On Twitter I read that Will Richardson was doing a day-long workshop on ‘How have you changed as a writer because of online spaces and communities?’
Considering the deliberate and concentrated direction ‘out’ I’ve been following in the last year, when blogging through a Web 2.0 learning process took me out of the library and into the world, I thought it would be a good idea for me to ponder this question:
‘How have you changed as a writer because of online spaces and communities?’
Well, the short and simple answer is easy: I never was a writer until I started a personal blog, and so that simple step in setting up a blog, like so many people did before me, has given me the gift of a space I can personalise with my thoughts. Over 30 years ago, when I finished secondary school, I lost my excuse for writing. Having enjoyed writing in English classes more than anything else at school, there was no reason or opportunity to do it anymore. So when I started my blog, tentatively at first, it was a joyful reunion with a process I had long missed.
And so, back to the question, ‘how have I changed as a writer because of online spaces and communities’? Blogging has not only given me the chance to write, but it has given me an audience, and it has connected me to people. When I say audience, it’s not a big one, but I’m not talking to the air either. If I have something to say or share or ask, it’s great when I get a response, a thrill when I start a conversation, and brilliant if it involves people from different parts of the world. If I’m thinking or doing the same thing as someone in another country, then the world is brought closer, the unknown seems more familiar, what was foreign becomes more friendly.
The online communities I’ve joined since – Twitter, wikis, nings, etc., have taken my writing into the interactive zone. I’ve responded, supported, elaborated, argued, bounced off others, shared people’s successes, empathised, and generally had a great time with people I didn’t know, or hardly knew, and now with whom I share a great affinity. To describe this affinity, I will just say that if I’m ever in need of anything – moral support, information, advice – then the people in my network will instantly respond.
And back to the question again – my writing has changed even in its sincerity, its authenticity; I think it has thrown off its carefully constructed facade, its attempt to impress, to sound correct, to please, to conform to the status quo. It’s become transparent and unselfconscious, playful and casual, flexible and possibly courageous.
If my writing has changed in these ways because of online spaces and networks, then it must be clear to all that it is a human, and not technological, development. It’s about me, not my technology skills. The technology has provided the medium, the connections, but it has centred on human interaction.
These are the reasons why I’m exploring and pushing Web 2.0 platforms for learning and teaching at school. Using online spaces and communities for writing will connect students to each other and to others outside the classroom. Writing will become meaningful, and learning enjoyable.