Ok, so humor me for a minute here…
Here’s what I LOVE about reading on the Web, when I get into a link flow that dances me from blog to blog, post to connected post and comments, and after about 20 minutes of just letting myself be carried away by the threads of conversations I land on something that makes a small part of my brain blow up in wonder. (This is also, by the way, something that I think too many of us fight when we read online, this idea that if we just let ourselves get caught up in the link trip, reading snippets here and there, scanning there and here, that we’re not really reading deeply somehow. Like my seventh grade English teacher Mrs. Tharp is on my shoulder shaking her head in disdain. It’s just a different depth, I think.)
So bear with me as I try to capture this: somehow I got to Sarah Stewart’s post on the Connectivism course and hopped from there over to this mind-bending post at Mike Bogle’s blog which led me to graze around his site a bit to find this post which sent me to this conversation about Open Educational Resources on Brian Lamb’s site which led me to this comment by Mike Caulfield which provoked me to search for and find this very cool concept of Rip-Mix Learners. Setting aside the beauty of that idea, let’s reflect for a second on that process, one that I’d bet most teachers would dissuade their students from practicing. At every point, my decision to click was motivated by an interest for context, for moving more deeply into the one idea in the maze of stuff that was pulling me most at the moment. I didn’t read half of these posts in their entirety, nor do I feel the need to go back and do so. If I had, I most certainly would not have ended up where I did. And while I know that I just as easily could have ended up someplace even better, I let my interest drive the narrative, not the expectations.
While I’m not suggesting I understand fully the implications of reading in this way, I do know that these flow moments are, on balance, a good thing. I love being lost in it. And it’s almost as if I’ve done this enough to know that if I just give myself to it, the thing I’m supposed to find and learn will eventually make itself known, like it’s finding me somehow. Ok, that may be a bit over the top; suffice to say it’s Zen in a way that I wish all of my moments were.
…this concept of Rip-Mix Learners has my brain taking off in all different directions.:
Rip Mix Learners is a student-run Open Courseware project, in which students make audio recordings of the lectures, compile class notes, and other materials and share them with their peers online.
I’m thinking “Rip-Mix Classrooms” or “Rip-Mix Workshops” or heck, “Rip-Mix Conferences.” I’ve been railing of late at all the paper note talking conference attendees whose observations and reflections and experiences will never be connected after the conference ends. And I know that we’re already doing this to some extent on the conference level and the classroom level (i.e. Darren’s scribes and others.) Problem is, most schools would probably attempt to shut this down and call it cheating, especially if, as this group is doing, they are collecting and adding tests and quizzes to the mix.
Dean Loberg says
I liked your post but I never made it past Sarah Stewartâ€™s post on the Connectivism course. I wandered off into cyberspace.;-)
With this post you have once again put into words something which seems to have been hanging like an elephant in the ether — you’ve articulated yet another elemental shift in the processes of reading & writing. love it! Today I’m working on an article about how diigo can be used to collect highlighted portions of pages, and I wonder if this could fit into the flitting train of thinking, perhaps providing a line of thought breadcrumbs in that seemingly random but in fact intentional path you took through several sites. Did you diigo highlight as you went? collaborators invited… http://schoolcomputing.wikia.com/wiki/Why_We_Like_Diigo
Alan Levine says
I call it link hiking:
where you allow yourself to explore different paths, either with a trail map,making a random choice at a fork in the road, or just bushwhacking through dense forests.
I rarely fail to find gems on these expeditions.
Will Richardson says
Amazing post, Alan. Really good to hear that others do this, recognize the potential in it. Still keep wondering what it all means for the ways in which we approach reading in our schools with our kids. Maybe I’m overthinking it; maybe this will be the reading on the playground learning that schools don’t really need to teach. It would be cool if my kids teachers modelled this in some way, however.
Thanks for the bark.
I like the rip mix concept, but there is not much actually happening on that site. Is it brand new?
I was experimenting yesterday with a module for moodle that allows you to embed a google map (and other things), and then tag locations on that map with videos (or audio) that you have uploaded to add geographic context. Unfortunately, the module had some quirks and did not list the videos other than the most recent, so I don’t know if we can deploy it yet. It did set my mind to racing to the possibilities of what can be done with this ability to embed and create our own “realities” of learning.
