Welcome to Thing 5 of the first module of LD5D: digital things for learning developers. This week we revisit the first week, posted by Helen Webster, where we looked at creating a digital presence by creating and managing your own WordPress blog (though other free blog sites do exist); and the second week, posted by Michelle Reid, where she explored how WordPress could be used to create and maintain a professional online identity…
I’m Sandra and my post about blogging is less to do with the tools themselves (my limitations rearing their many heads); instead I am discussing the ‘why’ of blogging for Learning Developers: blogging as part of your own practice and blogging as practice to develop in students.
Exploring your own practice
There are many reasons for blogging as part of your professional practice: to articulate and promote your professional self; to reflectively explore your own practice; to initiate and develop conversations on topics related to your practice; to use a quasi-formal/informal academic space to develop your own voice. I have two blogs on the go at the moment: my learning development one: http://lastrefugelmu.blogspot.co.uk/ and the one that accompanies my most recent teaching: http://becomingeducational.wordpress.com/; I am enjoying writing both of them – and find different ‘voices’ emerging at different times in my writing.
How to start and not stop blogging
Many of you have been astonished to discover that that blog out there with your name on it, is in fact owned by you. So we start and stop blogging. How can we overcome the tendency, urge or desire to stop blogging?
For me the push came from being deleted at work. This huge interruption to normality, gave me permission to finally play with the Social Media spaces that I was supposed to be using in my LTA practice. I opened a Twitter account, I re-surfaced my FB account – and I found my old discarded blog. Yes, I had done that too. I started it up again with something that I really wanted to say: blogging about the deletion of an LDU… After a while I started to develop a blogging habit. I started to enjoy the fact that this space allowed – even enabled – a different academic voice to emerge. A voice that for me was more mine than that exhibited in a paper or chapter. Instead of feeling vaguely unsettled and ill at ease with this, it started to be part of the point of blogging.
- Give yourselves time to develop a blogging habit.
- Give yourself space to experiment with your blogging voice.
- Give yourself permission to play with the content and the form of your blog.
- Give yourself a blogging schedule and keep to it until it becomes more normal for you to blog than not to blog.
What to blog about?
As well as blogging about LD5D, a great way to develop your blogging self is to join more MOOCs (massive open online course). They are free and exciting. Follow a passion and blog about your own learning. Make conscious the implications for your own future practice and experience blogging the same way that many of your students will. Tip: Check out: https://www.coursera.org/courses.
Tell your story
Once you have blogged about your learning, you might blog about your practice: about what you have done at work – and why. Although this may seem the most obvious place to *start* blogging, a natural reticence seems to prevent this from happening. I’ve offered some tips below.
Remember that blog posts, unlike essays or formal academic papers, are best short, say 500-800 words. This is manageable! There is also the option of group blogging or guest blogging to maintain a blogging presence without having to write too often (which is what Helen Webster does). And don’t forget that (we hope!) there will be future LD5D modules, so you can blog as part of those. Finally – it would be great to set up a community of Learning Development bloggers and stream the content through the ALDinHE website perhaps. Let us know if you are interested in this.
Students: Blogging their learning:
Many courses require students to write reflective accounts of their learning. After a taught session students may be encouraged to make brief notes making their learning conscious:
- What: what they have done
- Why: analytical thinking: why they think they did it
- Reaction: what their reaction was to the different learning activity engaged with – building a picture of their own strengths and weaknesses as students
- Learned: brief summary of all they feel they learned
- Next steps: commitment to read, write,
Blogging their reflective learning journals develops student learning through the act of writing for real audiences and helps students to realise that academic writing is about having something to say. Loved this post by one of our first year students on his preliminary field work for real research project: http://moa1484.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/imaginary-friend/.
How to support student blogs:
Digital Storytelling – #ds106: Rather than telling students how to blog, encourage them to investigate what a blog should be via exploration of the #ds106 website < http://ds106.us/> and use of the blogging handbook: http://ds106.us/handbook/blogging/. On our #becomingeducational course, we ask our students to explore the whole #ds106 site and develop their own strategy for developing their digital selves.
