At FOTE09 I gave a presentation (‘The Social Revolution Needs You’) on how and why we as educators, staff developers and learning technologists might get people more involved in sharing their ideas and their practice with learning networks through tools like blogs. If you’re particularly interested you can watch the full recording… but you might be better off with the short version, recorded earlier that year:
At the time, my ‘words of wisdom’ were based not so much on direct experience of teaching people to use such tools and networks, but on a theoretical exploration of the key issues, and my own experiences as a self-directed learner-blogger. Since then, blogging has become big news in education, and I now have a lot more influence in getting others involved.
In 2009 I had already started thinking about how certain skillsets (such as those required for reflective blogging within a network) should be embedded into PG Certs and other teaching courses. 12 months later, I had the opportunity to start putting my money where my mouth was when I made the leap over to work full-time in professional development, and in 2011 (probably without realising the shocking implications) UAL put me in charge of the core PG Cert units.
Last year I had 70 PG Cert candidates blogging in small, pre-defined groups. They had a different topic to research and respond to every month, and were also given further questions to prompt discussion. Here are three different examples of how they responded to one task:
These activities were compulsory, being self and peer-assessed according to criteria defined by the participants themselves and agreed by each group. Looking back, it seems phenomenal even to me what was achieved in these few months but at the time it felt like I was pulling my own teeth out. I’ve spoken about the challenges at various events over the summer and wrote briefly about the most painful aspects on my blog a few months ago. I’m currently writing up the experience in full for my Masters dissertation.
Essentially, what I was doing last year was exactly what I spoke about in 2009′s Blogging with Students video, and – looking back – I can identify where I needed to have followed my own advice more closely. I’m into my second year now as course leader and, while I haven’t changed much about the blogging tasks themselves, the platform used or the means of assessment, I’ve made significant changes to the way I introduce the tasks and the technology, particularly in the emphasis I now place on complexity as an intrinsic quality of the tasks, and the rationale for using a tool that seems, at first, unnecessarily complex. The pain of last year stemmed from the participants’ unrealistic expectations that things were going to be easy, probably compounded by my reassurance that this would be the case. I probably told them that because I thought that otherwise they would walk out of the room. My revised approach is to reassure them that reflective, networked blogging may be incredibly confusing, complex and emotionally disconcerting, that this is all normal, and they should try to not worry too much about it.