Order the Chaos

Yesterday I wrote this post, but I forgot to post it…

Yesterday, Doug said that I tend to bombard people with ideas, which overwhelms them. He told me that I need to start resurfacing my ideas, and making connections for people, so they can see the big picture. He told me to stop moving onto the next thing before people have grokked the work I’ve already done and how their work links to it.

Control the Kaos! (Ahem, I’m not old, just retro.)

That’s not how Doug’s feedback hit me at the time, I processed it. It was good feedback.

When I got quiet, Doug said “I wasn’t trying to piss you off,” but I was just processing, reflecting, trying to stand in his shoes.

Yesterday, I was presenting a sort of napkin sketch I had put together. In my mind the sketch was pretty worked out. I had documented the way that I would do a particular thing, the plan that I would put in place, and to me it was clear enough that someone else could take it and build it.

As the meeting continued, I realized that my colleagues couldn’t see the picture I saw in my brain. My napkin sketch didn’t demystify the system. I didn’t order the chaos in my head well enough for them to connect the dots.

When I got quiet, someone said “Laura, you look very concerned,” but I was just processing, reflecting, trying to stand in their shoes. Apparently I make faces when I’m trying to understand other people’s minds.

Yesterday, I posted something in the connected courses forum for Unit 3: The World Wide Web – From Concept to Platform to Cultures, and
Jeffrey Keefer said

That is one of the things I am struggling with in #ccourses anyway; what central hub to go to when I get behind and somewhat disoriented. Good thing for me to consider, now that I am considering it, as I hope this exercise helps to sensitize me more to my students who may also feel disoriented at times.

When I got quiet, I processed that statement and equated the disorientation with fear of the chaos, the need for order, and I started to reflect on how my understanding of order may be different from other people’s understanding.

I think this fear rears it’s ugly head when you’re learning about technology, and we tend to look at people who “can computer” as being gifted in some way. We think “I could never do that.”

I’m failing because I am not ordering much of my work in a way that other people can understand. I can’t see where the disconnect is so I’m not sure how to fix it.

I think not being able to see is something we struggle with when we’re learning about technology, and just like in any other situation it cripples us with frustration. We think “I’m never going to learn this!”

I’m failing because I’m not doing well at helping people order their things so that we can link our work together.

I think we don’t help each other enough. In anything. But that might be another story altogether.

I’m failing and it hurts, but at least I’m learning. Now I can push myself to figure out how I have to present things so that people can see the connection, so that they can understand the system. I am not a finisher, but I have to learn how to pull my ideas further.

When we’re learning, we have to be brave. Learning is chaos, and chaos can be scary, yes, but I think any system can be tamed, ordered, reigned in. I have to learn to order the chaos in my brain better, and be brave enough to keep failing.

Order the Chaos

9 thoughts on “Order the Chaos

  1. I used to come from the camp that if your user had to make a navigational inference then you had a problem with instructional design.

    That mantra may not work in open classes where folks have to step in and out of the stream in order to survive.

    Still a basic module template for #ccourses may help a little bit. There seems to be three elements each module. Synchronous (but recorded) netcasts, some required reading, and some suggested reading.

    There is a lot of extra verbage and lack of headers to make this explicitly clear to users. Then since the prompts to responding are open and folks choose different readings you have to explore deep caverns for connections.

    When a little more structure is added there seems to be more of a community. For example the daily makes get the most action (they also take the most minimal engagement with content) and the find a nugget of knowledge request after your last netcast lead to an explosion of pieces. It was nice to have a common conversation across the aggregated blogs rather than the disparate discourse.

    My suggestion: simplify and templateify the module page. More copy=more confusion. Maybe even upvote one of the readings as the primo text for the module.

    You can be open without chaos. I would say the same thing to Doug but I never know which of his fourteen blogs I am supposed to use to comment.

  2. I don’t think you’re failing Laura. You’re doing the opposite of failing, as far as I can see. :-)

    Failing is when you do something, it turns out differently than you expect, and you give up.

    Winning is when you do something, it turns out differently than you expect, and you get the outcome you want in a different way.

    I read somewhere recently that you should spend 50% on ‘work’ and 50% on ‘gaining traction’. I think that’s good advice. :-)

  3. I have 2 feelings:
    1) people are rarely interested in you – they are interested in them. So no point giving them solutions to what they can’t see as potential problems.

