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The Obligation to Write
In my last post I discussed moving from physical connections to those online. The third marker in my journey to becoming a more connected educator was to begin writing my blog ‘Read Write Respond‘.
A little bit like connecting with Twitter, I started writing a blog as a way of understanding by doing. I had explored some of the facets of blogging in relation to the Ultranet, writing reflections and sharing reviews through my own profile, but had never really been completely immersed in the medium.
My intention for the blog was to focus on responding. As I have discussed elsewhere, I feel that responding is often the forgotten element to reading and comprehension. During my Honours year at University, I read a lot about the interpretive nature of reading. One critic that stood out to me was J. Hillis Miller. A member of the Yale School of Deconstruction, the focus of his work was on the subjective act of reading.
One piece of writing that has always stayed with me was Miller’s column as MLA president for the college newsletter, found in his book, Theory Then and Now. He started by suggesting that the “real reading, when it occurs, is characterised primarily by joy, the joy of reading”. Associated with this, he discussed the joy associated with modelling the joyous reading in the classroom. However, it is what he said about writing that has stuck with me ever since.
Miller argued that we have an obligation to write. He suggested that reading and teaching are completed by writing, that it is a core element to our transaction with language. As he stated:
As we read we compose, without thinking about it, a kind of running commentary or marginal jotting that adds more words to the words on the page. There is always already writing as the accompaniment to reading.
To me, Miller’s writing refers to an action where we make meaning out of the text, where we gain a subjective mastery over what it is we are reading. This may not always be a physical act and often doesn’t even reach the page. The challenge as I see it is to follow through with these commentaries. That is why blogging is so powerful.
I have had a go at addressing the question of why blog before, providing such reasons as critical engagement, lifelong learning and scratching an itch. Looking back upon things now though, I really just thought my blog would be a place to reflect and review texts, to follow up on some of the notes scribbled in the margin you could say. I had little intention of openly reflecting upon my practises in the classroom or discussing education in general. However, as I read different pieces, diverging from my usual diet of history and fiction, it quickly became so much more.
What I found is that once I started writing, my blog soon took on a life of its own. I soon discovered myself investigating various pedagogical practises, musing on different ideas and untangling various threads of thought. As I have discussed elsewhere in reference to Twitter, I feel that the bigger question isn’t what to blog about, rather it is why blog at all. Here I am reminded of the adage attributed to Marshall McLuhan that ‘We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.’ Once you decide to blog I think that your mindset changes, instead becoming a question of what not to blog about.
One of the interesting things that I have found about blogging is who is the audience. So often we discuss writing from the perspective of purpose and audience, yet so often blogging is approached from the perspective of the idea, responding to what needs to be written, rather than who might be reading it. Sometimes I think that this ignorance of the audience in my writing to the detriment of the reader. However, being the writer I guess I shale never know.
If there was to be any overarching purpose, I would like to think that the it is to simply continue the conversation. Keeping ideas to ourselves, we never really get the opportunity to refine our thoughts. By putting them out there, it not only allows for a deeper engagement into the ideas of others, but it also allows others to then elaborate themselves and provide their own perspective.
A prime example of this is engagement is my post ‘What Digital Revolution?‘ In it I pondered upon the supposed failure of the digital revolution. If you look through the comments there are a wide view of perspectives given, such as: +Simon Crook on Digital Education Revolution funding; +Alan Thwaites on the ever changing field of technology; +Bill Ferriter on doing old things with new tools; +Corey Aylen on the hidden place of technology in the classroom; and +Nick Jackson on the role of technology to empower students. These discussions, in the comments rather than the margins, are what is at the heart of blogging. It provides a platform for people to not only share, but also to engage in further conversation.
So what are you doing to continue the conversation?
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