To Err is Human: Listening, Forgiving and Forgetting

It t’was the MOOC before Christmas

And through the interwebs

All the creatures were stirring and…

… I actually found it kind of hard to keep up with everything but that was ok. (I know that part doesn’t rhyme – I’m not that kind of poet)

It’s not every year one gets a Graduation Solstice Birthday Christmas New Year but 2015/16 is the one for me. It’s travel time and I’m off and about staying true to my wandering nature. Along my way I’m carrying #HumanMOOC with me – no worries; it’s not so heavy. I have been paying attention and participating as I find fit and I thought I would reflect some.

First off – Wo! The participant hangout thing actually took off a little bit and that has been pretty awesome. It has me thinking about my thinking and wondering about differences in processing information synchronously vs asynchronously. For instance, the other day we had this one about digital citizenship put together by Sundi Richard and I found myself answering a question about what it means to be a good digital citizen by stating that it had to do with participation but in the same breath I somehow threw listening in as an act of participation. I could write a whole other post on this idea and of course it stands on the synchronous #HumanMOOC convo with Kate Bowles, tons of #HumanMOOC async convo on twitter and probably all the way back to my musings in #rhizo15 about lurkers, but my point is I had never really thought about it in relation to digital citizenship in that way before. That is, the idea that listening is a responsibility of being an active member of a society. But there it was, all manifesting itself as it came out of my mouth in that moment. Live on the Internet… Recorded. There is something kind of magical and terrifying about that.

In taking on a reflection here at the 3/4’s mark of #HumanMOOC a part of me wants to reflect on the competencies for weeks 1 & 2: Instructor and Social Presence, but alas I have these other pesky constructs coming out of the conversations that I have been participating in (yes some of them were only listening) that are screaming in my brain and making it hard for me to hear anything else. I might be down the rabbit hole with the questions.

Warning rhizomatic mind wanderings below

This first for me is the big question. What does it mean to be human? Can we humanize an online course if we don’t take a moment to consider this? I recognize that this is the big unanswerable philosophical question that flies in one’s face making lewd gestures and strange noises. For this reason it is often only taken on by those that bring it some air of seriousness for it is so easy to just go out drinking with it and let it get the best of you. And while I have not been known for my seriousness in these open online adventures I can’t resist it. So, please forgive this uptake of a big question by a not so serious girl who is only moderately read.

In considering what is human I have to wonder what is not human? Is it the wild? I found myself revisiting my public vs wild post from #CLMOOC due to #HumanMOOC convos. 

I’m tempted to reflect on what it means to create such a thing as good or bad or mediocre and then apply that construct to others and one’s self. Is this human? As I consider this question of what is human the phrase “to err is human” comes to mind. And this makes me wonder what it means to err. Didn’t humans create the idea of error? Maybe not, I’m not so sure that this separates the human from the wild. I suppose the wild could err if there is a pursuit that ends in failure or setback – perhaps a hunt or a gathering. But it seems to me that those kind of errors would not lend themselves to forgiveness.

To err is human; to forgive, divine

Is woman/man caught in some kind of middle here? Between wild and divine do we find human? This seems like a common enough of a thought. 

But I think I reject it. I think it might be a fraud. I think woman/man is wild as well as divine and dances in the liminal space of chaos in the universe.  So humor me with this as a foundation while I reflect a bit on how this relates to my recent thoughts inspired by #HumanMOOC.

What if to forgive was not divine? What if to forgive was just as human as to err?

We’ve had some talk these last few weeks about digital forgiveness and what that might mean. Alec Couros started this in a #HumanMOOC hangout with reflections of what it means to err in a wold that does not forget. He referenced his recent blog post where he comes to the conclusion that forgiveness may end up being the answer. I agree and I think that this is attainable because I think that forgiveness is not divine – but human. I worry that if we think of forgiveness as divine that it seems too unattainable.

Not everyone seems to agree – some would rather focus on forgetting rather than forgiving. Perhaps they think forgiveness is more than human and beyond what the human can achieve. That the only way to give someone hope would be to wipe the slate clean and erase all hints of the error. Some would even call this forgiveness.

