Archive for the MAIS Category

the land agent

Posted in MAIS with tags , , , , , on September 12, 2013 by onepercentyellow

In my first week of readings (last week… oops) for my Athabasca Anthropology 610 course, I came to a full stop in the middle of the book.

 “In indigenous concepts landscape has agency” (Johnson 204). 

Of course it does, but I have never heard it put this way before.  The agency of the land – the Gaia principle – imbues the land with not only its own existence, but its own set of relationships, its own choices and actions to be taken, and leaves us pondering what our own role is in that continuum of creation.  If landscape has agency, what am I in wake of the land’s power (being of and from it)?

And when I recognize that the Earth is its own living system, of which I am but a small part, I begin to relax and relinquish control, even in just a small way.  I give up control as I do when I set down the chip colonialism has placed on my shoulder.  I am not responsible for the “civilization” of the world’s people.  In fact, I don’t have the answers my culture tells me I have.  There are systems of knowledge I have never conceived of.  There are types of blindness I suffer because I have never been taught to use my eyes.

And I consider this against the human systems we have created – the economy, the military-industrial complex, the church, the state – I wonder if these reified systems, too, have agency.  Is there something living in them, a kind of animation?  Have they grown and experienced evolution throughout time, only to have reached their now monstrous form – all teeth and claws – at the head of the food chain?

And that brings me to the life that comes when we feed our traditions.  Those reified systems have reached their zenith because we have fed them.  We consult them; we speak their names; we channel our energy and beliefs through them, and, in turn, our lives are lived through them.  But is this relationship simply another empty cup to raise to our lips?  Are we satiating ourselves on a diet of empty calories and failing to dip into the nourishment of fellowship? 

I ask you to try this simple tradition.  Before your next meal, sit in contemplation of the food you are about to commit to your body.  Consider where each part has come from – the energy of the sun, the water and minerals from the earth, the lives that have ceased.  This is not an exercise in guilt, but one in gratitude.  And as you thank each part for its part, ready your body to receive this bounty.  Permit your body to exact the full transaction of energetic existence.  Breathe – knowing full well that it is not that you are pulling in air, but merely allowing it to enter your body – a place where it wants to be.  And then enjoy your meal.  It feels different to eat in this way.  This is presence.

 

Johnson, Leslie Main.  Trail of Story, Traveller’s Path: Reflections on Ethnoecology and Landscape.  AU Press: 2010. Print.

Slowly becoming

Posted in MAIS, Online, Uncategorized with tags , on September 4, 2013 by onepercentyellow

It has been a long time since I’ve written in this space.  I hope to remember to record my experience of presenting in my first academic conference at some time, but this is not what has brought me back to this space.  I’m here because I might just get the chance to share my great passion for connection in the digital world.  I might just be about to teach alongside my mentor – the person who has so greatly inspired me to consider the importance of taking on the vocation of being an educator.  I might just get to affect and be affected by a group of amazing Augustana students this semester.  And maybe this will help me reach that final goal – that final push toward the completion of my masters degree – and after such a long, tumultuous, and affecting road, I want to do it right.

So.  I’ve been invited to be a part of Spirit of the Land, an experiment in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) by the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta.  Now that all the big names have been dropped, I can tell you how this MOOC is different, how we’re shaping things to be our own, and how I have become passionate about my capability to contribute in a meaningful way.

Now I’ve been a student, staff, and most recently over the summer, an actual contracted instructor at Augustana for many years.  It’s been a foundational part of too many of my final papers to count.  Every time I write about education (which is a lot during my MAIS program in adult education) I reflect on the deep shifts of meaning I traversed through my time at Augustana.  I attribute this to the sense of responsibility Augustana and other small Liberal Arts universities have for the kind of people our students become. When I come into contact with an institution or a teaching methodology that does not pay attention to this fundamental connection between teacher and student, I balk. I cringe.  I shut down.  And then, since I don’t take things laying down, I push.  I know I have done my share of pushing in my program at Athabasca – some appreciated, some not – and that I will at some point experience the same when I meet myself in my own classroom.

It comes back to this.  When a student enters a classroom, s/he opens her mind, her way of seeing the world, her way of knowing, maybe even her heart, to the perspectives of the theorists taught in the class, and, what’s more, the perspective of the professor who is presenting the theorists taught in the class.  I remember in my first year at Augustana I was speaking to one professor.. asking “but if postmodernism is wrong, then…”

“wait a minute,” he said. “Who told you that postmodernism is wrong?  Perhaps you should decide that for yourself!”

