People Outside the Classroom Don’t Get It, But the Students Do…

Blogging is too cool to be the stuff of the serious schoolroom, yes?
Making digital stories is no better than wasting time on yet another lame poster project in high school social studies class, right?

Funny question–have the people who feel this way ever blogged? Have they tried to manipulate the balance between image, sound and text as a means of expression? Do they blog regularly? Have they experienced the potential of what Ken Smith points out in his response to a recent conference keynote on his

Weblogs in Higher Education blog:
Genres to nurture fragments of insight. In this morning’s keynote talk at the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning conference (IS-SOTL), Randy Bass said that he and his colleagues at CNDLS (Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship) were looking for ways to use the web to help with the process of making new knowledge. He said that some familiar genres, like the scholarly article, can end up feeling flatter, less rich, than the body of knowledge, experience, and practice they grow out of. The articles also tend to lost track of some insights that arise during the process of inquiry. So, he said, he and his collaborators were looking for genres that could help nurture the fragments of insight that emerge during that process. Of course I thought about blogging…

This is, indeed, one of the reasons for blogging in the classroom–especially for undergraduates who are beginning to have real insight into their chosen fields but tend to be all over the place–they can put fragments out there, small attempts to articulate something they’ve observed. And little by little, because those fragments are gathered, archived and linked, they can assemble more extended arguments, narratives and syntheses.

Other reasons for blogging–and why it isn’t empty messing-around or a privileging of sloppy thinking & writing–that are showing up in my Artswriting class –and ones that people don’t always understand if they haven’t tried it out themselves:

–Blogs as places for informal writing and responding.
Blogs can free students to have conversations-in-writing about issues that matter to them (and to the course) but that they haven’t tested; how having those conversations promotes good thinking and good writing. Take a look, for example, at this blog conversation. The students are trying to convince one another and yet are willing to revise themselves as they go. Furthermore, the discussions, unlike on forums or discussion boards, are woven right into the larger fabric of the entire course conversation, represented by the full blog–in all its flaws and glory. Seeing the most informal, error-riddled improv prose side-by-side with formal, polished, even scholarly essays makes valuable points about various means of discourse and their appropriateness and effectiveness.

–Blogs as Virtual Knowledge Spaces Foster Co-learning
My students have started bemoaning the fact that now that they are immersed in the solo aspect of digital-story making, they miss having constant access to the processes of their classmates. They want to see behind the scenes of their peers works-in-progress. When they begin to falter in their own process, they boot up the blog and take a look at what everyone else has come up with in response to the assignment. They take inspiration from one another through the blog.

–Blogs as Teacher-Development Tools
That my students are feeling the lack of in-process pieces of the digital stories makes me have to re-evaluate what I’ve done and asked them to do. I see that I should have been asking them to post their works as they are being created. Why not have a soundless string of images embedded and then getting some feedback on how they’re affecting my viewer? I can revise my teaching as I go–this is hugely beneficial to my students, of course!

To be continued…

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