Beyond These Walls

Learning everywhere

Is developing voice a prerequisite for connected learning?

Every time you take the risk to be true to your own soul – whether or not you name your action as heroic – your example helps others to do likewise. When you notice this pattern, it becomes easier to have absolute fidelity to your own path without fear that doing so is selfish. We can do nothing better for others than model the authentic life.

                                                                                                         ~ Carol Pearson

I have been struggling with locating MY voice. I thought I “had it” awhile back, but I was out riding an #etmooc wave that threw me up on shore sanded, seaweeded and discombobulated. I pick off the bits ingrained in fabric and particles between toes. I was cautious to ride again.

What made me fall? Did my voice drown, gasping in the discordant cacophony of others? Did doubt make me unstable losing balance all at once.? Did I become too attentive of the other riders?

As I paddle out again, I hear voices louder than my own; stronger, clearer, purer, surer. Not mine. It pains me to hear my voice yet have it tangle on its way up and out, mixed up and mixed in, still. Seaweed and sand. Discordantly it does not seem to matter that I have clarity of voice within but rather it seems essential to get it out in one intact piece.

To connect, my voice is my primary tool, whether in 140 characters, a blog post or meeting face to face for the first time at a conference. Is my voice the way you draw a connected line to me? Is it one of the fundamental ways that we connect as people and therefore a primary building block for connected learning?

Do students have an opportunity to safely explore their own voice? Do they get to explore voices from different points of view, social, global, entrepreneurial, political ?

Is voice the nutrient broth for connectivity and does an authentic voice allow for more meaningful connections which in turn amplifies the connection?

Is care  fundamental to voice development in providing an environment where you feel heard and feel your voice has value?

Do we give our students voice? I think at school students have very little voice. Why is that? How can we change that?

“All I have is a voice.”
― W.H. Auden

12 responses to “Is developing voice a prerequisite for connected learning?

  1. Ed Nagelhout January 31, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Very nice, Carolyn. Your questions are quite provocative. Thanks for sharing. I do believe that we all need safe places to explore, to practice, to make mistakes. Our voice (or voices) will only grow and develop if we feel free enough to try on different voices without fear of recrimination. Keep up the good work and the good thinking.

    • Carolyn Durley January 31, 2013 at 6:05 pm

      Hi Ed,
      Thanks for the comment and encouragement. I wish I had more than just a long list of questions, but it seems to be part of the process 🙂 Create questions, unbalance, white space and then seek balance, fill in the white space, find answers….then repeat all over again.
      As I start the new semester I am trying to create some of this white space for my and students and hope in the process they will have a chance to have/create a voice for themselves.

  2. Thomas Joseph Okon January 31, 2013 at 6:10 pm

    Carolyn, I like your writing style. I was able to hear your voice quite clearly.
    I too have been trying to develop my voice, or reputation. You can call it many names. I’m starting to come to the conclusion that if you speak a clear message: one that makes sense, adds something to the conversation, and is something you are passionate about, it will be heard.

    • Carolyn Durley January 31, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      Hi Thomas, thanks for the comment. Yes. Agree, if a voice (vision, personal brand, identity) is clear it will be listened. But how do we build the confidence (if it is lacking) for this clarity, because to be clear I must commit fully. Is this a personality trait or something you can develop or does it develop in the right setting? Lastly do we all need “safe places” where we can try out our voices before we commit? Do we get a second chance if we get it wrong the first time?
      So many questions in my voice at the moment!

  3. Jeannine St. Amand January 31, 2013 at 7:52 pm

    For me your voice is loud and clear in this post. It is sensitive, it is poetic, it is fighting to be heard. It is questioning the status quo.

    I do think that an authentic voice can lead to more meaningful connections, and those connections can in turn strengthen one’s own voice. But I also think that emerging, neophyte voices are important – ALL voices are important.

    As an advocate for parent voice and student voice I hope your ETMOOC experience will give you the courage to take the risks needed to push for authentic student voice – to keep asking why it doesn’t exist and to find ways to change that too.

