Social software and our students

Usually I think and write about how I see blogging working in my classes from my standpoint as teacher. I’m interested in the pedagogical ramifications of writing on the Web for the Web, of enhancing a strong student-centered learning collaborative through a virtual community of practice. Increasingly I find my thoughts are moving beyond the hows and why of technology integration within my classroom (for the mostpart that’s working pretty smoothly) to what’s going on for these students outside, beyond and after they leave my classroom community.

What impact does a classroom blogging practice have on students in an environment in which blogging is the exception. What happens to students who have blogged collaboratively as well as individually in my classes when they discover that outside a very few courses, there’s little opportunity for multi-media authoring, blogging or wiki-making? Will they start asking for blogs in their other classes?

How does the world experience these students? On the one hand, it’s interesting to see the press picking up on the social software phenomenon in colleges with articles out this month, for example,in the Christian Science Monitor on colleges using student blogs as recruitment tools, and the Washington Post, which has written intelligently about wikis in Mark Phillipson’s Bowdoin classroom:

Some course sites read like journals, some like debates and some shimmy in and out of topics with music, photos and video pulling readers along. One of Phillipson’s students drew a picture of a poem; another made a movie. Wikis can encourage creativity, remove the limits on class time, give professors a better sense of student understanding and interest and keep students writing, thinking and questioning.

Students in sophomore [Georgetown] Craig Kessler’s English class got hooked, and he said they became closer and more engaged than in any class he has taken. When the semester ended this winter, students asked the professor, David Lipscomb: Could they keep writing the blog?

Ah, yes, this is precisely what I’m wondering–what happens to students wanting to keep blogging after the course is done. What happens to their professors who hear about this virtual community of practice from their students (rather than from me)?

Even though I find that recent national coverage of political bloggers and even articles in our student-run newspaper and the fall issue of Middlebury Magazine on some of my students’ blogging has prompted more questions about blogging from colleagues, they aren’t moving to the blog or to Web-authoring with any speed. For one thing, they feel as though they don’t have the time to think it through–how to use social software within an already pressured syllabus and successful classroom. And so while many faculty use Middlebury’s homegrown CMT, Segue, few use straight-up blogs or wikis, and even fewer have students blog as part of their courses. And that’s fine of course. But where does that leave the student who gets a taste of blogging and finds it to have a positive impact on their learning? What happens when this student sees an opportunity just ripe for blogging or wiki-authoring? Will she speak up?

Mind you, most students will happily (or not so happily at first as I mentioned in my last post) blog away in my classes and then drop the blog at the end of the course. Some of them even get uneasy a year or two down the road about their early writing remaining on the Web long after they have grown beyond that level. (Are they reading the accounts of bloggers losing their jobs?–A topic I’d like to return to at some point–the uneasiness some students have about putting their work out there becuase of the permanence of the Web) But this past year I’ve also had a number of students upset about losing the blog at the end of the semester–first because making the switch from Manila to Movable Type wreaked havoc with old course blogs and momentum was lost (I’d like to give some thought one of these days to that question, too–what is the significance of momentum to the classroom blogging/wiki experience?), and so the blogging community from those classes lost its footing and its identity as bloggers; and second, because once one’s left a blogging community, blogging can get awfully lonely. Students do not, in my experience, wish to hang out there alone with no one reading and commenting and linking. And they really don’t know how to get their own blogs going–they don’t, perhaps, have the patience to build up a blogging community. They like the one I set up for them. It’s easy, and they’re already connected to an experienced, engaged community.

One former student I write about from time to time, the bloggerless blogger, jumps onto every blog he can, but he won’t start his own blog no matter how much I encourage him to do so. He craves the collaborative MOTHERBLOG and its emerging spontaneous conversations, the linking between blogs on the blogroll, not the monologue of a single blogger posting out into the wind day after day. Other students dream up discrete, finite blogging projects (in India and Antarctica, for example). But they feel alone, and craving the energy, the commitment and the connectivity of this kind of engagement with the life of the mind afforded by the sleepless blog.