Your blog post appropriately sent me thinking in several different directions. The Rip-Mix Classrooms are interesting, but your discussion about following link flows and finding the information you need (even though you donâ€™t necessarily know you need it at first) is what has me really thinking. I would like to encourage my students (5th grade) to do this at times, but many of them are just learning how to predict what a web link will actually do when clicked. They know it will take them to another site, but they arenâ€™t great at predicting what the destination will look like. I want to encourage the type of internet reading youâ€™re discussing because I find that it is often be the most helpful and relevant. However, how would I assess that they are clicking with purpose and not just randomly clicking?
Also, if weâ€™re going to encourage students to read this way, then we definitely need to help them distinguish between the purposes for reading through a link flow and reading specific articles in detail.
Will Richardson says
“Also, if weâ€™re going to encourage students to read this way, then we definitely need to help them distinguish between the purposes for reading through a link flow and reading specific articles in detail.”
No doubt. I think the question obviously, is, should we encourage this? Thanks for the comment.
I stumbled upon (plain meaning) your blog in the very same manner … like a link vagabond … and while only got half of what you said, the picture of the mountain was pretty.
Susannah Azzaro says
Hi, Will. This is my own related tangent off your Zen comment and your hinting at our ability to follow links that serendipitously connect us with exactly what we want/need. It brings to mind some books and movies that go way beyond (yet include) the field of education. I thought you might enjoy.
* Movie – What the Bleep Do We Know? (http://www.whatthebleep.com)
* Power vs. Force by David Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.
* Youtube – Dr. Gregg Braden http://divinesparks.blogspot.com/2008/04/greg-braden.html
“I didnâ€™t read half of these posts in their entirety, nor do I feel the need to go back and do so.”
Right-click, Open target in new tab. (Or middle-click?)
This is what makes Wikipedia dangerous for information addicts. Usually when I go to Wikipedia (when not at work) I end up opening tens of tabs as I work my way through articles. Keyhole spy satellite. Flowchart of education in the United States. Saw IV (movie). List of Missing Persons. Herb Alpert. Streamline Moderne. The Sunsphere. Queens, New York. Kalpana Chawla.
And eventually, some hours later, I’m able to close more tabs than I open, and I trace back through my steps. It’s bittersweet…do I need to know that Chuck E. Cheese is headquartered in Irving, TX, and how the founder of Atari figures into their history? It doesn’t matter what the answer to that question is, because I couldn’t stop doing it if I tried.
Jason Priem says
Around the turn of the decade, I remember there being a fair amount of scholarly work on an effect often referred to as being “lost in cyberspace.” The concern was that learners, distracted by this mass of linked information, would loose the thread of whatever they were trying to learn. A lot of this referenced John Sweller’s idea of cognitive load, suggesting that educators should minimize the demands on learners’ short-term memories.
I like how you approach this phenomenon from the opposite direction: suggesting that cziksentmihaly’s idea of the ‘flow’ experiences better describes what’s going on here. Perhaps being “lost in cyberspace” is more akin to being “lost in thought:” something that we want to encourage, not prevent.
I really like the way you depicted it. This post is an ode to serendipity, you have to be looking for something in order to find something else.
Andy Chlup says
I read the blogosphere exactly as you described and I believe that the filtering skills that we use are critical to the ability to manage the flow of information we receive.
But think about the literacy skill set you have, were did it come from? What knowledge makes it possible for you to have such an effective filtering mechanism?
Do today’s students have the filter pre-built because their immersion in the Web?
Timothy McGee says
I am a ninth-grade English teacher at Forest Hills Northern High School. I listened to you talk at professional development for teachers in Forest Hills a year ago, and you were very interesting. I am taking an online class in Educational technology through Michigan State and that brought me back to your web site. I hope that I get better at creating this Netvibes Page, gathering information, because every time on go online to do this I end up spending a couple hours looking for ways I can use technology to improve my teaching. Andy Chlup, in the above comment, mentioned that filtering skills are critical to managing the flow of information. I am feeling ripped and mixed, and I need to get better at gathering feeds and utilizing the information.
