#codesign16 #ngdle: a response with pauses and concerns

So, JISC is asking for those of us in the field of edtech to envision what the next digital learning environment will look like.

I don’t usually respond to these kind of things. I’m always cautious about futures, I love to imagine but I also know the power of giving voice to things and I feel a huge responsibility in such projections. Ripples, ya know? But maybe it is time to dive in – encountering many things that are influencing my thinking around this kind of thing in just the last few weeks.

Word Concerns

I’m having concerns about the word “connection” lately (just the last few days) and it is very strange for me because this is a word I have felt very drawn to in the past. My concern is that in just the last few days it has begun to feel too clean. Too neutral. Too much like a pipe or a line simply linking two things together. This presents as a problem as I’m considering the next generation digital learning environment. It comes as a problem because I’m considering the connection between humans and systems and it feels anything but clean and neutral.

Humans use systems – we hear this all the time and even call humans “users” when referring to their connection to the system. I wonder if we should ask how systems use humans…. How are humans part system themselves… How is the system a part of the humans… and dare I ask… how human is the system?

Could we start by thinking about and looking at the relationship we have to the digital learning environments that we currently have. Not the environments, mind you, but the relationships. Oh wait. There. Relationship. Perhaps that is the word I’ve been looking for – relationships are messy.


I’ve been thinking about digital citizenship a lot lately. Making plans and putting out content around the subject. Asking people to talk to me about this. Poking and prodding. Cause I want to discover. I’m not sure anyone has really figured this out and I want to talk to other people that want to discover with me. I use public social networks which are public in the sense that anyone can see. I also use ones where I control, a little more, who sees what. I also pay money to have my “own” spaces. I learn this way and it is in the public. I have dreams of teaching students how to do this for themselves.

So what will the next generation learning environment do for me, my students, and others? I gotta ask – what is the relationship of this system to the public systems? Is it a public system itself with a secure backchannel? If it is not in itself a public system then how does it relate to the public social networks that are used as learning systems? Maybe it is not a system but rather systemS. Maybe it is a way of creating relationships between already established formal and informal learning systems. Maybe we think of public systems in which we learn as a part of the next generation learning system. In that case where is our voice in those systems? To influence their direction in terms of hard interface changes. Is a petition for a voice in such changes a part of the system’s development?

Creepy Concerns

The final two questions from JISC in this call give me particular pause.

With the prevalence of analytics in education, can data be used to create a learning environment that is more responsive to student and staff needs?

Can the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) type tools enhance learning environments?

As I write this I’m attending #OpenEd16 and on my way I was able to attend the panel discussion at University of Mary Washington surrounding ethics in online learning. Prior to the event they posted this article from 2013 about failures in online learning and noted the lack of liminal spaces in online environments. Environments that encourage acausal experiences. The article points out that in a physical campus environment these are often the library, a bit of nature outside, or in the coffee shop. It goes on to say:

How can we facilitate the interdisciplinary dialogues that bring a campus to life? What spaces can we build online that aren’t quantified, tracked, scored, graded, assessed, and accredited?

This kind of environment seems important and seems to have been missing for so long in the formal learning systems that we have had in the past. So when I see these questions about analytics in relation to the question of what the next gen learning system will do for me and my students – yes pause. Learning would be happening there and I’m sure we are gonna want to show that to justify the system. But wouldn’t it be kind of creepy if we were tracking that. In a physical environment this would be like the teacher following you to the coffee shop and listening in on your informal conversations. So yeah, I pause.

And in that pause something comes to me (nod to Gardner Campbell’s keynote from #OpenEd16 for recognition of the pause). Maybe the next generation learning system has some tracked spaces and some free spaces. Perhaps this is facilitated by a kind of radical transparency in the data that is being tacked and not being tracked with a heavy point directed at the student having complete ownership over their data. Now we are teaching students what it looks like to be tracked. They can see what is being tracked, they can export their own data and look at it in a variety of ways. They can imagine how other systems might be tracking them in less transparent ways. And there is a safe space where there is no tracking happening – but I suppose that will require something more complex to build – trust.

