Monday, November 07, 2005

Notebooks of the Mind

I'm reading Notebooks of the Mind by Vera John-Steiner. As I read, I'm seeing connections to blogging which I'll go into a bit more in a moment. For those of you trying or experienced with qualitative research, I've been trying to figure a conceptual framework for some research I want to do. I will have high school students use a blog as a complement to their English I class. They will use it for literature discussion, reader response, and maybe even writing.

As I was reading John-Steiner, I wondered if her book could be part of my framework. John-Steiner studies the creative thinking of musicians, artists, scientists, philosophers. So, are blogs the newest "notebook of the mind"? Maybe this is the approach I need to take.

John-Steiner also uses Vygotsky as a framework of her thinking (along with Bruner and Gruber)--maybe the sociocultural theory is a way to go, maybe I can say that blogs create an interdependence between students, the teacher, and the larger global community. John-Steiner writes, "Their view stresses the processes of thinking rather than its products; a developmental approach that focuses on the many transformations of thinking; and exploration of the ways in which humans are engaged in the construction of integrated and generative systems of thought. The premise that underlines their work is well expressed by Stephen Toulmin, who has written that Vygotsky's writings offer:

a novel unification of Nature and Culture that acknowledges the variety and richness of historical and cultural differences, without ignoring the general processes involved in socialization and enculturation" (p. 3).

Blogs are more about processes of thinking that become imagistic through the links that students may make. Technology is said to change thinnking. Blogs allow us to see and archive the thinking processes of students, how they "integrate and generate systems of thought." As well, blogs unify Nature and Culture. With this study I want to do, I will be able to look at cultural differences in the understanding of thought and technology--these blogs socialize and enculturate. The blog could show how students understand the processes of thinking, reading, and writing through the writing and linking they do on a blog.

Are what Steiner would call "creative apprenticeships" developed through this communicative tool? She writes, "Thought is embedded in the structure of the mind. One way to think of this structure is to view it as formed by networks of interlocking concepts, of highly condensed and organized clusters of representations. Some of these concepts are pulled rather easily into consciousness, while others become accessible only when an individual, confronted by new challenges, conjoins and transforms inner thoughts into overt and communicable forms that can be shared" (p. 9). Isn't that what blogs do. Each post is a representation and if they are linking then they form these networks which she speaks of.

Also, I wonder if when people first begin blogging, or if they blog without linking then their thinking is a little shallow, blogs without linking are merely online diaries, but through these "confrontations" of reading and responding to other students in the class, reading other online content to connect to their own blog they "conjoin" and "transform inner thoughts into over and communicable forms that can be shared" (p. 9).

Does the communicative technology of blogs somehow transform inner speech? Is that where this very personal and reflective writing comes from? Do blogs tap into inner speech? This gets into another ideas, but it might be worth exploring.

So, am I going to analyze the creative thinking and thought processes that occur when students blog as part of a high school communication arts class.

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