Away to Europe…But Before I Go…

Ah…leave it to Hector and his questions to keep me thinking about edublogging when, really, I shoud be throwing the last things into my suitcase and dreaming of what I’ll be up to in a day or two in Ireland.

He asked me an excellent question about my BLOGTALK presentation, based on my notes posted here–how many days was this conference running and did I plan to fill them all?! Yep, I included far too many thoughts in that posting. And his idea to focus on a very few blogging examples as a way to frame the talk makes excellent sense. So I responded to his posting– here’s the text of my response:
MediaInquirydotOrg
Comments: Blogtalk2: Blogs as a Media of Exchange

I’m trying to walk out the door, headed to Europe for a combined family return to our beloved Ireland and Italy before I venture up to Vienna for BLOGTALK (Have you had a chance to see the line-up? Not only is it impressive, it’s pretty damn exciting to see so many of the most thoughtful users and developers of blogs gathering in one place to take a close look at the current state of blogs and future possiblities. In my mind this kind of intense three-day discussion/presentation format is far more promising than the loose-but-controlled-and-not-particularly-concerned -with-blogs-in-education BLOGGERCON. )But before I put to rest for a month, I want to respond to your thoughtful response to my Blogtalk notes. As usual, you’ve got me thinking. Even when I should be packing.

The questions you conclude with–“what does it mean for our students and our culture to be that we’re engaging in enterprises that at first blush–hypertexts, digital stories, blogging–appear to challenge old notions of communication and exchange, yet beneath the surface we’re transporting old conventions? and, what do we say to our critics who are beginning to notice that we’re a culture that is beginning to privilege the representation, the display, the pretty product over the process and the deep inquiry?” bring to mind what Jay David Bolter considers in Remediation when he writes:
“…our culture’s insistence on the newness of new media. …the assumption that a media must be new in order to be significant…As we have shown, what is in fact new is the particular way in which each innovation rearranges and reconstitutes the meaning of earlier elements. What is new about new media is therefore also old and familiar:that they promise the new by remediating what has gone before.” (Boldface is mine)

I think your questions are excellent and important ones–we so often get caught up in congratulating ourselves over understanding what’s at the edges of newness that we lose sight of how and if through the embrace of the new we have anything meaningful, anything substantive to add to the human experience, and in our case as educators, to the learning communities with which we are entrusted. When our students struggle to articulate their points clearly, shouldn’t we back away from multi-media options altogether and make them write and rewrite until they get it right? Is the allure of the surface of technology glossing over the real gaps in our students’ skills as writers?

And I think I am finding my way to an answer–at least as far as my own small place in this work goes–that yes, this blogging i does make a difference, a significant difference in the quality of my students’ experience in the classroom and the measurable outcomes of that engagement. Blogging–more than anything else I’ve tried–facilitates connections in my classroom, connections that ultimately allow us to move far beyond mere classroom walls in our embrace of the learning experience. My students really think that anything they set their minds to is possible–they can have serious discussions with experts in the field; they can consult in slo-mo asynchronous exchanges with classmates about the perplexing questions confronting them; they can read one another’s work and learn from it as they remake it in their own responses through their own projects and papers. The writing grows–the thinking deepens, Hector, rather than becoming secondary to the delivery, to the surface flash of the visuals. My students demand more of themselves than ever before–they want to do it all. And they want to do it at a very high level of accomplishment indeed.

Yes, this is remediation–we are sitting in Socrates’ancient, timeless circle, are we not, asking questions, probing, questioning, daring to say the obvious because that is how we learn, how we change ourselves and are changed by one another. Social software merely offers us opportunities to capture this work, reflect on it and connect with others. If it were not for your blog or my blog, would I, a teacher of writing and literature, bother to put these thoughts down in writing? Would I extend my thinking to the written word and be extended by your writing? Hmmm. I wonder….

More on this and on why we Americans have such a hard time envisioning Levy’s notion of collective intelligence when I return from Vienna.

