Some Blog-Related Moments from the Week…

**Upon my return from Chicago, my students (and a couple of colleagues) recounted how Scott Rosenberg surprised them at his recent lecture by saying that he knew I had blogged him the day before and that I was in Chicago and not in the room–all from reading my blog and from the wonders of RSS. The students loved that bit of proof that people-out-there-somewhere read blogs. Their blog. Knowing that their artswriting course ‘zine, awZ has made it to Holland and New Jersey, to Barcelona and Chicago, and who knows where else pleases them mightily. They also love it when they Google an arts topic just to find an awZ posting right up there for all the world to see. They feel responsible for what they write, and for how it reads, some of them for the first time. That new commitment to excellence makes all the headaches involved in bringing technology into the classroom worth it. Of course it also means that we are way behind on getting all of their digital stories and artist profiles up onto the blog because they keep fine-tuning over on their own blogs before posting to the ‘zine, and because they are using so much media in their work that we have to play around with compression and embedding and ways to keep the file sizes under control. It means, for right now anyway, that I am spending a lot of time in the media lab troubleshooting.

**At a get-together on Friday with students who have attended one or another version of our pre-enrollment experience over the years, I couldn’t get over the number of times blogs or multi-media projects came up in conversation as students described the work they were doing this semester or had proposed to do as independent studies this winter or spring. And they didn’t think the blogs were the point at all–just the vehicle, just the means, the way of getting where they want to go with their research and writing.

**It’s a kick how many of my students, past and present, read this blog. As I have mentioned before it wasn’t something I had even thought about–I guess I never thought they would find this blog interesting or relevant to them. The more I think about it, though, the more I return to the comment to that post left by Dispatx Art Collective in Barcelona:

This whole thread is very interesting and thought provoking – as I was reading it, I was wondering about the whole idea of ‘commenting as conversation’ and ‘reciprocal relationships’ and really seeing these as something new, or something old. There is a level to which ones own thoughts are now becoming untrammelled –

once upon a time (in the good old days, perhaps) a teacher would come to class with work prepared. Always there was someone who had accessed some text that nobdy else had – if it were one of my classes, it could have been the text we were supposed to read but nobody had – and this student had an undeniable advantage. When I was writing my dissertation, I had several unpublished pieces of a professor’s book to hand. Reading the professor’s blog, coming up with a new thought, is almost socializing this advantage – saying – here, class – you can all have the benefit of what I think.

Isn’t that a bit like extending the class? Are reciprocal relationships in typed form new …

So how far does it go? Do teachers without blogs unwittingly expose their novices to a world without summer school? At what point does the professor give up, and use speech as his or her medium? How is the blog something that augments rather than simply mimics the normal range of human interrelationships?

These are excellent questions, and ones I’m grappling with right now as I think about the impact reading my blog might have on my students directly through the reading of this blog rather than indirectly through the resulting developments in my teaching. It’s not at all necessary for professors to have blogs as a way to augment their students’ education, to extend the reach of the class. (Though as I’ve been arguing–with some blogging colleagues–I DO believe that a teacher who uses blogs as a new kind of mult-media authoring tool better be using a blog herself.) Isn’t that what the course blog is about, and directly so? Having students learn more about our subject matter or about how I think certainly wasn’t my intention here with this blog…

I’m finding out that my student readership goes beyond those in my class curious to see if (and what) I’m writing about them. And it’s not only those from previous semesters who greet me in the halls with, “Nice post this week, BG…” ; it’s even those out in the world, including one in Syria on a Fulbright who let me know they’re keeping up with my world via this blog. Interesting…

**During lunch with a recent grad (a ground-breaker around here in the use of digital stories as a fiction-authoring medium) who is having a fabulous experience at Teach Kentucky, we started talking about getting her eighth graders and my creative writers together on a blog, discussing writing and sharing their work. I’ve done this inter-school sharing before with a local fifth grade, and once upon a time Will Richardson and I tried to get something going between our classes, though with little success. He has had better luck with other “blogging exchanges,” and I know that many other classes are inter-blogging with excellent results. My New England college students could learn a lot from her Louisville Middle-schoolers, and her kids could learn a thing or two about a small liberal arts college. Who knows where such a collaboration could lead for some of the kids. In the past, the young students have latched onto their college counterparts as though it were a Community Friends/Mentoring kind of collaboration. College students so quickly and easily forget that a world exists beyond their dormitories and classrooms–I’m always looking for ways for them to pick up their heads and look around at the world.

