Last month, a group of us blogging compatriates at Hamline *found* each other. We’d all been busily blogging away in our quiet little nooks, independently exploring this intersection of our professional duties and extracurricular professional interests. In hopes of bringing even more of us out of the woodwork like Web 2.0 box-elder bugs, we put out a general invitation and call to play.

Lo and behold, the play has begun to form itself into something more substantial. Our Blogpeople group has grown and diversified a bit—Cara, Kristofer, and I have been joined by Erin and Annette from the Graduate School of Education, and Kate from the College of Liberal Arts. We’re in the process of designing a collaborative inquiry project for 2007-08 focusing on blogging as a vehicle for teaching and learning, professional development, collaboration, etc. Kristofer has gotten us started with some grounding thoughts:

What is the end product?  I think that will be half the fun. We are
starting out with six people and I would imagine we will end with quite
a few more.  The good thing is that we seem to be interested in real
results and what it means for learning and development, and not just
display an orgy of technology zealotry.

We’re scheming to put together what you might call a meta-blog model. Our core group of six will collaboratively pursue whatever specific lines of inquiry we ultimately identify: reading journals, blogs, etc. But the beautiful, and I think sensible and simple, thing is that we plan to center our research in a group blog. We’ll be swimming in the blogosphere, so it would be almost remiss not to create a suitably contextual framework for our process and product. So a meta-blog it will be. We hope that as we’re out there conducting research, asking questions, reflecting on valuable practices and insights, we’ll be able to connect our inquiry to other bloggers, researchers, and educators, gradually widening the circle well beyond Hamline. And hopefully modeling the relationship-building possibilities of social media in the process. In the end, our project blog will ideally be both vehicle to enable our inquiry, and model to demonstrate our findings.

We also hope to bring as many local colleagues as are interested along for the ride, so we’re including regular face-to-face seminars in our plan. It remains to be seen whether we go with a learning circle format or something else. A book circle might be a safe, inviting entry point to the Web 2.0 world and would help us build a common terminology and basic understanding. Dean Shareski from Ideas and Thoughts has put together a survey about what keeps educators from using Web 2.0 tools; the survey is ongoing, but his findings so far already look to be pretty useful as we design our project. Especially worth noting are the responses to the fourth item, and Dean’s comment:

What would you say is the best way to help educators fully utilize the tools of Web 2.0?

a. encouragement/support from administration 5%
b. workshops/training 16%
c. mentorship in small groups 60%
d other 19%

I really like the idea of small groups. Many of us started out on
our own and are quite fine with our online connections. It sure is nice
to have these discussions with folks you work with everyday.

Small groups! Collaboration and discussion with the folks you work with! Blogpeople! We may be on the right track. . .