As much as I know, I know this much: the more that I know, the more I know that I don’t know much.
I was trying to put my cumulative learning in this grand experiment into a single phrase and this is what I came up with. Talk about incoherent intelligence.
Those that have followed my blogging from the get-go will recall that my idea was to explore the medium as a tool for critical reflection and learning. Previously, my reflections in any learning event were contained in a journal of some sort. Most often it was saved in a folder in my computer but sometimes it was saved in the messiest of file cabinets: my brain. Sharing my reflections was limited to my instructor, my classmates, my colleagues and (God bless them) my family. So, blogging would open up the audience considerably. Or so I thought. Turns out that blogging is more than just throwing some thoughts down on a webpage, adding some hyperlinks, the odd picture or video, and waiting for the responses of the masses. Apparently, if you blog it, they won’t necessarily view it, read it, and comment on it. In fact, most won’t even know that it’s there. No, you actually have to be equally adept at marketing your ideas. Posting on other blogs, telling friends, colleagues, and acquaintances about your blog are just a few activities that you need to do in order to get readership. You’re not just the author and idea-man; you are the publisher and ad-man. Problem is, I’m more of an idea-man than an ad-man.
So, in terms of obtaining feedback from the masses, making my blog a truly interactive critically reflective endeavour, I kind of didn’t succeed. Actually, in the spirit of true unvarnished critical reflection, my experiment was a failure. But it wasn’t an unmitigated disaster. Let me explain why.
When I first decided to blog I made the decision knowing that I had some experience with technology. I had read blogs, used the internet quite frequently for research purposes and had taken one online course. Heck, I even participated in a couple of social media sites (although my network resembled more of a campfire circle than a complex web). But it was that most recent experience with an online course and my introduction to a learning management system that piqued my interest in technology and its use in developing and expanding learning. So it was with this background that I approached my blog. Eager to experiment but a little nervous about what I might experience.
Even though my blog entries didn’t get the engaged response that I’d hoped for, I did get some readership. Or at least some viewers. I can’t be sure that they read anything due to the lack of comments but they at least took a look. And, for those that didn’t stumble upon my blog using the random selection tool, something that I said drew them to my pages. This in and of itself was a success. It gave me a viewership that encouraged me to continue writing. My viewership also made me conscious about the quality of my writing as well. Now, I don’t just mean ensuring that my writing was free of spelling and grammatical errors and had a good flow, either. I’m talking about the content, the ideas. In a traditional journaling exercise in any course that I’ve taken, you typically have to complete a journal entry every week and submit it. This structure sometimes means that you search for some artificial insight, some saccharine “eureka” moment (I prefer that term to “aha” – that’s just sooo 2010). Having a viewership meant that I felt compelled to write something of substance, even if it was small, and it meant that I went days, sometimes weeks, without posting. I simply didn’t have anything worthwhile to say. I also had a number of unfinished blogs on the desktop. Ideas that were fleeting, lacking the substance that I initially thought they had as I tried to develop them. This compulsion along with the ability of the medium to accept and assimilate other tools, such as hyperlinks and videos, also meant that my posts were often more creative, involving more research, in effect, more critical reflection.
While on the one hand my posts were more thought out and involved more critical reflection as a direct result of the medium, they also suffered a bit as well. Not only did I reflect upon the substantiveness of my posts, but I also reflected on their legacy. The possibility that anyone could read my posts brought with it a weight of responsibility. I was very conscious of the fact that my posts could be read by anyone. My reflections upon my learning, how I was openly applying learned concepts to my life meant that those in my life could be brought unwittingly into this public spectacle. As such, I don’t think that I was as fulsome in my reflection as I would have been had it been off-line. The extent of my confession was hampered by the lack of a screen and a sacred vow of secrecy, you might say.
So, my blogging experience wasn’t a failure, especially in terms of my learning about the strengths and limitations of the medium. It gave me the kick in the ass that I hoped it would and in more ways than I had expected. It also allowed me to explore the tools that are available via the world wide web and what they could mean to my practice and the role of adult education in the global political economy.