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Category : Book Club

On Listening and Beauty: Freire hears a Horton and I hear a call

Bryan Alexander’s most recent book group around We Make the Road by Walking has caught my attention. There are several reasons for this but a big part of it is the community response; especially the Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaires post by Bonnie Stewart where she calls for a community to develop around the teaching of digital literacies. Bon draws from the rich histories of Horton’s Highlander Folk School and brings in the Antigonish Movement of her own Maritimes home to issue a call for discussion around how such a community could develop. What she, for now, is calling Antigonish 2.0. This catches my attention because I am drawn to community movements and to the idea of hybridity. I’m also in the midst of exploring digital literacy on my own campus and and continue to encounter others doing similar work through the conversations around digital citizenship that I pursue.

Besides Bon’s call and the many other excellent posts that have arisen from this book group (including this one from Laura Ritchie, this one from Amy Collier, and this one from Kate Bowles) I was also drawn to the book group because of the book itself. First there is the title which resonates with me as a kind little poem summing up this natural-interest kind of learning that I’ve always loved and have been reflecting on over the last few years. There are the interlocutors themselves: I’d never heard of Horton but after digging around and finding out more about him I fell a little in love with him, and to admit that I’ve never actually read Freire is a bit of a faux pas but there we have it. Finally, there is conversation. I feel this affinity for conversation and when I discovered that the book was a conversation, that Horton and Freire had gotten together to “talk a book”, well I was in.

I’m weeks behind the official schedule for the book group but I don’t mind making my own way a little later than others; it seems that may even fall into the theme of things a little. I had intended to get the book and try to catch up with the schedule before blogging but that does not seem possible to me now as my mind is exploding as I read this book. Though I am only about half way through the second chapter I just have to reflect on some of this – there is no way that I can wait. Mind you, again, this is all very new to me. I’ve never read Horton or Freire or the many other men that they list among their influences. However, it all seems so familiar. I have lived in community and done some community based organizing. I grew up white urban poor and among many rural poor family members. There is something familiar about this road and, yes, even something familiar about temporarily embarrassed millionaires.   

So, I mean for this post to be a reflection on a few of the concepts from the book but also how they might relate to our current endeavors around building liminal learning communities which lie on the borders of concepts such as time, location, topics, politics, online, etc especially building them around digital literacies. As I read the book my mind jumps in a ton of different directions but here I am just going to concentrate on two: Listening and beauty. I have explored these concepts before but I’m going to attempt to connect them as they came to in the book as a response to Bonnie’s call for a new community effort around digital literacy and other digital literacy initiatives that I’ve been hearing about.

On Community and Listening

If I am going to consider dedicating myself to a community I have pause for a second. Community is not easy. It is filled with possible pitfalls, arguments, negativities, and disappointments. The rewards can be numerous but why do it in the first place? Especially if we are considering a learning movement. Who are we educating? What do they need? I want to be sure that I think about those questions and listen to the community we are reaching out to.

In reflecting on this aspect I can’t help but think about the book but also Amy Collier’s response (linked above) with concerns around missionaries. Both Myles Horton and Amy seem to have become disillusioned by the idea of missionaries coming into a community to save the members from themselves. In the book someone asks Myles how he knew that there was a misalignment between the questions he thought people should have and the ones that they actually had:

“When they weren’t paying any attention to us. When we saw that we weren’t talking about their needs. We were going to bring democracy to the people, I mean bring it to them like a missionary and dump it on them whether they liked it or not. We thought we were going to make world citizens. All of us had traveled, we’d been around, abroad, and we’d read all this stuff, and we were going to bring all this enlightenment to the people… So we thought we were pretty good, but the people didn’t pay any attention to anything we were doing. Nothing we were doing they reacted to. We couldn’t even talk a language they understood. A lot of their language was nonverbal. We were verbal. We were certified as verbal, but we couldn’t communicate.”

