Trackback Recap

A few posts back I wrote about trackbacks vs. comments (with an insightful comment by Aaron Campbell thrown into the mix). Developments on my course blogs and with former students who miss the blogs have me thinking more about the rich, rough texture of the weaving of conversations I have on this blog with myself (with my current thinking and my older posts), and with those who care to trackback or to comment.

My last two posts brought several bloggers into my world I hadn’t known about, and wouldn’t know about without this kind of connectivity. I wouldn’t have wandered over to Carla Shafer ‘s blog, found the reference she left for me to her Anti-Syllabus for her first-year writing seminar at Cornell, a course in which she’s using blogs and wikis and having the students understand action research by working as a true community of practice. Fascinating.

I wouldn’t have found Situativity, Learning in Context blog which led me to Feld Thoughts Blog with its “The Me Too Zone” discussion of Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma or Tensegrities, another blog filled with thoughtful commentary and reflection on teaching and social software. I’d like to see students taking advantage of trackbacking–to get out there in the world of blogs of students at other institutions and make the kinds of connections I’m making with fellow teachers.

Which brings me, as usual, to my students and what’s going on in their blogging. Eugene, whom I’ve blogged about before, is a blog-less blogger, hopping onto other blogs in lieu of his own, for he’s afraid that no one would find his, no one would read it if it were floating untethered out there alone in cyberspace. When he’s part of a blogging community, he knows he’ll be read if not responded to, and that makes all the difference. And so I’ve been thinking of ways for him to have a blog outside of his classes without getting lost–how he can connect with likeminded bloggers out there.

And it’s got me thinking, in this, the fourth week of the semester, about these two new classes worth of students as they take to blogging, observing who leaves comments versus, in their case, new entries (I haven’t really stressed trackbacking since we’re building a collaborative blog, though I probably should since every student has a blog as well). I’m interested in how they perceive their connectedness, and use it and extend it in the context of our courses. They are still testing out the differences between posting an entry that calls to another post and commenting on the original post. It’s quite interesting to note how students shift in their relationship–in their attitude towards the ways in which blogs, podcasts and wikis work for them. I ask my students to develop reflective practices right away, frequently taking stock of how and what they have learned–and many of them are beginning to open their minds to this blogging business. They do love how it connects them to their peers.

Questions for me: how do I get students to refer back to one another’s posts, weaving in links and observations, and to use the commenting function fully without hiding there. Some students are much more comfortable sitting there off the main page, inside the comments, which is understandable, for being out there on the front page center of the MOTHERBLOG is a vulnerable place if you are a student who has been told repeatedly in life to be the best, to do it right. Blogging is both visual and loose, fluid and yet open to the world–how intimidating at first.

But slowly, they’re jumping on (some with a little nudging). One student, Julia in her “opening night” performance on the blog homepage, opens up with her post letting us know just how that feels:

I feel like a comedian on stage right now, the spot light on, the audience coughing, the digital clock counting down… and nothing is coming. I clear my throat and laugh a little to myself. “How is everyone feeling tonight?” A few random claps. “Great! How’s the Prime Rib?” Silence. “Okay, so, um, I was at the circus yesterday and…” This is what the blog feels like to me.

She’s self-conscious, but she’s now blogging and prompting responses from her classmates who are curious, too, about how it feels to blog rather than to post crafted stories, how it feels to initiate the conversations rather than to respond, how it feels to wait for a response, any response.

And then there’s Charles, writing in from Scotland:

A Word on Dancing and Elephants

My name is Charles Logan. I am, like Eugene, Steve, and Julina, an EL 170 Spring 2004 alumnus. And I am lonely. I miss her. I am jealous. I used to take her dancing. We would dally in the back next to the pecan cookies until our song came on and then it was off to the polished gymnasium dance floor where boys and girls grew into men and women. I never liked the cookies. But she seemed to enjoy saying “pecan” so I kept my opinion to myself. Besides, she was an excellent dancer, all hips and thighs.

Now see what you’ve done? I’m weepy, nostalgic. I cannot live without the blog.

And neither should you. Whether you are aware of it or not, this community is global – I’m writing this from my cozy flat near the North Sea in Scotland. It is an artistic community I cannot bear to be without. The blog is a forum for us apprentices to pool our collective works, thoughts, frustrations, triumphs, new dance steps. As such, I wish to offer a quote you might find helpful as you move from creative non-fiction into fiction.

In an interview with The Paris Review, Gabriel García Márquez explained, “If you say that there are elephants flying in the sky, people are not going to believe you. But if you say that there are four hundred and twenty-five elephants in the sky, people will probably believe you.”

Good luck with your elephants. I’ll be reading.


This class has already, in three short weeks, become closely tied to one another and to the class before them, through our time together in class, their Wednesday night workshops, and this blog. And even if they weren’t seeing results in their writing because of the blogging (which they are), wouldn’t it be enough to be heard, to know that someone was actually reading their writing, listening to them read their writing via podcasts, connecting with them through this return to a form of letter-writing and to what Robert Patterson(Via Aaron Campbell) describes as

a vector a return to an old culture.

When I say old culture, I mean the culture that fits the essential nature of humans and that fits nature itself. I imagine a return to the custom of being personally authentic, to a definition of work that serves the needs of our community, and to a society where our institutions serve to enhance all life.

I see signs that that we are going home. See if you can see what I can see.

Wouldn’t that be a good enough reason to keep our students blogging and wiki-connected and using folksonomies?


2 Responses

  1. 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…

  2. Some advice for bloggers

    First, I went to Barbara Ganley’s blog. In a post called “Trackback Recap” (which is about this very thing) she mentions Carla Shafer’s blog. In Carla’s post Getting the Hang of Blogging, she refers readers to Krista’s post, Notes for New Bloggers, w…

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