The Quandary of Connection and Attention



Jennifer England put up this webinar as a Soundcloud file.  One of the real value added features of Soundcloud is the ability to annotate the sound file and to comment on others’ annotations.  Beautiful tool.  I put up three responses to seed it. Crickets.  Hmmm.

I put up a Vialogue of the same webinar, thinking perhaps that it was the video that folks needed to engage with.  I made a few comments and included a table of contents in case folks wanted to skip around and only comment  on a portion of the video.  More crickets.  Double hmmmmmm.

I organized a film evening using the easy video IRC tool  I knew when I put up The Internet’s Own Boy to watch that the time I chose might not be suitable for our European and points east folk to watch.  Mira Vogel and Susan Watson both came.  The ability to watch and comment synchronously was a revelation for me.  I thought more folks would come although the ones who did gave a tremendous gift to me.  I am grateful.   Not crickets, but perhaps ‘golf clap’ might be the phrase I am looking for.

I also created a Hackpad for folks to add educational movies/documentaries/shorts/etc. so that we might find a way to find more content for the Channel. I sometimes just turn on and let it cycle through the playlist of videos already there. It would be nice for folks to be able to randomly dip in and watch what they wished as they wished. How nice to be able to add others’ choices to the playlist.

Not even crickets.  I look in the void








and the void sounds back.

I am left mostly confused by the week.  What is happening here?  Some tentative conclusions:

1. I am not good at marketing. My marketing channels are not working.  No surprise there.  Like many teachers, getting attention tends to be a local skill-in the classroom, with your tribe on Twitter, your Facebook friends.  I always feel uncomfortable even pimping my own posts. I will feel uncomfortable tweeting this post out. Likely, I will not even place this on the #Ccourses blog  And if folks don’t respond then it means they are not buying what I am selling. Or it simply didn’t get through their attention filter.

2. Others in my various circles are not attending.  Some are busy and say so.  That is one’s absolute imperative.  I have no problems. The others who are in my Google+ circles, my Twitter feeds, my Facebook friends–there has to be a reason for no uptake.  Of course, I am not blaming them. Jeez, you can’t have it all.  Where would you put it? I think it is the same problem I have in attending.  There is too much and time and attention are too thin.

3. In the end we have to decide for ourselves what to do and where to go online.  But we also have to decide what to make and who to engage with.  I am thinking that for those of us who have not reached and (at least for my case) are unlikely at this point to ever reach the tipping point where one’s channel is already peopled enough to give one sufficient attention bandwidth, this becomes a true quandary.  What is worth my connection time?  What has been proven to ‘not connect’ and should I continue activities like Vialogues, Soundcloud,, Hackpad?  Life is an infinite game, but its length is a zero sum one. What to do?  Should I keep throwing manna on the water in the hope of connection?  Isn’t that the definition of mental illness, doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result?  Should I pull in the boundaries of connections to the tribe however one defines that.  A G+ circle, a twitter hashtag, the blessed 150 of Dunbar’s Number?  Or will that just be happy echo chamber?   I could live with that if it actually existed.

I am reminded of one of the wisest of David Sedaris stories, “Laugh, Kookabura”.  In it, Sedaris is in the middle of a hilarious Australian travel piece when he quotes his Ozzie friend,Pat, as they pass by a billboard with four stove burners pictured.  Pat remarks

“One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist, she said, was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

The hypothetical game that happens in the piece asks the questions: how successful do you want to be and which burners will you cut off in order to be so?


I played this game with a student the other day in a conference about her research paper on workaholism.  She resisted.  Wanted to change the rules.  Finally, she decided what was really important in her life.  She decided that she really wasn’t a workaholic, just someone who needed to work to pay for school.

When I have a week like this I have to ask myself which burners?  I have characterized what I do here on #CCourses as one of these elements.  It isn’t the health burner (unless you are burning the candle at both ends in order to stay ‘connected’).  It isn’t the family burner unless you have decided that someone online is your family. It’s either work or friends.  So…if you want to be successful online and you characterize this as work,  then you have to give up one of the other burners.  If you want to be really successful then you have to shut down two of them. This is the quandary of connection.  What price will I pay for the attention needed to actually connect online?

