New ways to learn the old ways

“This stuff you’re doing is just going back to the old ways.”

This reaction to the Sustainable Living Arts School emerging curriculum is a palpable undercurrent in my recent conversations (or pretty direct when the conversation is with my mother). “Do you really think we’re all going to grow and preserve our own food again?”

The fact that I am (slowly, slowly) attempting to express and reflect on my learning and (even more slowly) connect our efforts to others on the web might suggest that I long for something other than return to a hard-scrabbling battle for food and shelter as my daily lot. But my nascent efforts on the web raise concern and even anxiety in other folks (many of my closest colleagues in the permaculture world). “Why spend your limited time adding to the already overwhelming stockpile of information in the world and not just doing the earth work that needs to be done?”

There I’ve managed to over-simplify everyone’s comments, reflections and challenges to the point of ridicule. The conversations have all been nuanced and reflective. My exaggeration points to my own sense of disorientation. It’s an odd but hopefully creative set of conversational waves to surf; from neo-luddite to techno-fetishist and back again.

Over Christmas I read the novels above, a great lend of books from my friend Gretchen, whose PhD work in Literature explored the social visions in women-authored SciFi. I’ve gobbled this stuff up like candy since I was a kid. My readings have been completely random- kind of like the sci-fi, pocket-book rack at the local library.

My two-week bath in these imaginative works was blissful. Probably because of this stream of reading it has never felt to me like a contradiction that the old ways (I think it’s safe to substitute in “women’s” for old and get at a whole other dimension of resistance, rejection and fear to these traditions and skills) and new ways (story-telling, exploring and learning on the web) might fit together, and even extend the reach and power of what our face to face learning parties can do. That is the great imaginative and practical challenge I see hovering in front of me: to breathe into and express a vision of the future that is very much grounded in what the earth and its creatures can sustain.

But man I feel like I’m sucking at it so far. Time, time, time! I soak up the examples and dream of the kind of amazing learning community can emerge with some good tools and a generous dose of editorial powress and giant enthusiasm. (Wish I could hire me a piratical learning network specialist to get this off the ground.)

Deep breath- this is my pace and that’s got to be ok, maybe even necessary. I feel as time pressured as any work from home mother with very limited outside childcare. Everything I do for the school aka “work” is fragmented between the needs of all my furry creatures (Harry chief amongst them), the demands of our urban house and yard, the needs of my friends and local community (hence the Garibaldi school blogging recently) etc.

Often this blog and the time to reflect and express my own learning comes last. But perhaps that’s an illusion too. I’m trying on the idea that in every moment and every task I take on that the whole of my life’s endeavour is somehow present. There’s no point in organizing a soup-stock learning party for kids and getting all creative on how that can be a kind of engaging social theatre and then serving organic crap out of a can to my boy. Or maybe it just depends on the day what the better choice is?

You wouldn’t know it by reading it- but then again perhaps it’s obvious- that this blog post took 4 hours to write and that I’ve made soup stock and then a good soup from the leftovers in the fridge, brainstormed dinner with my mom who is here visiting and working hard, removed a splinter and administered first aid to a pair of little fingers caught in a mousetrap (don’t put your fingers in there-SNAP), wrote multiple school related emails, and dipped in and out of the conversation on Twitter from my partner and friends down in San Antonio at the Educause Learning Initative annual meet-up.

Tantalizing lines drifting in from that stream have propelled me along the writing and chores this morning/afternoon and are playing in my head like a strong left hand in stride piano. Here’s a selection from Bryan Alexander and Gardner Campbell:

“Listen: “I’ve been transparently online for all of my classes since 2001.”

Panic makes you lose your head, interrupts everything, thwarts all coping. I hear more panic than fear in my institution, at times.”

Where to begin? Begin by being there–Alan Levine’s got that exactly right. There’s a reason that “begin” and “being” are anagrams.”

Killer line: “Teaching hasn’t changed. Learning has.”

Fear and wonder: can we find the sublime in Learning 2.0?”

Pandora=”all gifts.” Always a gamble, opening that box….”



  1. Wonderful post. Believe it or not, you and the work you’ve been doing has been part of the weave here as well.

  2. You teaching this syllabus- that’s a course I’d love to take.

    I was just chatting to my friend and colleague David who is doing some amazing work on energy-descent planning in Powell River, BC. He’s got a great collection of del.ici.ous links on the subject:

    Thanks for dropping on by Bryan- it’s a thrill but I’m trying to act cool!

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