I have no doubt that this kind of community is needed. We are seeing a shift in politics that is pretty scary and we are seeing that digital tools and media are having a huge effect. From fake news to public surveillance to exploited emails, I feel like digital literacy is the kind of the thing that is becoming critical to understanding the way that much of the world works. But what avenues of inspiration do we use to get people to understand the importance of the tools but also the complexities of how they are and can be used? Paulo also talks about this later remembering a conversation with his wife Elza:

“After one program, Elza and I were coming back home and Elza said to me, with a delicate understanding, “Look, Paulo, it does not work like this.” And I asked her: “What did I do? I spoke serious about serious things” She said: “Yes of course. All you said is right, but did you ask them whether they were interested in listening to you speak about that? You give the answers AND the questions…. You have to change. You cannot grasp the interest of the people while speaking with this language you spoke. It is the language you have to speak at the university but not here.”

How do we get people to speak about their struggles with digital literacy? Do they even know that they are struggling with this? Do they realize how many fake news propaganda stories they are consuming and sharing? How often is data hidden from them so that they don’t even know where to start with the questions? How do we start the conversation with them and how do we listen?

Something About Beauty

After the recent US elections there were unprecedented donations given to organizations that are working toward social justice and equality. Many of my colleagues have been publishing lists of who they are donating to or simply indicating their intent to give. When I see these I’ve been advocating for people to also support artists as a part of this effort. I’m concerned that this could get overlooked in times like these. I need to point out that there is something about beauty that is deeply important to these endeavors. Freire touches on this in reflecting on interest driven learning. Paulo talks about reading as an act of beauty “because it has to do with the reader rewriting the text.” and states “It’s an aesthetical event”.

I tend to think of reading as one way to come to understanding. It is a favorite, personally. However, I also really love listening and I’m a big fan of audiobooks. There is a difference between listening to audiobooks and listening to songs. There is a difference between reading a novel and reading a conversation. There can be beauty in all of these I don’t mean to separate them. What I do mean to do is draw attention to beauty and aesthetics as contributing to interest. Interest as in natural inclination to pursue a topic. Elsewhere I have written about this and juxtaposed the interest that one naturally has to the interest that one “should” have. Think, “in your best interest”.  I’m still making that road but I’m pretty sure natural interest has something to do with beauty. And I say all of this because I think that it can be easy to forget this in forming learning communities. It seems to me that this is a place where we should pay particular attention. I wish the book gave more detail into Zilphia’s (Horton’s wife) thoughts on this. There is a point where Horton states:

“I learned a tremendous lot from Zilphia, my wife, who brought in a whole new cultural background, drama and dance and music, oral history, storytelling-all kinds of things that I’d grown up knowing but just hadn’t thought of as being related to learning”

Perhaps I will have to dig deeper and try to find some of Zilphia’s work on my own or perhaps this will come up again later in the book. Like I said my mind is on fire with connections while reading this book so there is a good chance that there will be more writing in this area. I do hope there will be more writing about Antigonish 2.0 as well or some kind of initiative to pull these ideas together. I hope that we can find a way to have conversations about how we can listen to people and use aesthetics to generate interest in how technologies are shaping the world around us.

Presenting on #Tomereaders at #aacugened16

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

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

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

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

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


Prompt 2 Response with Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax)

So, Matt and I decided to try to branch out for this prompt and try to engage more directly one on one.  It was a real treat to talk to Kevin Hodgson also known as @dogtrax for our first distance response to the transformation prompt.

One of the big take aways was on time and how transformations may take longer than you think.

We also talked about the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, the National Writing Project, #rhizo15, #clmooc, and TPACK.

Who else wants to respond to our most recent prompt?


#tomereaders Prompt 2 – Transformation: A call for conversation

Matt proposed the prompt for this focus area – Transformation

We each made a video around it

And in conversation with Matt around where we are at in the book group we wanted to attempt to take this up a notch. We have had some great conversations both online and face to face but we would like to extend the conversation.

Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) must have been listening in to our conversations because before I could even get this blog out he vialogued our prompts.  You can talk back to Matt here and you can talk back to me here

So that is one way to extend the conversation.

But I am really yearning for some one-on-one conversations around this prompt. I want to record them and put them here on my blog but if you are uncomfortable about that I can go without pressing the red button.

Any takers – who wants to talk transformational teaching naked?

