A Couple of Small Pieces…and a Push

I’m deep into final preparations for two talks (trying to do vodcasts for the blog) for the International Digital Storytelling Conference in Melbourne (yes, I am crazy enough to fly to Australia for four days…) an event at which I know I’m going to learn a great deal. It’s not often I get to talk about blogging one day and then digital storytelling the next, but thanks to Joe Lambert, I’ll be doing both. The Aussies are doing such interesting work in both regards–I’m sure to bring back many ideas and inspiration.

In the meantime, I’ve just written a wee piece for the new ASCD Express, entitled, “Elevating Creative Discourse through Student Blogs”, familiar enough stuff for readers of bgblogging. NITLE has published an interview with me on their new site ( bg riffing–as they introduce the piece: ” Listen in on Ganley riffing about social connection, learner development, the nature of writing, and how to understand the intersection between teaching and technology.” )

And this evening at 7:00, I’ll have the chance to talk with Ewan McIntosh and Barbara Sawhill on languagelabunleashed. All about podcasting in language instruction–again, I know I’ll come away with far more than I contribute.

But lest I begin to get a little pleased with myself, and think that my take on blogging and digital storytelling and podcasting and the like is pretty darn interesting, along comes one of my dear students to give me a little push, to make sure I’m telling the story my students might tell about their experiences with social software in my classroom–yes, one of the Blogging the World students, Lizi, just left me a comment on my previous post that has me reflecting once again, testing, and making sure I really mean what I say here on the blog.–and she’s keeping an eye on me all the way form Siberia! (Her latest post to the Motherblog is also well worth a read.) See what happens when you give students a piece of the power??

Lovely stuff–here’s her comment and my reply:

I don’t know if blogging reminds me of high school, but you’re right, it’s definitely NOT what I pictured when I thought of liberal arts schools. Rather, I thought about a technology-less circle of students and teachers sitting on a sunny lawn discussing literature. (I wasn’t that far off, in some respects.)
I feel like I’ve definitely moved up the blogging echelon, though. In your class, blogging amongst ourselves with you on the sidelies felt sort of useless. I wasn’t saying things that I wouldn’t have said in a face to face conversation. By the end of the semester, I appreciated blogging as a way to have everyone’s work accessible quickly, but that was only appreciating the format, not so much the idea.
The blogging community is much more exaggerated now that I’m not in Middlebury. I’m connected to people by ideas, not just writing individual emails repeating “I miss you.”
You did right with the blog, not using it in class, but using it to “spread the aura” of the class during the rest of the week, reminding us that we would, soon, all be in class together again. Yours was the only class in which students came together for a party. (Proud?)
Creative writing classes are inherently more personal than other classes, and using technology didn’t take away from that. I wouldn’t want us to all sit side by side in class with computers on our laps, blogging instead of talking. But I’m all for hearing someone read in class, going back to my dorm room, and pulling up my own copy of their poems.

I mean, it’s pretty phenomenal that I can et into your mind from Siberia, let alone ‘cross campus.
Posted by: lizi at January 18, 2006 09:26 PM

Lizi–Leave it to you, my student, to push me about blogging in class. Hmmmm… I can’t say I agree with you here:
“In your class, blogging amongst ourselves with you on the sidelies felt sort of useless. I wasn’t saying things that I wouldn’t have said in a face to face conversation. By the end of the semester, I appreciated blogging as a way to have everyone’s work accessible quickly, but that was only appreciating the format, not so much the idea.”

First off, students don’t necessarily get it while they’re in the blogging class–it can take some time away for the power of the experience to sink in. The point to me of using blogging in classes (not in classrooms–that I RARELY do except to show models and play with images and such, more in Artswriting and FYS classes than in creative writing) isn’t that you necessarily say things on a blog that you wouldn’t say face-to-face (though I’ll contradict myself in a minute). The challenge is that students, being spread across campus outside of classtime, immersed in many differrent interests and activities, rarely come together to talk about the issues raised in class, or read one another’s work and think about it deeply (or record one another’s poems-ha!). We still treat higher education as a solitary pursuit in some ways–think about how much time a week you have class, talking over ideas…

Blogs connect us –when you’re reading something alone in your room, something the rest of us just gotta see and think about, you can fire up the blog and let us know–you can explore ideas asynchronously, at leisure, through writing, even if you’re only three rooms away from one another. EVERYONE in the class has access to your thinking–not just the clutch of two or three who are your friends among the group. That leads to the very different sense of the group (hence wanting to party together).

I also believe that something very different happens when we write our ideas and conversations than when we speak them (here’s my contradicton). One feeds (or can feed) the other.. And in a writing class–a creative writing class–I want to explore both realms as much as possible. There’s no mistake about why my creative writing class meets an extra evening a week–it’s because the blogging,and the posting of the work to the blog demands more time together to work through the ideas, the writing. I love the way the blogging feeds the discussion when we’re in class, not in a way that is perhaps apparent to you the students, but to me the teacher. The discussions in my classes have gotten a lot more interesting since I’ve taken to course blogs. Also, some people in the class actually only really spoke out on the blog–I think our experience of EL170 would have lost something essential without their blogging.

As for me staying on the side, I’m always seeking balance (though I don’t always get there) between guiding and showing and staying out of the way. I know that sometimes you all would like me to get in there on the blog more than I do. I think this topic is worth a post sometime soon. You’ve got me thinking it through again. Thanks.

As for your blogging now–both on the Motherblog and on your own–it’s quite extraordinary, Lizi. I’m learning a good deal from you about the journey through a study-abroad year–and yes, I’ll post comments more often! 😉

Thanks for pushing me.
Posted by: Barbara at January 19, 2006 05:18 AM

Soon a new group of students will come through my door–last year’s group (or those still on campus) got together today to play writing games, and probably talk blogshop, almost a year since they first all met up in creative writing class. I can’t wait to see how the new bunch pushes me and how the old group stays in touch.