Time for another Summer Book Club post! What? You say summer is over?? I am keen to hold on to every ray of sunshine, and as a slow reader, I’ll be posting well into November. This post covers pages 240-347 of Stephen Downes’ (free) ebook: Toward Personal Learning. I wrote about the earlier sections in these posts:
My method in writing these posts is to gather the bits that stop me in my tracks, make me think, write them down, and then connect the dots around them. Three themes emerged for me in these hundred pages: the students, the measurements that sometimes bind (as in hold fast, like hands tied) us, and connections. Let’s start with the students. Read more
When my friend from Mastodon came to lunch, the words lifted from the page, they grew tall and full of expression, and intent. They still had the same cantor, the pauses, and even the steady gaze I had somehow come to know, but this time they had breath in a new way. They were tangible, no not tangible – audible, yes, audible. The words less tangible than those on the screen, less permanent, but the person more so. The words drifted like music playing in real time, unfolding as they were spoken and then drifting off, but the connection was there. I found myself saying – what was that – can I write it down, how do you spell it? There were things I wanted to hold on to – even though they had already drifted out to sea on the breeze. What a funny crossover there is between expression in the moment and the semi-planned semi-stasis that communication via printed text can offer. (featured image CC BY-NC by Emily) (post is about an 6 min read)
I am talking about my friend from far away, the one (well, one of the ones) I had never met before, from Mastodon. This actually seems to be becoming a habit. I’ve met several of them now, and I wrote about one of the other meetings in April. This one was different again. and I think (and hope) every meeting will be different, just as we are different in and of ourselves. I like it that way; in fact, I love it.
This is not a post about that friend, or about what we said, but more of a musing on the music of interaction, and how some things (and at present – people, ways, and the thing of Mastodon) work together to facilitate space. Room for growth, change, and blooming.
This friend and I walked. We walked through an ancient church yard on the way to where we were going, and there was great care for those who have passed- with centuries old engraved stones, and freshly blooming flowers springing from the ground amidst the ivy and the yew trees. Care for them where they were laid to rest, and for the living, to help those left behind to manage what is not here and the differences that we (or at least I) cannot comprehend.
I may have a simple mind, but I find those differences in life too – how can you have a difference in life? can’t have a difference in one thing?? (I did say *simple* mind)
There is the being, the physical presence, and then knowing, and they are intertwined, but separate. Take illness as an example. We are all too well aware that at the whim or weakness of the body, when fatigue or worse takes hold, all stops. The runner with a cramp must stop. The child with a fever must stop. But our minds do not always stop. Sometimes they go and go in all directions. Oh it is difficult for me to reckon these things. So when confronted with a person whom I had known only in my mind – well, in reality, but not having exchanged words through the air, or shared the same space at a table – and then having that person arrive as normal as the neighbour calling in to tell me about how the beans in the garden are getting on. Well that was genuinely a remarkable experience.
The thing was that it was completely not remarkable. It was as if it had happened every Tuesday, or Thursday, or both, but not at all unusual occurrence. As I heard the car door close outside, I shouted from within the house, ‘The door’s open! You’re in the right place!’
Of course, we already knew one another. Being. Being is more complicated than Sartre pricking his hand in Being and Nothingness and seeing it bleed. Gosh, what if he could envisage the way we communicate now?
Space, Time, and Connection
Mastodon: A space represented by a mastodon, that was a giant creature that was, and is no more. Is that a bad thing that it is extinct? Well if you want something permanent you could choose a cockroach, but really the majesty of a giant elephant-like creature gently roaming the earth has a certain wisdom, and hints at a communal memory in a way that is attractive to me.
This space, Mastodon.social has been an exploration. I came there along with others with no particular expectations, and no particular judgements, and everything that happened was done with a sort of gracious hospitality – it was like we walked into someone’s home. People arrived, they sat down (virtually of course), and it was like a coffee parlour or picnic area and it didn’t have a brand or an association in the same way as people broadcast accomplishments or their research on other platforms to influence work or job prospects or fame or whatever. This seemed to be about the people themselves, and it attracted all sorts of people – young, old, employed, unemployed, ones with fancy degrees, and ones never intending to do that sort of thing, lots of people. All of the people live their lives and interact by sharing different glints of reflections of their lives in this house-garden of a picnic area type place.
