Gardner Writes appeared fifteen years ago today.
I’ve told the story in many other places of how I began blogging, inspired by Gene Roche and Bryan Alexander and Mary Donnelly and Brian Lamb and Barbara Ganley and Jon Udell and no doubt some folks I have overlooked in that list (my apologies). There are also stories to tell of how and why my blogging has waxed and waned over the years. Some of those stories are about work, some about stress, some about worry, some about insecurity, some about anger, some about exhaustion. Many of the stories combine all those factors.
Every time I blog, now, I find myself avoiding those stories. And since blogging for me has always been about telling my stories–the stories of my learning, my dreams, my hopes, my work–I find myself avoiding blogging, too.
But none of that will be forever, Deo volente. I don’t yet feel able or willing to tell those stories yet, but I will one day. And I hope the very fact I wanted to contribute another thread, today, to the ragged but still thrilling tapestry of the Web indicates I’m still committed to the project. And I always have the splendidly encouraging example of my friend and colleague and fellow blogger Alan Levine before me. (Now there’s a light that’s never goes out.)
I still think about leadership, and positive change, in higher education and in teaching and learning generally. I still think computers are a fascinating invention, and that networked computing as a platform for communication and collaboration can be extraordinarily effective in our efforts to go up Bateson’s levels of learning together. I’m still enthusiastic about the idea of connected learning. It’s been a thrill and a revelation to work with Wiki Education in my courses and to see the difference it’s made in my students’ work and in their lives as learners. Hypothes.is has become an essential part of the learning ecosystem in every class I craft; I can’t imagine teaching without it. Each of these affordances and ideas is also a movement, a culture, a set of ideals and commitments that for me continue to represent the spirit of Web 2.0 I found all around me in 2004, when I started blogging.
I still require blogging in my classes. I still think that telling the story of one’s learning in a public blog post offers decisive opportunities for the metacognition that’s essential to deeper learning. Some of my greatest joys as a teacher still come from reading the stories of my students’ learning, particularly those blog posts in which they link to, credit, and encourage each other. To watch a class become a community of learners is a deep delight. It’s just about the most hopeful thing there is, in my experience.
I’m working on a book on Doug Engelbart and helping to convene a conversation around his research report cum manifesto Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework. I still meet astonishing people whose lives and work humble and inspire me. I’m still traveling around to speak with folks at various conferences and events, and to learn from them. I’m still an English professor, still in love with film and music and poetry. I’m still a Miltonist, with three new essays out in the last fourteen months. There have been some losses over the last several years, some of them very painful. Yet, and still, there remains much good work to attempt.
And Gardner Writes is still here, and I still believe in blogging.
Andrew Sullivan describes some great reasons to continue the work of blogging, reasons that I still find compelling and true:
Blogging is a different animal. It requires letting go; it demands writing something that you may soon revise or regret or be proud of. It’s more like a performance in a broadcast than a writer in a book or newspaper or magazine (which is why, of course, it can also be so exhausting). I have therefore made mistakes along the way that I may not have made in other, more considered forms of writing; I have hurt the feelings of some people I deeply care about; I have said some things I should never have said, as well as things that gain extra force because they were true in the very moment that they happened. All this is part of life – and blogging comes as close to simply living, with all its errors and joys, misunderstandings and emotions, as writing ever will.
Those words appeared over four years ago, in a post that appears, ironically, to have been Sullivan’s penultimate blog post. But the words are still there, as of this writing, just as promised. The link still connects. So there’s that.
And here is this, a little anniversary celebration for the space that opened up a part of me that badly needed the air and sunlight and companionship all those years ago. My thanks to all of you who have been a part of these fifteen years. It’s been harder for me lately to get to the “letting go” that Sullivan aptly describes as a sine qua non. It’s not a complete letting go, of course. I still believe in personal, not private. But a sequence of losses can make one grab onto whatever’s left very, very tightly. Too tightly. My own irony is that I have not held on to the freedom that this blog brought to me, and still brings to me. I have not held on to the letting go, at least not consistently, and not here. It feels like I’ve nearly forgotten about that note, pure and easy, playing so free like a breath rippling by.
Nearly, but not completely. I still hear some music in the distance.
Time to find that merry gypsy and rejoin the caravan.