Betwitx and Between: Reflections on Northern Voice 2009

As the months slip between me and my many years within the safe (?) confines of higher ed, it is tempting to forget what it was like to work for change from within the system. Honorable and important, frustrating work. I applaud the brave souls who continue to show deep patience and maintain faith that they can bring sense to the Academy. By sense I mean a spirit of openness, sharing, collaboration, innovation, and creativity (i.e.learning as discovery); a rejection of the territoriality and power struggles and entrenched mediocrity that result from fear and insecure ego and lack of trust & lack of an atmosphere where taking intellectual and creative risks is encouraged. By sense I mean rejecting this reality: “the systemic bias for continuity creates tolerance for the substandard.” —Clay Shirky Here Comes Everybody— By sense I mean taking a long hard long at what Ivan Illich asserted in Deschooling Society: ” The university graduate has been schooled for selective service among the rich of the world.” (p.34)

I should be in solidarity with these colleagues and mentors still within the system. Especially now, a time of enormous possibility if we seize the chances offered by the current chaos–a time for insisting on positive change by creating change wherever we are.

morning figments

I thought I was, in a short presentation created as one of the agent provocateurs enlisted by D’Arcy Norman, Scott Leslie and Brian Lamb to kick things off at WordCampEd, the day before Northern Voice, a conference I have wanted to attend since before it was in existence:

As those days unfolded, I found myself rankled by the thought of these brilliant people doing brilliant work in service of the petty fiefdoms of classroom, department, discipline, university. Actually, I was furious. And shocked at myself. I struggled to be useful with my contributions, to find common ground, but eventually, by the end of conference, I pretty much shut up altogether. Not helpful. Disconcerting. Weird.

Out of sync. Betwixt and between. And remained there.

Loath as I am to admit it, inside the Academy, I was a tyrant of my own petty fiefdom. Even though I embraced collaboration, had the students help me to create syllabus and grades, had them blog not only among themselves but in and with the rest of the world, I still ruled. They listened, not because they did so from true free choice, but because it was all part of the deal to get through college. They were nice, always polite and, yes, obedient. And because of the time limits, we never got beneath the skin of much of anything. And yet I receive email after email from them or contacts on Facebook, once they have graduated, sometimes a decade after graduating, telling me how real that classroom experience had been compared to much of the rest of college, which has now fuzzed out in memory. But I never really had to prove anything, to push past the easy to the really messy, really challenging spaces between things, between people, between cultures. I failed.

Am I experiencing a case of “You can’t go home again?”

into the morning

Slow learner that I am , I also waded into the combustible terrain of the spaces between online/offline during the session I shared with my fabulous co-conspirators, Nancy White and Laura Blankenship.

3303091828_e4f674a587 (Laura, Nancy, & bg by D’Arcy Norman)

Laura and I made short videos, Nancy had people do a co-drawing exercise, and in 40 minutes, all we did was open up Pandora’s box. I struggled to express how feeling more “real” in either off or online space wasn’t the point, but that in the spaces between, the spaces where, off-kilter, we can, as one person said, be conscious of what we’re doing in both, there we can weave together the best of both as we try to work towards better worlds. (See? Still struggling for clear expression.) I came away from our session disappointed, much as I often did after teaching. The debrief with Nancy, Sue and Laura grappled with our shortcomings and the rich terrain we had taken first steps onto–that was a great conversation–and other fine moments threaded through the conference (the keynotes; drawing with Nancy; the short time I had with the incomparable injenuity; seeing cogdog, Leslie, Brian, D’Arcy, Scott, Keira et al.) But I couldn’t wait to get to Idaho and back to work helping rural towns, through storytelling, find within themselves the roots of positive transformation.