Of course not all. There are hundreds of thousands of users of this platform across many instances (there isn’t just ‘one’) and I only interact with a couple of dozen people on a regular basis. However, it is the way these interactions have formed, and the quality of the interactions that is so interesting to me.
There is space
People can communicate more than… more than an isolated thought. More than can there is an active engagement with the opportunity to use the possibilities afforded in communicating. Whether that is 500 characters, using a label to mark something that perhaps others may not be interested in, or using a label so as not to trigger someone’s stress levels. For example, what if, on other platforms you had to choose to read a post that was about politics, because it was hidden behind a label saying ‘politics’. Wouldn’t your day be better already?
Time is ever passing, and yet it is always now. I love that we have now forever. Sometimes there is a sense that actually we need to hurry up and do it all, do it all now, reply now, read it now, know the answer now. Sometimes I don’t know the answer ever. In these interactions, there is time, and somehow it is not so important to be immediate. There is an allowance for people to take a day or a few days to digest, comment, and maybe revisit something from another time and place. I do not think this was something ‘written in’ to the platform, but something that has grown out of a number of circumstances, including the people involved. We are a global community, and as this is about people, or whatever they want to make it, whatever is important to them – that isn’t always something in the 9-5. And besides, my 9 may be your 5 depending where on the globe you are. People have busy lives and responsibilities and to have taken the time to communicate is not an obligation. The nice thing is there is a generosity to both giving and receiving a reply or a comment.
Something new? Oh, change can be difficult. Growth can be a pain – just ask a child getting a new tooth. Connections seldom happen like a chain of paper dolls, but in fact they are chaotic and shift from balance toward new forms as new currents form. Watch the galaxies (it’s only a short vid) and how they spin, and pull, and even get torn apart when joining a new one. I would dare say that isn’t how they planned it, if they could plan it at all. I imagine mixing a tea party with a racing car, and watching the china fly and the tea spill, and the driver with a cake-filled helmet. Fun and tasty, but you have to be open to the possibilities.
In life it is not always quite that messy and sometimes forming connections can be quite subtle. Sometimes we don’t see connections coming, sometimes we don’t see the opportunities, and other times we are held back by ?? by something. I would not like to say convention, but yes. Rules, assumptions, our own fears. Remember, those walls are not real. Oh it sounds cliché, but really, the walls are usually there because we put them up.
In this space I have been privileged to be part of the fabric of whatever has formed, at least part of one of the patchwork pieces that has formed. What does the whole of the quilt look like? I don’t know, and perhaps there are branches or segments that are very different from the one I know. However, I would like to think we have more in common than what separates us and I continue to be bemused by the differences and the nuances between modes of communication. I enjoy watching the ever-growing networks of genuine connection develop and intersect.
I am grateful for the gentle hellos, for the reminders that life happens one breath at a time, and that there are others noticing the same things, struggling with the same things, wondering at the same things as I am.
I have a dream and a vision and I believe in connection, and that collaboration allows the creation of far more than one mind could see.
I would like to invite you, whoever you are, wherever you are, to participate in a collaboration contributing to a piece for a concert-type event at my university at the end of April.
It is a positive action event to affirm life, music, and each other called ‘Singing for Unity: Hear our Voices’. It coincides with a certain 100 days, when many of us might like a reminder of the positive aspects of education and the arts. This event is not about politics, but about people, music, and life.
All sorts of contributions are invited: spoken word, music, poetry… It is open.
I would like to make two things- firstly a song. (Yes, I know I play the cello) The old Dylan song – The times they are a changing. I love it. Now here’s the invitation. I had in mind something like the giant internet choir project of Eric Whitacre, but then I thought, hey wait, I can think broader…. And I reached out to a friend in Arizona who recorded sent me an audio track of the chords HERE
and I thought wouldn’t it be great if this could become something more? Remixed into something- a bigger work? The song is the basis and I invite people to contribute how they see – with your dream, your vision. The event will have contributions people from across disciplines at my uni, and I thought it would be a great thing to include the wider educational and artistic community as well.
