Wait for it… pausing on SOUL and SIM

Photo courtesy of Freefotouk (cc-by-nc)
Photo courtesy of Freefotouk on Flikr (cc-by-nc)

Slow Online and Ubiquitous Learning (SOUL) is a concept that has just been introduced in my 3rd MET course, Educational Technology #ETEC511.  The course introduction says that SOUL is a work in progress, and hints that SOUL is a philosophy, a mode of being, and a promise.  This blog post is my exploration of the concept of SOUL.

As written in the course introduction, SOUL seems to have emerged alongside something called the Slow Internet Movement (SIM) which was framed by the slow food movement, a reaction against its antagonist, fast food.  The sins of fast food are popularly noted in books like Fast Food Nation, the documentary Supersize Me, and any health or fashion magazine currently on the shelf at your local grocery store.  So is SOUL and SIM a reaction against the sins of a fast Internet or fast online learning?  I was a little incredulous to learn that there would be a backlash against a ‘fast Internet’; however, a NPR broadcast tells of a group of “slow netters” who have returned to dial-up, but then it might be a practical April Fool’s joke.

True or not, the presence of  slow-netters and a Slow Internet Movement seems relatively harmless and might be an anecdote over dinner.  However, the lesson of the NPR broadcast highlights the dangers of  blind acceptance of materials.  As learners if consumption of content is rushed, like the scarfing of fast food, we thoughtlessly accept the authenticity of the material. Again taken in moderation, quick and easy online learning may not be deadly, however, the insidous evil is the perpetuation of errors or untruths which overtime may have repercussions.

I came up SOULless, when trying to understand how “Slow Online and Ubiquitous Learning” is situated in the research as it is not yet a common string on Google Scholar or in the university’s library system.  So the course outline seems to be in part true that SOUL is a work in process.  Who’s work, I will risk the assumption that it is our creative course facilitators.  The idea of SOUL is appealing. What busy grad student isn’t happy to embrace a philosophy with a gentle approach to stacks of reading and assignments.  The actionable expression of SOUL is the direction to post only 1-2 per week and not to post on Mondays and Tuesdays. This is to allow more time to catch up on readings and ideally generate higher quality discussion.  However, at this stage in the course, I am skeptical that the promise of SOUL can fully be realized for myself.

Typically, the course content is all new.  It means that time is devoted beyond course materials for foundational reading in addition to course materials. Just the  research, reading, organization and writing on the topic of SOUL took me three evenings.  I have yet to closely read Module 1 content, which now makes me behind 🙂  I am also reluctant to be a ‘silent’ learner in a formal learning situation.  What constitutes 1-2 posts; one original and one peer response?  Furthermore, I fear that if don’t adhere to a SOUL approach I will be penalized for responding on a Monday or posting more than 2 posts.  My work around is to post a blog entry, which give me some hope for SOUL.

In my search for SOUL this week, I needed a related image for this blog.  I came to Freefotouk’s image.  Serendipitously , I followed the link to a commentor’s blog, Autopoiet Blog. This led me to materials and learning about groups advocating for a more sensible approach to the deluge of media in both Slow MediaThe Slow Media Manifesto and the Slow Web .  I haven’t academically evaluated these resources, but they are resources that I may come back to professionally, to understand media practices that might inform my communications strategies.

That is where SOUL may have a shining hope as an approach for online learning, when SOUL is understood a belonging to the individual learners’ need.  The concept of SOUL cannot be counted in number of posts and responses, nor should SOUL dictate on what day or where that thinking and learning occurs.

I will be interested to hear my #ETEC511 colleagues thoughts on SOUL.


  1. D'Alice Marsh

    Hey Briar,

    While I am uncertain about having to adhere to the letter of the law (not posting on Mondays and Tuesdays; and being “highly” suggested not to do so on weekends) I am intrigued by the concept.

    Like you as a grad student time is valuable! There is so much to learn in such a short period of time. Leading me to feel that every day I need to be online, otherwise a fear of falling behind sets in.

    That being said, the concept of slow learning and frequent breaks are nice. Something I already do. As an adult without kids and little responsibility (besides teaching) I force myself to limit my time spent on my grad courses. Most days during the term I commit 2 hours to studies (for 2 courses). It’s important to me to have time with my family and to relax.

    Could we not take the concept of SOUL and implement it throughout the week? Still encouraging students to take breaks; but, without forcing them to adhere to a schedule of “forced” relaxation that may not work for each individual.

    Just a thought or two.


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