Collaborative Conversations by Ryan Burrell

The idea that anything written and presented on the Web is of a static nature and lacking malleability is a false one.  Likewise, the idea that articles or topics presented in format for consumption over the Internet are closed to observer modification and addition is also false.  The Web allows for an extremely unique interchange of thought, be it an initial article writing, subsequent discussion or comments, or responsive posts created on other sites.  It encourages viewers and readers to have an opinion or viewpoint, and to share that with anyone else who may be interested.

To that end, the idea of a “collaborative conversation” has been applied to writing for the Web.  Myself and several other individuals have taken up this notion (originally a teaching method) to try and spur ourselves onward in our writing, for several reasons.  We wanted something that gave us a focus for our writing, even if it was an arbitrary idea or topic.  Being able to dance around an issue and comment from multiple viewpoints was appealing; not arguing or making a case for anything (per se), just observations and discussion.

The rules we follow are minimal:

  • Someone picks a topic, and we try and tie in whatever we write with that topic. Think of it as more of a theme than a thesis statement.
  • Everyone participating must post each article that is written.  For larger numbers of people writing, we may dispense with this and simply include links to each part of the series on our own posts.
  • Don’t pander to the audience. Part of this type of conversation is to think on the topic, and come up with a unique viewpoint or observation on it.  Just as in real life, we want the conversation to be interesting.

The first experiment in this followed the the idea of the Internet being a product of humanity that has also changed it irrevocably.  Future topics have been selected and we will hopefully continue what has been (for me at least) a very nice exercise in both writing and observing.

Now That’s a Meme of a Different Color!

While I should be working on a workshop proposal and a research paper over transformational leadership, I’m caught off-gaurd very easily by shiny blog posts by people I admire. While scrolling through my GoogleReader feeds this morning (a ritual necessary to start my early morning), I came upon Paul Bogush’s latest entry, “M-M-M-M-Memes.” I don’t usually skim over his posts, so I dug in.  I’ll let you do the same before I respond, but it should be noted that this entry is the Edublog equivalent of Facebook’s 25 Things meme.

What is a meme you ask? I know my audience, and not everyone is a culturally savvy tech beatnik like myself. I’ll do you a favor and give you both birds and the stone that killed them. Wikipedia is great, but sometimes even it can be mired down with jargon and psychobabble; so, I am going to use the explanation from Simple.Wikipedia for the meme definition:

simpleenglishwikiA meme (pronunciation:miːm), is a term for a theoretical unit of cultural information.

The theory behind the term is that culture develops analogously to plants and animals. The way in which a gene propagates from one organism to another as a unit of genetic information and of biological evolution[1] would be analogous to the development of memes.

Biologist and evolutionary theorist Richard Dawkins coined the term meme in 1976.[2] He gave as examples tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothing fashions, ways of making pots, and the technology of building arches.

One other important factor is that a meme is something shared and repeated often (this is how the item permeates our culture and becomes founded and accepted by many). The Facebook “25 Things” note or MySpace surveys are both good examples because they are passed around and repeated by different people over the internet. Jokes from popular TV shows can be memes too, like “That’s what she said!” from   NBC’s The Office.

Now that you’re meme-ready, I’ll exercise the right to recycle, repeat, and reuse one from the previously mentioned blog (Paul’s). In case you’re too busy to click on over to his award-winning blog now,  I have cross-posted his introduction (because I think it applies):

The post that was supposed to appear in this spot I am holding off-I am not quite finished with it and it is a juicy one. I will instead put up a post answering memes I have been tagged with that I have not been able to get to for some time. If you click on each title it will take you to the original post. So let’s get to meme #1.

Meme #1What is the most unique thing about your school?

I am currently a long-term sub outside of Springfield, MO. I student taught here last semester before graduating, and so even though I am not under contract yet, I feel as though it is “my” school. That being said, this school district provides great opportunity for growth and change. Students, teachers, and administrators are all very active. I don’t need to say in what ways specifically (that would be a long list) because they are active in something; this school is a busy place. I can’t quite quantify it, but I know there are good things happening here: unique things.

Meme#2What would you do if you were the last person on Earth?

I would sing loudly all the time.

I would paint murals on old city walls and on the glass of office buildings.

I would base jump from something.

I would ride a horse through Times Square.

I would drive a McLaren F1 across up Highway 1 in California.

I would hold a campfire in the New Mexican dessert by Chimney Rock.

I would finally read Ulysses.

After all that, I’d bring a french press and a sleeping bag to the Library of Congress and move in.

Meme#3What kind of superpower would you want?

I think most people would say “flight,” but I would have to say “time travel.” I would want to stop, control, and move through time at will. Well…maybe it could be a conditional power…that would be interesting. Steve can travel through time, but only when he sneezes more than four times in a row. You have my permission to use that idea in a short story if you want, just let me know so I can read it someday :-)

Meme#4Random Act of Kindness-Leave an encouraging comment on someone’s blog

I left this comment on “Elementary, My Dear, or Far From It

I think you hit a key point in your post; that many (if not a majority) of education professors and university instructors have little to zero actual experience in public schools. My experiences in high schools, while in college, were the best “teachers” for me. I think there needs to be a clear distinction between the theory (university classroom)and the practice(K-12 classroom).

As for your primary question. I haven’t noticed any stigma against lower-numbered grade teachers. I hope that isn’t the case! I have immense respect, as a secondary teacher, for primary and pre-K teachers. I know I couldn’t do what you do, and I am thankful there are people like you doing it! I added your blog to my feed, I need to read more about elementary school instruction :-)

Meme#5What are five changes you would like to see in the educational system?

Ooo, I don’t want to touch this one yet. This is a whole separate post altogether. However, I like all of Paul’s suggestions on his blog. Now, I should really get back to my paper on transformational leadership, maybe that will lead me to some answers for meme #5.

I almost forgot to tag some other bloggers! Do what I did and repost yourself :-) Do all 5 memes or just a few!

Lisa Deckard

Jeffery Hill

Dan Meyer

Scott Elias

Melinda Miller