Fark threading – Education as seen by a whole bunch of people

Early Sunday morning and I find myself checking out fark… Interestingly, I find myself turning there for news more than anywhere else on the internet. While things can be a little… shall we say graphic, there sometimes, I find the multiplicity of viewpoint interesting, and the fact that thousands of people are searching out links and trying to be interesting/funny/sarcastic/mean/noticed/intelligent/etc on a given topic does make for some fascinating reading. What i don’t like, i don’t read. it’s simple.

This morning there was a link to this article in Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune. Quickly, the way things work there is that an article gets posted and then the members comment on the post. The ‘submitter’ who, well, submits the article, gets it submitted in part based on the appeal of their headline. The headline, in this case… not so good. The comment thread for this post makes very interesting reading. It pretty much runs the range of different opinions (including those that don’t particularly care)

some of the many i liked

  • Muddie’s comment that those who knew the answers would read the quiz and those that didn’t would ignore the quiz.
  • Neospartan’s why does beer come in sixpacks tautology
  • tr0ut10’s comments about question framing

I whine, as i’ve whined many times… How many of you still have the image of the Bhor atom in your head? Is it helping you? Memory doesn’t upgrade, it doesn’t change with the times.

Of course, i got 8/10 so maybe i’m just bitter 🙂

Time Out… Real life sneaks into the blog.

A chilly holiday Friday morning here on the red dirt island. Coffee poured, and catching up on all the little things that have been left dangling due to the speed at which things have been going the last couple of weeks. Today the blog is going to wander away from education and into my real life.

First, my partner, seen here with her mother, bonnie and her mom has got her blog up and running. The crib chronicles are a slightly different flavour of mom blog, as you’ll sense from the first few lines of text. The most recent post at the time of writing is a powerful piece of writing (if I say it who shouldn’t) and speaks very much to the way the last year of my life has gone, and said in a way I’m not sure I’d be able to. Clear, direct, honest (if a little off the chart on the vocabulary… bon’s a smarty pants) It is, like I warned earlier, a very personal part of our lives, but to all those fine people out there who I talk to all the time, I figured this was the best way to share it.

Bonnie is also going to be starting a webcast on the site, maybe sometime next week… She’s one of my fellow interns at the Wedcast Academy. If any of you out there are interested in joining in, just drop a line over at her blog and let her know that you’d like to join in.

She’s been my partner now (no, we’re not married) for five years… and is my best friend. As well as my favourite debating partner.

Clementine chillin'The other girl in my house is not so nearly well presented. She’s the tyrant of the place. Her name is Clementine. As you can see from this photo, she’s very energetic… This is actually the five seconds that she was stopped on this given day. You can occasionally hear her during the shows…

Experts in an age of multi-narratives, multi-text and small ‘t’ truth

I’ve spent alot of time thinking and talking about what it means to be an expert recently. I’m going to fire down a few of those ideas here, and see where they lead… Feel free to jump in.

Facts and Truths are IMHO not the solid rocks of security they were even 50 years ago. As what my old phil prof called ‘knowledge producers’ increase, get less cohesive, and as their interests diverge, other narratives of truth continue to make their way into the mainstream. The major text-events of our time don’t last very long, and they are written in increasingly changeable media. I was struck today, for instance, about the defense the american ruling government is making against an accused ‘flip-flop‘, an expression now so reified, that most people don’t need an explanation of its meaning, its political rammifications or the reaction against it as a concept. It really only came into general usage in its current form a little over two years ago.

How, I ask you, does one get to be an expert… or, maybe more importantly REMAIN an expert, in such quickly changing times? In times where ‘authority’ is so hard to quantify?

Authority granted by accomplishment 

The context for this particular issue started during our conversations with Larry Sanger about digital universe. Larry was saying that the difference between du and wikipedia was that du would be validated by ‘experts’. During that conversation, i tried to figure out what Larry meant by expert, but he seemed to take the definition as self-descriptive, “an expert is someone who is recognized as an expert.”

At about the same time, I had a conversation with some  faculty at a university about the future possibilities of an e-learning project. About half way through, someone turned to me and said, “but what are your qualifications… oh, you don’t have a Phd, we’ll we should consult an expert.” As you might imagine, (certainly those of you who’ve heard me on  the podcasts) i did not react very well to this distinction… Does a Phd make me an expert? Should we trust that as validation?


So, in both cases, we are looking for authority. People are looking for a way to decide if the person who is writing an article are responsibly reporting the ‘facts’ they’ve discovered – are giving good advice for belief. And that, I think, is what it comes down to. Can I believe this person? And in both of these cases, the people involved are throwing they ‘belief’ over to those who have their doctorate in a given field, or who have published extensively in peer reviewed journals… (which leads us to…)
Authority by community 

Here in blogland, we do that by searching through the ‘nodes’ of people’s interaction. (see G. Siemens) We can look through who links to them, and who they link to and get a sense of what kind of a thinker they are. It doesn’t stop us from looking elsewhere for information, but it does give us the vaguest inkling of where people are coming from. This is authority granted by community.

We are, in a sense, the worlds largest peer reviewed journal. And its a journal that includes various rating systems. There have been oodles of links and comments about Stephen Downes’ elearning 2.0 and George Siemens’ connectivism. They have been, by popular acclaim of their peers, designated experts.
But experts at what? I would not, for instance, approach Stephen for driving lessons. I have, also, had significant (and very entertaining) philosophical disagreements with George. Does it make George right? He would probably not say so, nor has he ever suggested that his status as an expert makes him more ‘right’ than anyone else. In their debate on edtechtalk, the two had significant disagreements. Who is to judge which of them is ‘correct’?

My answer is that no one can. It is a clumsy, difficult and dangerous thing to decide who is correct on any given issue. At the moment of choice, someone is marginalized, a path of discovery is closed off, a possibility for exploration is nipped in the bud.

Many people get irritated with me at this point. They say stuff like “some things have to be true.” We have to be able to “make a decision.” And i’m certainly not espousing the lack of decisions. What I’m saying is the decision between several courses of action is rarely a decision that is ‘right’, but more a decision of what is ‘best’. Regardless of what we ‘believe’.
What is an expert?

An expert, then, would be someone who can present the possibilities that exist, and explain how different choices can lead to different kinds of results. As the quantity of information increases, and the diversity of opinions multiply, I don’t see how any one single person can be an expert in the old sense of the world. It would take a community of people, working in concert, in an openly accessible environment, to allow the many truths to present themselves to public view to allow the looker to judge for themselves which of the paths on a given subject will work for their context.

But isn’t that what a reporter does? 

In a sense, what i’ve described, is what a reporter does when they go out and get different ideas on a subject. Jeff and I were approached by a gentlemen for an interview for this podcast about wikipedia. He tracked various opinions from various experts regarding the use of wikipedia as a ‘trusted source’. But does that make the reporter an expert, or from a different perspective, does it make the podcast the expert?

I don’t think there’s AN answer to any of these questions. I do believe that a discussion on them is warranted. And the more we continue that discussion, the easier it’ll be to talk about solutions to the challanges that keep arising in our practice.

meme please.

ps. and someone give me a phd please. 🙂

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