Call for Participation and Introducing #fyschat


George Station and I are both teaching first year seminars (fys) this term and we have been considering ways to collaborate. My class is called “digital citizenship” and his is “technology and society” but we are both asking questions about the role that connected and networked technology is playing in our various worlds and in education.

Teaching first year seminar is interesting for me (this is my first time) as I am tasked with mixing the conversation that I want to have (digital citizenship) with the questions around fys like what it means to be an educated person, what is the difference between college and high school, and how can students start to learn about how they learn.

In trying to converge those two conversations George and I have been collaborating on a shared project between our two classes and we wanted to open it up to anyone else that might be interested in the practice of digital citizenship, technology and society, or in the experience of being a first year college student.

It all starts the week of October 17th when we will ask students to collaboratively annotate this Washington Post article about about why some students succeed in college while others don’t do so well. We will be using hypothesis so that all of the students can see and respond to each other’s annotations all week long.

Then, on October 25th we will all gather on twitter using the hashtag #fyschat for an all day twitter chat about the article, what it means to be a first year student, maybe what it was like to participate together using hypothesis…

If you are a first year college student, or if you are interested in the experience of first year students, I do hope that you will consider joining us for all or part of #fyschat in just a few weeks.

Would You Like a Receipt with That? Could read receipts be making us lazy empathizers?

A few months ago I asked some folks that I would backchannel regularly with on Facebook if we could move to another platform. I like Facebook but I found that I was spending too much time there. Someone would message me and often I would retrieve the message using my computer rather than my phone and that meant going to Facebook. The little window with the message was a tiny portion of the rest of the screen which was filled with updates from my friends, family, and colleagues and I was just no match for it. While messaging I would inevitably start to scroll the stream and even after the messaging stopped I was scrolling along. So I asked some people that I messaged with there regularly if they wouldn’t mind moving to another platform and for the most part it was not a problem. But then the other day I was just thinking how nice Twitter DMs were because there was no “read receipt” and no typing indicator – when bam Twitter announced both of those.

It is not that I am against read receipts or typing indicators, I use both in other platforms, it is just that I was kind of liking not having them in Twitter. It was nice to have one place that did not have them in juxtaposition to all those that do. I was just considering some of the benefits of not having these before it got turned into a new feature so I thought I would reflect some here.

For one, read receipts are misleading; you don’t actually know if the person read your message. What you do know is that the app registered that it was opened  as a new message came through. However, it could be that the person left the app open with your message thread active, but has since walked away from their phone or computer. It could be that the person clicked on the message thread but chose to not read it because they got distracted by something else, or maybe because the thread was rather long and they didn’t have time. Of course with some companies using eye tracking software to make apps that remind us to blink while looking at screens (yeah I’m not going to link to those you are going to have to google that for yourself) I suppose you could get closer to a real read receipt but that is super creepy. It also then begs the question of what it means to “read” something. Can I get an “understood” receipt? How about a “read but was slightly confused due to cultural context” receipt? Oo Oo, how about a “had to rethink multiple world views” receipt?

The other thing is that bugs me about read receipts and typing indicators is that they feed into an always-on mindset. I collaborate with several colleagues all over the world so I can’t talk about how one should block out a particular time of day for not being on the internet – the sun will not allow me that nor would it of anyone working on a global context. Maybe this is why I am more sensitive to these micro-moments like when you see that typing indicator pop up and you are waiting for the person to finish and hit send. Often, I’m thinking as I’m typing and sometimes I even need to delete the message once I’m finished because I can see that it is not right once I compose it. What a let down to someone who has been watching those three bouncing dots for several moments to just watch them go away with no message. Would it be better for me to send a message that I was not happy with just because I think the other person(s) are expecting something? Wouldn’t that lead to worse communications? I thought the point of communication technology was to help us communicate better.

I keep read receipts on for several technologies but I have turned it off on Twitter DM’s for now. They did make me turn them off which is a little annoying. Why can’t new features be opt-in rather than opt-out? Or make it opt-out for new users but let current users keep using the system in the way in which they are accustomed – at least for a little while. There is no option to turn off typing indicators so I guess I will have to live with those.