I know some will immediately say that they don’t buy the premise. I can only argue that it’s a thought experiment. You have to buy the premise to play the game.  It’s like Monopoly,. You don’t have to be a blood sucking  derivatives trader to play.  You just have to hold your other rules and assumptions in abeyance in order to consider another stance.  (Peter Elbow called it the believing game.)  For me, I decided about Thursday of last week that the connection game as I was playing it wasn’t worth the burner  I lit in order to play it.  I dropped the work of connection and turned up my friends and my family and my health. Today I return to connection to ask you what you might do or what you might have done to balance these burners.  (It certainly is a funny question considering the little attention that these posts engender. )

Personally, I am not thinking of the four burners as a thought experiment anymore. I  have seen its wisdom over and over in my own life so often that this week may have been the tipping point. It is now my credo for wise action.  Like most credos, it is a personal one usually arrived at through the idiosyncratic process Nikos Kazantzakis  calls the “full catastrophe”, life. Your mileage, as always, may vary.

This means that while my flame isn’t going to flickr and die, my connection burner is going to go way down.  Just as I think multitasking is a chimera,  there can only be one priority at a time in my life.  Let’s just leave it that my #CCourses Food Truck hours are going to be drastically reduced.



Update:  I posted this on my other blog, Impedagogy, on Saturday.  Nothing.  I tweeted out the post without hashtags. Nope.  No blame here.  Just observation.  Sometimes if you are broadcasting and no one is attending then maybe you are needed elsewhere. Cut your losses to a manageable trickle and move on to where you are needed.  I am definitely needed elsewhere.  Until very recently the noun “priority” had no plural.  I am reviving that older definition.

40 thoughts on “The Quandary of Connection and Attention

  1. “The connection burner is going to go way down.”

    Thank you Terry for writing this post.

    I think that it is important to share our ebbs and (f)lows.

    The ebbs are often more important than the ‘flows’ – we get to discover treasure hidden by the waves.

    The moments that I have spent with you in picnics, in exchanging blog-posts, ideas are some of the most valuable moments that I have spent as an educator.

    I would not have had the experiences of #rhizo14 , #clmooc, #ccourses that I have had without your presence, your wit, your vulnerability, your heart.

    I have learnt many tools thanks to you

    I know where to look for tools which I have not have time to investigate.

    You do the tinkering and then you share…with your heart.

    I can’t keep up with this years crop – I shall find a moment perhaps for next years!

    We never – will never have the attention that our uniqueness merits.

    It is one of the hardest things about life – the limited time that we might spend with our family friends everywhere – that we love – and yet we have to get by with flickers.

    I could never/would never do what I do in education if I wasn’t able to directly use the stuff with my students and family – that is to say to integrate my playing with my working. Life is too short.

    I remember writing a blog post which for me was one of the hardest that I have ever written. It was called ‘Let it bleed…” You took it, you enriched it, you helped me be in peace with a process of letting go. You were there.

    Yes we can get better at marketing, but there is no interest in that if we are selling our soul for attention.

    Even if you were to never write another word, never to share another tool, never to tweet another tweet…I shall be thinking of you and your feral chicken someplace where it dawns when I am having lunch.

    Thank you for being there.


  2. Marveling at your kind, prehensile self. Don’t write my obit, yet. I am still here, but in different and sensible (and insensible) channels. And I still want to picnic with my friends. I just have to figure out how to make priority (not prioritize). Been doing that today with my use of ipadio, a tool I have long neglected for I know not what reason. So…I am in a different space. I am still putting the food down where the goats can get to it. Just more haphazardly. Sometimes hiding the bale of hay in a far corner and laughing to myself and wondering when they will find it.

    So I will be basking not in the attention of your comment (which is quite toasty) but in the knowledge that as I dig sweet potatoes or save seeds from my mexican sunflowers or walk with my wife and dogs in the autumn Kentucky sunlight or am in a Google Hangout with my blogging interns or recording Ted Hughes’ grand insights about poetry or writing a meditation journal to share with my students (if they wish)–I will be connecting with you. And that I can connect with you in addition to that Jungian undercurrent of collective unconsciousness that we so obviously share.

    We do need the ebbs and flows. It is so good to be shown the door and be told “Don’t let it hit you in the ass on the way out.” Through that door are all the adjacent sweetnesses of falling leaves, newts under rocks, hawks looking for chickens to eat, and dogs looking to tear up hawks that think they will eat chickens on their watch. Funny though how the ebb flows and the flow ebbs till one is impossible to tell from the other.

