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