If only I had blogged sooner

A funny thing happened yesterday. I was digging around in my desk through some files that I had brought from home (looking for something which I now can’t remember) and came across a series of folders from a class I took in graduate school on Orality, Literacy, and Technology with Clifford Hill.

I had almost forgotten about this class. In particular, I had forgotten about a set of journal entries that I had written for the class. I read over many of them late yesterday.

I was amazed by how much I had forgotten from this class. As I read those journal entries, I might as well have been reading someone else’s writing. And while reading them has sort of allowed me to re-connect with the ideas that I had back then, the experience is in no way the same as when I generated those ideas in the first place. The journal entries don’t really allow me to re-capture the process by which I got to those ideas.

This led me to think of blogging and the value of blogging in education. Often we talk about blogs as online journals, and, I imagine, many professors imagine that the type of assignments they create for blogging will really be just remediations (thanks to Patrick for that) of existing journaling assignments.

But I wonder if I had blogged those journal entries in graduate school, and if those blog entries had been part of a larger blogging-self that I might have been exploring at the time, if I would not find the ideas contained in them more familiar now.

First, blogging these ideas would have turned what was a semi-private activity (between Professor Hill and me) into a public one. Conversations could have emerged from what I was writing with others in the class as well as audiences beyond the campus walls. For that matter, a more true “conversation” could have emerged between my teacher and me. As it was, he commented on my entries, but I never really had an opportunity to repond to those responses. Once, I did respond to him in my next journal entry, but this approach wasn’t really a conversation since my response was no longer “linked” to the original entry. but this approach was an awkward way to conduct a conversation. (Update: Upon re-reading this post, I decided that it was inaccurate to say this approach wasn’t a coversation. It was a conversation–just a difficult one to have given the mechanism.)

It is likely that if I had blogged these journal entries and recognized that my words might meet people outside of my class or even my instituation, that I would have chosen my words more deliberately. I suppose I might have been inhibited by this possiblity, but I also might have been inspired. I’m sure I would have been inspired if my blog had sparked a conversation.

But more interesting to me than the public life that my journals could have had (and the result this could have had on me as a learner) is the way in which blogging might have encouraged me to more thoroughly “fix” the knowledge I was generating. If these entries had been a part of a larger blog that recorded the intellectual development that I was experiencing in graduate school, I might be able now to recall how I had gotten to the words contained within them. By recording the intellectual process that I was going through, I might have made it more real for myself and, thus, more memorable. As it is, I can’t recognize any patterns of application of these ideas in my life today–perhaps because, I “lost” them in some sense.

Equally fascinating to me is how this jives with a realization I’ve been coming to about myself lately. I seem to come to ideas best in conversation. Solitary, confined study and reflection is simply not as productive for me. When I come to ideas in conversation, they feel more thought-out, and more full of meaning. If a blog can be a space for one to own and manage conversations (as opposed to a wiki or a forum), perhaps blogging could have been a valuable tool to me as a learner in school.

The next time a faculty member asks me “why should I blog” or, even better, “what should I have students do with a blog” I’m going to tell this story.

7 thoughts on “If only I had blogged sooner”

  1. And you’ll have a blog to link to, a blog that contextualizes this entry in an even richer metacontext. And of course a blog is searchable, as folders and paper journals are not.

    This kind of “fixing,” the way one “fixes” a photograph so that the developed image doesn’t fade or darken, is one very important aspect of what we call “reflection.” It’s a kind of self-instruction that goes on in parallel with the input. Active learning always involves multiple streams of attention, I think.

  2. Excellent post Martha!

    This makes me wonder if a blog would be a central component in an Electronic Portfolio – seems like it would. It also makes me wonder if the approach we have taken in the THEA 435 class with the blogs (http://smoothelephant.org/category/projects/thea435/) is as good as it could be considering the blogs we are providing for those students will likely be used just for this one course, then forgotten – kind of like your written journal.

    I’m trying to figure out how we might address this in the THEA 435 course (for next time it is taught that is!). A different approach might be to have students use their own “personal” blog and post their THEA 435 stuff in a THEA 435 category. This would be a blog that they can take with them after the course is over. But on the other hand, do we want to mix school work for credit with the other things a student might like to blog about in their personal lives outside of school? Maybe a blog that was simply a “school” blog and part of an electronic portfolio would be a solution? Seems like we need to start looking long and hard at an enterprise blogging package for UMW.

    Maybe we need to have a “conversation” about this Martha. 🙂

  3. Great post – I completely agree that a post-as-conversation certainly extends the time and manner in which you engage with and expand ideas beyond written notes or journals only seen by a few eyes.

    Having the archive online and especially its searchability has also worked well for bringing me back to my own writing; I’m often too lazy to hunt down old notes in paperform, but the one-click searchability of my blogs makes them a very accessible resource. Even if I have forgotten some of what I wrote, having it close at hand makes me more inclined to expand those ideas by re-engaging with them.

    Also, having run several course blog, I find it far easier to check back over student work and trends (both during and after courses) to see areas I could be improving since their responses and papers are never lost to me. 🙂

  4. Tama, I think that last point is especially important. Along those lines, I’ve been very tempted to ask for all my papers to come in digitally so I can mark them up on my tablet, return them digitally, and keep a copy for just the kind of reference you describe above. Over time I have become impatient with the “swap a stack of wood pulp” transaction that paper writing, handing in, marking, and returning ends up being. (Inelegant sentence, but you get the point.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.