In case you’re wondering…

I’m moving (mostly) to a new blog, to a new chapter in this post-school journey.  Finally I think I’ve discovered how to weave together the various strands of my interests and abilities as I grapple with the relationship between the local and global: through a new LLC, Open View Gardens, I’ll be combining writing, photography, storytelling,–and my two other creative passions: cooking adventures and gardening.  Please visit me at Open View Gardens–I’d love your feedback, your conversation, your wisdom!

A Process Experiment

“Like those birds that lay their eggs only in other species’ nests, memory produces in a place that does not belong to it…

Memory comes from somewhere else, it is outside of itself, it moves things about.”

Michel de Certeau The Practice of Everyday Life, pp. 86-87

“Man is nostalgia and a search for communion.

Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude.”

Octavio Paz, The Labyrinth of Solitude, p.196

As I develop a firm grounding for the rural digital exploration centers I am planning, and work with several rural communities on a range of digital and analog storytelling projects, it’s important to push my own creative work as well, experimenting and developing more skill with image and text and sound and how they crash up against one another. I definitely need to return to FinalCutPro even for the drafts of digital stories. I’m interested in playing around with a somewhat transparent, interactive process, learning from Oliver Luker’s experiments over at dispatx, an online art collective I have followed for a while now, and the work of Camille Utterback, which I am just getting to know.

While I was teaching, I kept a blog for my creative work, bgexperiments, so as to differentiate between art and commentary. Now I’m going to muddy the waters by pulling pieces of creative works onto bgblogging, entangling them with theory, reflection and commentary. I’m hoping to learn more, to write better, to think better as a result. I’m eager to see what will happen.

The first experiment is a large, multi-strand, multimedia (sculpture, photography, video, interactive sound capture) installation, an exploration of the relationship between nostalgia and art, memory and creativity, identity and desire. I won’t reveal the full overview of how I envision the installation to work and what it will encompass; suffice it to say that it will be composed of different kinds of fragments intended to stand on their own as well as interfere with other fragments.  Its working title is (dis)locations and (contra)dictions.

I’m interested in what posting drafts of pieces and inviting commentary-in-process will teach me. And how lacing through other posts that might touch on themes swirling about the pieces might influence the outcome. Will it be useful to anyone else? Will readers feel comfortable telling me straight about my creative work, the way they do about my critical? How will seeing these fragments influence the way readers see my reflective blogging? Will the conversation be able to draw from both or will this experiment fail?

Anyway, here goes with a draft-fragment:

I’ve also posted it to the Internet Archive and to blip.tv searching for improved viewing quality. For me, at least, the Internet Archive version is superior though smaller.

Thoughts as We Near the Fall Equinox, The Time of Between

featherinthegrass

I am lucky to live in a place as beautiful as this–from my door every day I walk for miles across the farmlands. An 18-mile loop trail crosses our neighbor’s land, but mostly I prefer to range pathless with dog and camera across fields and scrublands.

neighbor barn

And without the burden of frustration welling up from banging my head against the Academy wall, I wake up each morning with thoughts of the land and the family instead of how conflicted I am about working within a system in which I no longer believe. I watch my friends still there too busy and stressed to breathe deeply while I can put the garden to bed before a frosty night.

putting the garden to bed before frost

Yes, since extricating myself from the Academy’s fetters, it’s been easy to step out my door for a break and focus on the nuances of daily changes on the land. It’s easy to be overly pleased that the localvore movement flourishes, that our neighbor’s dairy still has its honor system store (you write down in the ledger what you’ve taken from the milk coolers, and they eventually clip a hand-written bill to your page), that many people around here don’t even have locks on their homes, that we all gather once a year to discuss and vote on town business. We buy our wood from our neighbor and eggs from a friend; our dog loves the UPS man; the trash man calls to check on us when we forget to drag the garbage down our nearly half-mile driveway. Our senators and congressman (yeah, we only have one) are enlightened and fearless and in touch with us back home.

from across our land

It’s a breeze to step back into my barn studio and wing about a larger world from my laptop. On Twitter and on the blogs I can range about taking in the wonders offered up by the smart people who share their thinking, be dazzled by the Reverend and inspired by ingenuity and pushed by cluttermuseum. I can grow in my thinking by delving into old books and films and music on the Internet Archive, by following an MIT course, by signing up for any number of free, online conferences of my choosing, by participating in a MOOC. I can collaborate on projects with colleagues scattered about the globe. I can make cool stuff, mash-ups and digital stories to share with the world. I can feel liberated, creative, and collaborative.

