Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dangling Conversation

"Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm,

Couplets out of rhyme,

In syncopated time
Lost in the dangling conversation

And the superficial sighs,

Are the borders of our lives."

Simon & Garfunkel, The Dangling Conversation

Just as I'm starting to feel comfortable in my new identity as a blogger, there are ominous rumblings about the "death of blogging".

Ryan Bretag is not so much condemning blogs as questioning their validity as "participatory media tools". He describes his own frustration at failing to to "add much in terms of value-added through analysis or reflective thought that adds to our collaborative efforts to learn and improve education." Troubled by a lack of common goals and absence of "constructive confrontation", he wonders if blogs have stalled in their necessary evolutionary process.

Many of members of my PLC have either responded to Ryan's posting or begun parallel discussions. While recounting details of the Stager and Richardson UStream "Bootleg", Clay Burell mentioned "blogger burnout" and the lack of interaction by "top-tier bloggers" when comments are left on their pages. The announcement in October by Will Richardson that he was considering giving up blogging to concentrate on Skype chats caused consternation and controversy, as those outside of Will's inner circle contemplated losing his direct guidance and leadership [he continues to post, but not as frequently as in the past]. Clay reminds us (and them) that the opportunity to communicate and collaborate with some of the leaders in educational technology has always been a key benefit of reading and writing blogs.

A commenter on Ryan's post, Evan Scherr, is critical of those who spend time "telling me what they are doing in their classroom. For many of us, we can't get excited about how you are using UStream in the classroom when the UStream site is blocked by our public school district. We can't get excited about how your class built a MySpace page, when MySpace is blocked by our school district." I strongly disagree with this criticism. Although it can be disheartening to read about innovation that is (presently) out of my reach, every example I am able to cite from the edublogosphere is a valuable persuasive tool in helping convince my administrators, BOE, and fellow teachers of the value of embedded technology tools. Jo McLeay's Voicethread, Anthony Armstrong's podcast project, Cathy Nelson's experiments in both these venues, Clay Burell's digital storytelling renditions of "Paradise Lost", Carolyn Foote's virtual author visit via Skype...all serve to inspire rather discourage me. If they can do it, so can I; more importantly, if their students can do it, so can - and should - mine.

Finally, I'd like to share a quote from SC Morgan: "Twitter is for the linking--blogs are for the thinking." Twitter serves as a way to stay connected with colleagues. Blogs are better suited for the conversations, debates, explorations that will result in deeper understanding and professional growth.

"It is not what we learn in conversation that enriches us. It is the elation that comes of swift contact with tingling currents of thought." -Agnes Repplier

"With thee conversing I forget all time." -John Milton

"IMG_0214" by blair christensen


Dillon said...

"Great hearts steadily send forth the secret forces that incessantly draw great events."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Who better to quote then a famous philosopher, poet, and inspiration of the controversial US westward expansion? This is the same concept, only this time around with collaborative, communicative, democrative, unitive, and ultimately true intelligent as opposed to the knowledge given to us by countless retellings of primary documents with different opinions and views spewed right and left.

Concern yourself not with what you need not concern yourself with, Diane. Even if there is no value for you, is there possibility? The answer is: yes.

Every student has the potential to be great, and in their own way every student will be. Don't lose faith as some of the 'forerunners' so to speak may or may not. Even if a blog was private, a blog is still worth having for the self evaluation and reflection of one's ownself.

These tools are in a beta period, they're just now coming to maturity. That is, my opinion. Coming from one of the states with the greatest tech integration in the United States. They'll pick up, as long as we stand here. It's up to the artist, the tool does not matter. I used wordpress. You use Blogger. Then there's a million other methods out there.

If we step away from a blog, then and only then does it lose it's life. I may not use twitter, but time to me is valuable. I can only dedicate so much time to any given thing at any given time.

I'm going to ponder what I read here and play the video... Then I'll post on my own blog my thoughts, in a fuller respect then this comment. I'll have to look into twitter, but that and myspace is blocked from my district still.

I leave you with this, and share it with those that question the longevity of activities like blogging:

"Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong."
Calvin Coolidge

"Never stand begging for that which you have the power to earn."
Miguel De Cervantes

"I'd rather be a failure at something I love than a success at something I hate."
George Burns

Careful of the context you take the quotes, that's the beauty of communication. Things aren't static and narrow, they're open, broad, and dynamic.

You may consider sharing those words with those who question the value of blogging.

It took a many decades to found our nation, change does not come easily, readily, and anything worth changing or working for is not easy.

Evan said...

Hey Diane,

It was not Ryan who is critical of bloggers blogging about the happenings in their classrooms, it was me via the comment I left. While you have provided some good food for thought, for me I like to engage in conversations. It is very hard to connect to some of the ideas out there as, in my view, they have not been tested as being effective. I am not saying that they are not, I just have not read anything as to their effectiveness.

My personal taste, which I know differs with others, is to engage in conversation, debate and theory building. While I think it is great to hear about classroom projects, for many I just cannot connect to them either because the website being used is blocked, or there are privacy issues within my district that do not allow for it.

Thank you for providing links to some classroom projects that I have not heard about. I look forward to reading about them.

diane said...


Thanks for reading and responding.


Sorry about the mix-up! Ryan pointed it out to me and I went back in and changed the citation.

