भक्ति in the Time of MOOC and Yoga in the Open

This past week was the soft start to YogaMOOC. I jumped into the twitter stream, signed up for the edx side, and signed up to be a research subject. I’m also taking #OpenEdMOOC and it was week 3 this past week and I did not do a blog post.

I’m combining some thoughts about both of these into this one post. They are thoughts about behaviour, research, resilience, metaness, and more. I’m hopeful that I can weave them together in a way that makes sense. If not I’m hopeful that you will not judge me too harshly dear reader.

Persistence and resilience: Bhakti in the time of MOOC

As we work through week 0 of YogaMOOC I’ve been dabbling into some of the blog posts (admittedly I have ignored the discussion boards on edX – I feel that this speaks badly of my character somehow but there it is) most are little tester posts just to get something out there; a sentence or two just to say “hey I’m here”. This is valuable as many are starting blogs (or tags or categories) specifically for this mooc. However, others are digging in a little deeper and reflecting on past yoga and meditation experiences. I’d like to do that too but I’ll save that for the next section. 

I digress

What really stood out to me as I perused these posts were the occasional ones that reflected on a past yoga or meditation practice that had been abandoned (or diminished) with an interest in rekindling this practice through YogaMOOC. These did not seem to be the majority of the posts but I suppose this featured prominently for me because I know this story well. I have had yoga and meditation practices in the past but they have all fallen off.

This made me think of MOOCs and especially OpenEdMOOC especially considering that I did not post a week 3 blog entry and honestly my week 2 was just a response to someone else not a response to the content or instructors. Persistence in MOOCs was a thing of interest to researchers once – I think it still is. It is one of those that I’ve been flirting with for some time but have yet to really fall into – much like my own yoga and meditation practice.

Okay here I go again with the digressing – forgive me…

I make it no secret that in my youth I was a hippy. Along with certain types of music and dress with such a lifestyle comes certain practices…. Yoga and meditation falls right in. I love yoga and meditation because of the mind/body connection – it is a liminal space.

This in-between of what makes us human. Yoga is often thought of as just physical postures, and while these are beneficial, as we go deeper we are asked to align the mind as we do them.

Meditation is thought of as just sitting and staring at one’s breath but the body ever persists (with aches and pains and cramps) in this state and we are asked to pull the mind back to a fixed point.

It naturally falls into the religious and philosophical with questions such as ‘what are we’ and ‘what happens to the mind after the body is no longer viable’. And with me being all forehead chakra, such questions appeal to me.

I’ve been to India. I’ve done the silent treatment. I’ve followed the master. I’ve climbed the mountain (okay okay … maybe it was just a foothill but that’s what I’ve got). Finally, I’ve just let myself be – and I’ve seen the echo that creates.

What’s next?

Enough digressing…

Persistence

Resilience

Yoga

MOOCs

भक्ति Bhakti is the Sanskrit word for devotion or adoration which makes me think of persistence and resilience. I’ll admit that I could be conflating things here but the path is too enticing for me not to follow it. I can’t put my finger on it quite yet but it is right there…

is it persistance out of blind practice

or out of …

(fine I’ll say it)… love?

Does it matter?

Perhaps these are two paths to the same end?

Which is easier to measure?

Researching the Intimate: Yoga in the Open

I decided to also be a research subject for YogaMOOC but I have to admit it was difficult for me. I love LINKLab MOOCs and I’ve been a research subject for them before. I’m not sure what was different this time. I filled the stuff out but it just felt more … idk… closer to home this time.

The questions were increasingly intimate. I should have paid better attention but as often happens with me (and I suspect many of us) I just kept filling in answers. As I remember it and have gone back to pick a bit…

The regular demographic stuff and with a particular nod to yoga:

How much do you make a year. How much experience with yoga do you have.

But it was the stuff after that …

The stuff about deliberately noticing sensations on the body when doing mundane tasks. The stuff about being self critical. The part about watching my feelings. The parts about meta… cognition, experience, emotion, … idk… life… that was hard for me – in that it felt really close to home.

I come from a tradition (that admittedly in which my bhakti is low) where we live in silence for ten days or so at a time in quiet reflection. We think about these things but we don’t discuss them in the open. In fact, the only dialog is in private consultation with a teacher.

Of course this research is not sharing the results with everyone but I’m not even sure myself what the research questions are? Did I miss that part? Will I get to reflect on how my data fit into the larger project?

I don’t know – I suppose it is a small thing but I can’t help wonder. I don’t mind sharing but I feel like I’m missing some kind of reciprocation… I still filled the stuff out… but it just feels strange to me…

I’m looking forward to YogaMOOC and OpenEdMOOC and few other MOOCs that I’m playing with at this time.

These are just some thoughts – let’s see what comes next.

Till next time,
शरद (aka Monsoon) 

Image Credit: Yoga Baby – photographer: me
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Openness, Humanness, and Connectedness: or We can connect in the Open if you want to

In my last blog post I responded to the question “why does open matter” posed by #OpenEdMooc with the answer “because we are human” by proclaiming that open mattered because humans have a need to connect and because openness facilitates connectedness.

