The Stories We Tell Ourselves – #edcmooc

So this week we are exploring metaphors.  Metaphors of technology and its use have an immense power to shape our eventual understanding and sense of possibility.  We can tell stories of fear or wonder and perhaps the reality is somewhere in between.

I had been contemplating how our mental models of what is a class and what it is to learn are based on our previous experiences.  These experiences in turn shape our expectations for MOOCs.  We have a certain idea of what it means to take a class.  What the structure is.  What is expected of us.  But what happens when those expectations are disrupted?  Like Clay Shirky describes in his essay on Napster, Udacity and the Academy, we may be so preoccupied with how we think learning is supposed to happen or is suppose to be, the we don’t see the new possibilities presented to us within a context of change.

Does learning have to happen in the way we currently construct it?  What would learning look like if each person mapped out their own personal learning plan or goals? Do we, as potential learners, even know how to create these or what they are?  What would our own Personal Learning Networks look like if we had no barriers?  Should our current educational systems be more about learning the skills and confidence to learn rather than focus on content?  What are the possibilities presented by a global knowledge network fueled by the Internet, that operates more like an ecosystem than a discrete classroom?  The theory of connectivism keeps poppiong up.

Shirky tells us that that “new technologies allow us to tell new stories.”  The e-Learning and Digital Cultures (#edcmooc) course along with my experiences with the teaching methods in the Critical and Creative Thinking Program at UMass Boston show that we can rethink and recreate the processes by which we engage learning — both with and without technology enhancements.  We can find ways to increase individual motivation and passion for learning while building the confidence and agency for the learner. It’s just that we have for too long been conditioned to expect that learning happens in prescribed ways.  How do we create the places for students to develop “curiosity and a questioning disposition, what we’ve called in the past a gaming disposition?”

This seems related to Bateson’s Levels of Learning described by Gardner Campbell in is keynote at the Open Ed 2012.   We think of learning often within the context of a formal or institutional setting.  We take a class. A class has a set format, defined goals and roles, activities set forth with a set duration.  The learning is contained within the class with some structured amount of outside work which is structured and tied back to the class.  Admittedly there is a certain amount of variety within this format.  Yet, we are often motivated by external demands such as grades, tests, and degrees that we forget or ignore our own curiosity and passion for learning.

But what happens when the ways learning is suppose to happen gets disrupted?  What if learning can happen any where?  What if everyone is a potential teacher?  What if the content has substance but no specific format or set boundaries? What if the learner is in charge?  As Shirky says “[t]he possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled.”  But do these possibilities present a vaste array of possibiliteis or do they threaten to homogenize knowledge as Depedeva posits on her blog?

So the one area I keep coming back to and is the basis of some writing I’m doing on digital badging, where do credentials and accreditation fit into all of this?  Clearly many who engage in a MOOC are doing so for their own professional and personal development.  But if we are proposing MOOCs as alternatives to our current systems of education, how do we help students demonstrate their mastery and competence?   Do we decouple the learning from the certification?  Ifs so, what are the new systems of credentialing needed for this new environment?


My imagined artistic self

Felicia M. Sullivan

Felicia M. Sullivan (°1966, Malone, United States) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, Sullivan tries to approach a wide scale of subjects in a multi-layered way, likes to involve the viewer in a way that is sometimes physical and believes in the idea of function following form in a work.

Her work urge us to renegotiate art as being part of a reactive or – at times – autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. With a conceptual approach, she creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.

Her works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, she investigates the dynamics of landscape, including the manipulation of its effects and the limits of spectacle based on our assumptions of what landscape means to us. Rather than presenting a factual reality, an illusion is fabricated to conjure the realms of our imagination.

Her works establish a link between the landscape’s reality and that imagined by its conceiver. These works focus on concrete questions that determine our existence. By exploring the concept of landscape in a nostalgic way, her works references post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Her works directly respond to the surrounding environment and uses everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context. Felicia M. Sullivan currently lives and works in Lowell, MA.

Created in less than a minute using –

Empowering Community Settings

I am doing some additional literature review for my dissertation and came across this table on an article about empowering community settings.  I wonder how many people can say they work at or are connected to a group or organization meets these criteria.  How can we move more of our organizations to practice and include these characteristics?  What would it take for our local governments to embrace these types of organizational practices?

