Author Archives: jakegrohs

Participant Observers

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


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Mixed Messages

In LDRS 1016 this semester, I am currently finding myself in one of those teaching quandaries we often find ourselves in.  In the spirit of open vulnerability, and as a bit of a practical, realistic, and (for LDRSers) relevant “case study” I am going to unpack it here.

— The Big Bad Blog Grade Dilemma —

This semester in LDRS 1016, we blogged.  The “requirement” was to post once a week on a personal blog with a prompt of “something interesting to you that seems relevant to the course and your peers in it” and to make two comments/week. We talked about that blogs and comments should be “substantive, meaningful, honest, and relevant” in order to receive all/nothing credit.  Credit was tracked by a simple quiz framework in Scholar where each student assessed her/his own participation that week.

Rationale in Jake’s head: I don’t want people worried about guessing what is in my head and what I want from the blog.  What I want is simple… individualized reflection about LDRS and collective engagement.  I want everyone to draw together seemingly distinct experiences on campus, with readings, after watching movies, etc. and begin to re-cast and re-understand “leadership” in a broader, deeper, more personal, more applied way.  Hey… I know!  I’ll have them grade themselves!  Then, students will be free from “worry” about the grade and will just focus their energies on meaningful blogging that makes sense to them… it’ll be great!  And, the blog “quizzes” will create a simple accountability structure so that everyone is keeping themselves apprised of week-by-week participation.

Real-life story: As we all know, sometimes things work out better in the head than the real world.  All in all, blogging has been pretty interesting and engaging.  The “grading” however… and how easy it all was in my head… has been a mess.  Culpability probably doesn’t matter.  In some cases, Scholar [$!@&# learning management systems!!!] likely failed.  In many cases students simply forgot to do the quiz.  In some ways the setup was flawed from the beginning with my idea of how it would work.

On average, 80% of students completed the assessment.  I haven’t crunched the numbers yet, but based on emails throughout the semester, most of those who didn’t complete it actually blogged that week.  They just forgot to do the self-assessment.  Now, here at the end of the semester, a number of students have lower blogging scores than if I had actually graded them myself.

LDRS 1016 Timeout: Remember that whole talk about “clarify the message” and “authenticity” – aligning actions with espoused values as an important quality of leadership in responding to challenges we face?  Let’s keep that in mind…

Some options and the “messages” they carry:

(1) Nothing.  You knew the requirements, you had a time-frame for the quizzes, you very easily could have tracked progress, navigated issues with Scholar (or alerted me to issues as they came rather than at the end), and succeeded.  BTW, many students in the class did this just fine, why couldn’t you? 

This action values a rigid sense of responsibility.  It is justified by the belief that students learn that they need to read, follow instructions, and proactively navigate challenges well before the panic-at-the-end deadline.  Remember, you earn grades and are not given them.

(2) Forget the quiz for those who had issues/zeroes and either re-grade them manually as the instructor or just re-open the quiz for everyone so that corrections can be made.  Beyond self-assessment as an important step, I didn’t intend for quizzes to be a primary focus… the blogs were the point.  So, if you did them but forgot the quiz, then I should focus on what I said really mattered and not worry about the logistical hiccups.  Not to mention, Scholar has really shot us in the foot this semester, and that is as much my fault as yours.

This action values reflection and engagement first and foremost.  It recognizes that there is some mis-alignment between the assessment and the goal – that is, a 0 on the “quiz” is indicative of not doing the “quiz” rather than not meaningfully reflecting and engaging on the blog.  So, a course-correct by me helps to say “remember… this is what is important here” at the tradeoff of reinforcing that “loafing/procrastination” will be accommodated in the end.  Also, this option might be said to somewhat overlook that many students do what they are supposed to do and that accommodations now could demean or devalue others.