I would love to have images, music, a verse without words and with different instruments. I would love to have everyone send me their voice, or a talking head, or even just some words that I could edit in over an instrumental section where people said something – a sentence.
I believe in connection. (that might be what I say)
Maybe people’s ‘I believe’ sentences string together to become a poem in themselves. (You can see this idea developing as I type.)
I am good at ideas, but I need you to make them work, so please take up the invitation. Feel free to contribute anonymously or as you, however you feel comfortable, to either (or both) of these two things (to interpret as you wish):
1. A contribution to ‘The times they are a changing’, which could be sound, music, image. The basic song is based on the Peter, Paul, & Mary version (because I really like that one) and the guitar backing is here:
2. A sentence, in audio, typing (you could always leave a comment below, and I am happy to string them together), or a video of you saying something positive. I suggest the beginning ‘I believe’ or ‘I will’ or ‘I am committed to’…
Feel free to comment on the post, email me, or you could even post a letter! (that would be exciting!) Hope you join me as a named or anonymous contributor.
(featured image ‘the way the wind blows’ by Thomas Hawk CC-BY-NC)
Laura, you’re not a photographer? What’s your music class doing connecting with Jonathan’s?
Let me explain…
Jonathan initially devised a way of teaching that allowed students to remain individuals, yet also be a part of a class group, and even a wider global community. He would record part of his #Phonar class content, like an interview with a practitioner in that field, and then when it came to the class everyone would listen to the interview. How does that broaden the learning horizon? It’s howRead more
Imagine yourself as an undergraduate student, doing your work, studying hard, dealing with friends, cooking, laundry, love, and everything that daily life brings. Now imagine that you somehow think to yourself, I know, 20 years after graduation, I’ll come back and bring my students to share the same experiences that I had. Yeah, that will be awesome.
Who thinks that? ever??
That’s exactly what happened.
I have had fantastic teachers in my life. More than I could ever have hoped for, and there have been times when I have recounted stories to my university students of ‘when this happened…’ and I am aware that the combination of people and places and the resulting experiences at that time was so influential for me, and naturally I would like to share that. Read more
These are all words that, for me, are synonymous with aspects of good teaching and learning. I didn’t always use all of these in the context of ‘open’ the way I do now. Why the change? I was never against the idea, and I think I always practiced both connected learning and co-learning, but at some point I was introduced to different technological tools, techniques, and then I was encouraged. I’m a student too – always learning to teach better, differently, and part of that for me involves reaching out. I hope to be an encourager for others and perhaps to introduce a few new things…
On January 20th I have the privilege of running a workshop on ‘Embracing Open‘ at the University of Chichester for the Higher Education Academy. It is a day long event that is free to attend for anyone who is a Fellow of the HEA, and there will be points in the day where we invite anyone from around the globe to join in. We’ll be exploring aspects of blogging, Tweets, Google Hangouts, Open Source Learning and CC content, collaborative activities and how all these can be used in different everyday teaching situations across disciplines. There will be opportunities to ‘have a go’ at using all of these, and the day will be dotted with real-time connections with teachers and learners across the globe. Students will be involved too. We’ll be Tweeting with the hashtag #HEAOpen and you are more than welcome to join in! Read more
(3 min read) Yesterday I was involved with #tjc15, which is like a twitter book club except with journal articles. We discussed the 2011 article by Kop, Fournier, and Mak:
A Pedagogy of Abundance or a Pedagogy to Support Human Beings? Participant Support on Massive Open Online Courses
Typically I don’t do those things – but yesterday I did. I read the article during the twitter conversation and typed/tweeted as I read, and was instantly sparked by a number of things and how they related to me as a teacher.
In a couple of weeks I will run the second iteration of my own mini-mooc-esque class #MUS654. It isn’t officially sponsored by anyone, or advertised by anyone, and in truth I put it together for the students so they could have a better experience and get connected. I teach a physical class who are all encouraged to follow along… starts in the second week of September. More on that in another post. This is about the article.
