Now You’re Talk’in My Language: a #rhizo16 preface | or A Case for Interest in a World of Resilience

Yet philosophies of esthetics have often set out from one factor that plays a part in the constitution of experience, and have attempted to interpret or “explain” the esthetic experience by a single element; in terms of sense, emotion, reason, of activity; imagination itself is viewed not as that which holds all other elements in solution but as a special faculty. The philosophies of esthetics are many and diverse. It is impossible to give even a resume of them in a chapter. But criticism has a clue that, if it is followed, furnishes a sure guide through the labyrinth. We can ask what element, in the formation of experience, each system has taken as central and characteristic. If we start from this point, we find that theories fall of themselves into certain types, and that the particular strand of experience that is offered reveals, when it is placed in contrast with esthetic experience itself, the weakness of the theory. For it is shown that the system in question has superimposed some preconceived idea upon experience instead of encouraging or even allowing esthetic experience to tell its own tale.

~ John Dewey, Art as Experience

Simon wants me to contribute to some kind of exquisite corpse

It is some type of preface to #rhizo16

I don’t completely “get” it because he keeps tweeting half of it in French

But then he calls me out directly

I love exquisite corpse

It is one of my favorite parlor games

He linked to a post that I did a year ago when I had this “Salon” at my home. The Salon d’Automne; not because it was held in the fall but because I fancied myself a salonnière. There were a lot of people there – more than I had expected. If you are not familiar with my theory of the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB) it is a simple equation – the more voices you add to a synchronous conversation the more you see a reduction in intimacy in that conversation. It’s a theory – I’m pretty sure someone else already thought of it but I’ve yet to find them. Because of the size of this gathering giving you glimpse of it was hard – hence the exquisite corpse from the post Simon linked to can be helpful – well maybe not so much as the written version.

I don’t really know much about these Salon things. I’m just playing with the ideas. I’m piecing together fragments of popular culture (thank you Woody Allen) and wikipedia articles. Like what is the difference between this salon, this salon, and this salon? And how does that figure into this ongoing bigger picture over history and across countries about art and subjectivity. How does that affect science and objectivity? But I’m not sure what that means – exactly. I just find it curious. Again, I’m just playing with the idea.

I don’t speak French

My grandmother spoke French… Well sort of… When she was mad she would speak French

She didn’t get mad very often

It’s not Simon’s fault that I don’t speak French

I should get off my lazy butt and learn, I suppose

But languages have always been so hard for me

I’ll never forget the Brasilan children making fun of me because I only spoke English

Kids can be cruel – that’s what they always told me anyway

I can’t really participate if I don’t speak the language but how can I speak the language if I don’t participate?

I suppose there are wars fought over such things. I have no interest in war but I wonder if interest is a kind of language? Insomuch as language affords us communication; in that communication gives us a glimpse of what the other is experiencing. And then maybe empathy. And, if it all aligns right, often through the art of conversation – that is the art of not just talking but of listening… then maybe… transmutation. 

But there is a big difference in having an interesting conversation and an uninteresting conversation. Is it wrong of me to mix the ideas of interest and interesting? I’ve been thinking about conversation a lot over the last year. Questions about who gets to talk, and who gets to be heard, and who is listening are interesting to me. My gut tells me that with interest comes passion and attachment and a deep desire to express, be heard, and to listen. And there is something transcendent about it, sometimes – if you go deep. Where the interest takes over and you care more about that thing outside yourself than you care about your own feelings. 

I can’t really participate as fully if I’m not interested but how can I be interested if I don’t participate fully?

So here is where I start to come back to #rhizo16 with it’s focus on resilience

The idea of resilience is all we have to go on right now as Dave Cormier has yet to issue any prompts

(So please understand this preface is blind… but this is the way with the exquisite corpse)

But I tend to think an interesting conversation more resilient than an uninteresting one

Though, what if you need to have a conversation? What if it were in your best interest to have that conversation?

I have no interest in war but does that mean I am excused from the conversation about war?

George Seimens recently presented some thoughts in a post on his blog that stuck out to me in this regard.

“What is our obligation as educators and as researchers to explore research interests and knowledge spaces? What is our obligation to pursue questions about unsavoury topics that we disagree with or even find unethical?”

and then later

“I’m worried that those who have the greatest passion for an equitable world and a just society are not involved in the conversations that are shaping the future of learning.”

The point I took was that those with these great passions for a just society, who should be interested, are not participating in the conversation. I think that George has found some truth in this; I’ve seen evidence of it myself. He attributes it to a lack of integrative systems/networking thinking. I agree we need folks who can see the connections – but it really is quite messy. In thinking about resilience, I have to wonder why these folks with a such a great passion for a just society can’t find inspiration to see those connections and chime in? And then, in thinking about conversation and how it is a process of talking and listening, and in thinking about language, I wonder if there is a lack of interest (or in perceived interest) between those participating and those not participating. Even if it might be in both parties best interest to hear each other out. Maybe it’s not even in the subject but in some aspect of how they are addressing one another – the language that they are using.

What responsibility does Simon have to speak in English?

What responsibility do I have to learn French?

What responsibility do we have to make things interesting for those that need to be at the table?

What responsibility do those that need to be at the table have to sit if they are not interested?

Another post that stood out to me this week was Mike Caulfield writing on the e-Literate blog about personalization where he turns the idea of personalization on it’s side. He roots a great example in a story about his daughter who is starting to make connections between indie rock music (which he is playing in the car to try to convert her) with her physics class.

