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Engage or enrage, always a choice to default to connect.

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Dark January Thoughts

1 min read

Been reading Wm Burroughs again and ran across this quote:  “The pyramid of junk, one level eating the level below […] right up to the top or tops since there are many junk pyramids feeding on peoples of the world and all built on basic principles of monopoly.”   

He is talking about the hierarchy of a heroin addict's life, but it occurred to me...no, it shocked me that what he was saying applied to the hierarchies of schooling.  Not a happy January thought, but that is where I sometimes am as I relentlessly burn firewood and keep animals fed and feel the pains of growing older and  no wiser.  C'est le ________, c'est la _____________. You fill in the blanks.



Let the Futuring Begin

1 min read

TechCrunch's Joe Mathewson writes that this year is a tipping point for edtech.  Here are the trends he sees:

  1. Parents Use Technology to Complement Passions
    • Curation Will Become Crucial
      • Teachers Will Embrace, Not Outlaw, Pupils’ Mobiles
        • Expectations Will Increase
          • Cloud Will Come Into Its Own
            • Technology Will Get Embedded
            I am not sure why those who seek to pander to the tech zeitgeist insist on believing that the future is evenly distributed. Or that there is tech equity in these schools.  If anything, the rich will get richer as will the children of the rich.  Those who seek to make a living will have to serve those pools of money if they want to tread water. What will students be like when they have to use their smartphones in school for work.  Will they have wifi access?  Laughable.  None but the newest schools have the wireless infrastructure necessary for full access.  There is so much in every one of these predictions that I see as...murky.  








            Working Toward the Wedding Feast of Canaan and Less of the Buffet at CiCi's Pizza

            3 min read

            A response to Mia Zamora's call to lure the lurkers with guilt free learning repasts


            Isn't it more likely that those who lurk will need special help to engage?   is going to involve a lot of hands on hardware/software/self-hosting work. Is it more or less likely that folks will jump in late to that 'situation'?  I suppose it depends upon how you characterize the average lurker.  Are they beginners who are reluctant to show their ignorance? Are they autodidacts who enter when they want something and leave when they have gotten it?  I have always advocated the openness as a profound value, but I also see it as a bit euphemistic.  How open will this course actually be for a n00b.  I mean,  you can put the food down where the goats can get to it, call it food for all, but that doesn't mean it is really open.  So many open questions here.  Declaring it a guilt free zone is a great flourish and encouragement is one of the most important pieces of facilitation in a course like this, but access is always for the privileged.  I know this is a much larger issue, one that you didn't intend to address here, but to be open you not only need truly open initial conditions.  Not sure ours are more than very partially open.  I am really drawn to Ta-Nehisi Coates' experience with learning French.  Anyone can learn French, right?  It is totally open for anyone.  Just ...do what?  This video really brings home for me the burden of openness and of its dear friend, privilege: http://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/379544/the-joy-of-learning-french-part-deux/


            That's the complement part of my comment.  Here's the compliment part:


            -taking back 'lurking' as a positive trait, like curiosity.

            -driving fear from the digital space, thanks Saint Patrick Zamora

            -saying out loud that lurking is valued


            One more thing:  I can't prove this, but I think that lurkers are the dark matter and energy of the internet.  They make up most of the invisible mass of the Internet universe and we are only beginning to know who they are.  They are way more than the marginalized ancillaries of what we will do on .  We need to find more ways to connect to their nodes.  I think in the end that what appears to be an important and large hub, connectedcourses.net, is really another node in the larger scheme.  I think unveiling our connections to the lurkers is the future of learning.  Removing fear is only part of that equation.  Extending 'philia' in concrete ways, I would like to see more of that. And I would love to discuss further how we might go beyond putting the guilt-free buffet out as a way to transform the dark energy of the Internet.

            Working on the Clavier Project

            1 min read

            This morning I dashed off an 'invocation' to the Simon Ensor spearheaded project, Clavier.  Here is what I wrote:

                This page not left intentionally blank.  It is an invocation. Let’s work slantwise and humble as we realize that     we cannot manage complexity.  Instead we must live in it and share it and work locally with others to learn.      Otherwise we fall prey to the same hypocrisies and power relations we have always fallen prey to.  Intractable     problems arise from the past. Solutions can’t arise from there, hence the word ‘intractable’.  We need new     solutions that come from a creative field that draws us from the future-what has been called ‘feedforward’.  We     cannot deny the past, but we cannot deny that new ideas are created everyday.  We have every reason to be     hopeful--if we make a new road together by walking it.


            Any word for this?

            1 min read

            Is there any word for the sad/disappointed feeling you get when, for example,  you want to be at an online conference to learn something worth learning, but you know for sure that you will not be able to. It is depressing to know that you need to know more.  Sigh. You can't. Anger bubbling.  What is the word for this internal state of affairs?

            The Lonely Narcissism of the Disconnected Instructor

            5 min read



            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,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 the '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:  I am still the benevolent center of the learning hub.  I make assignments that return to me.  They are one group.  I lead discussion. And many more 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? 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.