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Blogging breached the guidelines a bunch of us followed in 2002 – now anything comes and goes on e-folded origami paper we call a blog
Fig. 1 Blogging brings like minds together – through their fingertips
I did a search in my own blog knowing that somewhere I cited an academic who described blogging as ‘whatever you can do on electronic paper’.
Chatting about this at dinner my 14 year old son trumped my conversation with his mother as I tried to define a blog and what can go into one with one word ‘anything’.
For me there has been a slow shift from text (the weblog-cum-dairy journal thingey), to adding pictures (which have become photo / image galleries, photostreams of Flickr and concept boards of Pinterest), to adding video … to adding ‘anything’ – apps, interactivity, grabs, mashups, music …
My starting place is here.
This ‘eportofolio, writers journal, aggregating, dumping ground, place for reflection and course work’.
You see, is it a blog at all? This platform, I’m glad, has its design roots in a Bulletin board.
The limitations of our OU Student Blog platform works in its favour.
I can only put in two search terms. In Google I might write a sentence and get a million links, in my wordpress blog it might offer have the contents.
Less is more.
Here I search ‘blog paper’ and get 112 posts that contain both words.
I’ll spin through these an add a unique tag. My starting place.
But to study blogging would be like researching the flotsam and jetsam that floats across our oceans – after a tsunami.
Starting with a book published in 2006 ‘Use of Blogs’ I want to read a paper ‘Bloggers vs. Journalists’ published in 2005. A search finds richer, more up to date content. Do I even bother with this first paper? (ironic that we even call them papers).
I can’t read everything so how do I select?
- Toggle through the abstract, check out the authors, see where else such and such a paper has been cited.
- Use RefWorks rather than my habit to date of downloading papers that MIGHT be of interest.
Whilst storage space is so inexpensive it is virtually free there is no need to clutter my hard drive, Dropbox or Google Docs space.
Which makes me think of one of my other favourite metaphors – kicking autumn leaves into the breeze. That or drowning in info overload, or as the Robert de Nero character in Brazil, Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle, who vanishes in a pile of discarded paper … my mind wanders. We do. It does.
I stumble in the OU Library as I find I am offered everything under the sun. I am used to being offered academic papers only. So far all I’m getting are scanned images of articles in newspapers on blogging. All feels very inside out.
Where’s the ‘turn off the printed stuff’ button?
I fear that just as I have never desired to be a journalist, preferring the free form of your own diary, letters, and of course blogging and forums online, I will struggle to write within the parameters of an academic paper. I’m managing assignment here, so I guess I’m learning to split the two. A useful lesson to have learnt.
Is this a research methodology?
I am looking at a book on blogging, ‘Use of Blogs’ (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). I have it open on p.31 Notes (i.e. references) for the chapter Journalists and News Bloggers.
As I pick through these articles, papers and reviews written between 2002 and 2005 I find several of the authors, a decade on, are big names in the Journalism/Blogger debate. It’s as if I am looking at a tray of seedlings.
It strikes me as easier to start in 2006 with 27 starting points when the field of debate was narrow, rather than coming in from 2013 and finding myself parachuting into a mature Amazonian jungle of mixed up printed and digital, journalism and blog content.
Courtesy of the OU Library and RefWorks I have nailed this article after a decade of searching:
Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age — It’s a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel, New York, N.Y., United States, New York, N.Y.
Reading this around 23rd /24th September 1999 prompted me to start blogging
Then I’d been reading blogs for a few months but had a mental block with uploading HTML files and then along came the first ‘ready made’ DIY blogging platforms.
The last 12 years makes amusing reading – particularly the battle between journalists and bloggers. And who has won? Is there a difference anymore? Journalists blog and bloggers are journalists and entire newspapers are more blog-like from The Huffington Post to the FT … which within three years will close all its print operations.
