Sweet Briar

“The only thing wrong with privilege,”
I remember a college professor once saying,
attributing the quote to Virginia Woolf.
“was that not everyone has it.”

I was sitting in an English class
at a small private
liberal arts college
in Ohio.

I had grown up in a college town
not much different than Wooster
so I didn’t even notice
my own privilege.

Instead, I only saw those
with greater privilege than I.

In the news today,
I read about a small private college
in Virginia
that is shutting down.

The plantation,
turned finishing school,
turned liberal arts college,
couldn’t survive
in the twenty-first century.

I imagine the students reading
Virginia Woolf,
longing for five hundred pounds
and a room of their own,
nodding their heads in agreement
with Woolf’s words about privilege.

I imagine the students reading
“Gone with the Wind”
comparing Sweet Briar to Tara
vowing they will never go hungry again.

I imagine the students reading
the Gospel lesson
about the Anointing of Jesus
and nodding in agreement
that it was a very beautiful thing.

I imagine the students reading
John Donne
and knowing that the bell tolls
not just for the closing of Sweet Briar,
but for all of us.


I read through the ‘about’ page
of a website my daughter uses at school
“to help students excel at tests”.

It is the wonderful world of
SAT verbal prep.

My SAT verbal prep
was translating Catullus.
“Odi et Amo”

Now, I am enamored with words;
their feel on my lips,
the thoughts they conjure up.

And as much as I value computers
in helping us connect to one another,
the idea of learning words
to excel at tests
I find odious.

Banks of Snow

Another winter storm watch is in effect for parts of New England, starting Sunday evening at 7 PM, shortly after kickoff for the Superbowl. I suspect many Patriots fans are hoping for a snow day on Monday, and also hoping, perhaps without the thought having yet crossed their mind, that we don’t lose power during the game. Others will hope that a travel ban doesn’t go into effect until after the game ends.

I am not a big football fan. I’ll watch the game at home with my family. No, we won’t be traveling during the storm. And throughout the storm, I expect that I’ll be working to get the message out about any closings or other considerations for my co-workers.

It is bitter cold outside today, at least by New England standards, with wind chill factors around zero. I did make the trip to the dump, not because there was a lot of trash, but in case I can’t go next week and the trash piles up.

I glance outside as I hear the latest gust and the creaking of the house. I see light snow blowing from roof to drift to driveway.

A child said What is the snow? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.

I’ve spent my day, besides the time I spent going to the dump, resting, and participating in online courses. This afternoon, I read section six of “Song of Myself” and watched a video of teachers talking about the poem. Leaves of Grass, Banks of Snow.

As I listen to the teachers speak, the words of Emerson come to mind:

Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books.

Are these teachers, critiquing Whitman as a teacher about grass forgetting Whitman’s educational experience, who ended his formal schooling at age eleven?

I made it further. I didn’t end my formal education until I was twenty, just shy of getting a college degree. Yet I find my thoughts about education closer to those of Emerson and Whitman, perhaps tinted with a little Piaget, Papert, and now, perhaps, George Siemens.

Besides the Whitman class that I’m taking online, I’m taking a course on Teaching with Moodle. As part of the class, I needed to set up my own course using Moodle, so I set up Moodle and Connectivism. The course, currently, has a link to Siemens’ paper, and a sample quiz and assignment; the parts of the course needed for the teaching course.

Of course, it is something that I’m constructing as I go, and learn more about Connectivism. It is also set up for other students to connect in, so that we can all learn together, and perhaps that is part of what Whitman is talking about anyway.

What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?

“All goes onward and outward…”

#learnmoodle Reflections

When we learn something new, it is useful to spend some time thinking about our experiences and analysing our progress.

About half way through the first week of the Teaching with Moodle course, we are being encouraged to reflect on our learning.

Being an old guard geek, most of the stuff we are learning are things that I’ve already picked up, or probably would have picked up pretty quickly just by playing with Moodle. It is fairly easy to use. What is more interesting to me are the discussions about how it is, or can be, used.

I now have a better idea about how to organize topics for a class. I’ve also been more directed in playing with it, learning more about blocks, enrollment and tracking completion of course tasks.

This last part has brought about one of the more interesting discussions. Should you set up Forums so that they automatically complete a section of the course based on what the student has posted, or do you leave a manual completion check box for the student to check off? How does this relate to badges, and how important are badges and gamification? What other ways can you encourage participation in the Moodle?

These are issues I spend a lot of time thinking about in terms of social media, how to encourage participation, badges and gamification.

This leads to some other interesting discussions, such as the role of lurkers in a class, or in social media. As one possible longer term todo, it seems like a literature review of the use of badges and gamification in education is called for. I may tackle that when I have more time.

Another interesting discussion has been about the age of students in Moodle. Do younger students, digital natives, find it easier to use a Moodle? How does this relate to ideas of education around Constructivism, Constructionism, Connectivism, and other learning theories?

It has also brought up an interest in exploring the conditional activities in Moodle.

Hopefully, I’ll spend more time reflecting on this later, when I’m not so busy and tired. I look forward to reading some of the other learners experiences.

From MOOCs to Badges

With the snow and cold, I decided to take it fairly easy this weekend, resting and reading. Mostly what I’ve been reading has been material from an EdX MOOC about Walt Whitman and a Moodle course about Teaching with Moodle.

Interspersed with this has been Dadaist films on OpenCulture and A look inside Charlie Hebdo. I’ve been having some additional discussions about DeanSpace which I plan on returning to later.

For this evening, however, there are a few things that caught my attention from the Moodle course. The Moodle uses Badges as part of the system; particularly Mozilla OpenBadges>. I earned my first badge in the course which I’ve placed in my Open Badges Backpack. So, one of my todos is to learn more about Mozilla’s Badges and Backpack.

One of the first issues I ran into was that the badge I received from Moodle was for my work email address and the backpack was set up for my private email address. In exploring this, I managed to get my work email address added and come across Mozilla’s Persona.

Each of these are things that I need to explore in more depth.

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