Yesterday was the first official day of the first DLRN15, a conference meant to “explore the nuances” of uncertainty in higher education (as it evolves in the age of digital technologies). As far as conferences go, this one has an intimate, boutique feel to it. It comes from more than its size (small, at 100-120 attendees) or its posh location (Stanford knows how to style its classrooms). I have yet to meet a single overwhelmed-but-starry-eyed-conference goer, the one that comes to “check-it-all-out-and-isn’t-it-all-amazing?” I’m not sure that person is here. The people who are here have done things. Many of them have done really great and big things, and they’ve been around the block a couple of times. I get the impression we (and I include myself in that very loosely) were convened here as an ad hoc work group or think tank or maybe even therapy group. We all have different experiences and perspectives, but the point is that we all have experience. With that comes consequences, good and bad. I’ve been very public in my thoughts, as show here and voiced in multiple conversations as we move between venues:
I may have more to say about that tomorrow, but for now…personal highlights.
In his keynote, Mike Caulfield build a story of digital communication around the idea of gardens and streams: Gardens are asynchronous spaces with branching complexity and associative trails while streams are spaces of forced temporal linearity and fire hoses. He used federated wikis as an example of a garden where people develop their own idea homepages and add to them over time through personal finds and curation from others (hence the “federated”). He suggested that streams, which are the way most of us use digital communications, can be exclusionary in their temporal compression. There was some pushback by the audience that his gardens can be exclusionary by its complexity. All good stuff, but a personal take home point for me (beyond the explanation of federated wikis, which I needed): in the context of the Memex, users create links rather than the authors.
Catherine Cronin gave an update on her dissertation research – and was also kind enough to post her slides. Catherine is working to describe the interplay between self-agency, identity, and digital learning in terms of faculty using digital technologies in teaching, learning, and research. She interviewed 15-20 university faculty members – her initial findings are below, but my person “a-ha” take away involves the digital native narrative. I knew it was alive and well among most faculty. However, it had never occurred to me that one of the reasons it might be so difficult to expunge is the fact that it is a comfortable explanation (or excuse) for faculty who are too busy to learn or too anxious to incorporate (or most likely both) digital technologies into their classes.
Can I just say that Adam Croom really brought the A game yesterday? Most speakers (and this will include me too – shortly) used their 15 minutes to review findings of whatever it is they are researching at the moment. That’s great, but Adam stood up and explained the importance of workflow in digital creativity in terms of the music industry. I wish I had his slides. I might ask him to post his slides. Anyhow, in the wake of Napster, older musicians argued that music shouldn’t be napster-like downloadable, because record sales support an essential (aka unwieldy) music industry; they hypothesized that without record sales the industry would collapse and musical creativity would die with it. Adam showed how younger musicians have created workflows around a variety of digital tools and platforms to become their own music industries, leading to greater numbers of independent artists and variability in music. It’s about manipulating and understanding the workflow. Brilliant. And a compelling presentation, too.