To be used in learning and to be a genre to study blogging needs to be part of formative assessment
A blog therefore becomes ‘an active demonstration of learning’ with cumulative feedback. I’ve only received ONE Tutor comment in my OU blog and that was to say why was I blogging and not getting on with my TMA. This person had their head so stuffed inside primary school education of the 1960s it made me feel like tossing my cap in the air.
Why MAODE students blog (Kerawella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:
- an audience
- the utility of and need for comments
- presentational style of the blog content
- overarching factors related to the technological context
- the pedagogical context of the course
‘Bloggers vs. journalist: The next 100 year War?’ 2011, Public Relations Tactics, 18, 4, p. 17, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
Bruns, A. Jacobs, J. (2006) Use of Blogs.
Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G (2009) ‘An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education’, Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 1, pp. 31-42, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
Rosen, J. (2007) ‘Web Users Open the Gates’, Washington Post, The, n.d., UK & Ireland Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
- Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (mymindbursts.com)
- The Ultimate Guide to Advanced Guest Blogging (seomoz.org)
- NaBloPoMo Soup: Add Your January Posts (blogher.com)
- The Neverending Debate: Who is a Blogger? (zemanta.com)
- blogging, or look out February, DaBloPoMo is coming! (espressococo.wordpress.com)
Sources of inspiration and getting it down.
Get this for a start: Use of Blogs (2006) Axel Bruns and Joanna Jacobs.
It persuades you why to blog. Each chapter is written like an academic paper – an essay at least. Chapter 5 I found I was copying out verbatim (which I can’t do here). Go see ‘Can Blogging Unspin PR’ Trevor Cook.
Your starting off point can be anything at all, once you start (for me at least) it is like opening a vein.
Who cares if it is a note to yourself. If it’s work or course work remember that you can compose then recraft as often as you like; what is more, you can turn access on or off as you please too – even allow comments as you please – with other blog platforms the list of linking choices is as broad as the destination board at Heathrow – you can ‘blog’ to a person, a group, people in different groups and so on (though this is a level of complication may turn the novice off).
If you are at all stuck for content ideas then my suggestions are:
- 1) Write about the deep past (everything you write is of course in the past) – what this might means is thinking of your earliest experiences of whatever your blog may be about – if it is about education then try these:
- 2) Your best friend at nursery school
- 3) Your first day at school
- 4) The funniest thing that your witnessed or did at school
- 5) The first thing you learnt and how
- 6) Add a caption to an old photograph then expand these thoughts into the era.
- 7) A birthday party
- 8) A Christmas
- 9) A first book
All of these are possible jumping off points; once you’re in flight you’ll be surprised how easy it is to steer back to where you had planned to be – who cares about the journey you took to get there – you can leave it in or edit out the first paragraph / chapter.
If you kept a diary at any time in your life – milk it! Put it up, selectively, verbatim and / or relived – you can even retrofit the date.
Getting it down
There is a beauty and simplicity to pen/pencil onto paper. Personally I find typing it up afterwards tedious and will find myself inevitably expanding beyond the way the thing was initially written. The mistake here is that you can/do with ease turn a natural, conversational flow of thoughts into something else – verbose at best, disjoined at worst. You then get into editing and saving sections/chunks for future entries.
Ideally, whether you have notes, an essay plan or mind map to guide you, I’d recommend typing directly into the Blank Box. The QWERTY keyboard is a piano keyboard and you’re playing a ditty or having a jam.
Most blog platforms have ample editing tools, the only warning is to save regularly in some if you are prone to distraction.
Even back up onto a clipboard or Word, though personally I’m not a fan of overworking a piece in Word first.
Have a notepad, record a thought on paper or into a digital recorder, have a device that you can readily use on the go – my most fruitful blogging years were when I had a Psion – I could type this spec-case sized device and draw it into my Mac to upload.
I’ll discover in due course an iPad can offer this facility – I believe it will (and some).
A final thought for now – if you can touch-type and write stream of consciousness then how many words can you get down in so many minutes?
Let’s say you think at FIVE words a second, talk at THREE words a second and type at 40-60 words a minute. In theory in five minutes you can blog between 200 and 300 words. Perfect length. Have a plan, three or so points to make and fire away.
