Monthly Archives: September 2013
As I think about readings this week, I am struck by the phases. Carliner notes, “Over the past 30 years, technology has affected technical communications in profound ways” (29). And indeed I stopped to consider this thought and the profoundness of the past 30 years and the ways in which technology has affected us. For a minute, I just thought about my last 30 years, and then I thought about how many of those years I have been using technology. Then I began to think more in depth about the five phases in this development of technology for technical communication. I ended with questions: what makes one a technical communicator? And what phase most affected me in profound ways? What I found to be true is this (and this will date me): I have really only been fully involved in three of the five phases. The first two were periods of my life that were not necessarily times of my life when I was 1) aware of all the world’s technologies and 2) using them in my daily life was not something I connected to my literacy skills in the sense that I was learning how to become digitally literate.
I was growing up in “The Desktop Revolution”, so Phase Two would be the time I began to become literate in the use of computers. By no means was I a technical communicator during this time, and I was not “automating publishing tasks” in any way, shape, or form. I was simply a child and then a teenager in the 80’s and the 90’s. So, yes, I am a child of the eighties, and I did not own a desktop computer during this phase of my life, and now reading about this aspect of that time period made me think quite a bit about the technology changes that were rapidly occurring around me. I did, however, immediately connect to some of the technical aspects that I read. As a matter of fact, I felt a certain sense of nostalgia when I began to read about the first PCs in the early 1980s, which used 5.25 diskettes. I remember the diskette clearly and vividly. I know what it looks like, I remember what they felt like, and I held them in my hands when I was in elementary school. What I could not have told anyone until now is that those disks only held 360,000 bytes of information. Then when I read that “by the end of the 1980s, systems had internal hard drives with up to 50MB of storage capacity,” I began to really connect to the phase of my life that I clearly remember using PCs: the 1990s.
From Phase Three: The GUI (Graphical User Interfaces) Revolution, I remember mostly this major development mentioned by Carliner: “…the movement of the Internet from a limited-use network by those working in the defense industry and at universities, to a ubiquitous communications network” (37). It was this phase of my life that I was just beginning to feel the omnipresence of the Internet. Wow! I had never seen anything like this world of information before, and now to consider the implications of how this medium affected communication really causes me to pause for a moment and appreciate the enormity of the Internet. I also found it quite interesting to reflect on this idea that the “rise of the browser” also created standards for sharing information. Sharing information during this time period was not the same as it is today. The standards for sharing information continue to evolve as we enter new phases of technological advances. This makes me think of Netiquette rules I share with my students. While these go beyond standards for sharing information, they arose from the same concept: a set of standards needed to address working in an online environment, much to do with sharing information. Furthermore, even the idea that some organizations did not necessarily want to download the plugins needed to run video and sound at the time intrigued me because now we function in a world where, I find, plugins are accepted as a natural part of the system. There might be some reluctance to download them, but for the most part, anyone using a computer or technological device knows that plugins are part of the deal.
From Phase Four: Web 1.0 came the power of the Internet and the World Wide Web among other things. I fully remember exploring the WWW, and now reading from the perspective of how it profoundly affected the world of technical communication, I am struck by how rapidly people were changing with the technology. Email made its emergence as the primary means of interpersonal communication, and it continues to thrive in the business world and, for me, the educational arena. But now I cannot remember exactly where I read it (maybe from last week’s readings), it seems that more and more often other emerging methods of communication are becoming the mode for newer generations, such as texts, tweets, and live chats. When I think about my own email communications, they have taken over much of my world, and yet, I long for good ol’ face-to-face talking. I have a love-hate relationship with email these days. I love communicating, but sometimes I would rather just pick up the phone or visit the person. Another aspect of this phase that I can easily connect to is the ability to display ever-changing content and increased capability to display both audio and visual content. When I think about how and when I first began using the Internet, I was in awe of the content available, and now thinking about how the technical aspect of it all was developed, I have a greater appreciation. I simply learned then that a hyperlink was a clickable link, and navigation bar was at the top or side of a page. I now know that those features were by design. The interface was changing and becoming what it is like today while I was learning to use the Internet and explore the Web. I could not have told you what HTML code was when I was living in this phase, but I can now. I must select to work in HTML or not in most messages I compose and most assessments I create. Before I would not have had a clue what that meant.