In thinking through these first two options, I also have to own my own role as teacher in all of this.  Though blog quiz grades are posted immediately after they are taken, “grades” in general have been delayed longer than anticipated… students are not really encouraged to track their progress through class via “the gradebook.”   Also, in retrospect, the setup itself was probably not the best.  Though students might have been freed to chase what was in their head rather than guessing what would be in mind, everyone has fretted so much about the quizzes and the grade that the entire point of all of this has been somewhat obscured. It is these two things that lead me to deviate from what might otherwise be a fully justified choice (1).  Though I do very much value everyone taking ownership of their own education and fiercely, proactively, diving into a course, the blog quiz is not a simple indicator of “are you doing what you are supposed to or not” and missing quizzes doesn’t necessarily indicate irresponsibility.  It has been muddied by technological issues, and some general inflexibility that comes with online quizzes.

However, I don’t fully like (2) either because I don’t want to devalue those that took the initiative to make sure they both blogged AND self-assessed as they were supposed to.   AND, while I value the reflection on the blog, I also did value the simple self-assessment because it weekly offered the opportunity (required) an answer to “how engaged am I in the course?”  So, really, the ship has sailed to a certain degree.  Self assessment in weeks 3 and 4 that could have lead to deeper engagement in weeks 5, 6, … was missed.  So, there really can be no make-up, can there?

It is with this dilemma that I enter the dangerous territory of make-up/extra-credit.  I say dangerous because I think that even well-intentioned, it can often be the worst of both options.  BUT, my hope is that the solution I am implementing might be able to avoid that… we shall see.

For good or for bad… Jake’s decision:

I really value your authentic, self-driven reflection.  That was one of the primary goals of the blog and of the “quiz.”  Simple as it was, you missed out on some of the opportunities presented by the quiz.  I don’t want that to kill your grade – because your grade should reflect overall knowledge of and engagement with “Exploring Citizen Leadership”… not simply remembering to log onto Scholar and take a weekly quiz.  But, I’m not going to just give it away, because you miss out on the opportunity and that devalues those who successfully navigated all aspects of the assignment.  So, if narrowed down, there were truly 2 primary functions of the “quiz” – (1) to self-assess blog participation, ultimately resulting in a grade for the gradebook and (2) as a very simple meta-cognitive tool to stop and think about individual participation in one facet of the course.

So – as a solution that requires students to still meet goals (1) and (2)…

If you are content with the blog grades showing up in the gradebook: congrats!  hopefully they offer a realistic look at (1) and were a week-by-week accomplishment of (2)

If you are unhappy with the blog grades showing up in the gradebook and feel they do not accurately represent (1) because of Scholar issues, your forgetfulness/procrastination, and/or poor planning by Jake:

  • Share a self-assessment (via writing, video, or…) of your engagement with “learning” (whatever that means to you) at this phase of your life.  In what areas are you most engaged, and why do you think that is?  In what areas are you most disengaged, and why might that be?  The scope for this could be as narrow or wide as you want.  It could involve this course, other courses, other interpretations of the word “course,” or no courses at all.  The intent here is to accomplish goal (2) as a general strategy since it was missed week-by-week with the blogs of this course as the context.  This self-assessment needs to be emailed to Jake at the very least, but you could easily consider sharing it via your blog.
  • When you send an email to me, with an attachment or link to your blog with this assessment, also tell me which quizzes to re-open.  I will then re-open those on Scholar for you to re-take.  That will then allow for ensuring that your blog “grades” on Scholar are an accurate representation of (1) and not just whether or not you took the quiz.

I hope that this solution sends the messages I am hoping to send by this action.  I think we (as teachers, leaders, humans) often send mixed messages that are very different from what we intend.  While there is no sure-fire analysis that leads to flawless decision-making, my intent here is to demonstrate that some thorough and transparent reflection can sometimes lead to clarity.  At the very least, it opens up the floor for conversation that could shape the future… be it about leadership, teaching, decision-making, blogging, self-asssessment, or…

As a learner, teacher, person who ever seeks to reflect and improve, I invite your feedback on this decision regardless of who you are and whether you are currently a student in LDRS 1016 with me or not.  Thanks!

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Mastery, mystery, and…?

As I read Turkle’s essay on video games, I am truly shocked at just how universal it seems.  While the medium seems to be focused on “techies” or “sci-fi/fantasy aficionados,” I am struck by how the motivations for gaming seem to boil down to two powerful, essential drives in our lives – mastery and mystery.