not even spring

Then I read Jim Groom’s recent-ish post (He writes so much so often that I don’t even know how to situate recent with him) about “intimate alienation”, in part inspired by a comment Brian Lamb had tweeted during our NV session; “@cogdog said his online life felt more real than physical one, people laughed. But that’s not crazy. ‘Real’ life is often mediated bullshit”, and the conversation it spawned between him and Chris Lott. Yes! Intimate Alienation–that’s it. Reading their back-and-forth, I felt the same unease come over me: I had wanted to argue with Alan when he made that comment, and with Brian after his strong tweet. Precisely because life offline is often “mediated bullshit,” shouldn’t we work against that? Isn’t that what we mean by working towards better worlds? Are we giving up on our neighborhoods, our neighbors, our towns? Do we continue the flight from the broken down physical world–this time,not for the suburbs,but for the cyburbs where we find and build community in our own image, where it is easier, and more natural, often, to have much deeper conversations than when we meet in the grocery store, in the coffeeshop, on the playing field, in the office. (More like meeting at a bar?) I am concerned that we won’t wade right into those physical communities, bringing with us the conversations and innovations from our online interactions to make better worlds in our towns and cities. (One reason slow-blogging Barbara is now slower-blogging Barbara–I’m putting more time and effort into physical communities these days.)

And yet there I was at Northern Voice, during a rare opportunity to connect offline with online friends, and I had little to say. Some irony.

To quote the Reverend:

“This idea of alienation might be understood as increasingly more relevant during our moment based on the growing number of people who seem cut-off from the “real world” given the massive amounts of time spent physically alone in public while communing through a computer. A reality that has been woven into just about every facet of modern life from work and education to even more intimate relationships like family, friends, and one’s love life. They are all increasingly mediated by devices, i.e. a computer, the internet, mobile phones, applications, websites, social networks, etc., and what we have emerging is a kind of invisible, multi-layered constellation of things that bring people into real and intimate relationships, but are at the same time premised upon an irrepressible faith in objects: their perfection, increased performance, speed, mobility, ubiquity, etc.”

And then Chris :

“I find solace in the fact that living and creating at the highest levels, which is what finally most of us are really talking about, has always been a marginalized, sometimes-subversive, niche with a vortex of radical tension between individuals and their networks.”

(I should have known that these two would help me say what I’m trying to say. Next time I think I’ll just save lots of words and link directly to them.)


So, yes, it was a valuable conference, probably the best I’ve been to in a long time because it has made me lose sleep over my inconsistencies and failures as it rekindles my determination to keep pushing at the walls, to find solace in my feeble attempts at moving the conversation past the divides, to dance in the in-between.


29 Responses

  1. Not sure, but this could be my first comment here … shame on me as you are solid member of my morning reads. This post touches me at a time when I am working through so many feelings about my own place not just in the academy, but in education in general. I have walked around with some real feelings of angst the last month and a half — and for me, that is a long time. I find myself between caring deeply for the work I do and wanting to rage against the machine in which I do it. I’m not sure if your words make me feel better, but they make me feel a bit more validated in my own professional frustration. I want so badly to be a part of the change, to push, and to rage … but at the end of the day the only thing I am honestly afraid of is not seeing any progress at all.

    That won’t stop me though. Loved the post and the reflection … keep doing wonderful things.

  2. yow. I’m going to have to read this a few times to do it justice. all I could muster for an NV reflection post was a set of photos.

    I think I see your conflict, leading students to embrace openness etc… within the confines of their institutional prisons. I struggle with some of that myself – is it better to try to affect change from within, or to just subvert the entire system with something better and more meaningful? I really don’t know.

  3. Barbara,
    What strikes me about this post is that the two years I came away from Northern Voice, i was always more conflicted, uneasy, and further vexed than when I arrived. That made it emotionally draining and I often felt like I was withdrawn and rather difficult at times at the conference. My intensity level was far too high, and I wondered why i couldn’t be totally comfortable throughout my stay. But I think this tension strikes at the root of the power of that conference for me, it is a time to put things in an immediacy that doesn’t often occur, a frame for some larger ideas about institutions and what they hell we are doing. I still remain deeply conflicted about my space in an institution, and find myself less and less driven by or drawn to the concerns of changing things internally. On the other hand, I barely make enough to get by now, in fact I don;t, and the thought of doing this with no income seems suicidal. I’d have to plan for the exit, or have some kind of real way of living—but I wonder how times might change the perception of many of us if it gets bad enough.

