Walking Stick Blogger

A Learning Space for Literacy and English Language Learners

EduBlogs as Metaphor

An edublog would be used in a number of different ways for literacy learners.

For highly private learners, an edublog would need to provide a “santuary”, a safe space, to jot down ideas and reflections for those who prefer to have such a private space for writing. In this instance, the learner’s private thoughts do not have to be shared, unless they invite their instructor or others to do so. Assessment, if any, for such a learning space would be optional, and likely take the form of learner self-assessment. Activities might include reflections on readings, critiques of others’ blog posts, dialogues with self, creative works, and personal writing.

For autonomous student bloggers (individualistic edubloggers who blog in the open, do not consider their larger audience, do not get de-motivated by a lack of peer/instructor feedback, and essentialy blog for themselves), a learning space comparable to the “homestead” is preferred. Learners write drafts of ideas, collect resources, comment on readings, events, experiences, reflections, and can be best assessed through a series of task checklists and rubrics – as the focus is on individualized activity, this is best for those who prefer learning within a self-paced format.

For social/embedded bloggers (those who are energized by comments from others, are motivated by social interaction, rely on co-presence and instructor presence), a learning space might take the form of a “sharing space”, a learning space to engage in discussions and share ideas, resources, and experiences with others. Activities might include group work, collaborative projects, critiques on drafts for assignments. Assessment would take the form of peer feedback (using feedback forms and rubrics) combined with self-assessments and instructor comments.

For those who need time to practice and rehearse the various roles without having to self-disclose, anonymous blogging is recommended. This allows the more private and autonomous learners to come into contact with more social bloggers, levelling the playing field, so that all can participate in a non-threatening, impersonal learning space and act out roles upon a virtual “stage”. Activities might include meme creation and sharing, path-making and sharing, digital footprinting, time capsules, role plays, and group writing. Assessment would take the form of a series of self-assessments over the course of the module. Learners can post their reflections and impressions of the learning process in their private/autonomous edublogs while progressing through the activities of the anonomous edublog.

For more experienced, autonomous bloggers (those who have had a blog for at least a year), the edublog would enable them to combine the skills developed during private, autonomous, anonymous and group blogging, along with the development of skills and knowledge to participate in blogging for individualized networking. Participation as a community member within a sharing circle is the first step to the development of the required skills to participate in larger social networks and networks of practice. Handling critical comments, trolls, flaming, cultivating credibility, exploring the various professional networks, creating and growing a more extensive professional knowledge management system (such as bookmarks and links to blogs). Active participation in the “open range” would entail a confidence with keeping current on trends, keeping up-to-date on new ideas and resources, sharing ideas with others, commenting and linking your own ideas to others, embedding other media into your edublog, and cultivating a number of other edublogger peers as a learning cohort. Assessment would be an e-portfolio, negotiated learning outcomes, peer review, and ongoing interviews with mentors/sponsors.

The transformative edublog blurs the boundaries between these other categories, and deepens the learning. It involves personal change, and as such, can be highly private or public. It is a vision, a journey, an “upward, outward spiral” of self-reflection, reflections of learning processes and assumptions, and can have a therapeutic, cathartic quality. It tends to be a slow, lengthy process, something that Barbara Ganley calls “slow blogging”. The transformative edublog has tremendous potential for literacy learners working through their feelings and attitudes towards learning, requiring a shift of perspective, a re-examination of deeply held values, a lowering of personal barriers, an openness to dialogue with others, a chance to give voice to what has been long silenced. Some of the experiences will involve life-altering transitions, others will require a gradual shift in viewpoint. Reflecting on what needs to be unlearned in order to learn something new is a part of the transformative process. Undergoing a process of discernment, or grieving, might also be involved. The edublog of this type might be arguably not something most educators would want to get involved with – it involves the instructor’s participation in the soul-work as much as the participants. The transformative edublog moves learners out of comfortable spaces into a holding space, a place to rehearse in safety, so that learners can ultimately feel comfortable moving between the different types of edublogs seamlessly.

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netizenship • July 7, 2009

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