    I am sensing a very terrible wave in the webosphere. I feel like the aboriginals in the Peter Weir’s still incredible movie, The Last Wave (trailer: feeling the wave coming. In this case it has to do with our capacity to stay above the storm surge of data/info/crass attention grabs/questions/don’t even know the words for this. Channels, perhaps, full to the banks all the time, tearing at the banks themselves and always rising no matter what berms or upstream lakes with dams that we build. Most likely I am overgeneralizing about this, my sample of one thinking it is a sample of all, but I am heading for the high ground, the ‘top of the knob’ as they say around here. Again, YMMV.

  3. That image of the burners is a powerful one, Terry! A few years ago I went through a big process of burner flame adjustment I guess you could call it, but my life is super-simple to start with. Since I’m online every workday all day because I teach fully online, it’s easy for me to build and maintain an online life… but it is really really really focused on the classes that I teach, and my students come first. That’s why Google+ has worked great for me. I hook up with a lot of teachers and writers there, but it is also a very fluid, very forgiving space. If you are gone for a few days, no big deal. It’s like blogging, but shorter and quicker; I never write more than a few paragraphs for a post there at Google+. Yet despite being low investment in that sense, it is high return. I really don’t spend a lot of time at other spaces online, and I really don’t use a lot of tools other than Google+, Twitter a little bit and of course Blogger. When I do engage for more than a few minutes, it’s almost always a Blogger-related project. I am glad that I am able to connect with you there at G+ and I hope that our paths will keep crossing…!

    For me, Connected Courses has been kind of hard to insert into the mix because it doesn’t have a G+ presence that works for me; I do G+ publicly, and the closed off communities do not appeal to me at all for all kinds of reasons (blech, a subject much discussed and debated at G+ but suffice to say, I only do public posts, and I absolutely love the serendipity of public posts and the random people I meet that way).

    At the same time, I don’t stress about it, because I have an absolutely full and rich work week thanks to my students. Anything else is just extra, and makes me happy. Work day starts with my classes, work day ends with my classes, and sometimes the work day is so full with classes that I don’t do much else. And I guess maybe because I don’t really have expectations except for the expectations I set for myself as a teacher, everything else just feels like manna from heaven, ha ha. Meanwhile, having expectations for others can be a dangerous trap to fall into. The void, just as you say. I make sure to write to satisfy myself first; anything more: a nice surprise.

    And LAST WAVE: eegad, how I love that movie!!! And offline or online we can always be asking that most profound of questions, just like in the movie:


    That is one of those ultimate mysteries!!! Part of the answer we may find online, but part of the answer is surely just “out there” somewhere, in this dimension… or in another. Down there in the dirt with the sweet potatoes.

  4. Terry, I think and hope that you know how much I value our connections. Like Simon, I consider our interactions to be some of the most valuable of my career. I always learn from you and you challenge me like no other, which I value highly.

    I subscribe to this blog, so I get emails when you post, but I do think you should tweet out posts a few times in the day when you post them. I feel the same way you do about “marketing” myself, but it does help people find you when they are interested in what you write. I know that Twitter feeds can be capricious beasts and with everyone so busy, it is easy to miss things.

    As far as burners, I think I have all of them burning, which is not ideal, but is also why I go to bed at 8 each night! How wonderful, though, to have so many valuable components in a life. Take your beautiful walks and balance your life, but please also know you are needed and valued here.

  5. Hey Terry, as I said on twitter, i had this post saved as one i wanted to get back to before i read it. I did not go immediately coz i knew there was media in it and i needed to find time and connectivity to look at the media. But i now realize it is a post about how you FEEL, not the media. (But i a, curious about the media, too! Didn’t know u could annotate soundcloud – make it a dailyconnect!)
    I love Simon’s response to you, and Susan’s. I cannot say it better. I had sent u a thank u on twitter today without having read this. I wrote about you and Kevin in a recent blogpost of mine (yday?)

    Now as to reasons: it does make a difference to me if ppl tweet to me directly, so if i get loads of those in a day, i don’t check my hashtags at all. No time.