Finally, Phase Five: Web 2.0 is the time of my life I most connect to my technical communication skills. I was fresh out of college in 2001, and I had my first professional job at my current institution, but I was only part-time then. I began working and using a computer daily at work. As I progressed in my career, I became more and more responsible for using technology to communicate with students, staff, faculty, and others. In my personal life, I heard about MySpace, although I did not get it at first….I thought, “What the heck is MySpace?” And of course, I was drawn to social media as a form of communication. Back at work, I was communicating via technology every day, and eventually I learned to use our Learning Management Content System and Learning Management System. And at another point, I was in charge of creating a Writing Center webpage with our college web developer, so I would say I was the content provider for the web page. Honestly, I did not know how to develop web content; I had to learn to do so. I also became familiar with the term Web 2.0 tools much later when I began taking classes in E-Learning and Online Teaching. This phase for me really extended from the mid-2000s into my more recent years. Web 2.0 tools really became present in my life when I was working on my graduate classes here at UW for that program.
On a final note, from Phase Five of my life and technology for technical communication came the blog and the wiki. I am a bit embarrassed to admit I did not know that wiki originates from a Hawaiian word for fast, but now I do. And I always think of Wikipedia first when I hear or read wiki. This makes me find a way to connect to Qualman here. He notes that “Wikipedia proves the value of collaboration on a global basis (24). I find that I have spent many phases of my life in collaboration, and more and more, this collaboration involves massive use of technology. For instance, I am now involved in the creation of a MOOC for my college; this is a recent project I have been asked to join. I consider myself a novice, and I am learning more and more as I go. I am not sure I am a proponent of the MOOC, but I am forging ahead with the project in an effort to understand the MOOC and its educational value for varying audiences and populations. I have only just begun, but I can say that from the blog to the wiki to the MOOC, I am constantly moving into a new phase of my technical communication. I have lived through a wiki-world in a sense that everything seems to be moving so fast. Each time I turn around, a new phase is starting somewhere. It just keeps moving, and somehow I keep finding myself blogging or wiki-ing away. BTW, my wiki experience is limited. Yet again, another phase that I must explore more fully.
Carliner, S. (2010). Computers and technical communication in the 21st century. In Rachel Spilka (Ed.) Digital Literacy for Technical Communication. New York: Routledge.
Qualman, E. (2009). Socialnomics. Hoboken, New Jersey- John Wiley and Sons.
In the Introduction of Rachel Spilka’s Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, she poses three questions about how the field of technical communication is responding to and evolving with digital technology that the anthology sets out to answer. She sheds some light on what being a technical communicator has meant in the past, what it means today, and what it might mean in the future.
Spilka argues that traditionally technical communicators have acted more as individual contributors than as contributing members to a larger team effort but that technology has transformed the field into one which requires us to take on new and broader roles and responsibilities and work more definitively in the context of a team.
I experience this daily in the workplace, although until reading this chapter I had no idea whether this was typical. My main responsibility is to write user documentation for my company’s web based software applications, but I also perform the roles of user advocate, user experience and application design consultant, customer support representative, and editor for anything that the outside world might see. I work directly with the development team, and I contribute in ways that definitely go beyond technical writing.
One of Spilka’s main themes is that we as technical communicators need to be willing to evolve with our field as new technology emerges if we want to stay relevant. I tend to agree with her, but I have encountered somewhat the opposite problem; the users of my company’s software are mostly of an older demographic and seem somewhat resistant to receiving technical communication digitally. I would like to provide our users with interactive web documentation and instructional videos, but they seem to prefer traditional printed user manuals.
Currently, I am using Doc-to-Help, a documentation publishing software that allows the writer to author in Microsoft Word and then apply styles to create web based documentation and print documentation. I think that interactive web based documentation provides an excellent opportunity to serve the users with relevant information in a clear and easily navigable way, but I am struggling with the fact that although I may not need to evolve much to arrive where technical communication is today, many of my users are not there yet. I need to find a way to embrace the emerging technology and changes in the technical communication field while still catering to my user-base and serving them in a way that they find accessible.
In Erik Qualman’s chapter of Socialnomics “Word of Mouth goes World of Mouth,” he provides many examples of how social media and other technology is changing our daily routines from how we amuse ourselves while waiting in line at the supermarket to where we look for world news and updates on our friends’ whereabouts and activities.