The first (mastery) is discussed at length – this notion of Zen-like centering on the task at hand, the perfect contest with self, the ultimate striving for perfection with only ourselves to celebrate or blame for each success and failure.  The idea that we can figure out all of the rules, and utilize them in such a way that we become masters.  It seems that this might explain why we do a great many things in this world – why we learn to play an instrument, or cook, or go to school, or play Space Invaders, or…

The second that seems to be discussed is mystery – that concept that we seek to discover and uncover that which is already defined but not yet known.  This is linked in the article to the discussion of Dungeon and Dragons to a certain extent, and also connected to video games when we see ourselves as the character acting through a novel or narrative.  Mystery seems to be that motivation where we roll the dice – where we do or say something where (because?) we don’t know where it will lead.  We say “I love you” first. She/he already loves us or doesn’t – the “rules” or “answer” has already been defined… it is just up to us to discover.  Some believe scientific discovery to be this way — that we are unearthing “rules” within our world and naming them… that discovery and knowledge are one big scavenger hunt for eggs that have already been hidden.

Already you can see that Turkle has enticed us into philosophical questions of “why?” that have captivated us for generations – I am reminded by Dr. C’s mention that we are all examining the same fundamental questions, just through different lenses (in this case, life via video games).  Both the article, and my own reflections, seem to have an ellipsis and a question mark at the end of mastery and mystery.  It seems that most anything from “Habitat’s” experiential level might be described in terms of a desire to master or to unravel mystery.  However, what about beyond that?  Are we motivated to do things beyond mastery and mystery?  It seems that Turkle’s mention of “programming” – that idea of authorship, or of tugging at the “infrastructure level” seems to be another key motivation.  Though creativity often might be describes as an extremely developed form of mastery, there also seems to be an overarching theme related to our ability to bend the rules as we understand them, to write ourselves in and out of stories in spite of “fate” or “predestination.”  Many like to believe that the world and time are not simply a wind-up toy, but rather a living, breathing, changing, amoeba… who knows where we will end up?

I find it fascinating that an article on video games that starts with a foul-mouthed teenager could so quickly dive into the most fundamental questions about the human condition.  As I think back on the article, I wonder – can we truly reduce our motivations for doing most anything be reduced to either mastery, mystery, or authorship?  Are there things you do that can’t be described by one of these three drives?  What do you think?

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Both and.

(Sorry LDRSers, this post probably won’t make too much sense unless you”ve read “Immigrant” by Simak)

I just finished the reading and I am struck by to seemingly opposite notions – a both/and rather than an either/or.  Fortunately, I feel like I am in good company, as I’m not the only one “Out of This World

Here are the two seemingly opposing thoughts:

(A) Bishop was on the verge of great discovery, of giving up his pride of naming Kimon for the exploitative place that it is.  In so doing, he would free Earth of the obsession of chasing after a false dream.  His act of shame (of admitting that his ambition was all for naught) would in turn be freeing – he would be a hero, though he likely would still feel immense guilt and shame.  He is on the verge of this brilliant act, when he is won over by his pride.  If he just tries harder, if he just feigns that he doesn’t know anything, and “goes to school,” then this is the path to greatness!!!  In fact, this is the moment where he becomes yet another mindless drone.  A pawn of the Kimonians.  A puppy.

(B) Bishop is like all of us on the verge of great learning – skeptical, doubting, uncomfortable, resistant.  He pushes back against the method.  His pride for his past knowledge makes him want to vilify rather than embrace this new culture and the idea that he can learn from it. Just as he is on the tip of closing his mind entirely, he has a breakthrough – that “aha moment” where all the puzzle pieces come together.  He can be both expert and eternal student.  He is humbled by the body of knowledge before him.  Recognizing this, he frees his own mind up to be expanded and challenged.  He has cast away the shackles of his “expert-ness” and is beginning a new journey of enlightenment.  Don’t be late to school Bishop… you have a long day for you tomorrow!