My point in writing this post is to remind that our lives are hybrid and that our digital interactions often do not allow us to know what is going on with the person on the other side of the screen at any given moment and that I think that is okay. I think that we should use things like language, empathy, and hospitality to reach out to one another when we want to know about each other. In some situations maybe we just need to give some time for the other person to respond. We can’t let on/off switches stop us from connecting with one another. If you are wondering why a person has not responded to you, maybe just ask. People are complex creatures and I don’t think we should rely on a read receipt as an indication of how another person is interacting with us. They could be tired, dealing with other work, in a bad mood, paying attention to family, dealing with social anxieties, or any number of other realities. I’ve been a big proponent of stating that online is real too, but we must realize that when in a world that shifts so readily between synchronous and asynchronous that there is a ton that we cannot see, hear, feel… experience. There is so much that might be going on with a person on the other side of the screen and a little blue check is not going to really give us much insight into their lives.

#MyDigCiz as Critical Experimentation in Opposition to Best Practice: Self-Reflection After #DigPed PEI or why I thought you might care about my soup

It was 2007, I was just finishing up my BS degree in communication technology when I received a google alert on my name one day. Honestly, I had felt a little vain when I set it up but I saw how this could be helpful especially considering the uniqueness of my name.

Someone had written a blog post and mentioned me!

I didn’t have a blog and really didn’t know any bloggers so this seemed really strange. I discovered that the post was about Twitter as a tool and explored how people were using it. I was on Twitter. My supervisor at the time had said that it was something that I should check out and so I created an account and started tinkering with it a few months prior.

The blog post was a rant about the best ways that people were using twitter and comparing how they should not use twitter. Two accounts were highlighted and an example was made out of them – your’s truly was the prime example of how to NOT use twitter.

I remember being pretty mortified, I think I killed my account for awhile, I think I changed my name when I eventually reactivated it. After some time I finally got a little mad. I mean I was a student. I was new to this online platform and so was everyone else; it had only been around for a little over a year. The whole thing was a big experiment as far as I was concerned. So I tweeted some boring stuff. There are worse things in the world. I ended up tweeting a link to the offending post stating “I guess no one cares about my soup”.

I’d like to think that I’ve come a long way in my use of twitter. But I still use experimentation in dealing with new tools and I’m sure that I’m not using tools as intended at any given time depending the context. But I don’t think that I should stop doing that. I may look silly sometimes and I may come off the wrong way but I learn a lot in doing it and then I write posts like this one sharing what I’ve learned… and…  I think that is valuable. I’m not just experimenting in a vacuum. I am thinking about context, I am thinking about different vantage points, and I am thinking about how my uses impact others. But I am experimenting.

Still, I’m prone to getting sucked in by that voice of authority stating the right way to use tools. It is a strange dichotomy. This post is largely about me trying to work that out.

Right now there are a ton of things converging and diverging in my world. I’m just back from the #DigPed PEI conference where I took the digital literacies track but it is also the last two weeks of #DigCiz and Maha Bali has charged us all to define what digital citizenship looks like for us and on whose terms are we encouraging it using the tag #MyDigCiz. These two things together have me taking a hard look at what I am doing and questioning some of my practices in terms of being a person in the flesh and on the internet. I’m realizing that #MyDigCiz has a lot to do with critical self-reflection and continually trying to understand connections. At the same time I’m realizing that experiments are risky and not just to myself but to others.

I mean I am luckier than most. I have a self-reflective nature and a community of scholars that help me to build digital literacies and consider multiple contexts regularly; it’s called Virtually Connecting. As a community we are in almost constant dialog about what is ethical and what is not. How we can elevate voices that don’t get heard. What is working technically and how we can adjust environments for better connections. We are thinking about what is happening in the background when we go live and record. Who might walk into the frame and do they want to be live on the internet. It’s not perfect. We too are experimenting and learning. But we are also thinking critically, adjusting, and persisting.

You’d think this stuff was old hat for me. But it is not. I’m constantly readjusting.

