There was an interesting discussion the other day on Twitter with folks in the Rhizomatic Learning community about the concept of “time” in an online learning environment. I hadn’t quite noticed just how important a role that time zones play in online interactions, mostly, I suspect, because in past experiences, I was in the midst of so many United States-centered educators. I lost perspective, coming from an America-centered view of the world (sorry, friends.) Rhizo15 is a real intriguing mix of people from around the world, and so time zones clash a lot.
Threads of thoughts that get started during the day often get picked up in the night.
That’s an interesting component here, how one conversation or discussion thread starts in one time zone, in one part of the world, and then leaps forward or across time to another part of the world, and there is a definite lag at times (I am just waking up. You are just going to bed.) There are also those moments when our time zones overlap.
There are definite benefits to this time zone element.
First, of course, there is the global perspectives that get pulled into the mix. It helps avoid the echo chamber effect — of hearing from others what you already believe because you run in the same circles as the same people. Mixing in with different people brings different voices, different cultural views, different ideas on learning. It’s hard to get that from your building-based Professional Development.
Second, it gives you time to think. If I write something and someone from Australia or the Middle East or Europe responds, it will likely be something I read the next day, or much later in the day. My response back also will have some “lag time” and that is a much-appreciated pause in the action — a chance to reflect before the response.
Finally, there is a distinct ebb and flow of discussions, and while some threads do seem to get lost in the mix, most get picked up and developed, and the recursive nature of the discussions is like a loop tape that you listen to, where each listen brings something new. As folks gather into the hubs of discussion (be it Twitter, blog posts, G+, or Facebook or wherever), the threads get extended over time.
I really noticed this time zone differential with the editing and collecting of files for the Rhizomatic Radio project. I kept wanting to move ahead, move ahead, move ahead … and often had to wait for others to wake up, read my notes and get me files. I had to be patient. But, you know, listen to the variety of voices in the radio show, and you come to understand how a project like Rhizo15 or even a collaborative venture like RhizoRadio can expand your field of vision, and truly make you feel like you are part of a global experience.
You just have to expect a little lag time. Even friends have to sleep …
Peace (in the zone of time),