Sorry vtclis12ers… I feel a little late to the party.  I’m sitting here blogging my written portion of the meta-team project and think I’m going to take a bit of a different twist on it.  For one reason, I drafted the text about the story of the medianauts here and don’t want to be redundant.  Also, my two wonderful partners did an excellent job as they told of our team’s journey along with appropriate gratitude for your part in it all.

As I try to share with you what being a meta-team member has meant, I want to draw your attention to the notion of participant observer.  In my own understanding, I often think of it as this seemingly paradoxical role of being fully present in the moment, as one of the community, while simultaneously being fully removed – vigilantly tracking every action and experience, big and small, ever seeking to reflect, integrate, and synthesize.  It can be exhilarating – so many life-changing threads of insight flying by while frantically trying to grab them and weave them together.  At other times, it can feel frustrating and limiting… as if the ending of Schrödinger’s paradox is not that the cat is dead or alive, but that you in fact are the cat.  I jumped at the opportunity to be on the meta-team because I fully believe that we should be participant observers all the time.  As scary and challenging as the “both/and” can be, I feel that it is what can help us make tough decisions, persevere through hard times, maximize learning by straddling both micro and macro.  Ok, enough.  Clearly I’m overselling it a bit… but let me try to unpack a bit of how it affected me this semester.

As a student in vtclis12, I read and thought and blogged and tweeted and discussed and linked and clicked and shared.   You did too.  As a near-fully present, reflective participant, I carved my own path through the material.  I had insights that meant much more to me than they did to you.

For example – I got really tied up on the idea of collateration.  I’ve been thinking about it as this cool way for seeing connections in our life, across knowledge domains, etc. between seemingly distinct things.  A reading about how technology might enable us to make such connections got me thinking deeply about how it might relate to my own work, ePs for learning, etc.

Or, take the idea that we might be both augmented and blinded by our technology (or anything for that matter) in a way that should inspire us to actively filter/intentionally employ based on meta-level-aware, self-reflective proactive awesomeness. (insights we hit from McLuhan)

It might be hard for me to claim that these insights occurred just because I was on the meta-team, being encouraged to scour the meta-levels of my involvement in class.  So, let me tell you another story…

I have been thrilled, awed, inspired, challenged, frustrated, and taught by each of you so much this semester.  And, in part, I thank the meta-team for that.  With an ongoing project that asked us to consider the “ongoing legend of the medianauts” I believe I came to observe and respect each of you as colleagues in a different way.  For example, between Apgar’s face and Jordan’s enthusiastic, consistent deep participation, I felt called to be a better student of the class — maybe you felt that too.  I appreciated how Ben’s challenge of a point could help us peel back another layer, even if it caused some discomfort.  Or, how could we forget Julie breaking our brains by reading from right to left… or Adam’s incredible blog posts re: McCloud… or Hallie’s enlightenment… or Lissy’s dackulopatoni (which auto-completes in Google search bar now btw)… or Melissa’s recursive “aha’s” shared in her final project presentation… or Erin’s amazing movies!… or Matt’s dedicated participation to the classroom community… even if it means no sleep and a 3-hour difference via Skype!  Or, did you ever notice how Dr. C would kindly yet persistently ask each of us to continue when we rambled… ever determined to help us both humbly and triumphantly realize our own insights?

I believe I was more aware of these things because of the charge to be aware of our classroom journey.  It is this same awareness, and the awe of/for the magical learning taking place, that leads me to ask another question hoping that you might answer.

I believe we all felt a bit of a spark with the closing of the semester – like we had truly created something pretty cool together.  I felt this even from the hospital as I read this tweet and the one (that I can’t find now) about vtclis12 “creating our own content since…” It is in full appreciation of and consideration of this spark that I wonder, what were some of the key ingredients that made this space for us?  What things did Dr. C do that set us up for this?  What things did we do ourselves and for each other that fostered this environment?

Though I feel I could talk about many different items, let me pick one that I actually resisted quite a bit — Twitter.  I remember being somewhat hesitant at first.  I did not have a Twitter account before this class, and I was a bit skeptical of how it might enhance our learning environment.  The blog for me, was an easy sell.  But, 140 characters seemed like it wouldn’t generate the kind of conversation I hoped for.  Add to that, that I found it both pleasantly and terribly distracting.  I don’t even mean with things outside of the course itself — I distinctly remember a few times where I would post a link or get into a very engaging series of back-and-forth tweets with someone in class that, when done, left me to wonder where exactly the out-loud train of thought was.  Though the sidebar was both relevant and interesting, I do feel like things distracting us from being physically present should generally be done very carefully, if at all.  With all of that said, and understanding that any tool has both its opportunities and challenges… I want to share one incredibly powerful use of Twitter this semester that shouldn’t go overlooked.

#vtclis12 was our e-high-five in an environment (school) that seems to discourage real high fives.  Again, like when Julie read backwards.  We e-high-fived her.  While we were tactfully saying outloud “Julie, that was pretty cool,” #vtclis12 was lighting up with “holy crap you are reading backwards?! yes.” “like button” and “the reading backwards moment was beyond praise. i heard a click in my head. felt it too.”  can you imagine how encouraged and engaged you would be in classes if your insights were celebrated in the same way that ours were in #vtclis12?  Think Lissy will ever go the extra mile and do what the speaker challenges her to after the positive reinforcement of being an internet-dackalupatoni-sensation?  How many times have you ever had your “aha moments” celebrated as a classroom community?  Oh sure, intrinsic motivation, tracking and understanding our own success is important and all… but really, how inspiring is it to have a whole crowd of colleagues cheering you on?

I truly believe that we have encouraged, poked, prodded, and inspired each other along in a way that we should all be proud.  Yet another interesting use of Twitter’s small 140 characters… who’da’thunk?

With that, I will let my rambling end.  I apologize for the daddy-sleep-deprived incoherence if that came through at all.  I’m hoping for some moments of clarity between 10AM-noon tomorrow for our exam!

But seriously before you leave for the semester… what do you think contributed to the magic?

In paying homage to Twitter’s use, I’ll give you my response in 140 characters or less… :)

#vtclis12 makin’ magic learnin’. 1part diggin’ fer shiny nuggets. 1part @GardnerCampbell crzy mind-blowin’ ideas, 2parts hi fivin’ yer mates