    But two other things happened for me personally: two new moocs #dalmooc and #scholar14 and also i was doing some actual course reading for #ccourses and it temporarily reduces how much i can “connect”. I was also trying now as a co-fac in #ccourses to focus on participants rather than our small group for a while, but it’s more that i wasn’t noticing what u did unless it was on google+ and i wasn’t always able to check it out at the time.

    The other is that my husband is out of town so am spending loads of time w family and less time online.

    But i know ur post isn’t directed at me. What i am guilty of is that i sensed sthg was off and DM’d u, and felt from ur response that u were busy so i backed off. I shouldn’t have, because i sensed sthg was off and i should have persisted.

    The burners question made me think and i was confused about the work/friends delineation, coz for me, both r often the same ppl and that’s how i manage. Online friends i meet for professional dev but become friends. F2f colleagues become friends and work becomes fun. It does mean friends outside that circle get less attention sometimes.

  6. Was it Simon who shared the anagram of “silent” and “listen” at Twitter today…? Someone did, but now I can’t remember who. Finding that space of give and take, talking and listening, now and later, in the asynchronous environment can be tricky; everybody does things in their own time… and time is usually in very short supply. I figure it’s good to be honest with yourself and with others about what your expectations are. If you are revving up the food truck and driving a couple hundred miles, you want somebody to be there at your destination. But if you are just throwing together a big pot of soup and then seeing if anybody is hungry and wants to try a bowl of soup, that’s easier – you’re making the soup anyway, and it works as leftovers too. 🙂

  7. I just saw your gratefulness tweet. So sweet. Like I said in the post–no one to blame except for the gravity well of the net weighing us all down. No guilt. I knew that my good friends would feel that. Almost didn’t post it because I didn’t want anyone to feel they were responsible. Because no one is. If no one reads what you write that just means that no one reads what you wrote. Nothing more. Just another result, feedback. But consider the feedforward here, too. I have no influence over other people’s choices. And never will. So…given that and given also that I have other choices that I do have control over. Well…it is really a pretty easy decision, isn’t it.

    It is good to know how other people manage their own online lives and how they balance the four burners. There are so many channels and filters and ways to connect that the Tower of Babel begins to be born anew for me as the zeitgeist of the age.

    As I said to Simon, don’t write my obituary yet. I will be in touch, I just won’t be doing much facilitating or participating in #CCourses games. I will be watching my Tweetdeck, my Google +, and my rss feeds. I will be creating cool stuff including a very fun way to connect that is my “Google 20% Project” that my students and I do.

    The four burners is more a parable and a cautionary tale. It just speaks so loudly to me right now that I ignore it at my peril. I do worry about the ‘attention’ game that we all play. Very much. Today I attended to my garden, the wisdom of Candide. I dug sweet potatoes, gathered seed for next year, painted the house with my wife, and so much more because I made the choices I made here. It was a revelation. What you sensed the other day was something else entirely. And of my own making and not for you to fret about.

  8. Hi Terry! Susan’s “please read and respond” tweet sent me here. I believe I understand what you are feeling. I am finding that many of the folks in #ccourses are also participating in other online communities, many organized around similar goals. So the very active Twitter stream is a little misleading, at least to me, because the deeper dives aren’t as numerous as I’d hoped. The Daily Connect seems to have traction, but not the “makes” that we carefully arranged this summer as we put the course together. I guess what I’m struggling to articulate is a sense that Connected Courses is part of a stream of connected learning that’s getting many “sips” but isn’t as focused an activity as I’d thought it might be. So stuff gets lost, or submerged, or just put to one side (on another burner, with a lower flame) because many of the folks involved are already doing many other such experiences. I’ve been trying to bring newbies into the fold by having periodic meetups at my school, but only a handful are engaging with blogs, and even fewer with tweets. I’m not sure that there’s an answer to all these dilemmas. I do think we’re in a moment of great transition, and the “expedition-ready” explorers (I learned that phrase from Christina Engelbart) are stretched pretty thin, and a lot of people are only minimally committed and unlikely to plunge into anything. Add to that the fact that you’re obviously already in a thriving online community that I’m only now interacting with, and things get even more complicated.

    This isn’t much of a comment, I guess, but it is a response…. I hope the responses you’re getting feel a little less like you’re shouting into the void. I don’t think any of this writing is wasted, ultimately–but I do understand, all too well, about effort and time and meaningfulness.