    It’s also interesting that you should reference and exchange between Chris and I, I know I was trying to do everything I could to live vicariously through the experience of NV online (which was not very rewarding), and I imagine this might have been the case for Chris as well. We wanted that connection to be somehow physical and communal, even if conflicted and itself not exactly what we hever imagine it to be. I think the idea of space and community is one I come back to again and again in this regard, but i wonder if geographical community is itself happenstance and no more real sometimes. It’s dangerous logic that I rebel against, but I am alienated there too, I live in bedroom community, there is no real way to frame it as so much more. And I feel my options in this built environment are so much more limited than online. Yet, I helped to build this reality, I am one of the millions of framers of its demise. Alienation comes with some serious implications, one of which is if a culture has been effectively alienated for long enough, it almost seems more natural than an alternative, and the internet might be the crowning achievement to that effect. It is scary in that regard, and I think we need a place to go together, many of us. A real place, a geographical space—a commune of sorts to build a community to relearn what that means. An experiment, an example, and an invaluable experience for the future we want to re-imagine.

  4. All I can say is I am nodding, listening, recognizing the feeling of alienation and knowing it is a scent to follow because it means there is something to discover.

    I hope this was just the first of many collaborations, withdrawn or joyful, easy or with sharp edges. All are precious.


  5. I cant muster a reflection post, as it resonates the repeated thread I heard at NV about people blogging about blogging (or not blogging). Also, I must have missed the magic juice, because I dont leave NV drained or spiritually electrified; if anything, I leave with regret for not having more of that time together, in serious discussion and silly banter, with people I like being the most.

    Also, I’m resolved that I am not going to Change the Academy or Revolutionize Anything, but just do the best I can to nudge, push, and work where I can to perhaps create disturbance ripples in The Force.

    Lastly, my comment at NV about virtual life being more real than real was a half thought, a quarter tweet. What is more close to how I really feel (now this is after reflection) is that I dont see many hard distinctions between the 2- I float between them in a continuum.

  6. Physical, geographical space is powerful and important. Northern Voice is in part that connection of time and space and in person-ness that many people make time for year after year.

    And at the same time, only by looking back and reliving the physical reality of it through the layers of the other attendees do we perceive all of it.

    This year was the first that I experienced it more directly as part of the crowd, and it changed things for me.

    Thanks for this write up, and the pointers to Jim’s post.

  7. Alan, those are all excellent points. Aiming for revolution or Change is likely the surest way to fail. Just keep on keepin’ on, and we’ll all change things a bit, hopefully for the better.

    The real/virtual distinction is an artificial one, just as the human/nature distinction is – humanity IS nature (so, by extension, all activities of humanity are natural…) just as the virtual IS real – it’s not some artificial, isolated construct – it’s just various forms communication – between people. Unless there’s an AI-infused robot at the other end of the pipe, it’s real no matter if it’s f2f, SL, twitter, etc…

    I’ve struggled with some of the feedback cycles that are mediated by some of these forms of communication, but they’re still aspects of real life – even if they _feel_ artificial or contrived.

  8. I think I’m in a very similar position now with my students as you express. There is no question however, that your efforts have made a difference in students lives. Given the relatively short time we have with them each class, it’s pretty impressive.

    You are definitely on my list of offline people I want to meet. You make me think.

  9. Cole, I’m delighted to have you find your way here–you are one of my must-reads, and I have read the tension in your recent posts & tweets. If we do not feel the tension, we’re just not paying attention. Sometimes I feel as though I have abandoned the very heart of what I should be working for–that I have taken the easy way out by jumping out of the Academy: in some way haven’t I fled the physical space of a college, a place to push and push again to be better than it is? And now from the outside do I have the right, the voice to comment on the inside? But I can’t help myself. I believe deeply that we are complicit with the evils around us if we do not stand up for what we believe in, and so I speak out. Especially now when we have a chance to transform at least some small part of the way we do things.

