Saddest Tweets Ever

So this noose-Googlingly depressing exchange happened:

I was half-jesting, but this is like Superman and Batman preemptively just saying “no” to the Justice League. Lennon refusing to come together with McCartney. Hall telling Oates he can’t go for that.

Why is Mr. Lott such a sad man? Because—despite my efforts to “come back” to the education and technology fold—I’m just too tired for all the oh-so-wonderful projects that are oh-so-meta. The field of fucks from which I farm1 in service of feeding the maw of education and technology about education and technology is deeply depleted. Even perennials sometimes pass, never to return.

Field of Fucks

Don’t get me wrong…Thought Vectors and Rhizo and Happenings are awesome. And needed. By myself included. But they’re also education and technology ouroboroses, putting cool ideas to work in service of the field(s) from which those cool ideas spring. I’m not being dismissive of them, just observing their spiraling outlines. I’ll be embarking on something vaguely similar this summer, teaching a class on digital citizenship and intellectual property in the form of having students exploring being online in this heavily tech-mediated time. The work I link to is good—even great—work I can’t come close to (though I selfishly hope to adopt and adapt, co-opt and capitalize upon, without quite idolatrizing the makers).

But what I really want: I want these spotlights—my guiding lights—to swivel and shine on other parts of the world (I know, this isn’t the first time I’ve whined about this, nor will it be the last). I want Thought Vectors: the Milton Edition, putting the assertion that “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…” to the question. I want a Gothic Happening. I want RhizoMontaigne or cMOOC-MONTAIGNE exploring our essais and forays into mediated existence. How about DS (Digital Shakespeare) Turned-to-11: Be the Bard2? So many big boring open things out there (xMOOCS, I’m looking at you) about interesting stuff and so many exciting events/festivals out there celebrating, essentially, themselves and their grounded disciplines. Is there any taste for putting the two together for the groundlings with the telescope facing outward?

  1. Thanks to Sarah for sharing the image…perhaps I need to take up needlepoint. 
  2. I’m mixing apples and oranges with the DS 106 allusion, since it really isn’t about the technology or education, but I really want to taste the orapple of that model meeting Shakespeare (the writing, the history, the culture, the performances, the adapations). 

Countable Infinities (#rhizo15)

Close to Infinity

Still thinking about Dave’s #rhizo15 “What Should We Count?” post. Wrote and discarded a long post analogizing “learning” and “baking”—both non-count nouns that nonetheless involve many countable things—and poking at educators (not Dave) and institutions that conflate measurement with assessment. Once I began meandering about beginners vs. experts and art vs. craft and how those countable, measurable things do often, at those usually earlier stages, amount to assessment, I knew I’d gone off the rails.

The very idea of “counting” is problematic in my head right now thanks to delving into a book about infinity that includes the idea of countable and non-countable infinities. Somehow, it seems to me that learning is a non-countable infinity and the things we do as learners are countable infinities…but both involve a lot that is beyond our grasp and perception in ways that matter and very much do not (does the depth of the deep matter if you win a medal in the breaststroke? If you drown?).

Normally at this point I’d turns to Whitman’s “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”, which conveys more about this topic in a handful of lines than acres of my blog posts.

Or I could go simple with Hamlet’s ordinal dizziness (I will, someday, use part of this as the title for a paper or conference presentation):

“O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; / I have not art to reckon my groans”

But, perhaps, finally, a bit of Carl Sandburg is more appropriate:

“Number Man”

(for the ghost of Johann Sebastian Bach)

He was born to wonder about numbers.

He balanced fives against tens
and made them sleep together
and love each other.

He took sixes and sevens
and set them wrangling and fighting
over raw bones.

He woke up twos and fours
out of baby sleep
and touched them back to sleep.

He managed eights and nines,
gave them prophet beards,
marched them into mists and mountains.

He added all the numbers he knew,
multiplied them by new-found numbers
and called it a prayer of Numbers.

For each of a million cipher silences
he dug up a mate number
for a candle light in the dark.

He knew love numbers, luck numbers,
how the sea and the stars
are made and held by numbers.

He died from the wonder of numbering.
He said good-by as if good-by is a number.

—Carl Sandburg

I learn in this letter (#moocspeare)

Fabulous Lettering

The first Shakespeare in Community (aka #moocspeare, I think) assignment:

…choose first words from one of the plays we will be discussing, and write about them some of your own first words.

Being an avid snail mail correspondent, even today, and enthusiast of the vitality of letter-writing and epistolary forms, how can I resist the first words of Much Ado About Nothing (though not one of my favorite plays): “I learn in this letter…”? It allows me to think about the scores of times letters appear in Shakespeare, often playing a crucial role in the development of characters and themes.

Letters play a role in multiple deaths in Hamlet. Ophelia’s return of Hamlet’s letters lays sparks to the tinder of Hamlet’s madness—feigned or otherwise—leading to her death and Hamlet’s interception of Claudius’s letter turns his treachery upon the heads of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. And we can’t forget the short letter Hamlet writes to the “high and mighty” Claudius, who is clearly confused by it, or his letter to Horatio in which he questions the fragility of the physical letter itself.

Lady MacBeth arrives on-stage reading a letter whose contents are shortly revealed to be out of date. Curiously, she later writes a letter in her sleep whose contents are never revealed, as far as I can remember, to anyone.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is, of course, rife with love letters, and a significant question in the play revolves around the effect (or lack of effect) of those letters. Shakespeare doesn’t give a lot of stage directions, but does direct a character to tear up a letter in front of another and than snatch the pieces back as soon as the second character is gone.