Under the Tree: Further Aspects of #TomeReaders

The second focal date for #tomereaders is approaching and that means that we will have our second face to face meeting under the tulip tree. I was chatting with Greg Zobel the other day and he was like “you do #tomereaders face to face as well?”

Yep – that is actually how the whole thing started – I have been facilitating these book groups for several years now face to face. They are not always books – they have been chapters, they have been MOOCs… but the idea is just let’s get together and talk about some of these influences.

Most of the people participating face to face this year are not participating online in any way. This is often par for the course and that is okay. I actually think that it brings a really interesting perspective.

During the last face to face meeting Matt had this awesome idea – he said why don’t we live tweet the face to face meeting. It was brilliant! The only problem was that he thought of it like a day before the meeting and we did not get a lot of online participation. So we are going to try again.

Live tweet of the #tomereaders face to face “Under the Tree” conversation around part 2 of the book Thursday, July 2nd – 11am EDT. Please tune in tweet questions and feedback to our live face to face group.

#tomereaders Prompt’nBlog 1

Calling all #tomereaders – Prompt 1 is here! Matt and I each took a stab at it. Though I have done a fare amount of video work I think this might be my first time addressing the Internet in a video… maybe Matt too??? (He’ll have to comment and let us know). Check it out.


Lighten up already

I decided we needed some lightness on “She’s So Heavy”.

It was a treat today when I got home and checked my mail. I found a fun little package marked Royal Mail. (Guess it must be from the queen bee)
There was a nice card inside.

With a skinny little hand knitted infinity rhizo strap scarf thingy.

That I’m not 100% sure what to do with it but I’m intrigued and excited to be challenged to be creative.

Once again.

Thanks Sarah Honeychurch

Reflections on the start of #tomereaders: Disclaimer on a living artifact

Well, #tomereaders is set to “start” this week and I am feeling a little out of sorts. I mean what the heck was I thinking opening this thing up to the whole world? I’m not Dave Cormier or Jessie Stommel – I’m just some girl with a twitter account and a newly christened blog. What if this goes horribly wrong? What if I say something mean and hurt someone’s feelings? What if I commit some egregious online sin and they all laugh at me? What if I break some kind of law? Sigh… Old age should burn and rave at end of day… I suppose…

You may have noticed I like disclaimers – If not let me just state “I like disclaimers”. Maybe they don’t do anything but make me feel better, however, they spur the conversation in my head and help me set the extremes of what things are and what they are not; somewhere along the way I realize the gradient of in betweenness.

I don’t think #tomereaders is a MOOC

I’m not sure what #tomereaders is exactly but I don’t think it is a MOOC. It is not a course – it is a book club. There is no way it is massive – I think there are less than 20 of us. It is online but I am meeting face to face with just as many people most of who are not participating online. I want to discuss the online interactions face to face… I’m sure the face to face discussions are going to shape my blog posts – which will be “in the wild”. I’m not sure what #tomereaders is but I don’t think it is a MOOC – I am borrowing from what I learned in #moocmooc and #rhizo15 and I have debt to those experiences for sure but I think #tomereaders is different from a MOOC… I could be wrong…

I don’t think #tomereaders has a teacher – since it is not a course

I can’t speak for Matt but I am not really thinking of myself as a teacher or even a facilitator (okay maybe a facilitator) – I suppose I have promised prompts… (why did I do that?) I’m just reading this book. I would love it if other people would read this book too and talk about it so that I could process it from multiple perspectives… because that is how I learn best – and I think that some other people like to learn that way too…

“Focal Dates” work for everyone

I want to announce that the first prompt is not coming on the 11th (it will come out around the 11th) that daily Spur’nMakes may not come every day and that they might actually start before the 11th… What can I say… On a nomadic journey you never really know when or where you are going to end up or what is around the next corner… embrace it…

I’m not sure #tomereaders is rhizomatic

#tomereaders is a living artifact of #rhizo15 born from my desire not just to learn online and in the open but also to serve as an example to some others in my face to face life about how that works.  I am sure that I will be applying what I learned in #rhizo15 to #tomereaders. It is rhizomatic for me – but I’m not sure it will be rhizomatic for everyone. I’m still figuring the rhizome out and I’m not sure if I can convey it to others. I want to embrace the spirit of the rhizome but I’m not sure if it will answer. Let’s see.

