Sunday, August 31, 2014

Autodidacts Connecting Ironically

I am beginning a new tradition of starting my comments with Terry, damn you.


Terry, damn you, you've once again thwarted my plan to allow my brain to settle into a vegetative state this weekend.

"Jonny All Shorn"
Terry Elliott's Call and Response post to my comments about this post (ok, this is becoming a labyrinth) has raised my eyebrows, as well as renewed my challenge to myself this year to think differently. (And no, not Think Different.)

First, I have to say I am honored to have somehow sparked this Call and Response.  I respect Terry's pirate brain as much as I do his ability to shear sheep.  He has challenged my brain this summer like few have ever done, and for that I am grateful and greatful. And trying to keep up with him over the interwebz is a challenge in itself.

I love this meme he created and have been unknowingly but happily following its edict even though CLMOOC has been over for a few weeks: "I will play with my friends in the CLMOOC sandbox once a week."

In my comments on Terry's post, I expressed my concerns about trying to get entrenched faculty into the mode of taking risks, failing and reflecting.  How do you connect with those who wallow in their disconnectedness while bemoaning their lack of support and their perception of the uselessness of Professional Development sessions?  I spend a lot of time thinking about this, but here's what Terry said:

"All I can say is that there are different connecting strokes for different folks and that sometimes the key is not obvious and often counterfactual and even accidental.  Keep watching.  Maybe it all boils down to shared Precious Moments (you know the ones I mean).

Let me say that I can't stand am not a fan of Precious Moments. I am more of a "this is a rock I found in a creek" kind of memento-keeper.But I am also a sappy, corny, prone-to-gushing kind of teacher when I am moved.  The teachers on my team this year have caused me to gush at their amazingness, and my students often move me to happy tears.  So for the other teachers, the frustrating ones, I need to look beyond the obvious, as Terry said, and use "What-If" thinking.  What if we tricked them into connecting.  What if we pretended they had already connected.  What if I worked on the [seemingly false] assumption they they DID want to connect in an authentic way.  Would I serendipitously stumble over a surprise connection?  Even one?  If there is one thing Terry has taught me this summer, it's that every single connection has value.

I then asked Terry, how do you conceptualize a liquid syllabus to students and teachers (Michelle Pacansky-Brock's idea that "a course syllabus could transform into a content experience that students really wanted to look at and engage with, as opposed to resource we dictated they "must read.")?  Terry happily deflected me toward Sonya Huber's Shadow Syllabus,which I am now in adoration of, and then threw out the amazing video RSA by Manuel Lima,  The Power of Networks, which traces the emerging awareness that interconnections, webs, and networks comprise most systems in the world, from the neurons in a mouse's brain to the structure of galaxies.  Lima ends by expressing that we need to "create outbound ties [with which we can] learn from other disparate areas....use network thinking...there's immense benefit that can come from this networked outlook of the world itself."

The teacher in me realizes that in order to conceptualize this in a public school, not a college, we would need examples, examples, examples.  But these don't exist; this concept is too new, this moving toward what Terry called "a simulated ecology where there are a very few initial rules that are allowed to emerge as they will."  Public schools are wired with rules, ingrained with a hundred years of "we've always done it this way." While the leadership at my school is the OPPOSITE of this, thank goodness, we still have hangers-on of what they call tradition and I call bullshit. So, no extant examples of liquid syllabi for the most part (how does one hold liquid, anyway?).  But Terry makes the point - just start somewhere: "Perhaps as you try to implement change with your teachers you need to provide a very simple process to execute. Then you will want to have that process be integrated into existing processes. Finally, you will want that to lead to personal and perhaps idiosyncratic innnovation. Most kaizen practitioners don’t include innovation as part of kaizen. They leave that to the technocrats, but I think that teachers need to be technocrats, aka edupunks."  

Ambitious. But I will throw some paint at the wall, a la Jackson Pollock, and see what meaning can be made of it.

Just start somewhere.

I have in my head this utopia of willing autodidacts in which everyone is curious and motivated to connect and learn about networked thinking.  Everyone dives in and tries it (or maybe tiptoes in), everyone feels the scary vulnerability of publicly sharing, then everyone feels the validation of getting real-world feedback and connection. I WANT TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.

Our new t-shirt motto: Fail Loudly and Carry a Big Stick (via Terry)

But also - Autodidacts Connecting Ironically.

Thanks (again), Terry.


  1. As a lifelong pacifist, I must speak up against the "big stick" part. What about "Fail Loudly and Carry a Big Schtick" ?

    1. I gotta love the revision, Fred. Working on a canva poster for this. Will send.

    2. Here you go Fred and Susan, a kindler and gentler Teddy Roosevelt: I suppose the irony is not lost on you that he did play TR in one of his last roles.

  2. Terry's web widens. Try secrecy, if the kids like what u are doing, rumours spread. Connect widely think con tricks...

  3. Fred, I wish I had more of a Schtick!

    Simon, that's a great idea...!!!

  4. Here is an initial response as a t-shirt design:

    1. Terry, I am very imPRESSed with this design.

    2. Seriously, we need to start a t-shirt line.

    3. A tshirt startup for MOOCs. Cool idea. How do we do it? Maybe this is a company that 'sunsets'--maybe it only lasts till the New Year? With the plethora of fulfillment companies, it just might not be a crazy idea.

    4. It's possible to create a Cafe Press Shop to sell designs...that's prob the simplest way...

  5. I love your collection of What Ifs.

    "What if we tricked them into connecting. What if we pretended they had already connected. What if I worked on the [seemingly false] assumption they they DID want to connect in an authentic way. Would I serendipitously stumble over a surprise connection? Even one?"

    I can't help but believe that we are connected. Humans make meaning of their lives through connections of all kinds, and so I think you're safe to imagine this world and act on it. Shining a light on this, and naming it as such can be powerful motivators for moving from the anti- camp to the oh-yeah-that's-just-how-it-is camp.