ePorticulture: An Ecology for Transformation
We are stardust
(Billion year old carbon)
We are golden
(Caught in the devil's bargain)
And we've got to get ourselves
back to the garden
from "Woodstock," by Joni Mitchell
MY GOALS FOR THE DAY
I am here today to luxuriate in learning. I do not have to present. I did not have to prepare. I was able to show up with an open heart and open mind for learning new things. What a luxury!
I immediately liked the term "eporticulture" when it was introduced at a session on eportfolios for global learning. The metaphor of a garden resonates for me: planting seeds; nourishing; harvesting; and enjoying the fruits of one's collective labors. To go along with this idea of gardening, I chose the image of a card I made using rubber stamps, inks, ribbon, embossing and various papers. The image of these simple wild flowers seems to present an idyllic collection of a garden at a generative stage, of an ecology rich in possibilities.
I am curious about what kind of cultural turn will be created in institutions using eportfolios and folio-thinking. What seeds need to be planted? What does it mean to nourish folio-thinking? What sort of transformations will occur at various levels in academic ecologies due to eportfolio use? How will stakeholders either embrace or reject eporticultural transformation, and why? I am curious about disruptions and the politics of such disruptions, fertilizers for the eporticulture. Disruption is a natural consequence of eportfolio use, and politics will naturally shift. I find myself bristling at the thought of those who would block a garden's growth: weeds that choke the flow of creativity and generativity, yet before the day is over I will encounter my own weediness.
Today I want to learn how to let go and flow with the great ideas all around me. I want to experience what Melissa Peet called "the holarchy," a system that powers an organism -- that would be me -- to wholeness based on trust and collaboration. As I relax into the energy of the day, I find that what Peet said is true: "the more I power you to wholeness, the more I power my own...." Here in the wholarchy, connections give rise to patterns that express new forms of coordinated knowledge (Peet). Peet established a culture for the day that is trusting and collaborative, an ecology where we can flourish.
What captures my attention is how people listen, really listen to each other, how they value each other's learning and how eager people are to freely share for the benefit of another learner. In the midst of this I feel small, like a seed, but I know that this environment is very nourishing and that I will return home with a greater facility to grow as a change agent. I attend to thoughts and words all around me and try to capture as much as I can in my notes so I can return to them later, so this experience will not be fleeting but will have some staying power.
Then I realize what challenges me is something that is not flattering. I cringe a bit to admit to it. Perhaps Peet would deem it a "pothole," something that needs to be examined lest creativity be lost. What challenges me is a tension between all the generosity around me, my own generosity in fact, and the weedy corner of my heart that wants to hold on to some of these new ideas myself and not share them with that one particular source of aggravation in my life. I flirt with the superficial sense that I can be smarter than this "other" who is so politically my opposite. I realize that I am battling with hierarchical thinking, and the only way I can really come out on top is to find a way to overcome my stinginess and enact my belief that, as Peet says, "everybody is an educator." Perhaps it is in these very tensions that one can learn something new, in these uncomfortable places of self-honesty that's hard to plow through. Amid the eporticultual utopia of which I am privileged to be a part, I confront a tendency to want to hoard information, and I don't like what I am going to have to do to counter this hoarding. Sharing is the only viable option in this microcosm of conflict if I want to stay in the macrocosm of growth.
The insights that I am having today apply to the rest of my work and life because I do live in a creative kind of tension and get "caught in the devil's bargain." Somehow the intellectual and affective richness that is all around me on this day activates a particle of self-awareness so I realize that I absolutely must take new knowledge home to the-one-who-annoys. I begin to think about what that might look like. My job is to be somewhat of a seasoned collaborator and facilitator. How might I be more patient, more empowering and more gracious as one who learns and teaches? How can I be more generative as a collaborator? What sort of cultural turn do I need to make to integrate the learning of this day and pass it on? How do I get out of my own way in order to become a model as an "ethically and socially just change agent"? (Peet) Further, to return to Peet's most essential of questions, "What is the knowledge we need to know to change the world? Where does it come from?"
I believe that eportfolios represent an academic and cultural turn toward a new epistemology, perhaps even toward a new cosmology if I embrace the vast spaces of knowledges about which Peet speaks. In these spaces, there is no singular, "right" knowledge, but multiple ways of knowing that range from cognitive to affective, from intuitive to tacit to embodied. What has been shared on this day has had a huge impact on me in ways I could not have anticipated, particularly as I have reflected on it.
Based on what I've learned today, I will reflect more deliberately and more often through writing, something I used to do a lot but have not done in a long time. Through this reflection I identified something unsavory. To learn means to be uncomfortable on occasion. To learn means to change. Change is often uncomfortable. Does the seed hurt when it starts to split apart to grow? Does the soil ache when the seed pushes through? Transformation is demanding.
[Here is where I lost everything and had to recover what I could remember. This was exceptionally frustrating.]
Transformation, I believe, begins with our own individual journeys. We need to till our own gardens, but our work can not stop there. We must be inclusive of multiple perspectives and ecologies. The learner needs to be at the center. [Lost material.]
To quote Joni Mitchell, "We are stardust. We are golden." Our learning is stardust. It is golden. Our knowledge is valuable enough for us to collect it and to reflect upon it. [Lost material.] We can indeed journey back to the garden, but to do so requires a commmitment to real listening and attention to essential questions about ways to enhance a cultural turn that values knowledge and inquiry, leadership and transformative teaching and learning.