I have heard many people echo the “who cares what I am doing?” sentiment about social media, but often in the same conversations, these people express the desire for information about other people that they could easily obtain via social media. I am connected to my phone and computer constantly, and I am on board with Qualman’s arguments about why social media is useful and how it helps us to fulfill the need to communicate with others and keep apprised of their updates; however, I wouldn’t necessarily agree that social media makes me more productive. I think there are likely times when social media saves me time, but I also think there are many more times when I just fritter away valuable time looking through pictures posted by people I really don’t care about simply because they popped up in my newsfeed.
I found Qualman’s JetBlue Twitter example to be a perfect illustration of a situation in which social media is more effective than traditional means of communication. Qualman and his wife were stranded in the Austin, Texas airport when their flight (and all flights for four days) were cancelled due to extreme weather. They needed to get to Boston as soon as possible and tweeted about their situation asking for help from JetBlue. Although JetBlue’s social media customer service was overwhelmed that day, another traveller was able to respond to Qualman and his wife and help them to develop an immediate and efficient course of action that got them a flight home home rather than a frustrating cycle of phone calls that may or may not have have gotten them home. This, I think, is social media at its best.
Spilka describes the change in the role of Technical Communicators from the 1970’s to the 1980’s. They originally created complex technical manuals for trained professionals, but their role changed to creating less complex documentation for novice users who less likely to develop strong computer skills. The technical writing designation also changed to Information Developer. These developers brought about more user-centered communication as well as increased system testing and design to reduce or eliminate experience level issues. This greater focus on system usability, design, and function made it much easier for users and reduced some of the need for complex documentation. The role of Technical Communicators changed again in the 1990’s. They continued to work in groups to develop documentation for users, but they also worked at the client’s location to document the specific hardware and system needs of the client. These role changes were essential due to the changing technology and information climate, but I think the increased focus toward usability testing was very important to the development of technical communication as a career and a discipline.
There were two major changes that occurred between the technical writers of the 1970’s and the 1990’s. The first involved an increase in the use of computers involved in the technical writing process. Early writers to create their drafts, but the final content would be entered into the printing software by designated people. Writers began to use computers more and more over time in the creation of technical documentation. The second change was a shift from print media to digital published media. Previously, most technical documentation was created for a printed paper format. Over time, documentation has shifted to digital based, either in PDF form, or in an HTML based format.
Qualman’s quote contrasting traditional broadcast with the internet was very interesting to me. He is quite correct with his statement. Millions of viewers tune in every Monday and Tuesday to watch The Voice, and each viewer receives the same show at the same time. Broadcast provides a blanket experience for viewers and hopes that the majority of viewers enjoy the experience.
The internet is very different from that. Millions of individuals go on the internet to a site like Facebook, but they each have a slightly different experience, based on their friends and the content they have liked in the past. Even the ads on the side of the page are different based on their current or previous browsing history. After they leave Facebook, there are a near limitless number of other sites they can visit and explore. Often times, a person can flip through the channels and find “nothing on”, but no one can make the same claim about the internet. There is always something to read or watch, but the user has to search for it.
Search engines are great for searching far and wide for information, but sometimes it is difficult to cast a broad enough net to catch what you are looking for without bringing in a lot of things you don’t want. The evolution of language can actually make things more difficult to find, because slang terminology can result in a word meaning two very different things. It also helps to know the correct name for what you are searching for. Is some cases, you may need both to locate what you are actually looking for. I’ve recently started considering building a small boat. There are an absurd amount of boat plans and pictures of homemade wooden boats on the internet, but finding just the right one has proven to be somewhat frustrating. I know what I want to find, I believe it is an Asian inspired small fishing boat, but I’m having trouble finding out what that type of boat would be named or where to find the plans for it. So far my results have yielded a lot of the same types, so I know that I will need to try a different approach. I may get to the point where I take what I know and use social media to try to fill in the rest. I have a couple friends that have also done boat building research, a few that have traveled to and lived in Korea, China, and Japan, and others that just seem to know a lot of random things. If I can’t find it on my own, I may need to post my question on Facebook and poll the audience.
Qualman also mentions that Google has implemented more interactive tools to use when searching that allow users to vote up or down search results. I was unaware of this feature, but I plan to use it in the future when I am presented with a link to something that makes no sense based on my search terms. I will also use it if I finally find what I am looking for on search page 3.
Evolution. Paradigm shift. Keeping up. Catching up. Transformation.
