“How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” – E.M. Forster
This sentiment perfectly captures the essence of how we learn through this hot technology inelegantly called blogging. You can learn quite a bit from reading blogs, and I’ll come back to that point. But I have found that the real learning comes from authoring a blog.
The act of writing has a way of crystallizing your thinking on a topic. As I have worked on this blog – and other journals more private than this one – over the last year or so, I have come to appreciate how much clearer my thinking becomes as I try to put my musings into sentences and paragraphs. (Although at times I wonder if my writing is actually all that clear.) I have found that writing forces me to coral nebulous thoughts into something coherent, to name and own what I really think on a subject, to bring together ideas from several sources, and to consider how a potential audience might react.
Having made a commitment to posting here on the Learning Journal blog at least once a week, I also notice that when something piques my interest, I store it away as a potential topic for an entry. Knowing I may want to write about an idea causes me to mull things over that may – in the past – have come and gone in my head without ever finding a place to settle. Even if I don’t actually write about something in the end, I find myself thinking about these interesting ideas more thoroughly. Lately, I’ve had to physically stop myself from proceeding some contribution to a work discussion with…”As I said on my blog…” – but I’m awed by the fact that this little experiment has had that kind of an impact on me. (I also keep a blog on my vacations which has been a huge hit with family and friends; from my perspective it compelled me to really notice where I went and what I did so that I could capture that essence on the daily posting of my travels.)
If I am really lucky, people react to my postings – with either positive comments or constructive discussion (usually in person) – that helps me to think more deeply. For example, my concpetualization of the learning environment design model has morphed and solidified over time as people have reacted to my writings and presentations on that topic and related ones. I benefit the most from people who don’t agree with a point or an approach; regardless of whether we come to agreement, I am forced to articulate my ideas further.
Reading blogs has also been an important learning tool for me. I enjoy reading what other people are thinking on a subject – especially when I know they are leading the way for the rest of us to follow. I find myself responding online and sharing postings that I think are right on point for a discussion we’ve been having (or should be having) in our field. I’ve read about books, conference presentations and even YouTube videos that have been sources of inspiration and quite informative to immediate projects. Colleagues tell me they don’t have time to read blogs, but for me it’s simply part of my daily news intake – my Bloglines link is one of the Favorites I click on to scan the day’s headlines. When I find a thought leader I admire, I check to see if the person blogs… when I find a blog I like, I check out that person’s “blog roll” (which reminds me, I really want to expand the one on my own blog)… when I am researching a topic, I deliberately look for blogs on the subject – ideas that are months or years away from being in print are often talked about in blogs.
I know more clearly what I think because I see what I say in my blog. I know more openly what others think because their blogs let me in on their ruminations (and rants) as well. It’s a wonderful thing. If you don’t blog, I highly recommend it.