Moodle discussion forums

A representative example from "The Wednesday Forum," 

where we were to post a summary of our group discussion from class Tuesday night. 


This series of posts took place on Wednesday, February 13th 2008. They are in response to a series of questions on pages 31-32 of David Blakesley's The Elements of Dramatism.  

I believe this sample of our discussion board shows how our class embraced this method of reflection and communication.

The forums allowed us to summarize our small group discussions, giving closure and more solidity to our ideas. 

We reflected on the class that took place the night before, and even though we may not have been able to fully represent the discussion, the ideas we were able to remember and succinctly summarize are probably more clearly understood and will be easier to remember. 

This series of posts also shows how successful our collaborative work was, the tone is informal yet theoretical and there is an obvious rapport and engagement among all participants.  

This kind of discussion board writing holds great potential for the writing classroom. 

This kind of writing is to a particular, real audience--yet is also online and scholarly--and it engages textual analysis in a personalized venue.

The discussion board tool can also be used to further collaboration in groups and as a whole class.

Through the Wednesday posts, all of the students in the class were able to benefit from every small group discussion rather than just their own.

This way the "report-back" section of group work can be extended.

Usually, after small groups have "finished" their discussions, they attempt to summarize the key points from their group for the class.

I've found that this ending to active group work is unsatisfying, anti-climactic and not as useful as it could be.

The discussion board revives this winding-down of group work, allowing all of the participants to reflect on, discuss and respond to each different group's theme. 

Discussion boards also provide a great place to disagree about and critique texts in a venue that allows for collected, written explanation.

Through using writing in this discussion board setting, students blend personal and academic writing with an overt purpose of coming to understanding as a class.

The discussion board is a wonderful tool that offers new possibilities to for collaborative classroom management and student engagement with the materials.

 Original forum discussion:

Kendra's Post: 

Our group discussed the “Resources of Ambiguity” section starting on page 21 in Blakesley’s Elements of Dramatism. The actual questions we were addressing are on pages 31-32. 

 Ryan started our group off by pointing out the “Resources of Ambiguity” section, and in exploring that concept further, we noticed that not only are the questions arising out of areas of ambiguity in Burke’s work, the questions themselves also left room for ambiguous interpretations. For example, the first question discusses how Burke argued for the importance of studying “war aims.” While Blakesley is leading us to discover the common distractions that prevent folks from examining the motives of war (like all the immediate concerns that arise in wartime-- violence, destruction, poverty, mass death and injury), the question itself leaves room for ambiguity in using Burke’s term “war aims.” Depending on your political awareness, some bullshit like “bringing democracy” could be the “war aim” named.

We also spent a good amount of time exploring Burke’s concept of a “great central moltenness” that “implicitly argues for the value of making distinctions in an ever-renewable process of assertion and reassertion” (Blakesley 32). Marty had some very insightful things to say about that (you wanna post them?? I can’t do them justice!!) I brought up how mainstream liberal feminism (that is focused on gender difference, and often restricted to the concerns of western white women-- you know, Hilary Clinton type feminism) encourages folks to avoid making distinctions between women-- like, “How women write.”

Then the discussion moved to “congealed distinctions” (which was a part of Marty’s insight into my worry over the dangerously homogenous nature of a “central moltenness” as I was interpreting it). Congealed distinctions, like the gender binary system and other stereotypes based on race, class, nationality, religion, etc. “encourage attitudes and motivate action that preserve the status quo and maintain the lines of power in society” (Blakesley 32). Examples of folks actively trying to reorganize these congealed distinctions were: the “this is what a feminist looks like” campaign (different styled t-shirts, some pink and sparkling, some white and plain, to challenge commonly negative stereotypes of “what a feminist looks like”), transgender folks and the intersex awareness movement).

And the last question referred to Blake as pragmatic. We didn’t have much time left by the time we got around to this question, but one example was on page 25 where Burke clarifies that “we mean by a Grammar of motives a concern with the terms alone, without reference to the ways in which their potentialities have been or can be utilized in actual statements about motives” (25). That is very practical, based in real circumstances rather than hypothetical.

That’s it for me! The rest of the group can fill in the blanks! =)


Sarah's post:

I think Kendra has done a nice job of consolidating what we talked about as a group. I feel like a had a heck of a lot more to say last night than right now, not having the book in front of me. I would agree that Ryan got us on the right track by having us tie "Resources of Ambiguity" into all of our questions. We certainly focused on the first question about war aims the most. Burke argues for the importance of ambiguity and I believe in a war torn country, politicians are hoping for less ambiguity and more solidarity. During times of war, we do not sit and ponder the motives behind our war aims because if we did, the different ideas behind our motives would lead to a sense of ambiguity and perhaps separation among a previously cohesive country. That's not to say that our nation fully supports the war, or any war, but the more we offer binaries, like "you're with us or you're against us," the easier it becomes to see everything in black and white and the easier it is for our politicians to keep the patriotism alive.
I do agree that these binary systems, these "congealed distinctions" are a way to keep people believing in stereotypes. We are perpetuating the binaries by continuing to identify as this or that. There are, however, people out there who are fighting to get back to that great central molteness and to dissolve some of the distinctions that have been made. For instance those people rallying behind queer theory would like nothing more than to get rid of this man/woman binary and begin to look at the differences between sex and gender and the many different forms of sexual desire there are out there.
I think that's about it on my end. Anyone else up for a thread?


Martin's post:

By themselves, the questions assigned to us were thought provoking and gave us ample material to discuss, yet as soon as Ryan threw in some comments concerning Burke’s “Resources of Ambiguity” our discussion widened to encompass much more. I thought that this, in itself, would have made Burke smile because having four people explore different aspects of an issue is perfectly aligned with his ideas. Letting an issue stagnate, due to manipulation by governments to suit an agenda (propaganda) or “congealed” distinctions in society (stereotypes) is a failure to utilize the resources of ambiguity. As said in class, focus on A is in exclusion of B… but there is also a C, D, E, etc. Adding fuel to our conversation was the thought that you can take anything, like Kendra’s ideas on the changing nature of feminism, and then “at one remove” look at a larger picture where it now becomes human interaction in general, widening our conversation to include all genders, race, class. Opening dialogues, the expression of different ideas or embellishing upon familiar ones (I see ties to tropes) is key. So, instead of focusing on the individual questions, we brought pieces of them into our conversation and explored some of our resources in the expansive world of ambiguity.

I’m not sure if this is what Kendra was referring to when she mentions insights I had, but I do think that our group work was a productive foray into the ideas behind Burke. With our own individual ideas as to meanings within the readings, we approached each other in good will and opened up new avenues of understanding our subject. With the thoughts presented so far in the class, this group work and the abstractions it created, hit on the very foundations of what I see rhetoric based upon.


Ryan's post:

Well summarized so far. So as to not be left alone as "that one guy who didn't add to this list," I'll just add the point that sometimes it may be unclear when distinctions are "congealed" and when they are not--context is everything and reasonable people will disagree. For example, looking at the whole "red state/blue state" divide, I would argue that the distinctions are not helpful (there is no space for a green like me) and stereotype the states into definitions that are not entirely accurate [what's the difference between a red state and a blue state? about one person in 20--in other words, one is 52% Republican, the other is 47%]. However, for our current political system, which gives all electoral votes to one or another, this may be a very useful distinction for understanding how one candidate won an election. It's not useful at all for understanding the inhabitants of a state--who they are, what their needs and desires are, why they vote a certain way--but there is a context in which it may not be so much a congealed stereotype, so much as a method for determining where those electors came from. Thus, ambiguity increases: sometimes congealed may not be so congealed.