“That’s the piece that’s been missing, bringing the safety to the serendipity.”
This is a really insightful conversation on digital pedagogy between educator Jesse Stommel and data scientist Kris Shaffer. I recommend adding their blogs to your feed reader. I really enjoy their writing.
- Jesse Stommel – Higher education pedagogy, critical edtech, documentary film
- Kris Shaffer – Data scientist. Digital media specialist. Developer. Author.
The line “that’s the piece that’s been missing, bringing the safety to the serendipity” struck me as a great distillation of the challenge before us. Collaboration in an LMS—closed off from the greater internet and the creative commons—lacks the full potential for ”created serendipity”. Twitter is full of serendipity and the possibility for genuine connections, communities, and networks, but also white supremacists, trolls, and bots. There are an awakening and a counter-awakening messily battling it out in a corporate-owned commons incentivized by ads and exponential growth.
Opportunities for serendipity increase with bigger, more diverse networks…
The gospel of the new economy is the transformative power of a diverse, genuine network.
Yet these seemingly serendipitous events, are also based on our willingness to create connections and be in the space, and to put in the effort in the first place.
I often tell people that if you start connecting with others in online spaces, you won’t just find great ideas, but the great ideas will find you.
Today’s organizations must be able to unlock and engage both internal and external networks, in an effort to not only tap into a diversity of voices, but a diversity and divergence of thinking and ideas. These networks not only provide a platform for engaging an ongoing flow of the novel and new, they also create a cognitive space to play with ideas that often leads to not only the creation of new knowledge, but new actions and new ways of working.
but those networks, in their current forms, are actively hostile to psychological safety.
There’s a term for this: psychological safety. The researcher Amy Edmondson demonstrated that teams can appear to be strong on the surface: people like and respect each other, and they get along well. Despite that, they may have an environment where everyone sits silently while the boss talks at them, or where people feel ashamed to be vulnerable and open up about their fears. They might all love hanging out together after work, but nobody can bring themselves to tell someone when they’ve got toilet paper stuck to their shoes. If we want a climate where people can accomplish groundbreaking things, we need to know our voice will be heard and where we’re not afraid to take risks.
The best jazz bands, like the best Google teams, provide the space to take risks. We already know jazz artists have hyperaware senses and can pick up on nonverbal clues. But everyone also gets a voice. In jazz, it’s assumed that unexpected contributions can come from anyone. Getting a “voice” also means every band member takes a turn soloing. Each player spends time as both leader and follower. Miles was always attune to the contributions of everyone. If he realized someone hadn’t had a solo in a while, he’d lean over to them and whisper in his gravelly voice that they should take the lead.
Followership in jazz is worthy of the highest respect-it’s known as comping.Comping is listening and responding without overshadowing. Followership needs to be active, not passive. It’s not about sitting back and letting someone else do all the work. You take an indispensable role in giving space, riffing, experimenting, and supporting. And yet leading and talking are more valued than following and listening in our work culture.
I’m exploring micro.blog, IndieWeb, and indie ed-tech with that missing mix of psychological safety + serendipity in mind. Let’s build what comes next with the spirit of active followership and comping.
I can imagine this platform, or at least concept, being used in an educational environment, allowing students to easily engage with various feeds in a central space.
Often when I say that I think that the “Domain of One’s Own” initiative is one of the most important education technologies, I always hear pushback from the Twitter riffraff. “What’s so special about a website?” folks will sneer.
Well, quite a lot, I’d contend. The Web itself is pretty special – Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s vision of a global hyperlinked information system. A system that was – ideally at least – openly available and accessible to everyone, designed for the purpose of sharing information and collaborating on knowledge-building endeavors. That purpose was not, at the outset, commercial. The technologies were not, at the outset, proprietary.
I’m pretty resistant to framing “domains” as simply a matter of “skills.” Because I think its potential is far more radical than that. This isn’t about making sure literature students “learn to code” or history students “learn to code” or medical faculty “learn to code” or chemistry faculty “learn to code.”
Rather it’s about recognizing that the World Wide Web is site for scholarly activity. It’s about recognizing that students are scholars.
And that’s the Web. That’s your domain. You cultivate ideas there – quite carefully, no doubt, because others might pop by for a think. But also because it’s your space for a think.
Jesse and Kris touch upon Mastodon, IndieWeb, and federation (including their limitations) as well as a number of other interesting topics in the episode. Highly recommended. Check it out.
Jesse and I have taught with Twitter for ages, often requiring students to create accounts, tweet about their coursework, even crafting assignments where a single tweet was the assignment. But we don’t anymore.
Why not? What do we do instead? How do we help our students navigate the world of public, digital scholarship in a world increasingly dominated by harassment, abuse, disinformation, and polarization? Well, for that, you’ll have to listen.
Jesse and I mention a number of tools, platforms, and services that we find useful in different contexts. As promised, here are links!
Slack is the online community space that we use regularly for our classes, especially (but not exclusively) online classes.
Kris’s (former) guide for public student writing (including Jesse’s Twitter essay prompt reworked for a music class) can be seen here.
A number of the tools Kris mentions for privacy and security can be found here. Kris also mentioned Keybase, a Slack-like, end-to-end encrypted communication platform that functions similar to Slack (though balancing increased security with less bells and whistles).