The “Big Questions”

As a part of ds106 (the best digital storytelling class ever, guaranteed to blow your mind), I recently had the pleasure to converse with @alanliddell, @shannotate, and @cherylcolan. We each posed one “big question” related to the course, and then proceeded to dissect it in every way possible for close to an hour. Topics covered include the purpose and value of community, the future of media, the role of media and pop culture in education, and using threats and ultimatums to get what you want. Although I’m thoroughly well mannered through the entire podcast, I do toss out a couple of big bombshells that might surprise some. For instance, I’m ok if students aren’t writing to express themselves as long as they can still think and react critically through various forms of media.

Summer Camp of Oblivion – “The Big Questions” by techsavvyed

If you’re confused as to why we’re sitting around a campfire, and who in the world Dr. Oblivion is and why we’re conjecturing as to his whereabouts, it’s all part of the meta role playing game we’re experiencing as a part of ds106.

If you are brave enough to listen to the entire discussion, I’d love to know some of your thoughts, but perhaps more importantly, I loved the fact that I’m the only K-12 educator in the discussion. Alan and Shannon are both college students, and Cheryl is a higher ed instructor in the area of digital media. While there were many things that we agreed on throughout the conversation, it was nice to at least reach out of my typical circle of ed-tech advocates and fellow educators. In fact, I’m willing to go on record that if you aren’t consciously seeking out input, dialogue, and meaningful conversation outside your usual followers on Twitter or your PLN then you’re putting yourself at high risk of developing “echo chamber syndrome“, in which good ideas quickly turn to “not so great” ideas, but only seem fantastic because so many people around you are espousing the benefits of some new technological tool, strategy, or edu-thought.

So as parting words, I leave you with one simple, and practical piece of homework… out substantive conversation about a topic intrinsic to education with someone from a different walk of life before the summer is out, and no fair talking about the “sorry state of public schools” either, unless you’re willing to honestly listen to someone’s opinions without jumping down their throat.


  1. I really agree with the comments about the feel of this community – happy joking around – having fun – the “wink” at the end of the Tweet… it really has taken me back to my college years when it felt like this a bit – we had such fun and worked hard, but we were always goofing around with funny things – just carefree in a sense and silly – but fun… clearly not enough of that in the world (or my world) these days. Enjoying the conversation all!

    1. The sense that it feels “like being back in college” might be way the community is so positive. I remember college as being the last place I really had in which I was surrounded with hope-filled, energetic, and amazingly caring people. Once you’re out “in the real world” you have to fight to find that community, but with ds106 it’s just automatic.

  2. We talked about something similar to the echo-chamber syndrome in another class I took earlier this summer. The revelation was that Google (possibly others, too) is customizing search results so as to cater to the information they can gather about you. If you’re signed in with Web History enabled, so much the better – there’s an algorithm for that. But even if you’re not, they can tell so much about you just by what the browser sends to Google’s servers and that goes into the results that they display. As a result, you’re being provided a service by Google – and hardly anyone requests to be thoughtfully and critically challenged, so while we think we’re expanding our horizons by seeking out input (as from our circle of contacts, to go back to what you were talking about), we’re actually taking in information gelded by virtue of that which is known about us. It could be your general location, your browser, your OS – or it could be your friends’ knowledge of your opinions and how best not to inflame them.

    We need strangers. We need people who don’t know about us, because those people will screw up when they talk to us and say something we find offensive – and if we’re really lucky, we won’t clam up and inwardly reinforce our own opinions, but we’ll actually think about them instead.

    1. Commenting on your comment – “We need strangers. We need people who don’t know about us, because those people will screw up when they talk to us and say something we find offensive – and if we’re really lucky, we won’t clam up and inwardly reinforce our own opinions, but we’ll actually think about them instead.”

      I agree… My husband says that the true diversity is that of the mind – and until we can do what Alan suggests, expand our minds and our worlds, then the rhetoric we mouth about appreciating diversity is crap (and he has felt the brunt of that!)

    2. You’ve amplified and clarified a point I’ve been trying to make about Google+, Alan. I already give Google enough information about my web browsing habits, and the Google gremlins already do a great job of trying to connect me with resources that have been shared by those in my PLN as I’m searching, but Google+ seems to take you down further into the echo chamber, allowing you to sort your connections into little tiny echo chambers, thus making it easier for “cross-over” discoveries to appear between your various groups.

      Conversing with strangers is great, and it forces us to be a bit more courteous and polite (at least it does for me). However, a lot of people might shy away from that idea after having been so thoroughly ensconced in their little chamber.

  3. loved the radio show but also struck by your thoughts around the ‘echo chamber’. In the UK I am currently involved in some conversations around the purpose of education – that include a range of different voices across educational sectors. i think this kind of discourse is vital for us to question our own sense of who we are as educators and as learners. See for a misture of approaches – blog posts, flickr mashups and audio interviews… It was intended to stimulate debate in the uk (a grass roots movement) but has already been taken on by other countries too…

    1. Here in the states we’ve been great at having this conversation among various groups within education, but terrible at engaging parents, and other organizations that are tangentially related to education, or have high stakes in education (parents, grandparents, etc.).

      Love that the site you mentioned is using AudioBoo!

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