Thursday, August 05, 2010

Get Outside Your Echo Chamber

Cauliflower fractals...

Kevin Kelly -- KK* Lifestream
"In the network economy, nine times out of ten, your  fiercest competitor will not come from your own field. In turbulent  times, when little is locked in, it is imperative to search as wide as  possible for places where innovations erupt. Innovations increasingly  intersect from other domains. A ceaseless blanket search--wide, easy,  and shallow--is the only way you can be sure you will not be surprised.  Don't read trade magazines in your field; scan the magazines of other  trades. Talk to anthropologists, poets, historians, artists,  philosophers. Hire some 17-year-olds to work in your office. Make a  habit to visit a web site at random. Tune in to talk radio. Take a class  in scenario making. You'll have a much better chance at recognizing the  emergence of something important if you treat these remote venues as  neighbors."

Reading Kevin Kelly's admonition to cast a wider net into other  disciplines comes from the simple observation that many innovations come  from outside one's own field.  Revolutions rarely come from within.  In  that spirit I would like to request that others write a little about  the outside sources that jostle the status quo within education either  intentionally or by accident.

Here are a few sites I recommend to get you out of your edublogging echo chamber:

1. One of my favorites is Kevin Kelly and Gary Wolf's The Quantified Self.  Any look at recent posts will inspire you to think about your own discipline.

* For example, why can't classes be more like Meet-Ups?   Some of my most successful classes were ones where we met socially for  breakfast or coffee/tea.  Why not have a Meet-Up Monday?
* What about observing our disciplines and student use of tools within the discipline? A recent post about Bill Jarrold describes  how he uses the command line to log productivity.  Why not use Twitter  and Twitter hashtags to "log" writing productivity of all sorts that  your students produce?  I teach composition and have wondered about my  students' writing lives.  This would be a good way to open up a can of  observation on 'em.
* What about foursquare to extend the boundaries of your classroom?  I  have been wondering about how to bring games into the classroom and this  might be it.  What are the affordances of foursquare in the classroom? This post suggests a data visualization for it and some more ideas.  Yes, I think this will do.

2. Another one is ze frank's page:

* I love how the effectiveness of the blog-comment template is shown so well here.   It is a pattern that any writer can use to attract an audience.   Besides it demonstrates one of ze frank's principles so well--surprise  is everywhere.

3.  Or Dave Snowden's excellent and evocative Cognitive Edge.  While technically inside of the envelope of learning and education he also writes about leadership and family.

* Snowden's software, SenseMaker Suite, might be applicable to my burgeoning dissertation interest in social capital in professional learning communities.
* Or perhaps you discover a quote that thoroughly bumfuzzles your mind  like this one:  "In general, if a community is not physically,  temporally and spiritually rooted, then it is alienated from its  environment and will focus on survival rather than creativity and  collaboration."  This may seem obvious to many, but to me it points to  the sterility of classrooms in general and to mine in paricular.  One of  the oddest feelings I have gotten since I moved from teaching high  school to university has been a 'coldness'.  I miss the heat of high  school and I think this quote explains this in part and points me toward  a major goal for fall classes--figure out ways to root my classes.  And  I also think about how to 'root' my online classes as well.

4.  How about Scott McCloud's Mind Dump where I discovered:

* Eric Mazur's physics class where  he  makes the awesomely sensible and arguable assertion that you can  forget facts but you can't forget understanding.  This guy is my new  hero and I am determined to apply some of his techniques for physics to  my lit and comp classes.
* Or perhaps I will be moved to print up this quote from Seth Godin that McCloud points to for  our consideration:  "The internet has dramatically widened the number  of available substitutes. You don't have to like it, but it's true. That  means you have to work far harder to create work that can't easily be  replaced."  How can I make myself less replaceable?  That is an  essential question for every world class employee who wants real job  security.

How about the blog Sports Are 80% Mental ?

* File this under the category "Everything You Know Is Wrong":   "Physical activity had no impact on weight change, but weight clearly  led to less activity."  In other words don't be hatin' on the fat man or  boy or woman or girl.  My second thought when I read this was whether  there are similar 'Truths' in my discipline that need puncturing. What  are the assumptions that guide my work that might be wrong?  I will be  on my guard for this during the upcoming school year and will report  back.

The idea that innovation comes from the margins seems right  biologically-- growth occurs along the edge (wherever that might be). So  my challenge to you is to bring back similar (and better) missives from  the fraxillated margins.  Just fold one interest right on top of  another and that's where you might want to be.
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