I went bushwalking with a friend yesterday morning and discovered a whole ridge full of Blossoming Boronias.
Spring is already here and winter is not yet over! Sydney has an amazing climate.
So here now is my first L….O…..O…..O…..O…..O……N…….G Blog for the semester.
Please bear with me and read to the end. You could find quite a few interesting pieces of information relevant to your whole blogging experience this semester:
Visit this site regularly for updates on what to do in your own Blogs
Welcome all Literature Students (1st & 3rd Years) to the use of Blogging (& Wikis) as a way of helping you:
to put into words what you think and feel about literature;
to connect with your class mates;
to make the connection between reading and writing about literature and your own life experiences (after all, what is literature, if it is not someone’s experience shaped into a form of words that speaks with force).
The word Blog comes from the words weB-log, a series of individual journal entries which can include graphics or video as well as words. There can also be a space for comments so that you become part of a community of Bloggers sharing ideas and experiences.
I have been experimenting with Blogging in teaching literature for some years now and have given conference papers and on-line seminars on the subject, and have even written a book chapter on the topic. Here is a short list of some of this work:
This site is so named because it expresses my belief in the deep connection between reading/ studying literature and my own life-experience. Literature has helped me to understand my experience and has given me a deeper appreciation of the way expressing that experience in words and images is a vitally important part of what it means to be human.
I love sharing my own enthusiasms and my own writing through this medium and I hope to encourage your enjoyment.
I myself keep a number of Blogs. I keep a LiveJournal Blog at http://michaelgriffith.livejournal.com.
I keep a WordPress Blog at http://michaelgriffith1.wordpress.com.
I also keep a WordPress ePortfolio at http://michaelgriffith1tp.wordpress.com
An ePortfolio is a Blog with static pages and can be constructed easily through a Blog – as you will discover yourselves.
I also have a list of great blogs that former students still have on show- some of who are using Blogging actively in their own teaching out in schools. You can visit some of these if you go to
Blogging, in my experience as a teacher, has been a way of freeing-up students into a writing experience that is really enjoyable. Firstly they don’t have to be so formal in their writing and they can use language that they are comfortable with; secondly they have an immediate audience of peers who are happy to read and share each other’s work. Some students also find that they are able to write poetry, or short stories, or creative letters, either in response to the literature they are reading or from something arising in their own life experience. Generally people do like to be heard, they like their writing to be read, and they love getting feedback.
In some cases we don’t want everyone to read what we have written, but one of the beauties of Blogging is that if there is something you don’t want to show, then you simply make it private! But then of course you won’t get any comments either.
So Blogging is by definition a less formal, more spontaneous form of writing; that is its strength, but also –some would argue- its weakness. As “Literature” students it is of course great if you can feel free enough to write your thoughts as they come, but it is also important to be able to write formally when the need arises. That is why Blogging has to be balanced by more formal writing activities such as research essays and/or exams.
In the last few years Blogging has become one of the most democratic forms of expression challenging the hierarchies of publishing, of politics, of institutions. Some of the most famous contemporary bloggers have shed light on world issues that the major news networks have not dared to expose. The most famous of these was the Blogger of Baghdad http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salam_Pax who blew the cover on the American bombing of Baghdad and who was able to write, from first-hand, about some of the horrors being experienced by the Iraqi people. The American official media was singing the praises of President Bush’s toppling of Saddam Hussein, but there was a very different story coming from ground level in Baghdad. So Blogging has become synonymous with a democratic critique of hierarchies, of authorities who want to keep “the masses” in their place. Just recently there have been similar blogging leaks in the US revealing how little the American people really know about what their government is doing in Afghanistan or about the death rate of young American soldiers there http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/31/2969637.htm
Here is the Wikipedia history of the Blog: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blog
So Blogs (and Wikis- which are a collaborative form of blogs) are felt to be dangerous by those in authority in all walks of life.
This is why for example Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page
so often gets rubbished by the academic world when in fact it was one of the best resources of current information on everything to do with life on this planet. It is a public repository of information and creative ideas, monitored and edited by panels of highly intelligent (but not necessarily academic) people. However, it also needs to be said that because Wikipedia is constantly being updated and edited by the world community there is a danger that what you are reading might not –at all times- be completely accurate. So don’t dismiss Wikipedia, but exercise caution in seeing it as the whole truth.
At universities, Blogging used as a teaching tool is a relatively new phenomena and is often regarded with some suspicion. The following sorts of questions are asked: is it really academic? Is it encouraging students to write well? Or is it simply dumbing students down? How can they be learning anything when they are speaking in their own voice, speaking from their personal experience, using “I” instead of some scientifically respectable distancing pronoun?
Is this why my own use of Blogging for teaching purposes (using LiveJournal in a public space) ran into a brick wall last year when I was effectively told to go behind a fire-wall where student Blogs could not be seen by the general public? So currently all Blogging you do for literature takes place in a version of WordPress that is kept out of general public view. There may be some good reasons for this: student safety in particular. But it may also be short-sighted given the benefits past students have felt by being able to share their writing with family, interested outsiders and even others in the wider academic community.
But this restriction does not stop us sharing our Blogs within the university setting and being part of a valid Blogging community. But it does stop us sharing our work with the outside world. However, given all that I have said, there is some current thought about returning to what we had in the past: I will keep you posted!
Or Should I live Dangerously?
Let me also say that if you do want to take your Blog into the Public Arena now, then this is very easy and no one can legally stop you doing this.
You simply go into your “Dashboard/Tools/Export” and then you export your whole blog onto your computer desktop. You then go into WordPress.com and there set up your own external Blog. Then you go into your Dashboard there and go to: Tools/ Import and simply import the wordpress file from your desktop. Let me know if you do this. I will be happy to help and also to read your blogs on your external site. You may wish to go to LiveJournal which has a lot of advantages over WordPress and the export process there is almost more simple: there you simply cut and paste your StudentBlog into LiveJournal.
I am currently researching the question of the value of Blogging and using other Web 2.0 technologies (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0) in literature teaching. I am doing this with my 3rd year students who will be finding out about this project this week. The purpose of the research is to try to discover what really helps literature students to develop their skills in comprehension, and in writing both creatively and critically? The underlying question is how can Web 2.0 technologies be used most effectively to help this process. The other side of this questions is how important to learning is the creation of a cohesive social group through internet technologies such as blogging?
Here a few additional links that you might find of interest in the context of this discussion:
Some famous users of WordPress:
About the creators of LiveJournal http://rt.com/About_Us/Programmes/Spotlight/2007-09-05/358789.html
LiveJournal versus WordPress