A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday,
It'll be interesting over the next several days to see if my students can make connections between what is happening in Baltimore and our discussions this semester in my Urban Politics class about the formation of ghettos in America's central cities.
My initial reaction was to encourage them to share their thoughts online. How well can they explain what they’ve been learning in Urban Politics and how it relates to what is currently going on? What can others learn from their experiences? Can we have a meaningful discussion?
This led me back to thinking about the #rhizo15. How do we make sense of different perspectives on race in America in an online learning environment? Can online learning circumvent the ghetto walls? Do filter bubbles just create new information ghettos?
It’s late. I’m tired. There is so much more to say about this, about helping people find their voices, about learning to be a motivational listener, about measurement, mastery, and mystery.
On Sunday, we sat around table after sharing a meal and had a serious talk about the future. It was one of those difficult discussions that families sometime have to have. In this case, it was with my church family.
For several years, I’ve been attending Grace and St. Peter’s Church in Hamden, CT. I’ve served on the vestry and am now the clerk. At our annual meetings and at our vestry meetings, we’ve talked about how the church is facing a substantial operating deficit. It has been for years, and has had to rely on drawing down the endowment to cover these shortfalls.
Our rector pointed out that the two largest items in the budget is her benefits and maintaining the building, and it is a very lean budget. No one wants to see us move from having a full time rector. No one wants to see us have to give up the building, but we need to do something to address the deficit, and it is better to do it now, than at some point in the future with much more precarious finances.
So, we sat down on as a family, on the day of the bishop’s visit. We discussed how we could move to having a part time rector while continuing to be a growing vibrant parish. The bishop commended our efforts and expressed a desire that more parishes would approach changes that the whole church is confronting the way Grace and St. Peters is.
To me, there are a few things that Grace and St. Peter’s is doing right that other institutions could learn from. First, we are being proactively transparent. Yes, vestry meetings are always open and the minutes are always available, but rarely does anyone not on the vestry attend a meeting or read the minutes. The lunch with the bishop after church was part of the effort to have the whole parish informed about what is going on.
A second thing that Grace and St. Peter’s is doing right is staying focused on our mission. When we talk about our finances, the goal isn’t a balanced budget, a growing endowment, or other financial measures. These are tools to help us achieve the real mission. Borrowing from the Book of Common Prayer, “The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.”
Our vestry meetings are an opportunity to be restored us to unity with God and each other in Christ. So was the lunch we had. So are the many other great things going on at our parish.
Another important aspect of how Grace and St. Peter’s is approaching things is that we are talking about our finances and the changing world we live in well before we get to any crisis.
All of these things come to mind as I read Crisis-hit General Theological Seminary is being 'groomed for failure' because of its real estate value, letter alleges. It comes to mind as I read Sweet Briar says faculty lawsuit is attempt by professors to get a ‘financial windfall’.
We live in a challenging changing time. Boards, whether they be the vestry of local parishes, or boards of institutions of higher education, need to approach these changes, prayerfully, openly, and honestly. I don’t know what is going on at General Theological Seminary, or at Sweet Briar. I don’t know how much property values are getting in the way of institutional values, but it does seem like more openness, more honesty, and especially more prayer is need for these institutions, and I feel very honored to be serving on the board of an institution that currently appears to be approaching these changes in an exemplary manner. The most I can do right now for General Theological Seminary and Sweet Briar is to pray.
Yesterday, Lenandlar Singh posted a link to the Facebook Rhizomatic discussion, The quantified self movement: some sociological perspectives. It is a great article about measurement which relates nicely to the Rhizomatic learning discussion.
It is interesting to think of measurement as an effort to keep things under control. We can measure our exercise, our nutrition, how much sleep we get, and all kinds of different things. We can measure how many problems we solve. We can echo Brene Brown, “life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a bento box.”
Yet I go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We can measure the lower level needs, physiological and safety. We can measure our grades get into good schools, get good jobs that help us earn money to meet the physiological and safety needs. It might even bring us a little esteem.
But I go back to other parts of Maslow’s hierarchy. I echo Rent and Rhizo, “Measure in love” (and belonging). But how do you measure self-actualization?
Perhaps next I will tackle measurement and mystery, and the realm of part objects and the divine.
Perhaps, the most important learning I took home from Podcamp Western Mass is how much a connectivist/rhizomatic perspective aligns with my own thinking. There are two different areas where this struck me.
It felt like Podcamp Western Mass, at least for this year, drifted into presentations to entrepreneurs wanting to learn about social media. I made a tweet to that effect and a person from a non-profit commented it felt that it was too business related and not general enough. How does this relate to rhizmomatic learning? In the first week, we focused on our learning subjectives. Where are we coming from? At Podcamp, this year, it felt very focused on learning objectives. Where do you want to be at the end of the session?
I guess I approach Podcamp from a learning subjective orientation. I go to Podcamp because I want to learn something new, something I don’t know about yet.
Perhaps the most exciting thing I learned about was TechSpring in Springfield. Hopefully, I’ll make it up to some of their events. There big event in May starts the same day that a conference on poetry and church life ends at Yale, so I may go from one to another for an interesting transition.
This brings me back to #rhizo15. It was great to make a couple interesting new connections, and renew some old connections at PodCamp. In many ways, I’ve often considered the success of a conference in terms of the number of new people that I start communicating with on social media. We’ll see how the connections from this year’s podcamp flourish.
Other random stuff. There was a good session on eBook publishing. References to Smashwords, BookBaby, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing and others. Of particular interest is the idea of using books, and particularly online eBooks, as promotional items.
It has been a very long day, spending time in a setting with people who seem to approach life very differently than I do. When I got home, I looked online to connect with people a little bit more like me. Some of this was preparation for Podcamp Western Mass 7, which happens tomorrow. Will parts of my tribe be there? What will we talk about?
I haven’t seen much discussion online this year from people going to Podcamp or topics they are interested in, so we’ll see who is there and what they are interested in.
After this, I hopped over to some of the #rhizo15 discussions. We’ll see if there are folks at Podcamp who are interested in #rhizo15. I suspect there may be a few, which would be cool.
Lisa Chamberlin tweeted,
So how do we reconcile #freerangelearning (my term for "learning is not a countable noun") with reportable results (and funding)? #rhizo15
It turns out that a #freerangelearning has been a pretty active hashtag over the past few years. Perhaps it captures some of the ideas I’ve talked about when I refer to myself as a wandering autodidact. Whatever meaning people are attributing to #freerangelearning I’ll try to do some of it at Podcamp, some of it as part of #Rhizo15, some of it by blogging, some of it by following the hashtag, and, if I get a little free time, I might even do a little light reading of Deleuze and Guattari before bed time.
P.S. Fun tweet from my wanderings "I told them we could measure learning." pic.twitter.com/kf4yWebDe3