Something in Bill McCoy’s post has been flipping in my brain the last couple of days, the part about overcoming the cultural issues of Web log use. “…if teachers and administrators simply don’t really need to disseminate timely information online, or if even a much-decreased level of required effort still is too much for overworked, underpaid educators…” And Seb really nails it when he says: “…we necessarily are confronted with people who simply do not have any interest in sharing information on their activities, who don’t want to engage in a conversation with the students, their parents, and the wider community.”
I think this is my biggest fear, and would be my biggest challenge given the task of implementation on a wide scale. I can make the case for Web logs as portfolio, as knowledge management tool, as classroom portal, as any number of other things. I know they can work in these capacities given the person creating and using them commits the time and energy to use them well. It takes more time to write it all down, to find relevant links, to set up the sites. Using Ken’s rule, I can guess that about 1/3 of our teachers will adopt, and another 1/3 may come along grudgingly. The other 1/3 won’t. Yet underlying all this is what Bill refers to as a cultural shift in how we teach. We have to believe in the benefits of the technology, see the ways it can improve our teaching, implement it in creative, personal ways that motivate not only our students but ourselves.
Seb takes the point a notch further when he says:
“But I even argue that also learners need to build up “enthusiasm, altruism, optimism” to be comfortable to share an externalized record of their learning process with others. We live in a culture that mainly focuses on the measurable (…often short term) results of one’s learning efforts. The struggle, the mistakes, the detours, and breakdowns are usually kept private. So, while it is really important to talk about issues of tools, access, and hosting… we should not forget to think and converse about the conceptual shift that is required to support human learning efforts with these new technologies.”
Conceptual shift, culture change, call it what you will, I think this is the major issue.
A few weeks ago an old friend asked what I was doing to assess the effects of my use of Web logs on my student’s learning. I basically told her that right now, I’m in the “Do No Harm” stage, that what I am really interested at this point is CAN this work. I think I’m at the point where I believe it can. The much bigger challenge lies ahead, and I’m happy to see that conversation seems to have begun in earnest.