I try to read at least 2 to 3 blogs on e-learning each morning. I am grateful to the authors as this has helped me to get a handle on some of the latest trends and interests in the field.
I think though there are problems with blogging about learning and e-learning in particular. While there are sometimes references to other sources, a number of the claims being made remain untested. I think particularly here of ideas like gamification, microteaching and virtual reality. I have read lots of interesting blog posts about these, but have noticed that there is not so often much critical analysis or in depth discussion (not always the case of course). Making such things work in particular educational or work contexts is complex.
Like many things, I am sure concepts like microteaching have their place as tools that can help in particular situations. I read one perceptive comment recently that microteaching is most useful for consolidating previously learnt information in bite-sized chunks, so best used as a reminder of learning. However, the positive summaries out there on this kind of technology often feel more like a wholly positive rallying cry and I worry that this clouds not only potential problems with the technology but the details of what actually makes it useful. Ultimately for critical, in-depth analysis the obvious texts to read are academic articles but I think it should be possible to bring some nuanced writing to wider online contributions.
What I like about blogging, I don’t know if this is a slightly naive hope, is that you can explore ideas and easily share them with the Internet community. In a spirit of fellow generosity the community might take these ideas, respond to them, build on them and together we might be able to shape thinking through respectful, constructive debate. Inevitably it’s also nice to feel you are presenting an interesting case, and people might start noticing you, not just your arguments. I just worry about this promotional aspect though. It seems to me that it leads to an overly positive style, but the danger is a blandness which starts to creep in. If you are overly concerned about promoting a certain presentation of yourself you might be more inclined to self censor. This contrasts to writing which incorporates at least a little bit of critical thinking.
Critical thinking is not being negative, it’s looking at a concept and tilting it this way and that, exploring how it interacts with particular contexts and accepting complexity, however messy that might be. It’s possible to be constructive, positive, respectful and critical. I am looking forward to reading more posts like that in the future and participating in some interesting, original discussion.