<Image – revised version of Evan's 3rd Birthday by D'Arcy Norman http://www.flickr.com/photos/dnorman/48439662/>
I am three today. Yes, three years ago I started EdTechie, so here is another of those blogging about blogging posts.
First up, some facts:
- In that time I have done 451 posts
- I have gathered 1196 comments
- The average number of comments per post therefore is 2.7
- I have 1098 subscribers (although who knows how many are active)
- Most popular posts are:
- The VLE/LMS is dead
- A Twitter Love Song
- Social Networks will make us scared of kittens
- Ownership ain't what it used to be
- Future of content
- My first comment was by Juliette Culver (then White) on I verb therefore I am important, which was my about 6 weeks after I'd started.
Inevitably I've been doing a bit of reflecting, so here's a few things blogging has taught me:
Looking back on those early posts (if you've got a few spare hours, why not peruse the back catalogue?), it is clear I was trying to find the right tone. This is what has become apparent to me – it's not about blogging, it's about identity. I think I made the noob's mistake of being too personal in early posts, thinking I needed to detail every aspect of my life. I settled down to a more educational technology focus, but with a personal take on it.
The blog (along with twitter and more recently Tumblr, plus assorted other sites) is a key part of my academic identity. Indeed I'd go as far to say as it is my academic identity, or at least the one I am most comfortable with.
Things that have progressed since those early days include the use of firstly images, and then a range of multi-media. It is rare now that I create a post that is only text, I usually add in a Flickr CC image, or a YouTube vid, Slideshare presentation, music embedded from Skreemr or Blip, Animoto movie, etc. This ease of use of multi-media has been one of the big cultural shifts of the last five years I feel. Creating a multi-media posting is now so simple that the absence of additional media almost seems a punishment.
My blog has been very significant in my understanding of this, in that it has driven the awareness of these other tools, and provided the space to play with them, as well as the motivation to test them. Without a blog I would have maybe made use of some of them in presentations, or have been trying to find a use for them in courses. Which brings me on to my next point.
Prior to the web, one's only outlet was through official routes. If I wanted to express an argument or point of view I would have to write at least a conference paper or a journal paper. The academic publishing process had become so formalised that only certain types of publication made it through. While the scientific paper structure is good in chemistry, it was less well suited to exploring ideas in educational technology. The only alternative was to write a book, or get taken up through a journalistic route. While I could (can) write papers, there are a lot of things I want to explore in other formats. Beforehand we were shut out from doing so.
And whadyaknow, it turns out that there is this whole area of academic discourse we can have that goes around, inbetween and alongside the formal outlets. It's not just that this allows you to have a wider range of discussion around topics, but also different types of interaction. It also permits experimentation, which was both difficult to realise, and would never find an audience before. For example, I could have maybe written a journal article (albeit a less interesting one) instead of the Future of Content post. But I couldn't have found an outlet for a video from it. On YouTube someone has left a comment on this video bemoaning that
"this kind of superficial treatment, full of sound and fury signifies
little of actual value. This is a poster child for the Cult of the
The reference to Keen is telling here – this was an experiment, playing around to see if I could take a lengthy textual argument and condense it into a movie. I'm not sure it works either, but the key is that I could try it. The Keenians (and this commentator) don't want you to be allowed to do this, unless you pass through some pre-filter. This great liberation of expression and discourse has (and is having) profound effects on society, and I feel keeping this blog has been the means through which I have been able to experience it.
It's real life too
The easy criticism levelled at people who spend any time online or speak of having online friends is 'get out in the real world!', as if any time online necessarily excludes real life interaction. I've found the opposite to be true – I often meet people (at the OU or conferences) who talk to me with a level of familiarity that is born from reading my blog or following me on twitter. There is an element of kick-starting conversation. For instance, I am looking forward to attending the UK ed tech conference ALT-C this year because it is the first post-Twitter one I have been to, and I know there will be a big group of Twitter friends there who I can meet up with (assuming they're not all trying to avoid me).
Similarly in Cardiff there are several face to face meetings such as the monthly social media cafe Trydan, the Ignite series, Cardiff web scene, etc. These are all facilitated by the online presence people have on blogs and twitter. When you attend these the only pieces of information you need to impart are your twitter id and blog address. The online community has made my local one more significant and valuable to me.
So after three years I wouldn't necessarily say 'you should blog', because I think people have different forms of expression. Some may be great podcasters, or YouTubers, etc. But I would argue that developing an online identity is a crucial part of being an academic (or maybe just being a citizen) – there is an online identity for you out there somewhere, you just need to find it. And when you do, nothing will be the same again.