My CLMOOC friend and colleague Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) recently wrote a blog post for the Connected Courses community that prompted us to think about the importance of “lurking” in a connected learning environment. For those of you who might not be familiar with the term within the context of online behavior, to “lurk” means to click here and there (and check out what content and commentary is being generated by a community) while remaining an observer more than a contributor to the unfolding conversation.
As Kevin aptly pointed out, people need time to process before entering into the fray of an open online discussion. Those who lurk also learn. I think the trick in emboldening our evolving open learning community (here’s to you #ccourses!) is to build a culture of guilt-free participation. People should know that is ok to dip in and out of the open online networked experience because it is a dynamic, ever unfolding phenomenon, and each perspective brings new energy…. it is indeed OPEN.
But how do we ensure that everyone feels the “vibe of open”, rather than racking up that sense of guilt that grips a busy soul when a bit of time marches on and one has not “weighed in”. We are all prone to that familiar fear of “losing momentum”, or (heaven-forbid) – the dreaded sense of failure that can so easily seep into our academically-wired mindscape. There is work to be done in “unlearning” the message from the hidden curriculum of lifelong schooling. As academics and educators we have been pummeled for years by evaluations, deadlines, tests, authorized outcomes. We have jumped through many hoops in order to become professionalized. One result of this is the easily-come-by guilt stemming from fear of not meeting prescribed expectations. “I should have blogged last week, I should have read that already, ….should’ve, could’ve, would’ve….”. But as co-learners in open connected learning, we must free ourselves of that guilt prone habit of mind.
As we collectively kick-off Connected Courses I officially declare this a guilt-free learning zone. What a relief to know that even though you might have missed a couple weeks of Connected Courses (or you never even heard about it until mid-October) you can still jump in and your participation is welcome. What a relief to know that you can customize and calibrate your “take-away” from this experience based on what matters to you. What a relief to know that even if you would rather lurk-to-learn, you are still a valued member of our community of co-learners.
I for one want everyone to know that their own learning pathway (whatever that may turn out to be) is perfect. Such is the particular affordance of truly open learning. In my experience, magical things happen when we let ourselves unlearn the criterion of institutionalized conventions. So let’s drop the guilt instinct, and just learn by self-design (interest-driven lurking is the foundation!). What “open” really means is that YOU are the true center of the learning.