**With students about to scatter for Thanksgiving break, it will be interesting to see if any of them read the blog while they’re away, or post to it. Will they feel compelled to check in? Will they miss the blog?

Trying to Get It Right…

Trying_to_Ge_26694.gif

(Playing around with another cool, free tool)

Héctor hasn’t been blogging much recently (too many demands on his time these days), but when he does, it’s sure to be thought-provoking, and his recent posting The Taking of America 1-2-3 is no exception. Dismayed by the election results, he makes us look hard at how we are and aren’t teaching our children to REASON:

As we ponder the management of the Democratic journey–or even the Republican’s for that matter–what’s extremely clear is that we’re seeing in “red” America is the failure of education.

It’s tragic.

Our liberal education institutions are mere rights of passage to a socially stratisfied American reality: everyone is fighting for their own piece of the pie, up the ladder, and leaving everyone else out and down.

As long as it “ain’t happenin’ to me”…

The Bush Administration is one of the most divisive forces in our country’s short history. A Jihad has been constituted. We accept this–blindness reigns supreme, which means that education has not fostered the proper reflective practice necessary for deep and meaningful engagement with hard issues.

As an educator of just the kinds of students who will take up the mantle of leadership of this country a few years down the road, I have to look at what I’m doing in the classroom to foster, no to demand clear, deep thinking on the part of my students. Am I playing around with technology too much because, well, because it amuses me? Because I get attention for doing so? Am I sacrificing time that could be better spent in other activities that foster effective critical thinking? The faculty, administrators and IT folks attending the recent Multi-media Narrative Presentation asked me that question–repeatedly–and I’m glad they did. I’m glad Héctor does–all the time. It makes me have to take stock of my position.

I’m confident that, though certainly flawed in ways I won’t even see until I’m way down the road and doing a better job of integrating technology into the classroom, my use of blogging and digital storytelling has pushed my students into thinking long and hard about the important issues raised in class and on the blog. Right now there’s quite a discussion going on about what you can and can’t publish in an arts review, for instance, and there’s one about Stories with Images vs. with Words Added. In a regular class (meeting for 75 minutes twice a week), we can’t have those sprawling discussions–and we can’t archive them, returning later in class to point to them as we struggle to bring coherence and clarity to our thinking.

But it’s more than that–in brief class meetings, we also can’t develop the bold imaginative play that is crucial to deep inquiry. Technology–the freespaces of blogs and the multimedia authoring tools being developed used this way can have pretty remarkable results in this regard. Take this trial in England I learned about from Byran Alexander, for example, Savannah:

…a strategy-based adventure game where a virtual space is mapped directly onto a real space. Children ‘play’ at being lions in a savannah, navigating the augmented environments with a mobile handheld device. By using aspects of game play, Savannah challenges children to explore and survive in the augmented space. To do this they must successfully adopt strategies used by lions.

Preliminary findings suggest that, “the combination of play and planning within the game enabled children to explore knowledge from a number of different perspectives: through experience; through reflection on experience; and through research and discussion.” Perhaps this sort of project-based, experiential gaming-in-the-classroom experience in the younger grades will grow students who come to our undergraduate classrooms demanding opportunities to examine difficult questions from multiple perspectives and to think collaboratively, collectively. Just maybe…

And so I continue to be optimistic, to think that we’re on the right track with this work. It’s just beginning; I often fail; I usually have very little idea where a particular experiment will take my class, but I know that we’ll learn a heck of a lot in the doing as long as we’re careful to keep questioning, to keep deliberating and to keep searching.

