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Posts Tagged ‘improvisation’

CCK08: Skyped

And in other news..

I think I first used Skype in 2003 or 2004. We called the other half of the family (thanks to the dispersal of technology genes on two sides of the ocean) for Christmas and wound up talking to at least eight family members. Our pork roast baked to leather, and our elfin, eager gift-openers became more than a bit disgruntled. But the conversation and technology worked, in an echo-y, satellite-delayed way. It was new and fun (and free), and we confirmed that another year of live candles on the tree had passed without involvement of the Feuerwehr.

The problem with being an early adopter, though, was that, barring total strangers, there really wasn’t anyone else to talk to.  (Skyping total strangers, while done at the time, never really got the thumbs up here…) So while we could hold fascinating conversations about the weather with the technologically-minded brother, the rest of the family wasn’t quite as ready to make the leap.

We worked for a while with inefficient redundancy, calling people on the phone to ask them to hang up their phone and turn on their computers so that we could talk to them.  It may have saved a few dollars, but it also got old fast. I asked other folks I needed to contact if they used Skype, but never did find anyone where “skyping” became a natural, casual and easy contact method. Eventually, Skype got bumped from the applications folder, and life went on with email and the six-cents-a-minute phone card.

So it was pretty entertaining to re-enter the Skype world with Lisa, Kristina, Andreas and Eduardo during an impromptu Friday CCK08 un-session… in a sincere but comedy-of-errors kind of way. In an effort to get everyone in on the same conversation, Ustream video and audio went to multi-moderator option went to text chat went to Skype, which I downloaded on the fly. My head cold was so bad I couldn’t hear myself talk. A quick dash around the house confirmed that the elves had absconded with our headsets for their foreign language practice. Thus, everyone’s conversation got cycled back through my computer’s built-in mike. And the VERY LOUD FAN in my aged Mac Powerbook G4 began gasping for air the middle of things, drowning out everyone’s audio. Like Kristina, I, too, felt like I was hindering the conversation more than helping it.

But still, there is something “connective” about mild, technologically-induced hardship. (And it was way warmer in my office than out on one of those high ropes challenge courses.) Maybe it was just me, but it kind of felt like kids in a hayloft with a bedsheet/parachute. Could it be done?  Would there be blood? (And can I have your iPhone if you don’t make it?)

I suspect that few participants, like Andreas, had already perfected their parachute jumps, but they were very patient with scaffolding the rest of us in. Education was well served. And this little venture also served, from an education perspective, to reinforce my bias that improvisational and playful learning is engaging. No one staged this ahead of time, no one engineered the obstacles, no one defined specific expectations for the outcome, and the outcomes, not necessarily quantifiable in terms of discussion points covered or conclusions reached, were still somehow satisfying and potentially useful to participants … at the very least in the form of cautionary tales about the impulsive use of connective technologies.

 The fate of future CCK08 connections via Skype? Who knows? I’m more of a Twitterer, I think.  (Yes, indeed — insert your own joke here.) But I’m planning to leave Skype in my dock for a while again. If nothing else, Christmas is coming soon.

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In which a metaphor gets stretched to the breaking point and the need for autotelism is implied.

Stephen Downes made a comment in passing during last Wednesday morning’s Elluminate session on Connective Knowledge that caught my attention– something to the effect that the course had elicited more emotion than one would ever expect a course in this topic to generate.

For me, this is no surprise at all, because the nature of open learning means that things are not scripted. Traditional roles have not been cast and emoting all over the place is a consequence of this. (Authoritarianism has its downside, but does keep public hand–and neck–wringing to a minimum.)

Gladiators in the arena

Gladiators in the arena

This “course” leaves a lot of room for stumbling around on the stage; there are lots of actors in search of a script here. We seem to range from those wanting Shakespeare in the original to those who are primed for half-hour episodes of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” (And maybe a few think gladiators in the arena provide the best entertainment.)

I’d say that in CCK08, or in an age of open education, we’re in a show that’s more like all improv, all the time.

After a lifetime of working from a script, as most of us have chosen or theoretically have been required to do, improv is a pretty big leap. We’re not going to be very good at it until we’ve done it for a while. And recent mainstream culture hasn’t been very accommodating toward improvisational creativity (or learning), either. Improvisation tends to take refuge in the margins, on small stages and in jazz or performance art. Improvisation, at least within a group, is not in sync with a culture that is essentially competitive. Group improv is not even collaborative endeavor, either; it is a cooperative one.

This is not Kumbayah around the campfire. Cooperation is hard work, needing to accommodate a lot of variables and nuances and drawing on a range of cognitive and emotional skills.

And so while we’re all practicing, there undoubtedly will be some bloopers that would be bleeped in prime time.

A second implication of the search for a script, or at least some stage direction, also piqued my curiosity. My initial thought was that if any group was ready to tackle undefined scenes from a hat, it would be the one attracted to the implications of connectivism and open learning. Then again, many very good improv actors are not formally trained in theater, but that’s a different conversation.

a network oxymoron, or one more open learning challenge?

Clustering sheep: a network oxymoron, or simply one more open learning challenge?

It is true that improv is not quite the wildly uncontrolled activity that it may sometimes appear to be. There are conventions (listening, connecting ideas, even– especially– the weird ones, and scaffolding each other toward the emergent “end of the story”) that have to be respected by improvisational players in order for them to succeed at this business of play. To belabor the point: improv is not “a play” managed by a director; it’s “playing” that emerges from each individual actor’s locus of control, imagination, and creativity.

Open learning, like CCK08, offers a backstage filled with props, a really (really) big studio space, and some rehearsal time, all of which, my actor friends assure me, are usually very hard to come by. The search for a director and a script… well, I can’t help but think this part isn’t really about the show.

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