What might a Huge-LQG and a motherblog have in common? The first challenges our basic assumptions about what we think the nature of the universe is, and the second enables us to challenge our basic assumptions about what we think the nature of education is.
You already know that a ‘motherblog’ is, in this context, anyway, the veritable mothership that pulls in and collects the many voices of each individual blogger; in this case, the blog of each individual Padawan in this semester’s group of GEDI Knights-in-training. The GEDI motherblog aggregates and allows us to share the musings, epiphanies, shared insights, and so forth, of each unique GEDI blogger.
But you may be scratching your head about the LQG acronym, so let me explain…. Last week I was reading about the “biggest thing in the universe,” a Huge-LQG, or Huge-Large Quasar Group, that challenges our very assumptions about the nature of the universe. Yep. British astronomers have identified an object so large that it turns on its head the so-called cosmological principle, which essentially argues that if you’ve observed one segment of the universe, you’ve observed ’em all–that the known is similar to the unknown. Well, apparently not so much. That principle has just been grandly disrupted by the Huge-LQG identified in the UK.
Wow. So, here’s the thing, blogging can be a bit like that, metaphorically speaking. The newly discovered Huge-LQG is made up of 73 quasars, each at the center of its own galaxy. Our own GEDI motherblog is a cluster of 50 individual blogs, each at the center of its own galaxy, so to speak, and each potentially quasar-like in its vision and insight. And should I, or any other reader, assume for a moment that all blogging will produce the same results, we will have our assumptions grandly challenged. The blogging platform empowers a self-reflective voice and exploration, and the ‘invitation’ to do open and honest self-reflective engagement that is too often missing from most corners of academe. There is a self-reflective engagement that can occur when one jumps full in and embraces what contributing to the blogosophere invites. While journal publications have an important place in scholarly endeavors, so, too, perhaps does blogging. More than we might think. The blogger who wanders up, down, over, and through a topic or idea and takes us along for the ride, the blog post that does not resemble a formal writing assignment and does not rely on specialized, disciplinary language (or in worst case scenarios academese)–because formal writing assignments have rules and regs that are so specified as to directly or indirectly control and contain the intellectual exploration and journey the assignment was no doubt meant to engender–that is what I get excited about with the blogging initiative in GEDI. Each semester I look forward to what the mothership brings as it gathers all of these remarkable quarks, or in this case quirks, of unique intellectual and affective engagement.
And, oh my, my first ventures into the remarkableness of the spring 2013 GEDI motherblog have not disappointed. There are several fabulous forays into interesting questions, but in this post I want to comment on three bloggers who have left me astounded, gobsmacked, as Dr. C is fond of saying, with their open and amazing blogging and their willingness to dive right in and be bold and curious. Brandon started us off right out of the gate with an articulation of his hesitation about blogging, but then his post evolves into a delightfully open exploration about what his resistance has been about, and he shares his epiphany that perhaps communication about science in some of the informal ways that blogging provides is a way to get science back into mainstream society. He has created a professional web presence and decided that the Kool-Aid is something he will try, rather than shun without taking a sip. His rallying cry, “Let’s do this!” inspires us all to see if we may be parched and thirsty for the network of connection via blogging.
In her post entitled The Reluctant Blogger Laurie explores what we all fear about putting our thoughts out into the open blogosphere, primarily that we run the risk of “being poorly received” and that we may be “disagreed with, laughed at, scowled at,” and that we risk being judged. Laurie decides, however, that part of what we do when we make progress in any academic area and part of what we should be doing as public intellectuals is to recognize that it is “really essential to have disagreements.” We all fear being laughed/scowled at or harshly judged, but that would extend to other intellectual endeavors as well–conference papers, grant proposals, journal articles, oh, and yes, teaching that is fully present and actively engaged. Fear of disagreement or the fear of putting our ideas out there is not, I think, limited to blogging. (I actually think that blogging may make our other academic work more interesting and invigorating and help us discover our ‘voice’ in different kinds of writing genres.) To Laurie’s insights I would add some inspiration and wisdom from Seth Godin, who reminds us that not everyone will like everything we write and that we just need to shrug our shoulders and realize that it’s not for them and keep moving forward. Learning to teach shares this sentiment, too. What is most important is diving in and defining how to be the public contributor we believe is part of our role and responsibility as 21st-century academics. Brava!
