It occurs to me this morning that one of the reasons I love blogs and blogging is because I'm a reader and a writer. I can consume vast quantities of information quickly because I've learned how to scan and dip in and out of posts. And I love maintaining my own blog because for me, writing is often the best way to process what I'm learning.
I would venture to guess--and perhaps I should do a poll on this--that the vast majority of people who are online and active in Web 2.0 right now are people who love reading and writing, too. But what of the millions of people who don't process information that way? How can they join in the learning to be gained through blogging? I have a few thoughts on that . . .
Start with Tumblr
For those less inclined toward a more "traditional" blogging experience, I think that Tumblr may be a better option for a platform. It's a "microblog" meant to contain short "bites" or hits of information. You can post text, audio, video, photos, quotes, etc. As a learning tool, it may be perfect for the blogger who doesn't like to write because it lends itself much more to the multimedia approaches I'm going to suggest below. That's not to say that a blogging platform can't help with that too. I just think that Tumblr has a look and feel that might be vastly more appealing to this kind of blogger.
For Visual Processors
A lot of people are visual learners--they like to draw their way to understanding. They're the mindmappers and the chart-drawers, the ones who solve problems on the back of a napkin or on a whiteboard. For them, blogging might look like this:
- They scan their drawings and then upload to Flickr where they can organize and engage in conversations around what they've drawn. They can create Flickr groups and find others who share their interests, just as bloggers do.
- With bubbl.us, they can create mindmaps that can be shared with friends or embedded in a blog.
- Video is another option, for those who want a more elaborate means of getting visual. Set up a video camera, draw on your real-life whiteboard, and then post to your blog through YouTube.
- With Tumblr, visual learners can also quickly link to other visual media they find online. I suspect their tumblelogs will be stunning visual feasts.
For Verbal Processors
Many, many of us learn by talking. While I tend to process information by writing, one of my clients, for example, MUST talk her way to her main points. When I do work for her, I have to let her talk to (at?) me for hours, taking notes and asking questions, and then I go away to turn what she said into a written document. Blogging would not be an option for her unless I was doing the posting. Clearly people like my client need another way.
- For verbal processors, podcasting seems to make the most sense, of course, but not in any heavy-duty kind of way if the purpose is to podcast for learning. I see blogging for this group being something like using G-cast, a free service that lets you record a podcast by cellphone, with hosting on their site. This frees people from having to record at their computers, so learning can take place anytime, anywhere. Your G-cast can then be uploaded to your Tumblr microblog where others could comment.
- Voicethreads might be another option, one that could be great for visual learners as well, actually. With Voicethreads, you can engage in conversations--verbal and through text--around documents, videos and graphics. So the verbal processor might upload a document and then talk through their understanding of it.
For Those Who Don't Like to Read
The other side of using blogs to learn is reading other people's blogs. But what if you're not much of a reader? Well there are always podcasts, of course, but you'll still miss out on reading other people's blogs. One potential solution is vozMe. Simply cut and paste the text of a blog entry into the vozMe window and then click on the "create mp3" button. vozMe will create an mp3 of the entry and then read it to you. You can also upload the mp3 to your site. Admittedly the vozMe voice is a little like listening to Hal's less accomplished computer brother, but it's still a way to get past the reading hurdle for those who really hate it.
I'm feeling like it's important to explore alternative means of using blog-type activities to process learning because I'm recognizing that one of the barriers to people using Web 2.0 to reflect is that there's such a heavy emphasis on tools that are appealing to readers/writers. But there are lots of tools available that make it easier than ever to reflect and post thoughts through a variety of media. We just have to think about how these could be used and start to acquaint people with the possibilities.
What do you think? What other ideas do you have to support blog-type reflection for people who aren't into reading and writing?