moocmooc: critical pedagogy week 2

Posted in MAIS, Online, Uncategorized with tags on January 27, 2015 by onepercentyellow

While I didn’t get any writing onto this blog for moocmooc week 1, I’m happy to share some reflections on week 2’s readings here.

bell hooks – engaged pedagogy

The discussion of liberatory education is not new to me.  I have been studying Friere, liberal arts, open education, cMOOCs and other contributing thoughts for some time.  I was also fortunate enough to complete my undergrad at Augustana, a small, liberal arts university that is teaching-centered and dotted with educators who are grounded in critical pedagogy and experiential education.

Having started my degree at a conventional university, I understand what we’re pushing against, but for much of my educational experience, I have felt the wave on my side.  Why, then, have I felt so reluctant to swim out into the great ocean of academia as a teacher rather than a student?  I suppose this is the difference between riding the wave and being the wave.

I’m not sure where this metaphor has emerged from, but it feels good, so let’s run with it.

At the risk of providing too much background information and making this post longer than anyone would care to read, I’ll tell you where I’m at.  I’m a masters student in the MAIS program and am currently working on my final project in which I would like to host a cMOOC on a critical examination of the digital world.  Over the last 5 years I have been digging deep into the digital world, searching for the meaning and affect of this revolutionary space on my own and our collective Being.  As I approach my final project, I would like to share those questions (and some of my own reflections) on this space in an open dialogical space, but I must admit, I am afraid.

I am afraid of merely providing content.  I am afraid of dictating my own reflections without being able to join others in the emergent qualities of the conversation.  I am afraid that all this meaning that I have encountered is irrelevant and that no one will want to engage.  I am afraid to fail.

As I read bell hooks, I began to have hope again that this engagement may be more about my own self-actualization as a teacher than it is about the content of the course.  This is a moment I have waited for.  It’s taken years and a humility as a student that I had to actively cultivate.

I think this is where the practice of hooks and Freire comes in.  The teacher in the teacher-student must recognize her place as the ocean.  She has spent years deepening the knowledge well – reading, writing, watching, discussing, contemplating, swearing (#F%&#(F paradigm shifts!).  She is sought after by student-teachers seeking to understand the currents of thought connected to one another throughout history.  The ocean takes joy in the swimmer, the surfer, the scuba diver who is brave enough to enter the water.

While the metaphor is entirely new to me…. and would take time to develop, it helps me to consider the balance of power and ability.  The ocean has the power to make waves and the surfer has the power to stand upon them.  The teacher-student helps explore the deep currents and the student-teacher joins in navigating them.


On an entirely different note, I question how this happens in a second language classroom.  I have been asked to work in this field, though I have had my doubts as to my ability to foster an emergent classroom where so much is truly by-rote.  I suppose I’ll leave with that question, and bring it to the #moocmooc twitter conversation tomorrow.

If you’ve made it to the end of my ramble, ramble on, friend.


Introducing “Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being” by Joe L. Kincheloe

Posted in Uncategorized on July 11, 2014 by onepercentyellow

Introducing “Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being”:

Using Indigenous Perspectives to Consider Conflict

The author of this article, Joe L. Kincheloe, served as Canada Research Chair at the Faculty of Education at McGill University and was the founder of The Paulo and Nita Freire International Project for Critical Pedagogy. From this foundation in critical pedagogy, his chapter proposes tenets of critical ontology to penetrate the identity construction of would-be educators and researchers. He uses Indigenous epistemologies as foils to the Cartesian construction of self, society, and reality, and pushes scholars to engage with the Other as a way to critically examine the Western construction of selfhood.

(Click HERE for a wonderful video in which Kincheloe elucidates some of his pedagogical beliefs)

Engaging with Kincheloe was easy for me as I also subscribe to the values of critical pedagogy (that being exposure of inequality in the dominant paradigm through examination of and action on the emergent nature of reality, or conscientization). The reading made me question when and where my own critical consciousness awakened. I wish I could say that it was when I first went abroad and lived for 4 years in Asia, but I know that my first foray into the land of the Other was not marked by reflexivity, but by exoticism. I found the cultural differences fascinating, engaging and interesting, but had very little to say about the contributions these cultures made to my understanding of the world and myself. It was not until I was introduced to Sociology, Linguistics and Literary Theory and then participated in a study abroad program to Cuba that I began to see differently. When I returned, all I could do was shake my head at all those who claimed the greatest gift travel could offer was knowing how wonderful Canada is when you return.