In thinking about forgetting I can’t help but think of Socrates and how the old man warned us all those years ago on how writing stuff down would ruin our memories. Apparently there is some truth to that but I would argue the effects are not all that bad and that the benefits of writing outweigh what we have lost. Now, here we are worried that writing stuff down will ruin other people’s memories of who we used to be. Maybe the written word is ruining our history more than our memory? Or maybe it is just forcing us to rethink some things and asking us to be better people. Maybe it is doing both at the same time.

If forgiveness is something attainable by the human how do we learn to do it? Alec gives us guide points in his post such as considering context and intent. These seem helpful and clear to me but with some limitations. I wonder how many of us will take the initiative to seek out transgressions to forgive or (more likely) when encountering transgressions as they come will think to consider forgiveness as an option. The thing that seems missing (to me) in all of this is the willful act of asking for forgiveness; of realizing that a wrong has happened, recognizing the weight of that wrong, as well as who has been wronged, and genuinely asking for forgiveness.

What would it mean to request digital forgiveness? To realize a wrong, look it in the face, feel remorse, know it can’t be wiped away, yet ask for the right to go on in a particular direction? And what would that kind of forgiveness look like? It certainly sounds familiar to me. It kind of sounds like learning.

A call for more #HumanMOOC discussion groups. Or. The very human problem of access with more thoughts on the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB)

So I planned this participant led discussion inside of #HumanMOOC. In terms of process I tweeted that I wanted to do this and asked who else might be interested. With those that responded I opened a DM channel and configured a time. Then I advertised the time on the tag to see if I could get others involved.

But then I got this tweet

And it brought up such a little flurry of thoughts in my head that I had to blog about them.

My first reaction was a pretty human one… I’m not an organizer of #HumanMOOC. I can’t please everyone ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m not responsible to please everyone.

Then I thought “that was a pretty selfish reaction”.

Upon reflection I can see this process is filled with possibilities of inequality.

  1. Those that answered may have done so because they already knew me – feeling more comfortable responding to someone familiar.
  2. They had to of seen that first tweet so they would have to be paying attention in the right place at the right time.
  3. I did offer 12 Noon EST as a suggestion and it just happened to work for others but it was based on my own subjective availability.
  4. I’m more comfortable doing this because of experience with Virtually Connecting and others may not be.
  5. I’m sure there are a ton more – I am planning for the hangout to be conducted in English (cutting out everyone who does not speak English). I am going to live broadcast it and record it (cutting out a large number of those that will be uncomfortable with that for whatever reason). The list goes on and on…

These all seem to fall on limitations of access, experience, and participation… probably other things too. Yes it is true the sun does have a part to play here (or perhaps it is the old archaic beliefs that accentuate the sun’s importance) but those are hard to overcome and trying to impact that is hard with small incremental reward over long periods of time. The real question is what can we do provide more access, experience, and participation to everyone.

Because I’m of this romantic notion that the more diverse perspectives we can intersect with the better we are as (a) people.

We got the time zone thing worked out and then Maha tweeted this

Of course this is the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier that I have been talking about. I know this may have a nicer name and be fleshed out somewhere in communication theory elsewhere (please let me know where I’m looking for more info on this). But it is the basic idea that as you add more people to a discussion you loose that interpersonal connection a little more. Maha seems to be keenly aware of this. This is another barrier to group dynamics. In this case is mediated in a Google Hangout by the fact that the technology limits you to 10 participants.

And after all of this it turned out I misunderstood Maha in the very beginning. 

Because she started with my name I thought Maha was addressing me but I think she was just trying to start her own participant discussion group.

Ah Ha!! That is the answer. For more people to do what they can to bring people together. I love our #HumanMOOC way-finders as they are calling themselves (organizers, profs, teachers etc…) but they can only do so much and they have already done so much. This is our learning experience. Let’s claim it.

There are so many things that are standing in the way of us all talking to each other. The sun, the IMB, lack of experience with the technology… it goes on. But if more people tried to do these things maybe it would break down these barriers. We could offer groups in more timezones and in more languages. Maybe try different technologies other than GHO to see what limitations are going on there.

I’m more of a subjectives girl myself but check it out… I also notice that demonstrating uses of an interactive tool is a competency in the #HumanMOOC syllabus… so huh… go figure.

