blogs and educating the eflective practicioner

I’ve been working on applying blogging to developing Donald Schon‘s concept of the reflective practitioner and his idea of the practicum as a 

virtual world, relatively free of the pressures, distractions, and risks of the real one, to which, nevertheless it refers. It stands in the intermediate space between the practice world, the ‘lay world’ of ordinary life, and the esoteric world of the academy’ (Schon, 1987 p37).

This is a space to build a community of practice, where the processes of problem solving, experimentation, coaching and building a professional repertoire of experiences can be undertaken. Blogs can act as the ‘glue’ to hold these activities together, acting as a reflective commentary on the practitioner’s growth.

 

My argument is that blogs provide a perfect vehicle for reflection and critical self-awareness, and as such they provide the possibility of what I term the eflective practitioner, because of their unique qualities that raise them above traditional learning journals.

 

The key reasons for this are that they map the learning journey in real time; they are deeply personal, giving a whole person view; they use rich media that becomes searchable and reconfigurable using tagging; they are portable and easy to access; they encourage dialogue, interaction with an audience and peer group feedback; and they are emotional and playful too. They also give great insights into how learners learn, articulating how experience is transformed into learning.  

I’ve posted a presentation on this that is a modified version of my Wimba talk that I also gave at the designs on e learning conference 2008 at Penn State here at slideshare

 

Learning clouds

I’m currently working on a paper for the designs on e learning conference 2008 at Penn State university in September on blogs in post grad education in art and design. As part of this I’ve been thinking about what blogs can offer that other forms of reflective learning journals cannot. So I’ve been playng around with the idea of a learning cloud as being more appropriate to e learning rather than a learning cycle. Comments welcome on the following:

Kolb’s learning cycle has been expanded on and developed by many authors, with Cowan’s learning spiral and Boud and Webb’s learning patterns developments of the concept. However, even though they develop beyond the Kolbian analogy, most of these still suggest a relatively linear progression through the various stages. However, the relationship between experiential learning, reflection, the practitioner’s established repertoire and knowledge and the development of new levels of understanding is more fluid and cross-referencing that these models suggest. In many ways, the analogy is with the experience of the web, with hyperlinks connecting different levels of shallow and deep knowledge and information, some of which is very ‘hard ‘ and academic, and some of which is ‘softer’ and more anecdotal or personal. To continue this analogy then, I therefore suggest the metaphor of a cloud of learning, where at various points all these different elements are more or less relevant to the progress of understanding, depending on the exact circumstances of each learning experience. Thinking of this in a more three dimensional way, the linkages, connections and cross references that occur are much more complex and interdependent than traditional two-dimensional models, and the ‘eureka moment’, generated by Schon’s concept of ‘back talk’, (Schon 1987) when apparently unconnected concepts inform each other is more easily explained. This complex process of articulating experience into learning is typical of the ‘real world’ of work based learning, where problems have to be solved using a wide range of skills, abilities, knowledge and analysis that draws on practical understanding, ethical awareness, emotion, technical ability and intuition.

This is where the blog, I believe, has a vital role to play in sitting inside the learning cloud, acting as the fulcrum and catalyst for the learning experience, serving as a place to simultaneously record, reflect, plan, discuss, review and explore ones ideas, testing them out both on oneself and on an invited audience of peers and mentors. The fluid, flexible nature of the blog, with its relatively unstructured hierarchy combined with the ability to search the archive using tags and categories, allows a ‘stream of consciousness’ style of writing whilst retaining the ability to rapidly and easily cross reference individual posts, reslicing the thoughts of the writer in countless ways depending on the search terms used. This is analogous to the ‘double entry’ format of journal that Moon suggests, where entries can be retuned to and revisited in the light of future experiences. Finally, their open-ended and inherently ‘unfinished’ nature echoes Schon’s insight into ‘the value of incompleteness’ (Schon, 1987, p 272), with the implication that learning is a developmental process, where the journey is as important as the destination.