A road not taken



I posted my 1000th blog post on Clyde Street this month.

Even after this number of posts (since June 2008), each time I write I think about the lines in Robert Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken.

I keep coming back to the final verse:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


In the last three years I have become particularly interested in roads less traveled as physical and metaphorical journeys.

In a physical sense, I have become acutely aware of logging trails and fire trails, as I learn more about the craft of becoming a rural firefighter. Local knowledge, early maps and oral history hold keys to where these trails are. These became important during our recent Wirritin Fire.
In a metaphorical sense, I am passionately interested in finding ways to share narratives. I see considered, slow blogging as a way to share scholarly activity. If you have visited Clyde Street in the last few months you will have noticed that this has become an important theme in my writing.
This may have been the reason why I found a recent post by Kate Bowles (2013) so compelling.



Kate introduces her post (Bowles, 2013) with a quote from Inger Mewburn and Pat Thompson’s (2013) “Academic blogging is part of a complex attention economy leading to unprecedented readership”. Kate ‘started writing online secretively in 2011 because I was looking for somewhere to think for myself’.
She adds:

I didn’t want a platform; I didn’t want to promote my research or improve my profile. I didn’t even want people to know who I was, in case this troubled my employer. I wanted to make a bower for collecting things of value to me: thoughts, information, other people’s words that would amount to a better grasp of why higher education felt like a difficult place to be.

I really liked Kate’s use of ‘bower’ to describe a place for her activity. It is the kind of word that fits delightfully with her sense of engagement with and in social media … ‘it’s still possible to make a space within its generous and substantially ungovernable folds for practices of thinking, sharing and listening that are self-managed, and that work just because they work for you’.

Rather than work through Kate’s argument about the parallels between academic publishing , the attention economy and ratfarming, I do encourage you to read what she has to say and share. It is a very effective account of what Robert K Merton (1968) considered the manifest and latent consequences of social action.

Like Kate, I do think that ‘surreptitiously joined up networks of people thinking quietly, on their own time, now offer higher education a whole range of models for learning and discovering’ are central rather than peripheral to what is to count and be valued as scholarly activity.

I see these networks enriched by the humility of reciprocal altruism rather than the hedonism of the attention economy.

This has been brought into even clearer focus for me by a David Wiley (2013) post shared by Stephen Downes. In his post, David discusses his decision to leave his full-time, tenured position at Brigham Young University and to focus his professional time and energy on providing support for Open Educational Resource adoptions.

I was particularly interested in the way David proposes to blend his work:

I’m not leaving academia altogether, however. I’m very excited to have accepted an appointment as Scholar in Residence at the University of Utah, in the Teaching and Learning Technologies group, where I’ll be able to continue the research end of my work on using openness to increase the quality and affordability of education. I’m also hoping to continue my relationship with BYU as an adjunct. These arrangements allow me to achieve the right mix of research and teaching necessary to support the success of my broader OER adoption work. Without the research component, any claims of success in helping faculty use OER effectively would feel like empty hype. And without the ability to teach my Intro to Open Education course occasionally, I can’t evangelize, identify, and prepare the additional people the field of open education needs so desperately. The small number of people in the world with deep expertise in open education just isn’t sufficient to get the job done.

I imagine Kate and David would have a great deal to share and discuss about open environments.



Whilst thinking about Kate and David’s posts, I received a link to Howard Rheingold‘s (2013) Foreword to The Peeragogy Handbook.

Howard poses a very important question in his post “If you give more and more of your power as a teacher to the students, can’t you just eliminate the teacher all together, or can’t people take turns being the facilitator of the class?”

He notes that:

there’s been an explosion of people learning things together online via Wikipedia and YouTube, MOOCs and Quora, Twitter and Facebook, Google Docs and video chat, and I don’t really know what’s going to happen with the institutions, but I do know that this wild learning is happening and that some people are becoming more expert at it.

Describing learning as ‘wild’ resonates with me in the same way that ‘bower’ does about collecting and sharing ideas.

Like Harold I know there are great teachers and coaches and agree that:

What’s missing for learners outside formal institutions who know how to use social media is useful lore about how people learn together without a teacher. … Teachers should be trained, rewarded, and sought out. But it’s time to expand the focus on learners, particularly on self-learners whose hunger for learning hasn’t been schooled out of them.

