Continued Reverberations of Online Connections

flickr photo shared by priyaswtc under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

Three posts recently had me thinking again about the reverberations of online networks or communities or whatever term it is you wish to use to indicate projects that never quite end.

First, there was this tweet from my Making Learning Connected MOOC friend, Allie:

My answer to Allie was: Truthfully, I don’t know.

It may be that the CLMOOC has run its official course and that some variations of it may continue into the summer. I’ve been a facilitator in the past, and enjoyed it immensely, but I am not in charge of the official decision of whether another six week CLMOOC will happen this summer. I don’t think National Writing Project, which has hosted CLMOOC, envisioned supporting CLMOOC forever, and I know a focus right now by NWP is on Educator Innovator projects such as Letters to the President.

So, I don’t know.

I think I can safely say this. The #CLMOOC Twitter hashtag isn’t going anywhere, and until Google pulls the plug on Google Plus Communities, there is still a home there, too, and people are still sharing links, resources, ideas and a weekly #SilentSunday image share. And we have had some “pop up” Make Cycles this spring, thanks to Joe Dillon and Terry Elliott and others. I know I am planning to use the CLMOOC Make Cycles for a graduate class I am teaching through the University of Massachusetts and our Western Mass Writing Project this summer.

Second, I saw a blog post by Alan Levine, reflecting on the Western version of DS106 earlier this year, which he explains better than I can, but I want to note in that in his reflection he reacts to a comment about a sense of “fading” in DS106. I suspect that any online adventure has its time of high activity that slows down after time, even as it continues to persist in some fashion.

DS106 is an intriguing example because some university classes use it as a framework of classwork, connecting the physical classroom to online exploration. At times, there are “headless” DS106 courses that are not connected to a university — with only nominal direction. Come and go, as you please. Other times, a theme starts and ends, and echoes in the Daily Create. People keep making stuff. Cool stuff. Every day.

Alan writes:

I was talking to someone who’s been around the DS106 corral and it was this person’s contention that DS106 had “faded” suggesting in so many words it was past the top of a curve, and maybe it was missing a “charismatic leader”. Many people who got crazy bit with ds106 in 2011, 2012 are not much less or non-active. That’s not a problem, that’s a natural curve of evolution.

And DS106 does persist and it continues encourage continuous creativity, even if you never dipped a toe into any of its online course mutations. Just look at the DS106 Daily Create. It rolls on and on. People don’t just come and go; People come and go long after their first connection to DS106 ever took place.

And then the third post that caught my attention was by Dave Cormier, who has spearheaded Rhizomatic Learning communities since 2014, wrote a fascinating post that references an article he wrote two years ago, in which he responds to a question his young son asks as he is watching Rhizo14 unfold. (The question: Are you in charge? The answer: Not really.)

Dave begins:

… we are potentially radically redefining what it means to be an educator. We are very much at the beginning stages of our learning how to create the space required for community to develop and grow in an open course. These field notes speak to the my own journey in the design of ‘Rhizomatic Learning – the community is the curriculum’. They are, in effect, a journey towards planned obsolescence.

Interestingly, the Rhizomatic Learning connections seem sort of shackled by the hashtag. We began with #rhizo14 and then #rhizo15 and now #rhizo16, but adding a number hampers the ability of the community to last beyond the year, it seems to me. This sort of calls attention to the importance of early course design — how to design for something to never end in social media circles? (This is not a critique of Dave or any of us in Rhizo, by the way, but merely an interesting observation of how a time element stamp can lead to unexpected narrowing of community reverberations.)

How do these three strands/posts come together for me?

Well, I’m intrigued by Dave’s notion — made years ago but seemingly more and more relevant — about “planned obsolescence” of the architect of online experiences. Dave’s notion of “the community is the curriculum” is intriguing, as is Alan’s notion of the “natural curve of evolution” of an online experience.

We may not yet be there. Dave is launching a third iteration of Rhizo under the banner of Learning Resilience.  Maybe we still need someone behind the wheel. While the Rhizo community remains active and vibrant, I think we were waiting for Dave to kick off something for 2016. (I know I was but I didn’t realize it until I was writing this post.) I wonder if the person who wondered about DS106 “fading” was waiting, too, for someone like Alan to step up and lead the way. Did Allie think I was in charge of CLMOOC?

How do we encourage folks to take over and be the learning itself? Dave and Alan have certainly encouraged that every step of the way. Yet we still gravitate towards someone to get us started. (Maybe that’s not a bad thing. We all need a spark.) How does that decentralizing of learning translate into our classrooms? That’s the question of the longer journey many teachers are on in the Connected World, I suspect. I know I am. Maybe you are, too.

If someone comes looking for CLMOOC activities and exploration, perhaps the best answer is to encourage them to create and share Pop Up Make Cycles and invite others to join in. Do we need someone in charge to tell us that CLMOOC is taking place or not? Probably not.

We can make learning happen just by making it happen. The fact that Allie had a “serious remix moment” that reminded her of CLMOOC is incredibly exciting. I wonder what that moment was? Can I join in? Don’t you wonder, too?

