Friday, September 23, 2011

The tale of the 'achingly beautiful' and 'sad' Tweet

My engagement with the MOOC has taken a big leap forward because it has helped to increase my confidence and experience in the e-environment. I am already convinced of the value of participating in the MOOC because of this. It has helped to break down my threshold of resistance and fear of going on-line. But, as I mentioned in my previous blog, now I've gotten over my initial resistances its turning out to be fun. Like a game, I'm learning some rules and skills as I go, by trial and error. I think the capacity for fun, the capacity to have fun and its connection with learning is under-rated because fun is, at least partly, a mode of emotional engagement. Its a bit like 'flow' the creative state where you have the wonderful experience of being absorbed in something and forgetting about yourself for a while. Emotions are important in learning, in creativity and in the on-line environment as I happened across recently.

In my non-MOOC Twitter stream, someone reTweeted a post by David Dobbs (@David_Dobbs) a writer who included a link to what he described as an 'achingly beautiful' and 'sad' review in the NYTimes Book Review of a book about Ernest Hemingway (sorry I still havent taught myself how to include the direct link here - you can get it via David Dobbs Twitter and link to his blog, if you're really keen.)  I immediately started following him because he had used those words and tweeted to tell him so, but only because my confidence has increased in the on-line environment through participation in the MOOC. I wasn't expecting a reply - I  just wanted to let him know I responded to those words.

About an hour later another Tweet from David Dobbs came through to all his followers saying thanks, and that he had had amazing reaction to the Tweet about the Ernest Hemingway review. My theory is that it generated so much interest because it had the words 'achingly beautiful' and 'sad' in it and that lots of other people had been attracted to it for the same reasons as me. One of my favourite Tweeters is Maria Popova at Brainpicker because she loves things she recommends, she adores them, she swoons over them, she is moved by them and I respond. Enthusiasm goes a long way with me. Of course there's a danger that emotion can be manufactured and faked quite easily online but for the time being, at any rate, I like to think its a relatively authentic space - at least until its more comprehensively colonised by marketeers and profit-mongers.

I suppose as far as teaching and learning goes, explaining to people that getting involved in on-line learning and getting into the on-line environment is likely to be fun -  rather than something they 'ought' to do in order to keep up -  might attract people, curious people, who like playing but don't like being told what they 'ought' to do.  But it won't work if you're faking it. The on-line environment at the moment IS surprising, amazing, unpredictable, as well as frustrating. Continuing my metaphor theme, its a wild, untamed, unruly place - the technical and intellectual equivalent of an undiscovered continent: we don't know what it is yet. I'm talking about the on-line environment in general here but it also applies to the MOOC environment.

The best teachers are ones who are passionate about what they do - hardly a radical idea but one that deserves closer attention for the relationship between emotions and the life of the mind and learning. As is probably not surprising to some, I'm also a fan of Antonio Dimasio who wrote 'Descartes Error'. Descartes was wrong - its not that 'I think therefore I am'; its that 'I feel, therefore I think and connect.'



  2. you could just type or past the link you want to insert in the text. people can copy that to their browser.
    more in the help text

  3. Jennifer.
    As I close the forty browser windows I have opened in an attempt to keep up with all the things I want to read about, engage with, discuss, ponder- I come across a window with your post in it.
    I don't even know how I came here. Probably twitter, perhaps the site. But I kept this window open for days beyond initial click because of that title: "achingly beautiful and sad". I am drawn to those words because life is like that and I resonate with anyone who can explain to me why those words resonate or can give me more examples of achingly beautiful and sad things.
    I also love brainpickings, how much she has improved my outlook.
    Finally, I think the resistance to passionate teaching is the vulnerability that brings to the classroom. You have to show yourself, unmask the pretense; it is a scary thing but when done, yes, it is so powerful.
    Thanks for your post.
    (finally a tech note: if you go to the site you want to link to, copy the address from the address bar, come back to your blog and highlight the text you'd like to link. There is a little button that looks like a chain link that means hyperlink. It has green blob behind it which I think is supposed to be an earth, as in world wide web. It is the fifth button from the right. Click this and a little window appears, paste the link in. hope this helps!)
    Keep writing, this is good stuf :)

  4. Thanks for your feedback. I'm glad you responded to the words in a similar way to me it seems. Thanks for tech feedback too. I hope I'll be able to put it into practice.