Last week Lindsay Jordan from the University of the Arts gave a presentation on what academics could be blogging about. This week’s guest blogger James Leahy (VLE Content Developer at Regent’s College) gives a excellent summary of the talk:
Lindsay began blogging in 2006 whilst undertaking an MA in Education at the University of Bath on blogging in the context of education as part of an “Understanding Learning and Learners” module, specifically how the process of writing and consuming blogs can affect academic thinking.
Touching on the work of Lev Vygotsky and cultural development Lindsay has been able to blog about blogging (meta blogging) and articulating thoughts and writing for the public domain. She found that at first she had only a handful of people as an audience, (if you only have 2 people reading your posts, can it still be termed “public domain”?) but that even so the process itself can be extremely useful.
Lindsay’s presentation was focused on blogging for academics and she had four main areas that lecturers may wish to focus on when thinking of potential posts…
Firstly a good topic for a post is the first time you try something as an academic. A new teaching style; a new area of the syllabus; a new formative or summative assessment technique. Evaluating how this new approach went can be useful, especially as it’s likely to generate plenty of comments from the wider community
Another good example of this style of “firsts” is that of meeting a new class or study group for the first time.
Secondly a good area for a blog post is to compile notes on a recent class or event subjectively as a way of eliciting a similar response from others to gain feedback. Linday has found that this technique has proved a particularly effective “survey tool”, better than a formal on-line questionnaire, less restrictive, and much more likely to get a response!
Thirdly a blog post is a great way of using notes an academic has made from a recent lecture or conference and, by blogging, actively turning these notes into actions. The act of publishing the blog and the responses it creates are much more likely to translate the ideas to actions the blogger will then follow up on. This has been made even simpler with the growth of tablet devices where notes can be emailed to desktop machines to be worked up into a draft post next day or even edited on the train on the way home and then published before any of the other audience has arrived home, thoughts still fresh…
The fourth area for generating material is the practice of a person documenting and reflecting on their own formal and informal learning. This is different to a journal as the content and the blogger’s style of writing is altered by bearing in mind that what they write will be publicly accessible but Lindsay reminded us that with enough consideration, there is always a way of saying something that readers will be able to accept.
As an additional way of generating blog postings, and in the same way as it’s possible to “re-tweet” something on Twitter, it is now possible to “re-blog” an article on your blog. A number of blogging sites and web sites allow for content on your blog to be created by aggregating other people’s content. This increases the variety of content and the number of voices that will appear in one place whilst also increasing awareness of the wider blogging community through social networking and linking to other sites.
Lindsay followed up with a few further hints and tips:
- Do try blogging before you knock it!
- Do try showing your post to people you trust and ask for feedback before publishing it if you’re concerned.
- Do keep at it – sometimes it helps to combat “stage fright” if you try to consider the potential audience a bit less.
- Don’t overestimate how many people will read the article! It takes time to build up a following and a blogger might find it counter-productive to allow thoughts of a wide readership hamper their output.
- Don’t underestimate the power of talking to yourself! The process of writing and publishing, even if no one reads the post, can be helpful for exploring and developing ideas
- Don’t expect posts fully developed at first. People who are new to your blog are unlikely to read long articles and it takes a while to find your “voice”. The style will not be like writing an essay or an email and a diary doesn’t force you to articulate in the way a blog posts demands.
The only way to produce quality blog posts that reach large audiences is to spend the time and effort keeping at it.