

I’m still thinking.

I did have another observation/thing I wonder about…about thinking. For me, my thoughts and words/language are inextricably linked. Duh. Of course they are. I think… in words-mostly. I construct thoughts…in words. But, there are other ways of ‘knowing‘…aren’t there? Like muscle memory and playing the piano. …requires thinking, few words. Or sensing the mood of my family – something I think, intuit…eventually I NAME it something….but a different way of knowing. This is a messy description…but I wonder how much my thinking and the thinking of others with greater language facility than me think differently. Or do they? How much do we construct meaning, and eventually learn and know based on words/language?

 

How does it feel when I think?


(Image is in the public domain. Source: Wikipedia entry on ‘Mind‘)

Really #thoughtvectors?
Good grief. Nothing like starting off with a really simple question to get our feet wet!   :-)

Hmmm…I’ve been ‘thinking’ really hard about this….not really wanting to be one of the first to tackle the question publicly. (I’m listening now to @scottlo even as I write this. He was brave and put his ‘thinking’ out there. I’m noting his mention of his initial giddiness giving way to fear….Same here).

The answer is (at least for me) it (thinking) feels like …well like everything.

I am always thinking as long as I am awake. Some of my thinking is sound and some is not. Some is emotionally charged. Some is quite rational. I am having ‘lofty’ thoughts and mundane every-day thoughts. Thoughts in context and out. Some thoughts are worthwhile. Some are better left ‘un-thought’. I’m thinking this is a really, really hard question.

I follow ‘associative trails’ in my head ALL THE TIME. Oh, if only I could narrate and capture those trails. In my ‘mind’s eye’ I can see things sometimes that I cannot put into words when I sit and try. I wish for ways to capture those links and trails (not unlike the authors of the essays we are readying).

This, from VB:

“All our steps in creating or absorbing material of the record proceed through one of the senses – the tactile when we touch keys, the oral when we speak or listen, the visual when we read. Is it not possible that some day the path may be established more directly?’

Ugh. I am reduced to rambling and thinking and making not much sense. Looking for an inspiration, I searched for ‘mind’s eye’ and landed on the above image. It is Rene’ Descartes’ mind/body illustration from the Wikipedia entry on ‘Mind’. (I’m not a .gif-maker. Best I can do). And now comes the imposter syndrome attack and I’m stopping here and pushing out this very much ‘in draft’ offering.

More later. Maybe.

 

A Quiet Revolution

revolution fist

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


CC Licensed (BY-NC-SA 3.0
) shared by SpartanHedgey

Way back when….I was still teaching (pediatric nursing) in my first higher ed incarnation, I regularly used a video called “A Quiet Revolution”. The video was about the (radical) and innovative reconfiguring of the built and care environment for children in healthcare environments. The point was that children would be more cooperative and convalesce and heal faster and better in places where their particular characteristics were taken into consideration. The narrative pointed to exemplar institutions where intentional design decisions were made to create environments welcoming to children. I used this idea to frame everything we talked about in the course. Because children are different.

Fast forward to now. I am struck again by what appears to be (at least from where I sit) another ‘quiet revolution’. I am talking about the understandings we should all be reaching by now about the central importance of technology to the higher education teaching & learning encounter. (I don’t really want to quibble here as I try to get these thoughts down over what the essence or name or meaning of that technology really is. More on that later).

I wonder – daily – how it is that we can still be having conversations about things like the separation of IT and academic affairs. I wonder how we cannot reach a level of egalitarian regard for one another so as to agree on a collective mission that we all share – to prepare our students for their future. I find I am still needing to interpret what I do and where I ‘live’ within a broader network and in IT– as if these ideas are new and novel. I suppose that is what has me thinking of these ideas right now as revolutionary. Here’s a Google definition:

rev-o-lu-tion
…a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it.

Yes. Preach.

The revolution I am thinking about here is the need to radically reconfigure learning environments to fully apprehend the affordance of technology (and EVERYTHING that means). Yes, “…a dramatic and wide-reaching change…” in the way teaching and learning works is needed. Thereby, we need to make intentional design decisions to create learning environments that are welcoming for our students.

And boy, are our learners/students ever different. Or are they? (Another ‘more-on-this-later disclaimer here).

To better and much more eloquently describe the revolution I am talking about, watch this:

Here’s the thing. Soooooooo many people I interact with (still) have little to no understanding of this revolution – while it is swirling around them each and every day. And sadder still – they are not interested in informing themselves and cling instead to the old order. That’s why I am thinking of the revolution as a quiet one (and you might not agree that it is quiet where you are. I am talking about my own circumstance).

Still a revolution though.

Today, as I write this I am weary of my own entreats to WAKE UP PEOPLE!!

I saved and wrote this on my office white board on January 19 a quote from this blog post by Seth Godin: GodinQuote

 

 

 

 

The trouble is that I CAN’T walk away. The revolution has not reached us here. I am trying to bring it. I am on my way to the bell tower.

That brings me to #thoughtvectors and the tantalizing opportunity offered to join the revolution on the front lines. I’m shaking the dust off the furniture covers in here. I have remained quiet and quiescent for far too long.

