One of my major works-in-progress over the past few years has been figuring how to move and transform the popular economics work that has been a central component of my organizing and teaching for the past 25 years onto and into online platforms and communities:
- To reach people who I’ve never met.
- To figure out what “place” means in these new spaces.
- To transcend the debilitating nature of conference calls for people like me who think in pictures;
and, because I am so disposed…
- For the sheer joy of what this offers to get my nerd on.
The Dr. Pop website is one such experiment –– especially our Do-It-Together cartoons and posts. So are the collegial and inventive monthly skype calls with my fellow bloggers in L.A., Chicago, and London; the Kickstarter campaign that is crowd-sourcing our first graphic novel, BIG WATER; and the Blocks and Lots zoning game [which is being adapted, as we speak, for another iteration of SAJE’s People’s Planning School].
Experiments all. Every one a collaboration, a prototype of sorts, always as much about learning as about teaching. Each presenting a challenge of figuring out how to balance and complement the digital with the inescapable benefits of face-to-face, in-person, encounters –– breaking bread, taking time and walks and talks together –– all the while realizing that our online communications are just as real and offer unique benefits as well.
That balance is important to me as a challenging work-in-progress. Some examples: Dr. Pop kicked off with a launch party in L.A. One year our blogger team held an event in each of our respective cities –– in L.A., Chicago, and London –– just to mix it up in person with some of you. Our blogger team had a few in-person retreats to make the space we need to think together in interations and informal relationship time.
About a year and a half ago I started teaching at Antioch University’s “hybrid” M.A. Program in Urban Sustainability, which is hybrid in more ways than one: balancing academic training with on-the-ground fieldwork and projects; integrating theory and practice to prepare “scholar-practitioners”; and finally, balancing intensive residencies – several days worth of face-to-face workshops, courses, speakers, dinners, and field trips –– with online instruction.
Although I am still figuring out what it means to do this well, this “hybrid” idea produces a similar rhythm of interaction to the way we build movements across borders and boundaries and time and space –– relishing the time we have to be physically together and then, thus motivated, desiring tools and methods that work to continue communication with a level of depth and color.
And that is important to me as well.
The daunting business of figuring out this balance, and how to teach and learn online –– with all its diverse possibilities, personalities, and intentions –– is not just my work in progress, but a much bigger story of this historical moment.
Under the leadership of a new Chancellor, my new university home at Antioch, like many other such places, is moving to launch more online initiatives. As a result, I am serving on an ad hoc committee along with some particularly lovely educational technology folks to figure out how to put our best foot forward in that endeavor.
In the spirit of that mission, I have immersed myself in new ways of learning and doing. For example, I’m taking a MOOC [Massive Open Online Course] called “E-learning and Digital Cultures”. You, too, may jump on board, if you are so inclined. We are just starting our second week of the five-week course.
The course consists of five charming professors from the University of Edinburgh and a student enrollment of 40,000.
That’s right, 40,000. From all over the world.
So, how does that work? Well, that’s part of the adventure, part of what I am trying to figure out, along with a great number of my 39,999 classmates.
Some of us [only 1,700] hangout in a Google+ community (another learning curve, for me, but I’m starting to like this one). For raving evangelism about Google+, as only Guy Kawasaki can muster, check out his new book What the Plus!
Still others are scattered across a facebook group, wikis, quadblogs, meetups, and other strategies to make to turn cyberspace into a real place that authentically works for them.
So here’s the deal.
I would love to know what you all know and will continue to share what I am learning here on Dr. Pop as I learn it.
I am forward to the ride, and hope that some of you will join me.