"maybe it's 'cuz 'cuz
we're all gonna die die"

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The "Bleetzork Ziddlebutt" post: a postscript

I'm humbled. Twelve hours after posting, there were already had two very thoughtful -- and one very extensive -- responses to my goofiness. If I needed proof that the blogging world is intellectually alive, well, there it is. Jim Groom's comment in particular has some ideas that I need to think over. If you're reading this now, and you found my remarks in last night's post to be on point, you should read his response. I asked to be corrected, and indeed I have been. Groom makes several crucial points in his response, and I will give an executive summary here of what struck me most on first reading:

  • Conversations in the blogosphere are asynchronous, long-term and ongoing. You have to stick around for a while to understand what's going on. This is an important point to remember, partly because computer technology always brings with it an illusion of instantaneousness.
  • As Groom put it (attributing the idea to Campbell), "you find people at the other end of [a] blog, not necessarily scholarship."
  • WordPress can serve as "a flexible, distributed learning environment that will provide students with a rich archive of their work over the course of four years (along with the conversations, comments, trackbacks, etc.) if not a lifetime." Presumably this is true, though perhaps to a lesser extent, of related technologies. When I read this I suddenly began to appreciate how exciting and powerful this idea could be from a pedagogical standpoint: what if you did everything on a single platform? What sorts of synergies might develop within an individual student's body of work -- never mind for a moment the potential for community-building?
  • Finally, Groom included a little batch of links to people actually working with social web technology in real courses. This is something I badly need to see at work. Up to this point, I've been sort of snatching random ideas out of the air based on what sounds neat to me, but I have no idea of what really works and what doesn't.
There's a lot more to Groom's comment than this, but that's what stood out for me on first reading. Again, though, you should read it for yourself. Thanks, Jim and Bryan, for getting back to me so fast. I really appreciate it.

I should add as a disclaimer that for the past couple of weeks I've been struggling with a draft of an article I plan to submit to Teaching Theology and Religion, in which I reflect on various failures and disappointments I've encountered in attempting to incorporate several different types of pedagogical innovation and risk-taking into my teaching, mostly having nothing to do with technology. I won't go into it here, but about a year ago, I taught a course whose primary purpose was to get students out of the classroom and into "the field," i.e., get them talking to real religious folks in real religious settings. Being a sixteenth-century historian myself, I didn't have much training in this type of thing, and -- not that surprisingly in retrospect -- it turned out to be harder to make it happen than I had thought. In the process I tried to involve blogging and wikis as a strategy for encouraging students to think about the constructedness and the social rootedness of human knowing. And, well, it didn't work out too well. But that's another story for another time.


Neal said...

Bleetzork Ziddlebutt seems to be taking on a life of his own. First I heard of him was from Aortography's twitter, then the nbr twitter's response(s) led me here. So there's an interweaving of information that happens, creating a whole that's bigger than the parts. Who knows who else has crossed paths with M. Ziddlebutt and how that may impact their thoughts for that day? It's not a linear or orderly post / response system. I certainly don't leave comments everywhere I go. Just little fractal imprints here and there, perhaps.

Nathan Rein said...

Heh. I'm starting to think old Bleetzork may need his own Twitter account...

Jim said...

Thanks for the kind review Nathan, sorry my comment was so long, poorly written and meandering -but you trackbacked to me -after that you're on your own ;)

I certainly look froward to reading more about the project you hint to here. As Faulkner notes, "All my works were failures, it's just a matter of degrees" -I'm paraphrasing here for effect -not very scholarly of me I know:)

More seriously, a number of the presentations at Faculty Academy 2007 were about what went wrong and why the technology didn't necessarily work as planned. I encouraged folks I worked with to present along these lines as they were telling me "Nah, my project didn;t really work so I won;t present." In fact that is the best time to present on the project because this is the real purpose of our commiqués -to help each other think through what might work gien what has gone wrong.

I have had a few successes with faculty, but far more failures -and I am not upset about that in the least. Because we have a relationship, they trust me and I trust them. We know next time we'll experiment a bit more and find our groove -not unlike teaching more generally.

I mean come on, blogs and wikis are still so new and unexplored -despite the rate at which new httools come out. I am still pounding wikis and blogs for more and more profound ways to frame virtual space for teaching and learning -and its a full-time job and then some. Luckily I love it!