SOPA and PIPA and random thoughts

January 16, 2012

I probably can’t — and don’t want to — change the world. The very nicest thing I’ve been told in a long time is that I influence others in a quiet way that often becomes apparent to them some time later. “Quiet” doesn’t equal high-profile world changer but it is definitely a mode of being that suits my personality. And I do want to actively participate as much as possible in the good change I see happening all around me so that’s why I’ve spent a career in education. I’m especially interested in the technology/communication advances related to social media.

I want to share
WordPress asks its 60 million users to help stop SOPA and PIPA

because I’m passionate about not losing the important freedom of expression we’ve recently acquired by being able to blog, tweet, share photos, videos, etc. We can use this responsibly without the being shackled by the harshness of proposed legislation. My childhood piano teacher (who I thank for giving me a view of education that was astonishingly progressive for a woman who was 60 years older than me) said “the freedom to swing your arm ends at the other person’s nose”. I get that we shouldn’t use the new communication tools, or any other tools, to hurt others. But let’s not tip in the opposite direction and lose all the potential for great sharing and learning.

Clay Shirky, as always, describes it very well:

And, keeping with the “what-impact-do-I-really-have” motif, here are three separate comments from the instructor evaluation in the most recent course I taught:

– She has a talent to pull student’s out of their comfort zone and to “think outside the box”. This was not a negative attribute in a Master’s level instructor and facilitator.

– I like the approach of letting us figure out things ourselves. My sense from the group is the majority don’t like that approach. The social constructivist approach to learning works for me.

– I wouldn’t let her train my Cocker Spaniel.

I guess I have the ability to make some of my students think and make others get angry. Of course I think the first student completely understood what I was trying to do and the second one I appreciate for being honest enough to let me know that he or she saw others in the group who did NOT want the opportunity to learn by doing. To that ‘Cocker Spaniel’ commenter, I just have to say that grad students shouldn’t require ‘training’. If I’m there it’s for another purpose altogether. My belief system is strongly oriented towards encouraging people to learn how to learn. That’s not generally what you do with dogs and it’s why grad school is not obedience school. I have never wanted to spoon-feed educational content to anyone.

Mynna, born, I believe, in 1895, would be close to 117 years old. She lived into her 90s.

Mynna, born, I believe, in 1895, would be close to 117 years old. She lived into her 90s.

Back to my childhood piano teacher…. she told me that the word education came from the Latin “educa” which she translated as “to draw out”. Nothing about cramming in facts! Thank you Mynna! You were a quiet influence that is still apparent to me all these years later.

Work / Life

December 10, 2011

One of the instructional skills workshop participants I’ve been working with blogged on the topic of work/life balance by saying the following:

“Do we find what we do to make money so onerous that we wish to compartmentalize it away from who we are? Is work the way to make money and life what we use the money for? Is work so strenuous that what we call our life must consist of recovery, recuperation and preparation for the next onslaught of anguish/work?”

These are compelling questions, and I think they say a lot about our workplace and our attitude. I’m not quite sure who I mean here when I say “our”– but I think it might be anyone who works in an industrialized setting.

Where do I stand on this? I’m someone who’s about to take an early retirement and by February of next year (that’s just a few weeks away) I’ll be “free”. I love education and want to continue working in the field and for me, taking the pension offers the chance to be more selective about the work I do. I hate to say it but a lot of my time right now in my instructional designer role is spent nagging because courses have start dates and things need to be in place on time. Contract work (at least the kind I have lined up) is much different.

Overall, once retired I may actually work *more* — and some of that work will be a new focus related to glass. the hobby that I’ve tried to cultivate over the past several years as part of my own “work-life balance.” So my vision is for lots of variety. That too, may be part of the real secret to work/life balance. It seems to me that the workplace benefits when workers have a range of paths and can choose to grow when they’re ready.

And I believe that through social media I’ll be able to continue growing, keeping up with and contributing to the world of education. Contract work is one thing but I will almost certainly want to explore areas that I’m not “contracted” to do. And I’ll have the opportunity. Unencumbered! Willingly!

I think the whole concept is closely related to what Clay Shirky sees when he talks about cognitive surplus.

One of my favourite quotes of Shirky’s

“We have lived in this world where little things are done for love and big things for money. Now we have Wikipedia. Suddenly big things can be done for love.”

(and my son is 19 today…. Happy Birthday to a fresh new grown-up person!)

What is the value of openness?

May 7, 2011

Openness. When I think of this topic I often think of Clay Shirky. His writing on communication and technology is clear and inspirational. He talks about cognitive surplus, which basically means using our free time for productive collaboration and sharing the results. Sharing the results WIDELY.

The very title of his latest book explains this beautifully.

“Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age”

Perhaps what intrigues me the most about this idea is that through the collaboration allowed by social media, we might just be returning to values that are inherently human, but have been sidelined for a while due to industrialization.

A review of the book (via Amazon) says:
“Shirky argues persuasively that this cognitive surplus-rather than being some strange new departure from normal behavior-actually returns our society to forms of collaboration that were natural to us up through the early twentieth century.”

I think of the industrial or factory model of education as an example of where our society got ‘off track’ in the early twentieth century. My wish to transcend this is what got me into educational technology in the first place, about twenty-five years ago. I believed that the closed, compartmentalized view of education does not reflect how humans have learned — learned what they needed, learned when they needed to, through interaction, for centuries. Open learning can bring us back to that.

Shirky says (comparing the post-industrialized/pre-social media era to the present day):

“We have lived in this world where little things are done for love and big things for money. Now we have Wikipedia. Suddenly big things can be done for love.”

Here is a short (2.5 minutes) video that explores my personal response to the idea of cognitive surplus (created as a response to the theme of an upcoming conference).

