In which there are musings about poultry.
I was spectating the other day at a theater workshop. The participants started by deciding to “act like a chicken.” Then someone suggested they channel their movements as they “thought like a chicken.”
What next? A young participant assumed a temporary meditational pose. “BE the chicken,” she said.
Is it just me, or does it seem like being part of a “network,” calling something a “network,” and “implementing networked (or connective) learning” are getting to be downright fashionable activities? Networks are, dare I say, trendy.
But just calling something a network — or a group, for that matter — doesn’t make it so. So I find Stephen Downes’ distinctions between networks and groups to be helpful in supporting reflective practice. While I accept the idea that clear lines might not exist in the messy real world, I do think entities display tendencies toward one set of characteristics or another. And I suspect that these terms, even when viewed away from academic definitions, create sets of expectations about affect, structure, and process.
My travels in the edublogosphere suggest we might be in an era when entities with clear in-group/out-group behaviors and a whole lot of walls are sending a few brave members out the door and over the moat to capture the network flag. They then drag it back into the castle, slam the drawbridge up, and start using the new standard (pun, sorry) as a tablecloth.
I can’t help but think that when we get entities with various levels of understanding calling themselves networks or promoting network idea(l)s, but acting like groups (or vice versa), there’s going to be some unfortunate confusion and potential social/cultural/personal fallout.
I am also wary of the idea that entities currently displaying primarily group characteristics and behaviors are going to be able to alter themselves (I hesitate to use the word evolve…) to support and display network properties without, however unintentionally, subverting the useful distinctions between these two terms.
Certainly, not all entities think that a network(ed) state of being is desirable, so wanting to be seen as a network is a non-issue for them. And I don’t mean to set up a false group-network rivalry or dichotomy. And yes, too much idealism or insistence on blind consistency (not to mention dogma of any flavor) can ruin many a reasonable real-world compromise.
But still, I occasionally observe that some groups are so entrenched in their groupness that they cannot even identify themselves as such, leading to a bit of an identity crisis.
The group-network distinctions, even if they are ultimately fuzzy on the ground, seem particularly critical as people think about how connectivism relates to educational practice. I am intuitively puzzled by the idea that connectivism can be “implemented” or “applied” in some mechanistic fashion. Top-down mechanisms are useful for group education processes, but seem antithetical to networked learning, based as it is in emergence. I suspect that a learning network’s openness, diversity, autonomy and connectiveness create responsibilities in learning and education that might defy “application.”
To summarize my musings (you were wondering, weren’t you?): Is it enough to call ourselves chickens? To try and act like a chicken? To deliberately think like a chicken for ten minutes on Tuesday? Or is transformation achieved (if that is the goal) only if we ARE the chicken?