Barbara

I’ll be mulling over all of this as I walk the the bogs of Mayo next week. Italy doesn’t seem conducive to blog thoughts somehow, so I think I’ll take a real break during that part of the adventure.

More anon. Blog on.

BLOGTALK NOTES

BLOGTALK2 NOTES 6/8/04

“We work with all our myriad talents to expand our media of expression to the full measure of our humanity.” Janet Murray Introduction to New Media Reader

“Literacy creates people who are much less complex and diverse than those who develop in the intricate web of oral and tribal societies.” Marshall McLuhan

“The most profoundly transformative potential of connecting human social proclivities to the efficiency of information technologies ia the chance to do new things together, the potential for cooperating on scales and in ways never before possible.” Howard Rheingold Smart Mobs

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Blogging Down the Doors

Americans are taking to blogging in droves, eager to self-publish and self-promote via personal blogs, to join group-interest blogs, to create instant, continuous reporting and commentary, and in so doing, transforming our very notion of journalism and political outreach as well as private vs. public spaces. Indeed, blogging has both mirrored and privileged the rapidly changing face of culture and community. Naturally, blogs have also arrived in the American university, via maverick students and professors; now the Academy itself seems on the brink of embracing blogs, with eminent institutions such as Harvard and Stanford offering campus-wide blogging.

At this point, educational blogging shows us how little is actually evolving within our academic institutions and the lethargy with which educators are responding to the realities of a post 9/11 world.

Edublogging is often about the tool not the action, blogs used as course management systems, or at best as a place for students to post and manage their work, to keep online journals or to respond to teacher-initiated discussion prompts. We educators love the blog, but we rarely use it to its full potential as a vehicle for preparing our students for a challenging, technology-rich world. We try instead to make this mode of expression conform to traditional rubrics of learning. Rarely do teachers use the full potential of the weblog as an organic, fluidly transformative medium, through which students develop skills and are transformed by the interface between user and computer, and by the blog’s collaborative, public nature. We do not see that the blog facilitates a whole new way of responding to the world without forcing us to abandon time-honored ways of communication. Classroom blogs enhance face-to-face interactions; the speed of the technology allows us, ironically, to return to one of the oldest forms of written communication–the letter.

If M. Scott Peck is correct when he writes, “It is our task—our essential, central, crucial task—to transform ourselves from mere social creatures into community creatures. It is the only way that human evolution will be able to proceed.” (The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace) we must seize every opportunity to immerse our students in community-thinking and action. To prepare students for this rapidly shifting, dynamic workplace, fluid communities, knowledge production society, must move away from static, passive, knowledge-consumption, individual-privileging classroom.

B. MY JOURNEY–
1. BG—A classroom teacher, not a cybertheorist of educational technologist

2. Reasons for turning to blogging

**“Digital Divided Self” of my students/Impatience with traditional notions of academic writing as fossilization and a necessary evil vs. staccato dynamism of IM dance requiring insider’s grasp of newly evolving language. Increasingly visual culture yet classrooms slow to adapt.

And towards:
Collaboration/Cooperation
Student-centered learning
Meaningfully project-based education
Integration of the student selves (social, political, educational, personal) by handing over the learning to them (Bringing down the walls of the classroom, knocking the Sage off the Stage—)

C. THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS
SOCIAL THEORY –
*Efficacy
CYBERTHEORY—
*Pierre Lévy’s Collective Intelligence, Knowledge Space “based on reciprocal apprenticeship, shared skills, imagination, and collective intelligence.” (p.10)
*Howard Rheingold’s Collaboration
*Janet Murray’s Collaborative narrative
*Stephen Johnson’s Emergence
*Stroupe’s Visualing English
*Douglas Englebart’s notion of an “integrated domain”

All point to the possibility of social software enhancing, facilitating, catalyzing this new kind of classroom model. My colleague,Hector Vila; Sebastien Fiedler, Oliver Wrede (right here in this forum) Sebastien Paquet, Spike Hall, Will Richardson all are concerned with these notions.

