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#rhizo15 Reflective Journal - 4/22

Recently, someone posted in the #rhizo15 group on Facebook, that they were 60 years old and guessed that they were one of the older people around. Soon, several people posted about being in their fifties and believing that many of the people in the group were. I wonder what the demographics really are. I also wonder to what extent it really matters. As we construct our online identities, how much do, or should constructs like age, gender, or even species really matter?

I am, however, interested in a different demographic. I get a sense that most of the participants are academics who read Deleuze and Guattari for fun. I imagine the Venn diagraph of academics and people who read D+G for fun. I suspect that the subset of academics that read D+G for fun is pretty small, relatively speaking, and the subset of non-academics that read D+G for fun is even smaller. (Is there anyone else reading this who identify themselves this way?)

As I write this, I suspect that the closest I get to being an academic is being a teaching assistant in the school of hard knocks.

There is also a discussion about the relationship between connectivism and rhizomatic learning. This sounds like a discussion for the academics. For me, I’m curious about the learning that exists outside of academia, that might be rhizomatic, or might be done better rhizomaticly.

How do we learn about political candidates in the twenty first century? How do we learn about what is going on in our government? How does journalism fit into all of this? I’ve kicked around the idea of setting up a learning platform, like Moodle to learn about and discuss legislation being considered in our state legislature.

#rhizo15 Wandering Autodidact

When I was young, and trying to think of something to do, I would often head into the hallway off of the living room. Across from the coat closet was a land of imagination. On the lower shelves were piles of paper from the paper mill where my aunt worked. I could grab some paper and write or draw. Above these piles of paper were various books. Some were specifically aimed at children. Others were field guides. There were books about birds, flowers, and I’m not sure what all else. Above these books was the encyclopedia.

I would often pull down a volume of the encyclopedia and randomly find a word that I knew nothing about. I would read the article, which would inevitably reference other articles, and I would go from one article to the next. I knew the structure and where to find things, but I didn’t know where I would go, or what I would find.

Later, I would make similar journeys around the town library and eventually the college library in the town where I grew up. Today, another person who grew up in the same town posted on Facebook about the demolition of that library.

"Much of my education happened by wandering the stacks and reading whatever titles sounded interesting."

After college, I spent eight months travelling. My first stop in Europe was Paris. I had “Let’s Go, Europe” which I had read and reread, so I had a sense of the layout of the city. I explored it in a manner similar to how I read articles from the encyclopedia or books from the college library.

When I got online, I approached exploring the Internet in a similar manner, so much so, that I took to referring to myself as a wandering autodidact.

Now, I’m participating in #rhizo15 and everyone is trying to determine subjectives or objectives or whatever. I’ve talked about the value of finding tools and techniques to manage the overwhelming flow of information coming at us. I’ve thought about the developing a love of learning.

Yet perhaps the underlying reason to participate is the same reason writers write, because they must.

Deanspace, #rhizo15 and the Singularity

I’ve spent a bit of the day immersed in the #rhizo15 discussions, and for my own sake, as well as for people who aren’t involved on Facebook, I’m pulling some of my comments together into a slightly more organized set of thoughts here.

Much of today’s discussion focused around Lenandlar Singh’s Facebook post pointing to a blog post listing #rhizo15 blog posts. I had been building up a #Rhizo15 Wiki designed to do some similar things. Lenandlar’s effort morphed into a Google Doc listing #rhizo15 blog posts.

There was a discussion of RSS feeds, and I tweaked the wiki to pull in posts via RSS. I also gave a little bit of a discussion about how RSS forks

There was also a discussion of using Storify and Paper.li I had set up a #rhizo15 Paper.li, so I shared that link. Paper.li is a bit weird with its automatic gathering, categorizing, and distributing information, but it is a good tool in a situation like this.

All of this made me think of the Deanspace days. I commented:

As an aside, all of this is very reminiscent of the Deanspace days back in 2003 where we tried to find ways of enabling and organizing volunteers creating content, mostly on blogs, in support of Gov. Dean's presidential bid. We used Drupal for RSS aggregation as well as tracking individuals. We used FOAF for some of our tracking of people. I plan on writing more about this soon.

Later on in the discussion, Penny Bentley asked the question, “is Rhizo15 an accurate representation of the external world?” She expressed her skepticism, and I returned to my Deanspace idea.

I'm finding many ways that Rhizo15 represents my experiences. I suspect the experience of desperately trying to keep on top of incoming information, and failing to do so is fairly common, perhaps note unlike Toffler's Future Shock. I've run into this in the world of politics [Deanspace]. I've run into this in the world of health care [The idea that doctors can no longer stay abreast of advances in medicine simply by reading peer reviewed journals. There is too much to read]. I've run into this in the world of finance [In many ways trading is an information business. You need to get as much information related to a stock as possible to make a good decision]. So, we learn to cope, with new tools, with new modes of behavior, to try and get by.

Penny responded that this was helping her tease out her understanding of objectives and subjectives and asked if what I described in the comment was my subjectives.

I explored this a little more with

I wasn't particularly thinking in terms of subjectives or objectives when I made that comment, and I'm not positive I know what my subjectives are. As I think about it, I go back to my blog post "#rhizo15 A Primary Task?" where I try to think about subjectives and objectives in terms of a primary task of a group relations conference.

There, I described what may be my overarching subjective, in the form of a primary task. "The primary task of this learning organization is to explore, experience and learn from the development of learning networks, content, and the use of technology in promoting online learning."

If that is, in fact, my core subjective, finding ways to manage an ever increasing amount of incoming information may be another facet or component of my subjective.

As I wrote this, and thought back to the issue of subjectives and objectives, words from Randy Pausch's Last Lecture

experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And I think that’s absolutely lovely. And the other thing about football is we send our kids out to play football or soccer or swimming or whatever it is, and it’s the first example of what I’m going to call a head fake, or indirect learning. We actually don’t want our kids to learn football. I mean, yeah, it’s really nice that I have a wonderful three-point stance and that I know how to do a chop block and all this kind of stuff. But we send our kids out to learn much more important things. Teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance, etcetera, etcetera. And these kinds of head fake learning are absolutely important. And you should keep your eye out for them because they’re everywhere.

I think this helps a little in thinking about subjectives. They are the experience we get when we don’t get our objectives, what we wanted. They are the things that those encouraging us to pursue something hope we will learn, like teamwork, even though they may not tell us that this is what they really want us to learn.

To switch from the inspirational to the futurist, perhaps another way of looking at the possible subjectives I’m considering for this is, learning how to process information in the singularity. Information is expanding faster than we can track or process on our own. How do we deal with it?

#rhizo15 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.

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