These are the key themes that jumped out at me from this week’s readings. What do they all mean for us as technical communication professionals? They mean that we are adaptable. Or, we try to be, anyway! I know many of us have expressed that we feel we are “sufficient” with newer technologies, like social media, but not experts. I know I definitely have felt like I can barely keep up. Every day there’s a new app or new website to check out, and a billion new Facebook posts and Tweets to read. After the readings this week, though, I am starting to feel a little better because I think our profession has gone through a huge change, especially in the last decade or so. And, as a result, it is one of the most diverse, multi-disciplined professions out there. Before I explain further what I mean, let me tell a little story to help set the stage…
When I was a senior in high school, I was all set to graduate mid-year. I had all of my required credits and I was ready to get out of the small town I had called home for 18 years and move onto bigger and better things. My high school guidance counselor convinced me to enroll in a couple of classes at the local two-year college so that I would technically still be in high school but would be able to get away a few afternoons a week by going to classes at the college. I ended up taking a Visual Basic programming class. Very challenging, but also very rewarding. In fact, after I graduated high school, I fully intended to go into something technology-related. Upon enrolling at UW-La Crosse, I was a computer science major. Well, that lasted all of two minutes when I realized how much calculus and math I would have to take. Yuck.
So, I ended up majoring in communication studies as I felt like I was “good with people” and had decent writing and speaking skills. At the time, I thought it was at the opposite end of the spectrum from computer science. What I didn’t realize, until just recently, is that a communications degree actually calls upon multiple disciplines, including technology, so it was the best of both worlds. And this continues to be the case many years later, more than ever. Like we read in Chapter 1 from Spilka (2010), traditional job titles of “writers” or “editors” have evolved into “software engineers” because the advent of technology required that the disciplines meld together (p. 24, Table 1.1).
This blending of disciplines – communications, writing, editing, designing, technology, and content management – has meant that we have to be a Jack of all trades. We’ve had to take on more responsibilities, learn new methodologies and technologies, consider new audiences and even reinvent our craft at times. Here are the principal areas where I think we’ve had to adapt and grow:
- We’ve had to become better communicators and relationship managers.
- Due to fewer face-to-face interactions, we have had to learn different ways to communicate and forge relationships. For example, my clients are scattered throughout the entire country. I do not make in-person visits, so all of my interactions are via phone, email or webinars. Despite this, I have developed some incredible, loyal relationships because I’ve learned how to use these different communication mediums to my advantage.
- The next generation relies more heavily on technology, many forms of which we are not as familiar with. This forces us to go outside our comfort zone in order to learn ways to reach this different type of audience.
- We’ve had to expand our toolboxes.
- First, we’ve had to learn new devices and various options AMONG those devices – computers (PC vs. Mac) and then laptops; cell phones and then smartphones (Droid vs. Apple); there have also been pagers, tablets, digital cameras, MP3 players, and other electronic devices.
- Second, there are so many different types of software and programs we’ve had to learn – PowerPoint, Publisher, Flash, WordPress, PhotoShop, Dreamweaver, etc.
- Third, there’s the Internet and all of the online capabilities – search engines, social media, social networking, discussion boards, blogs, wikis.
- Last, there are so many different options available for crafting our technical communications. I’m referring to fonts, graphics & images, design layouts, software options, videos, color schemes, hyperlinks, content & language. Because of this…
- We’ve had to become better writers/designers/communicators.
- In addition to understanding all of the tools available to us for creating our work, we have to be aware of all the new routes available for delivering our messages. We have to be aware of them and know which ones to use, and when to use them. There are traditional forms like print documents, but now there’s also texting, email, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube and blogs. As described by Baron (2008), do we use asynchronous or synchronous routes of communication? (p. 14). Meaning, do we need them to see the information immediately, in real time, or can it wait until they open the message? Also, are we communicating one-on-one, or do we need to send a message to a large audience.
- Finally, we’ve had to become better information gatherers.
- With so many resources available – blogs, wikis, traditional websites and news sources – we have to be selective and know how to recognize credible sources.
There was a question raised at a 2007 technical writing conference: “What if technical communication were to merge into other disciplines and lose its identity as a field?” (Spilka, 2010, p. 5).
I think, we, as technical communicators, only make ourselves more valuable by being multi-disciplined. Being well-versed and knowledgeable in many areas – having a broad digital literacy – gives us more opportunities to work in different fields. Being too specialized makes you obsolete!
As someone who is not currently working in the field of technical communication, I enjoyed the introduction of 21st Century Theory and Practice and the chapter by Saul Carliner. I enjoyed reading about the changes of the field that I aspire to join in the near future.