The movement is mass, decentralized, and social

January 29, 2011

Jeremy Littau has written a great blog post that addresses something I was going to write about (the Shirky/Gladwell debate regarding whether social media really has an impact on true social action.)

The past week or so has given a lot of people reason to think about this question.

Thank You Clay Shirky’s Mom

July 6, 2010

There is a great interview in the Guardian (which by the way, you can read for free online…)

Some interesting highlights (apart from the fact that Shirky is convinced that the paywall for online news is going to fail) include the fact that he didn’t have a computer till age 28 and when he got one it was his mother who taught him about the internet. He’s 46 now so doing the math suggests that lesson was somewhere around 1992 (Thank YOU, Clay’s Mom  – you done real good!)

As always, Shirky is both optimistic and realistic about technology and all the things people do with it. What’s particularly refreshing about this article is that the interviewer, Decca Aitkenhead, has captured his viewpoints in a light, skeptical-but-willing-to-reconsider, style of writing.

Here’s a quote directly from Shirky, “if the new technology creates a new behaviour, it’s because it was allowing motivations that were previously locked out. These tools we now have allow for new behaviours – but they don’t cause them.”

And here’s one from Aitkenhead, “Had I never been online before, and had just read his book, I’d probably be so inspired by his account of the creative and collaborative instincts of the online community, I’d be rushing to log on. But if I started out on, say, the Guardian’s Comment is free site, the sheer nastiness of many of the commenters would floor me like a train. If the web has unlocked all this human potential for generosity and sharing, how come the people using it are so horrible to each other?”

Shirky’s answer to the question of human ‘horribleness’, in my opinion (and I know there are zillions who would agree with me), hits just the right note of compassion for the way people are and always have been (mean when anonymous), and the way that technology reveals this. And he suggests that we have a challenge that might lead to the implementation of social norms to allow our considerate sides to shine through.

Snorkeling ’the shallows’: what’s the cognitive trade-off in internet behavior? (via Neuroconscience)

June 8, 2010

I love that neuroscience has something to say about the topic that has been debated by Carr and Shirky.

Snorkeling ’the shallows’: what's the cognitive trade-off in internet behavior? I am quite eager to comment on the recent explosion of e-commentary regarding Nicolas Carr’s new book. Bloggers have already done an excellent job summarizing the response to Carr’s argument. Further, Clay Shirkey and Jonathan Lehrer have both argued convincingly that theres’ not much new about this sort of reasoning. I’ve also argued along these lines, using the example of language itself as a radical departure from pre-linguistic living. Did ou … Read More

via Neuroconscience

Clay Shirky Interview

November 29, 2009

The complete interview of Clay Shirky (Nora Young on CBC) is here on Spark:

It’s great stuff, and he answers my groupthink question 🙂

something I’d posted about a few months ago and then sent to Nora when she requested questions for Shirky.

Awesome communication! And his answer is great. Groups are not so much about conformity now — open source makes it easy to walk away and do our own thing if we don’t like our group’s direction. Sort of the Seth Godin and the fluidity of tribes idea…

Imagining multi-roles in Web 2.0 Distance Education

October 19, 2009

“Imagining multi-roles in Web 2.0 Distance Education” is the title of a chapter that I have written with my colleague, BJ Eib for the George Veletsianos (Ed.) book to be published in early 2010 by Athabasca University Press titled:  

Emerging Technologies in Distance Education

We have just finished this work, which was started about a year ago…. and the big questions in our minds at the beginning have grown over the past few months. Our initial premise was related to ideas from Clay Shirky, Charles Leadbeater (and others) but turned to shed some light on Web 2.o possibilities in distance education, something that BJ and I have in our lives on a daily basis. As we’re working more and more with the new tools, our excitement is growing and we see it in our colleagues and friends as well.

“Are we experts and amateurs, audience and authors, learners and educators– all at the same time? Perhaps Web 2.0 and our ‘role(s)’ in distance education are causing us to reinvent ourselves.”

I’ll certainly be using this blog to point to more information about the book (which I understand will be offered as an online book as well as in print) when it becomes available.

Tribes, Pro-D, Sir Ken Robinson & more

October 1, 2009

Here’s a blog post showing the use of a Ning site to
“break the culture of professional isolation”

Having been to Sir Ken Robinson’s talk yesterday (and I read most of his book on the ferry coming home – finishing it this a.m. and hope to be blogging much more about it soon) I’m thinking of his terminology of “tribes” (we tend to require support to be creative) and also thinking about how much easier tribes are to find with Social Media tools.

Which leads me to revisit some earlier thoughts about tribes: in the context of a Kevin Kelly’s article — arguments against technology

The idea of insiders and outsiders implies those who adopt something new and those who resist changing, and this fits with a thought I had when responding to Yule Heibel who looked at Kelly’s reasons and added her own — that technology disturbs a comfort zone. I blogged about what this might mean in a repressive regime.

But I guess that’s what the ‘third cycle’ of world-changing ideas might be about – change made possible because of the ways that like-minded innovation-friendly folks can find each other (like never before).

And perhaps tribes can now also disband and re-form into new tribes with a new ease as well… once informed, it’s just as easy for one person to take another away by the hand as it is to bring them in. No residual loyalty — only participating when it’s a good fit to do so. If information is allowed to flow (and if the population has acquired filtering skills, we mustn’t forget Clay Shirky here) tribes will emerge to create necessary change.

Three videos that educators should consider

September 13, 2009

I truly believe that data visualization combined with social networking is going to make a difference in how our world is controlled. More than ever before we can all have informed input.

So…. Here are three videos that I think all educators should consider

And then,