Baby steps…

In this guest post for the series on learning in different contextsEllen Graber in Mexico talks about her experiences introducing technology and promoting blogging in her setting…

Baby steps to shorten the gap… well it’s a wee step in the right direction.

I live in Mexico.
Imagine a whole set of different circumstances, such as
-limited availability of computers and internet in the home (except among a very few elite)
-most teachers resistant to technology  
-a low level use of internet tools and applications
-a fear of the unknown with avoidance behaviors
-and a long history of passive learning methodology.

Ouch! you say. As an outsider living in Mexico (an American ex-pat married to a Mexican), I saw technology and the information gap widen and widen. So over the past year I started to do something to close the gap by baby steps.

I set up blogging in teacher training classes and writing workshops (Teaching Knowledge & Just Plain English) in a university setting (among 60 English teachers only 5 use blogs or even technology). I created interlinked e-portfolios among teacher-trainees (a beginning local PLN) . I attempted to create reflective, interactive classrooms to stimulate a more active learning situation among student-teachers and teachers accustomed to passive learning environments. 

The results: resistance to change, avoidance behaviors, reprimands by the administration…I was only trying to create an active learning environment! Eventually, each semester, the trainees settle down and face their computer screens..and take a baby step.

This wee bitty baby step of blogging where I live in Mexico needs to continue and become established before stepping it up. 

I had hoped that after promoting blogging platforms in teacher training classrooms, teachers would continue blogging and accessing their ready-made local PLN. However, the reality is that after course completion, most new bloggers stop blogging completely.

Although teachers see the worth of blogging while in class, they revert to the passive learning framework so well entrenched in the Mexican educational system. However, they have learned the value of technology, another little bitty baby step,and they have learned to turn on the computer. Most adults do not understand their students’ penchant for FBing. Few graduates of my course have used the free web tools we explored together during their courses, but so far they have been battling with thinking about breaking out of the passive mold. They haven’t done it yet, but their students need them to…

I believe that most bloggers worldwide come from cultures which have a firm continuous history of written tradition. In Mexico, the written tradition was wiped out more than 500 years ago with the Spanish conquest. Look at any busy site’s cluster map and you will see little participation from countries in which an oral tradition instead of a written tradition prevailed, providing corroborating evidence of imbalance. The few of us in traditionally taught communities who do step it up  are looked upon as gurus, although I know I ain’t no guru! 

Some of us must advance by baby steps in order to foment wider participation among our colleagues before we are ready to step it up. There’s a lot to learn, and the gap keeps growing.

Ellen in Mexico.

Baby Steps photo: Giacomo by Debbie Fiorenza

8 thoughts on “Baby steps…

  1. Your post made me think not only about cultures with oral traditions, but students and teachers whose preferred means of communication is oral. I am wondering if I should explore the idea of a vlog-video blog with those students and then talk about the difference between the two. Do you think this would work with your students and teachers? And yes, we have to recognize the baby steps as the first steps are very important. Thanks.

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  2. Maureen
    Thanks for responding.If we add more technology, most of my students will run away and hide from it. So a vlog-video blog might be too much. I’ll give you an example. Last weekend I attended an International TESOL convention in Mexico…in my home town.

    I had left an oral assignment with my EFL students to talk about their family (beginners) or to talk about which celebrity they would choose to date for a day (upper-intermediate EFL) on Fotobabble with instructions and a tutorial in Spanish. I had left my teacher trainees investigating their personal learning styles, multiple intelligences and how knowing them could affect their teaching which they had to report in a Glog.

    The result: I received many emails saying that they didin’t understand from half my students. The other half admitted to spending more time stressing out than actually doing the assignments. (Hurray! Another baby step!)

    To get involved with videos, students need video equipment. Most of my students have the outdated cell phones that aren’t sold in other countries anymore. I must think carefully about each assignment before sharing it. Thanks, Ellen

    The result:

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  3. Great post, i must tell you while reading it i thought you were talking about Greece! The same problems and attitude here too. But some of us do take little baby steps hoping to grow up some day…Thakns for sharing.

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    1. Thanks for reading and posting. I just looked at Ed’s cluster map and Greece and Mexico are right next to each other with the frequency number of visits, Greece 448 and Mexico 421. I wonder how much is coincidental and how much isrelated to how well preserved the old-fashioned traditions are upheld in each country.

      We just will keep on making baby steps and get where we need to go. But we’re going ther. And perhaps that is even a different place than where the giant steppers are going.
      Ellen

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  4. Hello my name is Ashley Cohen. I am a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I was assigned to read you blog posts. Now that i’ve read it, I was glad he assigned me to you. Overall, great post! I enjoyed reading it, because you made me realize not all countries embrace technology like others. I like the fact of you taking the initiative to try and implement technology heavily in the school system. I really like the way you’re implementing it by taking “baby steps”. Great job. And you know they do say you can’t change over night, it takes time. Job well done! Enjoyed reading the post!🙂

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    1. Glad you liked it. When you start teaching in the US you might see a big difference in technology use among your students. I hope that as teachers we can help all of our students learn with baby steps to get them started. Ellen

      Like

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