Peace (in the make),

  1. I sometimes feel as if the CLMOOC part of my life is on vacation. I really don’t know how to pursue it. I did the Sousanis thing. Twas worth doing but felt quite disconnected from others while doing it. Twitter was not a hot enough connection for me. In fact I am increasingly disenchanted with the ships passing in the night feel I get from it. What Joe led as a popup has potential. I always said during CLMOOC that we needed many more adhoc Google Hangouts. Right now I am not sure what our “commons” is other than a place (G+ community) but I am dead sure it needs to be more than just a place. I am pretty sure the rhizo thang aint no thang for me. I find the argument that Dave isn’t in charge is a bit disingenuous even if unintended. I have lost a bit of the connected learning mojo especially since discovering that our connected learning researchers are just as clueless about connection as I am. Disappointing. I am thinking more and more that connected learning is distraction without a destination. That is OK some of the time, but not all of the time. ds106 seems like a place to go to be distracted, my own blog is a place to go to be distracting. I could continue to cite all my varied distractions, but it isn’t helpful. Learning seems tied to some weird “theater of attention”. As if getting someone’s attention led to learning. That is a non-sequitur if ever there was one much like the idea that if I am teaching that means students are learning. If things sound confused, I am. And I project that confusion out into the world as if it was the Truth. Laughable. I don’t mean to dump all over this very thoughtful post, Kevin. I am grateful for your thoughts. They reminded me of my own thoughts, distracted and scattered and lost as they are.

    antispamastrideroo: hiker sad Hiker be sad. Hiker lost his way. Hiker can’t find trail blaze. Hiker has no compass, no map, nor Polaris to guide by. Hiker sad.

    • I think this is all legitimate wondering, Terry, and continues conversations that we have had, along with others, over a series of years now, right? We continue to wonder because we are teachers, wondering if this all fits in our classroom experiences. I’m interested in the whole “theater of attention” — need more pondering time.

  2. Interesting Terry – the feeling of disconnectedness that you describe during the #gridsgestures make is the feeling I had at the beginning of #CLMooc – I felt that we were all shouting “look what I have made” and it was not very connected. Some of you made big efforts to inspire collab stuff, and that’s what drew me in. So – for me – this might be why things like Joe’s latest pop up meme thing work (though I was away at the time). Dunno, I am thinking out loud all over Kevin’s space here. But it strikes me that there needs to be some noticing happening as well as making in order for there to be connectedness. I’ve been sitting trying to work all this out on paper this afternoon and just have a pile of scrawls. But you two are helping me here and I thank you both for that.

    • Maybe these are the kinds of smaller spaces that branch off from the larger spaces where the connected learning happens in more depth. A different kind of connection. Maybe we need time and distance to understand what happens in those kinds of projects. Maybe we just don’t know what’s happening because we’re launching into things on whim and interest and only figure out later what it all means. I realize this doesn’t necessarily help to clarify, this rambling off the trail.

  3. I think we identify strongly with, become nostalgic of, and continually seek out the excitement of our first connective experiences. Mine was ds106, others here CLMOOC, or #rhizoXX or others. You find though, that in some form of net wisdom, connectedness maturity, that you cannot have that *exact* thrill again, so maybe like, Terry, you feel a bit out of kilter (probably not the best expression).

    So the problem is you may compare subsequent experiences to the raw excitement of that “first time” (cue 1970s Foreigner music). I never saw #gridsgestures as a connectivist thing, or something to bounce off or others, besides maybe enjoying seeing their output.

    I have to admit I am not critical of the rhizoXX hashtag re-invention- in a way, it forces the “community” to coalesce and reform anew, rather than continuing some sage tradition. There is no absolute “right” way, nor does it matter.

    It’s a networked experience I have tried to think of as the way art studios work (having only visited them, never doing it)– people are working intently focused on their own works, but there is something energizing when you re creating in the proximity of other people also creating their own stuff; that there is some kind of positive energy that you miss when working in the home studio.

    That’s what I think of #gridsgestures and a lot of #ds106 stuff- it does not matter if we are not continually making reference or to how connected we are or theorizing the process, we are just doing stuff in networked proximity.

    And actually #ds106 is not my first networked connective experience; I have to go back to the mid 1990s when a little HTML tutorial ( I published and shared spawned connections with 1000s of people, got me a trip to Iceland. While I do not interact with many of those people anymore, I do hear from them sometimes.

    For me, I do not seek too much these networked hub places, like atomic structure, you find that the dynamics are more randomly powered and complex structured than simple ball and pin models.

    • So, it’s all downhill from here? Say it ain’t so, Joe! I know what you mean, Alan, about the rush of that first real sense of connectedness that is both hard to sustain and difficult to come back to. Maybe it is nostalgia, but it might also be that we can tap into that and continue to push forward, as you have done and keep doing, and as Terry has done, too, even if he does not always recognize it. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Not downhill at all brother, in fact, I find it a good place to be. We depend less on places, communities, and events to provide the reasons to connect; and we make it happen ourselves.

    It’s all a big happy dogpark.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *