Saturday, November 04, 2006

What's the use of 'blogs?

Another one that the learning press fêtes as the "future of learning" is the blog. Ahem.

So what use are these trumped up diaries other than an outlet for egotists, wannabe columnists and the obnoxiously opinionated? Well, as with most other "new ways of learning", they function pretty much as previous types. In this case, the CPD/learning log.

In a previous incarnation I was a classroom trainer for a government department. A colleague at the time was all for reflective learning, so the end of every training manual to accompany one of his courses would feature a learning log. If you were in his class for more than a day (we mostly ran day courses - but that's a story for another time) then you would fill out a couple of these things.

The theory behind learning logs is one of the better ones that make it on to the usual syllabuses (as opposed to the shaky, disputed ones like learning styles) as it is one of those that actually ties in with data that psychologists produce based on research into how the brain works. That said, it is hardly rocket, or indeed brain, science to work out that the more you think about the same thing, the easier it is to think about it in future.

This example by Hiruni, a student at a UK university is, whether he/she consciously meant it or not, a classic bit of reflective learning (I'm guessing they are asked to do it as part of the course - it is oppressively mundane). In fact, many blogs, even with writers who are unselfconscious in their egotism, probably deliver a learning benefit from precisely the sort of thing that my colleague was trying to achieve with his logs.

So, for me the benefits of a blog for learners are:

  1. The act of writing an account of what you have learned or thought about forces you to marshal your thoughts and formulate something of them. This is something Donald Clark likes about them.
  2. Unlike the private version, you can invite comment from people on your conclusions (though of course in the eyes of some people this is hardly a benefit).
  3. It provides you with a permanent and retrievable record of your development in the area discussed - unlike that scrap of paper or dusty old course manual on the shelf.
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