As I reflect on this reading, I am struck that it is perhaps less important whether (A) or (B) be the “true meaning,” but rather that we find a way to consider both options at once (simultaneous awareness of complex alternatives anyone?!?).  What if we need to embrace that we both have something to contribute and something to learn at the same time? (B) feels like a passive receptacle for knowledge.  (A) feels like an expert who outsmarts, outwits, and is infallible.  Can there be some happier medium with bits of both (A) and (B)?

Or, from another both/and angle… can Earth’s striving to make it to Kimon be both helpful and hurtful at the same time? (like the notion of meritocracy in today’s society?  I claim it to be a false notion… but to some end, it can be generative and inspiring when not taken to the extreme). It reminds me of the simultaneous blinding and augmentation that we discussed with McLuhan…

I look forward to reading posts from the rest of you and commenting!  All the “nuggets” I could seem to find kept pointing me to the things above… all similar to the thoughts that have been swirling around my head all semester.  Please poke and prod me into some new  lenses I haven’t yet looked through in quite the same way!

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Unintended consequences.

I struggled trying to blog yesterday after reading the excerpt from “Deschooling Society” by Illich.  It was one of those moments where there are so many things that you want to say, that you actually say nothing.  I often felt the same in class today – we were all riled up and sometimes it was hard to get a word in.

I will try to be brief here because I want to (again) draw attention to something scary and ominous that has stuck with me since our discussion.  Before I dive in, I want to point out that, to me, discussing the scary and ominous need not be a pessimistic act… but rather one that helps us to ground and orient ourselves so that we might find hope.

Ben mentioned Skinner boxes early in class and I couldn’t shake the connection from that to our conversation.  We like to think (and often rightfully so) that much of our learning involves sophisticated cognitive and/or social processes – that we are meta-cognitive masters in constructing knowledge and regulating our learning.  Yet, ever since Ben reminded us of our more animal-istic, somewhat subconscious, tendencies to be trained (<phone buzzes>, text back, or check the twitter mention, or…), it was all I could think about and hear as we talked.

Today in class, as we chatted about our education schooling(?) system, I heard that we good little students have learned very valuable lessons:

  • don’t ask questions
  • especially don’t ask naive questions
  • especially especially don’t ask stupid questions (as a novice, your question is probably stupid)
  • don’t say anything that isn’t perfect (don’t do anything that isn’t perfect either)
  • don’t like books (we can’t learn from them anyway)
  • i can’t be an expert until i’m credentialed
  • i can’t contribute until i’m an expert
  • if i display vulnerability, weakness, or any possibility that i might be wrong, i will be eaten, mocked, thrown out, oppressed.

Like the adage “we become what we eat,” how much of these messages do we internalize and allow to dictate our everyday actions?  I know I fall prey to many of these in spite of my best intentions not to.  I think some of these lessons, when internalized, keep us from being our most full, authentic, creative, beautiful selves.  I think they can keep us from seeing the best in each other and in our communities, and even in our institutions (school being one of them).  The hope (I believe) springs from the realization that these aren’t intentional outcomes.  No one is masterminding “schooling” to oppress and to stifle.  Rather, some of these lessons have become “unintended consequences” for some of us.  Fortunately, we can be better and do better.  Critical reflection can lead us to positive change.  Even as cogs in the “machine,” we have agency. (Thanks @shellifowler and @rebeccakmiller for our tweets about this)




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Choose your own adventure.

(Sorry LDRS 1016ers, this post may not be your cup of tea…)

Viola and McCloud should be/must be cronies.  It is interesting to see how they use different media as “ins” into the same essential idea of multiple ways through the same material.  For McCloud, we studied the circular comic and wondered at the different stories that were contained all depending on where you start.  In Viola’s work, we stumble upon the branched structure and the schizo structure – the idea that there might be infinite ways through the same material.  For example, a student watching videos that have choices (click here and dive into this story, click here and dive into that story, don’t click and the current story keeps playing) in a way that gives the reader/viewer agency in how they navigate the pre-recorded content.  <hint hint, Meta-team, kinda sounds like our looping, linking, Wordles!)>

Viola takes this “control” further as he talks about being able to manipulate and modulate video just as in electronic music.  When reading this, I immediately thought of time lapse videos, and how they tell a beautifully unique story on their own that both is and isn’t quite the same as “real time” (whatever that means… gee thanks McCloud for ruining that concept… :P).  Ants and little humans?

