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Barbara Ganley majored in Art History and received her M.A. in literature. Short story writer, former art gallery director and co-founder of The New England Young Writers’ Conference, Barbara is interested in the intersections between forms and genres of writing. Since 1989, Barbara is a member of Writing Program faculty at Middlebury College, Vermont. As Lecturer and Tutor in Writing she is exploring innovative uses of computer technology in the writing and liberal arts classroom, particularly blogging and multi-media writing. Since 1989 she is Director of The Project for Integrated Expression (PIE).
Blogging as a Dynamic, Transformative Medium in the Writing Classroom of an American Liberals Arts College
Blogging has entered the mainstream of journalism, politics, and personal expression on the web, yet it struggles to find an effective role in American higher education. Apart from keeping research and professional blogs, few university-level teachers in the United States use the full potential of the weblog as an organic, fluidly transformative medium. A Middlebury College writing professor’s two-year integration of blogs into the classroom has shifted the focus from teacher to student, from individual to community, reinvigorating student engagement with learning, and fostering a cohesive classroom community. By applying Pierre Lévy’s notion of collective intelligence and Stephen Johnson’s explanation of emergence theory to blogging in the classroom, we have witnessed the students transforming the blog as they were, in turn, transformed by it. This presentation will demonstrate how in a recent seminar for first-year Middlebury College students, Contemporary Ireland Through Fiction and Film, a course Motherblog — a single collaborative blog as opposed to individual student blogs — was used as a dynamic medium for teaching writing and critical thinking in the undergraduate classroom. We will illustrate the high level of academic excellence attained by these first-semester students in a twelve-week course, the effects on our students’ relationships with the course content, with their learning community and with themselves as they assumed responsibility for directing and managing the blog which served as the locus of course activity: community-building exercises, asynchronous discussions, multimedia projects including digital stories as components of research and literary analysis, feedback looping, and meta reflective practices. We will show how these students epitomize the writings of Lévy and Johnson through the formation of a strong, resilient learning collaborative in which multi-media work naturally blends into research, personal reflection deepens scholarly insights, and the students see themselves as crucial participants in their education. We will demonstrate how students became the course, using the interface as a way to “take over,” becoming their own teachers in a unique synthesis of online and f2f work; they narrated a different course than expected and, if as Roland Barthes notes that “narrative is a hierarchy of instances,” the students’ narratives in this course suggest that they are indeed evacuating—challenging—even these post-modern categories. Student bloggers, in this course, demonstrated how they created an “Other” of the teacher. Finally, we will examine the ramifications of this work for us as teachers—our use of class and planning time, our relationships to our students and colleagues, and our relationship to our pedagogical goals - and new directions this work will take us in the future.
last update: Friday, July 23, 2004 at 10:31:35 AM-----------------------