My interest in Blogging started in the ESOL* classroom with young adult students who had for one reason or another been denied access to school as children. Consequently these teenage learners were having to learn not only a new langauge but also to read and write, probably for the first time.
Frankly speaking, I didn’t like what was going on in the classroom, and my interest in the use of digital technologies started in reaction to what I was seeing. The learners had exams at the end of the year, which they had to pass if they wanted to continue in the college. These exams were all writing based, so my job was really to get them over these major hurdles by hook or by crook. I knew how important passing the exams was for the learners, not only in allowing them to progress, but also to access employment, gain citizenship and at the very least to take some sense of pride in their work. Most of the set assessment tasks were pretty ridiculous and totally disconnected from the lives of the students, having to teach them ‘how to write postcards’ was the final straw for me.
As this was going on though, I recognised that many of the students were quite happy using computers and technologies such as mobile phones. I was struck by the contrast between their perceived ‘inability’ to read and write while at the same time managing Internet tasks with relative ease. All this turned my understanding of literacy upside down. What I did get from this was the connectedness between their use of digital media and technologies with their everyday lives and that through the use of new media they were able to find a voice that had remained silenced in the paper-based classroom environment.
The first step was to start a class blog with this group of students. I set it up and gave the students posting rights. We learned together how to use the blogging platform. We used the blog for classroom projects on food, music, sport and so on. All the things that teenagers are interested in. Most of the time I was the learner in these classes, I found out so much about them, they stopped being students and became people in my eyes. That’s the thing about blogging, people blog about what they are interested in, what they care about. If we use blogging in classrooms, or other forms of social media, it should never be for its own sake but to connect the outside lives of the learners to classroom learning.
And now you see why I resented having to teach them how to write postcards – how absurd!
It’s this connectivity between blogging and people’s lives that has really been the inspiration in my move to set up Babble. There is something really fascinating about how people are experiencing this ‘new’ social media and the way they are relating their life experiences, passions and interests. This is what I want to find out more about on Babble.
*ESOL – English for Speakers of Other Languages, these are adult learners of English living in the UK who have come from other countries around the world