Monday, February 3, 2014

Uncertain thoughts on #rhizo14

So, week 3 is done, week 4 is upon us in #Rhizo14, and the topic for week 4 is undeclared. So, this is a good opportunity to maybe do a summation of last week.  However, as I was thinking about this topic I was a bit uncertain on how to proceed.  There were many things discussed, and many topics approached in facebook, P2PU and the various blogs.  I guess Jenny and I had the same issue with which thread to pick up and unfold.

Then Jenny brought together the aspect of uncertainty and jobs:
Nowadays, many people, if not most, will have a number of jobs during their career. There is no certainty that they will be able to stay in the same job or even in their own country throughout their working lives. And we know that in many aspects of society, change is coming at us much faster than it ever has in the past.
This got me thinking of something Maha wrote:
Now if only I could convince my students that this is actually a good thing in formal (and informal) learning! They would have to unlearn quite a lot. I think maybe thinking of it as serendipity instead of uncertainty would put a more positive spin on things, but that might be misleading because uncertainty also entails risk. It is just that I believe those risks are already there, it is just time to embrace them.

And the gears started churning.  This isn't quite a school-learning thing that it brought me to, but rather a life-learning thing. My frame of reference, as far as work goes, comes from a very traditional, old country, frame: you pick a career and that is what you do until you retire.  I saw this growing up with various immediate relatives, family friends and extended circles. When I was an undergraduate I thought I knew what I wanted to do, and that was to be a computer programmer.  Obviously, that's not where I am now, despite the fact that I enjoy what I do.

Still, I picked a job and kind of stuck with it, until I changed to go and work for a library. Things were pretty certain and stable with my first real job, until I went to the library.  This is where I met my new supervisor who came in with the frame of mind that one ought to change their job every couple of years.  This type of uncertainty was scary given that I had experienced eight years previous of rock solid certainty.  Well, since then, through departmental re-organizations, trading (like soccer players) to other departments, and good ol' fashioned poaching, In the eight years since I moved to the library I've had five job titles, in four departments. If you do the math, it's essentially switching jobs almost every couple of years.  The thing that seemed totally scary at the time when I first encountered it, seems a bit natural at this point in time.  Not because I chased after this uncertainty, but because uncertainty happened, and it was (for the most part) a good thing.

I think that if you chase after uncertainty, Indiana Jones style, you could find yourself in a pickle, but if you embrace uncertainty, go ahead with changes that occur professionally, organizationally, and in the classroom (to tie this back into learning), there are many opportunities for serendipity to come into play. But, in order to take advantage of such serendipitous occurrences, you must be open to the possibility - embrace uncertainty.

Finally to bring this back to some reactions from the blogs this week, I missed the unHangout, but Jenny reports:
Sarah Honeychurch asked in the UnHangout ‘Is all knowledge up for grabs?’ Has the nature of knowledge changed? I can see that this could/would create lots of uncertainty. Is this the really big deal in relation to uncertainty?
This seems like a large philosophical discussion of what is, and what isn't knowledge, and the nature of knowledge.  I don't think that the nature of knowledge has changed fundamentally.  The pace of the information we share has changed to some extent, at least for those of us lucky (or unlucky?) to lead fast-paced lives connected to the Internet 24x7. What we know is a continuous loop of learn, verify, apply, test, and repeat.  We can approach all knowledge with the certainty that this is what we know now, but it might turn out to not be true in the future, at which point we will know something else with certainty.  Certainty, in other words, is in a perpetual state of flux, and that's OK. I am not sure what is meant by "is all knowledge up for grabs?", but if we mean "is it accessible to all?", then the answer is no.  Even if you have all the resources in the world, you still need one resource that isn't malleable: time, so you need to figure out how to allot your time and which knowledge or fields you want to pursue.  But, as we know, we don't have access to everything.  No one library is the library at Alexandria. And even if it were, people still need various literacies in order to gain access to what is written, recorded and photographed.

Your thoughts?
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