Sunday, April 29, 2007

Publishing Le Blogue, La Raison d'Etre

A colleague with whom I've been working on student blogs, Nicole Roth, recently finished her doctoral research on blogging and its effects on high school writing. Her study indicates that despite an initial drop in proficiency that we guess might be accounted for by the newness of the experience, a learning curve of how-to use blog technology, or perhaps a hesitancy to write for a real audience after writing for "just to get it done" across so many years of schooling, soon the students were surpassing their peers whether they were writing in long-hand or via word processors. So our hunches about students writing more and writing for publication--and instant publication at that--leading to greater proficiency are confirmed. More on that and Nicole's study in a future blog.

What got me thinking about this was something I heard in a screencast from Elizabeth Perry's blog. Elizabeth Perry is a fellow educator, blogger, author, artist, and last but not least fellow Pittsburgher. In her screencast she eloquently describes the process of how she came to blog her daily sketches in the Carnegie Museum of Art in the aesthetically-tuned museum drawing project. It's worth some time spent in mulling over her work. Lovely drawings. For those folks who know the museum, will be the recognition that she has caught the familiar, natural order of the place in her sketches. Perry comments on a motivation of her blogging that I think is integral to why it might works so well. She reflects:

"Once I started, the public and shared nature of that process made me want to keep going. The response has been encouraging."

I find myself connecting with this sentiment with regard to my own and my students' blogging experiences. I've blogged now for a month and I feel a sense of small, quiet accomplishment every time I put my two cents in. My sense is that this feeling comes not from the reflection inherent in writing, and the thinking at the point of utterance, but also because it is not just for myself. I don't know if will always be so. But I know it is good for today. My first motivation to blog was to find out if I could hack it. There I was asking students to do something I had not attempted, other than what comments I had offered in our class blog. Whether or not I have an audience or am rattling on in an empty room seems to matter not. My keypad needs the exercise. Wait! someone lurked in from London this week! There's the adrenaline rush and I'm good for another 7 days.

I can remember as a kid I would spend all day making art projects. I had piles of drawings, pastings, cutouts, paintings--you name it, if it could be made with construction paper, markers, paste, crayons, pencils, cotton, pipe cleaners, ad infinitum, it was in my pile. I created one or several art pieces a day. Yet, I still remember having the realization one day at age 4 that I was wasting my time because no one was going to see the pile. I gave up the practice and tossed most of it away. And although I continued to dabble with graphics on through the rest of my life, and copped an job at an ad agency because of it, and have a strong appreciation for art, as a boy I never imagined an audience. I stopped for lack of a public. So maybe would not have become an artist. After all, artists claim they create for themselves, right?
And I at 4 concluded an audience was my art's raison d'etre and mostly ceased to create. For this post, I pulled out a drawing from kindergarten. (Note my teacher Mrs. Pullings' encouragement at the bottom.) Like a chronically ill patient that manages to live to see the cure, it's a survivor to the day of personal, global publication. What if I could have published my pile in 1968! Who knows? Maybe my art would have continued. Ah, well, not meant to be.

Yet, I consider the empowering nature of Internet publishing to our students and how it contributes to the depth of literary analysis, synthesis, and composition as they make their own voices known on our class blogs (By the way, the reason there is no hyperlink to the class blogs is that for the time being anyway, they are closed-forums, for security concerns, and therefore I am unable to share). But rest assured, for all their groaning about "having to blog," my students are gaining in their writing and thinking because of the practice and even more so because of the publishing, not to me, but to each other. They have a public that matters to them and I have the wisdom of a 4 year-old boy telling me so.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for the links and the kind words! I look forward to working with you on the Carnegie Museum project.