“It turns out that there’s a number of principles of physics that she remembers through a complex set of associations she’s developed referencing indie rock songs.

Mike makes the point that the personalization of learning should not be tied to isolating what content a student does not know and then giving them pre-canned delivery mechanisms of that content. Rather, it has to do with thinking about who that student is so that they “could get an example that resonates more with their life and doesn’t make them feel unwelcome every time they read the textbook”. 

Again for me, this comes back to interest. Taking interest in the person. Who they are, what their story is, and how can it connect to this thing that we are trying to teach them. What is this person already interested in? How can we help them connect it to things that they don’t think they are interested in but that are in their best interest to have a say in?

Interest and Conversation 

These things are standing out to me

I see Simon talking about something in French and I pay it no mind

Then he calls me out in English and he ties it to something he knows I am interested in – exquisite corpse

So, I start to piece together these ideas that I have encountered over the last week and try to weave them together and here we are – Autumm’s blind preface to #rhizo16

If you don’t like it, blame Simon ;-P

About one year exactly after I held the Salon d’Automne, Bonnie Stewart came to town (thank you alma mater). She used Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak as a metaphor in which to tell her story. The thing that stands out to me is that in the end, again, we have these two groups – this time its those that see value in networked scholarship and those that do not who are struggling through power dynamics and the ability to advance change. 

The IMB was all over the place at this conference of 800 people but I was able to transmute it for a bit. There were no parlor games but there was conversation and art. There was a particular conversation and I’m not sure if I’m going to get this right (a drawback on non-recorded conversations) about the way that change comes about. One that was sort of ‘a given’ was research but the other was conversation… at least that was what I was calling it. I back-channeled Bonnie and asked her to confirm and she said she thought of it more as narrative; the cultural meaning flowing through media and conversation. I found this distinction between conversation and narrative to be important but also this focus on meaning to be an important piece in terms of interest. The fact that meaning exists inside of conversation and inside of media… can we use things like conversation and media to convey meaning and develop interest, to give people a shot at better resilience around unpalatable topics? Maybe. But if so I think it is going to take people with an eclectic base of knowledge that encompasses things like art and music and science and data as well as an ability to empathize with one another and make meaning of those things to relay interest in places that are not necessarily comfortable and to people who are not necessarily interested.

And I know that this post is long but I never did get around to posting that written version of the exquisite corpse from last year’s salon. This piece was composed by various people that attended the 2015 Salon d’Automne at Autumm’s house. The players had to write at least two lines and the entirety of the piece, except the last two lines, were hidden from each player.

The exquisite corpse
Shall drink the new wine
Expensive wine
Cheap wine
With a dark wing
And a baby’s smile
The bay horse moved to the fence line
Milling wheat with its canter
And proceeded to declare
Its independence from the world
“I’m free” he bayed
But wait, he thought, I
have never really been
free,  I have always been
a prisoner of my own mind.
But I walk along the ocean
and understand the universe
The motion, entropy, heat transfer
q=mc∆t. Physics is my God
Six strings buzz buzz buzz; flat
Fingers crawl up the neck; a back
beat counts off timing, by the
hands of the clock and all is silent

Image credit “Beauty” by Stanley Zimny CC BY-NC

#OLCInnovate Fishbowl: So what’s Virtually Connecting all about anyway?

This Tuesday through Friday, June 19th – 22nd, I will be attending, presenting, and Virtually Connecting at the OLC Innovate conference in New Orleans. I’m excited to take the lead on our presentation Fishbowl: So what’s Virtually Connecting all about anyway? on Thursday the 21st at 11:15 am in Oak Alley (4th floor) of the Sheraton Hotel. If you are at OLC and would like to come by it would be great to see you or if you are virtual you can view the hangout portion of the  presentation here, here, or here.

There are a bunch of us that are presenting including Maha Bali, Whitney Kilgore, Alan Levine, Rebecca Hogue, Apostolos Koutropoulos, Patrice Torcivia Prusko, and Andrea Rehn. We will have some participants that are more experienced with VConnecting including Sundi Richard and Susan Adams who both just stepped up to take on more responsibilities on the virtual side of this conference.

What the heck is a fishbowl?

Virtually Connecting is all about informal small group conversation. The struggle was to find a way to adapt what we do into a larger group formal presentation. Rebecca was the one who suggested the fishbowl exercise. In this format, circles of chairs are set up around a smaller group at the center who are having the conversation. The larger group is there to listen while the center focuses on the conversation.


Our twist will be that it will not just be a regular conversation going on in the center but a Virtually Connecting session. We will be joined by Laura Gogia and A. Micael Berman as our onsite guests to explore questions around the ethos of the OLC conference.

So how is it going to work?

I’m taking sort of a meta role on this session along with some others in our team. I’ve put together a slide deck which I will embed below and I will give a short 5min presentation/lightning talk at the beginning while the virtual and onsite buddies are getting connected.

Alan will be our virtual buddy for this session, he will be welcoming our virtual participants, waiting for us to connect onsite, and will ultimately take the VC session live on the Internet.

Whitney will be our onsite buddy and will be connecting with Alan and welcoming Laura and Michael as they arrive onsite.

As the conversation is happening Rebecca, Andrea, Patrice, and I will hang out in the audience taking pictures and quietly answering any side questions that people might have.

After about 20min or so we will open it up for Q&A on the topic or on Virtually Connecting as a movement. Audience members can come forward and jump into the recorded session or we can relay them if they don’t want to be in the livestream.

