Archive for the 'Blogging' Category

A Bit of Pessimism or Maybe Not

Ever since the Ronco discussion I attended I’ve been thinking about student buy-in into the idea of real education, life of the mind, the caravan, etc. I’ve been swinging between an optimistic and a pessimistic view.

Most days I feel like getting on the roof of my house and shouting out to anyone who will listen about this exciting adventure I am on at Mary Washington. During these high points I can envision students grasping the concept of real and reflective learning and I want to be able to go to the FSEMs this fall and see the new freshman wrestle with this idea. I want to do what so many people have done for me and include them into “the conversation” and show them they can’t pass up this opportunity. I get genuinely excited at the thought of having conversations with fellow students on any topic through an academic lens. Instead of just complaining about classes students talking about what they learned and are even excited to share this information.

Of course with the high comes the crash down into the low valley of pessimism. There is such a culture of anti-school and in some ways anti-intellectualism among students that mass conversion seems impossible. I’m not looking for an instant change or mass conversion overnight but, I wonder how far can we get in the next three years? I’m taking this moment to be a little selfish in wanting all these changes to happen during my stay at Mary Washington but, I want it! I wonder how do we convince students that the caravan IS really cool? I do believe we are moving in the right direction by encouraging reflective thinking and using different tech tools to help make clear connections in learning but, is it enough? I just have visions of the future where technology has made it possible to see connections and has created a rich learning environment but, students do nothing with it. I guess this goes back to the argument made by several people that it is not about the tools but, what the technology enables people to do. Maybe I just don’t have faith in faculty and students to take this movement seriously. There is just so many ways for this to go wrong (I need to stop listening to emo music) that I often miss how many ways that it could work out. I have trouble convincing myself that even if we make a mistake it is ok, making a mess is ok.

I suppose a lot of this conflict comes from my own internal conflict. My secret desire to be a revolutionary even though I am usually adverse to risk and being outspoken. Steve recently sent me this cartoon. I think it describes exactly how I feel during those low moments when everything seems so impossible.



What kind of blogger are you?

Martha raised an interesting point in a recent post about different types of blogging. It may not be something that most bloggers think about but, just as there are different writing styles there must be different blogging styles. Are there right and wrong ways to go about blogging? Well I suppose we need to know how people are blogging in the first place, so here is my response to her questions.

1) Generally, are you an impetuous blogger? Or do you mull over an idea or post for hours, days, weeks before hand? Do you draft a post and then let it sit until you’ve had a chance to revise it multiple times, perfecting your language and point?

I would say I definitely mull over ideas awhile but, once I start writing about it like to get it all done in one sitting. I’ve recently tried just writing out ideas and then coming back to them later but, now I have several posts that are not quite done. I’ve never been a real good proof-reader but, I do try to go over my stuff once or twice before posting. 

2) Do you “collect” the references in your posts before you write them (if so, describe your system)? Or do you blog with 15 windows open, copying and pasting quotes and URLs, as needed?

Since I tend to just sit down and write out a post I’ll just have 15 windows open and copy and paste.  

3) Do you blog in the admin panel of your blog? Or do you use some third-party tool? If you use a tool, what features does it have that hooked you?

I’m pretty boring I just use the admin panel, works fine for me. 

4) Do you automatically consider placing images in your posts? Or does this not even occur to you, usually?

I rarely use images in my posts I don’t think the thought ever really occurs to me. I’ve been tempted to try including more visual pieces but, I don’t want to force it. 

5) Do you write posts and then delete them before clicking “Publish?” Or, by extension, do you have draft posts that have languished for days, weeks, months waiting for you to pull the trigger?

I’ve had a couple of posts that have been saved as drafts and when I take another look at them I delete them. Most of those are incomplete posts that only contained ideas or were half done. I don’t think I could stand see a draft post sitting, especially if I’ve put a lot of effort and think it is a quality post.

6) Do you feel compelled to blog on a schedule? Do you feel guilty when you don’t?

I don’t feel compelled to blog on a schedule but, I do feel guilty when my blog has been silent for more than a week or so, especially if I don’t have any good reason not to be blogging (like recently!).

7) Do you “craft” the experience of your blog, adding sidebar widgets and custom graphics to lure readers into your space?

