(Initial) Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali's blog has now moved to http://blog.mahabali.me

Academic blogging revisited: Thinking, writing, action

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This post is a confluence of several “coincidences” related to the value of thinking and writing and the value of taking action in the world – all at a time when I started my own blog as a form of contributing to public discourse with the aim of making that writing useful to the world.

The coincidences (all within a 24 hour period), include:

1. Reading about Hannah Arendt in the book Interpretive Pedagogies where she insists that ideas/thinking are not equivalent to action
2. A tweet by @jessifer that I retweeted quoting Martin Bickman: “the problem is writing articles instead of making sure the articles actually change the world.” (Emphasis mine; I have no idea who Martin Bickman is but I intend to find out soon)

These first two ideas come together in my mind to make me realize that the value in what we think and write does not make it action in the world until we find ways to make that writing make a difference in the world. Paulo Freire believed strongly in the interaction between the word and the world, and in linking reflection/knowledge to action. He suggested that action without reflection/knowledge is mere activism, and that to focus on speech/writing without action is mere “verbalism”. And so, I am beginning to think, that “thinking” is a pre-requisite to writing, and writing (and teaching) is a form of action/activism in that it can share knowledge, build on others’ knowledge, but also be a form of advocacy. But even though sometimes I write for myself, the true value of my non-creative writing lies in its capacity to reach others and make a difference, create change in some way. This also means that sometimes a blog post will be more valuable than a book, because a. It is open access so more people can reach it; b. it is shorter, so busier people can read it; c. It is simpler language than more scholarly work, so more practitioners can understand it, and d. It is more immediate, so there is less “time” lost between my thinking the thought, and it reaching someone to benefit him/her.

Now another thing also struck me within those same 24 hours:

3. I read the table of contents of the book The Future of Thinking and loved the way they titled the last chapter starting with: ”(in)conclusive”

What I really like about the “(in)conclusive” part is that it made me realize that it might really be OK to publish something when you have not necessarily reached your conclusion. Some things are changing so fast that it might not even make sense to try to conclude. I was also more recently inspired by Dave Cormier publishing his work-in-progress book on community as curriculum. It made me realize that we do not have to necessarily reach the final polished stage of our work before sharing it. I am sure Dave has been sharing these ideas in his blog over the years, and pulling it together as a book and sharing the book while it is in progress was very inspiring to me.

So I have only been blogging for about two weeks (but been writing online for six months now) but all of the above has reinforced my decision to blog. I am at a stage in my life where I cannot do as much physical activism as I would like, or as I could before, but my mind is full of thoughts and ideas that I can share and hopefully make a difference in some small way, and I hope I can share the inspiration I am getting from other “open educators” such as those who inspired this post!

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Author: Maha Bali

Associate professor of practice, American University in Cairo

2 thoughts on “Academic blogging revisited: Thinking, writing, action

  1. Publish early and often 🙂

    i find that having access to unfinished thoughts makes it easier for me to adopt it into my work.

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