These are the notes for a presentation at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) on the 4th of September, 2007 as part of the Let’s Talk Teaching day. In short, the presentation will try to explain that we need to move beyond the question about whether blogging is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘useful’ that is not ‘should I use blogs in my classroom?’ and move on to the question ‘what is the most effective use of the blog in my classroom?’. I’ll start by covering the position currently held by the audio, what we/I think blogging is, how participatory knowledge production is the new black, and then converge on the more practical matters of how one get into ‘this blogging thing.’ I encourage everyone to comment both before and after the presentation… It might help someone to do a better job 😛
Some introductory questions.
- introduction – who am I?
- What are we trying to do today?
- What is a blog?
- How many people here read? write? use blogs?
The case against blogging
The above link is from a classic article written in the Chronicle of Higher Education in the summer of 2005… Just about the same time as I started blogging full time with this blog. Here’s an excerpt.
A candidate’s blog is more accessible to the search committee than most forms of scholarly output. It can be hard to lay your hands on an obscure journal or book chapter, but the applicant’s blog comes up on any computer. Several members of our search committee found the sheer volume of blog entries daunting enough to quit after reading a few. Others persisted into what turned out, in some cases, to be the dank, dark depths of the blogger’s tormented soul; in other cases, the far limits of techno-geekdom; and in one case, a cat better off left in the bag.
The pertinent question for bloggers is simply, Why? What is the purpose of broadcasting one’s unfiltered thoughts to the whole wired world? It’s not hard to imagine legitimate, constructive applications for such a forum. But it’s also not hard to find examples of the worst kinds of uses.
- How can blogs be used as part of the research process?
- What would an interesting academic blog in your field look like?
One person’s journey.
- How do I blog?
- Emergent Communities
- The Long Tail
For my personal blog, blogging is the one place where I get to finish my sentences. Now… my sentences are often long, and perhaps too often meandering… but it does give me a chance to get thoughts out that otherwise wouldn’t make it to the public discourse. It gives ideas that I’ve had, or that I’ve noticed, a chance to circulate through the online network that I currently work with. They come back, and comment… and my thinking gets better.
For my community blog (edtechtalk.com) is more of a question of participating in a community effort. This is an audio blog, that we use as part of our webcasting. The whole comes together to create the content, to publish it and, more importantly, to ‘syndicate’ it out across the internet.
Important: it’s not necessary to understand much about RSS to get a lot out of it. In fact, marketing studies such as this one are showing that of all the Internet users currently taking advantage of RSS feeds as part of their Internet usage, only about 25% are even aware that they are using RSS feeds! You may already be using RSS feeds without knowing it — but a little knowledge about RSS will take you a long way toward getting maximum benefit out of this simple technology. Our goal here is to introduce enough about RSS so that you can use it to make your work, life, and research more efficient.
Blogging for me is about community. Communities tend to form around different bloggers or different topics of shared interest. By going to a website like touchgraph you can get a quick sense of what kinds of things are happening in any given community.
An article published in Wired magazine in October 2004 detailed the concept of the long tail. The concept is based on one of the critical differences between meatspace and the internet. The ‘real world’ is bounded by space. The ‘internet’, for the most part, is not.
Are we not, as academics, always serving the long tail?
take a breath… question?
Teaching and Blogging
- Blogging into a class from students.
- Blogging into a class from ‘experts’
- Blogging out from the classroom by the professor
- Aggregating by concept
Here’s a class on ‘Open Education’ a master’s course at the University of Indiana. The key reason for this use is that the participants retain their own content. It becomes part of their ‘portfolio’ of work. It’s an inversion of the regular ‘send the paper in and forget about it’ model that is the defacto standard in more of education. This model means that the content of the conversation lives on. It can become parts of conversations going on anywhere.
Here’s a simple example of what an edtech feedbook might look like if I was teaching a course. It includes my blog (optional, of course, if you don’t have one… just don’t include it.) This gives an opportunity for the classroom curriculum to be current, to be surprising, and, in many cases, for students to find resources that the teachers weren’t aware of. This also gives the students a reading list that they can take with them through their careers.
There are bunches of ways in which blogging can be useful coming from a professor. Anything from announcements for classes…
This is a webpage that is aggregating information related to snowclones. This means that any content that is posted to technorati on the somewhat new and obscure field of snowclones will show up on this site. It also takes the blogs of people who work on snowclones as well as any ‘del.icio.us’ account tagged with the word ‘snowclone’. In this particular case, in aggregates the comments from a moodle forum that the presentation was using as well.
Are there ways in which this can fit into your practice?
Where does someone begin?
There are several ways to get started with finding blogs that would fit with your position on the long tail. Technorati is the main place that people usually go to find blog posts. Another effective way is to find a trusted node. Once you find one blog that fits your tastes, take a look at what they read.
It’s very difficult to post this here… because i can’t give you access to my netvibes account.
link to a short tour of my netvibes account.
I use two different kinds of software for my blogs. For my personal blog I use wordpress and my community blog uses drupal. We also use elgg for our communities of students at youthvoices.net and personallearningspace.com. There are also a cagillion blogging services… I recommend edublogs.org.
Does anyone want to try a specific topic or genre?
How do some others blog
Recap – 8 slides to sum up
Blogging, like ‘academic writing’ is a vague label that really doesn’t do justice to the complexities of the subject it is meant to cover. Blogging is appropriate any time that people need to be kept ‘up to date’ with a topic, a person, images, videos… It should not be seen as a yes/no decision, but as a tool which, like everything else, works better when used appropriately. 🙂