Student quad-blogs: Organise the students into groups of four (quads). Each member of a quad has to read and comment upon the posts made by the other students in their group. This builds a sense that there is an audience there, reading posts. It helps build the sense of voice and writing with a purpose.
Student Projects and self-directed learning: Nerdy Teacher requires his students to set themselves projects – and blog about their progress… In this particular post he cites a student meta-reflection – an epiphany about learning that happened through this process: http://www.thenerdyteacher.com/2013/10/20time-makes-difference-edchat.html.
Blogs to follow or share
Following blogs can be part of your own professional development, an inspiration and a guilty pleasure. These are some of the blogs that I know and love:
- I love this blog by Michael Rosen on reading and writing in schools – and the general crassness of most educational policy on the same: http://michaelrosenblog.blogspot.co.uk/
- Just found this one on the flexibility and potential of digital media -with podcasts as well: http://livefreerange.com/digital-media/technology-womens-magazines-wtaf-podcast/
- More recently Emily Purser has started posting on being a language and learning developer in Oz: http://uncontente.weebly.com/2/post/2013/09/after-the-deluge.html
- And my friend Eloise Sentito publishes on her approach to LD from Plymouth: http://esonlearning.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/5-barefoot-barn-teaching/
- I follow Explorations of Style, http://explorationsofstyle.com/ for tips on academic writing, which I then post to my students. At the moment they are posting about #AcWriMo (November is Academic Writing Month). When I post info from this site in our Study Chat FaceBook page we receive many hits – which is …
- The same with the Thesis Whisperer: http://thesiswhisperer.com/2013/11/06/the-ups-and-downs-of-phd-research-2/ and
- The University blog: http://theuniversityblog.co.uk/.
How will I know if my blog is any good?
You can evaluate your blogging the way you might engage in any LD5D activity – see: https://ld5d.wordpress.com/reflective-framework/.
There is another and typically much more unsettling way of judging the success or efficacy of your blogging: counting the ‘hits’ you have had. When on #edcmooc (Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures), we were asked how our readership had changed if blogging the MOOC – and I noticed that my readership had changed. Whereas I normally posted to no one and their donkey; my readership tally across the four weeks of the #edcmooc rose to about 2000 hits. So, one way to reflect on and evaluate the success of your blogging might be to check your stats – and see how your readership grows.
If this bug really bites, get experimental with where and when and how you post – and then track what happens afterwards. See if there is a difference to your readership growth depending on whether you posted to Twitter on a Monday afternoon or Google+ on a Friday morning.
- Post a link to your blog in different online spaces: FB, Twitter, Google+.
- Make sure other people know that you are writing.
- Tell others on your MOOC, especially via the places within those spaces that are dedicated to the course or MOOC.
And if all this has appalled you: then perhaps devise your own evaluation criteria for your blogpostings: did you get to say what you wanted to say? How long did it take you to go from rough draft to post proper (set and keep to a writing time limit here!)? Are you keeping to your own publishing schedule (once a week – month – three months)? If not – what are you going to do about that (revise your schedule – start a MOOC and blog about your learning – share the posting with a colleague)? Are you keeping to a word limit? Are you happy with your word limit? What are you going to do to make sure you keep blogging?
Things to do right now: This week I would like you to blog about as many of these as possible:
A session that you have had with one student: what happened? What were the outcomes?
A taught session or Master Class that you have delivered as part of your work as a central or local service: explain both your situated context and the session.
An intervention that you have delivered in a discipline class or as part of an extra-curricular programme – with situated context and details of the session.
A meeting with a Faculty individual or team: how did the meeting come about? What did you discuss? What will be the outcomes?
A staff development or support session: what have you delivered and why?
Any reading that you are doing at the moment. This can be your formal academic reading and/or the blogs and Tweets that you follow as part of your academic development: what are you reading and why? Which type of reading do you prefer at the moment? What tips would you give other people?
And finally – KEEP BLOGGING!!