    D’Arcy and Alan: I’m not aiming for revolution, just positive change wherever possible. I live by Margaret Mead’s words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” I agree about the real/virtual distinction being artificial, but if we continue to neglect the physical world, we will have no place left to live. Do we want our children to find meaning within mediated spaces only? To feel the way Jim feels about where he lives? I do not. I will work for change in our physical communities to counter the sterility, the monotonous, deadening sameness of factory design, suburban sprawl and human blight upon the landscape. Does this make me a crazy dreamer? Perhaps. But already I see the impact of the work I’m involved with in small communities–people are hungry for contact within their neighborhoods, their streets, their downtowns at least where I am working, and that seems like the most gloriously positive news I have heard in a long time.

    Alan: I love what you say: “I’m resolved that I am not going to Change the Academy or Revolutionize Anything, but just do the best I can to nudge, push, and work where I can to perhaps create disturbance ripples in The Force.” That’s modest you, and lovely. And what I am trying to do, too, but I just make more drama about it.

    Jim: As expected, you understand the tension of NV, revel in it and then go and transcend it. I am troubled that I did not.
    I am scared by your statement here: “I think the idea of space and community is one I come back to again and again in this regard, but i wonder if geographical community is itself happenstance and no more real sometimes. It’s dangerous logic that I rebel against, but I am alienated there too, I live in bedroom community, there is no real way to frame it as so much more. And I feel my options in this built environment are so much more limited than online.” I am scared because you articulate something very very real–both the alienation so many feel in our built environment as it is, and the desire for contact that makes us leap online instead of trying to change our physical communities. Perhaps I am naive ( and cannot possibly understand as I live in a gloriously beautiful home in a decent community) to think that we can and should direct our attention to ALL of our connections, online, offline–wherever, but always with an eye on improving the physical lot of our world–the environment, the built landscape, the physical realities.

    Half of me loves your idea of an intentional community and wants to sign up, but the other half insists no, we have to work here where we live to transform the mess we have made.

    Nancy: You are one of my most important teachers–how you embrace it all, ride the wave with joy, and scold me when I’m not thinking deeply or well enough–you are a treasure and I hope, too, that we have many collaborations ahead of us!

    Dean: That you keep the faith with your students, mentoring, challenging, delighting in their accomplishments is fabulous. The way you tweet and blog about your life and work underscores, I think, how well you are able to bridge the many spaces and places and people, with good cheer and significant impact. I look forward to meeting you someday, too!

    Boris: Thanks for joining the conversation. I know I was in the minority at NV–everyone seemed quite at ease with one another, happy to be there, and engaged. That I felt disoriented was particularly striking to me precisely for that reason!


  10. I like cheese.

    Sometimes… err, often, I cannot resist being irrelevant.

  11. You are far from alone, though it may seem that way for a bit. There are many of us with you in those Middlespaces. There are many paths to change, and you are fortunate to be following a new one and finding a place where you can truly feel comfortable. I was also disconnected at NV. Every session seemed to barely scratch the surface of where the discussions needed to go. I’m sure many left feeling lost. For me, it was valuable to see how non-educators are using these social spaces. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you and recognizing that spark, that we are moving into new territory, and are not alone. Hopefully our paths will cross again!

  12. I was in your session at NV and, although it may have felt like you barely scratched the surface, do not doubt that you did something important by getting people thinking!

    It’s funny – on the one hand, I can completely relate to the struggle and the disconnection that you talk about. And on the other hand, I think I’m moving through that difficult space to an understanding of myself and an authenticity that makes this discussion feel like unnecessary churning. It’s so obvious to me that we just have to be ourselves – across all the boundaries of space and time and virtual and f2f…

    Now, how to do that?? I started my journey out here, in the “cyburbs”. I opened myself up & exposed so many of my raw fears on my blog, but told none of my relatives or 3-D friends because I wasn’t sure how to share that kind of stuff f2f.

    I found a community of people that I connected with deeply – across blogs, through comments, and now on twitter. Who knew that these connections could be so real? So deep?

    More recently, though, my blog has become more known in my local circles – as president of my District’s parent group, I created a video ( ) that brought many parents, teachers and administrators to my blog – and to read other posts that exposed me and made me feel so vulnerable.

