Following Threads

In the Comment Challenge, Days 19 and 20, one is to comment to a commenter in one’s own blog and then go to a regularly read blog and click three links out and see where it takes you.

The first was easy – I had blogged on Sunday about Parallel Universes and Sue Waters left a comment to which I responded. As Sue has noted, blogs become conversational if one takes the time to comment.


It was Day 20 that took me in unexpectedly rich waters. As I noted in Parallel Universes, I attended the University of Mary Washington’s Faculty Academy 2008 last week. One of the organizers – Martha Burtis – has a wonderful blog that I follow – The Fish Wrapper. She had blogged a couple of weeks ago about the difficulty in getting students to buy in to the use of technology in classes, but I had not then followed the thread in her post. I went back and did so, which took me to a blog post by “Joe”, a student aide at UMW. Joe sparked a lot of discussion from UMW profs, one of which is Serena, who I met at FA2008. So I clicked through to Serena’s blog.

In her post Madcap Scheme (beta), she discusses the overlapping conversations and debate generated by presentations at FA 2008 overlaid by Twitter posts, and in particular, a conversation between her and Steve Greenlaw on the battle professors face when trying to connect to students. Steve made the comment to her on Twitter:

“I think it’s part of the academic culture that undergraduates don’t do real world. It’s not true, but the mythology is a hurdle.”

She goes on to discuss how to change this…and one of her comments really grabbed me –

“Forget about persuading this guy to adopt new technologies in his classroom. If he’s not viewing his students as scholars, then he’s not even going to be concerned about truly connecting with them.”

This ties back in to a post Jeff Nugent made yesterday, in which he said:

The next time I have the opportunity to talk with faculty members about how the web is impacting students, I’m thinking I’ll forgo the NetGen rap and see if we can come to any agreement on some of these questions:

1) What does critical thinking – on and about the web – look like?

2) How is the unprecedented access to information on the web [re]shaping our notions of teaching and learning?

3) What is the read / write web anyway? How is it changing our perspectives of publishing, scholarship, authority and authenticity?

4) How is hyper-connectivity (always on) changing our expectations and thoughts about communication?

5) How are web-based social networks redefining the exchange of ideas, collaboration, and community building?

For me, seeking answers to these and similar questions – across generations – is where we are going come to some better understanding of how to build connections among varied expectations and experiences.

These are great questions…and the right questions we should be debating. It appears Serena would respond (as she did in her post):

“My theory is this: make student creation and inspiration inescapable.”


She then goes on to provide seven suggestions for bridging the online world, the physical world, and the academic world. She proposes some radical thoughts that are cross-disciplinary, cross-media, and potentially engaging! It draws to mind Laura Blankenship‘s post this morning that “too many people are dismissive of “the kids today” who do more than one thing at a time.” Serena’s suggestions would not only condone this behavior but welcome it.

Lots of threads….and lots to think about. Follow these threads yourself, comment to Jeff on his questions, and let me know if following these threads has helped shape your view of the hyper-connected world.

[Photo Credit: Buttersweet, Randy Son of Robert]

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