Caring Is Sharing Is Caring

This week I did several workshops with faculty that I met for the time first time, so I want to update my blog to be a bit more hospitable with the bloggery. Thank you so much for trusting me with your ideas about OER, pedagogy, and the future of your institution, new friends. I see nothing but good things ahead for us. Nice to meet you, dearest faculty.

As readers of my bloggy blog know, I am beyond thrilled to meet people who are interested in open education, and I try to remain true to my roots as a teacher in order to meet faculty where there are about open education. LMS transitions, new initiatives, administrator churn, and the adjunctification of your colleagues is tiresome–this I know. My role with Lumen Learning, as I like to see it, is to make your job easier.

Here’s a confession: I’m mildly horrified that I’m seen as “an expert” when I’m so eager to learn something new from people I’ve never met before. Always. Where the real magic happens for me is when strangers teach me new ideas and we eventually become friends. Colleagues. Comrades. Confidantes. Allies. Learners who trust one another.

As I write this confession, I realize it’s my humble way of saying that I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I’m not sure what the right question is but I’m willing to sit next to you and figure it out. I’m willing to listen until we figure out the right question together.

Let me confess something else to you: I’ve somehow been able piece together a living talking about the one single thing that saved me from myself. The one single thing that made me climb up a mountain of happiness out of a valley of despair. The one single thing that saved me from teacher burnout. The one single thing that I think I did well as a teacher. The one single thing I think succeeded at as an administrator. The one single thing that brought back me to life the writer in me that I had mourned as dead. The one single thing that blew up my network. The one single thing that has helped meet so many incredible people. The one single thing I think will change higher education in my lifetime. The one single thing. The one thing. The only thing.

The one single thing that makes me work harder than I know I should. If you are a faculty member, you may identify with this feeling as being in love with your discipline. It feels like your region of expertise.

Here’s my region, so to speak, summed up in a title of title of book that I’d love to write. Someday.

Open Education Changed Everything For Me: A Memoir

It really started with knitting for me. Knitters are incredibly generous, and I think I caught the contagious sharing bug by investigating the communities of Ravelry. The fabric of transformative change is a story that we weave together. As a community.

So let’s talk about how it’s fun to plan as a community.

Let’s talk about what you might be planning as a faculty member. What you are planning as a teacher. What you are planning. Your plans. Your teaching.

When I’m not working, I try to read as much as possible. You do too, right?

Have a book suggestion? Share it with me! I picked up a book recently titled Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger and I’m 100 pages in. So far there isn’t anything Earth shattering that I didn’t already know (Merci beaucoup, English Literature teachers. Once you’ve read Proust and Nabokov, what can really surprise us about existence, am I right?)

Berger’s book is a quick read, as I would’ve said when I worked at a bookstore. So far, there are two points that I think are worthwhile. One rooted in capitalism (which I have a hard time finding palatable) and the other rooted in networking (which I love). When I look at the Library of Congress categories for this book, it reads as follows:

  1. New products 2. Consumer behavior 3. Popularity

Berger mentions the vente privée, or the exclusive french company who embraced the online private sale (p. 52). Stay with me for a minute perhaps you were not one of the Favor’i des Internautes’–moi aussi.

In the book, Berger gives several examples about creating the illusion of scarcity for consumers. My mind goes to horrid images of people stampeding one another at big box stores for a sale television during the holidays. Long lines during the Friday before holidays. Consumer behavior that disgusts me, I’ll admit. Saddens me. Pas moi.

However, it’s interesting to note that the vente privée makes people feel like “insiders” which connects to their sense of social currency. People like to feel special. How do we feel special? By sharing something with somebody else. Lo and behold, I know a smarty pants who tells faculty all the time that education is sharing. It’s a thing that makes people feel special. People like to feel special. We like to feel like we are the chosen one.

What if the vente privée feeling was about a good idea for teaching? Only the resources aren’t scarce. In fact, the ideas are so damn abundant on the internet that they can be difficult to harness.

When I think of the faculty who have really succeeded with OER, they felt special. Like they were on a mission. Like they had something unique to contribute to the world. Like they were the ones. Like The One. The felt joy of seeing their work used and remixed by somebody else is something special to witness. They felt the joy of feeling chosen to do this work. It’s contagious. It’s worth sustaining.

Berger writes:

Making people feel like insiders can benefit all types of products and ideas…The mere fact that something isn’t readily available can make people value it more and tell others to capitalize on the social currency of knowing about it or having it (57).

This feeling, he writes, is a source of motivation. For me, my motivation is to someday experience a workshop where I did not have to explain to a faculty member that there are no OER for their discipline.

There is always one discipline where there is nothing readily available. Not even a failed repository. Nada. Rien. They either lose interest or they become motivated to create something. They want to feel special by contributing. By creating. Something.

The next point that I’m just now getting to in Berger’s book is a reference from The New York Times article “The Mysterious Cough, Caught On Film” by Denise Grady. Berger describes her ethos as a writer as someone trying to give readers “just a little bit of that excitement that she had felt back in chemistry class decades before. An appreciation for the magic of scientific discovery” (95).

The rest of Berger’s book can turn to complete crap and I’ll still find it worthwhile to have read the following sentence as it relates to why Grady’s article went viral:

When we care, we share (96).

When we care about education, we share.

When we feel special, we share.

It’s happy feeling that makes us feel special. That’s contagious, right? That’s worth sustaining right?

Truth be told, I dwell in Possibility.

About Alyson Indrunas

Always learning about instructional design, educational technology, professional development, adult education, and writing.
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