Which brings me to my second, though related, topic of the day: Why the teacher who uses blogs must blog. And therefore why I need to spend next summer learning HTML, FLash, Dreamweaver inside-and-out at a minimum instead of depending on my good buddies to pull me out of my technology quagmires!

Blogging here in this space as my students take over and blog on awz, our course blog’zine is turning out to be a terrific idea on several fronts:

1. How can a teacher expect her students to blog (or to use any other tool, strategy, or technique) if she doesn’t use it herself, exploring the impact it has on her thinking, writing, research and creativity? This is what Elizabeth Daley was getting at during her keynote at the NITLE Annual Meeting when she explained that no faculty member was allowed to use the multimedia authoring tools at USC or to integrate multimedia into the classroom if she didn’t use it herself in her own research first! Blogging as regularly as is feasible during a busy semester keeps me well aware of how much time it takes to blog well. It puts me in their shoes.

2. Blogging pushes me to think through ideas and to keep anchoring my work to the larger conversation going on about the topics that interest me, and to keep revisiting earlier stops on my blogging-teacher’s journey. I can see my evolution and reflect on it (something I also ask my students to do). My research and pedagogy questions grow out of the postings; I build conference papers and proposals from the brainstorming.

3. I have a place to play around with some of the tools and strategies before trying them out in the classroom. I push myself to stay abreast of developments as best I can given the many demands on my time. (I mean, look at this kind of play going on with Flickr these days…)

Of course, Reason #3 also leads to frustration. Right now, I want to try out some sort of mapping for the Bloggers’ Field Trip we’re about to embark upon, and I need some time and HELP figuring out which tool to use and how to use it! (Perhaps it’s just the thing for Mikel Maron’s World Kit: Easy Web Geovisualization.)
I am also seeing this new kind of arts field trip as the perfect opportunity to try out podcasting (something Will Richardson has really thrown himself into recently!) or, perhaps a more multi-media kind of in-the-field blogging, a mix of images (via flickr) and video clips, narrative and even music as a way to look at the differences between improvisation and revision, between responses in the moment and reflective writing. There’s all kinds of potential in doing this sort of work. But FIRST I NEED TO GET MY HANDS ON A HALF DOZEN iPODS! Yes, many students own them, but not ALL students can even think of affording an iPOD. We have loaner mini DV cameras, still digital cameras, even laptops at our library circulation desk, but no iPODS. And people think it’s way over-the-top for me to be pushing for them.

So, for now, we’ll keep cobbling together our reports from the field. But I’m really looking forward to the day when the handheld do-it-all tool becomes available and affordable, easy-to-use and effective.

Conference Highlights

It was great to see Sarah Lohnes at NITLE, and my students are getting a charge out of the fact that she used their blog, awZ, as one of her classroom blogging examples during her presentation on Blogs in Higher Ed.

Another highlight was the fabulous keynote speech by Elizabeth Daley , Director of the Annenberg Center at USC. She spoke about multi-media authoring as a viable means of scholarly academic discourse, and about the reality of using and understanding media in our lives and classrooms. She exhibited examples of exemplary student and faculty multi-media authoring while insisting on the need to ground the work within the discipline, within the professor’s research, explaining that at USC, her group partners with professors across the curriculum who first will use multi-media authoring in their own research before bringing it to their classes. She argues that you cannot slap technology onto the classroom and have someone else come in to teach a unit on technology and then leave once the unit’s done. You, as the teacher, have to understand and use the technology as an integral part of your own authoring and research process. Yes! Well, she was just extraordinary—her group is developing a multi-media authoring product (easy easy easy, she says, though still in Beta stage): pk3. They are also publishing an ejournal, Vectors, the first peer-reviewed, cross-disciplinary journal publishing multimedia work in traditional disciplines. Elizabeth Daley is, it seems, a visionary who makes things happen!

