A Tale of Education by Blog
One of the stronger influences that lead me to return to study at university has been my experiences reading and commenting across the blogsphere. In many ways it’s provided the traditional broad ‘liberal’ education that my engineering and science degrees lacked through a self imposed technology focus. Blogs provided the opportunity to engage in a wide range of topics, in my own way, at my own pace. Where sites such as Wikipedia enable access to knowledge, quality blogs provide a continual educational content covering many topics of interest along with an environment that facilitate discussion and hence critical assessment of my current understandings of the topic in question; playing in part the role of the teacher and tutor.
The inspiration for reading blogs began about a year or so after I landed my first job after graduation. My university studies cover a broad range of electronic and computer topics ranging from digital circuitry, through software engineering to databases and web development. My first graduate job was in the power industry; ironic given that power engineering was the only section of the electrical engineering course I’d avoided almost completely. My role evolved into effectively a data analyst for the strategic consulting team, although at the time no one managed to really come up with a job title that effectively described what I did. It was a role that forced me to engage in a wide range of unfamiliar topics such as business strategy, economics, government regulation and politics. A freshly sparked curiosity and general feeling of educational deficiency (despite the fact I seemed to naturally adapt to such topics) inspired me to seek to improve my knowledge through the great (and more importantly free) information resource: the internet.
The first non-technology discussion site I started to visit regularly was On Line Opinion; a memory brought back by it’s recent troubles. It’s still a site I read somewhat regularly as it continues to provide a range of interesting and insightful articles from across the ideological and political spectrum. Again I was encountering a broad range of unfamiliar topics I was finding increasingly interesting, although without the stress and pressure of the workplace. The topic that gripped me the most was one that created rather virulent discussion amongst many commenters: feminism. This lead me to the mainstream feminist blogs, a experience that was rather unsatisfactory given the poor tolerance for dissenting opinion. It wasn’t until I stumbled across a site called Feminist Critics that I began to recognise the academic potential of blogs. In stark contrast to the dogmatic and ideologically intolerant discussion on the many feminist blogs I’d previously encountered, it’s a place that advocates an approach of mutual respect and academic like rigour to the discussions that take place (even it struggles to deliver sometimes).
Exploring things further, I discovered the Ozblogistan collection of blogs by diverse set of Australian writers covering a wide range of topics through quality posts and discussions. There are many more blogs I currently have in my list, and I’ll probably get around to linking them all through some form of blogroll eventually. Throughout the process I began to realise that the passion I’d had since childhood for learning all about computers had grown into a passion for learning in general and I began to seriously consider how to include more formal study in my future. So now I’m embarking on the journey of studying a bachelor of laws and possibly a change to a new and challenging career.
Looking forward, in a less personal and immediate manner, I can’t help but wonder about the future of blogs and the internet in general as a distributed form of accessible and free education for the masses. Seeing April from ethecofem add a collection of “Education Resources” in additional to the typical blogroll makes me wonder if there’s a future for a form of educational aggregators. In the way that news aggregators such as Google News collect news articles from across the internet, collating and indexing them to best facilitate up-to-date awareness, these educational aggregators would index the diverse nature of educational potential from across the internet and collate it in a way that best facilitates learning and understanding.
Of course, until I can actually get a recognised degree from the University of Blog, I’d best return to the textbooks prescribed by the “sandstone” University I’m paying good money to attend.