And so, I am working on ways to extend the blogging past the semester, and how to create MOTHERBLOGS that might link majors or students out on study abroad programs–to think of ways to keep these marvelous classroom blogs alive as more than archives for the next group to learn from. It’s not enough to put the students in the center of the classroom; we have to help them see themselves as creators of communities of practice beyond our semester-long gatherings.


Thoughts as the semester opens…

Evening after evening as I chopped vegetables for dinner, I used to listen to All Things Considered and think that of all the media outlets, NPR made some effort at carrying NEWS, at finding out what’s really going on. But lately, I’ve been getting restless as I listen to yet another broadcast of what sounds just like what they had covered the night before instead of a ferreting out of what’s really going on–where’s the piece about the government requiring Iraqi farmers to purchase their seed from American companies instead of carrying seed over from the previous harvest, for example? Did NPR’s November 24 spot do more than give the story a quick soundbyte?

And so, I find myself more often than not, checking the Web for news or flipping on the iPOD instead of doing what a historian’s daughter , a political activist’s sister, and a resident of the sometimes proud state of Vermont used to do. And then a couple of weeks ago when I decided to give NPR another try, they did a little piece on podcasting. And at the end of it, I felt as though they had just coasted across the easiest, the top-layer of podcasting. Really. Why did they even bother except that it filled time, was hip and diverting.

Fortunately, not all is so bleak– listening to my students, past and present, and to my two teenaged daughters, I see how exciting and efficacious learning about the world and its current state can be if it’s done thoughtfully. Last week I watched my fifteen-year-old stuffing the last few items into her backpack for a four-month journey to South America with The Traveling School. She has propelled herself through high school at a ridiculous speed, careening through four years of high school Spanish and English and history and science and math in two and a half, learning little. Bored. Fed up. Restless. Schoolwork so empty, so driven by meaningless standards, and so cut off from her life–what she’s thinking about and wondering about–that the only goal is to get through school as quickly as possible. And so off she went with nine other girls and three teachers, learning about the world as they go.

And then there’s the phonecall today from my older daughter at Barnard College who was so jazzed about her “reacting to the Past” class that she just had to call. History is taught not through lecture but through role-playing experiences. To hear that kid talk about Rousseau…wow…

And then there’s my student Piya who took her blog to India and narrated her journey, examined the ideas and circumstances of the culture, and received replies from an incredibly varied readership–her peers at college, her professors, her family, and other readers interested in the Indian diaspora.

But these girls are lucky–and privileged–to be able to seek out these kinds of meaningful learning experiences. And as many point out to me, especially those involved in public education, I teach in a magic cocoon of a place, with the luxury of small classes and prepared, motivated students excited about their studies. True true. But I feel we could be doing so much more here where I sit, too. After all, didn’t the folks who run NPR and the other so-called independent media go to these kinds of schools? How can I promote more deep critical independent inquiry in my students while encouraging them to develop community awareness? How can I equip them with the skills to use writing to communicate their ideas, discoveries and experiences to the world–to speak out?

One way is to keep exploring the possibilities of integrating technology effectively into the classroom–not the gloss and shimmer of the hip and the new but the educational and community-building potential of the tools. I am excited by the kinds of experiments Héctor and I are undertaking this semester exploring collaborative memory and knowledge making through narrating the courses on a wiki shared by our classes, and podcasting student presentations to create an ongoing, living archive of the learning as well as a powerful self-evaluation tool for our students. I can explore ways to use these tools to engage learners, to extend the reach of the classroom, to help make the learning meaningful. But they have to get out of the classroom itself. And sometimes the only way that’s practical is virtually.

And so these are my notes to self as I begin the new semester–use the tools carefully and with pedagogical purpose in my classes, reflect often on the experience, collaborate frequently with colleagues here and at other colleges, and experiment fearlessly.

