Digiwrimo storyjumpers 6: What does it mean?

This is part 6 of a story jumping activity for Digital Writing MonthBruno started it, followed by Kevin, Maha, Sarah and Ron Sign up in the Google Doc if you’d like to join in.

*****

Kevin plopped onto his bed, exhausted. What a night. What the hell had happened? How did things get so out of hand? He never knew Sandy had one machine gun, let alone two. And, to take them to the pub with her? And fire them? What was she thinking?! The whole incident really got him wondering whether he knew her at all, and whether they had a future together. And how Sarah got involved in that fight, he wasn’t sure.  At least he’d managed to fix her uke – that was about the only thing that had gone right that night. Meanwhile, that odd woman across the road was watching his house again. It no longer freaked him out, but he did often wonder why she was so interested in the house. Maybe she wanted to buy it.

Kevin took the Bruno note out of his pocket and turned it over in his hands. He hadn’t been able to get it out of his mind since finding it in that old laptop case. He peered at the map again and tried to make out the words…

After a while, things started to get blurry, and all of a sudden the words seemed to dissolve into a garden and he found himself face to face with a spider.

spider door

He looked around, confused. Where was he? And was that a door? What happened to his bed? He had no idea where he was, but he decided to investigate what was behind his door…it occurred to him that perhaps this was all just a strange dream and he would wake up and find himself back home, in his room if he walked through that door.

Instead, he found himself in a whole other world. There was a sign in front of him:

sign

No swimming? Where was the water? Curious, he walked past the sign, towards the large trees, looking for the body of water the sign was  referring to.

But instead of water, there was a clearing. And to his surprise there was a giant chessboard, with a mysterious, small hooded boy considering his next move.

chessboard

He tried to get the small boy’s attention to ask where the water way, but the boy only seemed to speak French. Kevin  kept walking.

As he walked through a small forest, and past a strange cluster of large rocks, he finally saw a lake.

rocks

He could see an amazing glowing island full of flowers in the middle. He somehow knew he had to get there. But the water was murky and he remembered the sign warning of no swimming. He looked around – and saw there was a rowboat behind some bushes. He grabbed it and jumped in, rowing quickly toward the island. He didn’t know why but he had a gut feeling it was important he get there. As he approached, the words Blossom Island kept playing over and over in his head. He knew this was the name of the island. On the island were hundreds of beautiful red and white rose bushes.

blossomisland

After walking through blossom island for a few minutes he came across an arch with beautiful flowers all around it.  Walking through it,, enchanted, he notices in amongst the flowers, lots of yummy looking cookies. Kevin suddenly realises how hungry he is – he’d done so much walking and couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. He grabbed a cookie greedily. But just as he was about to bite into it, he paused. Sudden flashbacks of childhood fairy tales played in his mind: Hansel and Gretel, and the candy covered cottage; Alice in Wonderland and the ‘Eat Me’ cake. The flashbacks were surely a warning. Who put these cookies here? What was in them? Why were they here? And…where WAS HE? The sound of his rumbling stomach interrupted his thoughts. In that instant, he threw caution to the wind, and took a huge bite.

*****

To be continued….by Kay….

[Footnote: this story contains images and ideas from my day out today with my 5 year old]

Developing a work out loud ‘attitude’

I’ve been conscious that I haven’t posted anything here for several months. Part of this has been a result of me consciously spending less time online in general, to focus on being more ‘present’ at home, to reprioritise a few things and to give genuine attention and time to important relationships in my life.

That said, not publishing anything isn’t the same as not writing – I have numerous ‘draft’ posts in various stages of ‘completeness’ which I haven’t published. I’ve often wondered why this is so…and I think part of it is fear of publishing something which seems ‘incomplete’ or not entirely thought through.

But, as Jeff Merrell so eloquently expressed in a (relatively) recent post ‘Working out loud week lesson: ignore the network’, publishing ‘work out loud’ reflections and ‘half baked thoughts’ has value in itself – for yourself (to articulate and capture your thinking). And more than likely, has value for others – even if you don’t get an immediate or explicit response from anyone telling you so. The value of making something public is that you provide the opportunity for someone, sometime to benefit from it – possibly at some point after you wrote it.

And in fact, this exact thing happened to me around the time I read Jeff’s post: Norman Jackson, who publishes an online magazine on learning, personal development & education, stumbled upon the ‘work in progress’ post I’d written 3 months earlier on the PLN model I was working on as part of my Masters research – and asked if he might publish it as part of an issue on PLNs he was doing for the magazine. It was one of those purely serendipitous moments…but one that was only possible because I’d posted those thoughts publicly, instead of just working on it privately.

