Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More perspective

Last night, I participated in a phone interview with Kristina Schneider for her Master's dissertation on blogging. Before the interview, she sent me her list of questions to help me focus my thinking.

During the course of the interview, I mentioned my ongoing concern for the fact that some people's voices are excluded from this space. I fear we are sometimes in danger of being somewhat self-congratulatory when we gather together in our electronic spaces and tackle the challenges that commonly face us. I wonder if we aren't just a little "holy huddle-ish" - choosing to ignore the challenges facing those who don't have the means to join us in this space (the video clip I included in yesterday's post reminds us how few people actually have internet access). I have niggling doubts at the wisdom of pushing the leading edge further and further forward while leaving the trailing edge ever further behind - especially since most of those with whom I come into contact are vocally opposed to the same model in relation to material wealth. Why then, does it make sense to adopt this model in terms of knowledge wealth? Are we/am I being hypocritical? Speaking in gravely sympathetic tones about those who endure deprivation, only to take every opportunity use the tools at our/my disposal to widen the gap between them and us/me?

Last night, I very nearly lost my elder son as the fan heater in his room burnt out and filled his room with noxious smoke. It just "so happened" that I opened his door to look in on him and discovered this situation. Since my husband is abroad, I had to battle alone to wake him and get him out of the room and then go back into the room to unplug everything and ensure that there was no further danger of the house burning down around my ears. Even that short period of exposure brought on an asthma attack for me, and I had no idea how long he had been breathing in that toxic smoke.

I took him outdoors to breathe the clean, cold air and, as he sat there, looking in sleepy confusion at me as I wrapped a second duvet around him, it dawned on me what had just very nearly happened and what might have been. It was as if his life flashed before my eyes, and I began to shake almost uncontrollably.

Talk about a dose of perspective! It could all have burnt for all I cared. My boys were safe. Of course, spending several hours in the A&E department (with both my boys, just in case) of the local hospital gave me plenty of time to stocktake, analyse and assimilate.

Anyone who knows me well will tell you what a learning geek I am. How rampantly and passionately I pursue learning and knowledge. How I grind my teeth in frustration when I lack the capacity to understand some new concept. But it takes something like this to remind us, as trite as it may sound that, in the final analysis, it's about people.

I told Kristina last night how I recently discovered that I have developed a bit of a reputation for being one who vociferously champions the cause of the learner in every project with which I am involved. When I finally got to my desk today, it was to find that last night's erm... little shake-up has served to renew my commitment to this perspective. So, to all those who find themselves working with me on one or the other project... you have been warned ;-)

Kristina asked me if my tendency to leap onto my ever-handy soapbox about the plight of the so-called third worlders was an extension of this attitude and I was forced to admit that it was not. I have been a learner. I am still a learner. I have empathy with the learner's perspective. I have lived in the third world. I have lived side-by-side with deprivation, but I have never been deprived... not in any real sense. My experience has for the most part been purely vicarious. In that context, I was one of the privileged few who had access to very sophisticated services (which I have since come to appreciate were superior to those on offer in much of the first world). So the best I can hope to do is to shine a spotlight of awareness onto the situation when the opportunity arises. To be the one who says "ahem" from time to time. I acknowledge in advance that I am likely to continue to do this - so my apologies (or maybe not) to those for whom this stance has worn a little thin.

I have a lot to be grateful for today!


Christy Tucker said...

I'm so glad that you found your son in time and that he's OK. That's really frightening.

The fact that you can come back a day later and write about it with this perspective on learning, blogging, and technology says a lot about your resilience. I really admire that about you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Christy, I sincerely appreciate that, but I should probably confess that is comparitively easy to come across cool, calm and collected in writing than in person!

Wendy said...

Karyn - I'm so glad that your son (and the rest of your family) is alright. And I agree - at times we lose sight that the most important thing in our lives are the people around us and the networks we build between those people. When something happens to one of those people - it puts the other stuff in perspective.

Educators like you keep the notion that "learning" is a form of bridge-building between people. And remind us that it is not wise to assume that the folks on the other side have the same resources we do to build their half of the bridge.

Please please please take care.

Anonymous said...

Wendy - thanks so much for your kind concern. My husband arrived home from Italy tonight and immediately I no longer needed to carry the load on my own, it dawned on me how exhausted I was.

Rest assured - the heater has been returned to the store. Of course, we promptly realised that the problem was with the extension cable, not the heater at all! Wouldn't you just know it?