    • Carolyn Durley January 31, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      What a lovely gift Jeannine. You heard my voice.
      I agree with you, ALL voices are important. For many students I think they feel voiceless. So in part maybe it seems understandable when they do find a place to try out their voice (ie on social media) it does not always come out right, as they have not had much practice. So as I begin semester 2 with my moocified point of view, I want to grow and nurture, like the delicate little seedlings into a hardy independent plants, student voices that are authentic and true.
      My #etmooc experience has without a doubt given me new insights into how I might grow these voices. I am very excited to try!


  4. Sue Waters January 31, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Voice is that uniqueness that makes your work distinct from others. Voice is like a person’s mannerism; how when you some one walking in the distance you’re able to recognise them by the way they walk and move.

    The reality is some individuals have very distinct voices; David Warlick and Alan Levine are classic examples of this. Just as some people have very unique walking styles 🙂 When you read their posts you feel like they are talking to you. If you looked closely at both you would realise their secret; they write to satisfy their own needs. Sure they like having readers but take away their readers and they would still write.

    I’ve learnt to accept that my voice is what it is, and don’t worry. I’m me, this is how I write, and this is who I am.

    The other important aspect of voice is it’s also about realising the Internet has provided us with the tools to share our thoughts, ideas, creativity that we didn’t have previously. Call it citizen journalism or what you like; we now live in a time where any individual can have a voice.

    • Carolyn Durley February 1, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Sue, you hit the nail on the head with “they write to satisfy their own needs” as there in lies the conflict. Do students write to meet their own needs or do they write trying to please someone else? As I reflect back I don’t think I was ever given the freedom to use my own voice (unless it was in a private journal). This step of empowerment, to feel comfortable putting yourself out there, is a big one for me and for many other teachers I talk to who are starting to blog.
      I found this simple step (developing a voice or an identity) was an interesting one to chew on.
      Thanks for sharing,

  5. catherinecronin February 1, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Carolyn — many thanks for sharing this post. You write beautifully and I hear a distinctive voice, as many commenters have noted here 🙂 I’m interested in this idea of online presence and voice also. I enjoy discussing this with my students, before our online work together. I’ve come to think that our beliefs about our digital identities, be they conscious or unreflected upon, play an important role in how we speak and interact and “be” in online spaces. Do I feel comfortable sharing personal “me” well as professional “me”? Do I feel empowered to speak? The context collapse inherent in posting and sharing on the open web can be unsettling. Thinking about and discussing our digital identities can be illuminating, and often freeing. I’ve blogged about some of these thoughts here… still thinking though 🙂

    • Carolyn Durley February 1, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Hi Catherine, I find this whole discussion fascinating for many reasons. In this sound byte driven world are we “forced” to sacrifice (or modify) our voice to be heard? And do we need “new” updated communication skills to understand the power (empowerment) and implications of creating an online identity/voice?
      Yes, I wrestle with where does my professional voice end and my personal one begin? I have of late being been feeling a bit trapped by my professional voice. They seem to have blurred more of late, and is this OK? Is this the same for our students/children as they develop their online voice even earlier in life, and they create their voices in many locations and who is working with them to reflect on this identity?
      So many enticing questions to delve into at such a time of transition. Excited to explore these ideas and looking forward to checking out your blog,
      thanks for sharing,

      • catherinecronin February 2, 2013 at 8:52 pm

        I love your questions, Carolyn! Working with learners, at all levels, to reflect on their digital identities, voice, privacy, etc. is vitally important work. Initiatives which explore Digital Literacies and Digital Citizenship with learners generally include this (though often without the questions about power relations, which I think are important, particularly with third-level and adult learners). It highlights how important it is for educators to develop their own digital literacies (and voices!), as we cannot support our students in doing this effectively unless we ourselves are open to these questions. You’re provided just such an opportunity here in your blog post — so, thank you.

  6. Pingback: MOOCs: Community as Curriculum « catherinecronin

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