|One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
McMurphy (Personal Cyber-infrastructure) VS.
Nurse Ratchet (Public Ed Infrastructure)
Week 2 in #ds106 was tough because life got in the way, but nevertheless I learned how to make GIFs using some of my favorite movie scenes, and I managed to learn so much from Gardner Campbell through the
assigned videos and article. As I watched, I had many strong emotions regarding the bags of gold because I am a former high school English teacher, and I know exactly what he meant. I taught for 20 years and decided that my health came first so I needed to pursue a new line of work. However, whenever I try to separate myself from the bizarro world of education, I have this “yearning” to continue being a teacher. It’s who I am, what I’m good at, and always wanted to be since I was 5. Through the internet, I stay connected to this world, and like Gardner Campbell, I believe that “we can do better and we need to encourage that”. This is why I MOOC and blog to collect and share the bags of gold as I build my personal cyber-infrastructure. Friends often ask me the same question a student asked Dr. Campbell in his video address to the ds106 class at University of Mary Washington: “What’s the reason for blogging? What’s the incentive for creating a personal cyber-infrastructure?” For me, it’s exactly what Dr. Campbell explained. When I first discovered the “surprise generating machine” of the internet, although I did not know exactly what everything was, (and sometimes still don’t) or how it all worked, I felt the only way I was going to figure it out was to delve right in and participate, to engage in the act of “bootstrapping”. As Dr. Campbell explained, I needed to “proceed as if the doing in the dark will actually lead you to a mode of knowing” which is “the secret to all real open learning”. Ironically, now that I’m outside the system, I have been able to globally network with hundreds of kindred spirits, so many like minded educators who have no problems sharing great ideas and resources with a stranger. Unfortunately, I had never experienced the authentic learning partnerships in face to face life I have formed digitally with complete strangers/fraingers as I like to call them. In face to face life, my PLN consisted of two or three teachers within my school, and a few former colleagues. Online, I collect and share bags of gold with hundreds of K-12 educators and professors from around the world. Whenever I picked myself up by the bootstraps, and experimented, successfully, with podcasting, digital storytelling, blogging and other acts of content creation I faced resistance. Too often, there was no value recognized in any bag of gold I shared, or my students created. I persevered nonetheless. The problem is as Dr. Campbell stated with such finesse, people don’t want bags of gold for a variety of reasons. To paraphrase him, when people are asked to use the digital, it “unlocks a realization, something about the act of asking people to establish an interesting and inquiry driven presence on the web that quickly exposes the parts of the community that aren’t going to be authentic learning partners. People feel challenged because they aren’t used to doing that in their professional lives.” Some people do feel challenged being “substantive”, even more so in a public global space that is the internet. But this mindset, this bad “habit of mind” is what we must fight to eradicate in our K-12 schools, so students can be successful globally networked citizens in HE and in life since our democracy is at stake.
“Pointing students to data buckets and conduits we’ve already made for them won’t do. Templates and training wheels may be necessary for a while, but by the time students get to college, those aids all too regularly turn into hindrances. For students who have relied on these aids, the freedom to explore and create is the last thing on their minds, so deeply has it been discouraged.” – Gardner Campbell, A Personal Cyberinfrastructure
What are the potential benefits/drawbacks of personal cyber-infrastructures?
“We should be teaching fundamentally and offering opportunities fundamentally for students’ ability at a conceptual and practical level to knit together a meaningful network of their own within this larger space we cyber space we inhabit.” – Gardner Campbell
Sadly, in some (generalizations are always dangerous, including this one) K-12
schools, students and teachers who develop personal cyber-infrastructures threaten to destroy the Nurse Ratched led infrastructure of public education. In some school districts, digital infrastructure is designed as either a weapon of mass distraction and/or destruction. Some districts claim in their double speak mission statements to have retrofitted schools with cutting edge tech to meet the needs of 21st century learners. However, there are no signs of “Narrating, Curating or Sharing” among staff or students. The retrofitting and training are led by Nurse Ratched’s key players, distinct personality types, bureaucrats, who nip and tuck to maintain the status quo through control of the digital infrastructure. Computers, i-Pads, smart boards, laptop carts and other tech equipment often languish in storage closets because training is unavailable or costly; someone forgets to buy software, the purchasing process takes months or standardized test prep takes precedence over creation and critical thinking practice using the digital. When tech is used, it denies students the opportunity to create their own content, or equipment is obsolete, or too slow to effectively integrate in a lesson. Wikis so students can log on to static pages to answer multiple choice questions for standardized test prep is one of many examples of K-12 digital nip/tucks. Sometimes digital bags of gold are used for punishment too. Fall out of the principal’s favor, all access to tech is denied! When Nurse Ratched’s in control of the digital infrastructure, community building, collaboration, reflection and creation threaten her power because personal cyber infrastructures make others’ incompetence and mediocrity very public…like frogs.
|Being John Malkovich “Dance of Despair and Disillusionment”
For me, it becomes a criminal offense when teachers and students are forbidden to become “contributors to the project of civilization” because they are forced to passively deliver and consume content through scripted teaching, common assessments, standardized test prep, multiple choice questions, timed writing tests which receive no feedback, required paper based activities and assessments in worksheets and workbooks. These practices suck the life out of students and teachers! As Dr. Campbell said in a democracy we need permission-less innovation. We need to “harness that potential so folks understand what it means to knit own network within the network independent of the conglomerates.” What if students and teachers were asked “What would you like to have happen?”
But, enough about Nurse Ratched, I root for a Chief Bromden/McMurphy escape, and the Rainbows and Unicorns, and not the crisis and aPOPcalypse Jim Groom speaks about in his TED talk! There’s a ds106 bus on a freakin’ world tour handing out bags of gold, and “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Networking” is happening in many public K-12 schools who have effective leaders. Bags of gold in the hands of effective leaders make teachers and students billionaires! Through social networking sites so many K-12 educators have managed to escape Ratched’s system to connect globally with brilliant and passionate educators and administrators who are not afraid to be public like really smart frogs. Educators are building their personal cyber-infrastructures to reflect on their practice, and obtain feedback from global peers. Web 2.0, featured on sites like freetech4teachers.com, and learning communities like Edmodo, Collaborize Classroom, KidBlog, Teachertube and hundreds of others, including MOOCs for professional development, allow K-12 educators and students to safely engage in Narrating, Curating and Sharing.
What does this mode of communication say to you about the way ideas spread in a place like ds106?
The yearning for learning spreads like wildfire in learning spaces like ds106 and others because these are safe digital learning communities where as Jim Groom explained “discursive practical application of the personal cyber-infrastructure constantly reinforces and re-informs one another.” Learners and teachers aren’t afraid to take creative risks, to share and riff others’ brilliant ideas, and make them their own, or to receive and give feedback. Creativity becomes contagious and learners feed off each others’ creations. Good teachers, even before the birth of the internet, have always known, all learners need the freedom for self expression, and deserve opportunities to voice who they are, what they think, what they can do, what they want to learn, etc. Learners need opportunities to connect learning with real life experiences, to be exposed to a variety of print and non print texts to stimulate thinking, and to be a member of a thriving community where sharing is encouraged for continual growth and reflection.
Some day in the near future, passive learning, like lobotomies, will be remembered with horror, shame and disgust! Personal cyber-infrastructures will be the norm. The days teaching and learning in Nurse Ratched’s society are numbered because the bus is headed to everyone’s town and the Reverend‘s driving!