teaching: December 2004 Archives


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Okay, not quite all. I can never remember centripetal and centrifugal, or rather, which is which. I always start by thinking "fugal" means fleeing (as in tempus fugit--I did take Latin for a couple of years), meaning that centrifugal is tending outwards, but then I see "petal" and think the petals of a flower spreading outwards. Ugh. But my "fugal" hunch is the right one. Centripetal tends towards the center; centrifugal towards the edge.

And it's relevant because I wanted to bookmark both Alex's and more recently Clancy's reflections on using blogs for the classroom, albeit in different ways and contexts. Clancy notes,

I wanted the weblog to serve one of my central pedagogical objectives, namely to facilitate a close community ethos in the classroom...Reflecting on the experience, I am even more convinced that it's best to, if at all possible, have one weblog for the whole class rather than individual weblogs.

This is an issue that Steve talks about as well, in his piece for Kairos. More and more, I think that it's important to distinguish between the centripetal and centrifugal modes of blogging, and to understand how each might occupy space in the classroom. I've got a lot more to say on this than time to actually say it, but for the moment:

I'll be doing some of each in my class this spring. Unlike Clancy, I don't feel a strong need to build community in the course--it'll be a small class, made up of people who have been taking courses with each other for at least a semester and in some cases nearly two years. This is not to say that this isn't a valid goal for a course--particularly when the students come in with no knowledge of each other--but it's a goal that is specific to certain courses.

And I suspect that part of the reason why many of us have really gotten into blogging is the centri-mix. Some of my blogroll is made up of people I'd know anyway (grad school buds, fellow Syracusans, etc.), some of it is made up of people I've gotten to know better as a result of blogging, and some of it is a wishlist of people I'd like to know. Point being that community is sometimes a precondition, sometimes an outcome, sometimes a projection. The mix, and the future possibilities inherent in a mix like that, is part of what keeps me interested.

One of the arguments I'd make on behalf of centrifugal blogging is that having students looking outward makes it more likely that they'll continue once the object of a centripetal gaze (the course and their clasmates) is gone, and that's one of my goals as well. For me, that's one of the key differences between blogs and say, journals or email lists: there's a payoff to blogging that continues beyond the boundaries of the course or even the school.

This is not to disagree with Clancy, who does the right thing, I think, in being explicit about her goals and measuring the degree to which blogs helped her meet them. And Steve's article does much the same thing. If you want to accomplish this, then use this kind of application or use it in this fashion. But I'd argue that it's important to bear that conditional in mind, and to understand that different conditions may apply.

I should stop there. That is all, at least for the moment.



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This page is a archive of entries in the teaching category from December 2004.

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