Doing this consistently and regularly – and integrating it into part of ‘what you do’ is the challenge. Another post which recently changed the way I viewed ‘working out loud’ was Nigel Young’s ‘When working out loud isn’t really WOL’. The most important point, for me, in his post was the notion that ‘working out loud’ is an attitude – it’s simply about sharing, exploring ideas & seeking feedback openly and in public. This doesn’t necessarily just mean blogging or on social media, it can also be in asking questions and sharing ideas in meetings, on the whiteboard – or in any medium.

So, when I saw Helen Blunden’s post on Third Place inviting the group to join her in ‘work out loud’ week (June 15-21 2015) I thought it might be a good opportunity to start consciously practising and developing this ‘work out loud’ attitude.

And although (as Nigel says) blogging isn’t necessarily the ONLY medium for working out loud, it’s probably one of the more visible options. And there’s nothing like a bit of social accountability and collective action to kickstart a new attitude (or habit). I might even post some of those ‘unfinished’ drafts.

Blog Secret Santa…unwrapped

This year, I participated in Blog Secret Santa: “Just like regular Secret Santa, but for blogs”. If you’re unfamiliar with the ‘secret santa’ concept, it’s a group activity which involves anonymously giving a gift and receiving one back. And so it was with Blog Secret Santa: after registering and choosing a group to join (I chose the ‘Learning & Development’ group), I received an email in the first week of December with the name of the person I was to write a gift post for. We all had up until midnight Christmas Eve (GMT) to write our post; then on Christmas Day, received an email containing our gift post, from an anonymous blogger, to publish on our own blogs.

Here is the one I received. I haven’t figured out who wrote it yet…and I don’t think I’ll go digging. Not knowing somehow adds to the mystery and magic of Blog Secret Santa (that said – I was a tad too obvious with my post and the person I gave to figured out I wrote it! I’ll have to leave fewer clues next year…)

*****

Now What? I Found A Better Way Out

It’s Friday night. I’ve met my partner at her work. We walk across the road to the car park.
I’m handed the keys. I open the door for her. I get in the driver’s seat. I start the car.
To my left are two exit signs. I choose the one closest to me. I start to drive out the exit.
At the end of an exit is a parking attendant. He summons all his authority in his right hand and deposits it on me with a stop signal. I stop.
He says, “Don’t you know you’re using the wrong exit?” I think to argue, turn the car around and reenter the car park.
I choose the exit sign furthest from me. And leave the car park.
My partner just shakes her head at me and says, “We don’t do things like that around here.”
We laughed but it was serious.

What has this to do with learning and development you ask?

It illustrates a potential problem with learning and development in organisations.
What if you educate yourself and find a better way of getting out of the car park?
While learning and development in organisations still remains under the control of the organisation, course content and context can be tailored to satisfy organisational objectives. An example of this is the induction course which sets out the required expectations of employees. Another example is the information technology courses required to enable the introduction of new software. The philosophy behind these courses is pedagogical, imparting the knowledge, skills and attributes to enable learners to carry out certain functions or roles.

Even the introduction of more innovative training methods can create resistance. An example was that of an organisation who was introducing training using more facilitative methods. The intention of the training was to change attitudes of people who worked very closely with others who were dependent upon them. That training used role plays. Once the participants knew that, they resisted the training. However, as the organisation ultimately controls the training and it would be linked to their roles, the resistance would have been overcome.

But it is the advent of more online courses, that loosens the control the organisation has learning and development. By enabling learners themselves to control their own learning, that is, to be self-directed adult learners can create potential organisational problems.

The first is that they will enrol themselves in courses not related to their roles or outside their prescribed training plan. While an employee may learn a new skill, for example, customer service that he or she can apply in their job, there remains the potential for learning to be directly applied in the workplace. There is of course the potential that the employee may learn a new skill outside of his or her job and utilise that elsewhere, whether still within the organisation or perhaps outside it, in a new role perhaps.

The second is that the collaborative learning may enable self-directed adult learners to solve existing organisational problems. Again if the problem is minor, most organisations will embrace it depended upon its culture. But if collaborative adult learning finds a better way out of the car park and meets the attendant, what then?

Writing inspiration

Although I’ve been neglecting this blog of late, I felt compelled to write after having just read two inspiring posts by two people I very much admire: Lessons from my first experience of hosting a #PKMChat by Bruno Winck, and Writing to Connect: Knowing the “Other” Outside Time & Space by Maha Bali  (guest posting for #DigiWriMo). And, as it is #WOLweek (International Working Out Loud week), it seems the perfect time to practice active reflection.