Conference Highlights

It was great to see Sarah Lohnes at NITLE, and my students are getting a charge out of the fact that she used their blog, awZ, as one of her classroom blogging examples during her presentation on Blogs in Higher Ed.

Another highlight was the fabulous keynote speech by Elizabeth Daley , Director of the Annenberg Center at USC. She spoke about multi-media authoring as a viable means of scholarly academic discourse, and about the reality of using and understanding media in our lives and classrooms. She exhibited examples of exemplary student and faculty multi-media authoring while insisting on the need to ground the work within the discipline, within the professor’s research, explaining that at USC, her group partners with professors across the curriculum who first will use multi-media authoring in their own research before bringing it to their classes. She argues that you cannot slap technology onto the classroom and have someone else come in to teach a unit on technology and then leave once the unit’s done. You, as the teacher, have to understand and use the technology as an integral part of your own authoring and research process. Yes! Well, she was just extraordinary—her group is developing a multi-media authoring product (easy easy easy, she says, though still in Beta stage): pk3. They are also publishing an ejournal, Vectors, the first peer-reviewed, cross-disciplinary journal publishing multimedia work in traditional disciplines. Elizabeth Daley is, it seems, a visionary who makes things happen!

Nothing like getting the teacher out of town and off the blog to get the students in there, blogging it up—in the most informal of tones in their discussions, I must say–
I showed them how a Dutch blogger has referenced their blog on hers, (of course, being in Dutch, there’s no way to know exactly what the writer is saying about them and their blogging efforts), a revelation that has them surprised and pleased.

On the blog right now discussions are developing along several lines: politics and art, the issues raised when writing a reviewin a local periodical, the need for a story-without-words to be a story nonetheless with a comprehensible narrative arc.

Phones, Cameras & Games in the Classroom

Héctor speaks quite convincingly about how this new generation of adolescents is not truly the Net-Generation, but rather an in-between generation, neither here nor there, because they have heard as much about the time before computers as they have experienced life with computers. Until recently, I didn’t completely agree with him, but following some new-media moments with my students and my children, I’m coming around to his way of thinking.

Some observations about these kids:

Their parents are immigrants to cyberspace–they are, then, first generation inhabitants of this world. And as such, they move between the old and the new, largely being schooled in the old traditions (the old country, if you will, of a classical education) while living with their peers in the new world where they move with an uncanny (but oh-so-privileged) ease with their cellphones in their pockets, their iPODS in their backbacks, their laptops underarm. Of course, these plugged-in students swarm to the open spaces of our new library to work in close quarters with one another at the college computers (where are those laptops now?), watching movies or writing papers or conducting research or IM-ing–all of the above, probably, simultaneously– back-to-back, side-by-side tapping away, lost within their own little worlds but touching one another, together, as much as possible. (I’ll have to post a photo of this phenomenon sometime soon.) Accordingly,there’s an electric atmosphere tinged with tension–feeling the excitement of the new land while carrying the expectations of the old.

I watch in wonder as they roam so fluidly, integrating the various media seemingly seamlessly into their lives. My daughter at Barnard will call me from the streets of New York as she exits the Metropolitan Museum with a clutch of friends, to tell me that she saw her favorite Degas again; I can hear in the background her friends talking; she breaks away from me briefly to say something to them; a taxi horn blares. “Bye, Mom–gotta go catch some dinner now,” she says and hangs up. Calling someone is a much more deliberate act for me–I isolate myself from everything else to hold the receiver in my hand and focus on whomever I am calling, at least for that brief moment. Not so this generation. (More on cellphones here)

And my younger daughter sits in the back seat of the car, as we drive home, text messaging and chuckling to herself, and once we’re home, races to the computer to IM while she hooks into some music station, plays a few rounds of some online game or other as she does her homework. I am often aghast. And in awe. My brain just can’t cope with so much simultaneous stimulation.