Wait… I can do that??

So.. from that value-laden, and consequential perspective on being an instructor, I prepare myself to work on this MOOC… which is actually an OOCC, I consider what it is I’d like to contribute to the way the individuals in this course see the world.

First – what is Spirit of the Land about?  It’s about developing a community land-use ethic.  It’s about Aldo Leopold’s assertion that one day we will see the land and our relation to it in the same way we see our relationship to one another.  That we will feel ethically responsible for the destruction and desecration of life we are bringing about on our planet.  And we will do this in community, for “nothing so important as a land ethic is ever ‘written’.  It arises in the minds of a thinking community,” says Leopold.

Second – it’s about community.  It’s a course that is happening over breaking of bread with one another.  With “students” and “community members” cooking together and then sharing the nourishment of deep intellectual consideration of important issues.  It’s about connection.  It’s about conversation.  And it’s about bridging our classroom/intellectual/academic worlds with our embedded/emotional/physical/spiritual worlds.  And it happens together.

Further, it’s about connecting to the great healing stemming from the recognition of the great wrongs that have been done to the people whose tradition, language and culture grew from a relationship with the land we are living in and growing on.  The First Nations people who have, for so long, been relegated to the sidelines for their naive relationship to the natural systems of our planet. These people who can stand #idlenomore and are defending mother Earth with their words, their hearts and their bodies.

All of these things appeal to me greatly.  And I’m being given the opportunity to demonstrate how these types of connection can happen in the digital world.  Throughout my research into connectivist learning theory, I have grown to understand that the digital world is not just a place to go to get information, it’s a place to form a trusted network that moves beyond the vetted tidbits of information fed through the traditional forms of media.  Social networks are ways to understand the world from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.  When Arab Spring happened, when China shut down the internet, when #occupywallstreet led to campus protests being peppersprayed in a place of higher learning, I came to realize that people who are connected to one another without necessarily going through the mechanisms of censorship share the opportunity to make social truth transparent.  This is in direct opposition to those who perpetuate lies.

There are a lot of lies happening about our relationship to the natural world.  Our relationship to each other.  Our relationship to ourselves.  These lies can be combatted with a connection to like-minded individuals who have explored the importance of developing a healthy, balanced, ethical relationship to the systems that sustain life.

How can I not be absolutely honoured to be a part of something so beautiful?

The Social Artist – Interactivity

Posted in eci831, MAIS with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2012 by onepercentyellow

Learning happens when the world bumps up against what you already know.  In our clumsy stumble through life we’re constantly colliding with new ideas in text, in music and video, in objects around us, and in other people.  The thrill of having your own notions of existence confirmed, and the conscious-raising experience of understanding a resistant view of the world is one of the great drives of education.  We want to understand our world no only for ourselves, but for each other.

In the educational world, it’s tempting to submit this interaction to a top-down structure that reinforces power relations found throughout society, but one of my favourite pedagogues, Paulo Freire, argues (with the help of Erich Fromm) that this type of interaction is a drive toward “necrophily”.

“The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things… He loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life” (Friere, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 77).

It is not enough to simply have interaction among the players in an educational enterprise.  We must encourage authenticity, presence, and a drive toward a dialogical method of teaching that will encourage a love of life through a profound curiosity and desire to interact with ourselves, one another, and our world.

A trip to the analogue world

Posted in MAIS, Online with tags , , , , , , on September 18, 2012 by onepercentyellow

Now I’ve been a digital student for about 3 years, and this weekend I had another chance to take my digital self into the analogue world for Athabasca’s first grad student conference.  While the nerves just about did me in, I made it through the weekend ecstatic about the whole experience.

First I must mention, I was presenting at the conference… a very applicable topic – autobiography and the digital world.  I wanted to use autobiographical theory to explain how we develop a believable, and hence FUNCTIONAL, digital identity.  A good autobiography, like a good digital presence, shares something of our humanness and makes us a REAL textual person – a person others can relate to, a story they can draw on in understanding their own journeys through life.  Like reading a good autobiography, meeting a digital self can help you expand what you believe is possible in a life.

Thiswhole process has been a huge exercise in reflection.  On the one hand, I was aware that the self most of my audience was familiar with was my digital self.  In fact, this is the a priori self – this textual, video, photographic avatar.  My analogue self would need to be consistent with my digital.  Not difficult for me as I’m pretty much the same person in both places, but I struggled with finding space to present all of the aspects of my digital self that I wanted to bring across in this analogue circumstance with its temporal limitations.  I only had 15 minutes (!!!!!) to present!  How could I possibly include everything in such a short time span?  I had to broaden my scope.

