Recently I read an excellent blog post by Mark A. McCutcheon (@sonicfiction), a professor in Athabasca’s MAIS program, discussing his interest in a student’s (@lectio) twitter-reading of a postmodern text. As she read, she posted short messages showing synthesis of concepts and poking fun (as it should be poked) at that playful pomo theory. The most interesting part of the post, however, came when Mark discussed the tension between engaging with or disregarding his student’s publically broadcast messages.
“I wasn’t sure about how to broach the topic at first, anxious that it would be a bit like jumping out of the blind to scare the wildlife one’s been observing.”
My first experience with an online course, sitting in on Alec Couros’ open-ed ECI831, was certainly one where all blinds were open. Indeed, much of Alec’s life is open to anyone who wishes to investigate. While I recognize that there are many tools and spaces available for those who wish to have a transparent classroom, I think it takes more than simple technology to move faculty, staff and students into the great beyond, even in an online university like Athabasca. Connected leaders will need to model a new form of engagement and prompt others to embrace this shift in culture. In this vein, I thank Mark for his post outlining his trepidation as well as the reward of “jumping out from behind the blind.” I hope he continues to incite participation in interactive spaces.
Of course, there must be some pages that are restricted for various reasons, but I’m speaking more to the culture of Athabasca and other online learning spaces. Moving into the online world in a real time and connected way can be frightening. I recall not long ago being in my first MMORPG (massive multi-player online role playing game), Maple Story. It’s a game my boyfriend was playing and is a Mario-brothers, collect-the-little-coins type game. The first time I saw another player on the screen I felt a surge of adrenaline down my spine. That character was connected to a PERSON on the other end somewhere! How did that other person get into my computer? It was a little like discovering there was someone in my home.
Since then I’ve gone through various stages of developing my online identity and now feel more confident in navigating this digital world, but I can still recall the chill I got that afternoon. Walking into a room full of strangers is daunting, but we have been doing it all our lives. The digital room is full of strangers without faces, without names, and sometimes who are not human (bots). This step is not a small one, I recognize, but just as we develop personalities and values to filter which strangers we will talk to on the street, we gradually develop assertiveness to engage with digital strangers.
I think that a great way to facilitate this process is by taking others out of their homes and on digital walks. I’d certainly like to thank @plind for taking me on my first digital walk! We show our friends the sites, steer them away from the shady parts of town, and demonstrate the rewards on offer for those willing to embrace shared experiences in the digital world. To me this also means opening the door to your home through that screen you’re looking at right now. Perhaps by inviting someone in, you will encourage someone else to open a door.