Henry IV, Part 1 actually has a whole, short scene featuring letter carriers, though I must admit I don’t understand its importance.

And as I’ve recently been re-reading King Lear, I’m struck by how often letters are mentioned, directly and as implied in the comings and going of messengers, not to mention Edmund’s treacherous forged letter to Gloucester!

I’m sure there are many more examples that aren’t coming directly to mind. As, seemingly, with every aspect of Shakespeare, I assume that this has been written about many times, probably at book length. One of the maddening aspects of being a Shakespeare enthusiast is constantly discovering that even one’s most “brilliant” thoughts have already been exhausted in the literature…leading to my twin strategy of resisting digging into that literature until I feel I’ve done the idea a sound turn by myself and proceeding with the assumption that as a reader, not a researcher, “new to me” is new enough.

Those Classroom Measures (#rhizo15)

Watching Dave’s 2nd #rhizo15 video query about what we should be counting—in other words, what counts—in learning, and the first thing that popped into my head was a thought to the tune of one of my favorite songs:

My off-the-cuff lyrics:

Who gives a fuck about those classroom measures?
I’ve seen those research papers too
They’re cruel
So if there’s any other way
To see the world
It’s fine with me, with me

Why would you think of us that way
Especially when I always said that you
Haven’t got the words for me
All your papers dripping with disdain
Through the pain
I always tell the truth

Who gives a fuck about those classroom measures?
I read OL-Daily too
I did
I met the ed tech gurus
Their rhizo-moocy things work
For me, for me

Canadian Lawmakers Suck Too (on Copyright)

When it comes to copyright, Canadian lawmakers are just as intent on kneeling/bending over for big media interests as their American equivalents. The heart of Michael Geist’s short post on their recent copyright giveaway nails it:

The Stargrove Entertainment records provided Canadian consumers with low-priced alternatives while still ensures that the authors of the songs received the approriate royalties. While the sound recording is in the public domain for these works, the song itself remains subject to copyright. Therefore, the song writers – Lennon and McCartney in the case of the Beatles – were still paid for every record sold. The difference is that Universal Records was not profiting from the sale. Instead, a small Canadian company was succeeding in selling the records at a lower price to Canadian consumers.

The Stargrove Entertainment records effectively broke the monopoly enjoyed by Universal Music and Sony Music over these popular artists by offering consumers more choice at better prices. After pressure on distributors and retailers failed to stop the sales, the companies began lobbying the government to change the law.


[Welcome to “500 Words”, the section where I share unedited, off-the-cuff musings about—whatever—in 500(ish) word chunks.]

It figures  I would return to Twitter—well, return to paying attention to Twitter—just in time to be hammered with links to Dennis Keohane’s epically shitty piece of click-bait “journalism” AKA “Did LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda just kill the ed tech space?”.

First, the answer: no.

Second, the honest headline: “LinkedIn Buys and I’m Now Going to Dump a  Bunch of Names of Companies and Education Terms Into my Blog Editor and Blather About Them”

Or, maybe: “LinkedIn Purchases; There Continue to be Multiple Companies Streaming Technology Tutorial Videos”

I won’t even try to guess what Keohane’s definition of “ed tech” is because I don’t think he has one. The world where—without a wisp of explanation—video purveyors like Lynda and Pluralsight, MOOCs and MOOC providers, LMS platform companies and significant LMS platform users, and the efforts of publishers that have diversified into scores of other areas, are all lumped together without even a pretense of understanding  or connective tissue isn’t the world I live in.

Even at its most literal, Keohane has it precisely backward. This isn’t big news in educational technology; it is a bit of news in technology education.

But in classic “that does not mean what you think it means” style, the acquisition is fascinating for reasons Keohane completely misses.

First, LinkedIn wasn’t just buying market share in a niche of tech ed, it was buying Lynda’s  users…or, more specifically, the spectral figures composed of those users’ data. In that way it’s not different from the constant acquisitions being made by the aforementioned publishing companies, it just looks different to blindered geeks because suddenly one of the biggest names in the world they are able to see through their technological haze is involved.

And even there Keohane misses the significance. Thus, point two: LinkedIn is different. The very characteristics that make it laughable as a social network of the Facebook kind make it interesting in this context. For all the data that Facebook has about its users and their habits, and for all its sometimes creepy methods of obtaining and using that data, when it comes to the world of education, credentialing and online learning—that turbulent and chaotic environment where shit is seriously going down right now—LinkedIn is a wholly different animal. LinkedIn isn’t just a big market, it’s a gigantic database with a social veneer. Where Facebook’s data is traditionally social, LinkedIn’s is significantly professional. Where Facebook’s data is mostly derived/intuitive, LinkedIn’s is structured. And all this not merely because of LinkedIn’s different purpose, but because its users are inherently motivated to enter and keep up to date the kind of professional data that Facebook (not to mention universities and other educational institutions and providers) can only dream of. We’re talking granular, current, accurate data that LinkedIn doesn’t have to intuit, sneak, cajole or buy…now potentially combined with the specifics of individuals’ goals, paths, achievements and professional networks. Even in the relatively limited areas focuses on, this could bring into sights a whole new consumer animal.

What will be interesting is seeing where LinkedIn goes from here. Will it go for the big game (no higher education institution feels threatened by, the interstitial space where MOOCs, for all their sound and fury, have signified much but changed almost nothing?