An attempt to explain my experience of ‘pullulating’ (read that ‘networked’) learning….

Tap, tap tap…..*is this thing on*??? Tap, tap, tap… *testing one, two, three*…

Okay, seems my blog sits here expectantly …ready to be tuned up any time while I mostly ignore it. Here I am back again at last – because of joining in the “Awakening the Digital Imagination…Networked Faculty Seminar via Gardner Campbell at Baylor and Alan Levine at NMC. Details are published elsewhere. This post will serve as my first reflection on this experience and one of the first readings for the seminar.

To get to where I want to go in this first post, I need to back up a little to when it was my good fortune to be given the opportunity to form a new ‘instructional technology’ department on my campus as its first director – just a little over 2 short years ago. Details of what I did in higher education before that and how this appointment happened do play a part – I have been around for a LONG time! But, they are not as important as what happened to me as I began to shepherd my little area and ‘learn the ropes’ in IT after having been faculty or administrator for a long time. My (quite visionary) department head did something extraordinarily wise in my first month on the job….and that was to send me to the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) annual meeting.

That is where the sprouts started. I listened to Mike Wesch there. I listened to George Siemens there. I sat in a session with Gardner Campbell (he probably does not even know I was in the room) and got a little dose of Gardo magic as he helped our (rather large) session assemble ourselves into a circle to better enable our conversation. There were many more important moments at that conference – too numerous to recount here. One of the striking things about this whole conference experience was the extent to which this group of people treated each other as colleagues and were willing to share (heaven forbid) – well, just about everything. Ideas, suggestions, experiences, – the whole thing was wide (and gloriously) ‘open’. I heard about Twitter for the first time there.  I came home, set up an RSS reader and dived in. (Twitter cam a little later – another story).  I subscribed to blogs of all of these people and ‘followed’ them and followed trails to other people and….well….I opened up that reader headline page everyday to find more ‘personal learning’ opportunity than I  could have ever imagined possible. The links took me to people and places I would never have been able to know about before. I read blogs, I subscribed to newsfeeds, I drank it all in.  A ‘network’ began to emerge as I noticed how a lot of these folks were already connected and conversing with one another.

Now I am joining in a distributed conversation (that includes colleagues from my own institution). This conversation is a real and tangible outcome of those connections begun at ELI. Let me try to explain.

This post is about the connections/roots/networks/rhizomes (hat tip to Dave Cormier who writes about rhizomatic learning– I learned that following one such root)/sprouts/buds (or even rabbit holes ‘cause sometimes when I step back to marvel at some of the things that happen as the result of sheer serendipity (I’ve written about that before) it really is ‘curious-er’ and ‘curious-e’r…and happen without warning or advanced planning).  Yes, I really am approaching a point about the seminar readings.  My ‘nugget’ to share is from the Murray essay (p. 8-9 of the New Media Reader)….where in setting the table for us to dine on the essays in the volume she talks about a “…new idea form…the rhizome” and “…a root system that offered a metaphor of growth and connection…”(from the Deleuze and Guattari essay).  Here’s a gem from that section:  “The potato root system has no beginning, no end, and grows outward and inward at the same time. It forms a pattern familiar to computer scientists a network with discrete interconnected nodes. Here was a way out of the pullulating paralysis…” Yes, I have taken these snips a bit out of context, and I encourage reading the entire piece. What I am after is illustrating how these readings resonate with me given my experience of what Murray calls the ‘pullulating consciousness’.  I have to admit here that ‘pullulating’ is not a word I often use in conversation. I had to whip out the trusty dictionary …well online….to look it up. And POW….there it was – perfectly beautiful and elegantly expressing an idea so difficult to name with words.  Murray calls the root metaphor a gift. Indeed.

This post is growing long, but I’ll try to share just a snippet of my recent experience of being rooted in a network – that I build myself. The networked faculty seminar is an amazing example in itself.  Me connected to the first seminar iteration in spring connected to a group of colleagues here on campus now who are connecting themselves to the fall seminar because I happenstance chose Gardner’s session at ELI 2 years ago and then came home and read his blog and found Alan Levine’s 50+ Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story online when I was looking for something else and then subscribed to his blog…..You can’t make this stuff up.

Just yesterday Gardner shared a link to this article from the NYT. I followed an amazing educator Christian Long (@ChristianLong on Twitter) all year last year as he shared his wonderfully creative teaching on Twitter (I started following him because Alec Couros (@courosa followed him). Christian shared about his move to Ohio and his new endeavors and his new blog Be Playful…(his blog is in my reader). I mentioned on Twitter that the essay on Learning by Playing made me think of Christian and his work. He saw the tweet and passed it on to his network….

What I am trying to describe here – as a reality…as MY reality with the ‘pullulating consciousness’ – is how sharing begets connecting & learning begets more sharing begets more connecting & more learning. It’s the whole idea that the essence of ‘new media’ is the connecting part. Putting that into words – even one word – like pullulating – is tricky. Forgive me a rather crude and simplistic example:  It’s like way back in a past nursing life when I tried to teach little kids how to swallow pills….with words. Sometimes experience is the best teacher.

Anyway, what fun to read the visions of folks who helped to make connections and networks and all this pullulating possible!

More to come…..