Some questions I have…

I’m really not sure if the facilitates at the Sheraton will be able to accommodate a circle. So, we may have to be more lecture style depending on the shape of the room. I hope that works out okay.

I’m hoping that Whitney can connect to the hangout on her laptop while I run the presentation from mine and that the switch to the projector (and the OLC live stream) can be seamless between them with just a cable switch when the moment comes… but I’m really not sure.

So, this session is not completely fool proof. But that is a part of what VConnecting is all about – not knowing all of the answers beforehand and not knowing exactly what you are going to say or how things are going to turn out. Of course in the case of a formal presentation we have to structure things a little more but that is such a part of who we are that it can’t go away completely.

… And of course – the why.

What is the purpose of this fishbowl session. Well, for me there are several.

There is of course that core conversation between those in the session about the spirit and culture of the conference. I’ve been watching as Laura has been doing amazing work with creating digital adventures at the conference through the PlugIN lounge. Michael brings us a conference history, as I understand, he has been a part of participating in this organization for some time – I don’t completely understand all of the iterations of this conference myself so I’ll save my questions for him for the session.

Of course we also want to explain what Virtually Connecting is and why it is so important. Why would you want to give access to those that are not present at a conference and to those that maybe have not even paid anything? Why is informal conversation important as a part of the virtual conference experience and how do you even do it? How is participating in Virtually Connecting a form of professional development?

I’m not exactly sure we will get to dive as deep on those big questions about VConnecting as I would like, with everything else that we have going on, but I do plan to touch on them a bit. At the very least we will be giving an example of what VConnecting is and how it works, we’ll have a great conversation with some really interesting people, and we’ll have some fun. It is our birthday after all 🙂

If you are at the conference we are in Oak Alley (4th floor) on Thursday the 21st at 11:15am CDT.

If you are not at the conference there are lots of opportunities to connect with Virtually Connecting. All dates and times of our session are listed on our website.

In Defense of Kindness in the Rhizome: A complex balance of many often opposing forces

“Reality is subjective, and there’s an unenlightened tendency in this culture to regard something as ‘important’ only if ‘tis sober and severe. Sure and still you’re right about your Cheerful Dum, only they’re not so much happy as lobotomized. But your Gloomy Smart are just as ridiculous. When you’re unhappy, you get to pay a lot of attention to yourself. And you get to take yourself oh so very seriously. ~ Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Lots of talk in the rhizo community these days about resilience and it seems that this will be a major theme of #rhizo16 – is that what it will be called? I think here in the U.S. we hear more talk of grit than of resilience but this, for me anyway, conjures images of John Wayne, and buck up and be a man about it, and my personal favorite “you’re too sensitive”.

They used to tell me I was too sensitive when I was younger – sometimes they still do. At one point in my youth I threatened to punch the next person that told me I was too sensitive in the nose – mind you not so that I could mindlessly hurt the person out of anger but so I could make the point that their face was too sensitive. I never did that – I was just making a point. But I did find strength in my sensitivity.

I used to think that sensitivity was synonymous with weakness and fearfulness and I fought against what I was. As I got older I realized that the opposite of sensitivity was not strength or courage but rather insensitivity and that insensitivity was a lowly trait that I should try to not associate myself with.

I think the larger conversation about grit and resilience has room for sensitivity and kindness.  I’m excited to explore it come May 10th. This seems to be a complex paradoxical subject.

Last year during #rhizo15 one of the strong points that I railed against was the idea of the immortal rhizome. Making the point that the rhizome may be hard to kill but that that does not make it immortal. I suppose even then I was exploring the rhizome as resilient. It seems to me that the rhizome is always becoming … till death, and that people are learning beings … till death. The bigger question, as an individual, is to realize what I’m becoming as I learn and to keep asking is that really what I want to be.  As a member of a rhizomatic learning community I would ask – what do we want to become?

This word “we” is also a point of concern and perhaps we are shifting from a question of “We’s and Them’s” to explore “We’s and I’s” this year. There have been calls for us to shift to an emphasis on “I” language. I’ve used the word we to explore how I felt about certain practices (I just did it to blended learning a few days ago) or even the rhizo community itself but not without disclaimer because I do this to give myself agency to explore what community or practice means to me from the inside. Here I am using we from the perspective of I, which is different than speaking for we as an I. I’m a fan of I language and I think you can be creative with it and even use we with it.

Hey that’s right I did talk about Why We Rhizo didn’t I – maybe it is time to revisit that?

It does seem that I was after a diversity in voice and perspective back then. I know I still want that. I value the voice that is counter to mine. I’ve learned from that voice. There have been times when that voice has gotten loud with me, or made fun of me, or otherwise tried to make it’s point by quashing my voice or making sure that I could watch as it quashed the voice of others that I cared about. Did I learn that way? Or did I just get beaten into submission?

What is the difference between education and indoctrination?

They are both forms of change and we will see a person become something different than they were through the process of going through either of them. What sets them apart from one another?

Could it be the role of power, teacher, leader, knowledge, right etc. If these things/people are fixed and rigid it seems that they are easily pounded into us through repetition and harsh criticism of the other. This seems like prime soil for indoctrination in my mind.

For me education is more slippery, though of course I know very well some don’t see a difference in this word from indoctrination. But as I use it, education looks at multiple views and is critical yes but not for the sake of dark sarcasm, for the sake of confusing the conversation, or miring other’s points with insignificant drabble. In my view education is at it’s heart kind and is honestly looking for truth realizing that truth flexes and changes depending on context. In my mind education is sensitive but please do not confuse this with weakness or fear.

