Diagrams, Conversations & Commenting

Via Aaron Campbell comes this diagram through James Farmer on Communities of Inquiry and how blogs serve them. It’s heartening that others are asking the same kinds of questions as I find myself asking these days and coming up with thoughtful, sensible answers. I particularly appreciate Aaron’s response to Susan Marandi’s observation that the best teachers she ever had were the sages-on-the stage. He writes:

I think the question is rather, what kind of society do you want to live in? Do you want a society where average citizens look to authority figures and powerful institutions to validate their knowledge and decide for them how they will live and think and act? Do you want to live in that kind of social environment? Or would you prefer a society where individuals each have a strong sense of autonomy and interdependence in combination with a sharp faculties of critical awareness and commitment to cooperation?

He’s putting his finger right on what ails us here in the U.S. on so many levels. He goes on to say,

I prefer the second, the kind where a healthy democracy can actually flourish. We can only bring this into being if teachers are willing to let go of the reigns of control, encourage cooperation, and allow students to develop their own sense of power and to become their own authorities. Do away with grades and competitive structures. In fact, lets annihilate the student/teacher realtionship so as to allow communities of learners to emerge. All people have something of value to offer the community as a result of pursuing their bliss. The more our classrooms resemble these organic, living, breathing, loosely defined communities; the more our societies of the future have a chance to mirror them. Perhaps then, the community will become part of each person’s sense of self, so that sharing with the whole is as natural as being selfish is now for the egotistical self contained in these temporary little bundles of flesh and bones.”

Bravo, Aaron.

Aaron and Will are trying out all kinds of interesting e2e virtual-communities-of-inquiry experiments,and I’ll be interested to see what they learn about integrating such advances into their classrooms and how such far-reaching use of technology affects learning communities. They are really integrating various technologies into their work, seeing that RSS and real-time collaborative blogging, wikis, chat, audio and video all have promise together in the classroom. I’m still just playing around with blogging myself. Actually, if truth be told, Héctor and I are going to try to do some class-to-class collaboration with wikis this spring, and I am hoping to get moving on some “blogging in the wilderness” collaborations with the Social Software Users’ Group from CET, and I have students blogging in far-flung places on the earth, but I haven’t yet moved to this full-fledged integration of a range of tools. Perhaps I am listening a bit to Héctor’s fabulous recent posting–I highly recommend it: he doesn’t post often, but he always posts brilliantly–about needing to take it a bit slower this semester, to fine tune the kind of multi-blog approach I’m using in my classes, incorporating a bit of podcasting and such, but not taking any new leaps, instead learning from Aaron, James and Will as they go. And thinking aloud here.

For me the beauty of this professional blogging is that it keeps me reading the Web to keep abreast of what my virtual colleagues are doing out there and to keep reflecting on what I’m doing and why. I know I’ve said this several times before, but really,if we ask our students to blog shouldn’t we have tried it out ourselves? Would you teach a kid to drive if you didn’t drive a car yourself? I’m still astonished by the numbers of teachers thinking they can throw blogging into the class without ever trying it out for themselves, feeling what it’s like to click the send button and have your modest essay or comment move out beyond yourself and into that vast unknown of the Web.

Which brings me to Trackback vs. Comments. Héctor is one of the few bloggers out there (,Sarah too, and Patti–though she doesn’t blog) who leaves substantive comments in response to postings rather than using Trackback (though he does that, too). I admit I am a more selfish user of the Web, choosing to respond to other people’s blogs via Trackback for the mostpart because I like to hang onto my thoughts on whatever topic I’ve responded to, weaving them into the archives of this evolving one-teacher’s- reflection kind of blog, and I can’t do that on someone else’s blog. I want to see the evolution of my thinking on technology in the classroom, and most of the time I am interested in a line or so of someone else’s posting, and so I use Trackback. But I must say that sometimes I feel a little guilty. Should I just go onto Aaron’s blog and respond to his posting? Or James Farmer’s? Probably. But I also find it more efficient to do everything here, and time, well, time is pretty short when the semester looms and we’re moving to MT 3.15 and I still have to work out details of the four-colum/four-blog-within-the-Motherblog design… I’ll keep thinking about this one…

Yes, this week I am pulling up a couple of new course blogs–though new is a relative term here, since one of them, at least, uses previous course blogs rather prominently. Now that EL170 (Introduction to Creative Writing) is in its fourth course blog, I have incredible resources to mine for examples, models and provocative discussion. This group of students will stand on the shoulders of the students who passed through this classroom before them, learning from their successes and their “glorious failures.” More on the new blogs anon.

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5 Responses

  1. Hi Barbara. I see leaving comments on a site as useful for personal messages, quick questions, short comments, etc. I do not see responding to other people’s blogs via trackback as a necessarily selfish act. In fact, when doing that, you share your thoughts with your readers and expand the ‘conversation’ by opening it up to others. It is an act giving as well. And as you say, you can keep track of the evolution of your own thinking better this way. Looking forward to reading more from you!

  2. Hi Barbara,

    Thanks for the comment & link :o) I should pont out though that the diuagram is borrowed from here: http://communitiesofinquiry.com/

    (and referenced here: http://incsub.org/blog/index.php?page_id=207)

    Cheers, James

  3. Trackback or comment?

    I read Barbara’s bgblogging: Trackback Recap post with interest this morning (after a trackback to my trackback) because I am working on shifting my online Teaching with the Internet class from its current Course Management System (CMS) format to a…

  4. Will R’s frequent mentions of you led me here. Great stuff. I haven’t mastered Trackback myself, but your question “trackback vs comments” highlights what I see as a serious drawback of blogging when it comes to continuing discussions. Following Aaron’s advice, I will rant on at greater length about this on my own blog.

  5. Diagrams, Conversations & Commenting

    Diagrams, Conversation…

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