And the winners are…

November 20, 2009

Blogging has been a fun adventure.  I was tentative at first because my writing would be public.  I was no longer just writing for the instructor.  But I loosened up after a few posts and I love writing for an audience now.  Knowing that peers and colleagues will be reading my writing ups the ante and, consequently, enhances the quality of my writing.  The feedback from others has been encouraging and that has boosted my confidence in my ability to produce something that other people actually want to read.

Most professional post: I can write, but can I tell a good digital story?

This one is professional but still personal.  I wove together a citation from the readings with my own thoughts and anxieties about digital writing.  I also offered two good links to sites where readers could find examples of really touching, sometimes hilarious, oral storytelling.

Most creative post: Storytelling

I actually made a Voice Thread!  I matched text to images!  I learned so much from this process so, although the final product is most likely too long (given what I know now about how to make a digital story), it was well worth it.  I always learn best by doing.

Best designed post: Bonjour!  Nous sommes mercredi.  Comment ca va?

This is just the winner by default.  It was the only candidate.  Overall, the design of my blog was nothing to write home about!  I almost totally neglected design and have only one image on my blog.  I certainly could have spruced up my entries with more visual images, especially because my posts were quite long.  That much text can be off-putting.  Next time I blog, there will be more images!

People’s Choice Award: over my head

From day one, I’ve been impressed with Debi’s ability to write and engage her reader.   Her writing is honest, thoughtful, funny and engaging.  I read her writing and want to be her friend.  This post especially was just so darn entertaining.  Her lead hooked me, and I wanted to read more.  I learned new things about students on the autism spectrum.  Since September, Debi has woven the class readings together with reflections about herself and her job as a special education teacher.  It was always pretty clear to me that a lot was going on in her head each week, and she was able to convey all of that deep thinking clearly in her writing.

Collaborative Writing? Yuck.

November 10, 2009

I’m trying to reserve judgment when it comes to collaborative digital writing. But my efforts have obviously failed.  When I think about collaborative writing, this is just about the first thing that comes to mind:

Meetings: None of us is a dumb as all of us.

Go back and click on that link.  You won’t be disappointed.  A friend of mine had this Demotivator in his dorm room in college. Like meetings, collaborative writing can be painful. Don’t get me wrong–I loved working with Molly and Maria two weeks ago on our soldier Photo Story.  They knew exactly what they were doing, I learned a lot and our final product was really cool.  But I also remember sitting around a computer in 1997 with six other people trying to collectively write a position paper on whether bison that wandered out of Yellowstone National Park should be killed because they might transmit brucellosis to cattle.  It was awful.

I realize that times have changed.  New technology has made collaborative writing a less painful process.  I can imagine using a wiki to write a research paper or an editorial for a newspaper.  Both of these would require writers to research and then weave the research into a cohesive, well-written final product.  I think that editorials and position papers especially could be stronger because participants would have to collectively decide which arguments are the most persuasive and then expand on those.

But I also know that I am a very picky writer.  I grow easily frustrated with people who don’t know how to correctly use a semi-colon or who use the word “effect” when they should use “affect.”  I am hyper-concerned with formatting.  I click on Print Preview like 18 times before I print a paper.  I can’t send out the team newsletter without editing it for content, punctuation and spelling.  It’s embarrassing but true.  And I prefer to keep those little neurotic habits to myself.  Collaborative writing promises to expose me for the super freak that I really am.

That being said, I know that working together with others can bring clarity to my writing.  I absolutely loved getting feedback from my writing group at the Minnesota Writing Project last summer.  I needed four intelligent, opinionated and supportive women to be really honest and frank with me in order to grow as a writer.  I listened closely to what they had to say and, as you might expect, we didn’t all agree.  But unlike collaborative writing, I still got to make all of the final editing choices. The writing was mine from beginning to end.

I worry that collaborative writing would involve too much compromise–on ideas, arguments, organization, opening lines, etc.  And I am concerned that all of that compromise might result in a product that, in the end, no one is really too happy with.

I love good storytelling.  I listen to episodes of This American Life on my I-Pod when I take long walks in the summer.  I also love waking up to public radio’s Storycorps when my alarm goes off on Friday mornings.  I don’t necessarily need images to enjoy stories.

However, I am almost always deeply moved by digital writing.  Last week, for example, I almost cried when I saw the digital writing that we created in just 45 minutes of class time.  The addition of voices and images enhanced our storytelling.  They didn’t overwhelm or cheapen it.

I say this because recently I had a conversation about digital writing with a colleague who is also a gifted writer.  He feels that digital writing cheapens writing because it speeds up the writing process.  Bloggers just “throw up” on the page and that passes for writing.  They aren’t as careful with their words. Writing, he said, should come from a place of deep contemplation. Years of thinking.  Novels are good.  Blogs are bad.

I definitely think amazing writing can come from years of thinking.  But I also think there can be honesty and poignancy in blog posts, podcasts and Voice Threads.  It’s not an either/or.  Digital storytelling is different from simple written text.  At the heart of both though is the quality of a person’s writing and storytelling abilities:

If students don’t take time to write the stories they want to tell with the computer, they won’t get below the surface of their ideas. They may create beautiful slide shows, but they will not tell stories that matter (Miller, 2007, p. 173).

I actually think digital storytelling is more challenging than just writing text. Good digital stories match text to images, voice-overs and music in a cohesive, beautiful way.  Clarity and brevity are important.  So are transitions, pacing, the order of the images and the sound and tone of your voice.  That’s a lot to consider.

Digital storytelling is pretty scary.  I’ve had a lot of training in how to write a good text (upwards of 20 years), but pairing text with audio and images is new to me.  And I have a lot of respect for people who can tell an evocative digital story. My underlying fear is that I’m not creative or artistic enough to tell a good digital story.  Art has never been my strong suit.  But writing has.  I worry that this writing challenge is going to be too much for me.