As for our curriculum? Over the last year I have learned so much and for that I’m thankful but I will remind once more that the rhizome is not immortal but merely resilient. We are leaving a legacy, our actions have reactions, and we are becoming something. I would like to ask what are we going to become?

I hope to join you but I may be becoming something else – only time will tell. I will tell you I’m sensitive. I will tell you strive for kindness.

As I consider resilience I wonder if it starts in a very old place and with something that is so much harder than it may seem by the words on the page; in the stone; or, as the case maybe, on the screen – know yourself.

I know I want to be a part of a kind critical creative community of learners who are persistent in their exploration and sensitive to the world around them. I do hope I find that again.

Why do we do blended learning?

The following is the transcript of a short lighting talk that I just gave at work during our eLearning Showcase entitled Why do we do blended learning? Slides are at the bottom.


So, if you knew my writing at all you would know that I am fond of disclaimers and this talk is no different. Here the disclaimer has to do with my usage of the word “we” in the title of this talk – Why do WE do blended learning. What do I mean by we?

Well I do mean everyone that does blended learning.

It is impossible for me to speak for all of them. Still, I feel that I am a part of this group that does blended learning and this talk relates to not just why I do blended learning but why those that do blended learning do it. I do not, however mean to speak for specific individuals of this kind.

Some of you may know this I just completed a Master’s degree in educational technology. A part of me that misses being a part of a community of learners at the graduate level. I’m fortunate in the fact that I work in an academic environment, so I’m not completely removed from living in a community of learners. I’m also greatly blessed in the fact that I am immersed in learning communities online.

It was in the last year of my Master’s program that I really dug in and found networked learning community online. I started a blog and while I had been on twitter for many years, I started to use it for more than conference tweeting. I started to create, collaborate, connect, and network with others in my field across distance and time to discuss not just technology but the human elements of educational technology, explore community building, and create rich experiences online that are focused on how technology can support human learning. This totally renewed my love for online learning as I met colleagues from all over the world who were willing to challenge my thinking and expose me to new resources.

The main subject of this talk is why do we do blended learning, but before we go there I would like to discuss the – why of why – with you a little bit. I often get asked about the why of blended learning by various constituencies – yes here at Capital but also out in the world at other schools or at conferences and online. So I would like to explore some of them with you.

Again, I don’t want to paint with a broad brush I’m just relating some of my experience here and it is subjective. But some faculty sometimes want to know why we are spending energy on something that requires more time of them. Especially, in a small school environment where they can see their students face to face on a regular basis.

Although not as often, I have had some students question me about the need for technology in education. I once had to explain to a very annoyed young man that my office was not pushing technology onto his educational experience but rather responding to a very real world that he was going to enter upon graduation.

And finally there are some in leadership who are not so concerned about the why but rather are bedazzled by the promises of increased enrollments and revenue streams. And while I would argue, that the potential for this most certainly exists, in the same way that the potential for any GOOD program to attract more students and bring in greater revenue exists, … that this is not WHY we do blended learning.

So, there are lots of definitions around the university and out in the world about what blended learning is. And if you come to see me over in CELT I will need to get more specific and talk to you about things like percentages of direct instruction and we will try to quantify things like a reduction in seat time. But for this presentation we are simply going to talk about Blended as an umbrella term around the idea of mixing distance, online, experiences and relationally close physical, face to face, experiences. Also, realize that could include the possibilities of fully online courses paired with fully face to face courses.

In the early 2000’s people started talking about and publishing on this idea of the digital native and the digital immigrant. Suggesting that somehow those that grew up in certain calendar years were of a different breed than the rest of us. That somehow because you were younger things like socioeconomic status or race or religion or gender did not matter in terms of the way that you approached and related to technology. Besides the cultural insensitivities of this metaphor it has set us back decades in terms of setting expectations around how to learn in a networked and connected world.

In a recent article entitled Death of the Digital Native Donna Lanclos was cited as saying:

If your university philosophy is grounded in assumptions around digital natives, education and technology, you’re presupposing you don’t have to teach the students how to use tech for their education. And, furthermore, it will never be possible to teach faculty how to use that technology, either on their own behalf or for their students’. ~ Donna Lanclos

On a similar note a quote from one of our own local professors Neal Schmitt in a recent conversation hit on the same vein.

I grew up with a kitchen in my house – that does not make me a Master Chef ~ Neal Schmitt

A better metaphor is that of residents and visitors which if you do some googling you will find a lot of information on – it was actually developed by Donna Lanclos (quote from the slide before last) and David White and some others. This metaphor does not assign a person’s digital literacies to the year that they were born but rather realizes that the relationship between people and their tools is a complex and nuanced one that deserves a closer look. That some of us may be resident on say using library databases while only occasionally visiting facebook or vice versa depending on the person.

A better question is to ask where are you resident online. Because the simple truth is that there are a large number of humans living, working, and learning online and some use some tools better than others. Some of this is good and some of this not so much. Doxing is real, cyberbullying is real. But so are….

Remote Job Interviews

Online Activism

Virtual Internships



Participatory Culture

Collective Collaboration

and Open Education

We need to realize that our students are not necessarily as digitally aware as the stereotypes tell us. Bonnie Stewart in a recent blog post stated:

“Not that fears and cautions and skepticism about the logics of media and capital that drive the internet aren’t warranted. Many, many are. But the dominant narrative tends more towards essentializing the face-to-face and reducing the digital to instrumental, task-based impersonality, rather than recognizing it as a human space with all the potential – educative and destructive, both – that that implies.” ~ Bonnie Stewart

So, Why do we do blended learning?