Thinking about these two posts, and what inspires me about them – it’s the passion and ambition that both Bruno and Maha inject into seemingly everything they do: they’re both amazing connectors who participate in a wide range of diverse online communities and activities, always taking on new and ever-ambitious challenges, people who reflect and think  deeply about what they do. They think, and act, big.

This became especially apparent to me when I participated in the first #PKMChat last Thursday morning (6am, Sydney time), a twitter chat that  Bruno has started and is running on his own. Picking up on @CBarrows’ suggestion of writing down 1 take away:

There were some great tips and insights contributed. But for me, the single biggest #PKMChat takeaway was not so much what was said, but this: how one person can build a diverse community around them – and pull this community in to give an hour of their time to actively participate in an online conversation with a bunch of other (mostly?) random people. While I certainly knew some people in the chat, there were probably more I didn’t know (or didn’t know well). My primary motivation for participating had been to support Bruno in his endeavour to start up a new chat. I suspect this personal connection was a key motivator for others participating too. Bruno’s been a staunch supporter and regular participant in our monthly #OzLearn chat – and one of  our first international participants. Active participants are the lifeblood of any chat (without them, there is no chat!). Thus, a good twitter chat (or MOOC, or any participatory, community activity) is often a direct reflection of the hosts’ networking and community building skills. I know Bruno participates actively in a number of other diverse chats, MOOCs and online communities – and the diversity of participants in that first #PKMChat was undoubtedly the outcome of Bruno’s contribution and participation in these communities. What this shows I think, is the power of active and regular participation in promoting connection with others in online communities.

Connecting with others online – and more: developing close friendships, knowing and loving online, through writing – is the theme of Maha’s post Writing to Connect: Knowing the “Other” Outside Time & Space.  This was one of the best posts I’ve read for a while. It’s hard to describe exactly what I love about it or why.  The depth and breadth of online writing experiences she describes. The clear, infectious passion for writing and connecting with others she exudes, love that emanates from the screen. The deeply intriguing questions that emerge:

I can “know” some people online, through their writing, better than people I know face-to-face in some ways…

Is it because online, text forces you to make some parts of your thinking more explicit? Is it the distortion of time/space that occurs online, that allows one to have a continuous conversation over days or weeks, during the wee hours of the morning, while in the car or at work or in bed, when our defenses are down?

The drawing out of insights through experience and reflection (which of course, lead to more questions – always the sign of a good post):

This intimacy or closeness online, this knowing and loving, is all contingent upon the amount of mutual sharing and the extent to which people make themselves vulnerable. Every close relationship I’ve built with someone online has had strong elements of private conversation, via direct message, email, hangout, etc, beyond the public. Is it possible that we sometimes trust people online faster because we think we have less to lose? Is this naive, dangerous, or beautiful?

It’s all this of course, and more: it’s the seed of inspiration that it plants, the desire to reflect and to write back. To respond, Connect.

Writing-meeting up-collaborating

I’m conscious that I haven’t published on this blog for a while – and that’s partly because I have been writing elsewhere. I’ve also been to some new meetups and collaborating (co-writing, reviewing, commenting, conversing) in various communities and associated offshoots I’m involved with.

I have some half finished (or half-started?) posts in the making. But ahead of our upcoming #OzLearn chat on working out loud (inspired by Simon Terry), I thought I’d short circuit them all and do a little retrospective work out loud post on some of the things I’ve been doing. Kind of like my friend Helen Blunden’s “What have I been up to?” posts (which I always enjoy!).

Writing

Much of my writing recently has been associated with EdConteXts.org – a great project which I’m facilitating with a bunch of standout educators across the globe. It’s been enlightening – mostly because it’s led me to read widely, in areas I wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise, and to collaborate closely with educators who introduce me to new perspectives, ideas, contexts in learning and education, and connections in different domains. Plus opportunities to write in new contexts, including:

Meetups

July ended up being packed with new meetup experiences – I attended 3 new ones (none of which I hosted!):