Travel Guide for a Living Artifact: 2015 Summer Reading Circle #tomereaders

Taken from TOMB RAIDER 2013 | Simplified by Joshua | Ezzell licensed under Creative Commons 2.0 by Esra Malkoc

Tomereaders 2015 Summer Reading Circle

Online Participation Outline/Travel Guide

Facilitators/Fellow Nomads

Autumm Caines


Matthew Cook

Twitter: @matt_t_cook

Every summer I facilitate (or at the very least instigate) a book group on my home campus and sometimes include a small group of friends. This year, inspired by my participation in #rhizo15 (don’t worry if you don’t know what that is), I’m wondering what will happen to this thing that I do every year if I cast an open call to invite everyone.

There are many ways to participate online so if you would like to come along on this journey let’s start down the trail.

The book

The first thing is the book. If you can get a copy of the book it will make participating in the online group much richer. We are going to be reading Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning by Jose Antonio Bowen. I recommend getting it from your local library because libraries are awesome!

The schedule

In the nomadic travels of my youth I met another nomad named MiRanda who used to say “Time is nothing; Timing is everything”. There will be no “due dates” in this group. We will have “focal dates” instead that will correspond to the three parts of the book and one date for reflection. If you fall behind, jump ahead, or go off on your own it is fine – this is more about timing than time.

June 11th – Part 1: The New Digital Landscape

July 2nd – Part 2: Designing 21st-Century Courses

July 23rd – Part 3: Strategies for Universities of the Future

Aug 6th – Wrap up: What did we learn and how is it going to affect our practice

Next choose how you want to participate online. “In the wild” or “From the lodge” (you can always do a little of both).

How to participate “in the wild”

Participation in the wild will happen on the Internet at large in the open. The trail gets a little rocky here and may be for more experienced travelers but I want to encourage everyone to push their boundaries a bit and learn something new. This can be a great way to build your Internet literacy.

It will help if you know something about facebook, twitter, blogging and other online tools to play in this way. If you need help, try google or post to one of the groups with your question.

Sign up for our facebook group here

On Twitter we will be using the hashtag #tomereaders

I would like to start a google plus page too.

How to participate “from the lodge”

Participation in the wild is not for everyone – it is a little scary out there. When I first pitched the idea of opening this up to some others they felt the need for a more private area to work.  Fawn Winterwood a director at a local university over here in Central Ohio offered space on their LMS and they are offering accounts to anyone that is interested in working in a more private centralized area. If you would like to participate in this way you can sign up here Once your account is created – you’ll get a link via email to confirm things. Once in the course there may not be much in there as I am still sorting that out.


(Much of this is stolen from conversation with Laura Gogia and from participating in #rhizo15 and watching Dave Cormier – I think maybe they stole some it from others but shout out them from me):

Promt’nBlog: Around each focal date Matt or I will issue a prompt/challenge to the group for your consideration. You can then blog on your own personal blog “in the wild” or the group discussion board “in the lodge”. Blogs do not have to be a written narrative! They can be a graphic, a video, an analysis, anything you would like.

Daily Spur’nMake: Once a day a short prompt will be posted (taken from the book) to spur your imagination. With the prompt make something in 15-20 minutes and post it to the groups “in the wild” or the discussion board “in the lodge”. This could be an image; a selfie of how the prompt makes you feel, some take on an Internet meme, or even some art. It could be music or a sound – post it to soundcloud or some other sound hosting service. This could be video or some text… your choice but quickly respond to the prompt and post your results. This is just to get you thinking creatively.

Read’nTweets: I’m really hoping that Laura will help me with this one. The idea is a synchronous reading of a chapter and live tweeting impressions.  Laura does this several times a year with Twitter Journal Club and it is not just enlightening but also a lot of fun. I would like to have one of these around each focal date depending on interest and participation. Read’nTweets can only happen in the wild because Twitter is about as wild as they come.

I hope that you will consider joining us online be it in the wild or in the lodge. I’m excited to read this book with a bunch of others that are interested in it too. 🙂