Frustrations…(when you see what should be possible…)

We’re into the second week of classes at Middlebury and my bold group of arts writers (those I have managed not to scare out of the class!) has embarked on the semester’s adventure with enthusiasm and some trepidation, I am certain. Frustrations rule at the moment–for me–because even with my intrepid crew of colleagues willing to help me move beyond my technology skill set, I cannot yet get the artswriting blog to do what it must do for the course: have five columns/categories running simultaneously on the homepage, much as columns on a newspaper would do, each listing excerpts from the previous ten postings from each category. Each category would actually be a separate blog with its own categories. And so, irony of ironies, the blogging teacher is teaching sans blog at the moment. Strange feeling indeed.

Just as my students should be connecting with each other both in and out of class–frequently–whenever each of them wishes to find others in the class through their writing– to create the essential webbing of our learning community, we are only coming together in class, twice a week. They have no access to one another’s work (other than through paper copies) and so are not able to connect slowly through sampling and reflecting and commenting and posting and then returning again and again to prior postings to see the movement, the growth. I want them to know each other as writers and thinkers in as sustained and deep a fashion as is possible in a twelve-week semester (during which they have many other demands on their time and interest), and to do that I have found the blog invaluable.

In a way this set-back forces me to look at classroom blogging in the face once again, to question my direction and the pedagogical underpinnings of the work, to re-evaluate why I need to go this far with the blog, for instance, by essentially running five blogs within one. It sends me back to my Blogtalk paper, testing my conclusions.

Already, several times outside of class, I have wanted to point to websites or to discussions about arts writing, something that I can certainly do using email, a flat, unsatisfactory means of connecting simultaneously to the students and to their work. Via email I can ensure that they will not miss out on observing some of the most interesting developments on the web, some of which I’ve written about in previous postings about Archinect’s blogging experiment and about the art collective, dispatx, coming out of Barcelona, for example (one of the organizers of which left me a thought-provoking comment a couple of weeks back questioning how far blogging should go–if we had hit the threshhold and were suffering from an overindulgence of blogging, a blogging surfeit, a glut, overkill) and others, such as Paul Klein’s new venture in Chicago, Artletter.com. Yes, I can point to those sites via email. What we lose without the blog is the ability to respond and reflect in an ongoing, fluid and connected manner through links and archives and multiple new postings. The conversation isn’t preserved as effectively and doesn’t enter the larger hypertext document of the blog as a whole.

And so, my missing the blog isn’t about an addict finding withdrawal a torture. it’s about being denied a powerful tool in my teaching set, and if I don’t get it back by the end of the week, I don’t know what I’m gonna do…

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