We, old-country denizens, fret, “It’s a fractured, fragmented, shallow way of living.” And yet, the bolder among us, those with some vision, see that perhaps we can learn a thing or two by bringing computer games, interactive television, texting and the like into our classrooms. It’s not exactly a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality, but a realistic and open-minded inquiry into the possible benefits of the characteristics of this new world.

I, for one, would love to get my hands on one of the new iPODPhotos to try out in my classes–podcasting and the like.

I’d like to think about how FLICKR might work in my arts writing class, especially when we’re on the road and have camera phones handy.

What if my students wanted to create something truly interactive, a game for a final arts project? Several of them have already moved past me in their projects, composing music, taping phone conversations (with permission) to post, conducting online interviews for their artist profiles. Of course, they also get very very frustrated when the computer freezes or crashes, when they lose files or something seizes up somewhere. They’re incensed and swear they’d rather do without technology altogether. Ha–I’d like to see ’em try!

Will these kids get out there and vote tomorrow? That will be my first question in class in the morning–before “What’s new on the blog?“–did they (or will they) vote? Will these first-generation cyberspace inhabitants see voting as old-country or new?

— — ——-

Sites related to texting and gaming I plan to spend more time checking out in the coming weeks, to think about how and if some of these approaches make sense in my classroom include:

The Shifted Librarian’s thoughts on text messaging in educational contexts (thanks to Will Richardson)

Work being done in the UK on computer games in the classroom, Here and here (thanks to Stephen Downes

And Flashstories from

If handing blogs to students means a shift in the way they write, then shouldn’t it also mean a shift in the way we look at their writing?

Why are we having such a hard time INTEGRATING rather than applying technology in all but a very few classes? — Perhaps because blogging seems not to honor the high-level formalized version of Bloom’s taxonomy that we’ve come to associate with “good college writing and thinking.” This isn’t any earth-shaking revelation. But it’s something I find myself talking to people about almost every day.

Dennis Jerz, in notes from a 2004 CCCCs presentation on the Forced Blogging Paradigm, mentions the tension between blogging formal papers and “real” blogging, which is of course more fluid, more improvisational than much of the writing assigned in classrooms.
With this tension comes the teacher’s reluctance to make or adjust to corresponding shifts in the entire classroom paradigm, in the role of the teacher.

In the 1970s and 80s, following the lead of Peter Elbow and Donald Graves , among others, we focussed on process–how to get ideas stirring and on the paper, how to infuse the process with energy and excitement. This kind of writing instruction is now limiting–we have to move beyond this now codified approach. Of course, detractors think that blogging embraces the messiness, the anything-goes-mentality, the very worst of the writing-process; and on first view, student blogging can be extremely undisciplined and informal, dynamically unruly in its humor and irreverence, its disregard for rules and conventions. Yup, this work unsettles just about everyone–still–teachers, administrators, parents and even the students themselves. We hand over the reins of our courses in large part to the students themselves. At least, this is my approach. And sometimes our students write downright incoherent entries due to a lack of simple copyediting , (take this recent one on my artswriting blog, for example). What do we do? Do we jump in and correct the mistakes, clean it up before the world sees and judges? Or do we wait to see what the class will say or do? Will anyone notice? Will anyone care? And if they don’t?

On the collaborative class blog, a doubly public space (student writing being thus published to the class community and to the anonymous blog-reading public beyond), we shift our focus to pointing out what is working and where, and what questions have been overlooked, or when a potential avenue has not been considered. We treat student writers as worthy and able contributors to the larger, historical conversation about our subject matter. And so (no matter how much we might want to from time to time) we don’t jump all over them on the blog. Or at least, we don’t ink up their writing. We keep them writing, joining the conversation, learning by doing, learning by reading, learning by making mistakes. To some it seems as though this slow-response mode means that we’re letting kids get away with shoddy writing. And once we add multi-media options into the mix–forget it, we’ve bought into the whole easy-is-best, lowest-common-denominator-works-fine American reality, our detractors worry. Parents worry. (I heard another set of them ask just that question this past weekend during a presentation of student multi-media work.)