Believe me, I understand your frustration: I spent most of my summer constructing a blog for my students to use. Administration had given me approval, but the district filter blocked the site and our IT can't figure out how to unblock it (or so he says). So my class does some limited projects (e.g. Voicethread with text rather than sound). I'm not happy about it, but the kids seem content, since they never had much embedded technology to begin with.


NJTechTeacher said...

Some blogs may die or become unattended for a while, but others will surface. Personally, I like the various connections I have become involved in this year.

At the very least, I am getting exposure to a variety of ways to challenge my students.

As you said in the comment, our students will enjoy what we can give them access to. It may not be the grand projects of some teachers, but it is a start at our school.

Keep on blogging if it fits your style.

diane said...

NJ Tech Teacher,

Blogging is a good fit for me. I wonder what else I'll discover via RSS feeds or Twitter!

I constantly show things I've seen or tried to both students and staff. Even if there's no immediate response, I'm opening their minds to possibilities.


Cathy Nelson said...

How awesome!! This is by far the best response I have seen to the never ending questions folks seem to have about why we blog, twitter, or connect in any other 2.0 way. One of your "commenters" needs to realize that the blogosphere is trying to address the need for conversations f2f by planning edubloggercons. I went back in Atlanta to the Edubloggercon, and I'm planning to go to the one Chris Lehmann is planning in Philadephia in January. I didn't know what to expect back in Atlanta. All I knew was that people who had greatly affected the way I think about teaching and connecting were going to be there, and so since I was close enough, I would be there as well. Imagine my star struck eyes as I sat side by side with David Warlick, Doug Johnson, Will Richardson, Joyce Valenza, David Jakes, Dean Shareski, Jeff Utecht, and a multitude of others. There was not one single powerpoint that whole day, but instead conversations where everyone was encouraged to attend and contribute! It is why i am planning to attend each one I have the opportunity to attend. Even you and I have had deeper conversations via email that would have NEVER happened had we not met in some of these very 2.0 applications. So I am thankful to have made friends--and yes i say definitively--friends--throught the very tools that seem to be taking a real beating of late. I only wish I could say it as eloquently or as concisely as you have.

diane said...


Your enthusiasm and encouragement reinforce all that I find worthwhile about blogging in general and making new connections, new friends in particular.

I won't be in Philadelphia, but I will be in San Antonio. Meeting Joyce Valenza in person was marvelous - it will be a real pleasure to hook up with the "real" you!

The world is an amazing place. I want to live forever.


Will said...

Ok...just for the record...I never said I was contemplating giving up blogging to concentrate on Skype chats. I said blogging wasn't fun, that it was work, that other things felt like less work. But I never even hinted at giving it up. Blogging is where the most important learning happens for me. I may take a break from time to time, but I can't imagine ever stopping that conversation.

diane said...


Thanks for responding.

I was so upset to think that my newly-discovered interactive world was going to (maybe) lose a significant voice that I anticipated the worst.

You obviously need to have time for yourself, you still post on your blog and respond to was just the possibility that you might "leave" the public arena that caused such a reaction.

Bide a wee with us - we need your vision.


Carolyn Foote said...


Sometimes I think these conversations show how separated we are from the mainstream of what is going on with 70% of teachers.

We've already adopted a tool, used it, and are now discarded it, just as their ears are perking up and they are really discovering the power of the tool for the classroom.

I don' t think "reflective writing" will ever be "dead" so to speak.

Whether we read about these efforts in magazine articles, or on twitter, or on blogs, maybe that isn't even the point.

Maybe the point is that we are sharing what we do. We are learning in new and powerful ways from each other.

I think blogging has such power and immediacy to convey what is going on in our classrooms across the world. I think blogging helps us build community. I think it has tremendous power to help us think through issues together, as an educational community.

And as far as students using blogs, I think it has the ability to help our students become more reflective writers, who are more engaged in their own learning, because they can engage with conversations and they aren't limited to their immediate "circle of influence."

The power of student blogging is just beginning to be explored, really. And like journaling, I think it will become an accepted classroom practice in some form or another.

Imagine two decades ago, when we would have a conversation like this at a conference, and it might be discussed in a magazine article or two, but only by a few writers...while the rest of us listened (if we happened to see it.)

Compare that to now, when a conversation can be immediate, global, and continuing, as we all push each other's thoughts forward.

Thanks for the great commentary.

I'm enjoying the conversation!

ms. whatsit said...

"Sometimes I think these conversations show how separated we are from the mainstream of what is going on with 70% of teachers."

I am among the average-Joe classroom teachers who are also bloggers and whose writing is obviously uninspiring by those with more technological and pedagogical knowledge. It is disheartening that these conversations questioning the value of what we are doing in our own little ways within the very real constraints of our physical worlds are taking place.

Is blogging just a fad? I hope not. Last time I checked, the reading, writing and thinking one must do to blog well are also essential life skills.

diane said...

Ms. Whatsit,

I have been very interested in the similar conversation, "Transformation or Subtle Shifts..."
taking place on your blog.

I love writing my blog, I've "met" some outstanding people from around the world, and know much more now than I did before about technology.

I don't kid myself that I'm the next edtech guru, but that's not really my purpose here. I learn a little, think a lot, and have the time of my life!


ms. whatsit said...

Diane -- I hear ya. Sounds like we are two birds of a feather.

diane said...

Ms. Whatsit,

Old crow or spring chicken - I answer to both depending on the speaker!