II. THEREIN BLOGGING in the COLLEGE CLASSROOM:

Many colleges and universities embracing blogging, but very few are using it actively in the classroom to hand over learning to the students, to foster communities of learners, efficacy and emergence.
*Via knowledge production.
*Fostering a community of apprentices and experts.
*Using the Blog as accelerator of inquiry, but also as catalyst for emerging forms of knowledge—distributed cognition.

We have witnessed the students transforming the blog as they were, in turn, transformed by it.

Many are using GROUP BLOGS that are little more than CMTs—static. Could just as easily use BLACKBOARD. Creative Writing Blog–Look at the Menu along the left-hand side for CMT functions

Or they adhere to the priniciples of true group blogging—chaotic, adjacent monologues or brief forays into discussions. Again, teacher initiated, directed, and controlled—blogging for the teacher EXAMPLE HERE

Or they use individual students blogs which, while often inventive and freeing for students, encouraging the kind of “deep learning” engagement we seek to foster, the individual student class blog privileges the individual rather than the learning collaborative, the community act of learning. Still essentially one-to many or one-to-one interactions. Kpoene’s Blog

ALTERNATIVE:
What if the students actually take over the group course blog? Take over the direction of the course, which is sketched out by the professor but essentially left up to the students to create as they go?

What would happen??

III. The MOTHERBLOG as Transformative Medium in the Literature and Writing Classrooms

Students in a group-blogging course epitomize the writings of Lévy and Johnson through the formation of a strong, resilient learning collaborative in which multi-media work naturally blends into research, personal reflection deepens scholarly insights, and the students see themselves as crucial participants in their education. We will demonstrate how students became the course, using the interface as a way to “take over,” becoming their own teachers in a unique synthesis of online and f2f work; they narrated a different course than expected and, if as Roland Barthes notes that “narrative is a hierarchy of instances,” the students’ narratives in this course suggest that they are indeed evacuating—challenging—even these post-modern categories. Student bloggers, in this course, demonstrated how they created an “Other” of the teacher. Finally, we will examine the ramifications of this work for us as teachers—our use of class and planning time, our relationships to our students and colleagues, and our relationship to our pedagogical goals–and new directions this work will take us in the future.

A. Blog as CMT, Blog as Blog Irish Film Lit Homepage

The Parts: CMT/Publication/Archive/Blog

B. Connecting communities online (Levy) before school opens. Begin with the premise that they will VISUALIZE LEARNING/ Connect learning to each other and to itself, PUBLISH everything, be vulnerable, have something to say, affect their environment. Responsible to one another. Translating Ireland within the public sphere. Writers Googling themselves find us—students see the effect hey have on the world.

First blogging class insisted on going to Ireland.

Summer Assignment/Knowledge Tree
Compels students to move away from traditional models from Day One and to take risks in responding to the reading and to each other. At first, this is intimidating and students often retreat to the traditional, comfortable models, not feeling comfortable with the online, public nature of the commentary.
Marisa’s Knowledge Tree

Marisa
Marisa Again

Leads to f2f class discussion on the first day of classes about the nature of communities, the nature of this community, about how they already see themselves as experts and as apprentices to one another. Anxieties and tensions expressed.

Blogging by the teacher right away allows me to model (but not direct) how they might eventually use the blogging space, and to become the course chronicler/ethnographer by making observations about what went on in class. At this point there is no pressure to respond to the blogging. BG Daily

BLOG= Locus of Course Activity inside and Out of the Class Through:
*Community-building exercises
*Asynchronous Discussions
*Multimedia Projects
*Feedback Looping
*Meta reflective Practices

Amanda Tavel’s Final Project (nominated for a Ward Prize in Writing)
Amanda’s process

BLOGGING Plus a Flexible Blog Platform Leads to:

A.
*New kinds of academic discourse
i.e. collaborative multimedia writing
Dan & Elise’s Collaborative Research Project
*Linked, interacting discourse modes (informal, draft, formal, narrative, descriptive, analytical, evaluative, expository, creative writing) –Beginning of the future of writing

B.
Interaction with outside world
*Fan Communities a la Henry Jenkins Dierdre Lynch Page intertwining course focus on film, writing, dialogue about artistic process.

