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An Arms Race of Awesome

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At the dawn of a new semester – classes begin this morning – I find myself reading various ruminations on Gardner Campbell’s “A Personal Cyberinfrastructure.” CogDog’s Freediving for Gold, Timmyboy’s Everything is amazing, and no one is happy! Excellent thinkers, all.  I began thinking of my own amazing (even if mundane) circumstances.  Hot and cold running water. Gainful employment. Healthy children.  Fast Internet.

The tools for revolutionary, transformative education have been available for years, and more are coming online every day.  Though I understand the philosophical/moral/technical underpinnings of such discussions, I almost wish we didn’t have to talk at all about personal cyberinfrastructures, or at least the hardware/software end of same.  Perhaps I’ve suffered through too many “Instructional Technology Committee” meetings.  What happens when finally the blade has been sharpened to a mono-atomic edge?  Hopefully the sharpening stops and the cutting begins.  In my professional life, in academia,  I’ve been waiting for the moment when talk of ‘tools’ falls away, when the tools are ubiquitous, taken for granted.  When we can focus on the experiences, the social construction of knowledge, the POWER and promise of the kind of education that the prophets (artists and thinkers and sages and educational theorists and psychologists) have foretold!  Behold – the triumvirate of Narrating/Curating/Sharing!  When was the last time you, as a learner, participated in a class that generated as much elemental energy as DS106 seems to?

I was leading a workshop the other day, talking with a self-selected group of technology enthusiasts.  I began describing DS106, and because we live in a Crawl -> Walk -> Run world, I started off on the greaseboard, drawing a picture of the mechanics, the hardware/software end, how this blog grabs from that blog, etc.  I then began to describe the energy that seems to have coalesced around the class, burning long before class began.  Someone asked “How can we capture or foster that kind of energy in online discussions?”  One answer that came to mind immediately has to do with, to use the tired language of academics, “learner-centered instruction.”

Teachers, at least in higher ed, always seem to talk about “chalk and talk” vs. “guide on the side.”  Most seem to want to describe themselves as the latter in this well-worn dichotomy, but most seem unwilling to cede the control that the role of guide implies.  I believe that much of the DS106 energy derives from the fact that participants (which sounds so cold and clinical in this context), can choose the form of their participation.  There are prompts, to be sure, but the responses aren’t limited to “a 2-page, double-spaced paper.”  Animation, images, music, remix, tangential rabbit trails through the bushes, poetry – all of these are options.  Just have a look at Jabiz Raisdana’s/Intrepid Teacher’s Bags of Gold.  I’m quite simply blown away.  Bags of gold indeed.  I’m hoping to channel some of the bravery that Jabiz and others have demonstrated in their responses.

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