Saturday, March 27, 2010

Context is what context does. Or is it what you do?

Written on November 25th 2009. Last edited March 2010.

A few days ago Gabriela Sellart asked to save a comment I made on a Facebook thread somewhere visible. Gabriela was doubting whether to pull Twitter statuses into LinkedIn. I said I wouldn't.

Pablo raised issues of context and transparency. He said you are who you are regardless of context. I assume I have no permission to reproduce what Pablo -who is not my friend in Facebook- said in a semi-private medium, so I just quote my answer:

"My Twitter does not have a padlock. It's wide open. Anyone in the whole world can read it. I can put my Twitter address in LinkedIn as a website of mine. I would not let it replace the status bar in LinkedIn.

Whether you are who you are is not for me to say. Although I see a lot of people creating a persona in their blogs. Meeting them f2f changes things a lot.

I am a language teacher interested in communication online.
Two issues here:

1-Meaning is affected by context.
2-I wouldn't force the same info to different audiences. I like letting people choose."

I think choice matters. Who owns the choice? Those who are literate, which reminds me of a tweeted quote from a recent presentation by Michael Wesch:

Maybe a blog post is a better venue than Facebook to enlarge on the idea of transparency. I think Pablo and I are not using the same definition here. Transparency for me is not about showing it all. It's about showing everything that matters; that is, sharing the path for learning what you've learnt. How have you seized that learning you blog about? This is what gives a text online authority and validity in my opinion.

The idea of choice and context remained at the backstage of my mind until this morning. Terry Freedman published a post that set me commenting and wondering what is context when we are online.

So I dwell on those ideas...
The choice of context and how it affects the message. The power of context for creating meaning. To what extent does the medium make the message? This question seems to state a battle no one can win. We cannot fight RSS fragmenting all our conversations and distributing them everywhere. RSS per se is not against the law.

But reading in depth, what I sense Terry is worried about is a much more complex issue. That of how much will we let the machine do for us?

This is not a legal conversation topic, but an ethical one. A conversation worth having, by the way.

The interesting thing is that I wouldn't engage in this conversation, I wouldn't have gone for more depth into it if it had not been written by Terry, whom I follow and learn lots from. I am here writing because it is in the context of Terry's blog.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Some things I am certain of (for now, this is beta, OK?)

These are mostly notes to self. You see, I read a lot and I fear losing touch with my own ideas. So I jot down a few to go back to them when learning gets too messy.

Thought it might be useful to share. Hence, post.

1) Teaching English is hard, anything else is an adverbial adjunct of place, manner and time. In other words, teaching is worth discussing. Anything else can be found for free on the Internet.

2) Time can be an excuse. Few things are not done because of time constraints. (I need more time to explain those few things, though. Suffice to say time is money and teachers need jobs).

3) Technology in the classroom is an intangible. Or not. If it is there and needs cleaning, it is probably not an enhancer, but an extra time consuming obstacle, needy for integration. Good technology use in the classroom is transparent and intertwined.

4) Transparency fosters authority. Mind you, not because I say so. I am talking about transparency about processes. Blog posts about how you are -right now- developing ideas and action. If you post after, if you just communicate results, this is more valuable as history or (self) marketing.

5) Motivation is a drug. It is a short-term target. It needs more and more to be done on the part of the teacher just to keep it going (see #2 above). Better keep the eyes on the mission. Better make people "addicted" to learning, to the process, to the autonomy of it. There are intrinsic reasons why this is pleasurable, meaningful and long lasting per se.

6) There are no how-tos. There are purposes. Question is not how-to but to what foreseeable end you work for. Allow for the unforeseeable, yet meaningful to happen.

7) Mind the use of the word "enhance" when linked to learning. Mind the gap. Old things are just old things.

8) Online contact does not entail collaboration. Work together does not imply face-to-face. Anything in the middle is ambiguous and requires a clarification of terms. That's a good use of a blog.

9) Standards are for things that fit a pattern. When educators claim that creativity is a "21st century" essential skill, we need to accept the limitations of striving for standards. Assessment and standards are cousins.

10) Doubt, question and never, ever just assume. Particularly applicable to all of the above.

More brewing in my mind at the moment. I'd rather pause here and wait for your thoughts.

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