Friday, September 19, 2008

Not that Connected - Missed the Course (Cause?)

I found this fascinating quote today:

Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future. George Siemens (SL: Whatever Russel) and Stephen Downes – the two leading figures on connectivism and connective knowledge - will co-facilitate this innovative and timely course. The course will run from September 7, 2008 to November 29, 2008 and will be fully delivered online.
Fleep Tuque, Chilbo Community Blog, Sep 2008
You should read the whole article.

I wish I did not miss this opportunity. It could have been interesting to learn more about the theories linked to 'connective knowledge'. Well, Google and self-study for me then!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Social Networking - Tools, Hobby or Sport?

I found this fascinating entry about a few social networks on a blog today - mind you, I actually found it VIA a microblog entry of Aliza Sherman (a professional marketing specialist et al) whom I met for the first time as the optimistic 'Cybergrrl Oh', again via an international cyber-volunteer for our Virtual Africa project in the virtual world, Second Life.

This personal experience of knowledge sharing demonstrates in a small way the very nature of connectedness in social networks - one leads to another in a bemusing cluster and we slowly grow the individual swell of professional and personal connections. However, to return to the point (that often gets lost in these type of conversations!), I read the entry and realised there are even MORE social networks and applications that I do not know - and always will be, I suspect. And the question that the entry starts with is a valid one...
How many social networks and Web 2.0 tools are enough? I clearly don’t know when enough is enough. What if the one I don’t join is the one that will truly change my life/work/future?Web Worker Daily, Sep 2008
You should read the whole article. More important, however, is reflecting on the question: What is the purpose of your own engagement with these networks and developments? The first time I deliberately started to 'network' it was an extension of our communication in every day nonprofit work. The need for more appropriate tools in development work led me deeper and deeper into innovative alpha and beta tools... and what started out a search for tools, soon became an entertaining hobby. Then, a part of my life that I do not wish to set aside...

Social networking is not a sport for me yet, but I know some people that take the discovery of these tools and application of them REALLY serious! Getting a good grade on Twitter or more karma on Plurk is an important achievement in their eyes. (And I don't refer to those professionals that need to be doing so, due to the nature of their profession). What *is* the purpose of social networks and Web 2.0 tools? This is the question that has plagued me for the past few months and (only recently) I feel closer to an answer... In the mean time, I am blessed by those people across the world that enrich lives - including my own.
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SimSalabim; I have a favourite Rose...

I discovered these roses at a small shopping mall in South Africa, and I bought a bunch for my mom's apartment. I am completely, head-over-heels, crazy about these flowers. I never had a favourite rose - now I do. These are from God's paintbrush on a rainy day, I am sure..

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Written on the Side in a Spaza

Recently I visited a tiny home shop (called 'spaza') in a township in South Africa. It was part of a fact-finding mission to see how the small business landscape changed in a particular informal settlement that we surveyed two years ago. I stopped by a local shop owner to get some cool drink. It was not the 'WHO'S NEXT?' signage above the counter that attracted my attention - but the two words scratched to the side of it on the frame: "WHY ME?"....

Those words kept me awake for a night or two as I pondered their meaning - the feeling behind them, and it also resonated: These days I often ask: Why me? The reasons are different, but I do ask the exact same question - especially when I wonder about being part of the development arena here in Africa and we get so frustrated with 'red tape' and political unwillingness. Just yesterday, it was another organisation that was jealous of our support in a community, and particularly "offended" by the local City of Cape Town Council for allocating a grant to our initiative - and they demanded promptly to "be part of the project" (read, share in funds that we acquired after 2 years of battling with Council) "or else"... which could mean anything from outright sabotage to creating destructive drama during the implementation. One of our Directors reflected yesterday in a public meeting: "It is no wonder that development is so slow in this community - there are way too many personal agendas". And she also asked me afterward: "Why (make it so difficult for) us?" A collective version of, "Why me?"

But if I think about it more clearly, it is the simple words scribbled on a wooden frame in a cold spazashop that hit harder and ring more true than my own frustrated thoughts as outsider development practitioner. It is after all the person standing behind the counter that has been asking this question for some time now - at least since our democratic election in 1994. Why do I still live like this? Why do I struggle still? Why is my income still below the poverty line? Why did my place burn down last year, and flooded this year? Why me? I also speculated that the graffiti possibly appeared as a disgruntled response from an impatient, waiting customer at the wooden-tin shack. (In our 2005 research of 3700 township customers we found that township residents often find shops locked up and people cue restlessly while the shopkeeper "feed babies at the back", "do not care about me". We have been told to shout for service...)

Until I asked the shop owner eventually: "Who wrote these words?" and the answer came: "I did. A long time ago. It is because I am blessed to have this shop. I remind myself everyday - Why me?" And I learn... never, ever assume anything in Africa. Ask, and Ask again. And I start to count my own blessings and think: "Why me?"
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