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

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