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Insight.

I have to be honest. I’m really struggling with carrying on business as usual, particularly in the online space, due to the events that took place during the first weeks of the new presidency. Even more so, I struggle with how to be a valuable participant in the conversation. And so I struggle with what and how to write, even the simplest of event recap blog posts like this one (I’ve had to come back to this a handful of times to properly finish it).

As I reflect on my post-election actions thus far, I notice that I’ve become a bit of an internet recluse and being purposeful in expanding my vehicles for listening. In that, I’ve found Twitter lists to be really helpful as a way to gain new perspectives in mass. This White House Press Corps Twitter list has been a go-to. I’ve also subscribed to two separate lists: Republican and Democrat Congressman. And on a personal note, I’ve found myself staying farther away from social media when in the presence of my family in order to keep my mood in check. My social media apps are very strategically hidden from myself on my phone. My go-to nightly read is the NYTimes Evening Brief. I very highly recommend reading everything Maggie Haberman writes as her sources seem to be really close to the White House action and her coverage is really, really really good.

At the same time, I think about what happens if I stop blogging about work, education, and education technology. I certainly don’t think the world is a better place because of my writing, but I struggle with what would happen if I turned that part of my brain for a bit. If I stopped sharing my thoughts. And then I get even more scared that I’m feeding the beast by keeping my mouth shut. I’d be allowing external forces to deeply control what I do and do not share.

So I continue to blog. Not because of my ignorance to the world around or my lack of willingness to acknowledge it but because it is a vehicle for my sanity. Though these events put so much into a bigger perspective, I will not allow them to overshadow what I still feel like is work worth doing and words worth writing.

And so I blog.

You’re a mad person if you hadn’t been more appreciative of the friendships and relationships in your life lately. A couple weeks ago we held our annual Academic Technology Expo (ATE). We were fortunate enough to have two people here in Norman who I deeply respect. Gardner Campbell from VCU keynoted the event and Jeremy Dean from hypothes.is was also willing to brave an impending snow storm to visit campus as well.

I’ll work backwards and start with Jeremy. I invited Jeremy because we had two faculty panels that dealt with Hypothes.is. My team and I have been big supporters of Hypothes.is since we heard about it. I’ve written about integrating it into every WordPress instance as a plugin and John Stewart has done great work with building the Hypothes.is Collector, a Google Spreadsheet that interacts with the Hypothes.is API. Jeremy and I connected first on Twitter and though we didn’t meet in person until OpenEd17, I knew very quickly after multiple nights of drinks and story swapping, that we we were kindred spirits.

I blogged a few months back about having Ben Scragg stay at my house for the Ohio State football game slash meet with our team. I’ve loved being able to open up my home to in-town visitors and offered up the guest room again to Jeremy if he wanted to come participate in the conversations. He obliged and hung out with the Crooms. Like Ben and myself, Jeremy is a dad of little girls and I can’t be thankful enough to how genuine and loving the people in my small, little network are. My oldest, who is five, mentioned this morning the Dragons Love Tacos book she received from “Mr. Ben” and the sticker book she received from “Mr. Jeremy.” No joke, the tiny remembers them by name.

Our late night conversations revolved around how to best support the others endeavors. After conversations like delete your academia.edu account, I’m reminded that higher ed needs to be better at identifying the good/bad and supporting the ones we believe in. Higher ed doesn’t seem to understand 1. how to build/share the appropriate tools it needs or 2. convince the right people to build them in a way that promotes values of accessibility, openness, networks, etc etc. People like Carol Quillen and Kristen Eshelman at Davidson College, along with George Siemens and others, have discussed a concept like this as the radical middle.

What if ed tech companies and higher ed institutions began not by negotiating a contract but by identifying a shared purpose with respect to teaching, learning or research?

There’s a sense of optimism in that concept that demands a type of path be forged.

And then there’s Gardner Campbell. I got the honor of introducing him at ATE and had to give recognition to his article A Personal Cyberinfrastructure, which was highly influential in many things–not the least being my eventual Masters thesis. Paired with Papert’s work and Mimi Ito’s Connected Learning framework, Gardner’s article guided much of that research project. That phrase though… “Personal cyberinfrastructure.” So good!

I was in the fortunate position of already getting a tasting of Gardner’s talk on Insight at OpenEd. A couple times in the past few years, I’ve got the opportunity to see how a talk evolves. For instance, I saw Jim Groom’s thoughts evolve from an et4online keynote to the eventual keynote at ATE 2015. Jim’s ATE talk was the best version of a Jim talk I had seen and the way he was starting to frame out domains into the analogies of transportation (“How Automobiles, Super Highways, and Containerization helped me understand the future of the Web”) was brilliant and also ties nicely into the idea of “infrastructure.” In the blog comments of the link above, Alan Levine refers to this talk as the Grand Unified Theory of Reclaim, and I couldn’t agree more.

But back to Gardner. I was curious to see what the post-election version of this talk was like. How would he adapt a talk that was originally attended for open/oer to a general institution audience? Well, he did it in a great way, thinking more about the concept of insight itself, thanks to a good friend Mo Pelzel, who referred Gardner to a book called Insight by BJF Lonergan after OpenEd.

One of my favorite adds was, not surprisingly, a quote from Alan Kay:

Slide from Gardner’s talk

But, more importantly, I think he rightfully challenged the traditional view of what the outcomes of a classroom should be. I’m fascinated by the perspectives of very personal insights taking places within a broader network.

I urge you to think about how these networks can actually be ways of re-describing the world in revelatory modes.

Equally as important to me was the opportunity I got to spend with Gardner sharing meals, sharing my home, and seeing Norman. As I mentioned, the weather was terrible, but that didn’t stop us from making a quick trip to the local record shop, Guestroom Records.

I wasn’t actually aware of what an avid collector Gardner was before he arrived though he’s enough of a collector to already be familiar with Discogs, the site I use to catalog of collection, and the basis for my Vinyl subdomain. While at Guestroom, I actually happened to find a very rare pressing of the Postal Service record I had been hunting for for some time somewhat shockingly. Gardner unfortunately struck out on finding anything that he didn’t really want. At dinner the night before Gardner asked me if there was any record where I had multiple copies of it. Indeed, I own about five copies, four separate pressings of one of all time favorite records, Dog Problems by The Format (if you’re feeling the need for music criticism in your life, this Modern Vinyl podcast on the album is really rich). As a parting gift and token of my appreciation, I gave Gardner one of my duplicates that also happened to be unopened.

I can’t say enough thanks for the opportunity to bring Gardner back to my community or for the conversations we got to subsequently have about the possible futures of digital learning. I’ll particularly cherish those for a long time. At the moment, in a time of so many unknowns, there are a lot of directions it can go, and it’s only more important that perspectives like Gardner’s continue to be shared. I know I’ll always be listening.

If you want to see the full presentation from Gardner, check it out below.

It also feels good to be blogging on this side on 2017!

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