I say start a #HumanMOOC discussion group of your own and see where it goes.

P.S. I will say that the garden has some dangers out there so this call is not without possible downfalls. Remember the other part of Maha’s tweet where she said she wished that there was a way for people to just jump in and jump out.  The only way I know to do that is to publicly tweet the join link. I’ve done that in the past and it has been bad with someone who we had never seen before coming in cursing and talking about things that were not relevant. Not horrible … but it could be worse.

Still, it is hard for me to condemn this process. Last year I saw a tweet from Sean Micael Morris with a link to a hangout. I thought it was a view link but it turned out to be a join link. I joined though I mostly listened. This Dave guy showed up and reminded me about this rhizo thing he does. At the time I had only heard about it peripherally. I joined and participated. Yeah… that kind of made a difference.

A Paradox of Now, Efficiency, and Creativity: Initial thoughts on #HumanMOOC. Or the very human dichotomies in the nature of technology

I stumbled into #HumanMOOC. Well okay I have been hearing about it for awhile but I had not really planned to participate – so it was not like I just came upon it out of the blue. I saw this tweet that they were kicking things off with a conversation between Matt Crosslin and George Siemens. I got to meet George and Matt at #dlrn15 and find them to both be interesting guys so I tuned in.

It was a Google Hangout On-air and I was happy that it was not an opportunity to participate directly but rather an opportunity to listen.That is – they did not share a join link to the hangout but just a view link.

I had decided on a lingering late Saturday morning/early afternoon; by the time of the hangout I was still in PJs and making some brunch. I really enjoy Matt and George but I didn’t want to talk to them at that moment. I was making eggs, toast, OJ, and coffee – and then eating all of that – as they were talking. (Yes, it was 12:30pm stop judging me).  After the hangout I checked out the #HumanMOOC tag and found a lot of friends there. Many had “missed” the hangout for very human reasons such as grocery shopping and putting up a Christmas tree. Still many lamented that they had “missed” something.

I may have felt like I missed something too if I had not viewed live. Having viewed live, I didn’t think that they missed much. Not that the conversation wasn’t great but just that it was a viewing kind of experience and they recorded it so…

Now is a paradox after all. Here we are living our human lives and coming together to talk about humanizing online learning only to lament over missing some particular now.

I think it is human to crave the now that once was or the now that could be and then forget about the now of now.

Technology is also a paradox. For instance there was conversation in there about how we have not been able to give attention to things like creativity, affect, compassion, emotion, etc. because we have been too busy with our lives and being workers. And then this bit about being on the precipice of a dawning of unprecedented human creativity because we are able to offload some of that busy stuff.

I’m all for that! That sounds great! Can we do that?

The paradox comes in with how do we create that space made for those more fuzzy things? What are we offloading in those things that have been taking up so much time with our work and our lives and such… How is it, again, that we can make time for this great influx of creation? Most often it is here that I see automation in drive toward efficiency.

These efficient uses of technology all at once give technology a bad name and are touted as a way to open doors. They give a bad name in that as they mechanize things we start to wonder what those things really are and question what we are giving over – could it be our thinking, our being, ourselves – that has been mechanized? Are we just becoming robots? At same time… it is that kind of mechanized, efficient, boring, dull work that we wish to automate so that we can give room for creative passions.

It seems to me that creates a power struggle and it makes me wonder if we aren’t just slugging off the work we don’t want to do on someone/thing else? But it’s okay cause it is a machine right? I actually don’t think it is right or wrong. It is just an exchange and like all exchanges we have to weigh what we are getting and what we are losing. Maybe we gain time but we lose experience. If we can turn in the time for an even richer experience then perhaps it’s a good deal. If not then maybe we need to rethink some things.

I think I might be okay with this dualism. I know there was a lot of push back on binary ideas at #dlrn for instance with Mike Caufield’s Gardent and Stream approach. #HumanMOOC adopted these metaphors and it seems that it plays on this split between efficiency and creativity that I am seeing when we discuss the nature of technology. The stream seems rather efficient with it’s fixed pathways and anchored foundations. The garden… well oh gosh what is even in there? It is all over the place and could be anything that anyone dreams up using tools of their choosing – pretty creative.