Why, then, am I worried about all of this? Because it’s too easy to stay in places I like and listen to people I admire and leave it at that. It’s too easy to slip into smugness, to be self-congratulatory. To save the saved and think I’m doing something worthwhile.

Finn and Rope at the beach

But then along comes a bizarre presidential contest and economic and natural disasters, and I shake myself awake to a more complex, more troubling world, even close to home. Vermont has lost an appalling, disproportionate number of of its youth to the Iraq war. No one talks about how many Iraqi have died. We have a milktoast governor who will walk back into office because the Democrats and the Progressives can’t see beyond party politics to collaborate on a single candidate in this extreme time. (And to see what I think about the presidential race, you can head over to Small Town Mamas (and Papas) for Obama.)

spike

People around here worry, as our senator Pat Leahy puts it, whether they will “eat or heat” this winter. There’s a nuke in the southern part of the state that keeps breaking down. Violent crimes are way up in the state. Heroin dealing has snaked its way into our bucolic county. Many youth are bored in our schools, can’t wait to get out of here (including my own children). Our Mom & Pop shops are vanishing, giving way to chains. It’s hard to find union-made clothing. People are moving here and building HUGE, generic houses–some neighborhoods are indistinguishable from those in the worst suburbs. People are putting locks on their houses. People are in their cars, not on their bikes. I’m in the car more than on my bike. Although we built our home largely from recycled materials and have worked to make our land a wildlife corridor, it’s two miles from town and I’m not yet D’Arcy Norman enough to brave rain or cold on my bike–and it’s only two hilly miles. I can’t say, truth be told, that I know all of the people who live on my road; our mailbox sometimes ends up in the front pond, knocked off its post by a baseball bat in the night. The beauty of Vermont sometimes feels like a scrim.

long shadows across the lawn

And so here’s where things get interesting for me as I pace about the boundaries, conflicted, uneasy. This is where I like to be, on those cusps, stretched to find other ways, better ways. And this is what I’m finding:

I’m conflicted about the open-education movement, about MOOCs and online affinity groups and online communities. The openness is exemplary. The learning possibilities mind-boggling. The chance to even the playing field–open access to all–downright thrilling. But I also sense, as a natural outcome of networked individualism, an increasing movement towards the ME and away from the US, both online and off, towards polarization and insularity rather than expanded horizons and inter-cultural understanding. I’m concerned about Negroponte’s “Daily Me” . Participatory learning, both online and off, can help us counter this risk, by enabling us to bump into one another and other ideas if we work at it, in keeping withSunstein’s Republic.om contention that “Unplanned, unanticipated encounters are central to democracy itself.”

Yes, people are gathering together on the Web to interact, to learn from one another, to explore all manner of subjects. But who? But what about home? What about the physical communities in which we live? Are people gathering together there to discuss the future? To understand one another–to open one another’s minds? To discuss the complex, convulsive changes sweeping across the world? Are we interacting in physical spaces with people from other ends of our communities? Are we bringing home the lessons learned from these extraordinary online gatherings or are we keeping them to ourselves? Will we get even more narrow-minded if we can graze, avoiding what we don’t like, hunkering down into clans? Just because we can talk online with anyone anywhere, does that mean we will talk with people who think differently from ourselves? Will we actually grow any wiser? Are rural communities being left out?

to be airborne

This is why I am emphatic that the Centers for Community Digital Exploration be PHYSICAL places, rooted in rural communities, to help ease the digital divide, and to help people reap the benefits of the internet and Web practices while also staying connected to our lived-in communities lest they crumble around us while we’re glued to our computers and cellphones and iPods. I want to reap the benefits of online open ed and in-person community-based ed. Simultaneously. Together. In tension. Checking and balancing. I envision a place where people from all parts of a community gather to discuss this new world, to explore the benefits and risks of being plugged-in, of connecting across as well as within affinity groups. Of walking along the borders, discovering the Other. Of old people learning from kids, of teens and adults have positive interactions, of nonprofit staffs gathering to pool their knowledge, of people from all walks of life sharing their expertise and cultures both online and in person, of college kids not “volunteering” in town but participating actively, learning and teaching. A new learning space. And not a place already trailing associations and baggage. A new kind of third place, both online and in the town. Neutral except for its goal of serving open, accessible, connected sustainable learning. Not outside.in., not 826 Valencia, not the local coffee shop. All of these kinds of places bundled into a space in the heart of a town.

