community

Little did I know

I named this post after my blog on purpose. I’d like to do a little retrospective of 2014, the year I began this blog. It will also be a year to remember for many, many other reasons, some of which I’m hoping to share with you on this post. So, here we go.

Little did I know that I would come to find blogging as an inspiring means of expression. I began blogging in January 2014, something which I had been meaning to do for quite a while, but which had always felt like it was not meant for me. What ever would I have to say that other people would even be interested in reading? So it turns out that, hey, some people do. And that’s great. So many inspiring conversations have taken place in this little domain of my own, my digital home.

Little did I know that I would have grown a professional (and personal!) learning network on Twitter. Even though I had joined Twitter in 2009, it was only in 2014 that something clicked and it just felt like the right time to dive in the Twitterverse. And boy am I glad I did. Twitter has enabled me to connect to so many bright, interesting people from all around the globe. I have learned so much from these connections, each of them a whole universe of learning just waiting to happen.

Little did I know that I would find my tribe online. And so I did when I joined Dave Cormier’s Rhizomatic Learning – a.k.a. #rhizo14 – midway. I was the crazy Brazilian who seemed to crash some cool folks’ party, but ended up being an exotic addition to the community/curriculum. It was in #rhizo14 that I made my first Egyptian friend, who would later invite me to join her and other fellow educators to be a part of EdContexts, another cool community of scholars looking to voice Educators from the global south. Also in #rhizo14, I made an Anglo-French friend, a poet, a fellow EFL teacher as myself, who invited me to join the #Clavier Community. Seedlings that are still shooting forth, full of promise and possibility.

Little did I know that I would find so much inspiration in Connected Courses. I would dive in every now and then, and I would always resurface with something new. I learned about Edupunk, for one. I listened to some very bright minds talk about the future of Education. I spent weeks on end reflecting about my why. That was about the time when the seeds of all my messy learning began yielding fruit in my f2f life. A couple of new ideas to foster some sense of community among teachers and among my own group of admins.

My 2014 best books: Drive by Daniel H. Pink and Now You See It by Cathy N. Davidson

My 2014 most inspirirational blog posts: Breaking the Cycle of Oppression by Maha Bali and The Art of Slowing Down Learning by Tania Sheko

My 2014 must-watch videos: the Edupunk Battle Royale (all five parts) by Educoz with Jim Groom and Gardner Campbell and Why we need a “Why”? by Mike Wesch in Connected Courses

My 2014 must-watch TED talks: The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and #OurVoice by George Couros

My 2014 women that rock (bright & beautiful!): Bonnie Stewart, Carla Arena, Maha Bali and Tanya Lau

My 2014 men that rock: Simon Ensor, Keith Hamon, Shyam Sharma and Terry Elliot

 To all the people who made this year memorable, thank you.

 shared.

 

 

CLMOOC Make Log #1

ImageEver since Rhizomatic Learning or Rhizo14 came to an “end” (those of you in rhizo14 will get the inverted commas around end there), I have been moving on to the next thing in my life. So it appears that my next cmooc thing is shaping up to be CLMOOC, aka Making Learning Connected. I blame it on Rhizo14 anyway, since it was Terry Elliot, a fellow rhizoer, who sprayed in a bit of clmooc scent inside our rhizomatic zombie asylum on FB (yet another rabbit taking me down yet another rabbit hole. Cool!) I must confess, though, that I am approaching CLMOOC in a rather suspicious manner, as if I were about to make my best friend jealous by hanging out with a new friend who seems to be just as cool. (ok, ok, almost as cool!)  Anyway, inbued with a communal spirit, I decided to accept Anna Smith‘s invitation to participate in CLMOOC’s first hangout of its 2014 edition and give this new friend of mine a fair chance of winning me over.

I guess it worked.

I had been mulling over the theme for Make Cycle 1, browsing other participants’ makes on the G+ CLMOOC community (which hasn’t begun growing in me as of yet. I mean G+, not the community.), Twitter and FB. Even so, connecting with the group of CLMOOCers on the hangout yesterday was so meaningful, and that got me thinking about what ticks me as a learner. It’s important for me to feel that I am connecting with people, real people. And having a hangout like the one we had yesterday does give me a feel of being welcome within the community. Which takes me back to my experience in Rhizo14, and the very reason why it has become such an important thing for me. It’s all about the human connections, after all. Also, I guess that having a sense of audience, which was something that came up during yesterday’s hangout, knowing that there are people out there who are just as interested in being creative and learning together as you are.

CLMOOC officially launched on June 16th, with the release of the 1st make cycle, so it has been, what, four days? Just for kicks, here’s a short list of what I’ve have already learned so far:

  1. Terry Elliot shared a Spotify playing list with me on Twitter. I had never heard of Spotify. As a matter of fact, they have just launched here in Brazil, and I love it. I’m totally hooked. Thanks, Terry!
  2. Simon Ensor shared WordFoto with us. I’d seen those cool photos but never asked how to make them. Dowloaded the app. Playing with it. Love it. Thanks, Simon!
  3. My new friend Sheri Edwards came to the rescue when I cried out that I hated Google+ on the FB group. She taught me what that +1 button thingy do, and I finally got it! Yey! Not a big fan of G+ just yet, though. Let’s see if CLMOOC will change that. Thanks, Sheri!
  4. My new friend Christopher Butts shared his on-the-make make #1 with us yesterday in the hangout, showing us Thinglink. Had never heard of it. Looks really cool. Thanks, Christopher!
  5. My new friend Michael Buist mentioned during the hangout yesterday that he finds it hard to differentiate the types of Creative Commons licenses (so do I, Michael!), so another new friend Michelle Stein shared an a-w-e-s-o-m-e video tutorial, which I had never seen, and I have looked for something like that, I swear. Thanks, Michael for asking and Michelle for answering!
  6. Just this afternoon, during lunch with my cohort and dear friend Claudio Fleury, I briefed him about my latest cmooc adventures with CLMOOC, and he was kind enough to share stumble upon with me. Absolutely fabulous! Thanks, Claudinho!
  7. And I learned how to paragraph in FB comments. Ha! Thanks again, Terry! *Duh moment* 😉

…and it has only been four days? Okay. Quite promising, indeed.

