With WebCT Discussions students find a space to share ideas with each other and they regulate themselves through the demands and requirements of the group. I have watched some wonderful conversations flower in this medium with students helping each other go deeper and deeper into a text (such as Tolstoy's "Death of Ivan Illych" with all its concerns about the ultimate meaning of life). This formal discussion arena helps students to really focus in on a text and grapple with core issues. One of the most important features of this Discussion space is that it helps to break down the competitive paradigm that we have all been suffering under in our Western Education system- everyone (students and staff) holding cards close to their chests for fear of having their insights "stolen". What a waste of resources and interactive possibilities. Now students are involved in a genuine collaboration drawing on their own internal resources as well as digital resources on the web.
With LiveJournal another dimension is created, one that beautifully complements the WebCT Discussion forum. In LiveJournal students are free to pursue their own topics of conversation, their own fantasies and their own creations.... verbal and visual. This provides a wonderful space for private study and for sharing inspirational moments as well as sharing ideas that might have cropped up during a day of reading, studying or attending class. Here new relationships can spring up and here too is a space where those who typically find face to face relationships a little more complex can really flower. I have seen students who are outwardly timid, shy and reluctant become great contributors to the collaborative sharing of experiences and ideas in LiveJournal. But I think what for me is the most important new element that this medium brings is the possibility of linking personal experience with new knowledge and experience gleaned from the subject matter. If subject matter does not enter the personal dimension, it remains "objective" "impersonal" and... I would say dead. In LiveJournal students have the freedom to express the relationship between their own experience and that of the poets, novelists and dramatists they are studying. They also have the possibility for expressing their own vision of the world in poetry, story or prose essay form. This personal vision is often triggered by some of the great literature they are reading... "great" not in the sense of grandiose, pompous.... etc... but great in the sense of providing insight and meaning into the core experiences that we all share in.
Enough! as Thomas Hardy said at the end of one of his well known poems!.