Imagine a MOOC group gathering at the center to talk over the course, or a group of people learning about blogging in schools, or digital storytelling to connect the stories of the townspeople to the place and to the world, or nonprofits exploring folksonomies, or–and this is Geeky Mom’s idea– parents trying to understand WoW or SL by participating in a workshop dreamed up by them and taught by their kids?

Am I dreaming? Perhaps. But the response I am getting from rural towns and nonprofits is quite encouraging. Now to write grants, pull up the pilot centers in 2009, and get the dang paperwork completed for the 501(c)3.

late summer in the garden

Now to making green-tomato chutney and sharing recipes with bee dieu in Brazil. Now to meeting an artist in town at a new gallery space and to creating a digital something for my upcoming Vancouver visit–though not simultaneously. 😉

There’s No Doctor in This House, Just Someone Who Asks a lot of Questions: Where I’m Headed, Part One

“…for most [people], the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school.” (Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, 1970 p.xix)

I’m an unabashed generalist. A near novice in any field. Now that I’ve left my teaching position, I’m no longer qualified for it–I couldn’t even apply, wouldn’t make the interview round. No joke. A bona fide outsider. After all, the theory goes, you wouldn’t want a non-degreed, non-licensed doctor to operate on you. So if you are shelling out $50,000 a year on college, you don’t want anything but a certified expert in the classroom. And I’m no Doctor.

conversation

Don’t get me wrong. I know many spectacularly gifted PhDs who do fabulous teaching and research, who push my own thinking every time I encounter their work, who are incredible, imaginative learners. We need specialists. But not only specialists.

I could never imagine myself studying any one thing exclusively–I majored in art history, did a Masters in English, am deeply interested in creative expression, Irish Studies, multimedia narrative, 21st-century learning, gardens, architecture, digital art, food in culture, sustainable communities, the history and theory of education, photography–all kinds of subjects. I wanted it all, fluidly, simultaneously. I never wanted to teach the same course semester upon semester (in spite of agreeing with Gardner Campbell that every semester opens as a tabula rasa). Increasingly, I didn’t want to teach with a syllabus at all but to wander about a subject as a group of learners needed and wanted, exploring from as many angles, histories, perspectives as possible, veering off topic altogether when that was what we needed to do.

I even proposed to the college that I would be happy to continue teaching from the new center I was designing, as long as students could be released from the semesterized, campus-ized model, coming down instead to the center in intensive bursts when relevant collaborations, mini-courses, projects presented themselves there; when not at the center, they would graze freely on the myriad open-course opportunities on the Web, pulling together a mosaic of study: reading, conversing and reflecting online, creating, working in tutorial and/or in small groups, taking whatever time (within reason–deadlines have their use) made sense to complete that “course.” Some students could get the credit fast, in a few weeks; others might take a year or grow a single course into multiple credits. That idea went over…well...not so much.

Which makes sense because whereas the ability to work and learn and live this way has once again become possible (in a newly rich, global-as-well-as-purely-local way), the fear of the miscellaneous and anarchy and chaos–loss of control–has led to our time out of school looking more and more like school and our neighborhoods no longer about neighbors at all.

trainview

I was quite aware of breaking the rules of the Academy, and that I was a puzzlement to my students–who was this odd duck with neither PhD nor string of important books? No books? How did someone like me get to a place like this? (Well, I was only sort of in “a place like this”–a lecturer, never a professor, I inhabited the margins of this place.) I’d explain that I was lucky, an anomaly. Couldn’t be pigeon-holed. Couldn’t be known. And for a long time, I couldn’t see how it could get any better: I could be in school but not of school. I could hang onto my rebel cred WHILE reaping the benefits of a life in college.

So, why ever would I leave if I’d never be able to return?

Hypocrite hypocrite.