Nothing like getting the teacher out of town and off the blog to get the students in there, blogging it up—in the most informal of tones in their discussions, I must say–
I showed them how a Dutch blogger has referenced their blog on hers, (of course, being in Dutch, there’s no way to know exactly what the writer is saying about them and their blogging efforts), a revelation that has them surprised and pleased.

On the blog right now discussions are developing along several lines: politics and art, the issues raised when writing a reviewin a local periodical, the need for a story-without-words to be a story nonetheless with a comprehensible narrative arc.

Multi-Media Narrative in the Liberal Arts Classroom: NITLE CONFERENCE–Presentation Notes and Slides

Here are my notes for yesterday’s presentation at NITLE (I touched upon most, but not all, of the following):

Pedagogical Rationale for Multi-Media Authoring in the Literature and Writing Classroom

A. Classroom Narratives
We often overlook the role of narrative in the classroom, both as an integral component of the course content itself, as our lens through which we examine the subject matter and as our primary means of oral and written communication and expression. We’re always telling stories to illustrate, to punctuate, to explicate; indeed, in our classes we are, essentially, constructing our story of the discipline. Creating stories within the context of an academic discipline helps students to learn about story function and form, about scholarly perspective and a writer’s choices.

B. Stories as Contextualizing Devices
Creating multi-media stories helps students to ground the classroom experience within their lives and to contextualize it (creating digital stories about the awakening of their interest in the subject matter, encounters with the themes of the course, or experiences with the context of the course).

C. Building Community
The challenging, often-frustrating collaborative process of creating digital stories (a la The Center for Digital Storytelling) builds a strong, committed learning community, one of the cornerstones of Pierre Levy’s notion of collective intelligence, of reciprocal apprenticeships creating effective knowledge spaces. (See his book, Collective Intelligence)

Process/Media Literacy The process of selecting and then juxtaposing image, sound and text creates an opportunity to analyze the grammar of image, sound and language separately and in correspondence with one another. Pressure is put on structure and organization, on every image, sound file and word, on pacing, tone, and transition. Students become better critical readers of media and skilled writers as a result of this process of “doing the discipline.”

The Digital Storytelling Experience: Examples

Digital stories created at the beginning of a blogging first-year seminar, Contemporary Ireland through Fiction and Film, and at the opening of a first-level creative writing class, did indeed foster strong communities of learners, underline the relationships students had to the course material, and aid the development of critical reading of media and effective writing skills. Student reflections on the process (see BLOGTALK paper or course blogs themselves for their reflections)

Examples: Dan’s story about his relationship to his own cultural heritage
All the Creative writing digital stories are here; Alex’s story, a humorous look at a transcendent moment in her adolescence, is particularly interesting.

Emergent Outcomes

Students, together, in collaborations and in solo efforts found new ways to incorporate fragments of multi-media narrative within Web-based, hypertext collaborative research projects, literary analysis and creative writing projects. In considering function and meaning first, the students gravitated towards multi-media authoring because it offered them a rich, open canvas, multiple routes of expression, hyperlinking and the possibility of multivocality and multilinear narrative.

Example: Dan & Elise’s collaborative research project: “The Evolution of Street Art in Northern Ireland. They embedded clips and still images, sound files and voiceovers within a heavily linked, threaded project to create a complex, multi-faceted portrait of the street art of Northern Ireland. (Note: They found that they sacrificed something of the writing to achieve a new effect of taking the reader on a journey through Belfast—time constraints created unforeseen challenges. While certain that they were headed in the right direction with their approach to the project, they felt overwhelmed by the options, by the pull of so many media on their time and focus.)

Example: Amanda’s “From the Frontier of Writing”, a comparative analysis of poems and a novel about Northern Ireland. Inside a hyperlinked document that wove together literary analysis, personal narrative and research, she used a digital story to interpret a Seamus Heaney poem, selecting images and a soundtrack that expressed her understanding of the poem, narrated by Heaney himself. In also linking her original heritage digital story to her comparative analysis of two writers of the North, she found a way to connect her New York 9-11 experience to her reading of the events of the North in the 1970s.