I wonder if the efficient and creative sides of technology happen to be in a kind of symbiotic relationship where they sort of need one another?  I wonder if they are reflections of the complexities of the creatures who made those technologies? I wonder if trying to separate them is possible and if so what is the point of doing so? It may seem I’m trying to deny the dualism with such questions but it seems wrong to me to deny them or to pretend that they do not exist apart from one another. Can’t we recognize their separateness and still see the relationship between them? Without pulling them apart or denying their uniqueness. Can we accept the paradox?

How I Made the Most Out of Missing EDUCAUSE

The only thing worse than not being able to make it to a conference, that you really want to go to, is being able to make it to that conference but then having something get in the way.

Lately I’d been wondering if EDUCAUSE was the right conference for me to be attending now that I’m not in IT anymore. I’ve gotten the opportunity to attend some smaller more academically focused conferences and I’ve been wondering if maybe that is a better place for me. At one point I was the only person from my institution to go to EDUCAUSE and back then I thought it was really important because I do think that someone from an institution should go every year. However, that is no longer the case so I’ve been wondering if I’m still the right person. Still, I’ve made some good connections there over the years and I was really excited to be attending again.

I also wasn’t sure if EDUCAUSE was the right kind of conference for Virtually Connecting. I’ve been volunteering with VConnecting for a few months now and I’ve been attending EDUCAUSE for seven years and while I love them both dearly I was not sure if they were the right fit together. EDUCAUSE is so big and has such a large business presence. VConnecting is so home grown, small, down to earth. Would they work together?

Alan Levine was going to be visiting me, attending the conference, and VConnecting onsite with me. We took some time before the conference to see Columbus and I could not let him visit without showing him the Hocking Hills. When we were in the hills I could tell that something was not quite right with my health but I thought it was just an adjustment to the weather change.

On the 3hr drive to Indianapolis the weather turned bad and it was dark and stormy as we drove through the night. It was pretty scary driving and not a complete surprise that about an hour from the city we hit standstill traffic due to an accident on I70. I think we must have sat there in park for over an hour. It was tiring but we made the most of it. I was thinking I might have sung along with those classic rock tunes a little too loud though.

The next day was the first day of the conference and my voice was starting sound a little deeper than normal but I felt pretty good. The keynote was with Daniel Pink and he spoke all about how we should approach things differently in terms of rewarding creative work by allowing individuals more autonomy and ownership of goals. It was a good message but it did seem a little too easy. The virtual world was there and it was Maha Bali who started my questioning around it pointing out that not everyone has the self-efficacy to take on that ownership.

Our first VConnecting session was with Joe Murphy as virtual buddy and Bryan Alexander onsite whom I had never met before though I was a little familiar with his blog. It was an awesome conversation with reflections on the keynote, the differences between corporate training and higher education (kind of a great question for EDUCAUSE), and what Bryan learned in his session about futures envisioning. We had a few people tweeting at us who were onsite that wanted to know more about what we were doing and several of them actually showed up and listened in onsite. Pete Hoffswell (who I met last year at EDUCAUSE) ended up in the camera at one point and jumped in to say hi. Joe pointed out that we actually had physical lurkers and it was true – I’m not sure that has happened before. It was an awesome session and Bryan even gave me a fortune cookie at the end (how often do you get a fortune cookie from a futurist).

My voice was getting a little more gruff at this point but I thought for sure that I would be okay. We grabbed lunch and attended a few more sessions. At the end of the day I started feeling a little more run down but the opportunity to grab some drinks with some EDUCAUSE Review staff with Alan was too much for me to pass up. Besides I thought a hot toddy could be helpful.

Later that evening it was clear that this was not an adjustment to the weather change or something brought on by singing too loudly with the music. My voice was completely gone, my throat was sore and swollen, and all this was coupled with a headache and general malaise. Alan was scheduled to leave at 5am in the morning and he was feeling bad for me – he hinted that he could help more if I wanted. Normally, with my fierce independence, I would not ask for help in such a situation but I broke my rule, let my defenses down, and asked him if he would cover the next day’s VConnecting session and help me get back to Columbus. He said yes.