So with this intimate knowledge of critical ontology, one could dream I have “cultivate[d] humility without which wisdom is not possible” (Kincheloe 198), but the waking reality is far more steeped in Western ideology than I care to admit. I recently realized this when I came into a heated discussion with my boyfriend’s brother (I’ll call him Tom) over topics ranging from economics and politics, to the value of socialism and community, to extractive industry and the philosophy of work. I left the conversation exhausted and was frustrated with myself at my inability to communicate my point effectively. As we both retired, he mentioned the community group he is a part of and the work they were doing on land use in the area. As I went to sleep that night, my own entrenched Cartesian dualism struck me hard. Why did I feel the need to push him into my own way of thinking? Why did I refuse to concede any of his points? How had everything become so black and white?

On my second reading of Kincheloe, I decided to take direction and investigate Indigenous modes of conflict resolution. Perhaps other cultures could assist me in further extracting myself from the Western individualist perspective. While I have only scratched the surface in this research, I have a couple preliminary considerations to offer here.

Conflict resolution in Ni-Vanuatu society uses storytelling and metaphor to avoid personal attack while exploring contentious issues. Further, they use song, poetry and silence to allow space when debates become heated. I had considered this tactic that night as I lay awake in frustration. Why had I not asked Tom earlier how his worldview manifest in stories of his life? Would this have revealed his involvement with the community land-use board and offered a different metaphor to examine the situation? Of course I also wondered why I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut!

In the Mi’kmaq society, the web of relationship is more important than the assertion of absolute righteousness. Harmonious relationship with all our relations (including the animate and inanimate natural world) is of utmost importance. The most striking image from this reading is the sacred circle, a symbol common to many Indigenous groups. “The traditions of the circle suggest seasons, lifecycles and eco-spiritual forces that both govern and protect human life and ecological balance” (Bowers 295). When conflict occurs, it is never the individual who stands trial, but his or her entire family, their extended community, and even the land. A circle cannot be formed with only two individuals present. If we are to consider our own moments of conflict, multiple relationships are pulled into play as we confide in our closest friends and allies and rally our strength to continue the push toward “right”. Perhaps if our society asked all those people to come to the town square to satisfy these conflicts, we would be more willing to approach each other with the humility that denotes wisdom.

My questions to you:

On page 195, Kincheloe speaks of the potential for Western life to appear as bizarre to someone from another culture. Share an experience where difference has revealed your own bizarre norms. Alternately, watch this scene from God Grew Tired of Us and comment on the notion of freedom presented.
In my example above, it can be argued that I privileged my own values of critical ontology over Tom’s belief in a dominant Western narrative. Is Kincheloe’s reading meant to only dismantle Western ideals and hold up the value of Other ways? In this same vein of questioning, I’d like to highlight Timothy’s response in Week 5 where he is “irritated that all aspects of colonialism are assumed to be horrible, catastrophic, and never in the best interests of the colonized.” How can we extract the positive contributions from the colonialism? What are they?
Thanks in advance for your responses!

Works Cited

Bowers, Kisiku Sa’qawei Paq’tism Randolph. “From Little Things Big Things Grow, From Big Things Little Things Manifest.” AlterNative: An International Journal of Indigenous Peoples 8:3 (2012): 290-304. Web 5 June 2014.

Kincheloe, Joe L. Critical Ontology and Indigenous Ways of Being: Forging a Postcolonial Curriculum.” Curriculum as Cultural Practice: Postcolonial Imaginations. Ed. Yatta Kanu. Toronto: U of T, 2009. 181-202. Print.

Walker, Polly O. “Storians: Building on Indigenous Knowledge to Enhance Ni-Vanuatu Mediative Capacity.” Conflict Resolution Quarterly 30:5 (2013): 309-328. Web. 4 June 2014.