One of my favorite moments at #DigPed PEI was the twitter chat. I didn’t do much tweeting. Those of us that were more experienced at twitter grouped up and gathered in the big open room – the Market Square. There were these loungy couches around the perimeter but some of us gathered in the middle and began a verbal in the flesh conversation/online twitter chat. I loved this moment so much because it ended up being a great liminal space. Those of us who gathered in the center of the room took time to talk but also time to read twitter and to tweet. There was tons of “dead air” interspersed with bits of verbal conversation. It wasn’t a show or a presentation, there was no front of the room, it was a conversation among people in the flesh who were on the internet at the same time. It was beautiful for someone like me. People jumped in from that outer ring from time to time while others were just quietly on their computers. The verbal conversation was a great mix of people with varying levels of experience in terms of presenting/attending conferences but like I said most were pretty established with using twitter and other forms of social media. Out of this conversation, a few key questions (particular thanks Audrey Watters) have led me to remember how I’ve developed certain methods around tweeting but also helped me to question some of my approaches as well.

I share a fair amount on the web. Not as much as many on Twitter but more than most in the world. I often filter other people through me via my tweets and I’m sure I deviate from their intended meanings – I am my own person after all. I live tweet many keynote speakers and session presenters. After doing this for awhile and being self-reflective about it I realized that there was a lot to be said for context. Hearing some snippet of what a speaker has said out of context can convey a completely different meaning. Then I have to ask where does my interpretation of what a speaker has said start and what they actually said (or what they meant in a particular context) end – and how does the random person who encounters that tweet perceive it?  What responsibilities do I have to the content, the connections, and the speaker? What if I hear something wrong and share something that creates confusion? What if I start a conversation between some people that are going to hate one another? What if I say something in public that will hurt someone? If any of this happens how do I atone for this? Will I even realize it?

Upon this realization I remember making a conscious choice to stop using quotes, for the most part, in these kind of tweets. I did this on purpose. My point in not using quotes is that I’m taking some responsibility for the content of that tweet. I don’t want there to be a perception that I’m quoting directly – unless I do but it is rare in the scope of my tweets. This is my little indication that I’m doing the best I can in 140 characters to interpret and not mimic. But that’s not written down anywhere – that is not a best practice – that is an Autummism… but the thing is I’m not sure anyone “gets” that but me. I think many people assume the quotes. They assume that I’m word for word transcribing the talk. I don’t know how to assert that I’m a human and not a recording or broadcast device. I’m not trying to be a journalist, I’m not trying to be a camera, I just want to be a person who expresses her experience and uses social media to process that experience… more on that in a bit.

Until a few months ago I also used to never put the handle of the speaker in each tweet. I would send out one tweet at the beginning stating who I was hearing and interpreting but all subsequent tweets would not reference the speaker. But then there is a problem with attribution and does it look like I’m spewing the speaker’s rhetoric on my own? After getting called on this it might have been the first time I googled “how to live tweet a keynote speaker” (or something of the like) and low and behold there were a set of “best practices” that sure enough stated that you should tag the speaker in each tweet. So I started doing that.

Yes! Best practice to the rescue. Now I can finally start using Twitter right.

But now that I look back I realize that many of those articles were geared toward folks that were doing some kind of media production, were trying to sell something, or were interested in hitting a specific analytic. Wait!… That ain’t me babe. I’m not sure that I’m the intended audience of those articles but I didn’t get that at that time.

The thing about “best practices” is that they are problematic in that they strip nuance out of these contextual experiences. During our conversation some noted that this tagging in every single tweet basically sent the speaker a barrage of notifications which could be annoying. Furthermore, these had the potential to start side conversations that resulted in even more notifications. These side conversations are complicated by the “meaning problem” that I started to outline earlier. Because a meaning which is based on an interpretation by the person reading the tweet, in the context of the interpretation of the person who composed and sent the tweet, can be very different than the intended message of the speaker. It feels like you are almost asking for trouble. This problem is going to be present regardless I guess but my beef is with the “best” in best practice.

Who is that best for again? And how is the “best practice” better than my experimental Autumm practice? It seems either way the vulnerabilities persist.

