Hacking Brooklyn Ferry

It is Saturday, a day of rest. I am visiting my brother-in-law and his family in Hanover, New Hampshire. Fiona is off hanging out with her cousins. I have just gotten back from a walk around the Dartmouth campus, playing Ingres, hacking portals.

I pause to read Crossing Brooklyn Ferry as part of the MOOC that I am taking. How curious it would all be to Walt Whitman, a MOOC, the internet, this laptop. How curious it would all be to Walt Whitman, Ingress, GPS, cellphones. Hacking Brooklyn Ferry.

Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan island,

I first lived in Brooklyn in the days before the cellphone, when the internet was limited to a select few. I commuted from Brooklyn to New York, not by ferry, but by subway. Years later, I lived on a sailboat, a sloop, Whitman would have said, on the west side of Manhattan. I often sailed the waters Whitman wrote about, jibing and tacking amongst the vessels in the bay. Again, years later. I walked the streets, hacking portals in Ingress.

Yes, how curious it would all be to Walt Whitman, and yet, to hop to a different poet,

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.

I return to Whitman. Later, I come across “ as I lay in my bed” and my mind wanders to Wordsworth.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

I sit on my brother-in-law’s couch, and think about Wordsworth’s daffodils and Whitman’s “ curious abrupt questionings” and then my phone buzzes to notify me that a portal I had captured is now under attack. My resonators will be destroyed and the portal will be captured again by the resistance.

The best I had done seem’d to me blank and suspicious,

Of course, this is not just in the game of Ingress. It is also in the game of life and struggling to write something meaningful. Yet I continue to struggle, continue to write, continue to hack portals only to be recaptured.

“Flow on, river!” Whitman exclaims, and Joyce replies, “riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay…”

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Responding to the Anti-Speech Control Crowd

Recently, a friends on Facebook have been criticizing Pope Francis’ comments about Charlie Hebdo, Pope Francis said there are limits to freedom of speech. One friend, a vocal atheist, who generally likes what Pope Francis is saying

Why on earth is it that a belief with no evidence is less challengeable than one with a mountain of evidence to support it?

One person, Lisa, responded, Questioning is way different than taunting. I responded:

I find myself more closely aligned to Lisa's perspective. For those who don't know me, I'm an active Episcopalian involved in interfaith dialogs. Faith is something that should be questioned. We should have constructive dialogs about belief structures. But mocking another person’s beliefs is not a constructive dialog. It is picking a fight.

I'm all for free speech, but with any freedom comes responsibility. When you speak, what are you trying to do? Are you trying to change someone else's opinion? To start a fight? To be funny?

More importantly, beyond intent, what is the likely impact? I think this is especially important for all of my evidence based friends. What evidence is there that your words are going to be beneficial and what evidence is there that your words are going to cause unnecessary violence?

I think if we look at trying to avoid encouraging unnecessary violence, we may find that avoiding mocking other faith structures, and instead trying to understand them, find mutual ground, and then work towards de-escalating violence is much more beneficial.

Later, a friend shared As a Muslim, I’m fed up with the hypocrisy of the free speech fundamentalists.

To that discussion, I added,

The question becomes how do we wield the pen most effectively to prevent violence? Do cartoons of Mohammed help prevent violence, or does it incite violence? Free speech is a great starting point, but we need to look further as to having the post positive impact with free speech.

I’ve titled this blog post, “Responding to the Anti-Speech Control Crowd” to link this discussion to the discussion of Gun Control. How do we talk about free speech, while at the same time advocating for the responsible use of that speech?

What to Write

With the start of the New Year, I’ve gotten back some of my writing mojo and am back in the habit of putting up at least one blog post a day. Coming up with writing material has been somewhat easy since I’m participating in two MOOCs right now, yet there always is that struggle of what to write. If I don’t have something compelling, or enough energy, should I skip the blog post? Keeping the discipline of daily writing, perhaps, brings the most benefit on those days when it is hardest to write.

This week has been very busy, and there are many topics I would love to explore in depth, when I have more time, but for this evening, I want to reflect on a post a friend put on Facebook:

I keep trying to blog, but now, with a heightened sense of everything being public all the time, it's not as easy as it was before.

After Charlie Hebdo and Raif Badawi, after Ferguson and Eric Garner, we see speech becoming more and more divisive and for some, more and more dangerous. No, it isn’t as easy any more, but perhaps it is more and more important.

The question becomes, are you saying something new, insightful, important, or are you just echoing talking points of your political orientation?

Sometimes, it is neither. Sometimes, it is just the discipline of daily writing, and there’s value to that as well.

This Moment in Time

This evening, my attention returns to the Walk Whitman course. The video I listened to, today, talks about Whitman’s place in the burgeoning cities of the nineteenth century. I pause to think about the places we live in today; from the cities of the industrial revolution to the global villages of the information age, transcending time and place.

I glance at Open Culture, bringing me videos from the sixties and seventies. I glance at Global Voices, bringing me stories from around the world. I glance at the daily office, connecting me to ancient stories.

What does it all mean, this moment in time in the twenty-first century? How do I process all of this without burning out, without future shock, without becoming numb, just another consumer of content?

Ideas continue to percolate, but I don’t have the time or energy right now to bring them together into a more complete collection of thoughts.

I return to the class and read Whitman's "To a Stranger" and then respond in the forum with my reaction to the poem when asked about the urban context and why Whitman addresses a stranger:

Not to foreshadow a coming poem, but here we are, over a hundred years hence. The urban context is being replaced with a global village context that transcends time and place. Camus wrote of the stranger. I am the stranger. You are the stranger. There are so many people in this class that are strangers to me, whose gender I do not know.

Yet when I think of the stranger, I think of the child muse, still undiscovered. Giving us hints of what is to come, but not full fledged inspiration. More like the fairy child that visited Babbitt in his dreams.

And as we walk the city streets, we catch a fleeting glimpse of the stranger. Pink Floyd caught that glimpse as well, but turned to look at it was gone.

May none of us lose that hope of inspiration.

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#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.

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