I came across an interesting response to my post from Benjamin Stewart that I did not notice before because Benjamin posted it as an Evernote note which I did not get a notification on but I did notice when he posted it to twitter. Benjamin asks if I’ve gone far enough in my thinking. He gives an example that one can connect without being in the open and gives examples of connecting through a clique or a closed group of like minded individuals.  

I appreciate the question – it makes me wonder about how open is open. Can one be open within a clique? Can a closed group have diverse minds? Then I start thinking about Blake and the doors of perception – about how I’ve argued that the doors are more than just open or closed but of many differing natures and states (glass doors, murphy doors, pocket doors… being propped, locked, ajar, and I could go on). But again I’ll stop myself from going down the rabbit hole as this post will be much longer and go in a different direction if I do.

Trying to stay somewhat short and on task I’ll address Benjamin’s concern by simply restating that it is my premise that open matters because are human. To extrapolate further – humans have a need to connect and openness facilitates connectedness…. however, I am not stating that humans have a need to connect in the open. I think that Benjamin is absolutely correct when he says that people can connect in closed groups. I would actually take it further and say that people will connect in closed groups. This is not antithetical to my point – I think that it actually makes my point.

I’m not one of those who demonize this closed connectedness – I think we need that too, though too much of it can be a problem. I see the problem with it as one of scale more so than it being an issue in the thing itself.

As we enter week 2 of #OpenEdMooc we are starting the conversation around copyright and how that plays with Open. The problem around Mickey Mouse and copyright has come up because here in the US every time the threshold of public domain draws near to Mickey going into the commons lobbyists petition the courts and the date is pushed forward another twenty years. Of course this does not just apply to Mickey but to all copyrighted works.

We don’t have to connect with Mickey – but if we wanted to – well it has to be one way and at a premium.

We don’t have to connect in the Open – but we can if you want to.

But we do have to connect.

Humans need to connect. With ideas, with one another, with language, with images, with emotions, with numbers, with color – I could go on. Extreme cases of humans being deprived of connections are abusive atrocities but lesser barriers are always going to exist. You can connect within closed systems or you can connect in the open but I think most people mix it up depending on your definition of ‘Open’. I like to connect in both in the broad sense; though when it comes to education I tend toward Open when I can. There are some for whom connecting in the open may be their only option because of money or other circumstance. So, when I think about why Open matters – I’m sure there are lots of reasons, but still, I say it is because we are human. 

Why Does Open Matter? because we are human

George Siemens and David Wiley have joined up to do a MOOC on Open Education and I feel as though, with my interest in the subject, I would be remiss if I did not at least dip my toe in…

I always find myself intrigued by those big broad questions and the guys have not let me down by asking in week one “why does open matter”. 

I’ve watched the videos, done some readings, read some of the participant blogs and tweets. Along with some personal reflection here goes my take on things.

The question is a hard one for me because I’m not sure that there are simple definitions for either “open” or “education” and I’m not happy with my own definition for either. Both of these words give me pause and raise more questions than answers for me. However, I will try to not get too “in the weeds” with definitions in this post.

If I have to answer this question simply, this question of why open matters, I would say it matters because we are human. Because it is in the nature of most humans to connect… in some way. It is what we do. (Often to each other, but not always). And openness facilitates connectedness.

It’s a big messy web. And it is bigger than technology. It is bigger than the internet – which is just the latest tool for making connections in the open.

Because it is in our nature to connect, somewhere along the way a premium was put on the ways that we connect – which was mostly through means of expression. An expression of knowledge, let’s say a book, is placed out of reach for most and only given to a few who can afford it. This proves lucrative in terms of growing capital and in terms of growing a certain kind of knowledge but alas not in terms of growing that kind of knowledge that serves the human spirit and it only feeds that human need to connect for a very few.

Simply, open matters because we are human; humans need to connect and openness facilitates connectedness.

However,

Humans grow and thrive through connections but not all connections are equal.

Even if that book is put at a premium – one may not connect with it but they will connect (to something – someone), nonetheless.

Earlier today Siemens asked an intriguing question:

I do think that we will have gone wrong somewhere if we start thinking that open equals good.

Most of the platforms used to facilitate open connections and open education these days require a person to sign off on a terms of service that most never read and few could really understand. Often these platforms harvest the data that we generate through satisfying our need for connecting to feed our preferences and leanings back to us at a premium. I don’t find this “good”, yet I have a need to connect and so here I am.

While I think that open matters because humans have a need to connect fulfilling a need is not always good. We have a need to eat but if we eat junk food all the time that would not be “good” in terms of our health and wellbeing.

Some may say that junk food is not real food and others may say that junk food may be good in the moment as it might taste good. So perhaps getting in the weeds with definitions is not so bad afterall but if I would have tackled “what is open” or “what is education” this post would have been much different.

I’m looking forward to the next few weeks of the MOOC. I’ve just started a new job in De Pere WI as an Instructional Designer at St. Norbert College and I’ll be seeing if any of my new colleagues may be interested in these questions and others that I’m sure will be coming up in #OpenEdMOOC.