Another tool I have started using is mobile live streaming and I think this does a good job of taking some of the problems I just discussed off of the table. It is pretty clear when I am on camera and when the speaker is on camera and the speaker just gets to speak for themselves. This technology is fairly new and there are a ton of best practices on the web mostly geared at video and sound quality and creating an experience for the virtual audience. The problem with the live streaming over tweeting is that I don’t live tweet a speaker only for the other people on twitter who may read those tweets or for the speaker themselves – I do it for myself too. I gain perspective considering those multiple contexts and constraints. It keeps my mind engaged in a different way than if I were listening without writing or even if I were listening and taking public or private notes. I know through my work with Virtually Connecting it is not about creating a great experience for a virtual audience as much as it is about creating a reciprocal experience between those on each side of the camera. Or at least that is what it is about for me and others that I surround myself with… I suppose this is where digital citizenship comes in. 

I don’t just use social media and the public internet to channel other people who are speaking at conferences. I don’t just use images, video, and text to speak to an audience. I experiment with these things to learn about myself and the world around me. To explore multiple contexts and points of view. I have public conversations about topics that no one has easy answers for so that I can learn, maybe not the right answers but to perhaps be able to ask better questions, in community. I reflect on my experiences based on various forms of feedback that I receive and I make adjustments. I try to do better. This is not a research project, this is not reporting, this is not a course… this is a part of who I am.

And so when Sundi Richard and I started to ask questions around the idea of digital citizenship, having public conversations using video chat and Twitter seemed like second nature. When we decided to do it again a few months later we purchased web space and gave a home to some things like a schedule and an articulation of the context in which we were interested in talking about digital citizenship. By that time I had also found time to read Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade by Jenny Mackness and Frances Bell and it gave me pause. I was in Rhizo15 and found the facilitator Dave Cormier to be attentive and deeply concerned for those that were experimenting with him around a complex topic for which there was no clear easy clear cut answer. However, this paper painted Dave as having control and influence over the group but neglecting the needs of those that were not having a positive experiences. That some participants had learned a great deal in the course but that others had been somehow damaged (the paper seems unclear to me on what this damage was and even feeling deeply embedded in Rhizo15 I’ve never figured it out) and that the facilitator should have had more control or something.

So, I wondered if our little #digciz project should have a disclaimer of sorts, perhaps a set of standards, or a defined code of ethics. I knew that we would never reach the scale of Rhizo14 but I saw no reason why we should not be concerned by the same ethical implications. I wanted to be clear that I was concerned about all those that were going to choose to engage with us but that at the same time that there were some dangers inherent to being on the public internet and that we would not be able to control every connection. That I have a life outside of #digciz and that I would not be able to watch 24/7.

I proposed this to Sundi and we created a page for this but we really struggled with articulation. Eventually, we decided to let the community own it and during the first week we would encourage the participants to build this statement themselves. Our first Twitter chat was more active than either of us had imagined but no one seemed interested in building such a statement. The page remained blank. We continued discussing digital citizenship anyway.

I think this was right for us and for the group that we ended up getting. We could have put on the breaks and refused to continue till we defined a disclaimer, list of ethical points, or a statement of some kind. But we didn’t. We decided to keep experimenting.

I think we all struggled with coming up with some set of standards for several reasons. For one we are a pretty new group and I don’t think that group members have even really defined what they wanted from the group. As a community comes together and solidifies I think that they sometimes feel a need to define themselves, but that takes time. For instance I had a hand in composing the Virtually Connecting manifesto and point to it often when defining that work. But I also think that our approach to subject of digital citizenship had something to do with this. We were bypassing some of the best practices on the subject and instead asking questions that were more complex and so reducing it back to a simple statement or a list of some kind just didn’t seem right.

As for me, I think that #MyDigCiz is somehow rooted in a sense that by creating a list of rules and practices we might give guidelines to some but that those guidelines will not speak for all. That like online, as in the flesh, the complexities around how we live and how we impact each other have more to do with deep fundamental attitudes surrounding relationships, empathy, and an ability to see multiple contexts than they do with following a list.

Of course the rub is that not everyone is ready to be self-reflective digital citizens. And so sometimes we create best practices, community statements, codes of ethics, etc. because we have to start somewhere. I think these are especially important for instance when dealing with young children and I don’t want to be condemning of those efforts (I understand that perhaps I have come off as hypercritical in the past) – they are important and needed – I just think that there is another conversation that is not really being discussed. I guess my point is that I think the best practices are not working by themselves and that we need more.