Right Relationship – Nurturing connection to the land through time and contemplation

Posted in anthro 610, spirit of the land, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 14, 2013 by onepercentyellow

An integral aspect of the Spirit of the Land (SoL) course at Augustana is the nurturing of a contemplative practice.  We have used a number of approaches (Buddhist, Christian, Archetypal Psychology, among others) to encourage stillness, silence and presence in a world that does not place great value on these traditions.  It is a way to push students beyond the breakneck pace of their day-to-day lives and into a space where it is possible to hear the still, small voice of inner self.  With that Being (that inner self), we can mindfully explore the existential connection with the natural world, physical space, and community of beings in which we all live.  When questions of sustainability, ecology, and right relationship are explored from this contemplative foundation, it becomes possible to consider agency and knowledge from the perspective of the natural world, rather than simply the perspective of conservationists or preservationists.

In reading Peter Bates and David Natcher et. al.’s articles on Northern Canadian First Nations groups, and Susan Crate’s article on Soviet Indigenous groups (all found in Arctic Anthropology), I was struck by the connection between the contemplative tradition as it has been expressed in our SoL class and the traditional knowledge of these groups. This type of knowledge is not the kind that one can simply look up online and Get It.  Like meditation, like yoga, like mastery of any discipline, this is a knowledge that is grounded in Being.  It is developed through practice and integration of a more conscious way of taking action.  Rather than going through the motions of doing something, we are pushed to embody what we do – be mindful, feel it deeply and make it a part of our Being.  It also points to the emergent nature of knowledge.

The Northern groups Bates and Natcher et. al. worked with, revealed a unique perspective of time and sentience that sits in opposition to the dominant Western approach.  First, the Northern groups were reluctant to place emphasis on a future orientation.  For those doing work in sustainability and ecology, this poses a considerable barrier.  The drive is to create policy or research agendas based on predictable changes in the natural world, but those who hold the Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of this space do not orient themselves to the future in this way.  The Huslia residents, for example, do not “allow events that lie in the future to organize one’s life” (Natcher et. al. 119), and thus cultivate a radically present-oriented relationship with time and the natural world.  In presence, we are forced to listen to the subtle changes of the natural world, “accepting that the future cannot be known [and allowing] appropriate preparation for uncertainty, rather than condemning a traveler to futile struggle against it” (Bates 90).

As we have explored presence in the SoL class, we have attempted to quiet our future-oriented ego self in order to hear the present-oriented inner self that is connected to all other beings (both animate and inanimate).  In our exploration of the present moment, we have heard experiences of individuals (like Takota Coen) who have meditated and communicated with plants, and (like Sylvia McAdam) who have literally fallen in love with landscapes.

With such an orientation to time, I would argue, we can find a connection to the agency of the land – reflected in Natcher et. al.’s description of the Koyukon.  Individuals in this community were reluctant to speak of the future of climate change, animal migrations, or other aspects of the natural world as they felt it negated the power of the natural world to participate in the conversation.  During this reading I began to think of the natural world as a family member, and such summits discussing the possible futures of the natural world as equivalent to discussing a sibling behind his or her back.  I could picture it as a sort of gossip session in which well-meaning scientists, policy makers, and social researchers are trying to determine what to do with that troublesome black sheep of the family.  Then I pictured how infuriated I would be if I found out about such talk while I was absent. What if we were to host a present-oriented intervention rather than a back-room decision of when to ship someone off to rehabilitation.

Any good relationship requires presence and the sensitivity to see that the other has the agency to change.  When we are in harmonious relationship, we appreciate the gifts of the other and reciprocate.  We acknowledge the essential presence of the other and accept emerging aspects with curiosity and gratitude.  When we are in wrong relationship we become controlling, demanding and dismissive.  We center meaning on our own power and end up consuming rather than collaborating.  These readings highlight different ways of seeing my relationship with time and natural systems, and encourage me to foster a present and emergent relationship with the world around me.

All this as I watch winter unfold for the first time in 4 years.  As I approach winter with a welcoming respect for its essential place in this landscape, I feel better able to reconcile with this black sheep.

Works Mentioned (I apologize for any formatting problems… I just wanted to get this post up!)

Bates, Peter. 2007.  Inuit and Scientific Philosophies about Planning, Prediction, and Uncertainty. Arctic Anthropology  44( 2): 87-100.