  1. ResponsiveOrg meet on co-working & new ways to work, organised by Mark Woodrow. It was my intention to attend one of these since I saw Simon Terry tweet that he was speaking at a responsivecoffee event in Sydney. Although I wasn’t able to make that one, it piqued my curiosity of the ‘responsivecoffee’ / ‘ResponsiveOrg’ concept. I signed up to notifications of their meetup events. The stars aligned: the July event was on coworking -something I’d been looking into for the Sydney Third Place group (e.g. similar to these coworking events Helen has been doing in Melbourne). It presented a great opportunity to check out a prominent coworking space in Sydney (The Hub), a responsivecoffee / org event – and to explore potential common interests between ResponsiveOrg and Third Place. So, the Sydney Third Place event for July became an invite to join me at the ResponsiveOrg event. It was a really good experience. I’ve started writing more about it (another post).
  2. Third Place all cities Google + Hangout – Helen had the genius idea of organising a G+ Hangout as an opportunity for Third Place people across cities to meet (virtually) –and also to experiment with Hangout features and functionality. I’d always wanted to do some sort of cross-city event, and hadn’t done a Hangout before so thought it was a great opportunity. Helen has written more about the event here. My impression? Whilst I can see Hangouts being an excellent tool to meet and collaborate virtually on specific projects, they (and any virtual meeting spaces) may still have some way to go to achieve the type of immediacy and intimacy (& serendipitous distraction) of an informal face to face meetup. I think part of the reason is because it’s difficult to hear more than one person talking, you invariably end up having one person speak at any one time. This gives it the ambience of a more formal meeting, particularly for 10 or close to 10 people. Whereas in an informal face to face meeting of this size, people would naturally fall into smaller side conversations – whilst still being in the same physical space as the rest of the group (and having access to surrounding conversations) – these natural divisions are impossible to achieve in a virtual meeting space (breakout areas=separate subgroups). Ryan and I are doing another in a few weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see if my impressions change after that. Maybe once you relax and get used to the medium, the (perhaps, mental?) divide between virtual and physical starts to close.
  3. eLearning collective meetup – I’d been meaning to check out this newish meetup group started by Kerrie Burow, especially since our conversation on video based learning via Ryan’s blog. It’s always nice to meet people you interact with online. As an organiser of Third Place meetup events in Sydney, I’m also interested in checking out alternative meetup groups – for inspiration and potentially collaboration. I finally had the chance to attend an eLearning collective meet a couple of weeks ago. It was a good event – more semi-formal (with organised speaker/s and ‘round table’ discussion) than the completely informal get-together-&- have-a-chat format of Third Place. Excellent turnout (possibly about 30-40) and a whole different set of learning people in the room – perhaps with a higher proportion of education/higher ed and vocational ed & training (VET) than corporate (as tends to be the case with our Sydney Third Place people). Having perused the topics and attendees of their previous meets this didn’t altogether surprise me. But it’s also something that intrigues and interests me: the formation of links and connections across these different contexts, which are often perceived as being distinct from each other – but at the core deal with many of the same issues: learner engagement, relevant & meaningful learning experiences, facilitating collaborative and student centred pedagogies (via technology). There is more that I can and will write of this meetup. But I’ll save that for a separate post.

rhizo14: stole that poem

Something that caught my eye last week as I was dipping in and out of rhizo14 was Kevin Hodgson’s (@dogtrax) slam-style poem challenging people to “steal this poem” – to take the words he’d written and recorded, and remix them. This was a riff on the theme of plagiarism, ownership/copyright & remix culture that emerged from the week 1 rhizo14 topic “cheating as learning”. I love his response on so many levels – it’s an awesomely creative and thought provoking exploration of whether taking and remixing someone’s work constitutes as ‘stealing’, beautifully executed. I love the style and I was incredibly intrigued by the questions raised by the poem and his post (which I wrote some initial thoughts on in his blog). I love that he’s inviting (or challenging) people to take his work, explore it, and remix it into something new – it’s a challenge to think and respond more creatively – and, (in DS106 tradition) to create art (dammit!). I love this, and found it very inspiring – and knew I had to do it as soon as I saw it. 

I was interested in the question of whether remixing constitutes stealing – and saw a lot of parallels between use of the terms ‘stealing’ and ‘cheating’, debated in areas of the rhizo14 community. So this is what I explored in my poem. I was also interested in the idea of executing a literal interpretation of Kevin’s challenge: literally ‘taking the words’, reusing, & remixing them to create a new poem. So I’ve tried to use as many of Kevin’s words as I can in mine. The slam style that Kevin’s adopted is also reminiscent of rap, with a strong internal beat, rhyme, rhythm & flow. It’s a style I love and that I’ve also incorporated in mine. A bit like battle-rapping, on paper.

I also wanted to make Kevin’s text visible in my remix, for 2 reasons: to see the crossover between his words and mine; and to explore the question of whether taking and remixing a work without attributing its source constitutes as ‘stealing’ . I’ve copied the full text of his poem into my remix without attributing it. Does this constitute ‘stealing’? You could probably argue that, in principle, it does. But if Kevin’s invited me to ‘steal his poem’, and I’ve stated in my work that it’s a ‘stolen’ work, does this change things?