    Would people see me as a “weak” leader because I wrote about my fears? My self doubts? Would I be dismissed in my efforts for change because I showed my feelings and stopped lying about my inner thoughts?

    And I realized a couple of things:

    1) there are so many people who feel the same way but don’t know how to say it. Once I got over being embarassed when someone said “I was reading your blog…” – I could finally hear that they were saying “Thank you! Somehow you got inside my head and said just what I was thinking!” Wow – I’m not alone!!

    2) this journey has been about realizing that I just have to be myself – no more and no less! Do I still doubt? Oh yeah! But I remind myself that judgement serves absolutely no purpose – and I change the self talk to remember that all I have to do is be authentic. There are no games I have to play, there is no part I have to practice – even when those around me are doing that dance, I don’t have to join in!

    Sometimes, it feels really lonely to walk this road. I get the feeling that I’m “awake” for the first time in my life – and so many people I come in contact with on a day-to-day basis are still “asleep.”

    I figure I can either judge them for following the status quo or I can trust myself, stay authentic, and continue to ask questions that challenge their assumptions. Or plant seeds of another way – a way that I strive to model every moment of every day (online and off!).

    I believe in a subversive kind of leadership – not one that only tries to change the institution, but one that inspires everyone to change their everyday way of being in the world.

    When I think of schools, even if the leadership, the power struggles, the unions, the government mandates and all that crap doesn’t change, we can still make a difference! If parents and teachers come together, support each other, collaborate, help each other focus on the needs of each child and stop judging each other – the experience of those students will change!

    One classroom at a time, we will change the system in spite of the politicians or the power games.

    And the ripples of this change will move out through our workplaces and our homes – perhaps meeting and resonating with the ripples coming from other changes being inspired by other subversive leaders.

    I get tired and there are many times, on many days, where I just lay my head down – feeling defeated. But despite those moments, I believe and I trust that we are, indeed, changing the world. We’re making a difference just by having these conversations and by being uncomfortable when things don’t align or make sense anymore…

    Keep it up – and thanks for sharing your thoughts, your uncertainty and this conversation!

  13. I’m nodding in strong resonance with Jen and Heidi

    I’m always amazed at how many of us feel outside, even when others see us as sitting inside, even at the core.

    Heidi, Sue Wolff kept quoting you in our debrief of the session. You clearly sent out great vibes and connection beams!!

    And as to fears — they are either our teachers or our chains. We get to choose! YAY!

  14. I’m nodding with you, Nancy. I love your approach, Jen–your independence and willingness to share what you have learned along the way and your misgivings about much of what we do online. I’m learning a lot from you.

    Heidi, meeting you briefly at NV was great–your comments were right on the mark during our session, and after, and now here. To have the energy and the buoyant spirit to keep on working towards change, not by talking about it, but by doing it. Every day. I think Alan was alluding to that humble perseverance as the root of real change. Thanks you for your generous comment–much you give us to keep in mind, especially me, Ms. Rant-A-Lot!

    And Nancy, I love how you express that we choose what to do with our fears. Yes! I’m going to quote you on that.


  15. I’m so glad you wrote this. I have been thinking about lots of things since NV, and what you mention about “mediated bullshit” (maybe that came from Jim?) is what I felt in my former physical space, the workplace, and why I think I’m so leery of those spaces now. I really appreciate what Heidi says about being authentic, about letting yourself be vulnerable. I tried to that and got shot down, got trodded on, got called an idealist. Online, for me, was where I didn’t have to mediate anything, frame my words just right or any of that. I said what I wanted and people could take it or leave it. I found a like-minded community who didn’t just blithely agree with me but pushed me to think about what I was saying, respectfully. And that’s what I want from the physical space too. I just have to remember to be true to myself and remember that I don’t have to stick around in physical connections that aren’t working. Yes, they’re harder to leave than unfriending someone in FB but it can be done.

