Early July Return–Briefly, Perhaps

I am sorting out whether it’s time to mothball bgblogging as I move into the second year beyond school. Most mornings I think about writing a blogpost, but I want to write about life in a rural community, about my garden and the fields, and about the efforts people are making in their towns to find the balance between the slow and the fast, to relearn some of the oldest lessons of husbandry while also reveling in the opportunities afforded by Web connectivity. But I’m not sure I should do that here, or I even want to do that here.

This is a blog about teaching and learning, mostly in formal contexts. When I look over the many posts since 2004 here and the ones before that on various class blogs with my students, I feel as though I have covered what I have to say about formal learning. What I wrote about blogs and social learning five years ago still stands. What I have threaded through about formal education hasn’t changed. Why repeat myself? Why repeat what others are saying and have been saying for a long time? I understand why each person coming to this way of teaching and learning needs to reflect on it and share it–just as I did–that’s how it will grow and ultimately shift the way teaching and learning are done in schools. My experience giving two keynotes recently brought home my struggle to bring something of value back to school: one keynote was playfully interactive and went over well; the other was neither playful nor well-received–all I managed to do in that one was to scold people for not changing their practices enough in spite of whatever obstacles they face. My impatience was not helpful.

nasturtium gossip

When I told Bryan Alexander this over curry the other day, he –as he so often does–came up with an idea I’m mulling over. “Start a rural blog,” he said. “Chronicle the experiences of rural people trying to stay connected to the land while finding connection on the Web. I’d read that.” And so, this early morning, as I look over the top of my computer screen to the field beyond, I’m thinking I might just do that in the spaces between immersion in Digital Explorations and the book I’m writing. If I do, I’ll let you know where to find me.

so cute but they eat my chard


15 Responses

  1. Bryan’s right, such a blog would be interesting, novel, refreshing, and (seems to me) a balm to other Recovering Academics. I’d read it with great pleasure, and enjoy the photographs too!

  2. Definitely a great idea- go for it. Hugh is right- it would be refreshing!

  3. I’ve missed your musing — the gorgeous websites you once integrated into your narrative, your own photographs, your personal observations–much of that seemed to be connected to the walks with your dog. A daily kind of log. Still, your work now is full of your enthusiasm for what you are doing. After having just left the world of “higher education,” really wearied by the institution, I have loved your previous blogs and would hate to see them go.

  4. I am confused. What you are suggesting is that a blog is fixed by a theme, e.g. that bgblogging is just about Barbara’s experiences in education, and if, inspired by Bryan and curry, that a new direction means you need a new blog.

    It sounds like people who try to change their lives by moving into new homes or buying new clothes.

    I see it differently. This blog, bgblogging revolves around a person and her experience, perspective in the world. I see “bgblogging” as an entity I see in flickr, twitter, etc. If you decide for two months to focus on blogging about artichokes, then switch to a bike blog, they are still things that interest you. Where in the Big Book of Blogs does it say a blog is stuck in a box? I don’t get that reasoning.

    People change, grow, go in new directions, why shouldn’t a blog? I see blogging as this river that flows through my life, and what is really important is that thing (I love the way he describes it) Jon Udell talks about narrating the work we do. Why would you just break a narration to jump to a different book shelf?

    I read bgblogging not because I come here looking for a topic, because I come here looking for the voice of the person. If you decided to write about earthworms, right on! Just do it interestingly (and with photos).

    At this point I am just repeating myself, but frankly, I see zero reason why you can’t write about rural blogging here.

  5. Thanks for the feedback, Hugh, Amanda & lillie. I’m glad to know that you’ll look forward to reading about rural things. And you’re right, lillie, something has gone a bit missing since Finn died. I am finding something new in cycling but am still learning its rhythms and how it affects my work.

    And Alan, leave it to you to smack some sense into me. Lots of people have separate blogs for different interests, to keep things tidy and easy for readers to select only the themed blog that matches their own interests, and I did start the bgexperiments blog for my creative experiments, for that reason, but soon folded it back in here because I just couldn’t quite keep things in boxes–I’m naturally messy. I agree with you about the rich flow of a person’s life narrating the work we do no matter what it is. I think I’ve left bgblogging languish because of my continued struggle with the past.

    I’m going to give it a go here, then. If I feel like writing about cooking from the garden, without weaving in lessons for formal education, well, then, I’ll do it and see how it feels. After all, this is the (new) bgblogging. Thank you. Again. As usual.

    • I am glad that you have decided to continue with this blog. I read you because you are creative, involved, interesting and set an example for using visuals as part of your narrative. When your blog post appears on the list on my home page, I read it first. I look forward to your next phase in blogging.

      • Thanks, Nancy, for your kind words! I am glad you find something in these words and images–I’m looking forward to this next phase, too, whatever it will bring!