It was particularly hard for me to let the VConnecting sessions go. I had approached Kristen Eshleman and Amy Collier about being on that session back when we were all at dLRN together. I had really been looking forward to it. I had been working with virtual buddy Mandy Honeyman (whom I also met at dLRN) to get things ready for it for almost a week. We had also got several others that were at dLRN on the call including Cristi Motx and Chirs Gillard at the last minute Rebecca Hogue even joined. It was like a big dLRN reunion and it was all going on without me. I have written about how I felt that dLRN was the beginning of something that had the potential to grow larger and here it was happening right in front of me but without me. Again, we had some onsite lurkers and Tom Woodward, who I had met the day before but actually did not realize that I knew from twitter, jumped in to join the conversation. It was hard to let this session go and to step out but at this point I could not speak above a whisper so there was no way I could facilitate a conversation onsite or even participate virtually.

What I could do was view live. Even tweeting was hard because I had not purchased the hotel wifi and was watching from my phone. I did snap a few pics from my phone as a way to capture the moment without interfering with my ability to listen but listening was all I could do. I’m kind of grateful for this however because it was an amazing conversation.

As I imagined it was sort of like a dLRN reunion but it was more than that. The conversation had these strange intersections with my own life and interests. A few big take aways was the idea of the quantified self and how this whole notion of analytics is often used to quantify an individual when we might do better to try to use that information to build better teams or connect people with similar or contrasting views (there was some of this in Bryan’s session too). The other was this idea of participatory action research and how we could use this as a framework to involve campus constituencies in change. I’m not sure exactly how to do that – I’m new to PAR. But my MA research takes an action research approach and I’m quickly learning more about PAR particularly for the recommendations section.

I tuned in to the next day’s live session with virtual buddy Patrice Torcivia Prusko and Michael Berman onsite from the waiting room of the doctor’s office but could not really pay attention. So, I had to watch the recording later that day. This session was also hard for me to let go because I’ve followed Michael on Twitter for some time and had fun communicating with him in the past. We got to meet briefly at last year’s EDUCAUSE and I was looking forward to having another conversation. In the recording Michael touching on the very thing that had me wondering if EDUCAUSE was the right kind of conference for me to be attending every year bringing up questions about social politics of the conference. I still have not resolved that question but it was great to see that articulated by someone else.

In terms of my involvement with VConnecting this was a really interesting experience for me in finding value in what we do. In the past I had always put so much emphasis on the participatory nature of our work. I have referred to the live stream and to the recordings as the “television thing” in the past. It is true that this is about the least connected form of participation that VConnecting offers. However, after this experience I realize how important it is to offer this – even though I was not there either in person or virtually I was there in this other sense – I’m not sure what to call it but I do think that it is a form of participation. It is kind of lonely but I learned a lot and I hope that something can come from all of what I’ve learned from participating in this way.

Dancing with #dlrn15

Let’s get the wishes/regrets of #dlrn15 out of the way up front.

I wish the questions would have come earlier – maybe instead of the streams as topics we could have had them as questions. I wish the search for truth, or Truth as the case may be, could have been teased out just a bit more (that would’ve been a good fight). I wish there was more conversation and less presentation (to be fair there was a lot of conversation but this is the meat of it for me – more later). I wish I would have asked more questions. I wish I wasn’t so socially awkward. I wish there would have been a little more alchemy. I wish there would have been more dreaming. I wish there would have been more art, music, creative endeavors, etc. 

I have publicly stated that mostly, I wish there was more dancing. Let me try to fix that here.

Breaking down the Looping Intrapersonal Communications Barrier – Dancing with Myself in Relation to Others

A huge part of this conference was social for me. I’ve been communicating with so many of the people at this conference online for months and getting the chance to meet them in the flesh rather than on the screen was this mixture of amazing and terrifying at the same time. My own internal dialog got in the way sometimes.

It’s tricky hanging out with established community when you’re the new girl and it is one thing online and another on the ground. Especially without your supernatural time/space bending powers, when you only recently fell, and you think they like you but you’re not sure. Especially when you look so different depending on the light… Brokenhearts are guarded and reluctant. 

All that said, I think that dance went well.  I enjoyed it and I think some others did too.

