Blogging as public pedagogy

This blog – the whole site – is one of two featured in a newly published article by Dr. Carol Azumah Dennis. The other is Kate Nonesuch‘s blog, Working in Adult Literacy‘. The study is in the International Journal of Lifelong Education.

This screenshot describes the journal, which is an excellent resource for reflective adult educators.


The abstract below gives a flavour of the study. The full text is available by subscription only.

Carol Azumah Dennis

Blogging and social media provide (comparatively) free opportunities for open dialogue and shared learning about education. Blogging can lead to new ideas and perspectives as other people comment, add links, share, collaborate and challenge.

The ‘Reader’ feature of WordPress blogs opens up a wealth of reading and these virtual public spaces offer rich pickings for reflective practice.

The haphazard and spontaneous nature of web communication means that unexpected responses can follow once a blog or a comment is written. The interaction between different online platforms is unpredictable and discussion can move from one channel to another with surprising agility.

The ‘Publicize’ feature on WordPress can publish links from a blog automatically to Twitter and LinkedIn and copy it to other blogging sites. Email followers receive links. This means that responses and discussion are spread over a variety of online platforms and not just directly on WordPress. Various online curation tools also pick up blog links and publish summaries in collated digests. The whole discussion is uncontrolled, democratic and becomes ‘co-owned’.

The boundaries between online and offline communication become blurred. One form complements the other. Conference content is shared via social media and responses fed back. This is sometimes displayed in real-time on large screens as a crowd-sourced commentary, which, in turn, informs blogs.

I’ve also been told about voluntary WEA Branch members who print out copies of blog updates from this site and circulate them in paper formats. (Is this flipped blogging?)

Connections with several other bloggers – too many to name – have introduced me to a wider community of interest and practice that complements debate and development in my work with the WEA. These bloggers include Kate Nonesuch and Carol Azumah Dennis. I have never met either of them and my only contact with them is through social media.

You can find an ‘Ultimate List of UK Education Blogs‘ at the excellent multi-authored Echo Chamber blog. The authors have devoted a lot of time to putting the list together and are pleased to hear about other blogs that could be added as the list evolves.

Policy, pedagogy and purpose are central to many of these online and offline discussions. The journal article suggests that Kate’s blog and mine show a shared commitment to creating alternative educational futures. That alternative should include changing the perception that education is only for children and young people and only preparation to meet employers’ needs.

The blogs on the ‘Ultimate List’ present a range of views on these and other educational issues. They are free to read and shared generously. ‘Public pedagogy’ is a good term for them.

Doesn’t all this activity eat up too much time? It could do for people with educators’ curiosity and a natural inclination towards involvement. The web might be uncontrolled but we are in charge of how we use our time. We can’t read or respond to everything but dipping in and out of resources, using tools such as Twitter lists of bloggers, helps to have the benefits of ‘CPD with a cup of tea’ without being a slave to it or being too distracted from other priorities.

Digital literacy – essential or desirable?

There’s no question that adult educators need basic literacy and little doubt that information literacy – knowing how to research, find, assess, use and manage information – is a fundamental aspect of teaching and learning.

What about digital literacy? There are various aspects, sliding and evolving scales of digital literacy, so what is a reasonable minimum expectation for proficiency in 2013?

Should adult educators be expected to communicate by email and social media and research via the internet? Should we know how to find, evaluate and create information using digital technology and to use digital applications to enrich our teaching and professional development? In other words, what is essential and what is desirable?

A Twitter discussion last night using the hashtag #ukfechat has prompted this blog. The timing coincides with the forthcoming launch of a new WEA Tutor Portal for us to share and update key course administration tasks and information electronically.

During the Twitter discussion, Sarah Simons commented, “Think there’s group of people pretending digital age isn’t happening & other group perhaps overplaying essentiality?”

diglit mrs ss

We can all probably identify someone at each end of this spectrum, with most people being somewhere between the extremes, but we’re also aware of the increasing pace of public services becoming digital by default. People who are unable to use email and the internet are at risk of being excluded from activities and services. Carol Azumah Dennis’s tweet reinforced this.

Diglit dbd1

Many adult educators are creative and proficient users of technology but others might benefit from support in developing their skills, not just for their work but for life in general. Could Bob Harrison’s suggestion of digitally literate students acting as technology mentors for their tutors be worth exploring further?

ukfechat dbd2

It’s a model that chimes with the WEA’s approach to relationships between tutors and students and with our Digital Activists’ Inclusion Network (DAIN) in the East Midlands.

Thanks to Sarah Simons for facilitating the Twitter chat and sparking a productive exchange.

What do you think?

(Twitter users can follow last night’s conversations using the hashtag #ukfechat)