Never really put much thought into crafting an experience to lure readers in, I’ve just put widgets I thought were cool up. Things to think about… 

A funny thing happened on my way to a blog post

I’ve been trying to formulate a post since FA but, I have not been able to sit down and do it. Not only do I have thoughts on FA and the ronco discussion but, Steve recommended I read “Clueless in Academe” this summer so I’ve been flooded with ideas. So in attempt to pull some strands together, finally a blog post.

Last night, as I was taking a walk, I thought ‘Why am I doing this? What is the point of dedicating all this time to learning about this? Heck I’m not even a prof! What is it about this whole thing?’ It is kind of ridiculous in many ways, I don’t consider myself a great thinker, I am a relative “n00b” to a lot of this but, as I have discovered it doesn’t really matter. I suppose I have incredibly lucky timing coming to Mary Wash at the point where class blogging, wikis, etc. are just starting to take hold. In fact I have feared that next year some super freshman will rise up and somehow take my position at DTLT and then promptly take over the world. It is my belief within a relatively short period of time there could be great discussion among students via blogs and if I had shown up later I would be another voice among many students.

Besides impeccable timing there are other factors that have led me to jump on the caravan. In early February, Steve e-mailed me and asked what I thought about a post over on Gardner’s blog. I had actually looked at the post he was talking about a few days before but, after two sentences or so I had skimmed the rest and decided it was way over my head. Not wanting to ignore the call to analyze I wrestled with the post, ‘God, does that word have another meaning? Purpose? Sense? Turtles?’. I had read it enough that I began to memorize parts of it and I finally e-mailed Steve back with what I hoped was a response to what Gardner was actually talking about. In turn Steve told me to blog it so I nervously posted and was excited and surprised that Gardner said what I had said made him think. How could my wimpy post contend with the lofty thoughts of Gardner? This was one of my first invitations in “The Conversation” and I don’t mean just a conversation on education or technology but, the dialogue that exist between people who take time to reflect, respond, and so much more. I realized there was a conversation going on that I wanted in on and I wasn’t even sure why.

I understand now that small pieces loosely joined don’t only foster conversations about things I am interested in (as much as I would like to think the world revolves around me) but, chemistry majors could engage in deeper learning and with the possibility of ronco on the horizon those conversations can extend past our specific interests and majors and lead to conversations where we can all utilize what we know towards a better understanding of…whatever! So perhaps I don’t have to fear that super freshman who will take over my position at DTLT and then the world because there could be other conversations out there for him/her to engage in (and Jim is taking the world over anyway). Even if SuperFrosh did get involved in the dtlt conversation, I might even be ok with that. 😉 Everyone can contribute to the conversation and the more reflection the better the conversation gets. It isn’t about whether someone has better ideas than me or blogs better, it is about the conversation their ideas can generate. It is hard to admit when you are being self-centered and I’ve been guilty of some of that. What I really like about “this thing” (whatever this thing is) is it allows me to reflect individually and take time for myself but, also encourages me to share those thoughts and be open to conversation for a greater good.

I actually wanted to discuss something completely different in this post but, sometimes posts have a life of their own. More posts to follow soon, hopefully about things I actually intended to discuss, for now it just feels good to get another post out there.

Freshman Year:Recap and Reflections Part Deux

I’ve finally got the opportunity to sit down and right some stuff out, so here it goes…

At the end of my first semester I had that awful feeling college was going to be a lot like high school, except more expensive. Over the winter break I had plenty of time to think and just work out some thoughts and for whatever reason I decided to continue blogging. I had also sent off a rather depressing e-mail to a professor, who in turn, responded with a thoughtful e-mail. I think I can pinpoint that as the beginning of the change in how I view education. One line from the e-mail in particular resonated, “The point of real education is to learn how to make sense out of the world, which is a lifelong goal.” I had never really thought about this before, what the heck is this real education all about? I had come to college because I had to and realistically you can’t get a well paying job without one. No wonder why college can be such a soul-sucking experience (well at least for me), if you are doing it purely to get a good job then the degree is all you are really after. Not that getting a degree is a bad goal, it is the way students (including myself) try to achieve the goal that I had come to greatly dislike. I’m only now starting to break out of the student hypnosis. Waking up from “the matrix” perhaps? This summer I plan to do a lot of thinking and planning (for lack of a better word) on what real education is and what it means in the context of my classes at college. A revolution of sorts or maybe a few changes, I’m not quite sure yet, either way I’ll have practically 4 months to explore the idea.