Viola seems to be beautifully prophetic  (like many of our other authors).  Just as he discussed the modulation of time within videos, he also mentions that “the computer is merging with video.  The potential offspring of this marriage is only beginning to be realized.”  iPad?  Facetime?  Youtube? Second Life?  With this kind of “new media” doppler radar, I think we should take a hard close look at the closing tomorrow.  What does Viola mean by “development of self must precede development of the technology or we will go nowhere” – ??  Is he sending the same message as the movie Wall-e?  Or maybe it is like our takeaway from McLuhan that we should be aware of how we can be both augmented and blinded at the same time?   Or…?  Are we the porcupine or the cars? Both and neither?

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In vtclis12 class on Thursday we had our second discussion of McCloud’s comments.  I think we could all agree that it was a day of subtle tricks that unlocked powerful concepts for us all.  It started with Julie’s reading of the comic from right to left (GASP!) and followed with Adam’s link between the comic on page 724 and gears turning at different rates.  More subtly, at the end of class we talked about panels.  We examined the quotes “for just as the body’s largest organ — our skin — is seldom thought of as an organ — so too is the panel itself overlooked as comics most important icon!”  This led to that the panels have “no fixed or absolute meaning like the icons of language science and communication… nor is their meaning as fluid and malleable as the sorts of icons we call pictures.”  In McCloud’s comic itself, this leads to conversation on the relationship between depiction and perception.  Throughout the talk of panels, McCloud quickly references “frames” as a synonym.  But, as we re-read through this in class, we always used frames to talk about it. <I promise I’m going somewhere with this :)>

Frames.  I’m not a comic book reader.  I work with students in the context of community engagement.  I am responsible for course content of leadership and social change.  I value reflection on critical issues in this world.  To me, when I hear the word “frame,” I think about the person who is privileged enough to set the stage, to tell the story.  I think about the schemas (categories and stereotypes even) that help us to navigate the world.  Until Thursday, when I read pg 716-717 I thought of panels in comic books.  Thursday, because of the simple switch of a word, I was reading about frames in life.  I immediately bookmarked Chimamanda amazing talk on Delicious because connections were firing off in my head.  To McCloud, the panel is comic’ most important icon.  In our lives, understanding “framing” is perhaps one of the most important things we can do.  I want to share some quotes from Chimamanda…

“That is how to create a single story, show a people as one thing, as only one thing, over and over again, and that is what they become” (talking about oppression)

“Stories too are defined by the principle of <power>. (she uses a word I do not know how to spell phonetically) How they are told, who tells them, when they are told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.”

and, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

I am pleasantly flabbergasted at how McCloud’s dive into time and frames is so universally applicable beyond comics – from commenting on how we think and perceive, to a reminder on the nature of the “frames” that help us perceive and mis-perceive, judge and be judged, understand and mis-understand.  And, just as the cartoonist can manipulate our thoughts and perceptions with “frames,” so too can we celebrate or malign others in our framing of them.  At one point in her talk, Chimamanda mentions that “where you start the story” (how you frame it) can make all the difference.  For example, she mentions the single-story oppression of starting the story of modern America’s history with the arrows of the Native Americans rather than the arrival of the British, and how that dramatically alters the perception of the history.  This reminds me of the comic wheel again on page 724 – how does the story change depending on where you start?  Does the couple break up at the end or is this the story of the birth and growing up of a boy with a single-mother who struggles through life but happily finds love at the end?

What “frames” are in your life?  What “framing” do you do of others and how can you be more intentional with, and respectful of, the “framing?”