The field of technical communication has evolved so much during the past 25 years, because technical communication is such a computer-driven field. As I read through Chapter 1, I made a mental comparison of my father’s career path. The chapter reminded me of my father’s job, which I wrote about in my technology literacy narrative during the first week of class. A major influence on my technological upbringing, he started his job in 1986 with the job title of Data Processing Manager in one person department at a small school district in south central Kansas. Now in 2013, his job title is Director of Information Technology and he manages over 15 full-time employees who report to him on a daily basis. The reason his job changed, like technical communication, is because it had no choice. You can’t keep going to middle school if you have been promoted to 9th grade. The same is true for technology. You can’t keep using an outdated system when everyone else moves to the more advanced system. The only way technical communication could survive was to embrace every change it ever faced.
To connect the chapter with the introduction of the book, the opening page states only some 2% of hospitals have made the transition to digital (p. 1). I think it is unfair and unrealistic to think that gigantic operations, such as hospitals, can suddenly make the leap from paper to paperless in a matter of years. They were never expected to become digital until recently, unlike technical communication, so they did not take the technology tip and transition gradually. Hospitals have been doing business just like normal. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think hospitals becoming paperless will be benefit the hospitals, insurance companies, and patients, I just don’t see it happening in the immediate future. According to Forbes in January 2013, only 1.8% of hospitals have an electronic record system in place. Many hospitals, according the article, are not ready and are asking for more time, despite the amount of money they have received to assist in their transition from paper to paperless. I worked at a very large hospital in the accounting department part-time while I was in college. The reason I got the job, in fact, was to help transition their invoice system to a streamlined digital process. The hospital was trying to use a new system, called GHX, and there were so many hiccups with the system that they extended my employment by an additional year.
I compare it to teaching my 80-year old grandfather to set up an email account and get a cellphone. It took YEARS for my family to convince him to set up an email account and use a cellphone. After he finally did, it took quite a while for him to be able to use his new technology correctly. Asking people to change from one habit to another, especially when they have been doing things the same for a long time, is unrealistic and requires a great deal of time.
To conclude, I am not surprised that technical communication has made so many leaps in the digital age. Such changes and adjustments are necessary for the continuation of the field. I hope to learn more about the programs and software I will be using when I start working in a technical communication field, but who knows if they will even be the same by that time!
Blogging has always been intriguing to me but, at the same time, has never been something I really felt comfortable doing. First and foremost, I never felt like I had anything interesting to write about. I have a very normal (sometimes very boring!) life with kids who rarely give us trouble and aren’t at that super cute stage where they are making major milestones on a regular basis. Those milestones takes much longer to appear now and blogging once a year didn’t make much sense. After all, isn’t that what the obnoxious braggy holiday cards are for? When I was working as a Realtor, I tried blogging as a “Subject Matter Expert”. Well, I learned pretty quickly that even after 10 years in the business, you will never feel completely like an expert so why in the world would anyone ever want to read what I had to say? And then, of course, is that obnoxious fear factor side to blogging. What if someone makes a comment on what I post and it ends up being a nasty comment? Real Estate brings enough toughness into the world, I didn’t need to introduce another source for potential nastiness!
So imagine my surprise when last semester I had Engl-700 Rhetorical Theory with Dr, Pignetti and found out we would be blogging on a weekly basis. I definitely had mixed emotions at first. A little bit of nervousness and also excitement. Sometimes we (well, I do for sure) have to be forced out of our comfort zone to do something that we found intriguing but never tried. Those first couple of posts were pretty torturous! To think that this blog wasn’t just the safety of the class members on the D2L discussion boards, it was a blog that anyone can find and comment on (that fear factor was screaming loud and clear!). And . . . that is exactly what happened to another classmates blog post. After the initial shock of the comment from the “outsider”, and several comments back and forth asking the commenter to have some blogging manners, my worst blogging fear had come and gone. To my surprise, the world didn’t end. And the blogging continued.
I still envy those who can just write about simple everyday things and make it sound so elegant and effortless. Blogging isn’t as much of a challenge for me as it was in the beginning but I don’t think I will ever master the “Art” of casual written conversation in the public sphere where posts from years before can come back and haunt you. I think I will leave that to my annual Christmas card letter.
