Class Blog: January 28

Our first weeks together have followed an interesting path: from discussion of mediation and the act of transmediating to this week’s exploration of how such practices can invite certain kinds of participation and connection. And while we’ve looked at these concepts on distinct weeks, our class interactions (both on- and off-line) illustrate just how intertwined they are.

There are lots of examples of this – the most obvious being our Google+ site itself, which is a medium that we use to re-mediate ideas in order to participate and connect with one another. Another example is the site Ah-Keisha used for her blog: Medium, which is (literally) a medium (i.e. a blog) as well as a platform for connecting. But we can also see examples offline. Like in Ashley’s blog  post about using transmediation with her students. This not only mediated theories we’ve discussed in class for her students, but also invited their participation in the practice.

As our Google+ community has extended ways of participating and connecting in the class, it’s been interesting to see the variety in platform, style, tone, and topic across individual blogs. There’s been some interesting work in pushing on definitions of “schools” and “success.” Colin’s critique of “teaching” in the “teach a man to fish…” proverb raises some important questions about teachers and their roles in larger networks of learning – a theme that resonates with our Connected Learning reading this week.. Ah-Keisha anticipates some of next week’s readings on “critical literacy” in her powerful post, which examines the structural inequities that “undermine the future of large sects of our young population.”

Some people are also helping us think through the intersections of personal/professional identity in the blog genre and raise some really important points about digital technologies and identity more generally. Meg’s funny, self-reflective post addresses some of these tensions in starting a blog (What should it be about? What do I have to say?). Caitlin links these tensions to the question of identity: what is the difference between a makeshift identity and a “real” one? Particularly in professional, online/offline contexts? Such questions call Jim Gee’s conception of “mushfaking” – or strategies for “making do” when an ideal/real identity is not readily available (basically, fake it till you make it, as they say). From this perspective, a blog itself can become a way of experimenting with and developing professional identities.

This question of identity – whether makeshift, fake, real – raises the question of “authenticity” again. Last week we talked about blogging and authenticity in light of the Hicks and Turner article, and we wonder: can our individual and class blogs be “authentic” if they are a requirement of the course?  If yes, is it the same kind of “authenticity” as that of a person who starts a blog on her own? If no, can required activities, over time, take on aspects of “authenticity?” Is “authenticity” even a useful category for talking about blogs? We were thinking about Adina’s use of the blog to keep track of her reading and Rachel’s as her reflection on learning Farsi–what do these examples help us see about a blog’s multiple purposes and audiences?

We were also excited to see how people interpreted ‘connected learning’ and participatory culture’ in practice through the posted examples (maker movement, collaborative music, audience generated content!). We were talking about how having to translate some of these concepts into practice often shine a light onto the values and ideologies within the different frameworks we adopt (and of course, the tensions between those!). We keep going back to this idea of tensions raised in the first class, as even new ones emerge: what do we mean by digital divide? Digital natives? Why do participation and citizenship matter, and to whom? We are excited to talk more about these ideas tonight!

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