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McClouds comics were rather interesting – I particularly liked his notions that comics could present time elapsing in a single frame and also how past, present, and future can all be displayed simultaneously.  It reminds me of some of McLuhan and his “with instant speed the causes of things began to emerge with awareness again, as they had not done with hings in sequence and in concatenation accordingly.  Instead of asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, it suddenly seemed that a chicken was an egg’s idea for getting more eggs.”  Still along the same veins comes Kay’s desire to see a device where “there should be no discernible pause between cause and effect…”

We seem to be able to (through media) to manipulate our perception of time, to instantaneously see multiple possibilities and their consequences, and to simplify the interpretation of complex phenomenon by overlaying different data streams (remember the Sullenberger/Hudson river video?).  This is, at once, both exhilarating and terrifying to me all at the same time.  The exhilarating part is easy – I’ve talked about it quite a bit.  I think there are incredible possibilities for us to create and innovate in ways we have never even imagined.  I just keep thinking about how hitting shuffle in Words with Friends can instantly alert our mind to some killer-word that was always there but we just needed a different lens.  By the same token, I know that we will be able to ask questions and solve problems in ways we have not yet imagined because of this new media.  I could go on and on about the possibilities and the excitement… but I want to bring up one concern I have in particular about our perception of time… specifically linked to Kay’s idea of eliminating all pause between cause and effect.

I sometimes worry that with how fast everything and everyone moves now that we are becoming blinded (remember augmented and blinded from our chat on McLuhan!?) to the notion that not all things accelerate at the same rate.  For example, consider “building trust” in one another.  When you think of this process, does it seem any faster or slower than 10 years ago? 50 years ago?  Sure, others can vouch for a person… or you can check their criminal record… or you can dig through their Facebook page… but does the time it takes for you to trust them really speed up?  We currently have this unprecedented ability to near-instantaneously connect to nearly anybody else in the world, known or unknown.  We can learn of news before news channels can report it.  But, in many ways, there are still some functions that operate on a different time scale – that cannot accelerate at the same rate as others.  I become particularly interested in this as it relates to social change (I am reminded of the book Freakonomics).  There seem to be some major social issues of our time that are confounded by many years distance between cause and effect.  So, how can we learn to prudently understand and harness the acceleration of many aspects of our lives… while still maintaining a patience and a long-term view needed to dissect complexities of integrated and fraught issues?? Better yet, how can new media help us to do just this?  (for some reason, that last sentence made me picture time lapse videos… the re-wiring of how we think and perceive the world is truly amazing!?  time lapse videos themselves are not that old…)


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ePortfolios, collateration, and “integrated knowledge”

One of the tools that teachers and students alike either seem to love or hate are ePortfolios.  Like most tools, I think they can be used to great benefit in teaching and learning but they also have a number of ways they can be completely ineffective.  I was writing a short narrative the other day to describe how we attempted to design the SERVE Living Learning Community ePortfolios and I thought I might share via the blog since it is well in lines with “augmenting human intellect,” Ted Nelson’s ideas, etc… My description is discussing more of the “ideal possibility” – while I hope that some of the students from SERVE would believe the eP has helped them in integrating knowledge, I know there is much room to grow to make it happen.  I think one of the biggest challenges with any of these tools (such as the blog, or ePs, or…) is that sometimes the learning curve, or some of the tricks required to consistently use the tool, can distract from the intended use.  For example, if the system is too “clunky” and students have too difficult of a time uploading assignments and navigating/customizing the pages, the tool may never be seen for its full potential.

Have any of you had good or bad experiences with ePortfolios?  Have they helped with collateration at all?  Augmenting your intellect?