There were a few standouts that were definitely worth sharing. Firstly the idea that:
one should question if all adult learners are capable of taking on this responsibility
This made me ask myself (and the twitter community) what about younger learners? I know the context of the article was that of higher education, but my 8 year old uses the computer, self-directs his learning, and dips into various tutorials (with permission and supervision). Why should engagement with this sort of learning not be about younger learners. There is not a magic line when suddenly you have a license to drive your own learning. It happens organically and as we integrate connectivity into schools and the classroom, it is something that should be in the minds of parents and teachers, because it is certainly in the minds of students.
the major challenges is to create a pedagogy that supports human beings
I agree. completely. and this applies to all who are engaged with pedagogy – those classically called ‘learners’ as well as ‘teachers’. The more I teach the more I find I am really a secret, or public, learner. I’m not sure if the traditional infrastructure in higher education regards established teachers as learners, certainly some places do, and there are others where there is still ground to gain on that point. I crave learning, and it is a real challenge to create something that honestly supports all involved. There are so many variables, and the important ones to me have to do with engagement – intrinsically motivated engagement. I tell my students that if there is no point, why bother. I certainly wouldn’t engage just for a grade. Maybe that is a brash statement, but it’s true (for me at least).
So back to the online learning model and connection. In this study there were many registered on the class (1500+), and rather fewer participated on a regular basis (40-60). That is not surprising or uncommon. There were various attempts for engagement and this sentence really rang true:
This highlights the need of participants for social presence, but in a self-determined way.
It reminded me of the classic psychology idea that you are responsible for your actions. (As in thought precedes action (see Bandura, 2001 esp p.4-5) I can advise, tell, direct, ask – but only you can do it. And in creating authentic doing, that aspect of self-direction and self-regulation (see Zimmerman & Schunk, 2001) is essential. It is the magic of achieving something that is truly student-led (forgive the edu-speak).
It made me think, because I don’t know how my open course will unfold, or who will join in, or even who will be interested – it is about making a music curriculum, but has almost mini-courses each week about various core components of music and music learning. We’ll see… and I’ll be learning too.
It brings me back to these two sentences, found at the beginning of the article’s conclusion section:
This research showed the importance of making connections between learners and fellow-learners and between learners and facilitators. Meaningful learning occurs if social and teaching presence forms the basis of design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive processes for the realization of personally meaningful and educationally worthwhile learning outcomes.
I am very glad Laura Gogia organised #tjc15 and hope very much that next month you will join in too. You can read the full article we discussed here.
A friend of mine asked for some stories of connection for an upcoming conference presentation he is giving… and here’s mine. (Alan, you’re in it!) It is yet another little glimpse into the #Musiqualiy story, and the stories keep folding and unfolding. Intricate as fractals.
I received an invitation for my students and me to take part in a project – an externalisation of people’s individual masterpiece for their lives.
WHOA…. that sounds heavy, but really valid and exciting. The idea was that these students in California were questioning their lives and sharing dreams in an effort to find a way to make them happen. or something like that. They asked me to share something – music, images, words, video, anything that held part of my story.
How did you get to where you are today?
Where are you going?
What is your masterpiece (dream)?
I passed this request all on to my students and some of them will be sharing and sending bits and pieces. Someone has already sent along a video of them performing some music, and more is in the pipeline. I love to think, and reflection is essential for me, both personally and professionally, so I am game. I believe in teaching it is really important to lead by example, even when that presents a challenge. So last week after cycling home (I often think on the bike. It is when I clear my head and sort things out.) I thought, and sat down and made this piece. It took me a few days to go back and watch it — I wasn’t sure if I dared or not — but I did. and here it is, unedited. It is certainly not my whole story, but in that cycle ride, this is the fragment that I thought I’d share.
Your story of where you’re at or how you got there may be a story, a factual chain of accomplishments, or a description of geographical moves – that is up to you. I think however you interpret it, it is a good question, and worth asking.