Three students in the first-level creative writing class used digital stories as a creative act of authoring slam poetry, fiction and personal narrative.

Course Archive
The digital stories enter the course archive, open to readers outside the class as well as to future classes. Students in subsequent iterations of the course build on the accomplishments of previous students, learning from their models and their failures, even incorporating clips from previous student digital stories within their own multi-media projects. The research stays alive, having an impact on its readership. The work is therefore meaningful to the students and exemplifies efficacy in action.

The opportunity to learn from their peers creates a student-centered learning collaborative which explore a project-based approach to learning, and offers opportunities for service-learning as students bring their knowledge and skills to area elementary schools and community organizations.

Students have subsequently used digital stories in independent research projects, including
–a group of four students shooting contextual webfilms in Ireland, in which they examined the issues raised in the novels and films, against the backdrop of the country and its people;
–a senior creative writing student authoring a digital-storytelling cycle as a new form of connected fictional stories;
–a senior using digital stories as a means of reflecting on fieldwork conducted in the town of Middlebury;
–A student proposing a digital storytelling project in Southern India over January term as a way to capture the stories of women in three cities, juxtaposed against the story of her journey as a first-generation American whose parent emigrated from India;
–Students using digital stories in an artswriting class as a means of authoring performance reviews and artist profiles.

Introducing multi-media narrative into the classroom cultivates what Maxine Greene terms “ingenuity and curiosity,” helping our students on their journey to becoming bold thinkers, confident learners, and skillful writers as they gain fluency in the medium of the Web. They learn that the merging forms of communication and expression allow them to think in new ways about old material. The students learn that the best scholarship is intensely creative.

I won’t include the Powerpoint file here because of course I must point out how much I loathe using what-is-a-static-tool-in-my-hands-anyway to demonstrate what is going on in the fluid environment of the Web.

Students in Action on the Blog

I’m in Chicago right now, at the NITLE annual conference, where I’ve been invited to present on multi-media narrative in the liberal arts classroom, and yet I’m also in class, on the artswriting blog, mostly checking in on what they’re up to this weekend, and if I have time, I’ll post a little here and there and respond to what I read. It makes for a fluid, continuous relationship, and my students in some ways won’t even know I’m gone. One of the reasons for classroom blogging–extending the reach of the classroom.

But that’s not really what I want to write about…There are more interesting things afoot than that; indeed, a couple of noteworthy things are emerging on the blog right now: first, through Katie’s reference to this, bgblogging, blog, we’ve stepped into new territory–students reading their professors’ blogs–imagine–and finding what’s there interesting and relevant enough to point out to the entire class. We’ll see if any of the others pick up the thread (my students are not required to respond to any particular post–they respond when they have something to say). It makes me have to consider my students as part of my audience. Will that change some of what I say or how as I reflect on the experience of teaching them?

The other striking development is a small exchange between Alex and Julina about Julina’s Story without Words posting. First off, both students clearly understand that commenting is a form of conversation, and treat it as such, which a lot of people don’t do. Alex refers to previous comments and then moves beyond them to make a direct suggestion to the writer, Julina, saying:

I agree completely w/ what john and Donovan said -seeing the pictures first, then the words, and how smoothly the two fit together, both beautifully open-ended and specific in the way good poetry is (well, what i consider good poetry). I might be fun to play w/ putting different pictures to the poem after writing specifically for these pictures- it’s a choreography exercise the dance dept uses a lot, choreographing to one piece of music, then changing the music, while keeping the choreography complete. It can produce some interesting effects, give both the words and images new nuances that you hadn’t intended, but make the whole piece much richer. (But usually, honestly, I prefer the original)

A fine response in itself–and then Julina’s return comment makes my day:

Alex—

Thank you for your suggestion. I think that is a fascinating idea–choreographing words to images then images to those words. I may just try that. Also thank you all very much for responding to my pieces. I find talking about them extremely difficult– as though once I have produced them they become foreign and strange and incomprehensible in a way. Hearing other people discuss these little brainchildren is extremely insightful, and also very helpful. Thanks again,

Julina

Right there, in those few sentences between them, we see the whole reason for blogging in the classroom: these two students have formed a reciprocal apprenticeship (a la Levy), teaching one another without needing me at all (I didn’t even know about that exercise); and–Julina articulates why publishing is so crucial, publishing to an audience, who in responding thoughtfully, lets the writer know she isn’t just blowing into the wind, that her work matters, and why. She gets to re-see her own work through the eyes of the other, the reader. This is efficacy in action if I’ve ever seen it.

