Edublogging: A Tool for Fostering Transformative Learning
Providing learners with choices whether to post just to oneself, one’s instructor, to a small group of colleagues, or to the public, is crucial for encouragin learners to draw on intrinsic motivators. Learners new to blogging require a safe writing space, a sanctuary, to begin one’s moodlings, and then progress deliberately through an ever-widening sphere of concern, from sharing with one other (inner self), to sharing with a trusted other (instructor as learning companion), to extending that circle of trusted others to a sharing circle (much as we have in this context of a small well-defined group of co-learners led by a facilitator who encourages us to extend our ideas towards others, into ever widening spheres.)
And then the next step is addressing the inner critic. Writing self-reflective prose, wanderings and moodlings, critiques, streams of consciousness, are for the audience of one, for oneself, as well as for the inner critic, and for potential future selves. If one cannot generate trust and saftey to overcome the inner critic, and write for a audience of potential selves, how can one overcome fears and uncertainties of outer critics?
One’s ideas proceed through a transformation as one grows more confident, and I noticed this in myself, as well. At key times, Terry Anderson provided key feedback to move me from a circle of two and extend my dialogue to others as well. But the dialogue was much an internal one as it was an external as presented in the blog posts, and comments. He has encouraged me to open my work to a wider public. This is the true challenege for educators. Not to just “get” students to use blogs, but to encourage learners in various ways to explore the process of blogging as a series of experiences of growth and personal transformation. Overcoming the personal critic is a crucial first step, without which no further written expression is possible. Accepting and caring for (empathizing with the imaginal audience of potential selves) is required for cultivating a personal voice to use during writing blog posts for self-as-others.
Encouraging a learner to choose to publish presupposes that such a learner has overcome fears and concerns about how to consider and address others’ perspectives, how to clarify and defend one’s own ideas while accounting for others. Blogging an an external act of discourse is built upon a confidence and skill cultivated first by writing for “selves-as-others” (potentials from past, present, and future). One’s self is the first, the most important audience a novice blogger needs to develop: the first step is to give oneself permission to begin and continue the dialogue with self, and proceed along a journey of transformation.
Once the learners have overcome their paralyzing their inner critics, and have experienced greater confidence with writing for an inner audience, the instructor shifts from being a learning companion, to being a curator/facilitator, engaging learners in a series of parallel dialogues (Siemens, 2009, Elluminate discussion).
Addressing the inner critics of learners requires development of critical self-reflection; addressing outer critics requires the development of patterns and rules for effective discourse.
This second part, rational discourse, the voice of the self towards others, is what is commonly considered as central to the act of edu-blogging. It is the process of commenting, of social interaction and collaboration, of battling as a gladiator valiantly in the arena of ideas. It is the externalized counterpart to the internalized activities the majority of learners experience. Compelling learners to be extroverts wrangling for bitefuls of social capital is going to generate a generation of reluctant bloggers.
Moreover, I argue that this more overt, extroverted aspect of blogging only holds one part of the whole puzzle, and as it is the most visible, it is the most studied, and the most assessed. Its currency is social capital, fame, traffic, google rank, node strengthening. It is these extrinsic motivators that compel many to blog, as a pretense, as a way of jockeying for readership and success. This is, what I believe, the “death of blogging” was referring to. I dare call it a kind of vampirism, lacking soul and spirit, a feeding frenzy of lesser intellects feeding on the strong.
Unsurprisingly, such extrinsic motivators hold little allure for novice bloggers. Besides, something significant is missing in the pedagogical tunnel vision of educators who are concerned with getting students to blog, and then assessing them entirely on observable capacities.
These educators miss the point. Those learners whose cofidence is weakened, and whose inner critic is strong, will suffer, sputter, and fail as bloggers in this enforced regime of learning. These novice require a combined approach of slow blogging (Barbara Ganley), and practice in a safe writing space to engage in curved, or rhizomatic, learning (Dave Cormier). For these learners, such extrinsic motivators, based on social capital, such as fostering the belief that success is a popularity contest, cannot be successfully fostered, at least not without first laying the foundations for preparing and preserving and strengthening the fragile learners’ individual selves-as-speakers, the inner voices, upon which everyone else is built.