Saturday, November 18, 2006

The open hand

When we play cards, the idea is to keep secret from our fellow-players the hand we hold. Not long ago, the same was true of the knowledge we "owned". While card playing hasn't changed much, we have moved to a more generous age in relation to our learning.

Recently, I travelled through to the university campus where I am studying in order to facilitate a mini-clinic in online discussions.

To put this into context:
I don't think I do them a disservice to say that most of my classmates are in their 40s and 50s. There are one or two who may be older, a fair few in their 30s and a mere handful in their 20s. So the class is not exactly overflowing with digital natives! Some of them are still on the fringes of using ICT and one (a classical ballet teacher) had never sent even sent an email message before. One of the requirements of the current module is a certain degree of participation in online discussions. For a few members of the class, this was unknown and scary territory - a place on the map left blank and white and labelled "Heere be dragons ". Understandably, the teaching provided presupposes a certain level of competence. Unfortunately, some of my classmates do not possess this level of competence. Nor do they know how to go about acquiring it. To me, the answer is obvious - I have the knowledge they need and the skills to pass them on. I see no reason for them to continue to struggle for want of something I am in position to provide.

We who inhabit the blogosphere are accustomed to holding our knowledge with an open hand, and having easy access to the knowledge of others, as if playing a game with our cards on the table for all to see and use. Because they do not inhabit the blogosphere, however, my classmates (while grateful) were taken by surprise at my suggestion, and I realised that, a short while ago I might have reacted in much the same way.

It filled me with a renewed gratitude for this community to which I now belong. I have learned so much (and continue to learn, even though I have kept a rather low profile lately, due to time constraints). After even this short time (just over a year), I can't conceive of life without access to the online community - it would be like sensory deprivation.

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