    I’m loving this conversation and the Edupunk one on Jim’s blog as they strike me as an interesting way of thinking about making change–from the inside or from the outside–or from the in between spaces. I think there will be plenty more conversations to be had as we, hopefully, move toward change for the better.

  16. Thanks, Laura. Authenticity takes fearlessness of the sort Nancy talks about–and that means we often fail, we often falter in the face of other people’s fears. You go girl.

    There’s also an interesting conversation going on over at Dave Cormier’s blog about OER. I agree that these are rich conversations, and make me hopeful that we might do some good in this moment at the edge of chaos where we could affect change.

  17. I don’t have enough put together to respond, though I read this a few days ago. Perhaps no response is needed. I will note:

    I try hard not to feel overwhelmingly frustrated when people leave the institution and then comment about how those of us still inside are– well– still inside. It’s not easy.

    I had to agree but also chuckle when Jen noted: “Every session seemed to barely scratch the surface of where the discussions needed to go.” I’ve never seen a conference where it is otherwise… everything good comes from the connections made with people and, as Jim noted, it’s not the same view from somewhere else.

  18. Sorry, my second sentence is unclear. “It’s not easy” was referring to trying to work within the institution, not resisting overwhelming frustration which is, in any case, a natural part of my life!

  19. Barbara –

    Some of these themes are quite old. They are the basis of the Matrix (1999), the song Les McCann made popular, Compared To What (1969), and Somerset Maughm’s Of Human Bondage, film (1934) book (1915), just to name a few sources I’m familiar with. I’m sure you and your readers can come up with many others.

    On whether you can go home again – I got an unusual insight (for me) last week reading College applications of students who are applying for our Campus Honors Programs. These kids have unbelievable test scores. Their prose, however, was for the most part underwhelming. Most of them seemingly put on a veil and say what they think we want to hear. I don’t believe that veil comes off in one act of purification. It takes years. And maybe it never happens. That our structures encourage the veil to stay on, I can see not wanting to be part of that.

  20. Chris,

    I try not to speak too much these days about inside the institution (though I was there for almost 20 years) because I tend to get myself into hot water when I do, and in leaving, I have probably given up the right to criticize. I think I am seeing this post as my goodbye to all that, to the negativity and onward to actual action through my work, i.e. less talk and more results.


    You’re right about this being old. And that’s what is so exhausting about it all–but precisely because we have an opportunity to see this anew, to transform learning spaces and practices so that kids are not performing like marionettes but can write and think critically and deeply about their world, we must work hard for change right now. And that means revisiting the themes yet again–me from new work and new patterns, you from inside. All of us from where we are.

  21. Barbara and Chris, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with scratching the surface at a conference. In fact, it’s probably good to leave sessions in some discomfort so we are more likely to act. The challenge comes when you know you will never be able to engage in the same way with that same group of people. It leaves me feeling a bit lost. Maybe it would be less frustrating with more time between sessions to continue conversations.

  22. I don’t think you’ve given up the right to criticize but perhaps found the freedom in not being obligated to. In the end, the real work you do will have a more powerful effect any way. That’s the beauty of getting out and I am, to a good degree, envious!

    Jen: I understand the feeling pretty well. You’ll find your conversation(s), I’m sure. Maybe the hard thing is accepting that it may be a different one and going through (what has been for me, in that past) the difficult process of finally letting go of the current conversations that are really peripheral to the new big enterprise of your self.

  23. […] Posted on 2009/03/15 by mmwm Came upon a post at Dave Pollard’s site that led me to this reflection about a conference called Northern Voice, a ‘personal blogging and social media […]

  24. Barbara,

    I hope we all weren’t such acquiescent, diploma hungry minions. You are too hard on yourself. And wrong about us, too. Or maybe just me. Because I’d like to think that my battered notebooks past and present are filled not with the “easy” stuff, but with sloppy helpings of actual sustenance. The napkins are piled up; my belly is still rumbling. The lasting impression you left on me – and I know I’m not alone – speaks not to skinny learning. My time spent in EL 170 and my subsequent follies in writing and learning and teaching (you are an inspiration, you know? a frustrating and disorienting and gleeful prompter of my ideas and my role in the larger communities, personal and professional, I now call home) are more than polite forays from a “nice” Midwestern boy. I look at the relationship and knowledge we built in Rohatyn as a fat (and phat) helping of something real and caloric, stirred from prose and poetry and the interstices in-between. (Perhaps Carver’s slim words were an attempt at a diet…though he only urged me to eat on.)