Reading Illich, hooks, Rose, Greene, Arendt, Gomez-Pena, Sontag, Freire, and more recently Gee, Wellman, Levy, Hawisher & Selfe, Tuan, and Weinberger and, well, so many others, and right now some fantastic bloggers engaged in continuous, dynamic conversation of the now in the now, made me uneasy about staying. I was troubled when I read what string theorist Brian Greene wrote in an op-ed piece for The International Herald Tribune:
“We rob science education of life when we focus solely on results and seek to train students to solve problems and recite facts without a commensurate emphasis on transporting them out beyond the stars.”

crowsatdawn
And when he said that “America’s educational system fails to teach science in a way that allows students to integrate it into their lives.” Integration and imagination take time and opportunities to speculate, to dream, to play with what-ifs.

Of course in 1970, Ivan Illich wrote (once again in Deschooling Society): “…the deep fear which school has implanted within us, a fear which makes us censorious.” (p.18 ) How can learners dare reach beyond themselves, beyond the stars if they are blocked, bounded by fear?

Michael Pollan gets at the same dilemma of over-specialization and fear–in his case, as it pertains to how and what we eat–in his new book, In Defense of Food, (you can read the introduction on his website). He shows us the promise of this particular moment: “We are entering a postindustrial era of food; for the first time in a generation it is possible to leave behind the Western diet without having also to leave behind civilization. And the more eaters who vote with their forks for a different kind of food, the more commonplace and accessible such food will become. Among other things, this book is an eater’s manifesto, an invitation to join the movement that is renovating our food system in the name of health—health in the very broadest sense of that word.”

But is the answer to go back? Or to go forward in a new way?

In spite of my growing unease I stayed. For years. I complained a lot, sometimes loudly, mumbling something about the importance of working from within the system, about influencing the next generation of leaders. To ask them thee questions. To point at these dilemmas.

And anyway, go where?

Everywhere. Anywhere. Both back to very old ways of doing things and forward into cyberspace. Post-industrial?

Into town. Downtown. Back into town. AND wherever in the world we need to go.

Solving the World's Problems

Now that we can harness the creative and connective powers of the Web and the open education resources of some of our great universities, why ever stay within the confines of a single school? Why shell out up to $50,000 a year for fancy digs when for no money at all we can reap the full benefits (sans credit) of such courses as the one George Siemens and Stephen Downes are offering? How long will the cachet of a degree from elite institutions and the attendant uber-important connections be enough to trump the limits of single-school-in-place-with-limited number-of-course-offerings-and-departments-and-majors? It was time to make the leap.

thecall

The community digital learning centers I am planning (slowly) are being conceived in the spirit of the miscellaneous, of emergence, of collective intelligence, of de-schooling, of edupunk, of slow-food (slow communities now too). Yup. All of those.

after rain

With my merry band of cohorts I’m exploring how to marry collaborative Web practices to the lived-in, traditional community to open our notions of learning–when and what and how. Right now we’re thinking about four-five pilot sites across the country, ranging from small rural communities, to suburbs to small cities. These physical centers will be places where people from across a community’s spectrum gather in person to discuss and learn and explore and share the connected and expressive practices of the Web. Within this neutral non-school people can shuck their fear of trying out these tools and practices within the workplace. People with no computer or internet access at home can hang out in the lab. Kids and the elderly can swap stories as they teach one another invaluable lessons about life. Nonprofits and agencies can gather to learn from one another and help one another both online and in person. Individuals can avail themselves of the computers, the space, the mentors to engage in hybrid learning.

Is it possible that these Web practices, instead of potentially polarizing us into affinity groups and spaces as some contend, can be used to ease community divides? To help solve community problems? To engage children and adults together in deep learning that is contextualized, shared, and personally relevant? To give people a chance to experience the power and joy and fun of the creativity and storytelling and feelings of belonging unleashed by some of these practices? What does the new digitized community learning center look like? Who is there? Why? How is it sustained? How do the practices of de-schooling, online learning, and informal f2f learning inform one another?

These aren’t new ideas. Hardly. But there are so few initiatives in rural places, at least, that are fusing the online and off, bringing people together into contact zones within a center and then moving out into the world online. We have few community computing centers, few internet cafes, even, and fewer centers seeking simultaneously a return to the slow while rejoicing in the fast. Rather, we have roaming workshops and consultants blasting in and out–a great, bonding time online or off, and then you’re on your own. Is that sustainable? Does it actually work? I’d rather work from inside communities to ease the participatory gap, one along the lines of what 826 Valencia or The Sunset Neighborhood Beacon Center or The Purple Thistle Center are modeling (funny that these are all in intensely urban areas) but in smaller communities, and with a decidedly Web bent and with an open, generalist’s slate of offerings–each center will be of that community for that community and so will, I imagine, function quite differently from other centers.

