Keeping the Positive (or Trying to)

Keep it Positive

This post is about me.

But it might be about you, too.

I’ve been noticing a tendency of mine in Rhizomatic Learning that makes me feel a little off-kilter. I’m noticing that as Dave Cormier introduces intriguing concepts to be considered (this past week, it was the idea of “content”; the previous week, it was about what “counts” in learning), I find myself settling in as a critic, picking apart the idea itself with a negative lens.

For example, with “content,” I wrote a bunch of tweets and posts about how pigeonholed schools are becoming with specific disciplines, about how teaching is in “boxes” of content-area learning. When the theme was “counting,” I gravitated towards criticism of the testing industry and data collection. When the concept to be considered was about “subjective learning,” I was thinking of the cultural baggage that people bring to their learning spaces or teaching spaces.

What’s up with that? Why all the negative, dude? (that was my inner voice)

This realization dawned on me as I was writing a comment this morning at a friend’s blog post and it occurred to me that I have been looking at all these issues from the “deficit model” of learning — looking for what was wrong — instead of being active with the idea of what might work and how to make it work even better. Perhaps this default into criticism of a structure like education is human nature, made larger by our voices in social media spaces.

One of the best practices of good teaching, however, is to avoid the deficit model in our students. Accentuate the positive, and help a student find a path forward. Support them. Scaffold. Remain optimistic. It doesn’t mean I am going to suddenly get on the bandwagon for publishing companies or policy makers. There’s a limit.

But, let me strive to “keep the positive” going forward, without losing the critical element of analysis. I think there is a fine line there, one not easily tread if you are trying to say something important. We don’t want to hold back in what we say just because we are in “cheerleader” mode. I’ll be striving for some more balance in considering topics with Rhizomatic Learning. I’ll try.

Peace (in the think),

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  1. Me too! Good idea to remind ourselves not to slip into negative mode while remaining critically aware. Although when we are trying to throw off what we see as old skin we can’t ignore what stinks. Are we negative or passionate about promoting change? As long as balance doesn’t mean neutrality.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    I think there’s a difference between negative and critique…and I’ve never seen you as negative in these public spaces. We don’t want to be uncritical cheerleaders–celebrating without considering potential drawbacks. I know that I appreciate a thoughtful critique…including your caution against deficit thinking. All of this requires careful balancing…probably why so many of us don’t comment as much as we intend! Thanks for making me think!


  3. This is such a thoughtful post Kevin. I think it is important for us to keep these kind of things in mind. It is an easy trap to fall into when being critical. I think a lot of our young people equate critical with negative because so many of us fall into this trap. Critical does not have to be negative – it can be and sometimes it should be – but I think that blankety equating the two does more harm to the critic than to the thing being criticized.

  4. Kevin,

    I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your post. I, however, don’t perceive your virtual persona as negative. As both Kim and Autumn point out, there is a difference between critique and negativity. Unfortunately, we are living in a time and place that dislikes inward thinking and critical analysis, so sometimes feedback that suggests improvement might be possible creates a defensive reaction.

    I consider myself very fortunate to be in #rhizo15 (and other spaces) with you, because of the perspective you (and many others) bring that cause me to think deeply about important topics.


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