Final Post

August 1, 2008

This is the last post to this blog in its current guise. As you will know, if you have read the About page, the blog was created as part of a Masters degree module. There has not been much activity on the blog in recent weeks, and this is because I found it very difficult to keep blogging once I had commenced writing my essay. It seemed impossible to get the necessary critical and reflective distance while I was still engaged in the blog. This distinction between “blogging” and “thinking” is an interesting one, and is discussed in the essay. The essay is not so much about the hypothetical Death of English, but about dialogic journals for professional development and the risks inherent in publishing online. The themes are similar, though, in a way, and one of my chief interests, in English teaching and teacher training, is considering whether older technologies have their own affordances, which are lost when shifted online.  If you’d like a copy of the essay, please just let me know. Thank you to everyone who has read or participated in the blog, and I look forward to blogging with you again sometime soon.

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The Eyes Have It

June 11, 2008

Now a Facebook photo I stumbled across and liked… similar to my Giddy London one, shown in my last post, but I wished I’d thought of the eyes. Very Jean Cocteau (see other pics). How about a study of eyes in Facebook, and links to art or film? Could be a great dissertation!

Giddy London

June 11, 2008

I’m really interested in the profile pictures people use on their blogs or social networking sites. I wonder if anyone has done a study on how users resist the drive to present themselves online. This was one of my first webcam blogging pics circa 2004, for my Giddy London blog… I liked the giddy motion, the blurriness, the celebrity-style, pop culture magazine face-blocking gesture, and most of all, the anonymity. Post- English could do a study of how students are presenting themselves visually online, what their intentions are, and how this compares with genuine audience responses, the whole coding and decoding cycle, the way students exploit the constraints of digital media.

Access

June 6, 2008

While I muse about what subject English might be, the current English teachers in my course are fighting for access. All the theory and ideas in this blog come to nothing when we are confronted by the fact that many schools are blocking social networking sites, and virtual worlds, and sometimes even blogging sites. How will this ever change? Should it change? How can we teach digital literacies when we can’t even access the “books”?

The Blog as Elegy

June 3, 2008

Our tutor observed that a common theme across all our coursework blogs is that of lamenting something lost… there was nothing in the way the task was set up to lead us down this path, yet it happened. Is the blog a form that lends itself to lament? Is there something about writing regularly and briefly for an anonymous audience (often without any feedback) that makes a writer feel vaguely sad? I’d need to read a lot of blogs to really answer this, but it is intriguing. Could it be my age that makes everything computer related somehow sad? But there would be few kids today spending more time on their computers than my brothers and I spent with the Atari. I’m even young enough for my grandmother to have been quite good with computers.

It would also be interesting to look at how blogs themselves tail off and die… with thousands abandoned every week. Maybe the form, as well as dictating the content, also dictates the work’s lifespan. There are things about blogging that may be hard to sustain, and are also beyond the writer’s control: the dialogic nature of the blog means it languishes when comments stop, and the short posts inhibit the development of ideas, yet create a hunger for more of them, for example.

Alive in Second Life

June 2, 2008

I’ve been reborn as a “girl next door” in Second Life, the virtual otherworld (see www.secondlife.com). I’ve got long swishy brown hair and a tiny waist, tight jeans and a tight purple sweater. Very Lara Croft. All the avatar choices were like this, except one was also a rabbit. In post-English, this would all be fascinating to examine with students, especially in terms of the affordances and constraints that Linden Lab offers via its software. Fabulous also to look at the rhetoric of the site… wonderful language about the new world, then the “reality” (ok, my computer has got a rubbish graphics card, so the reality might actually be better than what I’m experiencing). The way the chat works is fascinating too, especially the use of pronouns… everyone else has a weird name, and then there’s “YOU”, but which “you”? I would love to do some research on how the software addresses the user, via its tutorials, dialogue boxes etc. I would also love to do some writing with students about how it feels to enter an online world, and what goes on in the fascinating space between avatar and creator.

Ugly Technology

May 31, 2008

At our residential yesterday, a lecturer said something that was immediately liberating. It was an aside… he suddenly veered from his Powerpoint to mentioning that he wanted to do some research on how ugly everything that is made by computers is! What does this mean for my post-English plans for appreciation of electronic media aesthetics? Blogs have been described as “beautiful” tools. Can they be exquisite in appearance as well as execution? I’ve just chosen my Second Life avatar, and all my choices were ugly. What about a picture, online, of a beautiful work of art? Or a stunning abstract digital work of art, for example, by David Harley? Here is a photograph of the multimedia lab at the VCA, where you can see his work.

There is no denying, though, that much made by computers is ugly, or clunky. This would be something very interesting to debate with students, though, especially gamers who have experience of some more or less beautiful other worlds.

The Beautiful Tool

May 13, 2008

We’re reading blogging theory for my MA, with Anne Bartlett Bragg and Stephen Downes this week. Here’s the gist of it. Blogging is good because it: is informal; free; a source of fast feedback; has links; has loads of storage; mirrors real life writers’ workshops; provides a collaborative environment; is for a real audience; reaches diverse audiences; provides vast storage; incorporates links; gives the power to publish; is popular; is personal; is easy; provides a democratic space for communication; leads to “deep learning”.

On the other hand, blogging is bad because it: is censored; pointless; overused; trivial; inauthentic and not engaging.

I’m not sure where to start with talking about this. Probably the most interesting thing I’ve read is Downes on how the fluid nature of blogging collides with the formal requirements of educational institutions. Is blogging really something English teachers want to import/distort for classroom purposes? Imagine (as a student) having to start your tenth blog of the year, this one on reading To Kill a Mockingbird?

“Not another blog, Miss.”

“Well, Jon, blogging is the best way to achieve “deep learning”, which is why we do a blog for every text we study, as well as your creative writing blog, and your issues blog and your oral blog and your classroom behavior blog, and your homework blog. And that’s just English. All the other subjects are just getting into it, so you can look forward to starting another 100 or so blogs before you leave school.”

And as a student, I find the prospect of looking at and commenting on twenty or thirty other blogs overwhelming (this always seems to be part of the educational task), like when people want to show me the 800 digital photos of their trip to Uluru. Too much information, just because it’s possible, not really for anyone’s benefit. The classroom really has the potential to kill blogging. Does anyone have any tips on how to keep it alive?

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Blog vs Journal

May 12, 2008

To blog or to journal? I’m fascinated by this difference, and have written about it recently, posting comments to other people’s blogs, and trying to find out what they get out of publishing their thoughts. What does blogging preclude? What do bloggers leave out, or self censor? If our students blog instead of other kinds of old world, private writing, what might they be missing out on? Is blogging with a pseudonym the same as writing privately? Am I a dinosaur because blogging makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable and vulnerable? Do we have the right to insist students blog? I think back to the old days of the Year 12 Writing Folio, and the artificial, tortured process of getting students to come up with an “audience”… “You, Miss, you’re the only one who’s going to read it.” This makes me feel the opportunities for genuine electronic publishing are wonderful, and can make the writing process more meaningful. But what actually does it “mean”? Post-English will need to be very careful about forcing students online, whether via social networking, or blogging, or whatever else comes along. This new subject would, however, be the perfect place to explore the ambivalence or unease that can accompany the creation of digital selves.

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After the Death of English will not be maintained again until 12/5/2008. Please keep posting responses, and all your comments will be moderated on Monday, 12/5. Miss Brodie’s posts for that week will relate to the theories behind blogging as an educational tool, plus how this theory can be applied in the classroom.

Please read the About section before posting comments to this blog.