Motivation, Social Mapping, and more

The world may or may not be flat … but from my perspective it’s becoming very small, very quickly.

A couple of weeks ago a new acquaintance suggested I read the transcribed text of a talk danah boyd gave on G/localization (the intersection of global information and local interaction, to borrow danah’s phrase). In the talk, she referenced Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi‘s notion of flow. I was so interested in the idea that I promptly went to library and came back with at least a dozen books covering everything from psychology to educational theory to social media studies published in the 1970s. (I think Barbara thought I’d gone a little whacko… er, a little more whacko than usual.)

This evening and for the next couple of days I’m in Greencastle, IN, attending a NITLE event at DePauw University. Tonight’s pre-dinner keynote speaker, Anastasia Morrone (Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning at Indiana University), talked about motivation – specifically about the different motivations faculty have for using, or not using, technology in their teaching. To whom did she make reference? Csikszentmihalyi.

After a lovely dinner and dessert, I came back to my room to relax, look up a few things I heard about from the others at my table (quick aside: check out Wikimapia – think Google Earth + Wikipedia) and do a little reading. I was in a bit of a hurry this morning, trying to get on the road, and so I just picked a book from the middle of the stack that’s in my kitchen (the dozen from above, plus a few more) and threw it in my bag without looking. I was also in a bit of a hurry when I arrived at the hotel to shower, and get to the evening’s events, so I unpacked and put my book on the nightstand without noticing what it was. Imagine my surprise when I came back to my room a little while ago to find Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Csikszentmihalyi waiting for me.


More on tonight’s speaker: I enjoyed Stacy’s talk, both content and form. But – as I’ve said before – I am unclear as to why an organization which caters to smaller colleges continues to bring in keynote speakers from large university settings. I’m not trying to be a separatist … I think small college technologists have a lot to learn from our colleagues at large multi-campus research universities, and vice versa. And maybe it’s not a pattern – maybe it’s just coincidence. However, I’m also on the planning committee for an upcoming event, and we’re in the early stages, but the only suggestion so far for a keynote speaker has been someone from a large research university.

What’s going on? Is the liberal arts technology community just too busy? Are the projects we’re working on not interesting or compelling enough? Is it that we’re not well-known?

Ryan has been proudly maintaining and contributing to Language Lab Unleashed since 2005, and is the current President of SWALLT. Since the summer of 2013 he's been causing trouble with his all-star colleagues in the UMW DTLT; when not wrangling websites Ryan can be found doing strange things with heavy objects.

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  1. Barbara · March 27, 2007 Reply


    …because large universities have the infrastructure to pay their professors to do research…lots of research… and researchers are who we tend to read or quote or follow on blogs.

    Liberal arts colleges pride themselves on their teaching, and when you spend all that time on your teaching, you do not have time for research. That is what sabbaticals are for…

    My suggestion? Don’t knock it and instead be grateful for what you get to sit and absorb. Sometimes aborbing is much easier than trudging through a big thick book from the bowels of the library.

  2. Ryan · April 1, 2007 Reply


    I’m not knocking it. I’m saying I don’t understand it. Despite the lack of money and time at many liberal arts colleges, there are still lots of folks (faculty and staff) who are doing some very cool things and coming up with great ideas for how to integrate technology into learning. So, there must be some other reason why these folks aren’t up doing keynotes, and I’m confused as to why.

    I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I have in front of me, and accordingly, I’m trying to make the most of them. I don’t learn much by sitting and absorbing, or even by having conversations. I learn primarily by asking lots of (what are often simple and even stupid) questions and trying things out even (especially?) when the odds of failure are spectacularly high. No, it’s not easy, but whoever said learning was?

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