    1. It’s a grand comment. I will return to this later as I have time and I hope you realize how grateful I am to have you respond here. Thank you for making it possible for me to know quite a few more little truths both about myself and about connecting. I have had a chance with this last week of frustrating silence to realize that there is a much larger learning concern at issue here–how can I help my students deal with the issue of being networked and not being overwhelmed.

      As for helping with the void, I think that was only local and as you say part of the larger issue of folks having attention and time to respond. There is a larger game where no one can say they are ever really speaking into the void, an island to ourselves. We are already connected into many systems, many histories, and feeding forward toward futures where we are almost fated to connect. This is not mystical clap trap. Every drop of water ever drunk is connected. Every breath of air. Every bit of carbon built into us is connected to some star somewhere dying. And we are webbed into natural systems so tightly that I worry that how we live in that connection will kill it all. So, I know that the void is only an illusion. Your response reinforces the cosmic one like a ripple in a ripple. Comforting. Honest. Generous. Thank you.

    2. Hi Gardner, just a thought: from my own experience, I know there are many reasons that propel participating or not in the different activities that have been lined up unit by unit (what I read or don’t, what I watch or don’t, makes made or not made, etc.). Have you thought about putting up a simple form somewhere so that at the end of each unit you could gather feedback, letting people self-declare what they completed and also information about how they would rate the things they completed and what reason(s) led them to not do other things…? If CCourses will be offered again, such information could be really useful, and even if not, gathering such information could still be useful for the course organizers and also for those of us who are interested in these topics and also curious to know what kinds of activities grab people’s attention so that, even in the whirlwind of busy schedules and lack of time, people still felt motivated to complete them. I’m sure you are getting some info from hit counters on webpages and such, but still, just asking people what they think and why they make the choices they do can be very illuminating! 🙂

    3. Also, I never intended that soundcloud comment about being shunned to be more than a starting point for a conversation I wasn’t able to have on Twitter. I do think that the tool causes more problems than it solves sometimes. As you were busy with the broadcast, I certainly knew you were quite busy. I was referring to folks in the feed who were watching and commenting on the webinar. Perhaps using Twitter as a backchannel always results in a massive echo chamber effect. Entirely possible than not a single person saw a single time I asked what became an increasingly snarky question. I could be and often am wrong, but I think we need to devise backchannel protocols (tweet jockeys, ways to mark and address difficult questions, and alternative backchannels with more bandwidth).

      1. Well, “shunned” is a very strong word, and it prompted my response. I understand that it may have been too strong a word. That said, feeling excluded is a nasty feeling, so I don’t blame you. Snark is another matter. I don’t think it’s ever helpful, except as a conversation stopper. 🙂

        The thing about architectures of participation is that they need to be just engineered enough, but not a bit more. I worry that over-engineering Twitter, for example, will remove the very protean nature that makes it so freaking useful.

        An alternative would be to devise practices, model them, and thereby urge adoption. I believe that media should be explored and invented within rather than over-specified from the get-go. That approach throttles the emergent phenomena that entrance me about human communication generally.

        Another great topic for the forum! Yes, I’m evangelizing, but at least I’m saying so. 🙂

  9. Hi Terry,
    I read your post on the way to work this morning, then emailed it to myself so I could come back later and comment on it.

    Now reading through the comments, I’m glad to see that you are still planning to participate. I have read your other blog posts for the course (commented on at least one) – thank you for sharing and being a part of it. I do hope you continue to stay the course in whatever way best works for you and your time availability.

    Until I read your post, I was not aware that you had annotated the webinar. (or even for that matter, that it was an option to do so). Thank you for sharing not only that piece, but the other video commenting options as well. A couple of the previous commenters mentioned balance – which I do agree with also. The idea of turning up one (or some) burner/s also is a fitting metaphor as many of us struggle to be present and connect in various spaces, oftentimes simultaneously. Thanks for writing this.

    1. You’re welcome. Isn’t it crazy how often we never realize the affordances of the tools around us. I am grateful for your work in putting up the Soundcloud file and giving me an opportunity to add some small value to what you and others have done. I will keep on and you will, too.

  10. Just found my way here from a post Gardner left in the CC Forum.

    I know how you feel.

    Keep on truckin’.

    A week or two ago I began to sense that, while this course was presented as a general call to connected learning across the board, that it fact it was based on a certain kind of educational experiences and my not in fact be fully general. So I put out a tweet asking if anyone in the course was from a scientific, math, or engineering discipline rather than a humanities, arts, or even social sciences discipline. I got zero response.

