Friday, July 31, 2009

Flannel Shirts

Searching for one thing invariably leads to looking for something else. The last few weeks I've heard mention of edupunk in several different contexts. So I thought I'd try to wrap my head around the concept, see where it intersects my own thinking and where I might find issue with it.

I became a teenager in the late 1960s. My sister, 5 years my senior, is visiting us now. She describes herself when she attended college then as a hippie, seemingly spending her entire junior year in protest. I came of age in the aftermath. When punk rock emerged, I was in grad school. Mostly, I was oblivious to the culture (and still am). I did have a general sense that punk rock was a bit "in your face." I could do without in your face.

I did a google search on "edupunk definition" and followed some of the links there, first going to the Wikipedia page with the Jim Groom picture. This appears to me as validation of my stereotype. Then I alight on Alec Couros' post, with a different image, a stylized version of the guys my sister knew when she was in high school and college, but carrying a Mac. Couros' first topic heading is non-conformity. I have this bad have that when I don't understand something I shortchange the process and go into pedantic mode. That happens here and I start to fixate on the picture and non-conformity. It's certainly not a preppie look. Maybe it's counter-culture. But non-conformity? No.

I'm aware of this limitation in my own learning, so I try to get past it. I go to the About Page and there is a picture of loving dad with cute kids. There is no in your face; rather gentleness is conveyed. I read the full post and still no in your face. The discussion too is gentle, compassionate. On the core points, I too am Do It Yourself about using the technology, so similarity there. On commercial software; I'm probably more than a bit different (my post about Blackboard and D2L and the patent case case showing some alignment, but this other post about PowerPoint getting a bum rap casting more of the blame on the user than on the technology itself). These differences seem to me more like varying shades of gray than like opposite poles of the universe.

I start to puzzle over the picture. Couros talks about himself in 10th grade. He had a mohawk haircut and trouble at school. I start to ask myself whether we need images of ourselves as learners to facilitate our own learning. I scratch my head about this for a while. When we are most intensely learning, we often completely lose sense of self and also become unaware of our environs. Others who are not quite so engaged may come to our aid to protect us from intrusions, directing us perhaps to where the meal is served or first where to cross the street to get to the meal, enabling us to stay fully in tune to flow.

Couros, however, is not identifying a picture of himself as learner today. The image appeals to a nostagalic sense of self, how we were as learners when we were teens. I think not so much of myself but my friend Lenny. He wore clodhoppers (high top hush puppies) courdoroy pants and a flannel shirt over a tee shirt. This was the nerd uniform. I also thought about my personal symbol of the intellectual - wire rim glasses, the type that wrap around the ear, taking them off a signpost of deep intellectual struggle. I affected much of this look over time. Sometimes I wore a sportscoat with patches on the elbow. And sometimes I'd swap out a mock turtlneck for the flannel shirt. This was only variations on a theme, not an entirely different genre.

Was this look for me as learner or to convey to others that I was nerd? I'm not sure. There is no doubt, however, that it emerged from deliberate choice. That's the part to ponder about more. It seems to matter. But why?

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