And yet because the work is truly published, they do not ultimately get away with sloppy thinking or writing, except in the most informal spaces on the blog. They do not hide behind process the way many did in the 70s and 80s. They see all their previous posts and all those by their cohorts, and they learn from their mistakes. Right there in the open.

In a way, we’re returning to the old Socratic classroom ideal and also to the English system of the tutorial, saying to our students, “Go on–through the blog, check out the world and what’s going on; try out your writing out there. What kind of response do you get? And then in class and in my office we’ll talk about effective writing. We’ll put pressure on it. Then you’ll go out and try again.”

When I took a look today at some of the writing starting to open up on the artswriting blog–especially between writers–I see them loosening the chains, the fetters of AP English thinking and writing; I see them asking questions of one another to get them to push the writing along. Until they have something to say and feel that they’ve gotta say it, the lessons of sentence variety and structure and rhetorical grammar will not matter. Publishing raises the stakes; they want to move their readers, to entertain them, to educate them–they are writing for a real rather than a manufactured or nonexistent audience. They are writing with purpose and so begin to ask me questions in those f2f conferences about flow and style, about voice and humor, about the hows and the whys.
And then I make them read and emulate, and tear apart what they read from a writer’s perspective.

So I don’t use blogs in my classes for my students’ personal rants or diaries, but as a public space in which we must try to reach our readers and move them; we don’t want to contribute to needless fill in the blogosphere. We should want our writing to count, to matter, to move something or someone–every time–if we get favorable responses that strike us as honest and authentic, then we’ll know we’ve written well or at least not badly, and that writing matters, our writing matters.

Australia, Canada, France Blogging

Once again I find myself turning to bloggers from across the sea as I seek to ground the art in the scholarship, and to break away from viewing authoring on the web as just a means of publishing the things my students and I could do just as well without the Web.

I turn a good deal to people I met at BLOGTALK2, including Lee Bryant and Suw Charman at Headshift, and Mikel Maron with his WorldKitin England; Ton Zylstra in The Netherlands, and from Canada, the inimitableRoland Tanglao and Cyprien Lomas in addition to Aaron Campbell and others.

But I find myself heading to Australia on most days, especially when I’m feeling a little stale, a little uninspired. Just look at the exhibition,Australia Culture Now 2004 when you need help remembering why you’re doing this in the face of a lot of resistance. Of the many bloggers down there doing interesting and fresh work, Adrian Miles is keeping perhaps the most interesting blog of allVideoblog:Vog.2, the first filled with exceptional insights into Web authoring, the second explorations into vogging. His article “Soft Videography” is a must-read for those of us interested in thinking about how authoring video for the web differs from that for the big screen. I am thinking of trying out with my students some of what he’s been doing–really creating digital stories in the Web environment rather than merely embedding “finished” products on our blogs.

And by way of Bryan Alexander (and orginally Jill Walker (in Norway) comes word of a new book on blogs (in America) from Paris, “The Mirror and the Veil…”. Looking forward to reading it.

These artists, thinkers, bloggers, voggers from around the world have me wishing I could take a semester (a year!) to travel about visiting their classrooms and their labs, adding an f2f element to the e2e reality.

TIME, SPACE and the Edublogger

As the fall semester’s opening looms in the near distance, as summer deadlines line up at my door, as the Project for Integrated Expression students pack their bags for their Friday arrival on campus, and as I try to get to my new course blog, I find myself thinking about this blog and how it has given me the space this summer to ruminate on bloggy notions, to argue with blogger friends and colleagues, and to play around with some multi-media options. As I turn to the awZ: artswriting ‘zine blog‘ I’ll be torn about where to post my reflections, questions, narratives and essays–There? Here? Both places?

