#DML2012 – On Love and Infrastructure

I’ve been continually struck at DML with the notions of connectedness and participation.  It makes sense that these would be sticky ideas here, and dominant ones.  The conference opened with the announcement of the Connected Learning Research Network and a talk from John Seely Brown that dealt heavily with notions of participatory culture.

But in our rush to make and play and tinker and connect and engage in learning that matters in institutions that might not, I feel like I’m missing the love.

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No, that’s not quite right.  Actually, I’m finding notions of love everywhere I look.  But perhaps that’s because I’m focused on looking for it, and you know how it goes – when you look for something, when you look really hard, you can find it anywhere.

I keep coming back to this interview that Fred Rogers gave to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.  You should watch the entire series, but here, at 5 minutes and 17 seconds into this particular segment, Mr. Rogers give his definition of teaching and talks about what he was trying to do with his television show:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZ2slbh55uU&feature=youtu.be&t=5m17s

His words here stick hard with me – I cannot divorce his concept of love and teaching from my way of thinking about teaching now.  And the Internet, or a school, or a community center, or a museum, or any institution of and about learning, can and should provide examples of teachers in love with what they love in front of others as a way of communicating that love, and helping students to find and communicate their own.

And I see resonance with that in the talk of the new DML Connected Learning Research Network, especially in Mimi Ito’s description:

In a nutshell, connected learning is learning that is socially connected, interest-driven, and oriented towards educational and economic opportunity. Connected learning is when you’re pursuing knowledge and expertise around something you care deeply about, and you’re supported by friends and institutions who share and recognize this common passion or purpose.

In talking with her briefly the other night about some mentoring work she’s hoping to do, work to connect passionate mentors to interested learners, I wondered more about issues of scale that have been raised at the conference, about what can scale, and what cannot.

And while I’m not sure that love, itself, can scale, I wonder if finding love maybe can.  Certainly people have limited capacity, and can only love so many so deeply, but computers can help us to find each other.  Networks can help us to find each other.  Institutions can help us to find each other.  Then we can do the human pieces better.

And finding each other, then looking after each other, is well worth doing1.

In this morning’s panel on technical and social innovation, I saw too much emphasis on systems designed around outputs.  I think that’s a large problem in education – we look heavily at what comes out of a system, but not so much on what we put into it.  I’d argue quite strongly, with anyone who’ll listen, that we need to look quite closely and intentionally on what goes into a system, and on what sorts of inputs are privileged in our infrastructures.  And how we inject love and care and compassion and concern into infrastructure is very, very important.  It’s not considered enough, if at all, and these things rarely show up on measures of output.

So how do you build love and care into your systems and infrastructures and learning environments and experiences?  How are you doing so in a way that doesn’t over simplify the complex backgrounds of the people and communities you’re learning from and with?  How are you looking for ways to increase the love and care in your systems?

What are you loving in front of your students and colleagues?  What would they say gets loved in your spaces?

  1. Certainly, too, it’s worth wondering about people who aren’t getting found, or served, or looked after, by institutions of love and learning.  How do we make sure that we focus on entry points so that those who wish to be found can be, and those who don’t want to be found can do that, too.  I’ll say more on entry points, infrastructure and inputs in a future post. []
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