2018 feels like the year that my blogging had been the apprenticeship for, with the OU crisis at the fore. My most popular post by some way was this one posted the day our VC resigned. It followed on from a semi-viral Twitter rant and subsequent post a couple of weeks earlier. Prior to this life had not been good at the OU, and like anyone sensible who worked there, I began to cast around for opportunities elsewhere. It wasn’t a healthy place to be. But through these posts, and Twitter a new sense of camaraderie emerged with colleagues, students, associate lecturers and wider community. Having a well read blog meant that I could contribute to this, and during the peak crisis many people contacted me privately saying thankyou for giving voice to their frustrations, as they felt a sense of powerlessness.
Since the change, I have decided to cast my lot in with the remainers (no, a different set of remainers. But them too), despite many of my colleagues leaving. After the role in the crisis, I felt a sense of responsibility, and so I have also taken to trying to use this blog to amplify good work and talks at the OU. This is partly to counteract the narrative that became reinforced over the past 12 months that the OU needs to ‘get digital’ and become a 21st century university, which completely ignored all the work we were doing in this area.
My most enjoyable blogging action was the 25 Years of Ed Tech series, which I started on a whim in order to tie in with ALT-C’s 25th anniversary. I wasn’t sure I’d see it through, but it was a lot of fun, and received positive responses. I’m currently in a cottage on a very windswept Cornish coast attempting to turn this series into a book.
My most commented upon post was nothing to do with ed tech, but rather when I wrote about losing my dog, Bruno. I don’t often do purely personal posts, but I was inspired by Amy Collier’s heartfelt piece of writing on the loss of her dog, Sam. I found both the writing of this piece, and the kind comments helpful in dealing with it.
What these three posts (or series of posts) highlight for me once again is the value of a blog as a central identity. I could have used other media for each of them, but by having the blog it combines to a more powerful effect. For instance, I could have written about the OU for a formal outlet, such as the Times Higher (and indeed, after I posted it, much was picked up by the THES and I was asked to contribute to a couple of pieces). But I would have been behold to an editor who would decide whether to run it, and would want to shape the article. I could have proposed my blog series to a book publisher, but it was only by working through it online and getting feedback that I came to see what shape it could take. I could have posted about my dog on FB (and I did link to my post from there), but that has a limited scope of readers.
The blog was the ideal place for starting, sharing and developing all of these aspects. All those years of writing crap blog posts about VLEs and web 2.0 finally paid off this year. It’s almost as if it was worth it. As Partridge would say – cashback!