I’d love to hear about initiatives/centers from which I could learn–I am in the gathering information, writing vision statements & strategic plans (and grants) stage.

Even from you doctors out there. 😉

A Return from the City Moves Me into a New Blogging Space

Lately we’ve had a slew of those listless pre-storm afternoons when even the dog doesn’t want to go out and the cats can’t be bothered to mess with no-brainer prey.
storm settling in
And I wrestled–for days– with a chapter I promised for a worthy book project. My mind wandered.
intothewoods

This kind of weather brings some of the languid ease of the South across our fields, I imagine, because the storm never materializes, just teases with its barking tantrums well to the South (how a Northern New England girl of Irish ancestry can set her imagination on overdrive).
I worried a bit about the state of this blog, that I was running out of gas, my brain too sticky, too taffy-ed, too, well, too distracted.
vermontsummersky

How can you live in a place of such intense physical beauty and have something to say that isn’t charged with poetry, bad poetry at that?
harlequin hollyhocks

You can find yourself slinking slowly into a somnolent bog. (See?)

But then we went to New York. That place always slaps sense back into me. A weekend spent wandering the streets and galleries and eateries of Lower Manhattan picks me out of my nature-addled daze. eastvillageshift
The stunning range of human story and culture and reality are an antidote to my lush woods and big skies and green mountains and small villages of Vermont. It’s good to be thrown into something different. And it’s good not to overplan those visits, to take them slow in a New York buzzy sort of way (if that makes any sense), to look around and let the city’s odd magic do its thing.
westvillagefacade

The only plan we had was NOT to go to any Apple store during the iPhone madness and to see the astonishing Soledad Barrio dance with her flamenco company at Theater 80 (take a look at the flow of stories about the theater in the comments linked off the post), and dinner with some friends.

184628089_22fb58b702_m.jpgImage by Sondra Stewart

The rest of the two days, my daughter, my husband and I moved where our feet took us. Camera in hand of course. With changes of plan welcome.

And this time, that included more of the East Village, the West Village, Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. We found open-air markets, cupcakes and graffitti and the single-most unbelievable draping of tye-dye attire on one person I have seen anywhere (and that includes Haight-Ashbury).
shoppinginny inthemirror

In Chelsea, as we feasted our way down the windows of the galleries on West 24th Street, we stumbled on an exhibit that has jarred me out of my blogging complacency. Got me thinking about a new blog, a blogger’s sketchbook of sorts. About getting more serious about not being so serious. Silverstein Photography’s current exhibition, “First Contact: A Photographer’s Sketchbook” placed photographers’ contact sheets next to the image pulled to print (and in some cases these were iconic images, taken by Diane Arbus, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Man Ray and many others. What a great learning moment for anyone taking pictures, or for anyone looking at pictures, for anyone blogging as a way to capture and hang onto fleeting thoughts, glimpses of ideas, memories, connections, conversation with reading and viewing and listening online and off– to see the creative process –the contact sheet filled with failed images, many in succession. How much richer, then, the experience of seeing the selected, fully realized image printed. How we all need contact sheets. Blogs are such, most of what we write on them being disposable…forgettable.

I came away from that show thinking about how I have been slowing moving towards writing with images and text but how so many times I leave those posts undone, in draft form or sketched out on paper, or in my head because they didn’t seem to fit bgblogging as it has evolved. bgblogging explores formal learning in, sometimes, informal ways, certainly in informal spaces, but it almost always has its eyes directly on changing our educational system. Yet Twitterhas opened to me a new interest in micro-texts. Sharing photos on Flickr has pushed me to pay more attention to my images, both taken with camera and taken with words. I’m ready to keep pushing the kinds of posts I’ve been exploring. PLAYING. Making mistakes. Having fun. And sharing these with my students.

chelseagallery chelseastreetart

I’ll still read and write blogposts. Edublogposts. But experimentposts too.

Perhaps about the mysteries of place and light and childhood.
yellowroom

During summer, then, this blog will see fallow spells as I shift into a new blogging realm, one more creative and experimental, one that engages more of my playful side than my critical, hungry-for-change side.

