In the last week I’ve twice been described in introductions to people as “Don blogs”. It’s as if by blogging someone can draw some conclusion about me from that fact – regardless of what I write about.
I did a quick Google search for “blogito ergo sum – “I blog therefore I am” – apologies to Descartes. Maybe you can tell something about someone who blogs? But when I think about the range of people whose professional blogs I read there doesn’t seem any common stereotype which could be applied.
I think a key factor which is influencing some people’s perception about blogging is that it’s seen to be connected with ego. The very word “blog” has the potential to be an obstacle and cause an immediate negative reaction. If the word only serves to exclude – rather than include – then it becomes serious handicap. That’s why I prefer the term “Learning Log”.
A “Learning Log” can be captured in a relatively simple tri-colon: “Where you’ve been; where you are; and where you’re going”. I’m not talking here of travel in any sort of geographical sense, but more about the journey which relates to our opinions, ideas and perceptions.
A Learning Log imposes a discipline upon the reflective process, which, although it may be going on informally, or tacitly, all of the time, can often be lost in the ‘jungle’ which forms much of our daily, weekly and monthly work.
The Learning Log just gives you that brief – and, for me, ever more valuable, opportunity to step outside and look back upon your practice and direction of travel.
The reflective power of the on-line Learning Log is magnified when the contribution of others’ comments is taken into consideration. The Learning Log therefore provides an invaluable strategic map, in that it enables you to retrace your steps and see where you’ve come from, identify where you are at any one point in time and, hopefully, enable you to explore the future in a relatively safe environment.
The other, incredibly useful role for the Learning Log is that it enables you to see connections between various things that you are doing that might not be apparent if they were contained within their normal silos. For me it’s this connecting function that helps me to make sense of some the very disparate things that I do in my day-to-day work.
If this seems focused upon the benefits to the Learning Logger then that has been deliberate – the benefit of a Learning Log to other people is very much dependent upon the reader’s perception – although one would hope that it might be of some interest.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been looking for other educational manager’s blogs from across the globe. The result of my search has been to find a quite disproportionate imbalance towards bloggers who are not in significant management positions. Such a perception only serves to reinforce the notion amongst some that blogging is essentially a subversive activity, which in turn reinforces the traditional “them” and “us” mentality in education.
There appear to be three main obstacles which prevent educational managers from keeping a Learning Log: lack of time; confidentiality; and status.
To which I would respond:
1. Time spent in open and honest reflection is never time wasted, it was John Dewey who said that “We only learn from experience, if we reflect upon experience”
2. There are many things which do need to remain confidential but in reality it only relates to very small parts of our jobs and even then it’s possible to reflect upon the underlying issues without breaking any confidence.
3. Keeping a Learning Log which is open to the world challenges the traditional hierarchy – anybody can respond and have an influence upon your thinking – but just as importantly gain an insight into your world – which for so many is remote and shut off from their realities.
I’m not suggesting here that keeping a Learning Log necessarily means that anyone will become a better manager or leader – but I would argue that it’s this kind of collaborative engagement with others which might help education break free from the predominant hierarchical culture where the expectation is that “the leader thinks and the led act”.