Because we don’t take for granted that our students know how to learn online. Learning online is different from learning face to face and it takes a whole other level of literacies and practices to be successful in an online environment and students will graduate into a world that is saturated with online expectations both in public and in closed environments.

Finally, we do blended learning because online/virtual learning experiences can be really dull and boring and static and we need an iterative process of continual improvement to fight the mediocrity and reach toward a place where we are creating a distinctive online learning experience focused on the human learner and not the technology for technology’s sake.  And so it is on that note that I give you today two cases where online educators here at Capital are taking on that charge to give their students opportunities to learn how to learn online.

Image Credit: CC BY Metal kaleidoscope spinner by Patrick Hoesly

My Virtual Life: becoming a real buddy with a nod to the Velveteen Rabbit

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be virtual?

Over the last year I spent a lot of time expanding my virtual self. Now, I had a virtual self before last year but there is no denying that, for me, during #rhizo15, and then after, as I started getting more involved with Virtually Connecting, that I really started to do more and more and just Be online. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and this post is just me doing a little reflecting.

A common thread that I have sensed in the undercurrent of it all is this sense of being “Real” as in “In Real Life”. When we talk about meeting in-person vs meeting virtually we often refer to the face to face experience as “Real”, and I’m not sure I agree with that. This is not the first time I’ve thought about this. I worked through this a few months ago with some folks online and started to prefer the term “in the flesh” rather than “in real life” for my own interactions that happen face to face. One of the things that I like about life in general is the ability to work through my ideas in conjunction with others. Online allows me to extend the reach. Does it allow me more diverse voices to interact with? Jury is still out on that one. I’m thankful for the voices that are counter to my own and for the challenges that they bring. I encounter challenging voices online but I encounter them face to face too. I’m thankful for them all. Online transverses space and time better – I’ll give it that.

Over this past year I learned about and how to use a bunch of new technologies. I connected with and learned from people all over the globe. I fell in love and got my heart broken. I made a ton of new friends. I got (and continue to get) called out on some stuff that I was getting wrong… and that stung (stings) but I’m better for it. I traveled and I got to meet some of those people that I was connecting with online at #dLRN15 and #AACUgened16 and some other conferences. I have to say that it has been a pretty rich experience overall.

Did it hurt? Sometimes.

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become.

I started my journey in edtech as a non-traditional student, tech assistant in an office of academic technology at a community college. I did a lot of grunt work and I really wasn’t really sure to what end (It is not that it was not being pointed out to me just that I was greener than most). I just knew that I liked people and I liked technology and that edtech was paying attention to the mixture of the two where many other fields were just being pushed or pulled by them.

I was kind of lost for a long time and not sure what I was going to do with myself. I got another degree. I put myself out there. I landed a gig. It was in an IT department. It was at a university.

And then there is this idea of ontological design. This idea that our environment shapes us. Which seems pretty common sense and I’m not sure that we really need a fancy name like “ontological design” to describe it. But I’ve come to find affinity with fancy names and long titles just as I once had an affinity for disclaimers – I may still I’ve just decided for some reason not to use one here. But in the meantime I got another degree.

And after all of that – after all of that! I now feel kind of like a baby and that my eyes are just now starting to open. It is almost enough to give up, and I would… if it were not that I’m just beginning.

It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’

~ All quotes from: The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams

What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be real? What does it mean to be virtual? What does it mean to create something of beauty – something that might inspire others?

I’m not sure about the answers to these big questions. I’m pretty sure that no matter if we are living online or if we are living face to face that they are still important big questions that are not going anywhere anytime soon.

I started reading this book the other day that is all about how our virtual lives are stealing away our face to face lives. I’m considering exploring this in community because seems, to me, more of a problem of environment in general than a matter of “face to face vs online” or “Real vs. virtual”. But still, I think this book makes some good points about presence and focus – it just blames technology instead.

But who knows if I’ll have time. After all #rhizo16 starts on May 10th… that’s the rumor I heard anyway… you never know with those rhizomes.


I still owe Maha Bali that death post from last year… but I just can’t bring myself to write it.


Photo in the public domain in the United States taken from Wikimedia Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams


High-Tech or High-Touch? Lit Review of CIC Research Brief for PAR Project

I have started a Participatory Action Research (PAR) project around blended learning at my university. I have never facilitated a PAR project before so I may be going about it the wrong way but I have a group and we are now collectively discussing what the research questions should be and soliciting documents from one another for a lit review. As a part of this process, one of the members sent this research brief called High-Tech or High Touch put out by The Council of Independent Colleges and Universities and I’ve decided to review the document in public in the hopes of widening my understanding of it.

In many ways this report was affirming to me. I was already familiar with many of the sources; citing most of them in my MA research. Additionally, I found the lens of independent colleges and universities to be an important one as often ed tech reports are looking to give a broad overview and they leave out the specifics of the environments in which these technologies are deployed ignoring the deep cultures involved in these these deployments.

However there is something about the report that bothers me and I am not sure exactly what it is overall. I may need to blog more about this but I am hoping that I can get some feedback from others that are considering this report.

First of all the title really bothers me in that it is this either or position. Why does it have to be high-tech OR high-touch? Can’t it be both? I searched for the word connectivism in the document but it does not appear. The word connected appears but only once in the hyphenated Internet-connected to refer to the types of devices students bring to college. Networked does not appear in the report at all but network appears twice once to refer to bandwidth and another time to refer to a group of education centers for online learning. As far as I can tell there is no mention of connected learning, networked learning, or participatory culture in the brief at all. This makes me sad.

