“You know you have to learn computers. Or else you’ll never survive this world.” My friend’s father said this to me as he lounged on his couch, flipping through the TV. It was 1993. Email was not mainstream and most of my English term papers were typed on a word processor–an electric typewriter with some memory and hard drive. I was 15 years old, scared to death of failing and with a penchant for the written word. What the hell did I know about computers? How was it even relevant to my life. Technology was merging into the mainstream and this man on the couch–who didn’t know the difference between server and login–preached to me the absolute necessity to understand computers.
Life before the Blog
Fast forward four years, I’m one of the few females in a computer science class, learning about programming in the male dominant field of CSI (not the cop show, that still wasn’t created yet). Forward a bit more, I’m a software trainer working for a company called Class Link. I’ve still only a rudimentary knowledge about computers in education. But the company simply needed a consultant with some brains who could teach in K to 12 settings and deal with teachers. I was a good fit having just returned from teaching English in Japan to people of all ages. I signed on and loved it. I caught the technology and education bug and in 2004 began a master degree in English Education with a personal concentration on multimedia in the classroom.
Two years later, I still considered myself an English teacher first, never a techie or really even a writer. Then in my tenure granting year, things began to change. A call for self-expression began to consume the world. Blogs changed the face of political campaigns. So-called “mummy blogs” began to explode on social media and peer-to-peer sharing moved to the forefront. Whereas previously, society relied on newscasters broadcasting from radios and TV screens to tell us what happening in the world. Now we could google a query, filter for search results specifically in blogs, and get human responses to human questions.
The world was changing. People were scared of a failing economy. But in my life, something had to shifted. Something continued to wedge between the established foundation of life until suddenly the bedrock broke apart. So despite the promise of pensions and security of tenured positions, Neil and I decided to take a career break, volunteer abroad, and write.
This blog was born at the tail end of Neil’s last year in a Bronx public school. Three months later we had secured our first press trip to the Galapagos Islands. SLR camera and handy-cam in tow, we had a half baked plan to travel, to write and, see what could happen.
So what have we learned about blogging?
Through blogging, you can find answers to questions by accessing the expertise of real people, writers and bloggers who’ve built their lives on their passions. It can be anything from knitting and juggling to travel and politics. The point is that for every query there is an answer. So what does this have to do with education?
Education essentially is the practice of drawing out ideas, to measure the true metal of an individual by calling upon her existing knowledge and saying to her: now what? What do you think of xyz’s situation? Can you elaborate?
I believe that blogging is the missing link, a potentially critical measure of intelligence. Thus far in education, we’ve approached intelligence in an extremely general point of view. Every child runs through the gamut of English, science, history, math, language and liberal arts. Every child is graded and expected to pass his grade level through a concerted effort by passing all subjects successfully. But what if after a baseline education, a niche is possible.
Is there a place for blogging in education?
A child learns to read and write. To express himself to others and to calculate basic sums. Then at a certain age and level of competence, he then chooses a specialty by way of apprenticeship or internship. Of course, originally, young people were funneled into the family business which could range from blacksmith to transatlantic merchant. But the focal point was still the idea of niching, of becoming an expert in something.
Is this not a great form of self-expression? A student learns the basics, moves into intermediate learning, and then grows into mastery. In this system, the student could surpass his teacher. And rightly so. Otherwise, are we then just a society of generalists in which only the wealthy can afford to pursue higher quality education?
Blogging provides the perfect forum for such experimentation and learning. Sharing ideas and challenging the norm sits within the basic foundation of blogging. The newbie writer breaks onto the scene, scuttles all previously accepted methodology into oblivion. The system grows, evolves. Kids now are already engaging on the internet as content creators. On Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, they’re making connections and expressing their values. But they need guidance and positive role models.
What if we let children express themselves in creative ways? Let them explore and learn and become proficient?
Would this alleviate alienation among peers? Would it impact the devastating and potentially dangerous effects of bullying and cyber-bullying? What if the child that was the victim of her peers felt valued because of his or her writing? What if she found an audience that valued her ideas? Wouldn’t that make a difference? Wouldn’t that be worth a little investment in the idea of journaling even if it is online writing.
I’m a 10 year veteran educator and a life long writer. At the age of 32, blogging changed my life. I’ve discovered the planet with World Winder and now developed a blogging partnership with my best friend. Imagine what blogging could do for a child.