Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Children and Tech series - Post # 1

Learning like knitting – blogging, self-reflection and making meaning together

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

In reading Alex Halavais’ (2006) article assigned to us this week, several wonderful things jumped out at me. In clear, readable prose, Halavais outlines the development of online publishing and weblogging, and the potential blogging has to create flexible learning spaces.

Now, this is really exciting. I have maintained blogs for several years – mostly to keep records and to reach out to others about the work that I’d been doing. My latest blog has mostly been a way to document my development as an early childhood educator. It has also become a place of learning as I connected with other early childhood educators blogging all over the world. Not that I’ve actually updated it in a while…What Halavais is talking about in much of his paper is a much more immediate version of this – students expanding and enhancing their learning through the use of open, online publishing as part of coursework they share.

The self-reflective aspect of blogs is I think enhanced by the fact that you’re writing for an audience – you write for yourself, but/and you become part of that audience. That is a really interesting notion – that in your self-reflection you take yourself out of yourself to watch what you’re doing. Now, some may argue that this is a less authentic experience, but I think as long as it’s articulated and conscious (the way it is and is formalized through the structure of blogging) it avoids becoming navel-gazing, especially when open to an audience. That constant integration, back-and-forthing over your ideas, behaviours and practices moves away from the “disposability” of our school-type learning – it’s gone after the exam and no longer relevant to our lives. When that self-reflection gets shared, especially in visually documented formats such as online web publishing, the potential for discussion and self-reflection is even greater and learning is bound to increase exponentially.

The immersive, engaged vision of learning presented by Halavais in using blogging as a collaborative tool is really great. As he states in his paper “…to learn by becoming a member of that community rather than by learning about that community.” (p. 8) reminds me of debates in Research Methodology class about compete participant and participant-as-observer methods of data collection. The difference here is the transparency, and how exciting is it to watch the development of your own mind, growing with others.

Halavais also raises an interesting point about the mentor/apprenticeship form of learning. I really like thinking about learning about anything as learning a craft – coming from my arts background this isn’t so surprising. But the way that we argue about the “dehumanizing” aspects of technology could be reframed using a “crafting” lens. Looking at using technology as a collaborative learning tool as a craft could reintroduce a “done by hand” aspect to our technologically mediated education. Equally interesting would be a reframing of ECE as a craft – how cool would that be?!

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