Half of the people can be part right all of the time
Some of the people can be all right part of the time
But all of the people can’t be all right all of the time
I think Abraham Lincoln said that
“I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours”
I said that

~ Bob Dylan ~ World War III

Breaking Down the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier – Dancing within a cluster

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the ways that we communicate/teach/learn when we are face to face at the same time. I know somewhere in an introductory communications class I must have studied the research behind the dynamics of exchange when you start adding people to the conversation. It is back there somewhere but I can’t remember the specifics. Common sense tells us that once you start adding people the loud voices are going to win out. So we pass the mic but then I get shy again.

Presenting with the Virtually Connecting crew got me into the pre-conference dinner which was a world cafe style conversation. Small groups working to define problems then a moderator at each table staying with the problem to continue the discussion while everyone else rotated from table to table to pick the problem apart. I think this might have been my favorite part. I’m a big fan of talking to people one on one – I’ll take small group if that’s what I get – I think this is why VConnecting is an important part of virtualizing a conference for me. It is the part that virtual participants often don’t get.

In terms of session formats we break into pairs with “pair and shares” all the time and breaking out into small groups is common too. However, I’m a little board with these. I like conversation and I wonder how we can get creative with conversation and turn it on it’s side?

This dance went well but it was my first night and I ran out of steam early. So did most. We ended early and never reported out. I am still wondering what came out of those conversations that were not at my “home” table/topic.

Breaking Down the Informal Fallacy of the False Dilemma – Dancing with Ideas and Personal Struggles

The dance that took place between we’s and them’s before the conference continued for some. Somehow, I started asking questions about I’s and You’s.  I think that this reflection on scale was my big take away to tell the truth. Many were calling out false dichotomies but I never found those arguments oh so compelling. I’m not so versed in this rhetoric so forgive me here if I’m oversimplifying things.

I’m a big fan of talking about the other side of the coin but I always see that in the scope of a heavy purse. It seems silly, for me personally, to see these dichotomies in isolation – it is just a given that there are other relationships as well. For instance, I’ve been thinking a lot about self-efficacy lately but this also makes me want to look at fear because I see a relationship there. This does not mean it is the only relationship, self-efficacy is also related to internal dialog, encouragement, and past experiences but to deny the relationship with any one of these because the situation is more complex seems just as bad as getting lost in that complexity. Does calling out a false dichotomy neutralize the argument? I would say no. I would say all it does is point out that there is a bigger picture. But that seems obvious to me; there is always a bigger picture. It reminds me of those SNA graphs but with nodes representing ideas rather than people or hashtags.

Then there was all this talk on non-traditional students and it really got to me – the dance got personal. It was hard for me to not get emotional to tell the truth. Because I am non-traditional but I’m also first-generation which brings a whole other set of complications. This may be an area of further research for me – I’d like to help here. I’m specifically interested in stories and perceptions within families surrounding what it means to be educated.

Breaking down what this was for and what comes next? – Dancing with the idea of the conference

Now things are over and the reflection posts are coming in it is really interesting to me how many of them reflect on a profound experience – an emotional experience – but I am also sensing some bits of disappointment.

Personally, I don’t think that #dlrn15 was about finding answers or even asking questions. Those things were going to happen regardless. I think all those things were expectations of #dlrn15 but not what it turned out to be. I know some were wanting a big powerful, bang-up, transformational, kind of change. However, I think the power of what this conference ended up being was more subtle than all that.

In hindsight, I actually think it was more about planting a seed.

Let’s see what grows.

Final Prompt and Call for Help with Eval #tomereaders

#tomereaders 2015 Summer book reading group is coming to an end. Matt and I decided to put out our final reflection/prompt together as a dialog rather than two monologues.

The video is kind of long so I want to pull this out in the text – we need your help!!! We need to evaluate #tomereaders. Why? Well we have submitted for a poster presentation and if accepted that is something that we would like to include but also because we want to gather feedback from people about their impressions of the group.

Going back to our rhizomatic roots I wanted to kind of crowd source the creation of the evaluation. I will create the survey using some online software but I’m hoping we can collaboratively create the questions.

You can contribute to the google doc here