Ok, back track a little to when I first started blogging “on my own”. I started to do more clicking around and finding links to other people’s blogs, blog-stalking if you will, and my RSS feeds began to grow. Now I can say I am an obsessive Bloglines checker. First thing in the morning I check my e-mail, followed by Bloglines, and then Facebook. I wish I had some sort of counter to see how many times I actually click on Bloglines, I am sure it is an embarrassingly high number. I digress though, as I clicked around I began to see connections. Bloggers were having conversations and bloggers I followed were showing up on other blogs I followed. I started doing those random clicks, finding articles and posts, and I would later discover a blogger I followed would mention the same thing. Increasingly it feels like people are reading my mind. During the semester I broke out of some of my lurker tendencies and commented on other’s blogs. Knowing how much I get excited (maybe a little too excited) when people comment on my blog I thought it was only fair to do the same. At the Student Academy I met people who’s blogs I had been reading, it was a surreal moments in many ways. I kind of compare it to meeting a celebrity, you’ve seen them in pictures and read their blogs and there they are! They really exist! Some of my friends thought it was a little weird to get so excited, but they aren’t bloggers so they wouldn’t understand. 😉

In the midst of all the exciting discoveries in the blogosphere I almost forgot about the work I actually have to do while I’m at college. I’ve never been a very good school student and have often been on the receiving end of “you could do so well, if you tried” comments. My favorite incident has to be at the end of my senior year, me and my friends were talking with one of our former English teachers who we occasionally hung out with during our free periods and knowing that I had a younger brother she told me she might end up having him because she was going to teach sophomore English the following year. She asked me, “Is your brother like you? Smart, but lazy?” My friends still tease me about that one. In reality I would rather not be the smart, but lazy type. In fact it really bothers me when people insist that they are smart but, they don’t try, as if that justifies laziness. I’ve given up using that excuse because it is not, if you were truly smart you wouldn’t be wasting your potential and it just perpetuates the problem. So along with the other things I will be thinking about this summer I need to find a clear course of action for change, something that is tangible. God knows how many times I’ve said “this time I’ll do it differently”, but I never do. If only I could study for a test with the same intensity that I watch a new episode of CSI I would have an A in every class. This is a common plight, isn’t it? Turning ideas and words into action and progress.

My mind has been thoroughly saturated with all sorts of ideas this school year and hopefully the summer will help me sort out the pieces of debris floating in my mind. It feels like just the other day I was moving in, not knowing what to expect, and excited about my new found independence. I’ve had some lows and highs, cried a few times, laughed a lot, been inspired by people, challenged to think, given up, tried again, and managed to not go completely off the deep end. Thinking back to my freshman year of high school, I went through a lot changes, mostly due to events that were beyond my control. It was a year of a lot of growth and life changing experiences, for better or for worse. My freshman year of high school completely changed my outlook on life and surely changed the direction of my life. Now, looking back at my freshman year of college I see a lot of the same things again. There has been a lot growth and surely the things I have experienced this year have changed the direction of my life. In the beginning of the year I often asked, “what if?”, what if I had gone to Ithaca College like I wanted and what if this and what if that. Of course a person could “what if” themselves to death, but now I am just thankful for whatever confluence of events caused me to end up at Mary Washington. It may sound dorky, but I’ve honestly met some of the most fascinating and awesome people I’ve ever known and I wonder how did I get so lucky that I would even know these people. The thought of leaving Mary Washington three years from now is already a depressing thought, but I am glad I still have so much time left. There is a bright and shiny future ahead and who doesn’t like shiny things? So as I pack my boxes and finish my first year I know that this is not just an ending, but a beginning. A year ago I don’t think I could have envisioned being where I am now and in another year I hope to be in the same exact place. I don’t want any of my expectations to be met, I want it to be beyond that. Here is to all the things that will come!

One Person At A Time

I think I am slowly converting my friends…very slowly but, any step forward is always good.

My friend came to see me at the Student Academy and was interested in my blog (and probably wondered why I was even presenting anyway). So she asked me to set up one for her, so last night we made her a blog!

Her first post basically talks about why she made the blog and she doesn’t promise to blog often but, I have great hopes. She also set up a Flickr account too, victory!

