Easter Weekend: It’s an Opportune Moment…

Category: Category? Nope.

Oh. Wow. How many lives does a domain have? This one has already had at least two. Most recently as a place to write and think about online education. But, I fell behind in both my classes and my good intentions and In-Visible was sent to time-out where it spent two years looking at the upper-left corner of the internet and twiddling it’s thumbs.

Easter weekend. A good time to resurrect a domain, don’t you think?

So, here we are again, In-Visible and I, and we’re going to give it another go because, ok, I may not have been all that consistent in the past but persistent? That’s me.

(Let us stubbornly stay away from that other word, ok?)

Instead, let’s assume that it’s true: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”. This beautiful Spring morning, with the sunshine warm on my back, I am free of my past.

I am free to not write about my online education experiences – which were mostly very positive. I am free to write or not about writing, and to write about writing about writing. I am free to write or not about creativity and art and all the ways that makes me feel grand. I am free to write fiction and poetry and essays.

I am free to be more the woman I wasn’t yesterday.

To celebrate that sweet bit of beauty here’s my prompt for you:

And this way, every day, for the rest of our lives…

Ready, set, write!

The Album of My Life

Category: Creativity via Music

So I am happily wallowing around in Tina Selig’s MOOC Creativity – Music To Your Ears. The first week’s project was to design the album cover of my life. This turned out to be pretty much as impossible as you would think it would be after you applied a bit of thought to the territory you already covered, but it was a lot of fun.

First I brainstormed for titles:

  • Emerging [ditched – too obvious]
  • Mauses On The Loose [ditched – not obvious enough]
  • Alb, Um, Huh? [ditched – only funny to me cause I knows that I didn’t have any idea where the Schwabisch Alb was until I moved to the area.]
  • Technosity [ditched – really, it’s a song for my playlist, not the title of the album of my life]
  • The Cosmic View [ditched – same as above]
  • Not a Cowboy, Not an Indian [I really liked this one a lot. I thought it pointed to my independent tendency to see all sides of an issue and not take the “solidarity” standpoint. I tried this on several people who know me well and they all shook their heads and said “huh?”. Confuse me, I’ll delve deeper into this response another day.]

Here’s what I finally turned in for peer review:

And, if I wrote songs/lyrics, here, (for extra points!) are the titles of the songs I would write and perform for the album of my life.

  1. The KC LotaWater Shuffle
  2. Not a Cowboy, Not an Indian [Taking the Cosmic View]
  3. 1000345.160@compuserve.com [Where did you say you are?]
  4. RocketMaus, Baby You Are Not Alone
  5. Manche nehmen’s Gelassen
  6. Technosity
  7. Birds of a Feather [Feat. The Dancing Planelopes]
  8. Right Now – The Moment I’ve Been Waiting For

Is the MOOC-Threat Academic?

Category: #edcmooc

… And in this paper, I posit that institutions placing their proverbial eggs in the basket of this type of educational future may well be undermining their own positions as purveyors of closed, expert knowledge.

Many xMOOCs may be designed and intended to maintain the expertise model and the market share of elite universities over the specter of knowledge abundance and participatory culture. However, so long as the courses as platforms continue to enable participatory networking and engagement among students, they effectively begin to sow the very seeds of new literacies that challenge and undermine that instrumentalist perspective on education and expertise. Even contained within the most restrictive LMS and confined to a discussion board, learners in courses on the xMOOC spectrum nonetheless are exposed, in effect, to a fledgling network. The network effect of peer-oriented communications and connections and process-focused knowledge generation may thus be difficult to contain entirely, particularly at scale. Thus xMOOCs in their very success may end up creating conditions for the development of open, communications-focused, peer-to-peer literacies about learning.

Bonnie Stewart

I can only speak of the the xMOOC courses with which I have had tangential experience. These are all in the field of engineering, more specifically, programming and start-up engineering.

It is naive to think that education aimed at software development with its long history of open-source, hackathons, code-sharing and learning-by-doing, is unaware of the dangers it faces from mixing up networks of individuals who know more with networks of individuals who know less. The xMOOC phenomena has simply bowed to and formalized the ways in which many of us were getting in and nearly all of us were keeping up with a fast-moving industry in the first place.

Iirc, Google, blogs, news and Q&A discussion boards like Slashdot, heisse and more recently Stack-Overflow and HN are the wild-west ways that we non-academic-students have been, way outside of the flow of mainstream academia, busily learning from each other and sharing our success or failures in the application of what we thought we knew.

What if, what if? Oh, dear.

Remember, in 1995, when the final locks on the digital gates to whole cities of thought previously available exclusively to the military and academia opened to commercial interests? What a stir that caused! It was at least the size of this MOOC consternation. And yet…

As I understand the most basic engineering point-of-view, the internet was conceived to be a distributed and robust way of sharing knowledge amongst academic and scientific communities. Who knew it would turn out to be a robust way of sharing stupid cat photos, old jokes and where to find the best discounts on Jimmy Choo shoes? Make no mistake about it though, long before the gold-rush of companies trying to sell us their wares, we perpetual students and lovers of knowledge came here to engage in thoughtful and collaborative education – for ourselves and with the next generation of “newbies” whatever their age or skill-level.

The appropriateness of a multi-faceted use-case should really be seen less as a threat to academia and more as a compliment to the abstract vision of the founding Universities and scientific facilities. These are where thinkers and tinkerers crafted a virtual space in which you and I can sit together, half-way around the world to reflect, and reflect on, meaningful educational experience.