Crate, Susan A. 2006. Elder Knowledge and Sustainable Livelihoods in Post-Soviet Russia: Finding Dialogue across the Generations. Arctic Anthropology 43 ( 1): 40-51.

Natcher, David C., O. Huntington, H. Huntington, F.S. Chapin III, S.F. Trainor, and L. DeWilde. 2007. Notions of Time and Sentience: Methodological Considerations for Arctic Climate Change Research. Arctic Anthropology 44(2): 113-126.

Conservation, Preservation and the Noble Savage

Posted in anthro 610, spirit of the land, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2013 by onepercentyellow

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.  We’ve all heard it.  How do we miss the mark?  By failing to be in relationship.

Over the past couple weeks I’ve been reading a lot on conservation and preservation of the natural world.  I’ve read about the National Park system, started with the landmark Yellowstone National Park, and the varying levels of success this system has seen.  On the one hand, the model has been adopted around the world, prompting governments to set aside tracts of undeveloped, unexploited land for preservation in a natural state.  Considering the clearing of forests, the breaking up of ancient prairie, the draining of wetlands, and the piece-by-piece dismantling of entire mountains, the preservation of natural spaces, thanks to the national park programs, seems a great boon to us – a gift to today’s children who have received the pleasure of visiting unplundered earth.  But this system is not without complications.  With an exercise of power, there is always compromise.

National park systems have, by and large, included removal of the human element as a part of the natural system (Chatty and Colchester), and in the tradition of Cartesian dualism, we suddenly find ourselves both in and out, living a contradiction and straining to be and not be at the same time.  Of course, humans are nature.  We are from the Earth.  We rely on her systems and cannot hope to live without this connection.  Our bodies know this.  As I’ve been exploring in Spirit of the Land, our spirits know this as well.  But our minds – oh our ego-warped minds – separate us from nature, place us above her systems, place us in CONTROL of her systems, where we begin to exercise will – severing relationship in favour of domination.

So what is the danger in setting up protected spaces?  Well, there are 3.

  • First is the effect on the space.
  • Second is the effect on the people of the space.
  • Third is the effect on the philosophy of space in general.

We are from the Earth, and our removal, like the removal of any of the natural elements of an ecosystem, has a profound effect on an area.  The introduction to Conservation and Mobile Indigenous Peoples mentions how periodic clearing of land in Africa would open up areas for larger game to graze, and how forest fires would provide needed nutrients to increase biodiversity.  Sometimes it is not our removal but our intervention that changes these natural systems.  I took an Anthropology class at the University of Alberta in the 90’s with Eric Higgs.  This was my first exposure to the notion of preservation being a problematic intervention in the natural world. Dr. Higgs put up two slides.  One was a valley bottom full of trees.  The other was the same valley bottom sparsely populated by trees and full of grassland.  Which one is from 1910 and which is from 5 years ago?  Fire suppression in the national parks had changed the landscape and grazing animals no longer had access to the spaces opened by natural fire.   Our absence and our protectionist presence is more complicated than it seems.

Second, we have national and international interests intervening in a local ecology and economy, such as in Miguel Montoya’s example in “Negotiating the Tropical Rainforest.”  These spaces become appropriated in service of ideals played out on stages far removed from the life that happens on the ground.  Values and image displaces direct engagement with the land and demonizes those who have lived within a subsistence relationship with a space.  Sometimes, as with Paul Nadasdy’s example of sheep hunting in the Arctic, this pushes individuals to use exploitative measures not typically employed in order to reap the benefits for the community rather than for the service of outsiders who wish to appropriate and manage the wealth.

Perhaps the greatest danger, however, lays in the mentality of those who live outside of these areas.  Who do you know who would dare to litter during their picturesque drive through the Icefields Parkway?  Would those same individuals balk at litter in their own concrete neighbourhood?  Would they ever see the concrete itself as an unnatural object?  When we set aside spaces as “nature” and separate them from the rest of the earth, we create a dual space.  One where nature is valued and exploitation is prohibited, and another where nature is taken for granted, or simply not even acknowledged, and exploitation is commonplace.  It is sometimes difficult to recognize that even in the middle of the concrete jungle, there is nature all around that deserves the same respect and appreciation as other spaces.

