One of the presentations I am working on these last few weeks is about using blogs as learning tools.
When I first got here I had some ambitious goals to get my new classmates online, sharing their thoughts and personal learning process with the world, in the hopes that others out there might either be interested or influenced, or better yet, experts that can influence us. Perhaps I was a little too ambitious. The class blog has yet to get off the ground due to some seriously slow progress with the school server technicians. I have been evangelizing to individual classmates, prompting them to set up their own personal blogs, offering them all the tech support they need, as well as server space. Although it has not gone as well as I had dreamed, a few have started blogs, and are still in the process of finding their voice. Considering their previous exposure, the period of settling in, and the classwork, I'd say it is a success in progress.
I am excited about this upcoming presentation because I think that the time may be ripe now to re-introduce this. People have settled, our term is coming to a close, and when we get back, everyone will be starting on their thesis. What better time to start with learning online? Some of the class has already started with blogs, and some others are showing interest. Some (including me) have even been experimenting with using blogs and wiki as an aid in preparing our group projects. Then, after a few months, we will all be heading off back to our own corners of the globe, and I those of us who have blogs will have much stronger ties over time. If nothing else, the networking aspect alone should get 75% of them online by summer.
I have actually thought long and hard about making my thesis topic related to online learning through social software (such as blogs). I see a big need as some of the sustainability centered organizations we have been in touch with have their own "e-learning" systems, but these are more or less multimedia presentation of textbook information, followed by an interactive quiz. While this can be viewed as one form of e-learning, and I assume it gets the job done. I tend to agree with Lilia from Mathemagenic when she laments that "e-learning means e-training. Sad." It just doesn't excite me.
A representative from an NGO in Brazil was here a while back talking about how they wanted to educate key employees at several client companies, but they only have one person on staff to handle it. He was asking for help, but did not seem to keen on the online learning approach when I suggested it (of course I was thinking blogs). Regardless of wether or not it would work for them, I can't help but be excited about an online learning community focusing on sustainable development, sharing ideas and expertise, learning from each other, collaborating with each other, without having to come all the way to Sweden to do it. I definitely want such a community after I have left here, so I guess I have to work on it... at least get it started, so that when the others come around, it will be there waiting, and there will be a success story to show the Brazilian office, and maybe they will rethink their approach.
Although that is not what the main topic of my thesis project will be about, I intend to make learning through blogs and blog communities a part of it. I will also be asking for volunteers to take part, so if you want to help save the world, stay tuned.