This week’s topic for #rhizo15 is “Learning is not a counting noun… so what should we count?” I was reflecting on this as I sat on the plane on my way home from the #et4online conference. Once I landed, and was reading Maha’s blog post while waiting for my ride, I discovered the she too had some thoughts about “count” in her blog post “What Counts for #et4buddy w @rjhogue“. At times, we do truly think alike!
I am reminded of this definition of epistemology from week 1 of my epistemologies course:
“epistemology is a theory of what gets to count as knowledge.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin, 2006, p.332).
I am also reminded about my post on axiology and research – that is, what do you value in research?
You see counting, in both sense of the word, brings to the forefront the idea of value. In research, the questions are: what gets to count as knowledge? What is of value to you?
So, let’s turn this same idea of counting towards learning. What gets to count as learning? What are you giving value to when you are learning?
I just spent the week in Dallas Texas attending the #et4online conference. The first counting question that comes to my mind is how much I paid to attend – roughly about $1300 USD, but I cannot even begin to measure the value that I received by attending the conference. I attended the three keynotes/plenaries, a workshop, two career sessions (practitioner and scholar), and four concurrent sessions (teacher tank, et4women, et4messy, and c/xMOOC). In addition to attending these session, I also tried to present a discover session (didn’t go over too well, because the format wasn’t conducive to face-to-face presentation – but you can see and comment on the awesome presentation here: “#rhizo14 Collaborative Autoethnography – Challenges and joys of unwriting the untext“. However, perhaps the most valuable activity I partook in was the #et4buddy pilot project. This was an idea that myself and Maha Bali came up with and implemented. We describe it here: #et4buddy pilot project at #et4online – how ideas are born – @bali_maha and the recorded interviews and tweets are recorded in a Storify that posted just before writing this post.
The value that I got out of the #et4online conference was the deeper connections that I now have with many of the people I interacted with during the conference. At one point, we realized that we were not exchanging business cards at this conference – the currency that people were exchanging was twitter handles. If you were not already following someone on twitter, then you got their handle and connected with them. In many cases, the conference was about meeting the people you had interacted with over twitter – it was about connecting you with your twitter friends. Being connected with Maha meant that I was also connecting with her twitter friends. I had deep meaningful conversations with so many people. In part, this was because I had more social capital this year – that is, more people knew who I was. Part of this reason for people knowing me was my other blog – BC Becky – Those who followed my vary authentic journey through breast cancer treatment wanted to reach out to me. I was also more connected because of Maha’s social capital. Her desire to visit with people at the conference meant that I was pushed out of my comfort zone to seek out these people with whom I had no prior connection. It meant that I too made new connections, which are definitely deeper than any connections I have made at previous conferences.
Then, to top it all off, my flight home got cancelled. I was at the airport at 8pm on Friday, with no hotel reserveration. Fortunately, one of the most valuable things from this conference is my new friendship with Whitney Kilgore (a connection that was made at a previous conference, but was only a loose acquaintance until I announced that I was coming to Dallas, and she offered to pick me up at the airport). I texted her that my flight was cancelled and she drove back to the airport to pick me up and take me home for the night. It was wonderful to be able to experience a little more of her world. We are kindred spirits. It kind of makes me glad my flight was cancelled.
The #et4online conference was perhaps my best ever conference experience. This was not because of the content, but rather because of the connections. The value in the conference was in being part of the community. I even enjoyed some karaoke (laughing so hard my belly ached and crying because I so needed to laugh).
What did I learn at #et4online? I learned that I value connections much more than I value knowledge. I was more interested in talking to people, to making real connections with them, then I was in learning about the latest tool or emerging technology. For me, the conference wasn’t so much about Emerging Technology for Online Learning – it was about fostering new and deeper friendships. That is what gets to count as learning for me!