Taking the Work But Not Ourselves (Too) Seriously

I don’t know, perhaps it has something to do with the end of the school year approaching, or it has something to do with the proliferation of blogs on blogging and articles on blogging, such as the long list I found via Will of blogging articles posted at Kairos News, but I’m beginning to wonder if we’re all taking ourselves far too seriously here. Isn’t it pretty much a given by now that social software is ONE (AND NOT THE ONLY) tool with a potential positive impact on our classrooms and in the world?

Some scattered thoughts on why I’m thinking this way on a Sunday morning when I really should be out in the garden or preparing for class or conferences:

Well, for starters there are the two pointers on Stephen Downes’ blog this week, to David Wiley’s post on Freire, the Matrix and Scalability in which Wiley writes:

This thinking leads me to reaffirm my position that there is a larger educational research problem to solve than making instruction more effective. The scientific literature is full of research that will tell anyone willing to read how to make education extremely effective. It is high time the field of educational research, and especially instructional technology research, decided that the most pressing problem facing us today isnít making education more effective, it is making education more available.

Indeed! We keep racing round and round repeating ourselves about the effectiveness of social software–having to rationalize integrating it in our classrooms–all those blogging articles we’re all writing: people have a pretty good idea of how to use it, I think, or at least they will if they let the pedagogy lead the technology integration. The trouble isn’t, of course, the technology or the acceptance of technology per se, I am understanding more and more, but how threatening it is to adopt pedagogy proven to make education more effective.

I should be spending more time thinking about the service learning connections between my class and the world beyond the affluence of the college.

And there’s another one of
Downes’ daily pointers
, The New Gatekeepers, where he writes:

…these gatekeepers instantiate the very properties of the mainstream they are supposedly displacing – appearance over substance, mutual reinforcement, polarization, and herd mentality.

Sounds rather like our educational system to me…

I’m worried that if we spend too much time analyzing our use of blogs, we’re going to ruin the beauty of classroom blogging–handing our students blogs can give them the glorious sensation of feeling their way in the dark, of experimentation for the sake of seeing what comes of it rather than trying to codify it, rank it and/or evaluate it to death. I want my students to dare play around in class and on the blog, to dream up ways of changing the world. I want to keep pushing them to stretch their notions of the world and of their own place in the world–taking the work BUT NOT THEMSELVES too seriously. We don’t show our college students how to make and use knowledge–we don’t give them enough time to think and to connect and to play–we make them take their time in class and take themselves too seriously.

That’s why I love the blogger conferences such as Blogtalk2 and Northern Voice and what I anticipate the upcoming SSAW conference will be like. These workshops are both serious and great fun–attended by bold thinkers and playful practioners.

And so it’s no wonder that an earnest, hard-working, clear-eyed edublogger such asLaura at Bryn Mawr, who left me a comment the other day, finds that the scientists are getting it about blogs better than the humanists in her school. Scientists know about the power of play and are working towards real, tangible change. I agree with her about how we in the humanities don’t really get it.

And something else that’s interesting about her: Laura is playful in her blogging in a way that I am not: she, like Liz Lawley and Clancy Ratliff and Joe Hall among others, have managed to figure out how to weave together work-related and personal blogging–something Suw Charman not only got a long time ago but has written about–playfully.

So while I don’t plan to pull my family in here very much or blog my day, I do plan to keep allowing my students a whole lot of freedom on the blogs to find their own way with the various genres and voices and aims they’re discovering without much intervention on my part.

I hereby vow not to take myself too seriously!