Well, my technological ineptitude shines through again. I have recently added quite a few videos to the blog, that amazing sam & dave footage for instance, and then I check the blog on Firefox which I generally use for internet. Everything has always seemed to be fine. Recently, I was looking for something on the blog but I was on a computer using explorer and realized that on explorer none of the videos were there. Hmmmm…. I realize I need to double check how I’m doing things to make sure the materials I think I’ve put on the blog are actually available to whomever reads the blog. If you’ve ever read this and haven’t had the videos available, feel free to let me know. Or if you have any input on this issue, drop me a line. Thanks!
Archive for the ‘Metablog’ Category
I have never tried to hide the fact of my technological ineptitude, not here or not on my currently incomplete, half-assed webpage. It was during my tenure at the University of Florida where I was lucky enough to teach in the now-sadly-decaying Networked Writing Environment where I became interested and compelled to learn how and why to integrate technology into my teaching. I experimented with the MOO environment and attempted to learn how to integrate my own web page and student web pages into the curriculum. My eagerness certainly outran my abilities. I embraced the possibilities head-on, but in the midst of my dissertation work (which in hindsight I realize I should have shifted into a rhet-comp project, judging from my current interests and the fact that it seems odd to have an “American Lit” degree when I’m not sure “Literature” exists, only rhetoric) and my job hunt, I never really learned the technology to properly support my ideas.
At the time, I never ventured into blogging as a teaching tool, however. The world of blogging has really opened up recently for me. I have used it as a tool in several classes, most effectively in my intro composition course, “Knowledge, Culture, and the Liberal Arts.” Here, too, I have “seen the light” and am incorporating blogs into my courses fairly frequently now. My primary interest in using the blog is as a way to help students see writing as an act of community. Writing is too often presented as an act within a vacuum rather than a form of community dialogue. The blog really opens this up for students. It is also a very easy method to do the logistical work that I had learned to do through my web page.
One of the great things about a web page initially was that with very few skills I could have a central page where everything could be posted, assignment updates, readings, etc. Now I use moodle to update any assignments, and I post any other changes onto the blog and tell students they need to check the blog for my postings and each others’ every day. It works like a charm.
The question now is what purpose I want my web page to serve. One of my goals for August was to spend a little time with my webpage, update it, learn how to make it look a little more spiffy etc. But I also find myself asking why. I am no longer sure what role it plays in my personal or my teaching life. It’s as if I outgrew my webpage before I even learned how to really make an effective one. I’d like to still work on it, but given the limited projects I can really invest in, do I have the time to really make working on it worthwhile? It has lost priority and now sits out there in limbo. So, what I really need to do this August is spend some time re-evaluating what tools I most want to use and why and how and consider where to put my meager efforts. I feel sad, though, thinking of my poor little website adrift without a purpose. Maybe it’s really just an advertising medium now to sell my book. My webpage goes commerical.
We had a lovely 13 inches or so of snow for Mardi Gras here in Cedar Rapids. So, as the snow dumped outside, the pot of veggie gumbo boiled away (Boca sausages and Qorn chicken tenders if you want to know) with some sourdough bread and Dixie Blackened Voodoo and Abita Turbodog and plenty of Dr. John, Clifton Chenier, Steve Riley, Earl King and others on the stereo. Yes, I know the Dixie is kind of silly, the New Orleans heritage now brewed in Wisconsin, huh? It’s not that great of a beer either but I had to see how it was doing. The Abita, now, that’s another story. I know Abita sometimes gets a bad name, but I actually like their beer–the turbo especially–but maybe it’s just because it really says New Orleans to me and I love the city. Sometimes I guess it’s hard to distinguish taste from emotion.
On other fronts, my new class is up and running and their blog is starting out nicely. It’s a new process for me, but I like the opportunities it offers. It’s a matter of sorting through what I can do with it and then really thinking about the why. Of course, this early in the class, I’ve already realized an added benefit I hadn’t really considered. With this much snow, we’re missing several sessions but I can still hold conversations with them or ask them to have conversations amongst themselves. This is especially important at Cornell where it’s silly block plan (they take, and we teach, one course at a time for 3 1/2 weeks) means that missing a day really means missing a week in semester-time. I know, I know, I can already hear my colleagues saying “it’s not a silly plan” and to some extent I agree. I am constantly amazed at the innovative ways my colleagues design these courses. So, yes, it’s just silly to me. But the blog at least makes me feel less guilty about not driving in the ice and snow. A nice bonus.
So, the truth is, I’ve kept this blog thing fairly quiet since I started, and I’m not sure why. I thought “oh well let me check out the technology, make sure I got it right,” but as you can see this is incredibly low tech so far. I type. I hit save. Done. So that’s not it. I also thought that maybe I wanted to get my blogging legs running before I spread the wealth. But that doesn’t quite do it either. How hard is it? I mean my last post was a paragraph about thinking about an upcoming visit with my friends. Come on, how tough is that? I’m a writer. It’s what I do. It doesn’t make sense for me to say I need to figure out how to write in this medium before I really let people know.
What I realize is that I’ve been trying to figure out why I want to write in this medium. Confession of the day: it was not that long ago that I looked down on blogging. I thought, “Oh great, just what the world needs, another blog…” But lately I’ve been reading quite a few blogs and I guess I’m starting to get it. The problem is that I was thinking large scale when I thought about the impact of the blog. No, maybe the world doesn’t need another blog (on the other hand, what does the world care?), but communities do. As I write, I find that I’m also reading differently. I am accustomed to reading articles which certainly offer important ideas and techniques for my teaching and other pursuits, but the blog offers people thinking through their content. It’s not necessarily polished (what one might call a rough draft? I do see this as a valuable space in which I might generate and play around with ideas that will develop as I go) but it’s in process. It’s thinking in the moment, it’s sometimes a testing out of ideas which seems incredibly valuable for writer and reader. So the blog seems not just some forum for expression (a term I generally despise in relation to writing) but, because this seems more in context of other blogs, I find I’m thinking more, often about things I wouldn’t necessarily think about (and sometimes things I think about all the time, like what good beer to hunt for next). And as I write I start to have particular people and conversations in mind. In other words, all the things that writing is supposed to do and–here’s the catch for me–all those things that I talk to my writing students about. I know all you new media, network bloggers and teachers already get this. OK, so I’m slow. But yes this has been an ah-ha kind of realization for me. I’m seeing not only the intersection of network and community the blog offers–both as practical and metaphorical–but I’m also seeing the potential pedagogical uses of the blog. I remember my first undergraduate writing class. I was asked to do such mundane things as write a “definition” paper or the classic “comparison” paper but nobody ever told me why. Who cares if I can define something? Why am I doing it? Ever since, I have worked very hard not to fall into that old trap. But I haven’t come up with a truly engaging pedagogy that lets students engage in the actual act of writing–as in an act of communication with other writers, readers, thinkers, people. I see the blog as a potential medium for such engagement and, so, I have gone fairly quickly from a blogging skeptic to someone who will use this as a tool in my next composition class (which starts soon so I have to really be on my toes here).
So, step two: time to try to give myself a bit more of a blog presence.