My son might be online playing World of War craft often, but so are two or three of his best mates.
From time to time they down tools (weapons, magic wands or whatever it might be) and head into town, or meet up to kick a ball around. Ditto my daughter whose use of the internet is exclusively to talk more with her immediate circle of friends.
This is real.
A colleague who has had the ‘social media manager’ tag at the OU has gone the full loop and is a ‘Communications Manager’ despite being online all day. I see her point, we differentiate new practices with new terms, but drop them once we see them in context.
It has happened sooner that I thought but there ought to be no need to different ‘learning’ from ‘e-learning’ as it is just learning that exploits new platforms and tools.
The human element is important.
Our human nature demands that we have physical contact with others. We are sociable, which interestingly has me spending increasingly amounts of time as a ‘social media manager’ in meetings or calling up people to meet face to face over lunch or a coffee.
I appreciate that the MAODE is all online.
I wonder however if this ‘purist’ point of view is sustainable or even desirable. Or do those who can and want to meet up do so anyway?
(Meeting a fellow MAODEr for the very first time a few weeks ago was odd. We felt we knew each other, there was no ‘ice to break’ as we’d worked on group tasks together in a previous module).
Not once have I imagined the technology making the genuine educator redundant i.e. someone whose modus operandi is to help students acquire knowledge and apply it, even to instill a life long love of learning with some tools and techniques to see them through.
If on a holiday to the Dordogne you came across a person from the Paleolithic painting in a cave would you leave him to it, or offer him your oils and sable brushes, or show him how to use a digital camera? (or her of course).
You don’t change the desire for self-expression, or capturing the world around you.
I know educators in their 80s who marvel at the Internet and the opportunity it offers to inform thousands.
Just think of an academic paper that in the past (and still) may be formally presented to a group of ten in the faculty, a group of thirty at a conference, then published … and quickly forgotten, compared to an age where such papers are presented face to face as described, but live through live streaming or a webcast to several hundred, then shared, copied and commented upon by thousands, and before it is even formally published may be gathering in a large readership?
And this is done by nursery, primary and secondary school educators too.
You have an idea for a class, you share it and if it is liked, it is picked up and used in many ways by many different people.
Its no longer a case of saying, ‘I wish I had done that.’ With permission/creative commons, OER and all that, you can use the fruits of someone else’s efforts, tweaked and personalised of course.
I rather think it is an exciting time to be working in education.
Personally I hanker after contact though, to address, mentor and coach people, probably young adults.
Frank Cottrell-Boyce reflected on what an advantage he gopt doing year 6 over in primary school because he was too young for Secondary School.
Frank Cottrell-Boyce reflected on what an advantage he got doing Year 6 over in primary school because he was too young for Secondary School.
It is extraordinary how empowering it is to feel on top of a subject.
I had thought as I did H807 (Innovations in e-learning) that it would be good to do again, that it was all happening too fast, not just re-learning how to study, but knowing how best to function in this online environment.
As it turns out there is overlap between H807 and H808 (The e-learning professional); for the most part I am grateful. On the other hand I wonder if I couldn’t have done this MA in a year and done 20-30 hours a week instead.
Still, this is a chance for me to make choices about the plethora of tools and platforms available. This is the problem, having hundreds of software packages and Apps that may or may not make a contribution to a piece of work I may, or may not, at some stage prepare (probably not) and deliver.
I’m surprised how on a second or third go with Skype, Google Docs and Skype that you can feel at home with them and share what they do with others.
I translated a swimming coach’s CV on sports credentials from Catalan to English using Google Docs this morning. Extraordinary.
I already upload to Flickr and Facebook, and YouTube.
I blog anything between 1,000 and 10,000 words a day. I walk around with the means to photograph anything, video anything or record notes on anything all of which can be easily uploaded to a myriad of mostly free platforms.
And if people want me on a mobile device that easy for them to set up.
But what is the contents of my mind worth?