Did you notice the word "Blue" in the image above? Did you read it as red or did you stumble as you tried to make sense of it? If so you experienced a bit of unsettling cognitive dissonance.
Obedience vs. Civil Disobedience in Blogging
If the rebel Henry David Thoreau were alive, he would be an avid blogger. The 19th Century Romantic American Writer enjoyed writing and journaling daily, and his experiences from Walden Pond emerged from regular writing sessions.
A blog would be the perfect tool for Thoreau to rattle the brains of passive readers on the internet. The transcendentalist writer loved to defy expectations and challenge the traditional thought processes of his readers.
Although Walden is a tranquil novel, Thoreau generally was an agitator, who resist the traditions of governments and men:
“I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”
He believed in finding and propagating truth and right whatever the cost. Bloggers today tend to shovel traditions and customs down the throats of complacent readers on the internet. They are instructed to do so by experts in blogging.
However, strategic and thoughtful teaching through your blog sometimes requires that you write posts that create an unpleasant experience for readers. You can accomplish a lot by turning their initial anger into meaningful long term learning through cognitive dissonance.
What follows is how to piss people off to help them learn and grow.
WTF? A Definition of Cognitive Dissonance
Thoreau generated cognitive dissonance in the minds of readers and continues to, having influenced revolutionaries such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, and Nelson Mandela.
Cognitive dissonance does not rely on cheap exclamations that shock, such as the "WTF" above. It is something that occurs much deeper in the brain, and deep learning requires it.
Think of a timein school when you were taught a new detail or idea that just blew your mind. It might have happened when you were young, but you are more likely to find these experiences in adolescence and the college years.
For me, I remember reading the George Orwell novel 1984 in my senior year of high school, at the then rural and small town of Middleton, Idaho. Let me tell you that the story of Winston Smith rocked my narrow patterns of thinking, pushing me to a feeling of anger and resistance to the unfamiliar.
I hadn't thought before of the ideas and implications in the in the book, and my vision of the world was narrow and small. My innocent mind was wounded when I encountered a passage such as "“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
I had no concept of oppression, and no hint of the possibility that my own government could be guilty. The mental experience was unpleasant but necessary for learning. This definition of cognitive dissonance describes my experience:
"psychological conflict resulting from incongruous beliefs and attitudes held simultaneously." Merriam-Webster Dictionary
For an awesome definition of cognitive dissonance, with elaboration, details, and examples, the psychology departments of universities are the best sources.
Cognitive Dissonance and Deep Learning
Although not detailed in the dictionary definition, cognitive dissonance is important for deep learning. However, aimlessly pissing people off is not a strategy for encouraging learning.
The key is in making the learning process strategic, including the cognitive dissonance you generate. Still, after all your efforts, be advised that deep learning and a change in the way people think will be hard fought with few actually embracing new ways of thinking.
But, my point is that it is worth the effort and discomfort, and the world changes because of people who resist the norm and teach others how to actively learn over their lifetime. The learning environment that you wish to create and the message that you put forward must align with your overall website mission and purpose.
Brian Honigman writes about taking a stand of resistance in his discussion of branding in Entrepreneur:
Part of taking a stand means setting yourself apart from the mainstream. With so many competing offers, one clear way to make your product stand out is to defy certain conventions within your industry.
So, consider some things as you plan to encourage learning:
Strategies for Producing Innovative Changes and Learning
So, as promised, below are ideas on how to accomplish your teaching and learning moments. Experiment with them. Add to them based upon your experiences and ideas. Subtract from them if experimentation does not yield positive results.
The most important idea I want to convey is that you should be conscious of what you are doing and why, moving forward with clear objectives that are worthwhile and helpful for your audience. Some ideas for teaching and presenting innovative thinking in effective ways:
Resistance Is Not Futile
You can become an authority and innovator who benefits the lives and careers of your communities, but you must have courage, be thoughtful, and use caution.
If your intentions and objectives are noble, you will start in the right direction. Check out these resources for further assistance in your journey:
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