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:
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.


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.