Clearly I don’t have the full interconnected blog system down–I’m not exactly sure where one blog will begin and the other end. I’m not sure I am envisioning the full potential of the spaces within the blog and between the blogs. Will I eventually have a handful of blogs in addition to my course blogs? Special topic blogs, project blogs–that kind of thing? The blog within the blog within the blog? I did a bit of sidebar blogging on my Contemporary Ireland Blog, called “BG Daily,” when the students took over the blog and posted their own entries to the homepage space.

I’d like to see more examples of higher ed blogs linked to one another, weaving a fabric of a single person’s oeuvre, in a sense, course to course, project to project, or community to community. Not just listed side by side or in some kind of table of contents but really linked, woven, referred to, used again through a living archive. I’d like to do even more of that in more own course blogs though my students have done a bit of it in all my classes, picking up threads from one another’s work and spinning them into something new, seeing the Web as “more complex, unpredictable and dynamic than any novel that could have been written by a single human writer” (Manovich, Intro, New Media Reader, 2003, 15) After all, what Robert Coover described in his NYT Book Review piece, “The End of Books,” in 1992 is still, I believe, true:

Writing students are notoriously conservative creatures. They write stubbornly and hopefully within the tradition of what they have read. Getting them to try out alternative or innovative forms is harder than talking them into chastity as a lifestyle. But confronted with hyperspace, they have no choice: all the comforting structures have been erased. It’s improvise or go home.”

I’ m trying, believe me.
I really haven’t yet figured out the spatial relationships or the potential for the image to supplant text. But it’s comforting to read that other bloggers are still feeling their way in the dark with their own questions of time and space:

Suw Charman, inveterate blogger who suddenly finds herself making her living blogging (her personal blog, Chocolate and Vodka”), and her professional blog, Strange Attractor), has had a few uneasy moments:

I am not the only person to deal with the fact that, at some point, your personal blog ceases to appear personal and starts to appear professional. At the beginning of the year Michael O’Connor Clarke went through the same thought process that I am going through now. Journalist David Akin has more recently felt the need to explain who pays for his blog.

My students do not blog long enough at a clip to feel that kind of metamorphosis (12 weeks unless they take back-to-back courses with me or with my close colleaguessince very few other profs are blogging in their classes around here.) This kind of blogging ends (unfortunately) for most, at the end of the course, a built in death notice, if you will

Suw also says, on “Feeding the Beast” post:

Blogs are the same, you have to figure out the boundaries of your comfort zone – how often to post, what to post, what style, how that fits in with your job and the rest of your life. Failing to find out where you’re comfortable will almost certainly result in a decreased desire to post, neglect of your blog and ultimately, its untimely death.

Balance. When the topic of the upcoming opening faculty meeting is “Time,” you know you’ve really got to see the value of blogging to stick with it, especially beyond the linklog kind of blogging. It takes time to develop a blogging rhythm, to know how deeply you want to delve into any particular topic, and therein lies the “Catch-22” for many erstwhile classroom bloggers–they don’t have enough time to give blogging a real go, to understand the need to integrate blogs carefully into the pedagogical framework of a course in order for them to have any significant value. It takes time. And good blogging, as Suw, points out, takes time.

Gadgets in the Classroom

Via Paul Amsbary comes News Observor’s chat with Duke University’s Tracey Futhey about an-iPOD-for every-student program.

In my previous two postings and now over at Héctor’s Future of Communities class blog, Héctor and I have been discussing teachers and technology, and the reality of this new generation of tech-reared students reaching our undergraduate classrooms, and their relationship with technology and history and their own place in the world. Now along comes this interesting interview–

Futhey says, “How can we now take something that is a consumer application and see if it has significant value as an educational tool as well? It’s an experiment.” What I admire about this statement is the willingness NOT to have the answers, to experiment! Ha, imagine an entire university experimenting with iPODs in the classroom! And to understand that the kids are already using the tool and enthusiatic about it–what if we take these “gadgets” and see how they can be used creatively as part of the learning process–how can they be used for positive change and not just for their entertainment and/or commercial value?

