Landing : Athabascau University

Reflections: the liminal learning perspective

A forum tool seems to encourage our extroverted nature to add ideas, add comments, On the other hand, I think that blogging, particularly slow-blogging (Barbara Ganley) is more suited for one's introverted nature. All of us are attracted to both forums and blogs to varying degrees. I find that using my blog as a personal archive suits my more introverted nature. I can certainly do the blogging for networking, but it is more for extroverted characters, keen to tap the energies and make synergies involving others. Micro-blogging seems to be a more appropriate fit for the more extroverted bloggers. This certainly has implications for using blogs for instruction, as the features of forums, blogs and Twitter (or using the Wire feed) all provide different types of learners a tool to express their ideas.

My thinking is that we all need a set of balanced, rounded skills so we are able to manage with using these differnt tools as the circumstances arise. Thus, both educators and students should make the commitment to try out these various tools as part of their commitment to learning, to have acquired the skills, and have had some time to reflect upon why/how it is a suitable tool for them personally, and in what circumstances the tools are in fact compelling and appropriate, requiring the commitment for use by the learner.

I think it is important we approach blogging with a view to the long-term, with the intention to embrace different type as blogging spaces, and take on different roles to see how well they fit.

Some of us prefer to be private bloggers, with just a few guests and assessors. Others prefer the open range, with an audience of thousands. Still others prefer a few close peers. Still others prefer to blog for oneself. However, regardless of one's preferences, one needs to hold a personal commitment to try out these various settings and blog in various contexts, taking on different roles.

Educators need to embrace a personal commitment to lifelong learning, and encourage that level of commitment to their learners and peers to embrace the differing perspectives so one can be more balanced and rounded, capable of comfortably shifting through different perspectives and roles as they are required. One needs to work within many different conditions to feel more and more at home within any one of them. A lack of comfort within large number of contexts and roles, combined with a discomfort with shifting to new tools to acquire new skills and knowledge, limits us, limits our learning potential.

Educators have a significant role to play in encouraging learners to embrace new learning challenges, or re-inforcing self-limiting beliefs that keep learners in holding mode. One role of educators is opening and ecouraging dialogue with their students (as peers) about the resistance, ambivalence, and personal struggles encountered while adjusting to using new tools and new learning contexts. I recognize that many of us are uncertain of new changes, and don't have the time and energy to devote to learning something new and untested. BUt I assert that the process is a vital one, as it prepares the way for cultivating a flexible, adaptable attitude. More importantly, it encourages the liminal learning perspective.

Change, transition, and adapting to new ideas are becoming a constant for most learners. We all need to recognize that change occurs at a faster and faster pace. Acquiring a liminal learning perspective can boost our capacity to embrace different learning, however uncomfortable it might be.


I needed time to adjust my negative attitudes towards forums within an LMS. And guess what? I needed to recently facilitate a group forum using Moodle Fourms. I needed to embrace the tool and learn the skills necessary to take advantage of its benefits while minimizing its drawbacks. I realize that forums can play a lot of important roles. I spent some time participating in a number of group forums (both formal and informal) and participated at length in some discussion threads. I observed that the emotional sense is different with forums than with blogs. You open the forum hoping for a comment - you read other comments and fire off your own comments with enthusiasm and anticipation. That is the lure of the forums - they are highly social. But the draw is their immediacy, their currency.

Not so much with blogs. You don't open up your own blog eagerly anticipating that someone will have replied back to one of your posts. You don't seek out others' blogs to necessarily respond to their posts. Most of the posts are about your own personal take on things, or a response to something you have read somewhere else. That other blogger will not necessarily know you have weaved their ideas or quotes into your own post, unless you send off a trackback, or add a tag that can be traced back. In effect, most interaction is done at a distance, often anonomously, and often weeks, months, or even years after the original ideas were posted. What are the implications for that cultivating that kind of interaction within a learning community such as the Landing? How can educators speak highly of the long-term benefits of blogging in the Landing, when they themselves do not blog in a sustained manner?

Over time, the long-term bloggers recognize that their ideas start to get read, their ideas get replied to, or begin to get re-tweeted on twitter, and more and more people are viewing the posts. This is what I refer to as blogging "in the open", which is sort of ironic, since you are aware of only a very small fraction of your audience, those who make the effort to contact you directly.

I especially appreciated comments made by one peer blogger who clearly does not want to commit to blogging in the open about their professional concerns. Jo Ann Hammond referred to blogging in the open using the metaphor as birthing, growing and nurturing and safeguarding the blog before giving birth to it, and opening it up the blog to the public. I find the metaphor especially useful, particularly for personality development and life-blogging.

I don't quite feel at home with Twitter. I find the twitterverse quite busy, quite overwhelming. I send out tweets to notify groups about new blog posts, but seldom dip in and visit regularly. George Siemens (I am sorry I don't recall the source) indicated at one point that he learned much more about his colleagues in a very time period of time thanks to Twitter than after many years through the blogs. The twitterverse is so much more immediate, so social, it is a high-octane open stage that I am uncomfortable (as an introvert) participating in it. However uncomfortable I might feel, I aim to extend my skills so I do become more comfortable over time.

I wonder about the differences for twitter and blogs between disclosure and pace of interaction. Why do we craft our identities so much, so precisely, when crafting posts for our blogs? Why do we reveal a tiny slice of our passions using blogs, but are willing to reveal so much more to others through Twitter or chat or facebook? Do personalities naturally gravitate to specific technologies, or do we in fact evolve over time and naturally gravitate to differnt technologies that open up different personal potentials?

I have noticed how hard it is to manage the regular posting on blogs when more and more attention is spent on link harvesting using Twitter and other feeds. I have noticed experienced bloggers branch off over several different blogs, and others stick to one blog and place only specific types of posts into it. Many bloggers blogging for more than a couple of years and who have blogged about 200 posts or more seem to grapple with the question of whether to keep everyithing in one blog or branch off and build multiple blogs.

I remember a big transition for me was to move the blog posts from the safe space of the school blog to the open range. I needed to choose to migrate certain posts that matched the range of topics, and I needed to re-tag them, re-categorize them, review and revise them. The experience of reviewing previous posts with a goal to present to a public shifts one's perspective.

How we present ourselves to multiple audiences requires us to define our limits of self-presentation, our virtual personae. This requires a reflective blog, just to consider this. I think that this self-reflective blog, this meta-blog, is part of the "executive" personal blog that oversees the other blogs we have been posting on as owners, or as contributors.


  • Although a deep introvert, I find the idea of making someone momentarily happy or meeting their expectations just by responding to a discussion posting brings me joy. It's a painless albeit disembodied form of social success.

    Mary Pringle November 30, 2010 - 10:04pm

  • hi Mary,

    Your comment reminds me of what Stephen Downes mentioned at some point about the need for us all to cultivate a sense of altruistic reciprocity. I think it is really true that many learners want to contribute ideas, and are motivated by the reason that you describe, but are concerned about the perceptions from others (peers and their instructor). In effect, the de-motivator of judgement sometimes cancels out the joy of dialogue.


    Glenn Groulx December 1, 2010 - 1:44pm

These comments are moderated. Your comment will not be visible unless accepted by the content owner.

Only simple HTML formatting is allowed and any hyperlinks will be stripped away. If you need to include a URL then please simply type it so that users can copy and paste it if needed.