(May 2003 - March 2007.) Tama's thoughts on the blogosphere, podcasting, popular culture, digital media and citizen journalism posted from a laptop computer somewhere in Perth's isolated, miniature, urban jungle ...

Blogging, E-Learning and the great CMS Flaw!

Saturday, September 11, 2004
Stephen Downes has a really interesting article entitled "Educational Blogging" over at Educause Review which explores blogging as part of even primary school level learning. While a tiny bit utopian, the argument is well made and is worth reading. It concludes thus:
From time to time, we read about the potential of online learning to bring learning into life, to engender workplace learning or lifelong learning. When Jay Cross and others say that 90 percent of our learning is informal, this is the sort of thing they mean: that the lessons we might expect to find in the classroom work their way, through alternative means, into our day-to-day activities.

Blogging can and should reverse this flow. The process of reading online, engaging a community, and reflecting it online is a process of bringing life into learning. As Richardson comments, ?This [the blogging process] just seems to me to be closer to the way we learn outside of school, and I don?t see those things happening anywhere in traditional education.? And he asks: ?Could blogging be the needle that sews together what is now a lot of learning in isolation with no real connection among the disciplines? I mean ultimately, aren?t we trying to teach our kids how to learn, and isn?t that [what] blogging is all about??
Blogging as broader learning form: sounds right to me! :)

On the flipside, Eric Behrens of ThinkThunk fame has a very precise post about the limitations of Course Management Systems (CMSs), focusing on his experiences with Blackboard:
There just isn't much room for the learner in a CMS. So long as the paradigm for a CMS is pedagogy, it suits the needs of the instructor in defining and controlling the class experience. Aside from posting a message to a discussion forum or dropping a document into a group directory, there isn't much else a student can do. There is no virtual space within the typical "course shell" that truly belongs to the student. The systems don't support the presentation of research and writing, open commentary, and the connection of one's own work to that of one's peers. In short, the CMS is instructor-centric, constantly seeking to keep all communication on a vector from faculty to students. Its nature is its greatest strength and its most glaring weakness.
Eric has put in far more eloquent terms some of the same concerns I've noted about WebCT, and then added another level of concern!

Update (Sat, 12 Sept 2004, 7:05AM): The discussion of what online learning actually means, and the place of blogs therein, continues in the comments below and more substantially in Eric's follow-up post at ThinkThunk.


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