*Apprentices Become Experts in Interaction with Professionals in the World Paul’s Discussion Page

The high level of academic excellence attained by these first-year students, the effects on their relationships with course content, with their learning community and with themselves as they assumed responsibility for directing and managing the blog.
Barrie’s reflection

C. Student Group Blogging
*Emergence= Students Take Over the Blog, they take over the course—
Leads to integration of voices/modes/meanings

Dan’s Sounds from the Blog”
**November 5 Blog
November 10 Blog
November 16 Blog

**Feedback Loop Communities
Feedback Loop

IV: Conclusion–NOW WHAT?

Through the Motherblog, the individual student is no longer privileged, nor is the primary classroom transaction flowing from teacher to group, and then student to teacher. Groups of individuals become committed communities of learners, education becomes group experiment, and the classroom becomes a wildly productive place student-centered, project-based inquiry. It is an exciting, unnerving place, indeed, promoting often astonishing outcomes for our students and fearless faculty.

**Blogging in the Field – Rural Medicine Blogs
Scotland
Vermont

**Service-learning through Blogging — Mentoring Elementary School Children through Blogs
Shoreham Writing Buddies

**Blogging from Course to Course and as ‘zine/ Artswriting Fall 2004

NITLE Conference Invitation

I just received an invitation from Bryan Alexander and Amy McGill of Middlebury College’s Center for Educational Technology to present at the November NITLE national conference with Bryan and Bret.

Needless to say, I accepted, appreciating the opportunity to articulate my ideas about incorporating multimedia narrative into the literature and writing classrooms. As I wrap up my talk notes for BLOGTALK2 , it’s good to get this push to think about multimedia narrative beyond blogs, and how I plan to include all kinds of multimedia work in my Arts writing course–NOT, this blog hasn’t yet been completely brought over from the old Manila Artswriting Blog. Hector was suggesting today that as I send students out on their beats (and hopefully link them up to Middlebury Magazine’s online version), that I consider having them use QTVR (is that what it’s called?) when they examine and respond to three dimensional works of art. I need to write to Paul Klein about ideas. So much, TOO much to do beofre Sunday when we take off for Ireland.

In July I have to focus my thoughts on the new iteration of Artswriting, plan my Alumni College Course (my Irish film lit gig), and think about PIE as well as possibly submitting an article to INNOVATE. Summer, what summer?

Blogging Down the Door

Getting ready for BLOGTALK2 –here’s a statement I wrote in reply to Thomas Burg’s request for a statement –ha–he only wanted a couple of sentences! Oh well, it has helped me begin to lasso my thinking about this past year of blogging adventures.

Middlebury CollegeBlogging Down the Door: Motherblogs and their Transformative Potential in the American University Classroom

Americans are taking to blogging in droves, eager to self-publish and self-promote via personal blogs, to join group-interest blogs, to create instant, continuous reporting and commentary, and in so doing, transforming our very notion of journalism and political outreach as well as private vs. public spaces. Indeed, blogging has both mirrored and privileged the rapidly changing face of culture and community. Naturally, blogs have also arrived in the American university, via maverick students and professors; now the Academy itself seems on the brink of embracing blogs, with eminent institutions such as Harvard and Stanford offering campus-wide blogging. Does this mean, then, that higher education is evolving away from a static, hierarchical model of knowledge-delivery? Are blogs shifting classroom relationships and pedagogy?