I want to play with Henri Bresson-Cartier’s notion of “the decisive moment” defined as “the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.” (from the Silverstein Photography Gallery Press Release). I’m tired of the repetition in my feeds and in my books; I’m going to be more selective in my reading while more open in the territory from which I learn. Otherwise, just as I find happening when I stay in Vermont for too long at a stretch, I get lazy, complacent, and dull.

I’m in search in the summers for the poetry of blogging, the poetry in blogging, and will do so over on bgexperiments, that will kick into gear this week. I’ll move between the blogs, hoping the tension between them will prove useful.
fuschiaintherain

We’ll see how it goes…

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:

Barbara,
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.

Preparing for Tomorrow’s Talk at Orton

Tomorrow I venture down to Manchester, Vermont to talk with the Orton Family Foundation about social software, multimedia applications and podcasting. It will be my first WEBEX presentation, and the first time that my audience will be non-techie types outside the education world. As I prepare for this talk, I become more and more convinced that these applications can play a significant role in the business and non-profit worlds, and just as is true in the educational world, you have to root the technology work in the goals of the organization. In other words, effective use of social software depends on careful planning, vision, and creativity. The tools themselves do nothing–it’s all about how you use them.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF SOME OF THE TOOLS AND THEIR USES

A. SOCIAL SOFTWARE

BLOGS

Description: An easily edited, frequently updated website arranged chronologically (usually in reverse order). Dave Winer gives an in-depth description of the features and Alex Halavais discusses blog uses.

Examples:
Bud Gibson’s The Community Engine
Lawrence Lessig
Steven Berlin Johnson
Richard Sambrook

Why Use Blogs?

1. The absolute ease of publishing makes it simple to get your message out.

2. The layers of connectivity and interactivity link you internally to your previous postings, and to the world through links, tags and trackbacks. You know who has been writing about you; you can find out who is writing about what.
Discoverability through Tags and Feeds
(Technorati,
Pubsub,
del.cio.us,
Flickr.)
An example: BBC

You can gather statistics (Statcounter);

Dialogue and Conversation is enhanced within an Organization, or a Group of Thinkers
The blogger joins the fluidity of knowledge spaces and collective intelligence a la Pierre Levy,
connectivism a la
George Siemens
,
Etienne Wenger’s Communities of Practice, James Martin’s Institute
Collaborative Blogs:
(Many2Many,
Cognitive Architects
The Guardian Editors’ Blog,
Berkman Center,
Urban Cartography)

Invite the world in through comments and “Blogging Invitationals”
(Arts Journal)

Create cross-site, richly linked conversations via Trackback (Denham Grey)

Build a history of the conversation, of your thinking through Archives and Categories. It becomes a tool for reflection and evaluation.

3. Through Syndication, your message goes public, and you keep up with the field through site aggregation
RSS: For a definition, see Elise.com
<a href=”Bloglines,
Feedster,
NewsGator)

4. Through Creative Commons, you decide how much copyright control you wish to exert over your posts.

5. Blogs humanize an organization
–They invite the world (or your own staff) to see who you are outside your formal
pronouncements. A CEO or staff member with a strong voice and personality, can draw people
to the organization, its programs and its goals through a lively blog.

Other Useful Blogs and Posts
Green Media Toolshed
Nancy Schwartz

Important Considerations for the Blogger

1. Post regularly to create and maintain the energy;

2. Develop your posting voice–the absolute formal academic voice comes off as stiff on a
blog. If the blogging is not authentic, then it will fail;
(Robert Scoble at MicrosoftThe Corporate Blog Manifesto);

3. Weave a rich tapestry of linking to connect with the larger conversation. Blogging is all
about participatory culture, the give-and-take of the extended, asynchronous dispersed discussion:
think letter-writing between writers;
(Ross Mayfield’s Blog)

4. Consider carefully why it is you want to blog and what use it will be to your target audience:
Are you essentially link-blogging, capturing the interesting bits of conversation from the rest of the
blogosphere? Pushing out information? Synthesizing the ideas swirling about out there and
articulating your own vision? Stimulating thought and inviting further discussion?
(Planetizen,
Roland Tanglao)

5. If you want people to leave comments, you have to go out there and leave comments on the blogs you
read.

WIKIS

Brief Description: Designed for collaboration, this software allows users to create and edit webpages freely, easily and continuously. Jotspot gives a good definition and a helpful introductory tour.