There’s a bit of a story behind the picture I’ve used as the background too. A story of serendipity: the morning after reading Kevin’s poem, as I was tinkering with my remix, Maureen Crawford sent me this tweet:

MC_tweet_visualpoetry Evan Roth’s work was, I thought,  like a modern riff on finger painting…and I loved Maureen’s description of it as ‘visual poetry’. My 3 year old was sitting next to me playing a game on the tablet and it clicked: I should get my kid to make some art as part of the remix –> ‘visual poetry’. I often get him involved in DS106 daily creates, it’s fun to do together. But what…? I had the rhizo learning P2Pu page open in one of my tabs. The image for the course was kinda like…finger painting. Click. I downloaded a kid’s drawing app onto the tablet then gave it to my 3 year old. The background image for my stolen poem is his drawing – a digital (Maureen Crawford-Evan Roth-P2Pu rhizo learning-inspired) ‘finger painting’ (I’ve just put a layer of white at 30% opacity over it to make the text legible). Combined with the poem, it’s another remix on the concept of ‘visual poetry’.

Another form of  ‘visual poetry’ that I’ve played with in my remix is the use of spacing, keyboard symbols & highlights of colour in the body text. This was something I experimented with a fair bit when I was a lot younger (like, 15) and it was fun to revisit this idea again here. I rarely write poems now and have always been an erratic poetry writer in any case but I do love the form, and experimenting with it.

I went visual with this remix partly because I’m naturally drawn to visuals, but also because I don’t *actually* have the confidence to post an audio version (re my reference: ‘Not spoken’…). However, since hearing Cathleen Nardi’s audio remix (great hip hop interpretation!), I’ve been thinking about audio a bit more. I’ve got an idea to do an audio remix of my poem using cuts from Kevin and Cathleen’s audio. I’m not sure if it would work or how it would sound but really intrigued to do the experiment. It could take a while though, so I’m just posting the visual version for now. And of course, I’m putting it out with an invitation (or challenge – interpret it as you like) to: >>> STEAL THIS POEM!

stolenpoem_remox

DS106 Daily Create 544

I wasn’t planning to write about this (it’s not on the list!), but ah well, I wasn’t actually planning to do this Daily Create assignment either!

I’ve just submitted it, so thought I might as well narrate it. This is the assignment:

Write about something ugly — war, fear, hate, cruelty — but find the beauty (silver lining) in it.

I wasn’t going to do it mainly because I’d seen it quite late in the afternoon and didn’t think I’d have brain space to invest in thinking of an idea. Also, I’d read Alan Levine’s (one of the lead DS106 instructors) blog posting saying it was hard. But then later, I was sitting at the table doodling some drawings while my kid was finishing dinner, and some words just came into my head that were compelling me to write them down. These were they:

She threw the potato peeler violently on the kitchen floor, angry

(I know, right? “Potato peeler”?! Anyway – those were The Words)

I knew this was going to be the start of my TDC (The Daily Create) submission. I continued writing The Words that compelled me to write them, not (consciously) knowing where they were taking me:

Furious. She considered saw the glint of the kitchen knife shining, beckoning and gripped the handle tightly.

At that point, I actually did consciously start thinking about where this storyline might go. I recalled reading an article years ago about Jessica Rowe’s post natal depression and her admission that she’d felt like crushing her baby’s skull once when it started crying (or something along those lines. It was a long time ago). I remember being pretty shocked that post natal depression could get that bad to completely wipe out all primal instincts to protect your own child. But then (whether they want to admit it or not) – most parents will have been in a position where (due to exhaustion, stress, lack of sustenence or, usually: all of the above), a screaming baby has pushed them to hurt or want to hurt their child. But this is always fleeting, and your own children have the touching ability to say or do things that make you instantly forgive and just want to love the hell out of them. This is what this bit of writing is about.

The knife

She threw the potato peeler violently on the kitchen floor, angry. Fuming. She saw the glint of the kitchen knife on the bench and grabbed it, gripping the handle tightly.

She heard a pitter patter of tiny footsteps, and felt something tug at her shirt. A small voice floated up at her: “Mamma. Bubby’s woken up! She wants us to give her a BIIIIGGGG Kissss!”

Suddenly the baby’s cries, before so painfully piercing, incessant, and screeching, were now small, and fragile. A sense of yearning engulfed her, and she released her grip on the knife.