Archive for December, 2008

A new identity – I’m a blogademic!

I had not realized that higher faculty who blog have a name – “blogademics.”  I discovered this term while reading an article in the Fall 2008 issue of Thought & Action (an NEA publicationby Douglas Harrison entitled “Scholarly voice and professional identity in the Internet Age.”  In this piece Harrison discusses the tensions between what some see as the traditional role of an academic with that of contemporary culture, especially a culture that involves avenues for open expression such as blogs (and I would add other web 2.0 tools too).  He refers to himself as a “blogademic” as he bridges his personal and professional life through his varied blog posts.  He has written over 2 million blogging words in his 4 years of blogging.  Although I am just a novice to the blogging world, I think I might take on this identity of a “blogademic” and see how it fits.  I might like it.

While reading the article, I also checked clicked on a few references (which I always find to be new sources of learning).  One from Slate.com was a 2005 article about the risks that academic may face as they blog.  “Attack of the Career-Ending Blog” by Robert Boynton reports on the risks that academics who blog face as they search for tenure track positions in higher education.  The piece describes how search committees and others involved in hiring use the Internet to search candidates names and then read what they wrote. And what they read can be either harmful or advantageous to someone’s candidacy.  I have certainly heard some college administrators warn new faculty about blogging and even go so far as to tell them not to blog.  This reaction seems to me to be a bit too extreme.  Better advice would be to urge faculty to be careful in what they write and keep in mind that the public audience they are writing for is just that – public.  And you can never know who the public is or what power it might have in determining one’s livlihood.  Sensibility and responsibiliy can go a long way, says this blogademic.

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Wikis and Writing in Higher Education

As a result of weather conditions here in the Northeast, I found that I had no phone or Internet service yesterday.  What was I to do?  I felt so disconnected. No blogging, no tweeting, no Youtubing, no ninging – I was at a loss.  Then I realized that I could revisit an older source of learning – reading a book.  How unique!  It just so happens that the day before I received a copy of Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College Classroom by Cummings and Baron.  So with cappuccino in hand, I dove it.

This book is a collection of essays from college and university faculty from the fields of English, rhetoric and composition, communication, writing, and cultural studies, just to name a few.  The pieces focus on theoretical aspects of writing in general and wiki writing in particular as well as practical applications of using wiki technology in college courses.  Many of the authors either conduct research on the collaborative aspects of wiki writing or refer to prior research in related fields. As I read through many of the essays I was comforted by references to the works of Ann Berthoff, Donald Murray, Andrea Lunsford and Lisa Ede, Carl Bereiter and Marlene Scardamalia, Kenneth Bruffee, all of whom I have read and cited during my earlier years a teacher and researcher of writing processes.  After having read so much this semester from technology experts (who have their own language, of sorts) , it was good to feel familiar again. So, I guess as the old saying goes – we often come back full circle (or something like that).

One particular essaythat I will comment on here is by one of the editors, Matt Baron.  His essay entitled, “Is there a wiki in this class? Wikibooks and the future of higher education,” describes the ways he has used wikis in his graduate courses and offers some comments to ponder.  One that stuck with me is that “wikis are communities of people, not just data bases of files.”  This comment made me think about the role the instructor has to play in setting up the communitity and providing support for it as necessary.  Along with this idea is the his view about how the community will function and what students need to know about the views of the community and wiki etiquette (although he does not call it that per se).  He remarked that “knowing how to change a page is one thing; knowing how to make an approrpriate change that will be accepted by the community is another.”   As I read this remark, I thought about my own use of wikis in courses and the ways in which I paid more attention to technical skills than creating a community – I mistake that I hopefully will not make again.

During Barton’s course he had students read Lawrence Lessig’s book – Free Culture – because he views wikis as “democratic liberation” (see a prior post for info on Free Culture).  I concur that wikis can have more far-reaching effects than many of us novice users have yet to discover.  And, it is good to know that scholars from a variety of related fields are researching this important avenue for collaboration.  Maybe one day I will too.

Beth Knittle on Twitter

Last month at the MassCue conference I attended a fabulous workshop focusing on Twitter as a form of professional networking by Beth Knittle (with Wes Fryer).  Many of the themes arising from my work this semester were also ones voiced by Beth and Wes.  For example, Beth reported that she had learned more in the past 4 years involving  instructional technology than her entire career as an educator.  I can certainly understand her comment.  There is so much to learn (and it changes weekly) and so many venues for that learning to occur, that the knowledge can seem exponential. I have to say that my own learning curve has also increased significantly these past few months, and I am still a “newbie” about it all. Another remark that resonated with me was made by Wes when he said that as educators we must personally use these web-based tools before we can effectively figure out how to use them in the classroom to enhance the goals we have for our students.

His statement made me recall the initial intent of my semester-long study about Web 2.0.  I naively thought that I could study the applications of Web 2.0 in the classroom before I really understood how individual tools (and there are many) work.  After a few weeks reading about what teachers were doing in their classrooms through blogs and wikis, I quickly realized that I needed to know far more about these tools, and I could only learn about them by exploring them on my own.  This maneuver is not only new to Web 2.0 tools, but to any educational content worth teaching.  The idea of “playing” with the tools reminded me of the notion of “messing about” which Eleanor Duckworth at Harvard Graduate School of Education not only wrote about but incorporated in her assignments for graduate students.  “Messing about” is necessary to understand many concepts in math and science (before they can be taught) and it is equally necessary (if not more so) in regards to educational technology. So, even though my graduate experiences were long ago, they echoed back to me quite emphatically this semester.

Back to Twitter…Beth framed her work with Twitter within the context of creating professional learning networks.  Twitter, a site for micro-blogging, allows educators to quickly find answers to their questions or pose solutions to issues that other educators are experiencing.  Twitter (along with Plurk) are widely used by educators for a variety of reasons and content specialities – Web 2.0 among them.  This social networking tool is very effective for quick communication for specific purposes, and within a short amount of time individual educators can acquire many “followers.”  Followers are an important means of connection – connection being a recurrent theme throughout the conference.

Beth and Wes left us with some useful advice and some blogs and wikis to access for futher our learning.  Thus, I have taken their advice to “play” by signing up for a Twitter account.  I welcome some followers at http://twitter.com/slaw33.  Thanks to Beth for getting me started.

Podcasting, techtorials, and Education World

I have been thinking about making a podcast for a few months now.  I knew that I needed to download Audacity and give it a try, but for some reason I kept putting it off.  Fear of the unknown?  Unsure? Feeling rushed?  Who knows?  But a few days ago I got the courage.  And I attribute my new-found courage to an easy-to-use guide on the Education World website under the title of “techtorials.”

The Education World site, which calls itself “the educator’s best friend” is a huge warehouse of information on a variety of topics.  I got to the techtorials by clicking the “professional development” tab on the top.  Then click on the “technology integration” tab on the left side of the site.  This click will take you to another page on the left will be a number of headings – techtorials is one of them.   I scrolled down just to see what was there, and I decided to click on the “creating a podcast.” The instructions by Lorrie Jackson complete with links and screen images were so easy, I jumped right in.  And, voila! – I made a brief podcast which I then played for family and friends. Many thanks to Joann Eldridge, a technology integration specialist whom I met at the MassCue conference last month, for directing me to Education World.  I think I will be spending a lot of time there.


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