Sunday, July 1, 2012

Public Learning

Just before my friend and Chinese tutor 高健 left Taiwan for the summer we had an interesting discussion about learning through blogging - not through reading blogs, but writing them. He writes a blog about studying to be a Chinese teacher called iLearn Mandarin. I don't honestly know how I feel about this yet, but it is something I've been trying out ever since my adviser first told me to write a field blog almost 3 years ago....and now I have a second one called 中文練習 (Chinese Language Practice) at

How did I go from never even considering blogging to having 2 blogs in 2 different languages?!

Amazing what a little change in point of view can do to a person.

I never considered blogging before my adviser suggested it because this was my train of thought:

1. Why would anyone want to read my blog?

2. Why write a blog if no one reads it?

I should probably add some context to make this thought process a little clearer. First, I actually learned the word blog from my graduate school adviser (though I don't think he realizes that) so I was a little late to the game and still getting used to this idea when he suggested I write one. Second, I have always been really shy and dorky and so under the general impression that nothing I say is of much interest to anyone else. Naturally then the idea of blogging followed this general thought pattern.

I know my advisor had very good reasons for suggesting a blog to me because otherwise I would have ignored him. Though to be honest, its been 3 years, I don't really remember what he said. I think it was something about staying connected with academia while in the field ... or something...

Back to that conversation I had with 高健, because that is fresher in my memory. 高健 reads a lot more blogs than I do, and he often comes to our classes with great topics to talk about and ideas to try out. In this last conversation he mentioned a post someone wrote about the reasons behind blogging (for him at least - I'm sure different people have different reasons). This guy's ideas followed with 高健's own blogging experience and he suggested that I think about my own blogs in this way; in short, to blog for myself and not think about the readers.

Sounds a little selfish at first glance, but really its not completely self centered. First off, both of my blogs are tools I am using to graduate, so yes, at the heart of it I am doing this for me. However, by putting these thoughts and notes online I am also sharing my experiences with anyone who may be interested in similar pursuits. This blog is my broader journey through grad school and fieldwork and the other is my progression and practice in learning Mandarin. I post the good and the bad and maybe, some day, someone else will benefit from my mistakes or take comfort in hearing about someone else's struggles through these learning processes.

Why am I thinking about this now? Well my Chinese blog isn't public yet. I made it private so that only 高健 and I could see it because I was too embarrassed to showcase how childish my Chinese really is. For all the reasons stated above I have decided to make it public. I haven't actually changed it as of this writing, but it will go public as soon as I can finish writing up a little disclaimer. (I strongly feel the need to say something along the lines of, "Remember I am a noobie, so if I say anything offensive, its probably incorrect Chinese as I was likely trying to explain something mundane, like what I ate for dinner last night.)

Up until this point my Chinese blog has been just for me, but now it will be for anyone interested.  Will this make a difference? Will it help anyone else? Is making my learning process public really a good idea? 誰知道?Who knows? I don't even know how I could measure such results, or if it would matter enough to measure them. (Which reminds me - I have got to write a blog on measuring results - ok that one will be coming soon.)

I am still a bit nervous about this, but there it is. I blogged it and now I have to keep my word. I'll let you know as soon as I finish that disclaimer.

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