I have been writing this blog for almost 18 months now, and thought it time to reflect on whether I have stayed true to what I wanted to do here, and to see if ‘the art of blogging’ exists?
I started with a view to organising my thoughts and random reading materials in a vain effort to collate and share with anyone who was interested in the same things as me; eLearning, mLearning, eAssessment, Social Media and Networks, twitter, Web 2.0, etc … all these and more in the world of higher education. Where I have ended up is with a monthly readership of +7000 unique visitors and +500,000 hits, over 1500 people following me on Twitter, and +8000 views of my SlideShare presentations (not to mention 51 instances of the most popular presentation on Twitter embedded on other blogs).
Firstly, what is the ‘Art of Blogging‘?
I write for pleasure and to share my experiences, readings, and rambles around the Internet. Some people like it, some don’t, but blogging is so much more than this.
If you want to be a better blogger the least you should do is participate in ProBloggers “31 days to build a better blog“. The book is the result of a series of daily tasks I signed up to (with several thousand others) last year, covering all sorts of activities such as;
- Reader audit,
- Dead-link hunt,
- Post promotion,
While much of what is covered can be found elsewhere, and is a case of common-sense, the overall delivery and approach of ProBlogger’s work is bringing it all together, along with other uniquely insightful activities that I have not seen elsewhere.
Nicholas Cardot writes about his 6 sure-fire strategies for better blogging, listing;
- Content (fresh),
- Content (targeted),
- Content (creative),
- Content (original), and
- Content (entertaining)
So, content is important then? Of course, without it there wont be any readers, but of the list above which is more important than others? Is targeted content more important than original, or entertainment over creative? In over 280 posts I’ve made here I’d say each blog entry has it’s own hierarchy from the list above, and no two posts should be looked at in the same way; the the content stand on it’s own.
Does this answer the point of the ‘art of blogging’; I don’t think so, no. I don’t know if there is such a thing as an ‘art’ to blogging that can be easily defined for each of us, other than we all have our own reasons to blog, our own individual need, as well as background and requirement to what we want to get from it.
At the same time as I started this blog entry off I also posted to Twitter;
I’m an experienced e-tutor with Blackboard and Moodle, but it wasn’t always that way. I learnt a lot the hard way by trial and error (nothing unusual here), but didn’t record my journey and part of me regrets that. However, with the advent of social media, I am having to learn a lot of new skills – not so much in the moderation area, but in terms of design and integration of diverse media into a coherent learning ecology. Its to try and capture small moments of insight or difficulty that I have set up a blog. I write mostly about practice, but I throw in comments on readings too.
This blog is mostly for me, but a few colleagues look in and contribute, which I find really valuable. It’s also been used as part of a formal peer review exercise. Having a public to blog to is really useful, even if this public is largely imaginary in my case (I’ve set things up so that my blog can’t be found by search engines).
I am focusing on social bookmarking at the moment. I’ve been using Delicious for my own purposes, but bookmarking is quite a different experience when trying to make it social with students. So there is a lot of new learning for me here. There are practical considerations to using social media in education, which I am capturing on my blog, so that I don’t forget what to do in future, get inspiration when using other social media, and possibly share with colleagues too. Because I am essentially at the design stage right now and only have a small pilot one the go, I make a lot of comments that are practical in nature. I’ve provided a summary of such considerations about Diigo at http://escalate.ac.uk/6764.
I also comment on my teaching practice, to identify what works and what needs changing in future (I am a fan of action research). For example, I’ve written about the first time that I assessed a student’s work in Diigo. Some of the comments are obvious when I read them now, only a few days or weeks later, but they’re still valuable they are recording experience, and sometimes just writing things down pushes me towards new insights or new conundrums or even possible solutions. I also revisit old posts occasionally and comment on them – it may look a bit strange, but I’d rather work that way to try and track how my ideas develop.
Anne-Florence Dujardin, Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies, Sheffield Hallam University