Brief Thoughts

I almost decided to put off writing down my thoughts until later because it is 1am, but I realized I probably would forget what I wanted to say when I woke up in the morning.

So just some things that I have been watching/reading over the last few days. It is always exciting when my Bloglines feeds says there are multiple new posts and over the last couple days there have been some exceptional ones. As per usual I tend to lurk rather than comment, but I have been watching and enjoying the conversation between Geeky Mom and Pedablogy about fishing, and all subsequent comments and posts that have come from that conversation. In addition, I just read a great post over at Gardner Writes, a reaction to George Steiner’s Lessons of the Masters. Just reading the reaction to the book I can sense inspiration and great hope, heck I even feel inspired and I’m not even quite sure I understand what I feel so impassioned about (if that makes any sort of logical sense?).

In short, what I am trying to say is that without these blogs how would I even begin to know about any of this? Not that some of these things are problems I deal with personally, but it is still eye opening. In the end a lot of this does trickle down to the students. Whether it is thoughts on “inverting the industrial model of teaching” or thoughts on a book, this sort of inspiration eventually reaches the students. For lack of a better word, it is cool to see the process from the beginning. From that one stray and inspired thought to possibly in the future seeing things come to fruition, it is just cool.

Reading the Past

As I mentioned in my last post I found my original online journal and I took the time to read through all the posts.

Long story short, I decided I needed to change my blog name (again) and so here I am.

I came up with this name in my Stats class and maybe it will stick, who knows…

ETA: It has already been pointed out to me by my friend that if you switched the title of the blog around it could have a completely different meaning, sigh…haha. My friend also didn’t know what loaded dice were anyway. I’m making this way too difficult…

It Blows My Mind

Ok I am on some sort of adrenaline rush right now, simply stated I found the first online journal I created (right before my sophmore year of high school in 2003).  Here is how it happened:

– I was reading comments on a post at Gardner Writes and out of curiosity I followed a username to this blog, where I read an article that was linked in one of the blog posts. It got me thinking about my LiveJournal that I used to keep and I decided to go back and look at my very first post. My first post said the reason I was now using LJ was because my friends had all gone over to LJ. So what online journal was I using before? Luckily I had mentioned it in my post and so I did some searching and I miraculously found my first ever online journal over at Blurty. I had completely forgotten about that journal and so of course I started to read and it really just blew my mind. It is dated August 16, 2003, over 3 years ago, and even though it seems like a short span of time I’ve realized how much I have grown since that point in my life. I haven’t had the time to read all my posts yet, but if I stumble across anything interesting I will be sure to blog about it, hey maybe I’ll even link to some posts (how embarrassing). I’ve never kept a journal when I was little, but realizing that I have unknowingly kept one since 2003 is a neat discovery.

The internet is an amazing place.

A Delayed Response

I meant to post my thoughts on this earlier, but classes have been keeping me busy. A professor I had e-mailed me the link to a post on Gardner Writes and asked me if what the poster was saying was how I felt. So after reading it over a few times I came up with this:

Although I don’t like to admit it I do view most of my classes and “academic pursuits” in this light. It feels like each class is in its own bubble and even though overlap does happen between classes it is really for the most part irrelevant. If in a class I am supposed to learn A, B, C then I will learn that because I am suppose to know it so I can pass the class and supposedly be knowledgeable about the topic. It is more likely that the case is the former with most people because unless it is a topic that is interesting it is deemed a mental waste of space so doing what is required is all that is necessary. What is the point of remembering something if there is no purpose or value in it? Believing this probably leaves the person with bits and pieces of information on the subject and a vague understanding, but it doesn’t go much further than that because there doesn’t appear to be any reason to go further. In short a lot of academic pursuits seem pointless and useless because there appears to be no reason behind learning any of it. This kind of thinking is probably what makes it harder to learn because there is no motivation or drive.

So I e-mailed it off to my professor and he suggested that I make a comment or better yet make a post about it. It had occurred to me before that I could do this, but being on the “other side of the fence” so to speak I was a little intimidated by the thought of commenting on a faculty members blog. I am usually the type to lurk and just read a blog to begin with, but now that I have come to the end of the post I feel much more comfortable with leaving a comment/blogging in response to a “superior”. Blogging and commenting is in many ways like having a real live conversation with somebody and just like in the real world once you start to converse it gets easier to open up and share.

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