    2) people need to be able to find others/objects they can identify with rather than worship/be stunned by.

  4. Woah retro girl; you are being way to hard on yourself. You have a way of thinking that is natural to you and perhaps different from others around you. It’s certainly important to stop and refrain for people but it’s not failing.

    First of all, these are not students, and it sounds like a brainstorming session. But in either situation there is some amount of responsibility on the people you are talking to let you know if they don’t understand, it can’t be all on you to check their understanding.

    There are things you can do to check in for understanding (which is what I infer from the way you describe Doug’s feedback); and believe me I know the story when students are looking at you and acting like the get it.

    Ordering chaos is an illusion; you can only cover small portions of it.

    I agree with Greg on his points on ccourses; but it’s really more of a seminar than a course, and since all participation is optional the notion of assignments is not the same. In the planning there was a structure to have each units have tangible “makes” but they seem overwhelmed by the optional readings/references. When I teach ds106 the weekly assignment posts tend to be long, but I always ended with a more or less checklist of what I expected (these are of course for registered students; this is a difference with an open course where all participants are volunteers).

    Just drop the shoe phoen and drop the failure talk!

  5. Alan,

    Interesting how everyone levitated to “what do I have to read” instead of “what do I have to make” for each module.

    Though I find them so tangibly connected. It easier to make when you get ingredients from content first. …or maybe we have been so trained that learning is linear and it starts with consumption.

    In my own classes going on now (I have been reading blog posts non-stop) I am looking for that sweet spot between order and Chaos. I need to find my Agent 99.

    In one class (I was trying to limit tool use) the blogs seem more like a collection of artifacts than student writing. It is a hybrid class. The blogs are not enjoyable nor do they reflect what I would call common social practices among bloggers.

    In the same class (f2f plus blogs) the writing is more rich. I do give some prompts, “Should we level texts in the language arts classrooms.” I am enjoying the writing in this class. The prompts seem to support the analytical thinking and sourcing I want to see.

    In my New Literacies: Digital Texts and Tools for Lifelong Learning class students have to complete two blog posts a week. One is an analysis of the readings (they choose one) and the other is a reflection on themselves, learning, and social media/technology. We share artifacts and blog posts in a Google+ Community. I have also sent everyone a link to my rss feed.

    Here the writing is starting to develop. I am trying hard to share exemplar texts and model what I consider important practices of bloggers.

    Where to go from here:
    Keep stealing ideas from Alan.
    Keep stealing ideas from connected courses
    Maybe ditch the social network in its entirety. It looks more like a submission systems than a community right now.
    Use only blogs but create categories or tags for posts and one for assignment.

    Not sure. I always feel I am getting my design choices wrong. I tweak them each semester, but the students are still happy and demonstrate some knowledge growth.

    So there is always success in failure.

  6. Hey Laura,

    Reflection is a help with any course, everyone has their own style of teaching, leading and contributing, but everyone has to groove it their own way. Like Alan said: “You have a way of thinking that is natural to you and perhaps different from others around you. It’s certainly important to stop and refrain for people but it’s not failing.”

    That process of being on the other side of the mirror in teaching is a good one. Seeing what other people see of you, is really incredibly powerful. It can make you stronger, it is good to see the boundaries that others might have. I know for myself that kind of outwards focus that leads me towards working on the edges of many things at the same time. I get so juiced up on starting things, I easily forget what it looks like from the outside.

    I cannot count the times that I have launched into an idea or described a session that I wanted to run with people, and only then noticed a sort of wild look of fear in the eyes of my participants / victims :) But I would not give that up for a second, even if it did mean that the things that I planned were more likely to be ‘successful’ straight-away.

    Sometimes I have to remember that in the mix of things going on around me there are roles, either as a facilitator, contributor, mentor or learner. But I cannot help the instinct to always get mixed up in each one, and even if I tried I would find it hard not to keep switching between each of them in order to work around and with other people. I like to make up my own ways of doing stuff. Nearly everything in fact, it is just how I learn :)

    So don’t be hard on yourself. You bring so much to so many people, and should never forget that. Every person you teach, inspire and bring into your world knows that too, maybe even more than you will know :) Beleiving in what you do, and in how you try to do it in so many ways for everyone is always something of a process of doubt. But do not doubt yourself, you are awesome.

    Here is a little thing I found really inspiring lately, it is a poem from UK poet George, it is called ‘All Existence is Contribution’. :)


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