Why Wikis?

1. As software intended to build individual or group projects, it enhances collaboration and efficient
knowledge building;

2. Tracking an idea from conception to implementation provides insight into the process;

3. Examining the way a dispersed group works together leads to improved communication;

4. Tapping into the evolving ideas of the group fosters group synergy and trust, yet because it
is asynchronous, it allows for the careful development of projects as well as the immediate dynamism
enabled by allowing multiple editors to edit from their own screens during conference calls or online
meetings;

5. Its privacy features allow control of each page–what is viewable to the group cqn be changed page
by page;

From Lee Bryant’s Headshift.com, some
wisdom about wikis in their post, Gettin’ wiki with it:

In the planning meetings – which can last hours – we can very quickly record our technical discussions and create agreed minutes in the meeting itself, as we go along. The only tools needed are a web browser and, ideally, a projector, and the attendees can see the meeting notes (and the plan itself) developing in real time.

This also helps keep the meeting focussed : you have an identifiable goal ( “ok, by the end of this meeting we want to have sections X, Y and Z done…” ) and everyone can see the progress towards that goal as it happens. Even non-attendees can see the progress of the meeting while it’s taking place, either by viewing the in-progress Confluence page or via RSS.

Also, as the deliverable outcome of this process is a step-by-step plan, the same idea is going to prove equally valuable while the plan is being carried out – i.e. in the actual deployment.

For each step, we’ve made rough estimates of timescale, and at each step of the way, we compare progress to the schedule, record it on the Confluence page, and revise estimates of the total downtime accordingly. If after, say, a third of the tasks have been performed, we’re running behind schedule, then we’re aware of that as we go along – and if we hit really serious snags, at any stage we have the information we need to make a decision as to whether we continue, or we abort and reschedule for once the snags have been addressed.

The important thing here is commnuication. Confluence makes it very easy to log progress as we go along, and record any relevant details. Just little interface niceties like the shortcut (y) producing a thumbs-up image – – make the updates an absolute breeze. The wiki ethos means that anyone can quickly add any notes or details as and when required, and all parties can be kept informed of progress just by viewing the web page or picking up updates via the RSS feeds – crucially, this happens without having to distract the techies to ask for an update.

Three key staff were involved in the preparation of the plan, and as with anything this complex, in the time between documenting the plan and putting it into action, each one of us has cogitated some more and thought of some small-but-significant little detail that we missed in the meeting. With this collaborative wiki approach, all we have to do is just record it in the appropriate place on the Confluence page, and all relevant parties get automatically notified.

And that’s it – so much easier than the bad old days… so anyone out there who’s still struggling with the Internet v1.0(tm) way of collaborative document development –
# E-mailing Word documents round every individual person, generating a huge list of replies, comments and revisions, which then have to be applied to the document and emailed round again, so no-one’s ever quite sure if they have the latest version, and some people say they never got the e-mail, or their question wasn’t answered because it got lost in the e-mail trail…. discussions and suggestions can take place through the blog-like comments system, and the latest version is always the visible one.

# Mysteriously disappearing detail that some people swear was there yesterday, and others don’t remember at all – each update is logged and versioned off, and notified via RSS.

Considerations for Wiki Adopters

1. Develop the organizational framework, the ground rules for the structure–wikis can develop
hapharzardly due to their inherently organic structure

2. Keep it simple and make it usable for the entire group.

Examples:
Davis Community Wiki
University of Minnesota LIbrary WIki
Confluence

PODCASTING

Brief Description:

Why Podcasting?

1. Creating internal podcasts gives staff access to information and meetings even when they are out of
town and away from computers;

2. Another voice for the organization is presented to the target audience;

3. Podcasts allow the listener the choice to listen to the broadcast repeatedly, streamed from the
computer or downloaded to an iPOD or MP3 player;

4. Podcasting o-ffers opportunities to combine real-time webcasts/skypecasts, chat rooms and
archived podcasts;

Example:(Inside Digital Media)

5. Regular podcasts facilitate pointed, publicized conversations and debates

Examples: Edtechtalk.com
Berkeley Science Groks
ITConversations
podblaze)