It’s in these small moments of students sharing and linking, and of fellow teachers out there, like Paula Petrik At George Mason University and Erik Feinblatt at FIT sharing their inspired, innovative work here on my blog that I know we’re on the right track.

Now, back to the conference…

Noteworthy Examples of Emerging Technologies in the Classroom

Colleagues–even those who blog or use blogs in the classroom (not necessarily the same people)–often wonder if there is such a thing as a virtual higher ed blogging community, whether all this referring to Pierre Levy I do on this blog and his idea of “collective intelligence” and “knowledge spaces” and “reciprocal apprenticeships” really means anything in the world of educational bloggers the way it does in the worlds of journalism, business and politics. With Scott Rosenberg of Salon.com coming to Middlebury next Monday (just when I ‘ll be out of town at NITLE, wouldn’t you know it), differences between blogging communities are being talked about in these halls.

And just when I think, well, okay, perhaps I am wrong, perhaps I have in my enthusiasm embraced a phantom community that is little more than a figment of my dog-bloggéd imagination–this handful of educators both using blogs actively in the classroom and blogging about the experience may think we are a commmunity but actually we are nothing of the sort–along come a couple of comments on my blog from readers who are doing some very interesting work indeed out there. They are quieter types than yours truly, I think, focussing on the work itself instead of blogging about it or hanging out at blogging conferences..(a topic I’d like to consider sometime:the blogging teacher, and the teacher who uses blogs), and so I am especially grateful to them for sharing their work with me.

Paula Petrik at George Mason University has been using blogs extensively in her history classes. In her comment to my Phones, games and Cameras in the Classroom, she notes,

I, too, use blogs, but I suspect that I use them in a much different fashion. My emphasis is on learning to think as a historian and the improvement of student writing. And there’s nothing like a sustained program of writing to get the job done. To that end, I’m requiring comments and “blog-adapted” academic writing–what you term “forced” writing. The students write every week (individual posts, group project posts, or comments), and I grade every week. Blogging does make providing feedback for the students easier, but I must confess that I had to set up a rather crude Excel spreadsheet/WebMerge Rube Goldberg process to organize the feedback system and provide the necessary level of security. If I knew PHP, I could probably get the job done much more efficiently, but there’s no more time in the day. I actually have the rather bizarre idea that technology should make the logistical elements of teaching, including marking and feedback, easier.

Ah yes, the shortcomings of blogging software for those of us trying to use blogs in educational settings… In spite of the challenges, Paula Petrik has her students using blogs (requiring them to purchase subscriptions of Typepad, a commercial application, treating as a text purchase–I’ve thought about doing this with my students, or having them purchase inexpensive firewire drives for media storage) as a course portfolio. What is valuable here on first view is the archiving and sharing–for her students to learn from each other’s projects–and for other teachers to learn from her assignments. Her students have posted maps, documentary films, essays–these are media rich sites and an excellent example to show colleagues from the history department!

And from Erik Feinblatt at FIT comes this example:

I am responsible for instructional development at FIT in NYC. Recently, we have looked at ways of incorporating FLICKR into some of our courses. We have many ideas, yet to be implemented, and one quite impressive utilization. It is for an Art History survey course – History of Western Art and Civilization: Renaissance to the Modern Era – and uses student comments and notes extensively to accompany the images.

I’ve been looking for ways flickr is being used in higher ed. This example from an art history classroom, with the students discussing a painting AND leaving notes on the image as a way of really getting right in there and looking closely at the image (Wouldn’t John Berger love this application!), gives me ideas about how to add Flickr to my Artswriting blog.

