There seems little doubt that Web 2.0 technologies like blogging often perform a pedagogical function. In fact, there are lots of spaces and places where blogs are created explicitly for teaching and learning. We use them in a number of courses here at UBC, but all levels of lifelong learning–community, primary, secondar, tertiary, adult and continuing–are using blogs somewhere to learn.

Their uptake, however, hasn’t been universal–or even consistent. Often (too often?) instructors in teacher traning programmes take the idea of a reflective practice journal and transpose it online as a blog. As someone who has taught in such programmes I think the trade-offs involved aren’t worth it: reflective journals only work well if the teacher has the ability to be forthright about her experiences. A paper journal can be put away; a blog, not so much. And yes, even sites like Livejournal, that give bloggers the ability to filter content to some or all prying eyes, are fallible. If you can create an account for it online, someone can hack it. Particularly for early service teachers I recommend sticking to paper.

Blogagogy (blogs as pedagogy) carries all sorts of opportunity costs. At the very minimum, a computer with Internet access are required–and the skills to use them. For many novice computer learners, the jump from consuming content to creating can be both confusing and daunting. Thus, for educators the onus is on us to help learners navigate through these challenges, lest they become barriers to participation. And learning.

Many years ago I was tasked with developing a computer training course for “mental health consumers”: persons who had been persistent users of mental health facilities ranging from counsellors and psychiatrists, to those who had been institutionalized in hospitals for extended periods. They referred to themselves as consumers because a number were not mentally ill: they had learning disabilities and were misdiagnosed–or tossed into care because it was expedient.

I had facilitated meetings for this group for a number of years before embarking on this project. I knew the members well and I knew computer training well and expected this to be challenging but manageable. But on the first day I started teaching, one of the learners was unable to double-click the mouse: their medication impeded their fine motor skills. I could change the system preferences to require only a single click, but my materials were all printed with double-click instructions.

We got through it; in fact, it went very well. We taught these folks how to use the Internet and MS Word as self-advocacy tools. They learned how to verify policies regarding social entitlements so they could assert their rights. They became skilled at writing letters so their requests would require government bureaucracies to respond officially, beyond a verbal “no.” You can read more about this work here:

Egan, John P. “Pedagogy of the Depressed: Mental Health Consumers, Computers and Empowerment”. Convergence. 35(1) (2002): 82 – 89.

About John P Egan

Learning technology professional.
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