One thing that I did take from the Sunlight and Shade paper was that online courses including, and maybe especially, MOOCs are not going to be an enlightening experience for everyone…  I think we knew that but research often tells us things that we instinctively know.

What is becoming really clear to me is that none of this is happening in a vacuum. I see the use of public, social, digital, tools changing and shaping all of the time. I see them used to commit atrocities and then in other cases used to shine a light on atrocities. I know technology is not neutral but I also know that people’s use of technology is not neutral either. We are learning from each other and shaping the way that we affect one another through the use of these tools. I see the free experimentation of the use of technology when done with what John Dewey referred to as the “habit of amicable cooperation” as an affront on formulaic prescribed best practices that may only be best for sales numbers and media clicks. I know that the idea of citizenship is a problematic one and that digital citizenship is an even more problematic. However, I think that we have a better chance at finding a way to live together by developing an ability to see connections than in being able to follow the rules.


My next stop in this journey will be the Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute at University of Mary Washington and there will be lots of ways that you can participate virtually from Twitter to Virtually Connecting and I’m sure I will live stream a bit. However, I do want to encourage you – if you can by any means – attend in the flesh. I think that this is going to be one of the foremost learning events of the year if you are interested in getting past the hype and taking a close look at your own practice of teaching with digital tools.

Image Credit CC-BY-SA 4.0: Autumm Caines, Market Square UPEI 

LOOM’in Large (or perhaps small) at T3 and NMC16

I call them Autummisms. These little ways that I process the world. They are ever growing and changing. They are in-process and; not complete. So… take this for what it is worth. I’m going to warn you up front – it is an acronym



there are two O’s in the middle.

Now, how the hell do I unpack this?…

People are always asking us ‘what is Virtually Connecting?’ Often, we say it is a movement and point them to the manifesto. Let’s start there – movements.

What do I mean by a movement? Well, I think about the recent presentation at the AMICAL conference in Rome by Maha Bali and Jim Groom where they talked about ethos.

From Google (kind of):

ˈēTHäs (tho I say ēTHōs) -noun:
the characteristic spirit of a culture, era, or community as manifested in its beliefs and aspirations.”

So, yes I think that a movement is based in an ethos. Starts from an ethos. Creates and grows through the development of an ethos. Goals and outcomes can be developed around an ethos but I don’t think that a movement enacts from a goal or an outcome so much as it does from an ethos. 

The other thing about a movement is that the start date can be kind of fuzzy…

And end dates…

yeah those don’t exist so much till after the fact. We can look back and say that we see the start of a particular movement tied to an event of some kind; a political upheaval, a gathering, a protest, a leader being elected, etc. And the end date tied to this one person’s death or this one law being changed. But it is not till after… that we see concepts such as starts and stops.

As I write this I’m at the New Media Consortium’s Summer Conference with Helen DeWaard and I’m testing out a one-way live streaming video app while we walk the river and Maya Georgieva asks us how we got involved with Virtually Connecting… how did it start… for us???  and Helen reminds me it was #rhizo15.

Did the event #rhizo15 spark the movement that is VC? Maybe not for everyone… but for Helen and me… well… let’s just stick with maybe… for now.

In the moment, a movement just sort of is.

…So yeah, movements.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about, and something that is tightly tied to Virtually Connecting, is my affinity for small group conversations. I think that there is an untapped potential for the power of small.

I’ve talked before about my idea of the Interpersonal Multitudes Barrier (IMB); which states that in a synchronous conversation that the more people you add to that conversation, the less intimacy you have – (or maybe have potential for?). It is a theory – I think I might have stolen it. Lately, I’ve been feeling it is flawed as I wonder about the histories and diversities surrounding personalities in a sync convo and how they might contribute more so to intimacy than the size of the group.

Still, I can’t help but feel like quantity matters (HA! perhaps an organization is in order). I am aware of the Dunbar number but that has more to do with relationships – I’m just talking about conversations. Real-time conversations.

I digress…

I know I promised you an acronym. Sigh. I’m struggling with that part. Especially, cause it is a double O acronym and so many people have ripped off Dave Cormier’s “MOOC”… Do I really want to be another one of those guys?

