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.

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