<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Mucking About In Diamonds:
Blogging, Reflection and Process of Understanding

In my research for my job--which at times feels more like purposeful wandering about the internet than research--I run into some rather cool things. I've mentioned that I'm working on an ePortfolio project (not my only focus, but a major one), looking at the possible applications of a program such as the open source OSP in a University setting, including academics, career preparation, skill reflection ... if I started listing, I'd be here for a very long time. But since the concept of the ePortfolio is generally tied to the idea of student-owned learning through a process of collection, selection and (most importantly) reflection, these ideas are of course tied to other ways that technology is being used to support student interaction with course materials. Most notable among these is the use of blogging.

There are a surprising number of blogs dedicated to (in whole or in part) the use of blogs in the classroom--blogs as a reflection tool, blogs as a method of building classroom interaction and participation, blogs as ePortfolio, blogs as academic journals, on and on. And to some extent I knew that blogs were being used in this way, as I participated in an "edublog" program in a third year english course. (That the use of blogging wasn't an overwhelming success was due more to the newness of the concept for almost everyone involved rather than any inherent flaw in the plan. At the outset, I was the only one in the class who knew what a blog was. Even the professor was sketchy on the idea.) What I didn't expect was the way that blogging was being used as such a powerful method of professional and educational interaction and connection. Of course, such applications are downright obvious in retrospect; just because I am used to blogs being tied to personal events and/or reflection, especially relating to the process of writing and publishing, does not mean that this is the only application. Yet here are blogs that do not fit the model of personal reflection and experience that I'm used to, nor the classic "linking to cool stuff" model that I'm familiar with (all praise BoingBoing, etc.), but rather are used as highly focused, highly productive research and networking tools. Because just like we have groups and subgroups and whatnot in the realm of SF/F blogging, so too are there must-read blogs and groups in the EduBlog sphere. I find myself returning to Jeremy Hiebert's headspacej, weblogg-ed, Alan's cogdogblog, and others.

(And yes, there are even ePortfolio blogs. Helen Barrett's is perhaps the newest, and many of the edublogs mention ePortfolios at one time or another.)

So how is this in any way relevant to anything? Well, on the professional I'm-resarching-for-my-job level, this is all highly relevant to the initiation, creation and support of a space for personal, education and professional reflection. How do people become aware of their own skills and abilities? How can we encourage the deep self-reflection, self-examination and critical viewpoints that are required for individuals to make the leap from merely writing about a thing, an experience, a piece of work, an ability, to writing about it in such a way that they are brought to relizations about what that element means in connection with the rest of their experiences and abilities? How can we make students want to engage and participate in this process?

On a personal level, I'm having to think about a lot of things: my motivation for keeping a blog, the ways that I use blogging, blogging as network and blogging as social sphere and blogging as private journal gone public access. Blogging as self-reflection, and reflection on the process and product of writing. If anyone has any fears/hopes that this is all a rambling prelude to my dumping this online forum, let me assure you that nothing could be farther from the truth. But over the last few weeks, I have been actively thinking about these issues, pondering how and why I currently and could potentially best use this set of tools that I have been mucking around in for such a long time. In a sense I feel almost as if I've been leaping about in a pile of diamonds, made happy by the mere fact that they glitter.

And now I've done a little research and, well, I'll be damned--diamonds can also be useful.

Which isn't to say that I want to use my blog for fame and fortune--quite the opposite, really. But what I have here is a tool to better understand my thoughts and processes related to writing and all the messy details of life. I know that when I'm given the opportunity to truly engage in the process of deep reflection on what it is I'm doing and how and why, I get better. I understand more about story, about structure, about how I write and why. And yes, sometimes this temporarily shuts me down as I internalize this information; I didn't write for months upon months after leaving Clarion. But afterwards? Now? Look out.

So now, perhaps as a reminder to myself more than anything else, my goals are: to be specific, to be honest, to be brave. To admit to and embrace the fears I have about this process, and to act as if I'm fearless. To write about writing in a meaningful way.

And though I won't go so far as to challenge everyone who is reading this (after all, it's hard to fling down gauntlets without knowing one's audience), but I will say this: think about it. Those of you who are writers and bloggers (or journallers), think about how you use your blog and why. Think about how you could use it. And hey, if anything interesting happens, let me know.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 10:07 AM


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