    So I’m still wondering. It’s not so much that I care one way or the other where people are from and where they’re going – I’m a humanist and artist myself – but I’d like to know.

    And, as I’m interested in film, tools that allow you to annotate them could be really valuable to me at some point, though not now.

    1. You know, Bill, I saw that tweet and told myself I would respond and a I didn’t. Another lost opp. So thank you for being a model of reciprocation. I am not an engineer or scientist but I do teach those folk how to research and write in those disciplines. And I love it. As I am also interested in multimodal composition I am always messing about with film, gifs, zeegas, sound stories, so count me in with the annotation tools. I use quite a few of them and am happy to share or collaborate if you have a project you want to explore with someone else. Thanks so much for the comment and the solidarity. Here’s to zero responses and happy broadcasting into the void!

      1. Ah, technical writing, Terry, or what? I’ve taught technical writing and just plain writing at RPI, but can’t say I ever really got the hang of it. Kept thinking about how learning to play a musical instrument (I play trumpet) is generally taught one-on-one and that’s really how writing should be taught as well. I’ve also done technical writing – end-user documentation for software.

        As for annotation, ultimately what I’d like to do is annotate films. There are, alas, copyright issues. But there’s a wonderful full-length feature, Sita Sings the Blues, that’s copy-left, so maybe some day I’ll do a project about it.

        Good meeting you.

        1. OHHHHHHH, Bill, per the comment I left on your blog, I would be SO UP for a group commentary/annotation on Sita Sings the Blues.

          Oh. thinking about this some more… I WOULD BE SO UP FOR THAT.

          Thank you, Connected Courses, for making this connection.

          (doing the happydance now)

        2. Bill, I am playing around with a tool called NowComment that allows for video annotation. I am not sure if it is fine grained enough for you and unlike Vialogues it does not automatically put a time stamp on (that is manual) but I thought you might like to see it: Also, you need to join NowComment to annotate. I have met the folks who run this and they are really super and responsive. Who knows, maybe they would be up for some suggestions.

      2. Terry – What I’d really like is to be able to annotate films/videos frame by frame if necessary – and there are segments in Sita Sings the Blues where that kind of annotation might actually be useful. Are there any such tools that you know of?

        One thing I’ve been doing is creating tables in MSWord where I’ll have, say, three columns. The first column is for timing information. The second is a short descriptor for the segment. And the third contains a longer description of what happens, often including dialog. There’a table at the end of this working paper on Gojira (Godzilla) that’ll give you an idea of what I mean. Of course I’d also like to include frame grabs and even clips.

        What makes Sita Sings the Blues such a good candidate for this kind of work – aside from the fact that it’s a kickass film – is that there are no copyright hassles. For complicated legal reasons the film-maker, Nina Paley, has put the whole thing into the public domain (except certain parts of the sound track) and would love for people to work with it. In fact, I believe that she’s put her work files online at Archive so that people can take her stuff and remix it to their heart’s content.

        While I’m not reading to go to town on this tomorrow or the next day, it’s something I definitely want to do. I’d appreciate any advice you’ve got.


        1. Bill, have you seen the site
          It grabs the timestamp automatically and lets you annotate in a sharable GoogleDoc. Very handy, although I’m sure there are even better tools out there. It’s what I use for notetaking while I watch a video (rarely).

        2. Also, I have been doing frame grabs for gifs using a really nice program called “VideoGif” that enables easy and pretty fine-grained selection of clips, but…no sound. I use them in my zeegas so I don’t need sound.

    2. It would be great to get a conversation going around this very topic on the forum. To what extent is any educational experience “generalizable”? Are there different ways of doing “connected learning” in different disciplines? (I certainly think so.) What aspects of THIS meta-course are succeeding at being general? What aspects are not?

      I suggest the forum because I’d like this conversation to have the widest possible circulation. Just sayin’!

      1. I’m game, and the forum is fine.

        Over the next few days of a week or so I’ll be writing some posts about various learning/teaching experiences I’ve been involved in just to get some stuff on the table.

  11. Just to say thanks to everybody for this discussion; it’s the kind of thing I find fascinating! Expectations, assumptions, likes, dislikes… the VARIETY of personal contexts is huge, and then there are the new shapes that emerge as we interact with each other, merging those contexts… and then we get to modulate that over time.

