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 isnt 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!


4 Responses

  1. I don’t know if I’ve managed to figure out how to ideally weave together the personal and work-related aspects of my blogging practice.

    There’s always been a tension between topical blogging and journal-like blogging in my practice… I came to know blogging from the topical angle with IP-related blogs like Copyfight and such. I’ve seen some topical bloggers say, “I promise to not talk about my belly-button lint.” and that feels weird to me… my blog is, after all, my blog. Much like my parties, I’ll cry if I want to, I’ll talk about belly-button lint if I want to. If that alienates some readers (who likely have no personal connection to me), so be it… (Part of the paper that Yuri and I will present at SSAW talks about the importance of real-life face-to-face interaction in the blogging communities we’ve studied… there’s something more there. That is, there is a very big difference between a blog one has just stumbled across and blogs that have some sort of connection to you… be it real-life interaction or be it an upcoming conference that you’ll both be attending.)

    So, I can’t say that I’ve figured out the perfect mix… and I know some people that subscribe to only certain categories of my posts (which my blogging software, b2evolution, supports).

  2. but how threatening it is to adopt pedagogy proven to make education more effective.

    I am new to blogging and am working to get my students using blogs within my class. The biggest thing that struck a chord with me from your post was WHY is a proven pedagogy threatening. The longer I am part of education the more I think this is the crux of many of the problems I deal with. Research + Pedagogy simply does not equal practice.


  3. Joe,

    The ability to subscribe to categories probably has eased some of the tension, I would think, in the work-blog/personal-blog boundary discussion. I know that last summer at BLOGTALK 2, there was a long BLOGWALK conversation about the space within and between the kinds of blogs, and whether people who blogged for a living could afford to air their personal lives on their professional blogs, and of course, there’s been the whole issue of bloggers being fired from their jobs for what they publish on their blogs. Suw Charman talked about how she started with her personal blog but then moved out into work-related and work-centered blogs as well. She wanted, if I remember correctly, to keep her most fun and flamboyant blogging absolutely freewheeling, and she couldn’t do that if she also felt the eyes of the boss on the blog. And so the divide is fairly clear for her although she links back and forth between blogs. I’m interested to see if my students who take their blogs out to the world in the fall will be tempted to set up multiple blogs–some for college consumption and some not.


    Yup yup yup. It’s exhausting isn’t it? And I hear people give lip-service to the pedagogy-of-the-moment and yet do not practice whereof they speak. Giving up control of the language, the classroom, and the learning experience is a long way off in so many of our institutions. I’d love to require Pierre Lvy’s Collective Intelligence, Stephen Johnson’s Emergence and Maxine Greene’s Relasing the Imagination of all teachers for starters, and then have them sit down with their students and ask them how blogs could work–I’m about to present with two students and a colleague at SSAWabout their view of blogs–I’ll post it all here eventually, and you can see just how capable our students are of directing their education if we just inspire them to do so and then get out of their way.

  4. Here’s the funny thing: I have a professional blog too. In it, I post announcements, links to articles of interest, tips, etc. I consider my audience to be the staff and faculty at Bryn Mawr. That being said, my personal blog is no secret and I tell my work colleagues about it all the time. And there, I do allow myself to let my hair down a little even though I know it is read sometimes as a professional blog. I just can’t separate. I think about work at home and vice versa–just like most faculty. And I think about my own kids and what they know about technology and where they will be in terms of technology in 9 years (!) when they go off to college. I think a lot of what I’m doing is trying to prepare people–faculty, mainly–for what’s coming. Kids who are connected, who think in hyperlink. We see some of that already, but I think it’s going to just increase.

    And you’re right about access. But isn’t that part of what social software is about? There’s a world at your fingertips and connections to make simply by typing. There are still barriers to be sure, but we’re getting there.

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