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Digital Inmigrants’ fears

This post is intended to give some ideas – or may be just to think about- adults’ fears at the time of writing a blog. Trying to find an answer to what Sabine commented in her blog entry “Blogging in the education of adults?” I just ended reading about digital native versus digital inmigrants. Despite the term coined by Marc Prensky offers multiple lectures, it can be interesting to have a close look at the following definition: “The importance of the distinction is this: As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their “accent,” that is, their foot in the past. The “digital immigrant accent” can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it. Today’s older folk were “socialized” differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain.”

Marc Prensky quoted at Henry Jenkins’ blog

May be this can help understanding why sometimes new media tools, such as blogs, aren’t used taking into account what they really possibilite. Personally, I must confess I haven’t any experience in adults education (except some unsuccessful internet lessons to my father… 🙁

Anyway, what I feel is that the introduction of tools such as blogs, wikis or whatever you want with adults, should come together with a reflection of the medium. What are the differences between a blog and a website? Why is it worth using a blog in this context? Possibly, encouraging adults to struggle with technology is more difficult than motivating kids to do something with a computer. However, if we manage to make our adult students understand the possibilities of that tools we are showing them, we would have done a very important step in order to help them  face part of their fears.

How to use blogs in education- A proposal

“Create a blog where each student conducts text or multimedia interviews to gain insight to family history and traditions.”

Web 2.0 in the classroom

Personally, this suggestion is one of the most appealing to use in education. At certain point of your school life, there’s always an activity dealing with Genealogical Trees. Here and there, children start asking “mum- who was the mother of the grandmother of…” and so on. And this is how something that could be a very interesting exercise for not only knowing each one’s familiar routes, but also the political, economical and social context of a certain time. A Genealogical Tree can be useful but is not enough if what we pretend is to deep in the social, economic and political relations. That’s why I find very interesting the idea of doing multimedia interviews. The fact that the information is going to be recorded, filmed and published, can motivate students to prepare interviews better than if it was just an explantion about family traditions to the class. Here, preparing the interview implies getting information about many social, political and economical aspects of that time and place. This documentation work will help them understanding their forbears choices and decisions.

Cristina Durall Llobet de Comas, July 1889.On the other hand, learning about one’s family is not enough to understand the society of a particular time. It’s necessary to have a wider scope: that’s to say , a network of people whose biography will help you understand the conditionants and situations they had to face during their lifes. That’s why blogs can help this process. By building a network of blogs students can go from their most personal informations to something wider in where collaborating and sharing information is really meaningfull in order to understand the society of a certain time. Indeed, what I’m describing is a process of knowledge construction through blogs and people.

At this point I can’t avoid making reference to Vygotsky’s educational theories and the importance he paid to social interaction. Developping this activity will engage student in a dialogue that connects with this author aproach. Simultenously, even it’s not strictly an educational theory, I think this experience can be also used to show some of feminist postulates “ The personal is political”. Researching about one’s routes will lead you to an analysis of your family decisions according with the times and society they live in. After this, it’s quite easy that a process of self questionning starts.

Use of blogs in education

The idea that introducing technology inside the class can be motivating for students, is not new. Time ago, the use of video for educational purposes was a great challenge whereas now it seems that blogs, among other resources web 2.0, are on the spot. The results of such initiatives are difficult to evaluate. Here and there is easy to find articles claiming the advantages of the use of new technologies in education.

In Pembina Trails School Division website, there are some ideas extracted from different online sources about the use of blogs in education. Briefly, we could say that using blogs can be a good way of promoting equally participation, visualizing the learning process, stimulating debate outside the class walls as well as providing resources related with the course contents, among many other aspects.
However, is it essential the use of blogs to reach that goals? Or, in other words, does the use of blogs in class guarantee some of the mentioned objectives such as the equally participation of students in debates? Personally, I feel that, even the use of a certain technology has some implicit meaning, it isn’t enough to guarantee success. Related to this, it is interesting to have a look at Julie Sturgeon’s article Five Don’ts of Classroom Blogging. Despite my differences with some of her suggestions, I consider it’s interesting to think about how you, as a teacher, are going to encourage your students to use blogs in a way that helps achieving the objectives you have previously set up. Another interesting aspect of this article has to due with limits. From my point of view, school has to help students to understand and face the world in where they live, not to protect them against it, that’s why I consider some of her advices can be too protectionist. However, it is also true that, as far as you are dealing with minors, special attention has to be paid to certain aspects. Anyway, I wouldn’t support the use, and need, of special applications for the educational context. If the school has enough resources to pay for them it is ok, but if not, I don’t see anything bad in using free online tools.

Coming back to the question “why using blogs in education?”, I would consider that despite praises, we should be more skeptical. From my point of view, many of the benefits attributed to blogs aren’t so exclusively and could be achived by other means (more traditional and therefore, not so fashionable as blogs). However, something I consider quite interesting about the use of blogs in education is their contribution to knowledge construction. Related to this, I would strongly reccomend to read Richard E. Ferdig and Kaye D. Trammell article Content Delivery in the “Blogosphere”. Among many other ideas, they highlight the importance of publishing students’ work and content productions. As they underline, special attenntion has to be paid to hyperlinks and feeback.
And because blogs can be commented on, they provide opportunities for feedback and potential scaffolding of new ideas. Blogs also feature hyperlinks, which help students begin to understand the relational and contextual basis of knowledge, knowledge construction and meaning making.

According to the authors, the use of blogs in education can be a powerful way of applying a constructivist pedagogy. At this point, is where I stop questioning and I copy paste the following question which names Stephen Downes’ article Should All Learning Professionals Be Blogging?