One of the most fascinating things to me about being human is our ability of making meaning out of lives, experiences, and phenomenon.  We read meaning and story into the stars, the weather, animals, and the F on our Chemistry exam.  From when I first woke up this morning, I have been at it… my dog who keeps being particularly clingy does so because he loves me and the guy who flew around me because my driving at the speed limit was not fast enough for him is clearly a self-centered, reckless, inconsiderate punk with no regard for any one else.  The meaning I attach to these acts, and many others, can be largely independent of “truth” or the actual circumstances.  My dog might be a master manipulator who knows that my perceptions of his affections are often paid off in food and head rubs.  The person in such a hurry may have been frantically driving a friend or family member to the hospital rather than just being a jerk.  But, in both cases, I made meaning in a particular way and filed it away – my interpretation of those experiences may be independent of actuality, but how I remember them has more of an impact on me and my future actions then what actually happened.

I’m sure we can all talk about”reflection” in many different ways.  One way I often think about it, is exploring the depth of an experience – trying to take both a personal and an objective look to dig for meaning and to integrate it into who I am, to let it affect how I think and act.  It is also an opportunity to make connections between experiences, disciplines, ideas, etc.  For me, it is a sometimes messy mental and emotional space – a place to try out new ideas and thoughts.   To let things hit me, challenge me, shake me, inspire me.

As we all think about the role of technologies like the Internet and social media, it is easy to be at either end of the spectrum – either a die-hard blogging-facebooking-tweeting-guru or a staunch the-Internet-text-messages-and-cell-phones-will-be-the-downfall-of-everything-good-in-the-world.  Regardless of where you land on that continuum, THE TRUTH IS THAT WE CONTINUE TO BE MEANING-MAKERS IN THESE REALMS AS WELL!  For example, you might be asking yourself why I was just “shouting” at you.  Or, if you received a text from a friend that said “Ok.” you know that little dot brings a whole slew of attitude in a way that “Ok” does not.

When thinking about the reflection I described earlier, I really think we must be very deliberate in how we use, and understand the use of, modern technologies to foster deep reflection.  Take for example that I’ve heard it said that Facebook is this generation’s “smoke-break.”  Facebook offers an opportunity to connect and make connections.  It does not seem to encourage personal, thoughtful reflection on ones own day.  It does offer the opportunity to share one’s personal, thoughtful reflection on the day.  A “smoke break” in days gone by does seem to offer some of that same opportunity to connect to others casually (if you take time together with friends/colleagues).  It could also offer some inner quiet to process and reflect.  But, this reflection would likely remain in one’s head.

I’m still figuring out my own feelings about all of this so I apologize for the scattered post.  However, I want to leave you with the thought that is stuck in my head right now.  I have come to believe that learning relies heavily on both cognitive (what is going on in my own head) and social (what is going on in everyone else’s head, how what is going on in my own head fits in the broader context) factors.  How can we carefully use all of the tools at our disposal to most effectively make meaning of our experiences?  To me, it is not an all or nothing with technologies – I need to think about intentional use.  In what ways can facebook or blogging or twitter or… help me to best make meaning of my life, best make connections about myself and the world around me?  It what ways can these tools and tools unknown help me be a better learner, teacher, friend?