Saturday, February 10, 2007

Blogs and the Professionally Hooked-Up Instructor

I got interested in blogs a little more than two years ago when I discovered some of my friends from graduate school were blogging. That was 2004, an election year in which "blog" claimed the notoriety of "word of the year" and suddenly everyone seemed to be keeping a weblog or online journal. With more desire to experiment with blogging than actual knowledge, I convinced my friend and colleague Tammy Townsend to submit a proposal with me for the 2005 TYCA-SE conference in Jackson, MS. As part of this presentation, I set up a blog called Composition Southeast and invited those in attendance at our session to join me in a group blog modeled after Community College English.

Nothing went according to plan. First, you can take the blog to the people, but you can't make them love it. People signed up willingly enough, but no one kept coming back. I was left with me, myself and I to run my nicely planned out group blog.

But I was not alone. Soon other composition bloggers came along, and before I knew it I had my own little network of "peeps."

Through these connections, I met Mike Edwards, who invited me to collaborate on a panel proposal to the 2006 CCCC conference in Chicago. The proposal was accepted, and, thanks to Mike, for my first trip to CCCC, I ended up on a panel with Peter Elbow. Yes, that Peter Elbow.

This inspired me to write more proposals. This year I travel to New York for the 2007 CCCC conference with my friend and colleague Patti Smith where we will be on a panel chaired by Nell Ann Pickett. Yes, that Nell Ann Pickett, my former teacher, personal mentor, and a former CCCC national chair.

All of this proposal success and "Elbow" rubbing got the attention of my deans, and I was named JCJC's 2006 Mississippi Humanities Council Teacher of the Year. For that occasion, I put together a talk called "Harry Potter and the Monsters and Magic of Literature," which I was asked to give a second time the same day I presented it last October 31.

One thing has led to another, and each project has played off the last, but it all started with the blog. In 2005, I was just minding my own business, teaching my own classes and doing what I had to do. Now, people invite me to speak, to come to meetings, and to travel to places I would not otherwise see. It all goes back to the blog.

I met people through blogging who have made a real difference to me personally and professionally. I got ideas through blogging that have made a real difference to my teaching and to my professional productivity.

Through blogging, I can be part of something larger than my own classroom or my own campus. I have a kind of personal connection to the larger world of Academia that I've just never gotten from reading the professional journals. I have a way of finding the people and ideas that matter to my own teaching. I have a way of understanding trends in the profession that go beyond my own state or even my own discipline. I find out what other schools are doing sooner and in a way that is clearer to me than I ever did before.

The old models of academia are shifting for the instructor just as surely as they are shifting for the student. Blogging is just one way to have a more professional presence in the digital age, but it is a very effective way.

I am a better teacher because of the blog. I am a much more "hooked-up" professional because of the blog. Come over to the blog. You won't be sorry. :)

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