[NOTE:  click on image to enlarge]

SOURCE: Maton, Kenneth J. (2008) ” Empowering Community Settings: Agents of Individual Development, Community Betterment, and Positive Social Change” Am J Community Psychol (2008) 41. p. 8.

The Bargainmaker is Always It

The 119 Gallery annual retreat was held on Sunday, May 6th.  During a discussion about the collection of facility usage or event fees, one of the participants, I think Andrea Pensado, asked how does this type of decision get made and enforced.  In essence she was working for a traditional understanding of organizational priorities where the board defines some set of objectives and these are then executive by staff or on-the-ground workers.  Yet within the context of the 119 this is not how decisions are enacted.  Basically, decisions are more participatory or decentralized in nature where the individual involved in the transaction or exchange decides.  Not that the person decides in a vacuum or in a context of no cultural or organizational values and goals, but basically individuals are agents in the process rather than avatars for the decisions of others.   Within this context as well, those who decide also have responsibility to follow through with the decisions they enact.  Board chair Jim Jeffers dubbed this style of decision-making — “The Bargainmaker is Always It” model.  He was borrowing it from decision-making within his household context, but it was highly apt within the context of the 119.

Thin Places

Walter, on of the founders of the 119 Gallery just shared this NYT article on thin places.  As quoted:

thin places are much deeper than that. They are locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever.

In many ways the 119 Gallery at times, not always, is one of these thin places.  A place where new configuration and new interactions and transformations come into being.

Creating a new space at the intersection of artists and audience

presentation by Steven Wheeler (Plymouth University) on self-organization and learning included a diagram that brought individual reflection via blogs into collaborative community via wikis.  This intersection between the individual and collective was pointed out again during a recent dialogue hour hosted by the Opens Space Workshops for Scientific and Social change.  This jumpstarted some thinking on my part about the 119 Gallery as a space that creates a similar intersection between individual creative visions and practices and a larger audience of community members.

While many may view galleries and performance spaces as a location of exchange between artists / producers and their audiences / consumers, the 119 Gallery actually exists as a space where creators and patrons come into communion with one another. Rather than exchange (which is the dominent concept of a “creative economy”) a new set of social and creative processes are formed within the context of this ever evolving creative space.  Producers and consumers may enter, but through participation the roles and boundaries between these entities begin to blur.

It is not uncommon for an individual within this space to find themselves moving and revolving between multiples roles and responsibilities.  The audience member becomes creator, the creator becomes audience and all have the opportunity to become architects / convenors / curators and producers of new formulations and articulations of the space.  They also are invited to craft the supports for its operation.

Eric S. Raymond’s seminal book The Cathedral and the Bazaar explored the value of open source software development (the Bazaar) when compared to the centrally controlled processes of proprietary projects (the Cathedral).  While much of the thinking done by Raymond and others resonates with a space like the 119 Gallery, the still dominant language of the market and exchange don’t quite capture what a creative space like the 119 is all about.  And there are aspects of a “church” or a coming together or “communing” that are more exact.

The 119 Gallery space and the creative community it births make possible new visions and expressions that would not be possible for the individual creator or the audience alone.  Co-construction and reconfiguration of creative impulses (including those in the realm of organizational management and development), are an essential feature of the 119 Gallery.  It is these new formulations and the energy they create that also appear to motivate the continued engagement of members of this creative community.

Barney Frank @ NEPSA

Attended the annual New England Political Science Association meeting this past weekend.  Delivered my very first conference paper which went pretty well.  Barney Frank spoke at the luncheon meeting on Saturday and had a lot of great things to say about our increasinly partisan / parlimentary style political culture in a presidential system and strategies for addressing the national debt.  Cut defense spending geared towards fighting a cold war that no longer exists and equip us with the much cheaper technologies needed to fight the enemies we do have.  Definitely an energtic and thoughtful luncheon address.

Some new research question re: political participation?

What does political participation look like?

How is participatory democracy different than civic engagement?

What sorts of environments foster and grow the ability to be politically engaged?

How does power operate in a participatory setting?

What role can community media environments play in increasing the political participation of marginalized groups?

Can new media and communication technoloiges increase the chances of local people being politically engaged?