Finally, a brief comment on First Nations, #idlenomore and the natural world.  There is so much being said about the path forward in harmony with the Earth.  #idlenomore has brought hope and energy to those who have been looking for a mode to galvanize the environmental movement, and it’s tempting to simply herald First Nations globally as the model for right relationship with the land.  As my fellow student in Anthro 610 and Spirit of the land guest speaker Daniel Bogart-O-Brein state, it is First NationS – not a single nation, and we must be aware of the multiple perspectives on land use and relationship.  We cannot simply lump all indigenous groups into a single culture.  Nor can we romanticize these relationships as inherently conservationist, as argued by Eric Alden Smith and Mark Wishnie.

So, where does that leave us?  Well, I think it comes back to a Land Ethic.  We must feel love before we can act in right relationship.  This comes from having a relationship with the land where we live.  This is the sustaining kind of long-lasting relationship we wish to have with those who are most important to us.  The kind that allows us to see each other with messy hair and morning breath.  We cannot rely on others to create that relationship for us – be that permission from government or First Nations groups.  We should not (and cannot) wait for popular media to galvanize us into an eco-fad.  If we are to create right relationship we must do it individually, mindfully, and continually.  Like any great relationship, it takes time and concerted effort.

Works mentioned (I must apologize for citation formatting, but I just wanted to finally get this post out there!)

Chatty, Dawn and Colchester, Marcus. Eds. Conservation and Mobile Indigenous Peoples: Displacement, Forced Settlement, and Sustainable Development. Berghahn: UK. 2008. (Miguel Montoya’s paper is the second chapter of this book).

Smith, Eric Alden and Wishnie, Mark. “Conservation and Subsistence in Small-Scale Societies.” Annual Rev. Anthropol. 29:493-524. 2000.

Nadasdy, Paul. “The Anti-Politics of TEK: The Institutionalization of Co-Management Discourse and practis.” Anthropologica. 47:2, 215-232. 2005.

Higgs, Eric, et. al. Culture, Ecology and Restoration in Jasper National Park. U of A Press: Edmonton. 1999.

Sustainability – there are so many levels

Posted in spirit of the land with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2013 by onepercentyellow

I’ve sat to write this post a number of times and always feel like I don’t know enough to tackle the discussion.  In my course on Environment, Traditional Cultures and Sustainability, we were asked: What is sustainability?  Course readings pushed us to ask how we consider sustainability in the way that we relate with not only the natural world, but the people and cultures that populate the planet.

Take, for instance, the reading by Raynaut et. al. in Sustainability and Communities of Place.  The essay looks first at the varying definitions of sustainable development, of which there were “no fewer than sixty different definitions” (Raynaut et. al. 21) in 1995, and outlines a very useful way to consider the varying realms of sustainability.

Here’s a picture of the continuum they construct in the reading.


In my process of considering sustainability, I came across the final discussion panel of the 2008 Slow Food Nation gathering.  Of particular interest was Wendell Berry’s discussion on Scaling Down our Carbon Footprint (at 13:24).

“For too long humans have been spared, mainly by the cheapness of the fossil fuels, from the universal necessity of local adaptation.  It is ultimately an inescapable biological imperative that human land-use economies should correspond as closely as possible to the ecological mosaic.  To this we no longer have even the illusion of a second choice.”

Berry speaks to the center point, to the tension between the 4 points of Raynaut et. al.’s analytical tool.  It is only because of the systems we have built, systems grounded on exploitation of the elsewhere and future, that we have been able to collapse the entire continuum into the satisfaction of the here and now.  In Berry’s argument, it will only be through the return to the necessity of local adaptation that we will again come into a dialectical relationship.  A dialectical relationship recognizes, as Leslie Main Johnson stated in her text, Traveler’s Story, Traveler’s Path, that the “landscape has agency” (Main Johnson 204).  Cultivating that relationship in the here and now – remembering that in dialectics, reality is constantly emerging – leaves space for proper use of human cultural and physical technologies in SERVICE rather than TENSION with future and elsewhere considerations.

Of course, ethical considerations for the privileging of one agent over another will largely define what service looks like.  And I look to Aldo Leopold and Spirit of the Land to encourage those conversations.

A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land. Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.

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?


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