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:


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,


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…