In a recent article on “Fostering Integrative Knowledge through ePortfolios,” the authors proposed six-dimensions of integrative knowledge and learning that put words to some of the key principles that were more implicit than explicit in the SERVE ePortfolio development.  These principles (Peet, Lonn, Gurin, et al., 2011, p. 12) are:

  1. Identify, demonstrate and adapt knowledge gained within/across different contexts (i.e., the ability to recognize the tacit and explicit knowledge gained in specific learning experiences and the capacity to adapt that knowledge to new situations);
  2. Adapt to differences in order to create solutions (i.e., the ability to identify and adapt to different people, situations, etc., while working with others to create positive change);
  3. Understand and direct oneself as a learner (i.e., the ability to identify one’s prior knowledge, recognize one’s strengths and gaps as a learner, and know how one is motivated to learn)
  4. Become a reflexive, accountable and relational learner (i.e., the ability to reflect on one’s practices and clarify expectations within oneself while also seeking feedback from others)
  5. Identify and discern one’s own and others’ perspectives (i.e., the ability to recognize the limitations of one’s perspective and seek out and value the perspectives of others; and
  6. Develop a professional digital identity (i.e., the ability to imagine how one will use current knowledge and skills in future roles and how one will create an intentional digital identity)


Perhaps one of our greatest challenges (in life, if not just in civic engagement) is to process how one’s strengths and passions might best be contributed to the world.  It is not about drawing a line between technical expertise/job and charity/community, but rather in exploring how pieces might all align such that vocation is the natural cultivation of both individual and collective.  The dimensions cited above help students begin to explore this process.  Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the ePortfolio as used in the SERVE LLC is in its ability to allow collection, reflection, and connection between seemingly distinct, disconnected experiences.  This is described in Nelson’s “Computer Lib/Dream Machines” as collateration – the “creation of such multiple and viewable links between any two data structures” which Nelson suggests is “general and powerful enough to handle a great variety of possible uses in human intellectual endeavor, and deserves considerable attention from researchers of every stripe” (Nelson,  1974) It is this idea that becomes so inspiring with ePortfolio use in SERVE.  Instead of thinking that one’s training for engineering and one’s passion for community service are like two separate lives, the ePortfolio allows for these many different ideas to be presented and connected simultaneously (“collateration”).  Just as hitting “shuffle” on Words with Friends can instantaneously lend insights or connections into that 100-point word, so too can a student understand her/himself in some new, more integrated way as a result of the iterative ePortfolio process.


Nelson, T. (1974). Computer lib/Dream machines. Self-Published.

Peet, M., Lonn, S., Gurin, P., Boyer, K. P., Matney, M., Marra, T., Taylor, S. H., & Daley, A. (2011). Fostering integrative knowledge through ePortfolios. International Journal of ePortfolio, 1(1).  Retrieved from

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“Self-awareness is more useful for sophisticated self-congratulation than for readiness to go out onto that unknown plain with the Red Crosse Knight, Una, the dwarf, and the donkey.” <dripping with the sarcasm accordant any devout curator/champion/nomad of the meta-level>

I have found that blogging with the frequency we discussed in vtclis12 class is very difficult for me.  At the surface, we could call it an excuse for a busy life (like we all have).  Or, we could say that I’m disinterested, un-reflective, unwilling to apply anything in my life.  Rather, I find it an interesting, somewhat unique but infinitely familiar foray into my own mind and approach to interacting with the world…

I think a lot.  I am passionate about many things.  I am a determined puzzle-piece-putter-together.  But, I often feel like I am on the verge of the insight that just won’t come.  Like I have a story to tell, or something to share… but that I just need to pull one last piece together before I can tell it.  The word articulate to me is this gypsy of a verb.  I have a lot of things to say, but I just don’t want to say them until they sound just right in my head.  <classic introvert?>

So – blogging to me, is this beautifully messy space where ideas and connections can be tried out.  As an educator, I love that.  For me personally, I find it eternally frustrating (in an incredibly healthy way), because it requires me to spit things out before I’m ready.  To invite feedback and collaboration before I’ve “solved the problem” or “solidified my opinion” or “wrapped my head around the interpretation.”

It has been and will continue to be one of those beautifully karmic bite-you-in-your-butt things.  I value messy ideas and the space to create them.  I value how collective reflection or exploration can affect individual meaning-making.  I value disruptive, uncomfortable experiences so long as they are done in a safe environment.  I believe that our knowledge, emotions, and actions need to be dynamic, intentional processes.  And I “hate” that all of these values are the perfect intrinsic justification for me needing to blog more often when I’d rather stay within my comfort zone.  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

What are you learning about yourself while blogging?


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