I’m hopeful that the Duke University experiment will go well because Futhey understands that:

Technology is just another tool. It’s a very powerful tool, but it all really depends on how faculty view and consider the learning experience. It’s not the be-all, end-all. Technology is not going to take a mediocre teacher and make them a good teacher. Technology can help a good teacher to deliver the tools more effectively, sometimes more interactively and extend the reach to the students outside of the classroom. But it’s not the solution; it’s part of a package.

Indeed. Of course it gets me wondering just how they are helping the faculty incorporate these tools. Are there workshops? Is there mentoring? What’s the incentive? What’s the support system being put into place?

Convergence Theory?

I am struck by the convergences in my life (usually I am talking about emergence)–never before have I found myself nodding my head quite so vigorously when my older brother, who works as Director of Organizing and research for CSEA, speaks about his work in California, for example. And I don’t mean to imply that Michael and I do not see eye-to-eye on the issues confronting our culture and our world. Not at all. Indeed, I just gave a toast at his fiftieth birthday party crediting him with much of my political-consciousness education and for the gift of a passionate relationship with Ireland among other essential parts of my life. But before now I have always admired his work rather than felt I could contribute to it in any way–I listened but rarely if ever advised –he, trying to change the whole world by working to change the political realities of wherever he is–California, in particular. What could I, writer and college teacher, possibly have to tell him the ultimate do-er?

But during this brief weekend family celebration in Maine we just had, he started talking about the work he’s doing in leadership training with the union, how he has to help the natural leaders in every locale truly lead by not just getting their people to the polls but to run for office themselves. Why shouldn’t they take an active role in government. He showed me books–among them James MacGregor Burns’ Academy of Leadership and his Transforming Leadership. I found myself thinking–yup, blogs, Michael and digital storytelling, these tools, these modes of communicating, expressing, chronicling and connecting, could help in this essential work of unseating a rogue governor and an even worse president. Getting these leaders together in the workshop and then providing them with the means of staying in contact with one another as they move into this work, makes sense to me. And I don’t think I’m getting carried away…

All weekend I found myself turning to one family member or another, and saying, “You should really think about how digital stories [or blogging] might serve you in this work”. It was uncanny. And not a little unsettling. This medium is taking off all around us in ways no one could have anticipated. It’s glorious and inspiring and makes me think that we have a chance to make a difference in the world, to make sure that everyone has equal access to the power of stories and publishing tools and communication opportunities.

Think about how many people have viewed Jib Jab’s Bush/Kerry “This Land”? (thanks, Patti) My students could put something like this together and have some five million hits to their blog. Okay, so that puts us back to to Steven Johnson and Emergence . The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts…

Yet another example of how efficacy is the underpinning of all of this work. Yup. Im still hammering away at the convergence of emergence, efficacy and collective intelligence. I know that Héctor Vila would say it all returns to old Emerson, and I don’t doubt that he is right, but I love the fact that through emails from teachers, conversations with activist brothers and educational-software researcher sisters-in-law, symposium encounters with IT people and young software developers–all quite new to me– my understanding of the work I am undertaking in my own classes is really beginning to take shape.

Storytelling on the Web

I’ve just waded into an e-mail discussion for the first time, one I;ve been listening in on invited, but until a post was made about storytelling and communities, specifically digital storytelling a la Joe Lambert and his Center for Digital Storytelling, I didn’t feel the urge to jump in. Now that I have, I suddenly see digital storytelling in educational contexts all over the place. Here, for instance, is a compendium of Courses worldwide using storytelling. Mind you, we’re always talking digital storytelling here, but it seems as though more and more classrooms are seeing the benefits of having kids tell stories/make movies as ways to a) create community, b)teach media literacy and production skills and c) initiate civic engagement.