But… but… (yells that little voice) it is more than an acronym… It is a metaphor, this particular Autummism, (though I know those too are problematic)… {… is she speaking of metaphors or Autummism’s being problematic?}

Last week I went to the T3 conference in De Pere, Wisconsin at St. Norbert University. T3 is a small local conference and I’m not sure it is the kind of thing that most people travel for – it was mostly faculty and various acatechies from St. Norbert and surrounding areas. So, why travel by car for something like this? Well, I was not that far away, St. Norbert is a very similar kind of school to the one I work at, and there was an opportunity to learn from some of my favorite people: Sundi Richard, Daniel Lynds, Bonnie Stewart, and Dave Cormier.

Dave and Bonnie keynoted – it was a real treat to see them present together. Dave took a historical perspective and laid out the story of how we got where we are now. Reminded me how important it is to remember. How the connections often go back further than we realize and how histories are collected from differing perspectives. 

Bonnie did the color lines exercise, which I saw her do in Cairo at a Digital Pedagogy Lab Institute (no I wasn’t IN Cairo but was watching live stream). Here’s how it works: She has each person who is listening turn to someone else and tell them their favorite color. Then, she has them turn to another person and tell them the favorite color of that last person that they talked to… in the next step she has everyone visualize the colors as threads that are connecting each person to one-another.

So, I’m thinking about those threads, and movements, and the power of small when I come back from T3. I’m on backchannel with Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue one night and again it comes up – what exactly IS Virtually Connecting?

…We played with CMOOCC (Connectivist Mini Open Online Conference Convo) and there was some talk about how we are this perpetual cMOOC (that lower case c bugs me) fueled by conferences…

And then I’m thinking about the idea of small, and I’m thinking about movements, and I’m thinking about the threads of connections, and I’m thinking about collective history… and…

L – Little

O – Open

O – Online

M – Movement

Followed up by “Weaving connections through space and time, baby”

Pops out

And a loom is a technology

And it creates a whole out of parts – parts which happen to be threads

And it does this by connecting the parts together – weaving them into one another

And when done right that whole is beautiful

(And when done wrong…

Well, you know how it is when things are done wrong – right, dear reader?

Disclaimer: It is easy [some may say casual, irregular, or haphazard] to use one’s imagination to draw conclusions to an eventual dystopian [or utopian] end.)

Again…I digress.

So, what is a girl to do when faced with a rip-off acronym and a beautiful metaphor?

Well, when she is attending the NMC Summer Conference and has a VConnecting session scheduled with Gardner Campbell she simply asks “So, I have this theoretical construct that I’m working on and I’m wondering if you could tell me if it is cheesy or… if there might be something more to it?”

Let’s just say Gardner gave his blessing. He also reminded me that loom is more than just a noun … it is also a verb depicting something on the horizon. And it seemed rather appropriate given that we were at NMC talking quite a bit about horizons.

And I’m thinking if LOOMs might be bigger than just VC and I think of the #FTTE online gatherings (and how Bryan Alexander always takes that mingle moment – where he let’s participants break into small groups), and I think of #IndieEdTech and their small gatherings, and I think of #DigPed and and the various #DigPed Lab Institutes which end up being these small group intensives (still room for PEI and Fredericksburg I believe – early bird for PEI ends on June 20th… just sayin..)

And then I start wondering if LOOMs can be people – like single people. Rather than groups of people. But that is crazy because the M is for movement and a person can’t be a movement. But then Helen and I go out to dinner with Bobbie and Jen Lane and Jen says that people can be LOOMs because people can independently hand weave threads to make connections too and that maybe they can be even more skillful and nimble about it because they are individuals.

I’m still unsure how I feel about the LOOM as a construct but as I explained it to people they got a kick out of the idea and it put a smile on their faces so I decided to blog about it. I like that it is focused on the idea of weaving connections – not just weaving nodes or people. But I think that point is subtle and I worry it could get lost. I also worry that it might get boxed in by the little aspect – some forgetting that when dealing with connections things can grow quickly. But I’m trying to work on my addiction to worry so here it is world. LOOM – a Little Open Online Movement – It may be more than you thought at first glance. 

Image Credit Jakub T. Jankiewicz  “Loom in crystal ball” CC BY-SA

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