But one among us has set the bar high, at least for me, in her story of how crosssing over the line from silent observer to blogger is a rubicon of sorts. Her take on the blogging ‘requirement,’ is such: “If not for these courses, I would not be taking this step. While the the requirement is forcing me out the door, the journey is still ultimately mine. So, stick around. I might just have a few interesting things to say.” Sho’nuf and bam her next post explores a recent APLU initiative and the trouble with NCLB’d undergraduates with her passionate engagement on the topic delightfully present. Nice! But her third foray into blogging caught my attention in the first two lines: “I noticed something this week. I am interested.” Yes, indeed, interested and interesting. Give me more, I think, and she does:
“. . . I think I’m starting to shake off the shackles and the dust from massive burn-out at my former job where I had become bored, uninterested, and dispassionate. It’s the closest I have ever come to feeling ambivalent. It actually frightened me. I worried that I might not ever be interested in anything again. What if I’d crossed the event horizon on a massive black hole of disinterest and boredom? Apparently, I had not crossed it. I just spent a little too much time in the ergosphere. Perhaps listening to people like Dr. Gardner Campbell, Sir Ken Robinson, and others is having an impact. The idea of exploration is appealing again. But now, I’m wondering how many students today are perpetually stuck in the ergosphere of an antiquated and inadequate education system that doesn’t provide the necessary tools? How many get lost, and how many have crossed the event horizon, possibly never to return?”
I am so sticking around. You inspire, lgm, and the metaphor of the ergosphere and the event horizon you use is beautifully apt. There is quasar-like energy in the analysis you provide of what may happen if we don’t explore better ways to educate all learners. Did I say I’m sticking around? I want to follow along as you explore what MOOCs can and cannot do in their current incarnation, or what they should be doing and what they may tell us about learning in our f2f courses as well. I’m interested. Btw, if you haven’t run across it yet, you won’t want to miss Clay Shirky’s latest post on MOOCs. A morsel for you: “MOOCs are a lightning strike on a rotten tree. Most stories have focused on the lightning, on MOOCs as the flashy new thing. I want to talk about the tree.” His links within the post will connect you to the debate he’s been a part of. (Those amazing links, again, and no waiting for the debate to occur over several issues of a journal.) Shirky tries to turn our attention toward a clear and honest examination of what we’re doing in higher ed (or not doing well), rather than just presume higher ed is doing a grand job, as is, and foolishly hope that MOOC mania will soon cease and desist and all will return to ‘normal’ once everyone gets over the fuss. You might like the Shirky post, too, Brandon, since you are exploring the attack of the MOOC and future prof, you might find it interesting reading as well.
I’ve just highlighted three GEDI bloggers here, but the motherblog is full of interested and interesting colleagues. Sarah Hanks is very much leading from the inside out and is challenging herself to find both the courage and the time to be her best self for her students so that they will step up because “isn’t that what teaching is about? To be vulnerable enough to teach differently”? Yes, indeed, yes. Jack talks about his desire to find “[l]earning systems that promote knowledge generation, encourage practitioner / student participation in learning, and enable social change.” Young Rhodes Walker will no doubt be letting us know how blogging might impact STEM classes. Juan prompts us to think about the evolution and potential power of teaching with technologies, and our own smithing god has shared a video and his musings on how difficult the work of changing our pedagogy will be. And, huntingmaddness, we’re looking forward to what you tell us about your vinyl collection in a future post. Ivy ponders what makes for a learning environment that will generate engagement and critical thinking. We’ll be reading and watching to see what SansSucre thinks of some of Jane McGonigal’s games for social change once there’s been an opportunity to explore some of them. To the Macroworld of Microbes…good question about how/if blogging can work in a microbio lab–you might want to check the blogging wonderfulness of Dr. Jill Sible and what she models for her students, with whom she blogs. Taulby asks some interesting questions about blogging and democracy, and Sascha is pondering leadership issues and the political economy of blogging. I have missed mentioning some of the GEDI bloggers here, but I will keeping reading. I am unlikely to do a Homerian ‘catalogue of ships’ in each of my posts, but we should all connect to and reference each other whenever appropriate. Links are a wonderful thing.