Sooo, after yesterday’s hangout and my babbling about being all over the place with my mind and my need for silencing the noise from time to time, the Twitters began tweeting and I was suddenly hashtagged #mindfulness. Okay. There’s a thought. I have decided I will make a How to boost your mindfulness guide for make cycle #1. It’s still a bit jumbled up in my mind (as it should, right?), but it’s gradually shaping up into… a blog post, most certainly, and… imagery? Maybe… I will certainly explore some of the tools fellow CLMOOCers have been using and playing with. We’ll see. That’s cool. And I know that if I need some help, all I have to do is shout!

Oh, and Rhizo14 (jealously watching from a corner of the room)? Of course I will concoct a CLMOOC Make just for you. Because you’re so special. Rhizo14 risotto, anyone?

clmooctrip

a design for CLMOOC by Clarissa Bezerra (made with canva.com)

 

On Community as Curriculum & Absolute beginners #rhizo14

Rhizo14

Just as week 5 draws to a close, I finally found the time to do some catching up on some ‘fiery’ blog posts, among which are Jenny Mackness’s and Frances Bell’s, and kinda grasped Jaap’s jokingly (or not) warning me about joining #Rhizo14 over half-way through as I did. Apparently, things got a bit messy in the scholar/ignoramus interplay, and funnily (or happy-go-luckily) enough, I myself made a comment on FB in which I expressed my astonishment at the degree of erudition I’d been encountering in the course. I had no idea at the time I made the comment that all that frisson had been developing, although I began to grow suspicious that there was something in between the lines of the hush-hush tone of the replies to my ‘erudite’ comment. “Down with the power structures!” was my humorous reply to the thread. I hadn’t yet lost my innocence at that time. I have now…

Little did I know that, at the moment of my verbal fist, I’d already been tapping into an underlying issue regarding the very nature of Moocs – that which in the context of TEFL we refer to as a mixed-abilities/mixed-levels groups. How does one go about teaching any curriculum to a group of absolute beginners, plus a couple of lower-int, upper-int, and a handful of near-native speakers (a CEFR letter soup, literally)? That, to me, seems to bear some resemblance to what I’ve been experiencing with you guys, among whom I’ve found myself to feel like an upper-int student (at best!) Taking this course with such a richly varied collection of individuals is an absolute privilege, and one hell of a ride, I tell you. I have been exposed to more hard-core theory in this course than I ever was, say, taking Anthropological Theory 2 back as an undergrad. Not that I was able to decode a lot of it, but still, as much as I, too, feel a bit ‘cold’ when theorizing ensues, I also appreciate the fact that these guys are exercising their vast academic knowledge and I’m getting to be an avid listener, sometimes even an interlocutor in my own terms, of course. I deviate a bit… but back to the point I am trying to make here, it takes one extremely self-confident, experienced and flexible individual to fulfill the role of the ‘teacher’ in a group of this nature.

Again in the universe of TEFL, having a ‘misplaced’ student in a group may generate an array of issues, one of them being that an obvious approach from the part of the teacher will need to involve catering to that specific learner’s needs, customizing the input and trying out different approaches to see which one will engage that learner and hopefully bring about some learning. How would that play out in a massive open online course, in which “absolute beginners” find themselves shoulder to shoulder with “educated native speakers”? Easy. Instill a sense of community among them. Get them to engage with each other, disagree with each other, share seemingly unrelated content with each other, and you just might end up having some sort of assemblage of individuals that share a sense of belonging, an intuition that there are no dumb questions, that the scholar may learn a thing or two from the absolute beginner, that insights may spring up from such conversations, and breakthroughs might be just waiting to happen to some of us. What a wonderful aura of potential!

A lot has been said about the meanings of ‘community’ and ‘network’ this week. My impression is that the word ‘community’ implies affective bonds that commonly ensue among people who occupy neighboring/common spaces. ‘Network’ has a more dynamic feel to it, in that it pressuposes connections with a purpose in mind. Having said that, I am left wondering whether the attempt at defining these concepts is at all helpful (or even useful) to an understanding of community as curriculum. One thing is certain, a communal feeling of unity is fertile ground for relationships, which could possibly result in strong connections. People (as opposed to machines) are socially-oriented. It is in their nature to look for supportive environments, for it is in those environments that they feel comfortable enough to be. Be whoever they are, whoever they want to become, modified and improved by the connections made with others.

The journey of Rhizo14 has made me think deeply and intensely about the meanders of the learning process. It has also made me challenge the established system in which education has been commodified, primed and packaged as something unattainable by the masses. Coming from a country in which 85% of its population spend their free time watching television, such issues speak closely to me, both as an educator and a citizen. I don’t wish to be naive to the point of believing that there are no power plays in the network society. However, I find it rather positive that more and more educators, scholars and absolute beginners alike, are using the available connections to think, to converse, to theorize, and hopefully begin spinning the wheel of change.

Thank you to all scholars and absolute beginners that have enticed me to learn through cheating (from you all), to enforce my own independence (and go looking around for connections and sources so as to acquire new literacies), and to question the status-quo of print media (which made me linger towards the tribal campfire). It’s all worth it. It’s co-constructed learning, and what’s more communal than that?

Cheers!

Absolute beginner