blind men and the elephant

May 3, 2008

Whirling in my head as I went to sleep last night were thoughts about learning. Human learning is social. We are driven as beings to communicate with one another and in communicating and by acting on the world around us: learn. This idea that learning is in our physiology, in our biology is intriguing. National Geographic did a story on this not so long ago. And as I prepare to teach today: assessment, standards, linking assessment and instruction and language difference/ language disability.  I woke thinking: maybe that is it. It is not that Twitter is NOT microblogging. Maybe it is not JUST microblogging.

So, this started me down a path. I started to break down for myself the idea of blog. I used to think of blogging as one way communication: here community, this is what I think and the way I see it. And because of this, it was not for me. I have nothing to say that is not part of a conversation. Ideas I express in an effort to give and take and learn from others what they believe, what they think, and what their unique set of life experiences allows them to see. I heard about the Commenting Challenge this week…and am seeing folks talking about the importance of commenting on blogs. Again, this idea of a two way street, participating in the conversation, and not just your own conversation, but that of others as well.

In prep for class I was also thinking about Bloom’s Taxonomy. In the 1950’s Bloom (among others) recognized a hierarchical nature to knowledge and learning, and that you need a certain amount and quality of knowledge and comprehension to be able to analyze, apply, synthesize and evaluate. In preparing for my day I am recognizing that the first half of the semester has been building and strengthening our knowledge and comprehension about the key concepts of assessment and instruction. In this half we are now evaluating what we know, synthesizing it into dialogue points in which the students themselves facilitate dialogues with small groups to further synthesize all of our thinking on these topics. Thus bringing their own thinking and learning, and the thinking and learning of others, to higher levels.

Maybe THAT is the same with Twitter. It is hard to understand because we often look at the parts, and in so doing try to describe the whole. Maybe it is like the Blind Men and the Elephant. We are all looking at different parts: the share your daily life with friends and family, the side, broad and wide and seemingly never-ending. Share ideas- like the trunk- ropy and strong, but grasping and investigating the new, the possibilities. Share links- like the leg- thick and strong moving upward like a tree trunk, solid, grounded, connected. Share what you are thinking and what you hope- the tail- a rope to hang onto in times of unsurety. A lifeline in times of change.

And when we look at the world through the experiences of the blind men, perhaps we find that what we thought, what we believed… our present partial knowledge… is exactly that. A path into the unknown and experiences that bring us to knowing. Maybe even understanding.

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