The Peeragogy Project exemplifies how these communities of learners can be connected.

I sense this is happening with a community of practice linked to Darrel Cobner and his colleagues at Cardiff Met in Wales. The most recent post from this group is Matt Watkins’ (2013) discussion of the role of a performance analyst in player development. I am impressed with Matt’s decision to develop an online presence and note that he has used the Visual Performance Analysis platform to do this.

I have been fascinated by that community’s willingness to explore the road not taken. I have been delighted that Darrell has posted guest posts on Clyde Street this year.

What I get is their willingness to engage in fallible sharing that deserves to be regarded as a valid and valuable contribution to their occupational culture. I have a real sense that this approach will transform learning in ways that Kate, David and Howard would recognise and (I hope) laud.



One of my priorities in 2014 is to engage in open, co-operative and collaborative writing projects.

I aim to use slow blogging approaches through open sharing to support the rigour expected of scholarly publication as open educational resources. I think this is a characteristic of the slow scholarship proposed by John Lutz. I think it links to other forms of sharing discussed by Catherine Durose and Katherine Tonkiss (2013) too.

I am keen to be part of a discussion about the role journals play in our understanding of areas of study and how these can co-exist with other epistemologically and ontologically transparent narratives that adopt an open peer review process.

I understand that the pressures of the attention economy require very clear codes of conduct. It is the main reason why I believe open scholarship with open peer review will be fundamental to the flourishing of learning and teaching inside and outside formal education settings. It will involve substantial debates about intellectual property and the open licensing of content.

Rick Anderson (2013) had added to this discussion with his consideration of new and innovative ways that create and present scholarship to the world. He asks ‘can we figure out a way to ensure the rigor of such products, and having done so, can we get the academy to acknowledge the scholarly legitimacy of these unconventionally-rigorous products—and if so, how quickly?’

A comment on his post shared a link to Robert Darnton‘s (1999) discussion of The New Age of the Book.

Robert concludes his essay with this observation:

The world of learning is changing so rapidly that no one can predict what it will look like ten years from now. But I believe it will remain within the Gutenberg galaxy—though the galaxy will expand, thanks to a new source of energy, the electronic book, which will act as a supplement to, not a substitute for, Gutenberg’s great machine.

I like the idea of an expanded galaxy in which slow scholarship on open collaborative platforms is valued as much as other constituents of the academic galaxy.

I do apologise that this wayfinding has moved from a road not taken to galactic travel. As ever I hope that if there are any issues with the ideas here you will comment upon them.

Thank you for reading the post.

(I have been thinking about writing this post since reading Kate’s post on 18 December. I have spent two days researching other items discussed here. It took me eight hours to draft, proof read and re-draft the post.)


Anderson, R. (2013, December 23). “The future (?) of the scholarly (?) monograph (?).” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2013/12/23/the-future-of-the-scholarly-monograph/

Bowles, K. (2013, December 18). “Ratfarming: let’s not.” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://musicfordeckchairs.wordpress.com/2013/12/18/ratfarming-lets-not/

Darnton, R. (1999, March 18). “The new age of the book.” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1999/mar/18/the-new-age-of-the-book/

Durose, C., & Tonkiss, K. (2013). “Fast scholarship is not always good scholarship: relevant research requires more than an online presence.” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2013/10/11/fast-scholarship-is-not-always-good-scholarship/

Merton, R. K. (1968). Social theory and social structure. New York: Free Press.

Mewburn, I., & Thompson, P. (2013, December 12). “Academic blogging is part of a complex online academic attention economy, leading to unprecedented readership.” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2013/12/12/academic-attention-economy/

Rheingold, H. (2013, December 19). “Foreword”. [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://peeragogy.org/forward/

Watkins, M. (2013, December 24). “The role of analysis for player development.” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.visualperformanceanalysis.com/sports-blogs/role-analysis-player-development/

Wiley, D. (2013, December 18). “Taking a leap of faith.” [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://opencontent.org/blog/archives/3068

Photo Credits

Two roads diverged in a wood (Garrett Coakley, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Over the fence (Ari Bakker, CC BY 2.0)

Helping Hands (Sterling College, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Starry Starry Night (John K, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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:


 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.