One of the things that I like about the report is that they offer definitions right of the bat by creating a glossary. Ed tech can be hard to understand because of the proliferation of buzzwords and all the different meanings. It kind of bothers me that the brief makes no mention of the ambiguity surrounding terminology the field over. I hope that by taking a closer look at the terms as laid out in the report that it will help me to dialog with the report better and perhaps help me to better understand what it is about it that is bothering me.

The first definition from the report I want to look at is MOOC:

Massive open online course (MOOC): An online course that a) has start and end dates; b) is free to students, at least for those who are not seeking a certification, and open to anyone; and c) uses social media and automated grading technologies to enroll large numbers of students. Permutations include synchronous massive online course (SMOC) and distributed open collaborative course (DOCC).

I think this is a pretty good definition. I’m not sure I agree with the actuality of start date/end date thing but I will agree that many of them do have that and even if they start early or continue afterward the dates are often there. Yep they are usually free as far as I can tell. But use of social media and and automated grading? I’ve been in some MOOCs that use those but others that do not. And the mention of permutations are important (I even have my own post on these) but why call out the SMOC and DOCC when there seem to be so many? What about SPOCs?

The second term I take beef with is Online Learning:

Online learning: Instruction that is delivered over the internet instead of in a traditional classroom. It includes delivery of course content— for example, through online video lectures or asynchronous discussion boards—as well as more interactive technologies focused on problem solving or skills practice. Basic uses of a learning management system such as posting a course syllabus and assignments for a classroom-based course are not typically considered “online learning.”

I should state that earlier in the report they state that they will use the terms online learning and online education interchangeably.  I struggle with this, however, in my mind learning and education are related but they are not the same thing. Education is a process of teaching and learning and learning is one part of the bigger picture. I think this leads to the reason why the first word in the definition of online learning is instruction. This seems off to me. To me, learning is not a form of instruction and instruction is only one form of pedagogy. I’m worried about this because I think that online learning is a specific type of learning that requires different kinds of skills, attitudes, and approaches. Online education encompasses online teaching and I’m not entirely convinced that instruction is the best approach to online teaching. (BTW count on the word “instruction” is 35).

Next comes Open Educational Resources (OER)

Open Educational Resources (OER): This term is frequently used to describe online educational content or tools that are free to end-users (who may be students) and use open copyright licenses that allow for reuse and repurposing by other instructors.

So, first of all kudos to the report for even including OER in their list of terms. OERs are by no means new but they are, at the same time, far from mainstream. Where I am left wondering is in the fact that after reading the report I don’t remember much else about OERs. Using my handy find feature I discover that here in the glossary section is the only time that this term appears. Why would you define something and then not use it? Did I miss something? My second problem with this definition of OER is that OER is defined in isolation from Open. As far as I can tell Open Education is a complex topic with a rich global history that I am still trying to understand myself. But here OERs are presented in isolation as though they are a solo thing. Am I being too harsh in this criticism?

Finally, I’m going to call out Personalized Learning:

Personalized learning involves creating an online (or offline) environment suited to the needs and preferences of an individual; for example, this could mean tailoring topics that illustrate common concepts to different student interests.

And I am not going to pull this definition out so much because I have something to say about it as much as I just wonder about it. I’m taking the Personal Learning MOOC (#NRC01PL) right now and I am wondering how this definition fits in. I saw in the discussion boards that there was some talk around a difference between personal learning and personalized learning but where does this definition fall?

I don’t want to dump on this report completely; if it is viewed as a lit review I think it is fine. My problem with it is that it seems to be hinting at more than just a collection of facts. It seems to be making a subtle judgement call about the value of online learning. I’m okay with judgement calls if the building blocks of the argument are well thought out. I’m hesitant to say that these definitions are not well thought out; perhaps that is my own reading that is off. But I am struggling with this report so I’m opening this part of my reading of it up to see if maybe others have thoughts on any of this.


Photo: Track at North Station (Shuttle platform at North Station for Atlantic Avenue trains with connecting steelwork to Lechmere viaduct; never used). Creative Commons CC-BY-SA City of Boston Archives

Presenting on #Tomereaders at #aacugened16

Here we go. I’m presenting my work developing the #Tomereaders online reading group today at the AAC&U Gen Ed conference in New Orleans. This is a part of collaboration with Laura Gogia and Jim Luke on bigger overarching theories (see below). You can check out blog posts from them about the presentation as well (Laura’s post and Jim’s post.

Here are my slides that I will present in the workshop.

We get to do a short plenary session to talk about what connects all of our projects; the intersections of open, networked, and connected spaces. The slides for the plenary can be found here:

I hope to write a wrap-up post too so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Response to High Noon Radio: Even Cowgirls get the Podcasts

It has been a few weeks since my last #Western106 post and it is true I’m not paying as much attention as I was in the beginning. But that is sort of the beauty of these kind of courses right – you can do what you want to and really concentrate on what you feel inspired by.

I caught the High Noon Radio Hour from last week and it was oh so good.  Alan Levine talking with Sandy Brown Jensen and Molly Gloss about all things Western. I’m not really sure if they were talking cowgirls so much as they were talking homesteaders but I really enjoyed hearing Molly read from one of her books The Jump-Off Creek. Very much from a feminine perspective, the story gives us a glimpse into what life for a single female frontier homesteader would be like. Molly has done her homework too – researching historical diaries of women that had lived this kind of life. It is all so fascinating.