We are collaborative and we are open. We are in a public forum where we can together challenge the perennial academic questions: what does it mean to be a teacher, and who is the student? A place where we clearly see that these ancient questions remain unanswerable as long we insist on using ink to draw the lines.

What I am saying is that any perceived challenge to academia is not only not new, it is self-made.

Then why all the noise and worry?

Frankly, I don’t know the answer to that question. Next year the commercial internet will be twenty years old. Universities are still around and are well attended by students. If you listen to all the worry and noise, they do not have enough money, but universities have never had enough money. I suspect that administrators simply refuse any definition of “enough” containing the words “not more” as impertinent to their situation.

Personally, I think the MOOC-hype within education itself is a result of a predominence of eye-rolling and refreshing-of-drinks that used to attend attempts at chatting about digital learning. The wisdom of elbowing ones spouse and asking for more ice has been challenged by a mainstream media finally making itself useful. They are pointing at, discussing the importance of, and even interviewing that gorilla, the one sitting next to the elephant in the room.

So, yes, the way I see it the threat is indeed academic. It is neither new, nor particularly worrisome. Just as the teacher is often the student, that gorilla is our host and ourselves.

Inbox: The Film
How the Internet Taught Me German

Category: #edcmooc

The year is 1994 and you see me sitting behind the desk my Grandfather’s secretary used when I was a little girl. It has a section of flip-top with a little shelf inside of it where her typewriter sat and she could fold the whole thing up, hiding the machine and clearing her desk for sorting papers. A lovely piece of walnut furniture rendered decidedly less useful by the advent of monitors and keyboards.

I am staring at my new Apple Quattro and modem. Off to the side is a pile of diskettes and a stack of user’s manuals, because that is how we learned — way back when, in the Twilight Days.

Handshake? What is a handshake and how can I tell if my computer has one? How will I know if I know? Kshhh doooodle-loooo Bleeeeep. What the Dickens was that? <page flip, page flip> Hmmm…

The remarkable thing about the internet in 1994 is that there was nothing going on. None of my friends were “there”. I cruised around alone for several weeks like a visitor to outer space until one afternoon I randomly found a mailing list – sort of. It didn’t actually mail anything to me, it was just this long list of question and answer conversation and was constantly being added to.

Introvert-I gathered up about a bushel-basket full of courage and looking first left and then right, stepped timidly out on the data highway. I wrote an email to an unanswered question. “I hope you don’t mind if I reply to you privately”, I began and continued to tell 100345.160@compuserve.com a little something about myself, why I felt qualified to give an answer and then my answer.

After sending it I remember I felt a slightly sick to my stomach but also, strangely happy.

Days passed and I nearly wore out my check-mail button before a reply finally fluttered into my mailbox. The number thanked me for my mail, told me a little bit about itself, including the fact that it was sitting five thousand miles away in a tiny dorm room in Southern Germany finishing it’s university degree in Elektrotechnik (whatever that was). The mail was signed with a first name I had never heard of and couldn’t pronounce.

This. Emily Dickinson’s —This—, is what happened when I talked to an invisible stranger.

Well, then of course, I wrote back and I learned how to pronounce his name. He wrote again and I did too and before you know it a friendship bloomed. It felt very much like the film: Inbox (#edcmooc). It felt hopeful and exciting, we laughed a lot while he improved his English and I my technical skills. He invited me to visit. I did. We got along famously. It didn’t take long to sell my house, quit my job, pack ten boxes of books, two sweaters and one very large dog and return to Utopia. And I am still here, eighteen years later, we are happily together, fluent in each other’s native languages and utterly amazed by the whole thing.

But Wait! What Happened to Our Internet?

Woah, Daddy, it changed. We watched it change and we helped it along in little ways, both loving the changes and hating them. Now, everyone is trying to sell something and I miss my old internet, but I sure was grateful to Amazon and Ebay for access to English books during the Twilight Days.

Now, if you want to have a “successful” blog, A blog?, you need a theme to be heard, you need SEO to be noticed, the NSA and the MIx move freely among the public watching and listening, the mafia is laundering money, new forms of which are springing up every day, and dating sites where it is easy fall for the wrong person without even going into a bar, are a dime a dozen.

The current condition of the Internet is, and is not, what I expected back then. Life wants to Live, and as soon as some of us moved our lives online and began doing part of our living here it was a short and foreseeable step to sales pitches, money laundering and shoe-filled celebrity gossip columns. The Internet today mirrors what you find when you walk outside your door – without the trees and fresh air. It is and will remain inferior to the real thing as long as the flowers don’t have petals soft as a lovers cheek.

Questioning the utopianiaty or the dystopliness of Technology is like asking those questions about real life. Technology, like Society is a lens on human nature, a perspective, and as such it provides supporting proof. No matter your claim. Erich Heller might equally have applied his famous quote to technology when he said: Be careful how you interpret the world: It is like that.

E-Learning and Digital Communities

Category: #edcmooc

E-Learning and Digital Communities (#edcmooc) is a course offered by the University of Edinburgh through Coursera and this is my test post. My short test post which is most likely boring to boot. Turns out I have nothing to say at this moment. But one needs a test post. A new blog is nothing without one, and mine does highlight a desperate need for corrected font sizing on various pages. Good, Testpost. Thanks, buddy.

And, I will fix all the little display glitches soon, but first, I’m off to the Samstagsmarkt for fresh tomatoes and apple cider and then, I have a headline, a post with some content is sure to follow. Watch this space, folks…

Coming soon

Inbox, The Film -or- How the Internet Taught Me German