  6. Barbara – here is a somewhat different take, based on watching the documentary about Neil Young, Don’t Be Denied,
    and then writing a post about it.

    The real question, I believe, is what is primary for you – your audience, your fellow co-conspirators, the need to push a new genre or a new subject area (in this case rural communities)? It may not be possible to have it all. If you can only have one, at least for a while, which is most important?

    My sense is that to be true to your creative self, you need to submerge for a while.


  7. Lanny,

    Lovely to see you here again. I have to watch that documentary–thanks for reminding me of it (he has long been a hero of mine)–and read your post. I am woefully behind in my blog reading these days, another sign of something shifting in my world.

    Your question is an excellent one, and you’re right about not being able to have it all and needing to submerge myself from time to time. I’m beginning to get comfortable with long absences and then a flurry of activity in this space, so I’m going to give it a try to let the blogging unfold as it will, when it will about what it will, and not worry about being disconnected when that feels right.

    An adventure!

  8. hi Barbara,

    I began following your blog several months ago when I was taking an independent study course online through Athabasca University. You have inspired me with your ideas of slow blogging.

    I have followed a number of bloggers over time who have shifted gears with their blogs, introducing non-academic topics or highly creative posts from years back. Stephen Downes recently posted a piece of creating musings from decades ago he had never published in his Half an Hour blog. Terry Anderson had posted some thoughts recently about a festival he attended in his Virtual Canuck blog. And Lila Efimova had recounted her feelings after completing her PhD thesis, wondering where to take her blog from here.

    The blogging tool affords us a lifelong opportunity to re-invent ourselves over time, repeatedly, taking on and maturing in different roles. I consider it as part of a transformative cycle of learning, in which we repeat the cycle numerous times over decades.

    I sense that time-outs are essential, to allow us a chance to regroup, revive ourselves as physical beings. Blogging can play a number of different roles, and its often a case when I blog sporadically, in spurts, followed by idle periods of silence.

    I also realize that the blog is just one element of an online presence, and developing an information management system with bookmarks, presentations, podcasts, etc. dilutes me. Sometimes, after a long period of focusing entirely on my own work, I raise my head, look around, and comment on long-captured articles and posts I have been meaning to get to. It is like I am expanding then restricting my sphere of concern, depending on how my energies flow.

    Barbar, I want to thank you for your insightful posts, and want to remind you your postings are followed eagerly by students new to blogging.

    An enthusiastic apprentice

  9. Glenn,

    Thanks for the thoughtful response. I very much like how you describe “expanding then restricting [your] sphere of concern, depending on how [your] energies flow.” I am now folding that perspective into the way I view my blogging practice.

    Just puzzling over where and how and why I will continue to blog has unblocked my inner–slow-blogger and sent me back here and to reading blogs. I love Flickr, delicious and Twitter, but for me, having to hang in there with a blogpost that doesn’t necessarily make any sense to me at first as I dive into writing/thinking pulls the many strands together and helps me to stop, look around, and try to make some sense of what I’m thinking, experiencing, reading and viewing.

    I look forward to exploring your blogging–I clearly have much to learn from you!

  10. Barbara and all, what a fine discussion about writing and audience. I loved reading this.

    (We need more rural blogging)

    • Thanks, Bryan. I love this discussion, too! And welcome to the new new bgblogging, a most assuredly rural blog! Your encouragement to embrace my inner rural self has led to this blog coming to life again!

  11. Everything sounds like scolding when folks are feeling reluctant, so there’s that to consider. From the perspective of a distant observer who has also moved beyond academia, the keynote that went thud came across as really rather gentle. I wonder, too, where is the urgency, the passion, the impatience that used to (but maybe I’m being romantic there) or *ought* to fuel a writing teacher with a CW or TechRhet bent? And whence the fear of poetry, of expressivism, of creativity? Surely it’s possible to be a confident professional (we have *theory*! we have *research*!) without being a stuffed shirt. Composition *should* soar and search and yearn. It’s still a liberal art, yes? Grades and the preservation of the system as we know it can’t be always the overarching concerns.

    (Okay–now I have this comment in the right spot. Sheesh.)

  12. Thanks for the feedback, axisportals. I will continue to try to shake things up, to be passionate, and to urge people to be deeply creative. When I fail to communicate clearly (which I do, frequently) or am rebuffed, I remember Elizabeth Daley’s words:
    “Since the Enlightenment, the intellectual community has valued the rational over the affective, the abstract over the concrete, the decontextualized over the contextualized. These values, combined with a deeply engrained suspicion of practice and the creation of product, make it difficult to bring the vernacular of contemporary media into the Academy.” And I take heart in responses such as yours!

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