scholarship in public

Emerging Learning Networks

I was inspired by a project that Rhizomatic Learning Man Dave Cormier posted this morning. He is working on developing a worksheet to support the development of an arduino project with K-12 students.

I have been working for some time now to investigate the types of learning environments and activities that foster/support/promote the emergence of self-directed learning.

One experience that has been a touchstone for me is teaching Scratch and Arduino (in separate settings). We saw what I started calling a “ripple” effect. I would demonstrate some basic skill. Some kids would get it immediate and could not stop themselves from trying it out. The amazing part is that they then became compelled to share what they had done with other students. The kids literally started rippling through the classroom. And suddenly most, if not all, of the others were engaged.

Over time, the time I would spend on the introduction of the basic skills would get shorter and shorter to allow more time for the “ripple.” The only way to stop it was to literally stop the enthusiasm. You can imagine the downward spiral on enthusiasm.

scholarship in public

Emerging Resonance?

This really thoughtful piece from Aeon is all about how we/our bodies respond to rhythms and other events without actually seeming to perceive them.

This passage really caught my attention:

But the experience of time involves more than just the perception of events occurring at a distance from us. We also experience time by instigating events through our actions, as well as encountering the actions of others. To relish the flow of a chat with a friend, or to feel the groove of a beat, is to have a distinctive kind of temporal experience where the observation of time becomes entwined with how one inhabits it – but in each case, the experience is less a matter of representing temporal structure than of entraining to it, resonating with it.

It makes me wonder how much of learning, in both formal and informal settings works like this. How do we respond to rhythms and patterns in the content and context about which we are not aware?And how much of  this potential “noise” really shapes what we learn and who we are?

scholarship in public

Learning as a social activity

This really interesting video of UK neuroscientist Sophie Scott has her discussing some really interesting research into conversation. It is pretty short (about 6 minutes) and very compelling. I need to check out the research she mentions. What I took away was that conversation is an act that goes beyond distinctions of signal and noise, of conveying information, and is more about establishing and maintaining social connections.

This made me think of how learning and education are also not solely (or even primarily) about signal and noise and conveying information. And, if that is the case, then the way we assess learning is too thin and one-dimensional and needs to be radically rethought.

For more, see Dr. Scott’s TED Talk on why we laugh.

Image from Aeon.

scholarship in public

How is this not an #edtech allegory?

Cory Doctorow posted this story the other day about librarians (always the heroes) gaming automatic book culling software.

It turns out these librarians were not entirely entranced with the sheer power and makingourliveseasier qualities of this recommendation software. They had the gall (and wisdom) to recognize that popularity might not be the only judge of quality.

All hail the librarians (again)!

As I was reading this piece, I could not help to think of the lack of similar stories about teachers taking the same kinds of action to ward off the unintended (?) consequences of #edtech robots teaching our children, all in the name of “personalized learning.”


Digital Polarization on Pinterest Is Scary Aggressive

This is just scary when I think of sending our students out to research something on the internet.


The speed with which Pinterest radicalizes your feed with conspiracy-based disinfo is shocking. I speed up this video by 400% but the entire process takes less than 13 minutes I think. Here’s the final frame. I got here without taking a single explicit antivax action (e.g. I didn’t follow any antivax boards):


Please watch the whole video. It may even shock the cynical.

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scholarship in public

I am a social media machine

I have been thinking lately in Vonnegutian terms. I am apparently a machine that is designed to post to social media and then respond to others. That may not be my job in life (at the moment, I am an Assistant Professor of Education at Pace University), but it is the place from which my value as a public person is (seems to be) derived. And it is the way I have started to (re) think my lived existence.

So, this article has really resonated with me. And especially this bit:

The folks at Facebook and Twitter have achieved something remarkable: they have made their users regard the world as staging ground for inputs to their products. The world and its events and relations are, so to speak, so much raw material to be submitted to the formulation and framing of Facebook statuses and tweets. The world is not the world tout court, it is the provisioner of ‘content’ for our social media reports.

I am not naive enough to believe that I (or anyone for that matter) is independent of outside influences. But this effect is really quite something. I debate ending my Facebook account and spending less time on Twitter, but there are connections there that are very meaningful to me. So, for now, I am staying put.

What worries me more at the moment is the way that Facebook and Twitter (and Pinterest and Instagram, etc.) have successfully and efficiently modeled exactly what we expect from learners in traditional settings (which, by my read, is still pretty much all K-12 schools here in the U.S). To make this point, I will need help from Mike Caufield.

In a post from July, “Information Underload,” Caufield makes the argument:

I’m increasingly convinced, however, that our problem is not information overload but information underload. We suffer not because there is just too much good information out there to process, but because most information out there is low quality slapdash takes on low quality research, endlessly pinging around the spin-o-sphere.

One of his examples really hit me. Caufield discusses Netflix:

Take Netflix as an example. Endless thinkpieces have been written about the Netflix matching algorithm, but for many years that algorithm could only match you with the equivalent of the films in the Walmart bargain bin, because Netflix had a matching algorithm but nothing worth watching.

He could also be describing the traditional role of teaching and learning in schools. The teachers (as a living recommender engine) is recommending to the students what is in the teacher’s “inventory”, not what is the next most interesting or relevant thing for the learner. The student is supposed to respond, like in the social media Pavlovian vision from the earlier article, by responding in the way that the teacher or school expects. The teacher who fulfills this goal is considered successful. The student who complies with these expectations is considered successful.  But is remains unclear how much authentic learning is actually taking place beyond the fulfillment of these complementary algorithms.

I think that the formation of personal learning networks and the concomitant  transformation of the roles of teacher and learner are the way through this quagmire.

I am not sure yet sure how to get my worldview back from Facebook and Twitter, however. I will keep working on it.