It’s incidental, not integral, if you know what I mean…

It’s incidental, not integral, if you know what I mean…

Cover of the Harold and Maude video, showing l...
Image via Wikipedia

This is one of my favorite quotes from Harold and Maude, which is one of my favorite movies. It is from the scene where Maude is showing Harold all of the things she has collected. She is explaining to him that for as much stuff as she has laying around, none of it is essential to her life, that if everything went away, she would still have  what is important to her.

The reason why I have been thinking about this quote a lot recently is that this is what I would like to see us adopt as a mantra for every new tool that we encourage someone to take up. For as good as Slideshare or Voicethread are, there is almost no chance that they will be around forever. These things that we have collected and even subscribed to cannot be the basis for what we are trying to do. At least, they cannot be the basis for me.

I would like to say that at the end of the day, anything that I create or collect is not the end all be all of Learning. I would like to be able to say that if you stripped away all of the tools and stuff that I use on a daily basis that I would still have something to stand on. I would still have a purpose in creating change in schools.

So, with that in mind, I am going to be taking a critical look at what I am truly dependent upon for my learning. Do my theories of connected learning still hold up you take away Twitter. Could I still learn if Google Reader was no longer. If WordPress stopped updating and I had to settle for exactly what I have right now, would that be enough to create the types of environments that students and adults need in order to be truly successful learners.

I believe so. I believe that if all of our tools were going to fall flat on their faces tomorrow and the amount of support for them would dry up considerably, we would be able to continue to create change because of what we have learned through the connections we have made.

I think it is because I am coming more and more around to the idea that the truly amazing part of Authentic Learning is not the connection you make with information, the way that you aggregate it or making meaning of it. In fact, the most important part of Learning is the connections that you make with the people: the ones that sustain you and make sure that you have all of the resources you need. It is truly the people that add value in a Personal Learning Network and not the tools.

I know this is nothing revolutionary to say, but it is the first time that I have really felt this to be true. As much as I have denied the tools’ importance, until I figured out that it is the link sent from one person to another or the wonderful compliment paid to a colleague that keeps me going, I never really understood just how my learning worked.

So, if my delicious account were to vanish tomorrow, it is by the power of the people I have connected with that I would be able to piece it back together. That is why I do what I do. That is why I blog and think and connect and try to create change.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


  1. Leslie Maniotes

    Well put, Ben! Can I send you a copy of my book? I would love your feedback. Though it assumes that a school is pretty much structurally what it is today, it extends the learning and how to learn outward in important ways for our work. Have you read Malcom GLadwell’s article in the New Yorker about what makes a good teacher? He has some REALLY interesting points. His thoughts on student/teacher interaction are particularly key…and not far from what you are saying here…then he goes on to reinvent the teacher training process. Great food for thought!

  2. Ben,

    Very apropos to my day today. What we connect to in the end is less and less about the technology, or for that matter the textbook. I had the opportunity today to present to a group of teachers and share ideas, problems, solutions, and laughs. Yes, we were showing them tools that would accomplish some of the tasks they had in mind, but we were also building relationships for future support and learning.

    I can’t help but wonder, though, would I still want just my local connections?

  3. Ben Wilkoff

    @leslie I would love to read your book and give you feedback. Thanks so much for your encouragement. I am going to look further into the articles you mentioned. Let’s have another meeting soon.

  4. Ben Wilkoff

    @patrick I don’t think that we will ever have to give up our larger community, no matter how many tools we lose because people can’t find a way to monetize Web 2.0. The whole point of networked learning is that the connections can come from anywhere. We are looking for value, not location.

    I do think that the following question is a good idea to ask, though: Where does our network live?

Leave a Reply