Where do I start and how will I ever stop once I get started? This question is my biggest hurdle in writing. I have so much that I would like to say and even more that I would like to respond to, but since I also know that I don't have much time, it is difficult to get started. So, I knew when I signed up that I would not be an active participant.
I have much to learn about Writing and Inquiry in the Digital Age and so little time to devote to this learning. What I have spent my time doing these past few weeks is reading everyone's comments, following the links, getting a Diigo account started (and trying to figure out the privacy issues attached), and poking around in places I haven't spent much time. I have been inspired by the posts by Tellio, Bud, Kevin, Christina and others. I've been impressed by the work that Bonnie and others have shared and by Ben's reflections. I'm sure I'm leaving out people who have positively affected my thinking these past few weeks; but thank you for sharing what you have.
But what drew me immediately to my computer this morning was the light suggestion that those of us who don't participate with the community are "lurkers." I know that Kevin didn't mean this in a disparaging way -- and perhaps his use of the term as strategic (It certainly got me typing). Just as we create classrooms where all students participate and contribute, do we also need to create these online spaces where the same kind of participation takes place? (I think so). And just like we don't always have one large group conversation where anyone can contribute their thoughts at any time in our classrooms, I wonder if we need to think about how to create different kinds of interactions in spaces like this one.
What I know from my classroom experience is that once the "smart" students start talking, other students who don't feel as smart or knowledgeable will often remain silent. And I think we may want to think about race and gender and probably other factors which may be at play as well. Who is silenced in this space and why? It is easy to think that it just a time issue, but I think there are probably other reasons as well.
One of the lessons we learned at the Greater Ka.nsas City Writing Project (through our Project Outreach work focused on serving the needs of those most affected by poverty) is that just creating an open and welcoming space doesn't mean that we are doing enough to address our lack of diversity. If we wanted to diversify our site, we had to take strategic steps to do so. I think that if we want more participation, we may need to think strategically about how we do so. I agree that having specific tasks to complete is one good strategy. And I guess my own inquiry has much to do with how we ensure that these digital spaces are participatory and democratic, and not replicating historically racist, classist, sexist ways of silencing us.
And a very minor note, but there are online lurkers; they are not good for the community. But there are also online observers, some of whom are learning the rules of the discourse community they are visiting, or are just dropping in to see what is going on. These observers are good for a community. We want to encourage these guests to stay for the party, not make them feel like the outsiders they may already feel like they are.
Wow -- that was a long comment. Thank you everyone for creating this space that DID make me feel welcome and that pushed my own thinking and learning forward!