Tag Archives: Mike Caulfield

Utopia College and the Binary

Unicorn

After noticing the use of the binary argument at so many recent conferences and chatting about it with Mike Caulfied and Alyson Indrunas, I actually then dared, half in jest, to throw out the word “utopia” at NWeLearn’s ending panel discussion. I was only using it half in jest…so I think it is important to clarify how that word is being used, so as to not paint everyone with the same rainbow-and-unicorn-utopian colored brush.

There are those who judge the ideas being offered  by others as utopian. Mike Caulfield describes this experience at #dLrn15 in his recent blog post:

“I think it’s utopian,” they said, “You’re not going to eliminate all online nastiness with a different software format.”

I looked over my presentation to try to find the spot where we reached the Age of Aquarius via some Node server installs. I saw a lot of places where I said we could be doing much better, but couldn’t find the places where we cured all ills.”

Then there are those, like me in my flippant utopian comment during the panel session, trying to make a distinction about the places (physical and mindset) from which some of those ideas are being generated as utopian or, perhaps, elitest (choose your adjective).

When the term higher education gets defined by the likes of a Harvard, MIT, or Stanford, it rarely, if ever, resembles the higher education with which I am familiar and go to work in every day at a rural open door community college in eastern Washington State. The perch from where the monied (and even not-so-monied) four-year, selective entrance schools view issues in higher ed (from the plight of the adjunct to available technology to the abilities of the students in the classrooms) is covered in assumptions that my students are just like theirs, that they enter college being able to read and write at a collegiate level, that they have devices to bring to campus for BYOD initiatives, that they have time to spare between their jobs and their families to attend full time, and the list goes on.

It’s great that we have the likes of Mike Caulfield or Jesse Stommel, who deliver aspirational ideas to address some of the ills of higher ed, and push the boundaries “so far out of the mainstream of practice you have to squint to see them.”  Their ideas, however, start from the mainstream. The Everycollege. And then ask us to push our own boundaries. There isn’t an assumption of privilege to the Federated Wiki or of the Ivy League to rethink a gradebook.

The community college is ground zero of higher education. The canary in the higher education coal mine. No matter the metaphor, until the definition of higher education expands to be inclusive all of us when looking for solutions, the utopia term may still be needed.  Not for those including us in their boundary-pushing discussions like Jesse and Mike, but for those who teach in Utopia College and don’t even realize community colleges are a part of the conversation.

2 Comments

Filed under teaching and learning

In Defense of *gasp* Facebook

Now stop. Stop right there. I know what you’re going to say.

“Facebook? Really? Corporate-sellout-advertisement-blitzing-privacy-invading-newsfeed-tweaking-Facebook? You’re defending it?????”

Oh. The horror.

Bombs blowing up new york

Okay, so not end of the world, maybe?

Here’s the deal. I have no great love or hate for Facebook.  It is what it is. A free, stable social media site that is available on every platform, with a complicated set of privacy settings it keeps trying to simplify.

Buyer beware.

As my friend Jane Bozarth says, “If you don’t like it, ask for your money back.”

For those who didn’t (or haven’t yet) raised college age kids in the mid 2000’s forward, you’re forgiven for not understanding. But when the darlin’s leave for school and they stop calling (or answering your calls) because they are too busy, sometimes the only way to keep in touch or have a conversation with them is to exchange a text or read a post on Facebook.

When my son’s college degree was interrupted by a deployment to Iraq in 2007, Facebook kept me reassured of his relative safety, and that he was finding a way to use humor to cope with the stresses of war (which helped me cope with the stresses of being a soldier’s mom).

soldier in front of broken truck with sign that reads I can fix it

And last summer, when I went to my 30th high school reunion, I spent the weekend with contemporary friends rather than strangers who I once knew 30 years ago.  The experience was so much richer because we had current shared experiences as well as past ones – even though the current ones had been virtual.  (And where a funny image from 1984 – top photo –  could then become the running joke and gold standard by 2014 – bottom photo).

Everyone turned facing backward in bottom photo

What does all of this have to do with this blog’s blatherings about teaching, learning, and higher ed?

Everything.

When I participate in awesome open learning experiences like Mike Caulfield‘s  Fedwiki Happening or stumble into the new-to-me world of Rhizomatic learning that is Dave Cormier‘s  #Rhizo15, I do so because I have interest not-so-much in the openness of the learning, but in the connectedness of the learning experience (and it’s rather difficult to have the one without the other).

 I am challenged by the research being done and shared by the big R1 schools, and “the University Of’s” , and the Ivy Leaguers, and the international schools through these open learning opportunities. The Big Schools have big staffs and big budgets to implement big thoughts.  I enjoy the experience of connecting with these big thinkers, the creative thinkers, and the outlandish thinkers all.

I, however, work in a small community college in a forgotten part of the southeast corner of Washington State.  We don’t do research. And we aren’t selective. Every 10 weeks, we educate anyone who walks through the door, which means we offer a lot of developmental math and English, ESL, ABE, I-BEST, and the rest of the alphabet soup of programs meant to take people from where they are and get them to a decent paying job or on their way to a four year school.

So this is where I fork Amy Collier‘s Not-yetness and suggest that perhaps we need to make room for a bit of a continuum of emergence. The ideas of not-yetness at an MIT or Standford are so far beyond the realm of my little community college that they would intimidate or even shut down emerging technology discussion for all but a few of the most technologically-edgy of faculty at my school.

But Facebook, good ol’ Facebook, almost the grandpa of social media now, is a kind of “not-yetness” on my campus. (Not to mention it has a nearly flat-line learning curve which is important for a 10 week quarter). The idea of opening a class to social media of any kind is not-yetness here. The use of Facebook groups is not-yetness here. The connectedness of letting outsiders participate with students in a class via Facebook is very not-yetness here.

It’s learning.

It’s connecting.

It’s kind of messy.

And it’s definitely not-yetness. Here. On my end of the continuum.


Note: In Cormier’s opening post to #Rhizo15 he states, “FacebookI have so many mixed feelings about Facebook… but i do know that it totally works for some people. The course group for #rhizo15 is at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1516869091918393/

It’s okay, Dave. The posts are flying in the RhizoFbGroup. And so far, it’s the only place I’ve connected with #Rhizo15. It seems Rhizo’s not-yetness in Facebook is just about now.

6 Comments

Filed under teaching and learning

Arthur C Clarke, Kate Middleton’s Wedding Dress, and the #fedwiki, Oh My!

Mike Caulfield (@holden)

Mike Caulfield (@holden)

If you’ve been intrigued by my posts regarding the #fedwiki or perhaps seen Twitter hashtagged tweets in your feed and wondered “What the heck?“, this really great keynote address delivered by Mike Caulfield to the Northwest Academic Computing Consortium’s (NWACC) Instructional Technology Roundtable last November lays it out very nicely. (And who can’t resist a keynote where Arthur C. Clarke, GPS, and Kate Middleton’s wedding dress are all three mentioned, and even better, effectively tied together to make a powerful point)?

We’re stuck in an attention economy feedback loop where we react to the reactions of reactions (while fearing further reactions), and then we wonder why we’re stuck with groupthink and ideological gridlock.

We’re bigger than this and we can envision new systems that acknowledge that bigness.

I think you’ll really enjoy this talk: Federated Education: New Directions in Digital Collaboration

1 Comment

Filed under teaching and learning