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#rhizo14 Discussions 4/18

I posted a link to my previous blog post to a Facebook discussion started by Dilrukshi Gamage. In that discussion, one person had suggested a Google Doc as a means of organizing information related to the #rhizo15 cMOOC. I suggested that it didn’t seem all that useful.

Sarah Honeychurch commented, “The doc, though, I thought was for us to describe ourselves, not to curate content”.

I responded, “To paraphrase Marshall McLuhan, I have wonder if the connections are the content.”

She asked me to elaborate, which prompted a long comment from me.

I'm not sure how much I can elaborate, yet. It is an emerging thought. #rhizo15 has started off with our identifying ourselves. I chose certain aspects of myself to reveal in my initial post, those that seemed relevant to my initial understanding of #rhizo15.

Back in the 1990s I was involved in text based virtual worlds where we could create our personae. Our virtual selves didn't need to be the same as our physical selves. In facts, many people had multiple virtual selves, often of different genders or even different species.

With this in mind, I wrote, back in 2004 as I started what has become my primary blog, "Persona is a function of context, and my online persona is multifaceted. " How we know people online is very much a function of what they are writing, or what we would normally refer to as 'written content'.

Yet that content, aggregated is core to our understanding of the person, of the connection we are establishing. To the extent that we are building learning networks, what matters are the connections are the true content of the learning network, and the written content is only a means of approaching the true content, the connection.

So, I am trying to curate content, how do I understand who 'Sarah' is? Through her writings, in part. through her personae as presented in various social networks, through her interactions with others, and their interactions with her, which to the extent we are online is seen primarily through written content, but could also include drawings, graphics, songs, or even an unexpected chance meeting face to face.

My concept of this 'Sarah' is likely to be different from others, and I'm dubious that all of this nuance could be contained, cross linked, mapped, etc., in a Google Doc. On the other hand, I don't know of any tool that would work.

In the same thread, Simon Ensor suggested, “learning how to deal critically with the mass of stuff and people on networks could be one of the most useful learning outcomes from a cmooc like #rhizo15”” and referenced Howard Rheingold’s Teaching Critical Thinking in Age of Digital Credulity

I think there is something very important in this, that I plan on exploring in a future blog post. My comment on the Facebook thread was

I often think about Dunbar's number "a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships", typically assumed to be around 150. It is interesting to note how this compares to the size of aboriginal tribes, the size of 'large groups', and, perhaps more importantly, to our connections online. I'm following over 4000 people on Twitter and am friends of nearly3000 people on Facebook. I have over 2,000 connections on LinkedIN. These collections overlap and all far exceed Dunbar's number. How do we deal effectively with this mass of people? What tools can help us? How do we deal with a MOOC with this many people in it? In the Harvard MOOC on Americqn Poetry that I’ve been participating in, there are thousands of people in it and I feel disconnected from all of them.

Jane Van Galen raised an interesting question about how people enter the discussion.

I think about there are many more people in this group than are visible yet. I know that connections for people at the margins of academia are likely to have different entry points than connections for some of the rest of us.

I went back to an another old saying, which I twisted for #rhizo15

"Think outside the box? What box?" - 'Margins of academia? What academia?"

Nonetheless, Jane raises a very important point I hope to see more exploration of. Even though I consider myself beyond the margins of academia, if we chose to recognize the construct ‘academia’, I think I do a pretty good job of speaking the language.

Meanwhile, back to exploring how we organize content and connections in #rhizo15.

#rhizo15 Curation Content and Contacts in a cMOOC

As the #rhizo15 cMOOC picks up speed, I struggle to keep track of everything that is going on and decide content and connections to keep track of and nurture and which ones to not spend as much time on. It appears as if I’m not alone in this task. Dilrukshi Gamage put it this way in a Facebook post:

We are trying to learn something, we have been given tools , FB , Twitter.. how do we make use of it in this community - we make our own groups and have conversations into any direction or we divide as an interest groups like in real conferences and have interactions..

Can anyone come up with a model - how can we effectively gain knowledge in a short period 6 weeks in this case..

My initial approach to #rhizo15 has been to read Facebook posts, and particularly those that link to blog posts. I’ve also been following tweets with the #rhizo15 hashtag and the comments on the Facebook posts. There has been a lot of content to go through. At first, I tried to read all of it, but eventually, I found myself skimming or skipping some.

The starting point has been Learning Subjectives – designing for when you don’t know where you’re going. We were asked to introduce ourselves, get acclimated and grapple with a few questions like

How do we design our own or others learning when we don’t know where we are going? How does that free us up? What can we get done with subjectives that can’t be done with objectives?

I explored this in my blog post, #rhizo15 Part 1 – Uncertain Learning Subjectives and then went on to look at some other blogs.

Maha Bali explored this in her blog post, Subjectifying my Learning!

I especially liked the way she looked at different words, like subject and subjective, object and objective, and then referenced Foucault’s play on the word ‘discipline’. I also really liked her comment, “What i dislike about learning objectives is their predetermination out of context”. It is interesting to think of learning subjectives in the context of common core and standardized testing in the United States. It is also interesting to think of learning subjectives in reference to medical education, which I’ll come back to later. Maha has put up two subsequent posts at the point that I’m writing this post. They point to posts by other #rhizo15 participants.

One of those participants is Jeffrey Keefer who shared his initial thoughts in Drawn into #Rhizo15. He starts off with “Like I don’t already have enough things to do” Yeah. I can relate to that. I also liked his comments about living in a messy world.

most of us live in a messy world with lots of people and cultural influences and work, life, death, and everything in between. In some way, between all of these things, we still somehow learn

It reminds me of two different things. The first thing that came to mind was Brene Brown’s Ted Talk, The power of vulnerability.

my entire academic career was surrounded by people who kind of believed in the "life's messy, love it." And I'm more of the, "life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box."

Seems Jeffrey and I are party of the “life’s messy, love it” crowd. Yet there are people participating in #rhizo15 who want to organize the messiness.

The second thing that came to mind is the end of Annie Hall.

“It reminds me of that old joke- you know, a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office and says, hey doc, my brother's crazy! He thinks he's a chicken. Then the doc says, why don't you turn him in? Then the guy says, I would but I need the eggs. I guess that's how I feel about relationships. They're totally crazy, irrational, and absurd, but we keep going through it because we need the eggs.”

It turns out that Jeffrey and I have mutual connections on both Facebook and LinkedIn and works in clinical transformation. Since that blog post, Jeffrey has put up two posts. One is a link to Maha posts.

At this point, I start thinking about how I organize what’s been written that I want to follow up on. Clearly, a sequential blog post isn’t enough and I start thinking of CRMs, directed graphs, bookmarking tools, Wiki’s, Moodle, etc.

I take a break to try and find good tools for organizing information, but come up short. So, I’ll post this as is, and try to come up with some better tools later.

Early Reflections on #Rhizo15

Two roads diverged
in a rewilding post urban landscape
descending into chaos
before emerging and maturing
into a natural unique
niche of biodiversity.

And being one learner, long I stood
reading Facebook updates and blog posts
pondering subjectives and objectives,
goals and primary tasks.

I looked at goals as long as I could
but remembered Stevenson and Eliot
and embraced
the age-old art of getting lost.

I decided to travel hopefully
and return where I started
after chasing red herrings
down blind alleys.

I saw the best minds of my generation
looking for a different fix.
connection to likeminded travelers,
seeking truth
in the symbol ‘O’,
l’objet petit a,
the lost, partial, transitional object,
the rhizome.

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