I have WAY more to say and share.

I am pledging here, today, June 5 – to participate fully.
I am ready.
I NEED to be a part.
I MUST use my voice more than I have been using it – like writing here in this blog.
And let me be clear. I am doing this first and mainly for me.
(Feeling quite convicted after reading Gardner’s post “Who is this for?”)

But maybe in the wonder, and thinking and messy writing I can make some sense and bring the revolution.

I am ready.
Yes, I am ready.

How to abide

a small hut in a green forest

CC licensed flickr image (BY-NC) shared by SOI Toronto Centres

One of the (many) reasons I write here so infrequently is the time it takes me to sort out what I am actually thinking enough for it to make sense when I try to compose it.

Here goes an attempt to capture a few things I have been mulling since my exploration of a domain of my won last spring. First, let me say that I went into the project (buying domain, installing the obligatory WordPress instance, editing, ‘beautifying’ the site to the best of my ability) with an open mind – and fully expecting to be smitten and fall in love at some point and at long last ‘get’ the point of why some people I deeply regard and respect think a domain of one’s own is such a big deal and an essential ingredient to the enactment of one’s digital self.

May I now point out how much editing I have done since that first flurry born of a course requirement I was completing at the time? Wanna guess? How much?

Have you seen me share it anywhere? Have I invited you to take a look?

Well, here’s how much: None, zip, nada, zero, nary a minute have I spent there.

I did not, in fact, fall in love. I cannot even begin to tell you how very NOT in love I am with the whole thing. I can’t even muster up a minimal ‘like’ for the process. (When I finish my program of study in the spring, I will probably initiate divorce proceedings for a permanent severance). Fast forward to more recent weeks….when the site has been hit by spam.

Guess what??

I don’t want to have to keep killing spam comments….does not interest me in the least. In fact, I would rather kill the site than the comments one-by-one….then I won’t be bothered with anymore craptastic emails: ‘Hey, Sandi (my name is Cindy), I totally agree what a great point you made I love your site wow how did you make it this post was just in time for me I can’t tell you how important your work is’. I know this is quite mild and mundane compared to the sort of spam some people get.  I suppose I should count my blessings. And before you tell me all the wonderful ways I can protect my site from spam, let me stop you and say: I don’t want to learn that. I have no interest whatsoever in developing that skill. I don’t want to learn it on my own. I don’t want to learn it in the open. I don’t want to learn it in a classroom….not interested. Okay?

This all brings me right back to some things I have tried to say here before about how I question the ‘one-size-domain-of-one’s-own-fits-all’ idea as a starting point for web creative expression, engagement and participation. With all due respect, I do entirely support the idea of ‘open’ and I have most certainly been the beneficiary of what is shared as a result of that ideal. I’ll be the first to admit that some of the online relationships I have been fortunate to build are some of the most meaningful of my entire professional experience (which is rather long as the years tick by). However…I think the whole ethos of open web-participation/habitation and engagement is predicated upon the assumption that individuation must happen precisely because networks (and singular nodes within them) can and do vary – immensely. So, saying that everyone ought to purchase and inhabit web real-estate as a pre-or co-requisite to ‘being’ on the web just does not ring true for me. Saying there is only one pathway to digital habitation ‘truth’ and creative expression is like saying that all artists ought to paint. We know that is not true. There are as many ways to inhabit digital space as there are people. Owning and sustaining that habitation in the form of staked out turf…is just not all there is. And guilt should not be meted out if one chooses to abide and engage in different (but certainly no less worthy) ways.

Honestly, sometimes it does feel a little dichotomous, as Lisa Lane expresses here: http://lisahistory.net/wordpress/2012/09/the-unhelpful-dichotomy/

Those who can, own a domain and populate it as their primary means of expression and participation on the web (and are the cool kids). Those who can’t (or won’t or don’t choose to) are just not (as)cool. She expresses a great deal of what I have been thinking for a long while about why some of my colleagues hesitate where digital participation is concerned. I am reminded after re-reading her thoughtful post that I live my work life quite literally immersed in all kinds of technology. Many (most) of my colleagues do not…and do not want to.  And for good reason. They are part of that ‘cautious majority’ Lisa talks about.

Which brings me to a final point I want to try to make: I would like to see more patience, acknowledgement of and tolerance for variation. I would like to see more encouragement of exploration – even tentative. Don’t want to buy/own/sustain your own domain? Fine. Find your own method of creation, expression, participation, habitation…and be welcome while you do. Not a fan of blogging? Fine again. Join in conversations in spaces and ways that feel right to and for you. Just can’t get Twitter? Okay. Where CAN you digitally connect? May I show you a few things that work for me…and you feel free to try what might be interesting to you.

I am going to stop here. I am feeling this growing into another post about the digital abide. I need to let that simmer a little more. If you made it to the end here, I’d love for you to share your thoughts with me.

