The idea of starting this blog was to promote some discussion and possibly debate around the ways in which we may create education systems that are accessible for all learners, value diversity and support the development of a more just society. These are grandiose objectives and I have to admit that when I was urged to begin this journey it was with more than a little scepticism. Many of my colleagues will tell you that technology and Richard don’t go together – he’d far rather have his nose in a book (it’s probably true!). The blog was not my idea, but one that was rather thrust upon me by well intentioned colleagues at the University of Northampton as a means of promoting some of the work in which I am involved, particularly in India. It would, they said, be interesting to share my thoughts with others.
Having come this far it is appropriate to attempt some kind of evaluation of whether the effort has been worthwhile. Should I continue or has the time come to abandon the experiment and move on? I suppose the only way to gauge if the blog has had any value is to consider the replies that have been posted in response to my daily ramblings. Have they really promoted the discussion that was sought and have the original intentions of encouraging dialogue been achieved?
Several individuals have posted kind words commenting on some of the postings. Never believe a writer who tells you that they don’t appreciate good reviews. I am no exception and it has been gratifying to receive a positive reaction to my efforts. However, far more interesting in terms of the original intentions have been the range of thoughtful and perceptive comments posted by visitors who have considered the ideas put forward and expanded upon these on the basis of personal or professional experience. It has been interesting to see the reactions to some of my postings from colleagues, some known to me personally, others with whom I have engaged only by reading their work over a number of years, and to have had the benefit of hearing their opinions. Equally stimulating have been the contributions from individuals with whom I have had no personal contact who have informed my learning through their comments based upon personal and professional experiences. If anyone has learned anything from this blog I am sure it is me.
Whilst the discipline of composing a daily piece for publication has been an interesting exercise that has made a few small demands upon my time, the opportunity to read what others have had to say about the subjects covered has brought many rewards. Not least has been an increase in my own understanding of the ways in which those who have posted have thought about the issues of inclusion, social justice and educational values.
A recent posting by Kanwal Singh in response to my piece “Empathy not blame – a critical component of change” typifies the contributions that I value as assisting me in my own understanding of issues discussed over recent weeks. Kanwal expresses the opinion that:-
“There are no outright experts in inclusive education today and very few who can serve as models. What we need to do is to enter schools, not as ‘experts’ but as ‘partners’ -who pool in their respective effective practices and ideas to reorganize and create an inclusive school”.
What Kanwal articulates here is exactly what I am sure others who have responded to this blog also feel. Her contribution to the discussion is important not only because of the opinion that he has expressed but also because of the questions he raises that need to be further debated (Thank you Kanwal, I will think about a more detailed response – watch this space, as they say). Her call for the development of partnerships for the sharing of effective practices echoes the comments made by others over the past month. If this blog can provide a forum for discussion of important questions such as these then the experiment that I began with scepticism may be one worth continuing.
So, let’s see what emerges over the next few weeks. Perhaps the debate will intensify and the learning opportunities increase. In the meantime, I am grateful to everyone who has offered an opinion or observation and look forward to hearing more from you, and from others as we proceed. Thanks to everyone who has posted for your participation, and to those of you who have been reading, I hope you will feel able to join the discussion.