Now if Erik and Paula would blog about these experiences, communicating with us what has worked and hasn’t, what missteps they’ve taken, what directions they are moving in now–but I know how difficult it is to teach, to produce scholarship, to have a life, and to blog…Believe me, I know…

Phones, Cameras & Games in the Classroom

Héctor speaks quite convincingly about how this new generation of adolescents is not truly the Net-Generation, but rather an in-between generation, neither here nor there, because they have heard as much about the time before computers as they have experienced life with computers. Until recently, I didn’t completely agree with him, but following some new-media moments with my students and my children, I’m coming around to his way of thinking.

Some observations about these kids:

Their parents are immigrants to cyberspace–they are, then, first generation inhabitants of this world. And as such, they move between the old and the new, largely being schooled in the old traditions (the old country, if you will, of a classical education) while living with their peers in the new world where they move with an uncanny (but oh-so-privileged) ease with their cellphones in their pockets, their iPODS in their backbacks, their laptops underarm. Of course, these plugged-in students swarm to the open spaces of our new library to work in close quarters with one another at the college computers (where are those laptops now?), watching movies or writing papers or conducting research or IM-ing–all of the above, probably, simultaneously– back-to-back, side-by-side tapping away, lost within their own little worlds but touching one another, together, as much as possible. (I’ll have to post a photo of this phenomenon sometime soon.) Accordingly,there’s an electric atmosphere tinged with tension–feeling the excitement of the new land while carrying the expectations of the old.

I watch in wonder as they roam so fluidly, integrating the various media seemingly seamlessly into their lives. My daughter at Barnard will call me from the streets of New York as she exits the Metropolitan Museum with a clutch of friends, to tell me that she saw her favorite Degas again; I can hear in the background her friends talking; she breaks away from me briefly to say something to them; a taxi horn blares. “Bye, Mom–gotta go catch some dinner now,” she says and hangs up. Calling someone is a much more deliberate act for me–I isolate myself from everything else to hold the receiver in my hand and focus on whomever I am calling, at least for that brief moment. Not so this generation. (More on cellphones here)

And my younger daughter sits in the back seat of the car, as we drive home, text messaging and chuckling to herself, and once we’re home, races to the computer to IM while she hooks into some music station, plays a few rounds of some online game or other as she does her homework. I am often aghast. And in awe. My brain just can’t cope with so much simultaneous stimulation.

We, old-country denizens, fret, “It’s a fractured, fragmented, shallow way of living.” And yet, the bolder among us, those with some vision, see that perhaps we can learn a thing or two by bringing computer games, interactive television, texting and the like into our classrooms. It’s not exactly a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality, but a realistic and open-minded inquiry into the possible benefits of the characteristics of this new world.

I, for one, would love to get my hands on one of the new iPODPhotos to try out in my classes–podcasting and the like.

I’d like to think about how FLICKR might work in my arts writing class, especially when we’re on the road and have camera phones handy.

What if my students wanted to create something truly interactive, a game for a final arts project? Several of them have already moved past me in their projects, composing music, taping phone conversations (with permission) to post, conducting online interviews for their artist profiles. Of course, they also get very very frustrated when the computer freezes or crashes, when they lose files or something seizes up somewhere. They’re incensed and swear they’d rather do without technology altogether. Ha–I’d like to see ’em try!

Will these kids get out there and vote tomorrow? That will be my first question in class in the morning–before “What’s new on the blog?“–did they (or will they) vote? Will these first-generation cyberspace inhabitants see voting as old-country or new?

— — ——-

Sites related to texting and gaming I plan to spend more time checking out in the coming weeks, to think about how and if some of these approaches make sense in my classroom include:

The Shifted Librarian’s thoughts on text messaging in educational contexts (thanks to Will Richardson)

Work being done in the UK on computer games in the classroom, Here and here (thanks to Stephen Downes

And Flashstories from Stories1st.org.