At this point, educational blogging shows us how little is actually evolving within our academic institutions and the lethargy with which educators are responding to a rapidly changing world. Edublogging is often about the tool not the action, blogs used exclusively as course management systems, or at best as a place for students to post and manage their work, to keep online journals or to respond to teacher-initiated discussion prompts. We love the blog, but we rarely use it to its full potential as a vehicle for preparing our students for a challenging world. We are trying to make this mode of expression conform to traditional rubrics of learning. And yet, if M. Scott Peck is correct when he writes, “It is our task—our essential, central, crucial task—to transform ourselves from mere social creatures into community creatures. It is the only way that human evolution will be able to proceed.” (The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace) why do we cling to an essentially medieval model of education as a knowledge-delivery system? To prepare our students for the fluid demands of the current world, we must create opportunities in the classroom for creative disruptions, to create similarly fluid and varied learning environments in which students create knowledge as they learn. Instead of being used as an accelerator of inquiry, blogging can challenge our very notions of how students learn and teachers teach. Group blogging—or creating the Motherblog, as we have come to term it—asks us to knock the professor-sage off the stage, handing responsibility for learning to the students themselves, making education content production rather than content consumption. Through the Motherblog, the individual student is no longer privileged, nor is the primary classroom transaction flowing from teacher to group, and then student to teacher. Groups of individuals become committed communities of learners, education becomes group experiment, and the classroom becomes a wildly productive place student-centered, project-based inquiry. It is an exciting, unnerving place, indeed, promoting often astonishing outcomes for our students and fearless faculty.

Barbara Ganley, Lecturer in Writing and English, Director of the Project for Integrated Expression at Middlebury College has been exploring the full range of blogs in her literature and writing classrooms since 2001. At Blogtalk2 she will show how group blogging has pushed her students to new heights of academic excellence and creative boldness as they create new modes of academic expression and take over the classroom.

Digitization Center

In my role as faculty member sitting on the committee making plans for the new library’s Center for Digitiazation (or whatever it is to be called), I am charged with coming up with ideas for the center as a locus of learning. If the center is to be a success , we have to make sure that students aren’t coming in just to view movies or to wordprocess or IM, but that the entire community views the space as an essential, exciting place on campus. Some ideas I’m throwing around:

Objectives: To encourage the college community to use the facility in ways that enhance the Middlebury liberal arts experience.

IDEAS:

**WORKING GROUP Faculty Advisory Committee
Bring together the high-end users once a month for lunch to discuss their needs, ideas, contacts, research and applications of the center.
Faculty to Include: Hector Vila (have him head the committee), Kathy Skubikowski, MaryEllen Bertolini, Catharine Wright, Barbara Ganley, Barbara Hofer, Jason Mittell, Ted Perry, Deb Ellis, Eric Davis, etc.—bring Dave Guertin’s science people in, too, as well as the geographers such as Anne Knowles

**FACULTY TECHNOLOGY FELLOWS
We should pursue a Mellon grant or something along these lines to provide fellowships for faculty to develop innovate practices of digital media use in the liberal arts curriculum.

**CONFERENCE on Integrating Digital Media into the Liberal Arts Classroom (Co-sponsor with CET?? Or propose a MELLON summer workshop? Do something with Williams?)

**WORKSHOPS
–Introduction to the tools, Beginner-Advanced

–Effective Use of the Tools in Presentations/Class Assignments

–Integrating Multi-Media into the Classroom
-Faculty-led Workshops: Best Practices Demonstrations (Collaborate with Center for Teaching, Learning and Research) –using Segue & Blogs for multi-media work, CMS vs. knowledge-production, collaborations, video, multi-media writing
-CET modules?
-Outside experts –Teaching with Technology Series
-Annual Competition “Best Multi-Media Project by a Student”
-Interdepartmental Collaborations (a la Wellesley)
-Service-Learning Applications

**WEBSITE
–On-line tutorials (In-house and ELEMENTK)

–FAQs

–Links to Outside Resources including work done at Other Colleges/Universities i.e. Washington; MIT, Williams, Minnesota, Maryland, Columbia, GeorgiaTech, Carnegie Foundation (Knowledge Media Lab)

–Tie-in with Center for Teaching, Learning and Research

–Best Practices/Models Section

–Multi-Media Publication (‘zine)—Link to/Collaborate with Online Middlebury Magazine