You really should listen to the show – it is such a good one. They talk about science fiction and how that can be looked at from a western lens being that space is a new frontier being explored. It does all the bendy stuff with genera and story that I’ve been loving about this course.

But then it happened – Alan brought up the fact that I’m concentrating on Even Cowgirls Get the Blues for the course and someone said – well they just spend all their time chasing men right? Alan sheepishly says no but neither of the ladies can really answer and the conversation moves on.  So, of course I need to interject myself into the conversation. This is why I love the Internet – I can respond a week later to a conversation that I was not even a part of in real time.

I should say that I am still working my way through Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – I’m still not finished with the book. I’m consuming the story in all of the ways possible (audio book, text book and movie) and it is really interesting to see it from all of these different angles. I watched the movie over the Christmas holiday and it is pretty bad all around though it is saved by Robbins quick wit which the writers were smart to keep. In the movie the cowgirls are most definitely not chasing after men – they are chasing after each other. There are hints at some love with men but the movie glides over it and if you don’t know what you are looking for you would never catch it. The book is much different with the main character Sissy Hankshaw loving two men and only one woman – Bonanza Jellybean.

Jelly is cowgirl and Sissy is a hitchhiker who is fascinated with Indians. One of my favorite passages in the book happens the first time that Sissy and Jelly meet. Jelly tells Sissy what it means for her to be a cowgirl.

She explains about how when you are a little girl and you want to grow up to be a cowgirl and they pat you on the head and say that is nice. But they never really believe that it is something that you can actually do. Then you find out that Santa Claus is not real, then the Easter Bunny, and then when you reach a certain age… well here I’ll let Jelly tell it:

“So they let you dress up like a cowgirl and when you say ‘I’m gonna be a cowgirl when I grow up’ they laugh and say ‘ Ain’t she cute?’ Then one day they tell you ‘Look, honey, cowgirls are only play. You can’t really be one.’ And that’s when I holler, ‘Wait a minute! Hold on! Santa and the Easter Bunny, I understand; they were nice lies and I don’t blame you for them. But now you’re screwing around with my personal identity, my plans for the future.”

And Jelly is pretty clear about the type of cowgirl that she wants to be too. She draws a distinction between what she calls trick ridin’ and real cowgirls citing Tad Lucas as a real rodeo cowgirl. I’ll let her get back to telling the rest of the story though:

“But the RCA cut women off in thirty-three. Said it was too dangerous. Well it was dangerous. Tad Lucas broke nearly every bone in her body at one time or another… But the men got hurt too. They were wired together like birdcages, most of ‘em… Why is it men are allowed to do dangerous things an hurt themselves and women aren’t? I don’t know. But I do know that they outlawed cowgirls, except for trick-riders and parade queens.”

The best part of the conversation comes when Sissy suggests that there is no demand for cowgirls and Jelly explains that is not exactly true. Jelly makes it clear that The System may have no demand for cowgirls but that there is a demand all the same and that the demand comes from the hearts of little girls.

This is just one conversation in the book and one of the simpler ones in regards to the role of women. There is a lot more – many of the cowgirls have different views on this. And many more metaphors than just feminism going on in the book as a whole – I’m a particular fan of the role of time in the book but you won’t find that in the movie.

And I’m not finished with it yet so I’m hoping that I can bring some more little bits of the book to you as it may come up.

I’m grateful to Western106 for bringing this book back into my life and for opportunity to interject my voice (and the voices of Sissy and Jelly) into a conversation that I listened to almost a week after it actually happened.

Fun times indeed.

The Subjective ADDIE: an unmeasurable look at an ID standard

There is a special place in my heart for this little thing called #MOOCMOOC. Before #FutureEd or #rhizo15 I stumbled into #MOOCMOOC and it was a taste of what I would, in the next few years, start to more fully understand about cMOOCs and public discourse on the Internet in my field. It allowed me to see what it was like to have some fun and get creative with complex ideas in public.

Now the #MOOCMOOC monster is taking on instructional design! Wo! We are not playing around folks. We are pulling out all of the stops and turning all the foundations upside down. I have to respect that.

There was amazing conversation on twitter the other day that I could not seem to insert myself into except for a few likes, due to time and other concentrations, about scaffolding. It was suggested that there may be a fine line between scaffolding, molding, and imprisoning.

Rebecca Hogue and Giulia Forsythe did a great job of speaking out in defense of scaffolding and I found a tweet by Angela Brown of particular inspiration:

The thing is, I have never really identified with the term instructional designer. It is true, I’ve done this kind of work and I can check my boxes off the same as the next guy. But I don’t think that is the point of what #MOOCMOOC is trying to get at here and I’m sure it seems hard for some especially when ideas are held so closely.

So, here is the deal. I know when I work with a faculty member to create an online course I do work through a systematic process. Sometimes I call this ADDIE but I’m really mixing a bunch of stuff: yes ADDIE but also Dick and Carey, and Dee Fink, and others I have studied. But I’m also doing other stuff. Stuff that does not get as much attention and stuff that I don’t have to document and present to a committee or anything. I’ve never written it down before and this is just a first attempt so forgive me if it seems simple or silly.

One of the things that #MOOCMOOC is trying to do is turn ADDIE on its side and I figured I would try my hand at it. A bunch of folks are working in a gdoc on this but I decided to just go ahead and create my own here in a blog post. So ladies and gentlemen I give you:

The Subjective ADDIE

I see the value in paying attention to matters of efficiency and I think that great strides can be made here when used in the right areas but I also think that concentration on efficiency to an extreme can hamper our ability to be creative in a time when the same old solutions may not be working.