A domain of my own – Part 3 – ‘…here there be dragons’ or how do we make sure everyone knows a dragon slayer??

sandcastle dragon consuming a person with a shovel

CC Licensed flickr image (BY) shared by user topgold

I stink at blogging. My later spring semester was CRAZY busy with a swirl of major grant-writing (we won’t know the result of which until the fall), a visit from our accrediting body, taking a course, teaching a course…One big writing thing ended and another began. I am just now coming up for air. What is below is/was another in my post series on my domain adventure. I still want to get these thoughts down….so am posting this albeit late.

Okay, I know that quote (in the title) is a stretch…but I am referring to the notes at the margins of the old world maps where the ‘known world’ ended…and that is precisely where I have been with moving along my site development. (Don’t worry kids, I know some dragon slayers so all is not lost! More on that later…)  ;-)

What has happened since we last chatted? Well, let’s see. I have a fresh new WordPress install as the overlay to my site. I am building in there (as I mentioned in my last post). I struggled some with naming conventions and file paths and such (and I am certain I have made mistakes in this part already-but learning by making mistakes is a good thing). The WordPress part has been – well – okay, I’ll admit it, even good fun. I lost track of time experimenting with various themes I might select and install that say ‘me’. I have built-out my page structure for the site I need at least for now. And…yes, I am understanding that if I had done this (managed my own doman and all) – from the beginning – (…choose any beginning here: beginning of my work in IT, beginning of my latest ed tech related grad work, at the beginning of DS106 last year….) the task would not be quite so unnerving now. Which brings me to the primary theme for this post:

Part of the whole reason I am trying to capture my swirl of thoughts about this as I go…is that I think  there is something MUCH MORE IMPORTANT at the heart of a personal cyberinfrastructure than the domain of one’s own part (first time writing/saying this outloud, but I have had this ‘gut’ level feeling about it for a while…). There. I’ve said it. (And I must preface what I am about to ATTEMPT to write with the very clear and explicit acknowledgement that this is still an epiphany-in-progress. Read it as such). So, …right now today, I don’t think that a PCI is the only pathway to that central essence.

Now that I got that off my chest, let me attempt to explain. I want to point to some especially relevant excerpts from Gardner (Campbell)’s essay (A Personal Cyberinfrastructure) that get to some of what I am thinking. Here’s the first nugget:

“Fascinating and important innovations would emerge as students are able to shape their own cognition, learning, expression, and reflection in a digital age, in a digital medium. Student’s would frame, curate, share, and direct their own ‘engagement streams’ throughout the learning environment…students would …develop the tools for even richer and more effective metacognition…” (my emphasis added).

True all of that….but especially the part about students shaping their OWN cognition and learning…..So here’s where I (think I) differ about a personal cyberinfrastructure. I believe there are MANY ways to nurture that personal shaping of learning… and to support it. Of course, encouraging curation through a personal domain is ONE way, but I am not convinced that it is THE (one and only true) way. Mike Wesch put it this way in the comment stream on the Chronicle piece about him back in February (A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working):

 “My main point is that participatory teaching methods simply will not work if they do not begin with a deep bond between teacher and student. Importantly, this bond must be built through mutual respect, care, and an ongoing effort to know and understand one another.

Still with me? So, I believe the most important element in distilling down teaching and learning  to the most atomic is the resides in the relationship-that ‘deep bond’. Maybe the nexus that allows for the expression of this bond is around the co-creation  and understanding of cyber-artifacts. But that can’t always and won’t always be the only way the bond can be made evident. I tried to explain this in a post I wrote last spring. I am convinced of it now more than ever. At the heart of the cyberinfrastructure is the connection it is likely to engender. The conception of that connection is that teacher student deep bond. Okay, enough on that. I have to let this ‘sit’ now that I am trying to actually write it. One more thing about the PCI:

I still work with and encounter people every day – faculty AND students – who have no idea about the kind of learning possible through the ‘networks’ many of us (in ed tech) live in and take for granted. Some are even fearful of it. I am here trying the PCI to see where it might take me. I want to experience it …fully (and I have way far to go before I can say I am there)…to see if my theories about the deep bonds are correct. That’s where the dragon-slayers come in. I can tell you that without Tim Owens at  Hippie Hosting, I would have abandoned this whole thing pretty early on-because of the dragons.

IF PCIs are to work, learners need support.
(Gardner says that here:

“To provide students the guidance they need to reach these goals, faculty and staff must be willing to lead by example — to demonstrate and discuss, as fellow learners, how they have created and connected their own personal cyberinfrastructures.”

and here:

“Those of us who work with students must guide them to build their own personal cyberinfrastructures”

Here’s that bond thing again – learners need SOMEONE to help them along the way. Everyone will need their own dragon slayer. They will need some way to construct at least a beginning understanding. Some learners will be able to assume responsibility for this after just a little help. They will ‘get’ that curation thing and run with it. Others will require much longer and more support.  Now, do Tim and I have a deep bond?  Not exactly…except the one that you get when you live ‘in the network’ and you become known around by/with/amongst others of like mind. The ‘bond’ is with the network and because we are both part of it – slightly different nodes, for sure – we ARE  ‘bonded’.

I am not even sure any of this makes any sense to anyone other than me….but there, I have TRIED to write it. And here’s what my site looks like right now: http://cindyjennings.net/udl/