#rhizo15 Part 1 – Uncertain Learning Subjectives

Today, #rhizo15 starts. It is tempting to put it into some nice sort of box, with learning objectives about learning how to better create online courses, but that seems incomplete or misleading. Learning Subjectives – designing for when you don’t know where you’re going provides a better starting point.

The idea of jumping off into the unknown has long been appealing to me. It is part of the reason I like unconferences, like the upcoming Podcamp Western Mass. Get together with a bunch of bright people around an interesting topic and see what happens.

So, what do I hope to get out of #rhizo15? I’m not sure, but I find a good starting point to be a paper presented at the 1999 International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations (ISPSO), Our Best Work Happens When We Don't Know What We're Doing.

In keeping with our own thinking and with the specific context of our own work, our version of Bion's assumption about the effects of exposure to truth is that learning comes from working at the edge between knowing and not-knowing. The core activity linking our organizational research, consultancy, management and teaching - namely, 'learning', or 'growth of mind' - involves exposure to truth-in-the-moment. This depends on the capacity to stay at the edge between knowing and not-knowing.

This also provide a good opportunity to introduce myself to people finding this post through #rhizo15, or for that matter, to people who have become readers of my blog over the years, without having a good sense of where I am coming from.

For the context of #rhizo15, I will highlight some areas I hope to explore, and skip over other areas which are less important. I’ve been on the Internet since 1982. If you know where to look, you can find stuff I wrote online in 1982 which is still online today. I worked for a while on Wall Street, which is where I came in contact with organizational consultants, including ISPSO and the work of Wilfred Bion in Group Relations. I’m particularly interested in how various thoughts about objects, fit together in various psychoanalytic traditions include Freud, Klein, Winnicott, Bion, and Lacan. I’ve participated in various online experiential learning based groups centered around the work of Bion in the past. This may be a blog post or two of its own.

During my years on Wall Street, I also did a little bit on artificial neural networks. I’m particularly interested in the relationship between artificial neural networks, social networks, how this relates to group dynamics, rhizomes, and for that matter the singularity This may be another blog post of its own.

In 2003, I helped write some of the social media software for Gov. Dean’s presidential campaign. I later worked in technology and social media for other campaigns, and have run for office myself. How does or could rhizomic learning and MOOCs relate to politics and governance? Another fun topic to explore in a later blog post.

I was the first person in Connecticut, according to reports I’ve seen online, to be on Twitter, and have I was one of the first people with Google Glass in Connecticut. I’ve been an early adopter and been involved with research on many innovations in computer mediated communications. I’m not sure what else I have to say on these topics, but there may be another blog post in all of this as well.

These days, I work as a social media manager for a nonprofit health care agency focused on providing primary care with a special focus on underserved populations. I have set up a Moodle for the agency and have recently taken a MOOC on teaching with Moodle, I may have written about this some in the past, and I’m not sure if there is another blog post in this topic.

And finally, at least for this evening, I’m currently taking a MOOC from Harvard on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. I had taken their MOOC on Walt Whitman a while ago. I’ve taken to sharing more of my poetic attempts online. Originally, I moved to New York City after college to be a poet, but that never panned out. I’m also focused on my religious viewpoints, which are perhaps best described as a socially liberal mix of Anglicanism with a splash of reformed theology.

Where will all of this go? It will be interesting to see.

Empty Nesting

Fiona is off on a school trip this week, so it is just Kim and I at home. It is sort of like a test run of being an empty nester. So, what did we do? I dealt with some issues at work, we did some taxes, and I’ll probably go to bed early, fighting a head cold, and having not caught up on the online Dickinson class I’m taking or started preparing for the next class, on Rhizome learning.

In the queue, rhizomes, politics, moocs, more poetry, and perhaps even some thoughts on how they all related.

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On My Mother's Birthday

What was it like, in that farm house
beside the Connecticut river
eighty four years ago
when my mother was born?

Did her older siblings
gather round
in joy and wonder and awe?
Did they help with the chores?

And her parents,
did they worry about
another mouth to feed
in the early days of the great depression?

The stories I remember are idyllic
playing by the side of the river
in the warm summer sun
without a care.

But what about the hard times?
Was she ever cold or hungry?
Was she ever picked on
by siblings or classmates?

Years later,
some of the stories came out
on my grandmother’s death bed.
Now, they’re both gone.

So I think of the sunlight
bouncing of the breeze blown ripples
of the slow summer river
and not the privations.

It’s probably what she would want me to remember

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The 2016 Democratic Primary - Pregame

This morning on Facebook, Zephyr Teachout put up a post that starts “Primaries are the bedrock of democracy.” I got to know Zephyr during the 2004 presidential later, she challenged Andrew Cuomo in a primary for the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. Her post included a link to an article about Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

While there is great focus on Hillary Clinton as the presumptive Democratic nominee for president in 2016, it is worth remembering that for the United States, “primaries are the bedrock of democracy”. So, I’m keeping an eye on the other candidates, particularly Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chaffee.

I went to hear Martin O’Malley last month and give him a mixed review. I haven’t looked enough at Chaffee to have an opinion there.

Many of the comments on Zephyr’s Facebook post focused on issues like fracking and common core. These are not likely to be dominant for the broader population. Nor are they, for me at least, make or break issues. However, having a good debate about these issues on the campaign trail would be good for all of us.

I mentioned there, as well as I mentioned to the members of the press I ran into up in New Hampshire, that at this point in 2004, Dick Gephardt was the front runner and few people had heard of Howard Dean. We’ll see what happens this time around, but I think it is important to remember that we’re at the beginning of the primary process, not the end.


Today, I got to the dump, did a little politics, went for a walk, did a little Ingress napped a lot, and went to my relatives for dinner. I didn’t get a chance to work on the poetry class or do a few other online tasks on my to do list, as so I’ve slipped further behind.

I have a few blog posts in mind, mostly around poetry and politics, but they will have to wait until I have more time.

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