I decided to make my entire weekend a part of my presentation – again, not too difficult as my topic was autobiography – and meld the digital and analogue as much as possible.  Friday night’s meet and greet came and went and I introduced myself in both spaces, leveraging my more established digital self to make space for my analogue expression:

Saturday night I got to bring my ukulele-playing, participatory-music-promoting, dancing, laughing, kazoo-toting self!  The most precious moment of the entire weekend was when Terry Anderson, an educator and theorist I highly respect, played my kazoo along with the horn section of the band!  After interacting with everyone’s “real” self (and here I oppose it with their polished, professional, academic selves), how could I be nervous?

Sunday morning Katherine Janzen welcomed me with tales of metamorphosis in the educational journey.  The butterfly, present so much in my life this year, showed itself once again to remind me to step forward with courage.  And I did, with new friends in the audience, and old friends tuning in on #ds106radio.

I’m excited to put Mark McCutcheon’s (@sonicfiction) question to work in my further research.  What exactly do I mean by authenticity?  And I’m happy to have such a positive experience under my belt.  I will continue to use this research as I participate in conversations later this week on digital education in Liberal Arts universities.

But what I will take away the most is the confidence this experience has given me.  I wrote, I practiced, I edited, I practiced, I worried, I practiced and finally I presented.  While those 15 minutes were important, it was sharing my uke, my love of music, and my broader self that made the connections that will last beyond this presentation.  Once I had made a space for my whole person to attend the conference, that shy, self-conscious, impostor-syndrome-suffering academic wasn’t alone.  She had a musician, a gypsy, and a connected educator at her side, and with that host of selves lending their light, the academic in me could shine.

ART – keeping you real since the internet began

Posted in eci831, MAIS, Online, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 24, 2012 by onepercentyellow

Well, it’s that time again: the beginning of the semester.  While I have not signed up for my next MAIS course, I have been enticed into participating FOR REAL THIS TIME in #ds106, the MOOC with the MOST (other than ECI831 – sorry, all… @courosa still holds the special place in my digital heart!).  This coming as I prepare to present on autobiographical theory and digital identity development, or as I like to think of it – living the autobiographical self.  I put out the question – what makes people real in the digital world – to the #ds106radio audience on my birthdaycast.

So I have finally made my first true entry into the #ds106 world… I AM REAL!!! I can make an ANIMATED GIF!!! With @cogdog’s help, of course.
#makesomeartdammit

The Social Artist – What is liberal arts?

Posted in eci831, MAIS, Online with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by onepercentyellow

The question, “What is a liberal arts university?” is a little like asking someone to describe post-modernism. Often people know more what it feels like and looks like rather than exactly what it is. A description involves questions of the value and purpose of a post-secondary education, and, as such, becomes a rather self-revealing political statement, rather than a detached list of descriptors. Individuals are involved in the telling of liberal arts stories, and perhaps this passion is the most revealing of all.

In this second video of the Social Artist, we discuss the makings of a liberal arts university in general. For me, this video has been created alongside readings in the theory of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) for my MAIS 638 course with Dr. Carolyn Redl. As a part of CDA not only am I considering the responses to the question, “What is a liberal arts university?” but this new theoretical background has me pondering the context each person inhabits in the liberal arts system and how that has influenced their responses. What’s more, I am reflecting on how my role as editor is manipulating the recordings to speak back to the audience in an abridged, entertaining and engaging format. I find it fascinating that in many ways, my own voice is populated by a series of clips of the voices of my interview subjects.

I have also been contemplating my goals in creating these videos. I want the story I am portraying to encourage people to take up their own conversations on liberal arts and online learning. From this perspective, I wonder how the individuals interviewed view the responses of their colleagues. From the social artist perspective, I wonder how presenting an audience’s words back to them influences levels of interest, involvement and buy-in on a project.

These ponderings are simply questions I have come up with along the process of creating the videos. I hope to share more of my reflections on the creation of the videos and the OLI process in this space. In the meantime, enjoy the show!

eci 831 week 5 reflection – a proposal in participation

Posted in eci831, MAIS with tags , , , , , on October 18, 2011 by onepercentyellow

It has been one of those interesting weeks…

P.S. Oh yeah… and Jim Groom rocks <—- this is not bait… ok, maybe it is! Here Jimmy jimmy jimmy….

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