    What’s more disconcerting for me is that I now model my own teaching in large part on my Great Teachers, and that means, to a large extent, my experience under your tutelage. I fear to think that you were just scratching the surface. I’m curious: what would’ve the “really challenging spaces” looked like in EL 170? I ask because, shit, if you failed, then I’m doomed. Or maybe this is just another Mad Dog moment, a question and a silence and a chance for me to fill the quiet with my own answer. I’ll speak, but know your voice is speaking too. And that’s no failure.

    Hope SXSW helped answer questions and ask more. My students are half way through their digital stories. The cardinals are singing in Chicago.

  25. […] Posted on 2009/03/16 by mmwm Came upon a post at Dave Pollard’s site that led me to this reflection about a conference called Northern Voice, a ‘personal blogging and social media […]

  26. Charles, I am not ignoring your comment; indeed, you push me to an entire blogpost in response–it’s swirling about my head right now, but as soon as I have a bit of time to pull it together, I will reply to your brave response.

    Thanks you for continuing to teach me.


  27. […] been thinking a lot about the Northern Voice session with Barbara Ganley, Laura Blankenship,  Nancy White about “the space in between”.  We talked there about this […]

  28. Hello Barbara,

    I work within the BC College system as an adult literacy instructor working with First Nations learners. I am also a grad student at Athabasca University.

    I am interested in the exploration of edublogs from a number of various contexts, and aiding learners to develop their skills in a number of learning settings.

    I think the blog is not only meant to encourage us to become embedded learners, though that is critical. It is also meant as a private space to begin to expressing oneself, engaging in storytelling, and examining our experiences. In short, blogs have a potential for transformation.

    You speak about the liminal spaces. The blog is a liminal space. Moving from blogging our most intimate, private thoughts to building confidence to sharing with others our experiences and becoming autonomous learners (blogging in public for oneself, inviting comments but not being demotivated by their absence) is a threshold. I am intereated in helping literacy learners move through the liminal space between private and autonomous blogging.

    Before learners feel sufficiently comfortable blogging within an embedded context (among a supportive learning space of co-learners) they need to practice publishing their creative thoughts and intuitions anonomously. The anonymous blog enables literacy learners a liminal space in which t try on ideas, engage in role plays, showcase creative work, tell stories. Once comfortable with posting to a group space, the choice would be theirs to move to an embedded learning environment. The transition the liminal space between anonymous blogging to embedded blogging is the role of an educator, acting as a learning companion (Cranton)

    The majority of my learners are first Nations women who are mothers and grandmothers, and the potential for transformation is immense as long as I acknowledge that the ideology of networked individualism is removing from teaching events.

    What I mean is that these learners do not generally relate to an academic career, and do not seek to build a network of peers nor accumulate social capital. They are less interested in discussing ideas for themselves. However, they are interested in personal connection with family and friends.

    These learners aspire to be able to move fluidly between the various learning spaces (private/autonomous/embedded/anonomous) and participant and mentor others. Slow blogging is an example of an activity of a liminal blogger, one that transcends the expectations of learning events within formal schooling. A liminal blogger recognizes that the pursuit of change and growth is lifelong. Such a blogger is energized by swapping stories within many different communities, engaging others in a number of voices (all parts of one’s own, just “tamed” for the specific audience and context), building, facilitating, mentoring, leading, withholding, pulling back one day while pushing forward the next. A liminal blogger intentional seeks out and plans (even creates) learning events that places the person n a state of liminality. Such bloggers are quite adaptable to changes in learning context, and able to adjust expectations rapidly.

  29. […] way of the Internet, I originally found Groom’s alienation essay linked in a post by Barbara Ganley reflecting on her recent experience presenting at a social media conference. In it, Ganley […]

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