wading into the void

I figure it is always a good thing to include the actual discussion in amongst my own ramblings. In the post are the questions followed by my thoughts on the material.

  • What is blogging?  Can this Web 2.0 tool help to educate and empower learners? How?

Blogging is a platform for learning, a method, a style. Using the titles Dr. Campbell has, blogging is framed by the concepts of “Narrate, Curate, Share”. These titles are not made to obscure meaning and confuse the reader. These titles actually reinforce each other.

Narrate: by narrating a story you can create a story with your own mind and the minds of others. To attach emotion to a memory allows your reader to better understand and remember the importance of the discussion and the fun you can have in learning.

Looking at he definitions of ‘fun’, the first two definitions are the ones we typically associate with. The third uses fun as a synonym or replacement for other words such as amusement or enjoyment. The fourth definition is actually the most interesting of the bunch: violent or excited activity or argument.

This definition shows how blogging can educate or empower learners. I have taken violent to be a sudden intense activity, that students can become inspired to achieve, and break out of the cookie-cutter method of passive learning. If the students are excited, they can produce a higher quality of content, rather than simply meeting the minimum requirements. Finally, argument is a discourse with the intent to persuade. If students then begin to discuss the content of the blogging with each other….

they just might learn something. We as teachers can educate our students by empowering them with a method of interaction. With luck the students are having fun. In every sense of the word.

Curate: If students are having fun then perhaps they will take pride in the work they complete. This pride can then cultivate a sense of attachment to their blog and then begin to curate its content with care.

A blog can be like a garden. If you spend time looking after the content, carefully examining posts and comments, something beautiful can grow from the words and media that form in this medium for interaction. If you leave the garden alone, but observe it, weeds may grow, but perhaps something unexpected may appear.

If we as teachers can begin to impart our enjoyment in such things, we can begin to curate their experiences, taking pride in the fact that our students have pride in their own work. This brings me to the last of the three:

Share: If we take pride in our work, then we share it with others more easily. When blogging content is shared more viewpoints can be engaged in reference to the topic. When we share our content, we become a part of a larger community of learners.

If we all look at things in a different way, the community can create a parallax. I view parallax in a certain way, and you in another. Together we can change the direction at which an object is seen. By doing so, new opportunities emerge, sparking the ability to learn.

This is how blogging can not only educate and empower learners, but even inspire them.

  • In what ways can becoming a blogger engage learner curiosity, creativity, and agency?  Why does Scott Rosenberg suggest that “[b]logging allows us to think out loud together”?

The power is found in the ability to connect and interact with each other as learners and bloggers. When one blogger leaves a link to follow, it is the curiosity of the reader to follow it unto the void. Entering the void and attempting to fill it with your story is always risky, but with each interaction among the bloggers, the linking to other sites, and showing content, a web is formed. The power of curiosity brings people together.

However, it is the creativity that keeps bringing bloggers back. To have others be inspired by your work, and then to contribute back to the void in order to inspire others builds a positive feedback loop. Bloggers engage each other and begin to collectively think towards problems, goals, or common interests.

This combination of curiosity to take the first step and then the creativity to sustain the initial drive gives agency to an individual in the void. That I, as a blogger have the ability to move forward, and publish my work, no matter how few people will read it, no matter how few will comment, my voice could still be heard.

That is the power of the void. We can stand looking at the edge of the void, afraid with someone looking back at us laughing. Or, we can run into the void, joining those who dare to achieve. That is the agency that blogging can give to learners: the ability and opportunity to dare to achieve.

  • According to Dr. Campbell, why is blogging not as effective when it is relegated to an “assignment”?  How can you avoid the tyranny of ‘points assigned’ if you choose to incorporate student blogging into your own teaching?

Blogging is not as effective because the creativity of the learner becomes distracted and confined by additional requirements. The students spend all of their time trying to satisfy the requirements presented instead of simply engaging with the content in order to share their view with others. The ability for a teacher to understand the balance of what to add to an assignment to legitimize it and not stifle it is critical.

Going back to the other questions asked, we as teachers can begin to extract methods of avoiding the red pen of tyranny. Instead of looking for how to assign and then subtract points, the teacher should look at how to give points. Remember the “good job star” you got back in kindergarten? That message still applies. We as teachers should be looking for the positive message in everything, and then use constructive criticism as necessary.

The method I would use to incorporate blogging is by putting it into class participation. This way you do not have to necessarily assign a quantitative number of blogs, but an expectation to blog. While many students do not like having open ended assignments, this is better than relegating blogging to a requirement. If you can give enthusiasm, and be willing to be patient with new bloggers, or those who a uncomfortable at first, then your learners will begin to grow like plants in the garden. By watching carefully and interjecting only when necessary, a teacher can allow their students to learn on their own, but not all alone.

Finally, we should ask the students to narrate their own story in reference to something. Then, perhaps they begin to have a feeling of attachment, and pride with their work and curate it, sharing it with the larger community.

  • Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk

Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk is about the climate of education in the United States. There are a wide variety of possibilities, but the conditions are not ready. He talks about the irony of no child left behind, leaving children behind. That while we are concerned about those who drop out, we should also be concerned about those who are disengaged in it.

He mentions that people are diverse, but our system asks for conformity. Students should have their curiosity engaged, but instead we have compliance. Education should awaken creativity, but we breed standardization through testing. Diversity, curiosity, and creativity sets the foundation for achievement.

I believe that a wide variety of engagement will allow for students to achieve, instead of being lost in a task to be completed. Teachers can do this. If we as teachers could facilitate learning instead teaching at students, more can be achieved.

We must understand that teaching is not a linear process, but an organic process. Interest is generated and a path is followed to learning, not as a single line, but as a web bouncing back and forth overlapping onto itself, reaffirming positions and content.

Finally, as teachers we must remember to give students the respect that they deserve, and in some cases they may just show us something new too.

[thanks for listening]

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