The Transition from Leave…

I’ve been away from the blog this summer, intentionally, letting my thoughts about teaching & learning drift and disperse or return and build as I have traveled, read, written and experimented with media.
mayostandingstone firstlight

I didn’t have anything new to blog about really, and I didn’t want to reiterate the same old things I’ve written about frequently over the years here. But it is also true, I have found, that readers rarely go much past a couple of posts into the archives of my blog or read the papers and talks I have posted, so even if I am repeating myself, I am largely the only person who knows that. 😉 I suppose that is why I still write articles, essays, and chapters –readers are more likely to find my work out there than within these virtual pages. This school year, then, I will again likely say much of what I have said in the past about slow blogging’s and tagging’s and social software’s deep impact on my teaching and learning, but I also hope that the discoveries I make alongside my students this year will help me push my thinking even further about twenty-first century teaching and learning. And as always, although I have a couple of talks coming up, an article and a chapter due, mostly bgblogging will largely follow my adventures in the classroom.

This fall that means a new first-year seminar I have designed to offer students an opportunity to explore themselves as writers of creative nonfiction as we explore the far reaches of just what it means to write in 2007. I am eager to see what kinds of discoveries they make about the rich array of choices facing us every time we engage in the act of writing–will they choose traditional media and forms or will they turn to a mix of media and emerging forms? Once they have explored sound and image as well as text, what will happen to their relationship with language, for example? I know that my own experiments with image and text have changed how I take photographs and how I write and how I think about form and genre.

Two weeks before campus awakens from its late summer slumber, the course Motherblog is slowly coming to life although the students have not yet left their pre-college worlds. By opening the semester online before ever stepping foot on campus, writing to and for one another, we thus explore ourselves and each other first as writers through writing rather than face-to-face interactions. I think that is important and appropriate in a writing course, and social software affords us the means of connecting with one another as writers right away and publicly. In other words, let’s think of ourselves as writers. Let’s be writers. From the get-go.

I know, though, that the students are not necessarily comfortable with this notion, and are probably wondering why they ever opted for this course, as they feel a bit silly and vulnerable introducing themselves online to classmates they will be spending a good deal of time with in person. But as the dynamic systems theorists tell us (and yes, this is one of the topics I return to again and again), learning happens “in cycles of disruption and repair,” and so we have to stop playing it so safe in our classrooms and in our learning. Feeling unsettled leads to the possibility of discovery, of curiosity being aroused, engagement with learning rather than with grades. Moving through our awkwardness, our shyness, our self-consciousness this early gives us that much more time and energy for more fruitful learning. Indeed, I have found that this technique of opening a traditional-liberal-arts-college first-year seminar virtually, unease and all, has had a huge, positive impact on students’ learning experience. But more on that later as the semester actually gets underway.

And so, I’m back from British Columbia and Ireland, and I see that some time ago Alan tagged me for just the kind of meme that leaves me unsettled–revealing things about myself on this reflection-on-teaching blog. But, hey, if I’m asking my students to do things that might make them uncomfortable…

“8 Random Things About Me” meme

The rules are:
1) Post these rules before you give your facts
2) List 8 random facts about yourself
3) At the end of your post, choose (tag) 8 people and list their names, linking to them
4) Leave a comment on their blog, letting them know they’ve been tagged

Okay, my list:

1. I grew up in a boys’ dormitory. Really.

2. afinemayoday I spend as much time in Ireland as possible.

3. throughbarnwindows I also spend a lot of time looking at windows.

4. The first people I ever voted for were my mother and father. Really.

5. I read all of Thomas Hardy’s novels the summer I was twelve.

6. newcar.jpg My first new car was a bright red Honda Civic (1978) and cost $3000.

7. I’ve lived in a barn, a sugar shack, a tool shed and a chicken coop (not all at the same time).

8. When I was two I had an imaginary friend who left me, moving to California.

Okay, as I am so late in the game with this meme and I am way behind in my blog reading after a month of constant travel, I’m not going to inflict it on anyone, another important lesson for my students–if the rules of assignments don’t make sense to you…