Separated and Connected

509Earlier this morning I was corresponding with a friend from Estonia. Early morning rural Australia fits in well with late night Tallinn.

We were discussing how to share information with coaches and support staff. It is a topic that is at the forefront of my thinking at the moment and I have used recent posts to explore some ideas and links.

After saying goodnight to Tallinn, I started working through some of my feeds and found a treasure trove of connections.

From Paper.Li I was directed to a post by Keri-Lee Beasley about Twitter: A Cultural Guidebook. Keri-Lee acknowledges a range of people who helped with the project to produce the Guidebook and I noted her reference to Rodd Lucier.

In a post last year, Rodd looked at Seven Degrees of Connectedness. In the introduction to his post, Rodd asks “What’s the most significant event that causes you to pay closer attention to the learners in your network?” In answer to his own question, Rodd replies:

For me, it is meeting face-to-face. I’m more attuned to those people in my learning network whose voices are amplified because we met at a conference; exchanged stories; shared a meal. Fleshed out by personality and attitude, I find myself savouring the words and ideas I consume online.

  • Lurker (“Hey other people are sharing some cool ideas on their blogs”.)
  • Novice (“When I join in on the conversation people actually talk back to me.”)
  • Insider (“I’m beginning to know many of these familiar names and faces.”)
  • Colleague (“I rely on my network for the most important news.”)
  • Collaborator (“Why don’t we start a Google Doc to share our ideas?”)
  • Friend (“It feels like we’ve known one another for a long time.”)
  • Confidant (“I would rather talk to you in person, can you just call me.”)

Keri-Lee and Rodd reminded me of the discussion of three degrees of influence. In December 2008, James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis published “The Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network: Longitudinal Analysis Over 20 Years in the Framingham Heart Study,” in the British Medical Journal (337: a2338 (December 2008); doi:10.1136/bmj.a2338). In her review of the paper, Christine Nyholm observes “happy person can trigger a chain reaction that benefits friends, friends’ friends and friends’ friends’ friends”.

This is an interesting interface between connectedness and separateness. At the moment, I am finding the Paper.Li feed a very productive way of enjoying happiness at three removes. The same goes for Diigo.

For example, this morning a link from the Teacher-Librarian group took me to Greg Miller’s post, How do we measure a competency? Greg’s post is a delightful synthesis of some #21stedchat conversations. Greg provides links to some interesting documentation and summarises the conversations thus:

Many involved in the chat agreed that there needs to be a move toward students demonstrating their learning in more authentic ways, aligning with real-world situations. An emphasis on choice, performance assessments, portfolio building, and student-led conferences all came up as high yield strategies to better support the kind of learning needed today.  It was inspiring to hear from the many educators who are pushing the envelope with both learning and assessment.  Their ideas were both innovative and practical.

Greg links to a graphic from Alberta’s new Framework for Student Learning:

21st-century-1entejd1

 I am going to follow up on Greg’s discussion of a 21st-century-skills-report-card. (Greg acknowledges @PaulSolarz from Illinois in the use of this card.)
My morning’s reading ended with a visit to Rick Anderson’s Scholarly Kitchen post, The Shadow of the MOOC Grows Longer. Rick’s post prompted a comment by Rahim Rajan:
I think the real “disruption” is the effect that the MOOCs are having in initiating conversations on hundreds of campuses across the nation about the role (and need) for innovative technologies in teaching and learning – particularly as a replacement for large, impersonal entry level courses that have low success rates. The real opportunity for innovative campuses will be in leveraging these MOOCs for blended and flipped instruction. MOOCs are also forcing the question on campuses about the need for continuous improvement and course re-design, as well as issues surrounding non-traditional learners (now a majority of higher ed students) and cost/affordability. It’s very early days and no doubt these platforms and online courses will continue to evolve and change. In my opinion, MOOCs represent one of a number of innovations born in the cauldrons of the technology and internet revolution that will permanently change education.

Rahim gave his twitter account as the link to his profile. He is a Gates Foundation Program Officer focusing on e-learning and innovative educational technology; helping college students learn, succeed, and complete. Which provides me with another opportunity to negotiate separation and connection.

I am off to buy an electrical bike which might be a good metaphor for this conversation. The bike will help negotiate hills en route to face-to-face meetings – technology enriched wayfinding.

 

Photo Credit

Frame Grab from attempt to download the Cultural Guidebook.

 

On Being Social … and Well

This post started with a conversation about an RSS alert from The Economist.

My wife, Sue, receives a range of RSS feeds each day on her iPad. Earlier this week a story about social isolation and illness led to a fascinating breakfast time and on-going conversation.

It prompted me to follow up on the paper that informed The Economist article.

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy Smith and Bradley Layton’s paper Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review appeared in PLoS Medicine, July 2010. Its publication in PLoS Medicine made the paper even more interesting for me given the open access nature of the journal.

The objectives of the paper, a meta-analytic review, were ” to determine the extent to which social relationships influence risk for mortality, which aspects of social relationships are most highly predictive, and which factors may moderate the risk.” Julianne, Timothy and Bradley reviewed 148 studies (from January 1900 to January 2007) involving a total of 308,849 participants and suggest that “people with stronger social relationships had a 50% increased likelihood of survival than those with weaker social relationships.”

Their summary of their findings is:

These findings indicate that the influence of social relationships on the risk of death are comparable with well-established risk factors for mortality such as smoking and alcohol consumption and exceed the influence of other risk factors such as physical inactivity and obesity. Furthermore, the overall effect of social relationships on mortality reported in this meta-analysis might be an underestimate, because many of the studies used simple single-item measures of social isolation rather than a complex measurement. Although further research is needed to determine exactly how social relationships can be used to reduce mortality risk, physicians, health professionals, educators, and the media should now acknowledge that social relationships influence the health outcomes of adults and should take social relationships as seriously as other risk factors that affect mortality, the researchers conclude.

These are the metrics for the paper at the time I accessed it:

I wonder if this reader profile is a good example of a social effect too.

Greg Miller has noted subsequently that:

In a steady stream of recent papers, social psychologists have identified several potentially unhealthy changes in the cardiovascular, immune, and nervous systems of chronically lonely people. The findings could help explain why epidemiological studies have often found that socially isolated people have shorter life spans and increased risk of a host of health problems, including infections, heart disease, and depression. The work also adds a new wrinkle, suggesting that it’s the subjective experience of loneliness that’s harmful, not the actual number of social contacts a person has. An impressive network of collaborations with researchers in other disciplines is now pioneering a new science of loneliness.

Stephen Cole has added to the discussion with his paper at AAAS in February 2011. He and a number of colleagues have published a paper in Genome Biology too. They conclude in that paper:

These data provide the first indication that human genome-wide transcriptional activity is altered in association with a social epidemiological risk factor. Impaired transcription of glucocorticoid response genes and increased activity of pro-inflammatory transcription control pathways provide a functional genomic explanation for elevated risk of inflammatory disease in individuals who experience chronically high levels of subjective social isolation.

Many years ago as a young student I read about anomie and alienation.  A breakfast conversation and a search for links has brought back memories of these early readings of Durkheim and Marx. They were crystallised for me by a conversation in our family car about Albert Camus’ The Outsider on a road trip in Tasmania this week.

I realise how fortunate I am to have the opportunity for breakfast conversations and family car journeys.

Photo Credit

Meeting