The importance of blogging as digital storytelling.

Last Wednesday night, like many others I participated in the #LTHE tweet chat on the intrinsic and extrinsic value of blogging facilitated and led by David Hopkins.  As ever it was a fast and furious hour of tweeting. You can relive it via this storify.

The first question asked was “why do you write your blog? Conversely, if you don’t blog, why not?”

The reason I started blogging was very simple. I was told to. We had a change of direction in our web site at Cetis and it was decided that we would dynamically populate our web page from staff blogs. More than by accident than by design this approach actually worked with no editorial guidelines and a very minimal publishing process.  It did take me a while to find my blogging voice, but I am so glad that I did because my blog has become a central part of my working practice. More importantly for me it is actually my professional memory/portfolio.  If something significant happens I will blog about it.  Blogging is a bit of a habit for me, and as any writer knows, getting into and staying in the habit of writing is crucial.

As the tweet chat unfolded I was reflecting on how lucky I was to have been “made to” blog within a very open (in the sense of non-one told me what/how/when to write) and supportive environment in Cetis. Finding a reason to blog is one of the biggest hurdles for people to overcome.

During the conversation, there were many comments saying “I’ve got lots of half written posts” – I know that feeling well. Blogging can be great for professional development but conversely that can bring about its own pressures particularly around academic integrity.  If you are blogging with a professional qualification in mind, then you are probably inclined to write in a more formal, professional way. That takes time and the kind of time that not many have the luxury of, particularly if you blogging isn’t given as much recognition as for example a published paper, or an assessed piece of work.

One of the reasons I blog is that it allows me to write in a very informal, non academic way.  I am the first to admit that my blog lacks academic rigor. That’s one of the main reasons I keep it going.  It is a really comfortable place for me to start to play around with ideas, and to tell my stories. It has also help me to evolve my “proper” academic writing. For example, when David Walker and I wrote a chapter for The Really Useful Ed Tech Book, we used my blog to get feedback and comments for the chapter.

That said, I am aware that I’m in the somewhat luxurious position of having an established blogging presence. I don’t get nearly the same traffic on this blog as on my Cetis blog, but the numbers are fine for me. To be honest I’m not in it for the stats anyway.

As the chat went on, I did begin to think that if I was looking at blogging now, I probably would be like many others and still be a bit unsure, or start one and only post a couple of times.  I think I would be more inclined to look for a team/group blog so that the pressure of publishing wasn’t just on me. The TEL team blog at the Uni of Sussex is a great example of this approach. They have a schedule of posts and everyone takes a turn of posting.  We have a team blog here at GCU, however we haven’t got that organised. Importantly though we have a presence now and a place to share openly our activities. That is proving its worth in so many ways from just being able to remind ourselves of “stuff” and also sharing practice within the University and beyond.  We have somewhere to tell our story. And that is crucial.

The importance of constructing and sharing our own narrative of what is happening in education just now has never been so important.  Last week I also went to a seminar on digital storytelling, titled “powerful stories that empower others”.  There are so many powerful stories around what actually happens across our education sectors, we need to keep sharing them. We need to be our own digital storytellers. We all need to help fight the neo-liberal onslaught (oh my, didn’t think I’d actually ever write that sentence) that people like Martin Welller, Audrey Watters, George Siemens and many others are leading.

So if you have a couple of half written posts, why not take half an hour and post them?  If you do read other people stories and find the useful, share them – and every now and again leave a comment, that makes it all worth while. So come on, let our stories be heard, and make Simon Rae’s framework a reality.

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