    Anyway, I’m still trying to get the hang of the discussion board space … I prefer blogs to discussion boards in general (I sooooooo prefer blogs in fact), but I do want to learn about the new board space since (rumor has it…), we might be seeing more of that from the Reclaim guys.

    i.e. this tweet from Reclaim:

  12. Everyone here has offered the reassurances I would have added. I know exactly the empty pit feeling you describe, and it has been the course of my career littered with dormant discussion forums, ghost town wikis, un-edited open docs.

    And I will try to say to let go of the disappointment, and doing so will be a hypocrite, knowing what it does to my motivation to do a hangout where no one shows up or a live #ds106radio show where no one listens.

    This is what I have learned or tried to learn:

    * I don’t accept a lack of response as an invalidation of the effort. But it sure lifts me when there is a response. But trying to put the expectation of a response into the compost pile, is kind of like not feeling dejected when the seeds don’t grow. Yeah that does not work either. Glasses partly full rules try to apply.
    * Quite often people come to an understanding/appreciation on a different time scale than you are moving. In my first job in the field, I found that after I tried to get people involved, and gave up, then someone would later come around and say, “About that wiki thing you were talking about last year, I have an idea…’
    *I have no quantifiable data, but am pretty sure that a lot more people look at the stuff than respond or participate, and often the impact you hope you have, and convince yourself did not happen, does, but you never see it. Many people trade blog posts and get ideas, but don’t respond. Many people will see your vialogue, and much later might remember that experience and come to use it themselves. Your reach is more than you think, or will ever know.

    So f******** the low numbers of responses or lack of comments. That is not a measure of anything but a desire for some validation. Validate yourself. Don’t get tied into that as a measure of the value of your ideas. But also, as your flames suggest, move on to the things that do feed your soul, and after trying a new burner, or try a different mode of heating.

    1. Thank you, Alan. We all need “Validation” and I am not enough of a saint to actually believe that I can be satisfied without it. But as you say, manna must be thrown on the water. Whether attention will be paid, that is the question. Whether it needs to be paid is the zen question. And whether it is already being paid and I don’t know it–that is the quantum question.

      Your comment is a gift. All of the comments are a gift. Freely given. Sometimes I think (hell, I know) that I am right beside Danl Boone blazing a trail, but he forges so far ahead sometimes when I look around I see nada and it freaks me out. Then I get scared then pissed and then do a little pity sob. OK, I’m OK, now. Really. Let’s get back to work.

      Your lessons are hard earned and authentic to the core. They are of such value to me and to others. Be self validating. You are more connected than you know or ever know. If you offer people something, they will take what they need and you can’t change that. The absence of validation is not the validation of absence. Thanks for the alchemy, Alan, my dross into your gold.

    2. Oh, this idea of ‘validation’ is a really good one to keep in mind: on a different, but releated, topic, ‘validation’ could be very helpful in shifting discussion of grading (ugh) to something more profound and meaningful, something connected to real people and real life and not just institutional requirements. I think for many students grading IS the form of validation they are looking for in school and, sad to say, it may be the only form of validation they ever receive. I usually invoke feedback rather than grading… but VALIDATING feedback is clearly the goal, not just random feedback, and certainly not negative feedback. And, of course, if students can seek to become self-validating, all the better. That is yet another pernicious effect of grading (a plague upon it!) … if grades are the currency of validation in school, and grades always come from someone else, of course students don’t develop those self-validating habits that they need for learning and for life itself.

      This discussion has gone in so many good directions. THANK YOU, TERRY, for giving us such a good space where that can happen!

  13. This is a fascinating conversation everyone. Thanks Terry for getting it started and coming back to it again and again!

    I’m realizing that my use of digital platforms is a way for me to sort out my own thoughts (much like I use writing–to write my way to clarity). When I throw out a tweet or a blog, it’s more for me to sort through the ideas than for anyone else to take them up. I’m always grateful when someone responds and pushes my thinking, but I see the act itself as pushing myself to get clearer about something…get the idea out of my head. Somehow though, making it public makes it more real than writing the thoughts on a post-it note in my office (although I have those too all around my computer). All this to say that I’m striving to be better at using the medium for conversation and dialogue. This thread is a reminder that it’s worth it!