So, for this reason I would like to suggest that The Subjective ADDIE is the other side of the traditional ADDIE and that it might be just as important. We don’t have to report out on it and we can’t boil it down to a simple checklist but it might be just as important and we might be in jeopardy of loosing sight of it if we are too closely looking at efficient matters and not paying attention to it. Energy goes where attention flows you know.

This is my first attempt at writing it down – I’m sure it needs refinement.

A is for Analysis

Traditional measurable ADDIE will analyze by asking very specific measurable questions here. Who are the learners? What is the desired behavior? When will this course run? – let’s not get rid of these but can we do more?

The Subjective ADDIE also relies on questions to analyze this area of the model, however, they will be subjective and unmeasurable questions aimed at getting to the most important reasons for having the course in the first place. These questions will focus on creating a transformational learning experience for learners. These questions are important in constructing meaning and purpose for the course and should work toward setting the course up as a collective creative endeavor. The following are only meant as examples – you might have better ones.

  • What does this course mean to you?
  • Will this course feed learners souls?
  • Is there some aspect or assignment in this course (or that you envision for this course) that particularly tugs on your heart?
  • How will you understand your students’ point of view throughout the course?
  • Are you ready to learn from your students?

The first D is for Design

This is normally the place where we start defining measurable objectives, goals, and outcomes and aligning them to assignments, content, and structured experiences. We think about content and media and technology but we don’t create anything. We plug it all together on paper in some kind of a blueprint.

I’d like to suggest the all of this can be useful for The Subjective ADDIE – often this step will be necessary to meet the stern eyes of oversight. Let’s do that. Subversion need not always be destructive – it can be additive – this is a value proposition. I would like to suggest that it is at this point that The Subjective ADDIE will ask what are the subjectives of each of those objectives? Can we get students to think about what their subjectives are for each of those objectives? Let’s put that on paper, perhaps as an abstract poem.

The second D is for Development

In regular ADDIE this is where we move from the paper blueprint to actual course content.

All I can say for The Subjective ADDIE – go make art.

The I is for Implementation

In the old fashioned ADDIE this is where the course facilitator and learners meet. The content is delivered and the assessments are taken.

In The Subjective ADDIE – go make relationships. Listen. Inspire. Dream of what could be… together

And the final step E is for Evaluation

In the traditional ADDIE we have been doing formative evaluation of the design all along these steps but then we do this summative evaluation at the end and I guess call it a day? – I’ve never really gotten that part.

In The Subjective ADDIE – I ask you to ask yourself, did you make a difference? Was it good? Sanity note: it may not work the same way next time. Everyone is different.

And I may have just lost several of you with this post. I know it’s crazy silly talk. Feel free to return to your original programing and don’t mind me – I’ll get back to checking boxes.

What is Digital Citizenship?: recap on week 1 and announcing week 2 of #DigCiz

Last week was the first round of conversations that we kicked off about digital citizenship. I started off by presenting on digital citizenship with my colleague Jim Kerr during Martin Luther King day at Capital. It was nice to have a foundation of what Jim had done last year when he presented this topic on his own at this same event. We used the nine elements of Digital Citizenship as defined by Dr. Mike Ribble on which I think can be helpful when presenting on the concept to people that are not familiar with it. We Periscoped the session and put it on YouTube – We didn’t do a good job of staying in frame so the audio is better than the visuals.

This past week also kicked off the #DigCiz conversations which are an offshoot of #HumanMOOC by Sundi and I.

We have planned alternating forms of conversation between Twitter chats and Google Hangouts (GHO). This first round was a GHO and it was small, just Sundi, Daniel, and I but that was okay I think that made for a deeper conversation. We talked about some pretty cool stuff including:

  • What possibilities there might be for creating a digital bystander training
  • Creating journal entries reflecting on who one is as a digital citizen
  • Digital citizenry as a transformational experience
  • Digital citizenry as a chaotic concept as defined by the Cyenfin framework

We kept returning to the nine elements of digital citizenry and while I find the elements to be helpful in broaching the conversation of digital citizenship, as I start to dive deeper in my own thinking I’m having trouble with them. I’m just finding that digital citizenship is much deeper than any list of themes. In our GHO conversation we talked about how important creating digital identity is to citizenship. How can you participate if you don’t have an identity? What does it mean to have an identity and if someone does not have a well defined identity does that mean that maybe they are new to the digital world – should we take steps to welcome them? But the elements do not mention digital identity except for the element of digital law relating how stealing someone’s identity in a digital space is illegal. It seems to fit into the elements of digital communication, etiquette, and literacy but there is no mention of it.

This week we are continuing this conversation with a Twitter chat and we have changed the date/time to not conflict with the #MOOCMOOC instructional design chat. We will be tweeting on Friday, January 29th at 11pm CST/ 12pm EST using the tag #DigCiz.

The question is “Why is Digital Citizenship Important?” and I’ll do a quick stint here to answer it for myself just a bit: I think for me digital citizenship is important because no man is an island. It has to do with the idea of the public commons and working in public to the betterment of everyone. It has to do with those connections and networks that we talk about so much in learning theory and it has me wondering about informal learning and how we are learning all of the time as we connect with one another. What does it mean to share space? What does it mean to share ideas?

I know these are big romantic kind of questions/reflections… You can join the twitter chat on Friday, January 29th at 11pm CST/ 12pm EST using #DigCiz and help us explore them.