Wish I’d been there…Northern Voices…and Sarah blogging her grad class in adolescent literacies

Vancouver was definitely the place to be this weekend for blogger types, and from what I have read over on Bryan’s blog the discussion was lively and the range of blogging uses remarkable. I’m especially interested to see how many multimedia uses and tools were presented. Lots to explore.

I do have one wee criticism to make about conference sessions on academic blogging (and I’m talking about most conferences here):rarely do we see STUDENTS on panels or teachers outside the technology education/media studies/cyberstudies realm presenting, and to my thinking, we need to hear from the people using blogs, wikis, and other social software well in the liberal arts.

Sarah Lohnes, who has a new blog related to one of her grad classes at Columbia (a must-read for anyone who wants to think about adolescent literacy and learn from her insightful and thought-provoking commentary),is asking some important questions (and pointing to some great sites and resources) about adolescents and literacy–and the lack of the adolescent’s viewpoint in any of the research. In one post she points out:

There is a dearth of undergraduate voices in the literature on technology in liberal arts colleges; it was important to me to not only have student voices be heard, but to draw attention to the fact that colleges, whose mission is ostensibly centered around students, very infrequently draw on students’ practices in decisions around curriculum or administration.

Ah yes, students? What students? How many professors consult their students when creating a syllabus? I know that my practice of posting only a couple of weeks of a syllabus until I can really get a feel for who these students are, and what they want from the course and how they think it ought to be taught before weighing their requests against what in my experience seems to work is quite controversial. Right now I am tweaking the plan I had in mind in two courses, trying to seize upon the lessons I have learned about and from them these first couple of weeks. But the pressure in our classrooms to convey a body of information to students rather than to help them to learn processes and to think critically precludes our ability to listen to our students’ voices.

One of the promising aspects about classroom blogging (and how some students take the blogs and run with them both inside class and out, really making them about much more than classroom discourse as they feel their way through the choreography of their many writing voices playing out on the screen, switching from one to another post by post, something I observed even on a class blog last fall) is how the blog invites students to “take over,” to leave the teacher behind and to put their own voices, their own inquiry, their own concerns front and center. It takes time for a group of students unaccustomed to such a classroom experience to open up and let ‘er rip, but once it happens, they do a better job using the blog well than any of us cyber-immigrants could dream of doing. A couple of examples: last semester’s bloggers’ field trip took a couple of unexpected turns as the students started to feel attacked by one another on the blog, which in turn made them have to discuss in class their own positions within the collaborative and the learning act–fascinating (wish I been podcasting back then). Also right now, students from last year’s creative writing class and jumping onto this year’s blog, inviting themselves on as guides and helpmates of sorts, and indeed, contributing to the shaping of the class, from where they write.
So yes, let’s get students out there involved in the research, speaking with us at the conferences, and taking over the course blogs.


One Response

  1. Thanks, Barbara! 🙂 You should take a look at the syllabus for the class I’m taking too… the whole thing is based around an inquiry question (of our own devising) that we’re exploring throughout the semester. I think that having that question in mind has made my reading and blogging about the reading much more focused, meaningful, and relevant to me…

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