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?

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