When the last bales come out of the haywagon, what remains on the wagon bed is a straggly carpeting of short stems and leaves that shed out of the bales during handling. This layer of scatterings, if not routinely cleared away, will rot into slime and accumulate inconveniently. Habitually, then, after emptying each wagon we sweep up armloads of scatterings from the deck and carry this loose fodder back to the calf pens. Such commonsense thrift has satisfying metaphoric implications: we don’t discard valuable material even though it be untidy. We feed our future with it.
In just that spirit I present these short annotated remnants from last term (have I mentioned my MA is underway?) which may well appear again in later semesters.
Open-source learning was up for discussion at the AESS conference I attended earlier this summer. This concept has many fascinating wrinkles, including portents of radical change in the role of colleges and universities as knowledge-brokers. With epistemic information so readily accessible (provided one has internet access, of course), anybody may poke around on the web and soon learn enough vocabulary to enter into dialogue about any imaginable topic. Talk has never been cheaper–we live in a fortunate age. But what lacks in the online-learning model is embodied knowledge–the practiced, applied, lived learning that permits us to truly own what we know. It is one thing to understand that milk comes from a cow; it is another matter entirely to successfully milk a cow. Experiential education, in the tradition of my own workplace, seems to me the logical complement to open-source learning. Well-rounded scholars need both.
Investigating OSL led me to a TED talk which reminded me again of the similarities in education and farming. Disintermediation, the cutting-out of middlemen (textbook publishers, in the TED talk), has also been trending in small-scale ag circles from veg production to specialty dairy to microbreweries. Around here we commonly see farmstands, small farmer’s markets, and community-supported ag models. Interestingly, in agriculture at least, as soon as a given small enterprise gains a toehold in local direct markets, the first impulse seems to be planning to step up the production model and start seeking distributors (middlemen, again.) Who’s been studying this pendulum, I wonder? In another life, I will take up economics.
My academic pursuits imbricate remarkably with notions of food farming and its associated vorisms (such as omnivore, localvore, and my new fancy, invasivore.) One advisor styled me a “voracious learner” and she is right on the mark: I feast upon knowledge, and life’s table has not disappointed me yet. I know I dine in good company–here is a beautifully put statement of such learning, and this is a particularly stellar example of turning prix fixe into smorgasbord.