    Thanks all!

  14. Oh. So I just found this now – 5th November. Wow. What a rich and valuable conversation. So although I thought I was following Connected Courses activity and discussions fairly well – obviously NOT.

    Terry, everyone has responded in the most eloquent ways, and so I’m not sure of the value of my comment (I mean, value-added to what’s already there), but I do want to say ‘I do read’, ‘I appreciate’, ‘thank you’. And I understand.

    When I joined Connected Courses in a tentative way – being a secondary school teacher librarian – I was smiling all day for weeks because I’d found so many interesting, creative, thinking people to connect with. I’ve been on Twitter for a few years and had some patches of connectedness but more recently nothing. Which is sad and difficult not to take personally.

    I’ve been amazed by the energy of certain people generously sharing everything, and, I must say, a bit unconfident about the makes because making is new to me. (Big thinking sessions about my text-centric experience and how much we should be doing to shift the belief that text is everything – fat chance). Anyway, that’s why I haven’t done makes but I should try.

    How fertile has your post been in creating something I’ve saved and highlighted like a treasured literary text and hope to unpack – possibly in a blog post. The responses are pure poetry in some parts. Where would I have read this otherwise? You people are seriously worth bottling. Thank you, and I wonder how much of your valuable ideas would have been made public otherwise.

    The vulnerability openly shared by everyone is helpful. Obviously to you, Terry, but also to me and of course everyone. Some of you ‘big names’ are a bit intimidating, and I stare into the void online – after spilling my guts on blog posts or sending out tweets – and think I just haven’t got what it takes to be noticed, but maybe that’s an egocentric thought.

    And btw, the foodtruck thing is great. Thanks for all the things you put out there, create, thanks for your generosity, Terry.

    1. Tanya, I have been comment spammed relentlessly on that post so I missed your generous and wise response. My apologies. Yes, I feel pretty lucky here to be surrounded and uplifted like an ailing dolphin by my comperes. And you, too. Sometimes a post just happens to become a crossroads or a scenic spot to pull over the car. Or sometimes as in my case it is a car wreck where folks pull over and help or others just slow down and cruise by saying, ‘there but for the grace…etc.”. I am pretty sure about the value of your comment–absolutely sure. It is honest, caring, helpful, and considered. And did I say authentic? All of that. You are are so rooted and defined by your comment Tania and that is a very good thing indeed. We all need to be noticed. I despair and am exhilirated in turns with this blogging thing. Mostly I just bumble along. I hope you can be better than that. I know you can. I see that you already are. Thank you for your generosity and for our foodtruck.

      1. Thank you, Terry, for your very generous comments. Haha, I didn’t mean for the attention to be on me! But you and Maha have picked up on my own lamentations. I am still unpacking your post and its ramifications. Busy the rest of the weekend (market and concert) but itching to write something more. 🙂

    2. Tania, thanks to your comment I came back and read the rest of the comment thread and i was struck by 3 things

      1. The way u describe urself b4 ccourses is me about a year ago. Rhizo14 connected me and clmoocgave me some non-textual confidence. Before that i was nobody from nowehre and wondered if i would ever get noticed

      2.if this is how someone as popular as Terry felt, think of others who feel that kind of rejection EVERY day! When i first started blogging a bit less than a year ago, i marveled at stats of views to my blog and facebook likes. Twitter responses and blog comments were very rare. Only after i started blogging for MOOCs did i ever discover an interactive audience. Also later i discovered that lots of ppl read my work but never respond (e.g. Audrey Watters and Pete Rorabaugh – big names in my view)

      3. One of the reasons i didn’t notice Terry’s thing this time is that we had gotten into a practice (admittedly cliquish) of tagging each other on tweets so i got lazy on seeking posts that didn’t fall in my lap on a busy week. That, and also i am not v interested in the hangouts so even tho i watched eventually i Still didn’t have anything to say

      Dunno how helpful this is

      But just one last note Tania: u r def one of my personal most valuable “finds” in ccourses (among others like 3 Lauras) – love your blog and your spirit

  15. Maha, so many things!! Just thank you. Connecting in real life is obviously important but sometimes the people you really connect with just don’t happen to live where you do. Grateful to have the opportunity to know you and Terry (and others). Connected Courses is my first MOOC but it won’t be my last. Very enriching, best PD!

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