Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Four finds today: goals, whys, Ubuntu & purpose

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I’ve had an extremely inspiring day on the web today* and I just needed to write and share these inspiring thoughts, will keep them brief for now:

Michael Weller’s blog post reflecting on the last week of #clmooc changing goals. It made me realize that we need to explicitly value something more than just student-created goals (important as this is, revolutionary as it is) – we need to also let students know that it’s ok to be flexible about goals, to change them as they grow, and also to manage expectations and sometimes adapt them. Being a mom has taught me that a lot, but so has being a teacher. It might be important, I think, to also help students, to support them, in thinking through managing expectations and goals, and how this might hopefully help them maintain balance but also satisfaction in their lives.

Ubuntu: I received an extremely inspiring comment (made my year, i think!) on an earlier blogpost by someone I never met: Sally, and I learned several important things from her. First, I learned the value of a heartfelt comment on a blogpost by a stranger. I’ve received wonderful comments before on my blog or on my peer-reviewed or other publications, but to know how your writing is impacting a complete stranger? It was amazing. So I checked out her blog and learned about Ubuntu (Zulu word, I believe) which means, from Sally’s blog:

Stephen Lundin: “Ubuntu is a philosophy that considers the success of the group above that of the individual.”

She also cites Desmond Tutu:

A person with Ubuntu is welcoming, hospitable, warm and generous, willing to share. Such people are open and available to others, willing to be vulnerable, affirming of others, do not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole…

Do you see how this concept (probably quite old?) fits well with the ideas of open and connected education? I am amazed, and it draws me to realize how much we have to learn from other cultures… That maybe some ideas seem new to us because Anglo culture/education has for so long been focused on competition and individualism (I put myself within Anglo culture because as an Egyptian who grew up in Kuwait, I am still highly Western educated – school through PhD – and living in a country whose horrible education system still bears the brunt of what colonial forces made it into, something even worse than the colonizer’s own education, promoting more obedience and less questioning). The ideas of open and connected learning seem new, innovative, while all they really are, is the social media, digital form of ‘ubuntu’ – right? I’d need to unpack this concept and study it more critically. Maybe it promotes conformity, for example, is hierarchical, i don’t know. But what I read so far, I like, and the way Sally tries to embody those ideals in her blog is inspiring (Sally if you’re reading this, I hope you join #ccourses).

Speaking of… Asking “Why” (this is the intro to unit 1 of #ccourses, probably written by Mike Wesch, someone i am dying to talk to about digital ethnography) – I always struggle to help other educators think of what is really important about their course instead of focusing on just the content or how they’re delivering it. That post does a great job of briefly urging educators to ask “why” questions that dig deep into their core reasons for doing what they do teaching what and how they teach, by starting with the WHY… Which leads me to…

Finally, I just finished read Gardner Cambell’s blogpost From Open to Connected for #ccourses and I am so in love with what he’s written and how he wrote it. I love how he takes it from talking about open, to opening and that a course should not just be open, but opening. It really resonated with me when he talked about how the paradigm of openness and connectedness is the reason he became a professor. I think for me, too, it’s the reason I became an educator, and finding a community of people with these ideals in the past year has transformed my life and given me hope – we need that kind of community support in our struggles as educators who want something more than what institutional structures and societal boundaries have been allowing us to do.

So thank you Michael Weller for reminding me that our goals can and should remain flexible, because as Mike Wesch writes, the “why” is the most important starting point, and I would change me goals, my method, my everything, to meet the “why”. Thanks to Sally and Gardner for helping me think through “why” open and connected education matter to me. That’s why I’m in #whyopen and #ccourses and so excited to be here 🙂
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* (which is really cool when you wake up to no water and multiple electricity cuts, which caused the water problem btw, but are lucky enough to have your toddler nap for 3 hours while electricity did NOT cut- cyberheaven)*

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