Your blog is great for reading …. yob write like I think and that makes it easier for me to follow. I added your log to my site in Education Networks. You are clearly a 21st century educator and I’m interesting in talking about networking we can do. Jack
Harry Pence says
It seems to me we are talking about two different ways to use the information,browsing (which you describe) and burrowing. Both are useful, and students should recognize when to use each method and be able to use it well. Right now, most students learn to browse, although they may not have developed good strategies. It is a real effort to teach them when to burrow down into a source and get everything possible out of it. When do we use these two different strategies, and how do we teach students to be able to use both strategies?
Carol Arc says
Will – There’s alot to absorb in your post. I guess it’s a result of you dancing from blog to blog. How are you at swing dancing? I have to laugh about JD’s comment. I’d be lost too if I wasn’t semi-familiar with all this jargon and made this part of my life. I think Rip Mix learning has always been around, but the power of 21st century networking/technology has made it more (readily)available. The sharing and distribution of tests and answers has always existed. Haven’t most of us had the opportunity to learn what was on a test given in 1st period prior to taking it later in the day? Teachers could’ve made different tests. Why didn’t they? The creation of Rip Mix is intuitive of the mindset of 21st century user’s; to move forward and use the available resources to connect to a community of people who share the same interests and goals without the waste.
Julene Reed says
I love this concept of the Rip-Mix because I find that I am constantly being diverted while learning new things on the web!
John Grahl says
This may sound odd, but I have difficulty reading so “superficially” (sorry could not think of a different word) and jaunting from topic to topic. It’s not that I do not want to. I actually find myself wanting to click off on another link but I have an even stronger urge to read more thoroughly or in-depth. Possibly it is the early years of training myself to read for complete detailed comprehension (as in a textbook or a deep philosophical work). Maybe I am alone in this, but if not what can we do to become more adept at reading at this “different depth?”
Barbara Cohen says
I’ve been looking for the right terminology to describe an experience I’ve been having recently and “Rip-Mix” may be just the ticket…
Lately I’ve been reading Girls Like Us, a biography of Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. The book is laden with references to specific songs, regions in Canada, neighborhoods in NYC, musicians I’d never heard of, historical events, etc. What I’m finding is that it’s impossible to simply curl up with this book unless I have my laptop right next to me. As I read, I’m listening to snippets of songs in iTunes, looking up locations in Google Earth, searching for photos, reading Wikipedia articles, watching vintage YouTube videos of these performers and listening to to Pandora as the sountrack as I read. I usually read as a way to “unplug” at the end of the day, but with this type of book I’m finding it virtually impossible.
Clearly, it’s time to switch to fiction for my next bedtime reading!
Carol Arc says
I’m a little confused. I understood Rip Mix to be the sharing of courseware (tests, notes, etc) over the internet:-%???
John Grahl says
Some of us were responding to his comments about the dance that he engages in with the Web, the one that sparked you to ask about his ability to swing dance??? I was unaware that we had to keep our comments dutifully focused on the Rip-mix topic in light of the fact that the first three paragraphs were dedicated to his thoughts about meditatively perusing the net. In fact, I found it quite amusing and apropos that his intro to Rip-mix was about dancing from topic to topic, which led Barbara to think about reading Girls Like Us, which in turn caused her to turn to the net to search for photos, videos and tunes which were ripped by someone and put onto the mix we call the net!
I, too, superficially read your blog until something caught my eye. I then went hitchhiking on my way to Rip-mix because it sounded active. It seems they have good intentions of sharing information…but what if the profs don’t want it shared, like test questions? Could this good intention go bad?
According to their page “This is the wiki for Rip Mix LearnERs to create courses and collect educational materials e.g. lecture note, lecture recordings, as well as Previous years Examination and test papers.”
Andrew Kern says
Loved your blog post as it reminded me of how we really think and of how Socrates taught his students. You chase the hare, you find the dinner, right?
It’s never enough and can’t be the only way we educate, but it’s astonishing to me how quasi-rational we’ve made education – which is to say, how disconnected from our actual thinking.
Congrats on your excellent blog!