Five years ago today I posted my first entry to this space. About a half-hour later I posted a second time. Testing one, two … then a day of silence. The following Monday I posted something a bit more substantive. And so it began.
At that point I’d been in my new role as Mary Washington College’s (we weren’t a university quite yet) Assistant Vice-President for Teaching and Learning Technologies for about a year. Such a year it was! So many firsts: my first teaching & learning technologies conference (AAC&U) and my first visit to Cambridge and the Hotel @ MIT, my first EDUCAUSE conference (in 2003), my first National Learning Infrastructure Initiative annual meeting (the NLII later became the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative). My first risky project (turned up to 11 by my boss, Chip German): turn a biology lab full of desktop-computers-on-wheels into a sleek, wireless learning environment with a tablet PC at every station. My first Faculty Academy as leader of DTLT and chair of the MWC Teaching, Learning, and Technology Roundtable. For our keynote speaker, I recruited Dennis Trinkle, whose presentation with his DePauw cohort at EDUCAUSE 2003 (my first EDUCAUSE conference) had knocked me out.
The year felt very full to me. There had been many events, a bit of traveling, and an entire new way of life within the academy to get adjusted to. Though I couldn’t have known it at the time, many of the new people I met that first year would be crucial for my professional and personal development: Vicki Suter, Cyprien Lomas, Dennis Trinkle, Brian Lamb, Bryan Alexander, to name only a few. Several colleagues I’d known over several years–some of them very well–would assume new importance in my life and work. For the first time I was managing a staff–not as well as I’d have liked, but one has to start somewhere–and attending administrative meetings on both the Academic Affairs and Information Technologies sides (a combination that would turn out to be of critical importance).
And in that first year, I began to learn what it was like to work for Chip German. That’s worth a blog post or ten all by itself. Suffice it to say that Chip augmented every single moment of personal or professional development in that year for me, and catalyzed most of them himself. We fell into the habit of talking for two or three hours most every Friday afternoon. Looking back, I’m astonished at the time and energy–and sheer patience–Chip invested in me. I knew I was green as grass, but Chip gave me the great gift of never making me feel that way. I was quaking in my boots many days in that new job, but never once did I feel that anxiety in his presence or as a result of any communication from him. I’m still not quite sure how he does that, but I can see how very important it was for me, especially that first year, when the big decision points were still beyond my ken.
Then came the real turning point.
Chip and I took a road trip to William and Mary to meet with another of my future mentors, Gene Roche, to discuss W&M’s recent move to Blackboard “Enterprise.” At the close of several hours’ conversation, Gene casually mentioned his experiments in a hosted web space, including a blog he’d just begun to keep. As I recall, the first entries had to do with W&M’s new laptop project. Gene was writing about his plans to go laptop-only himself in his daily work, and thus “eat his own dog food.” On the return trip to Fredericksburg, Chip and I talked about Gene’s blogging and about the hosted webspace. I asked Chip if I might purchase hosted space for each of my DTLT staffers and ask them to begin blogging. He readily agreed, turning it all up to 11 as is his wont …
… and that was that. I can’t remember for sure, but I think the trip was on a Friday, and that evening I signed up for my $5 a month hosted space. The next day, having installed WordPress by means of Fantastico, I named my blog (I knew right away it had to be “Gardner Writes”) and published my first two blog posts. And here I am, five years later. Still at it, through fits and starts, through fat and lean, through exuberant and strained. Still in awe, really, of how this distributed conversation can work, and how it has worked in my own experience.
On this anniversary, then, 584 posts later, I thank all of you (whoever and however many you are) for following along, for commenting, for linking, for nurturing this space with me over these many years. Special thanks to those of you who blog: thanks for keeping at it, thanks for risking it, thanks for giving me something to link to, something to learn from, something to emulate, something to aspire to. Blogging lives. I take that lesson to heart and will do my best in the next five years to keep “Gardner Writes” full and frequent (and I’m sorry I’ve not always hit that mark this year).
By 2014, when we all have our lifestreams published, syndicated, and subscribed to by family, friends, and followers near and far, I’ll still have one of those lifestreams labeled “blog,” that silly-sounding word for a rich and rewarding medium that opened a new world to me in the middle of my life’s journey.