The global nervous system worked like a champ

One view of conceptacularity

I’m exhausted, so I won’t be able to do anything like even the most superficial justice to the experience–but I want to note it now, before this magic moment subsides.

I’m at OpenEdTech 2010, sponsored by the Open University of Catalonia. For the last two and a half days, thirty educators from around the world (India to Canada to the US to Spain to Jamaica–you get the idea) have been working, laughing, cooking, eating, and dreaming together about how we might help to build online learning spaces that support and inspire the joy of learning. We seek to co-create online learning spaces that are just as memorable and magical as those places on a physical campus that embed themselves into our experience and weave themselves into the texture of *alma mater*.

We just had our summary session. Tonight we will eat together once more, then disperse to our scattered homes. But not quite yet. There’s time for one more reflective journey before the miles come between our company.

As we were finishing the last intensive bit of group work before that summary session, I suddenly knew what I must do. I must contact my young colleagues at Baylor. These colleagues, as fine a conceptacular crew as one could wish for, had a perspective on this “joy of learning” question that simply must be part of our discussion in Barcelona. So I set about convening them, virtually, and put the question to them for their consideration and expression.

As a result, ten of the eleven students in the class (yes, students are my colleagues, and each others’–at least, that’s been my experience for twenty years) blogged their responses to the question. They were thoughtful, playful, energized, focused, imaginative. Our work together in the New Media Seminar had prepared them well to think about online learning in large terms, a la Engelbart, V. Bush, Nelson, etc. They made fascinating distinctions and ingenious suggestions. They got superbly artful with their linking (one strong mark of a master blogger, in my view). The quest was on. And mirabile dictu, they began commenting on each other’s blog posts just about as quickly as they could be written. They built out stunning examples of how individual depth and social breadth could also, and very quickly, become individual breadth and social depth. E pluribus unum–and the reverse, however that might look in Latin. 🙂

And then I shared the responses with my colleagues in the room in Barcelona, half a world away, yet intimately connected in the global nervous system Jon Udell so eloquently describes in this podcast. The room got very quiet. It was magical.

I confess to you: I love my colleagues, my students, my conceptacular fellow-travelers. I love how quickly they responded, how well they entered into the sustained conversation, how they conversed with me and each other and, today, the world. I am proud to be among them.

If you’re of a mind, please visit their blogs and leave some comments. Comment love, we call it, and not idly, either. Start with our motherblog to get the range of the conversation. Then click over to the individual blogs, listed here, to interact with the posts my colleagues contributed on this very special day:

The first time I saw the mother of all demos, indeed the first time I read Engelbart, I quickly intuited that days like today were made possible by his vision. More than that, I somehow understood–I honestly don’t know how–that days like today would be part of that same dream of augmentation, that dream of how the world could be that I first brushed against when I read of life in an integrated domain and the conceptual framework that could make it possible, even likely. This is my experience, no doubt not shared by all, but undeniably part of the fabric of which I continue to be woven. That noosphere Engelbart and others saw on the distant horizon, the summation that Jon describes so very beautifully and urgently, is ours for the asking, now.

So why not ask for it? No, that’s not strong enough. Why not insist on it? Look at my young colleagues’ work and the joy that carries it aloft like sweet incense. Can we not answer that joy with open hearts and minds of our own?

8 thoughts on “The global nervous system worked like a champ

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  3. I like your students Gardner–they have lots of good ideas and an awareness of some of the difficulties in making this happen. These ideas underscore the importance of fast broadband connections for all — something that should maybe be a utility rather than controlled by for-profit companies.
    I like the MMO learning environment idea with quests and rewards for each level and leveling up as students/faculty gain mastery. I’d like to see NMFS_10 do a real time face to face via webcam class.

  4. Mirabile dictu, indeed! It is now eightish years since you were my professor for Shakespeare’s Early Plays at MWC and though I consider myself relatively technologically aware, I feel old when I read about things like second life and approach the idea of a virtual university with a bit of “what crazy things are the kids doing these days?” skepticism.
    Yet reading your students’ blogs makes me think otherwise. It’s both the content of the suggestions and the level of interaction that strike me. And isn’t that a big part of the love, after all? The giddy communal experience of discovering something that wasn’t known before? It’s all over these posts and comments.

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  6. Hola!!! Thanks for inviting your colleagues to join us -virtually- in Barcelona, it was a fabulous experience when you announced their comments during the meeting (it gave it a new dimension, erasing all distances, and adding plenty of “engagement”). Really enjoyed reading each of the comments!

    And I selfishly have taken notes, as there are some GREAT ideas and thoughts, I will share them with the team in Barcelona 😉

    Let’s stay in touch!

  7. That was beautiful to go back and read- I’ve been so out it between the trip back from Spain and losing 9 days with the barking cough I came nome with.

    It was beautiful in the open honest ness of the student’s writing- they are really writing for themselves, not a teacher audience.

    It was beautiful for the immediacy of it, bless the network, and quite not all the speed one student wants, it was fast. When ever could you bring your student’d ideas into a meeting around the world.

    It was beautiful because it was candid, and real, and what the whole meeting (warning warning 20/20 hindsight warning) should have had built into it.


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