Long ago, in the times when Facebook was only available to college students, I began my journey with social media. In addition to Facebook, I had a blog of my very own, originally a Xanga because that was the cool blog to have in my circle of friends and acquaintances. I wrote silly stories, funny anecdotes and terrible poetry for the general consumption of the ten people who knew that I wrote it.
I loved it. I loved having that tiny voice in a big loud world. At least at first, I followed the then unknown advice of Belle Beth Cooper’s “16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners” to write for yourself. Writing for myself was the only thing I did right, I think. Contrary to Cooper’s advice, I did not bother to try to get people to read what I wrote, but in fact I actively chose not to market my blog. I also really didn’t think too intensely about my audience, which I now find rather appalling after taking so many technical communication classes.
When I look back at what I wrote, I see the bad writing and the grammatical errors, but I think that I can also see how blogging shaped my voice in a way that academic writing couldn’t. The article “Why Blog? Searching for Writing on the Web” by Alex Reid points out how a writer’s voice can be sublimated to success in the context of academia and I can see clearly how blogging built my voice as I was allowed to be myself (or whoever I chose to be) rather than having to be whoever I needed to be in order to succeed with each teacher.
After awhile, blogging started being increasingly about getting likes and comments from my largely non-existent audience and the whole process became wearying as my capacity for being consistently amusing diminished. So I ceased to blog.
In the subsequent years, my experience with blogs has been contained to reading them. I have read only a few blogs consistently. In fact, I can think of only two that I have spent any real time reading, Hyperbole and a Half (a hilarious blog which is basically like electronic picture books for adults) and Beneath the Crust (an interesting blog about faith and life written by a clinical neuro-psychologist that I know). I will read an article occasionally when they are recommended or shared by others, but I don’t follow many closely anymore.
Although I have had some experience with blogging and have taken many courses that required weekly posts, English 745 will be my first experience actually blogging within an academic context. It should be interesting.
It has been a while since I have used WordPress, but I was introduced to it and other blogging sites back somewhere between 2006 and 2008. A close friend and colleague of mine offered a several session course (mini-workshops, if you will) called Blogging Basics through our Lifelong Learning Institute (generally aimed at our senior crowd in the local community). She asked if I would be interested, and I said, “What the heck? Why not?” She was really excited to share her blogs and experience, and I shared in her enthusiasm. She was already blogging about jewelry-making, crafting, and beading at the time; plus, she was new as a faculty member, and she was all about getting others to see the value of blogs in the educational arena….blogs and blogging were quickly becoming popular around campus during this time. I did not understand what blogging was at all until I took the course with her and some other very friendly senior citizens–I remember them pretty vividly since they all had varying technological skills, and I learned much just from listening and watching them in the whole process of learning how to blog.
In the course, I learned primarily how to use WordPress and Eblogger, and it was truly the basics, but I found, as a lover of reading and writing (especially journaling), I was immediately attracted to blogs and what they had to offer. For some reason, at the time, Eblogger attracted me more than WordPress, and it became my go-to blogging site for future use. As a result of completing the course, I went into the next semester with ideas about how to use weblogs in the classroom to supplement my developmental writing courses. I had also begun my master’s degree during this time, and blogging became the basis of several different course projects, research, and, finally, part of a practicum course. I stuck mostly to using blogs in the classroom with students versus blogging in my personal life. I was drawn to their use for learning.
I remember doing much research at the time about blogs and feeling like quite a novice when I started and just moved forward with using one in the classroom with my developmental writers… I needed something to liven my classroom, and the blog seemed like a perfect medium for my students at the time.
As I began to read through the blog literacy readings, I was immediately attracted to Learning With Weblogs, and I continue to see the value of using blogs in the learning process. I was caught by this: “More than traditional learning logs, weblogs offer students the opportunity and encouragement to actively participate in the continuous learning process of social knowledge construction in a number of ways.” For me, it was this idea that really made me love the blog and its purpose for my students….social knowledge construction was definitely the goal.
One of the specific ways mentioned included that blogs provide “Sustainable knowledge stock: Student weblog posts are not only shared but also stored as the community’s knowledge asset for all participants to revisit and reuse.” Again, I love the description here in relation to forming a community via the blog and allowing those members to revisit and reuse the knowledge base. It was those things that drew me to the blog in the first place…the social nature of them and the way authors could store knowledge, share it, and offer threaded comments continuously.
I maintained the class blog for at least one academic year before my life went into a whirlwind of having babies, going on maternity leave, finishing my master’s, and changing disciplines. When I shifted into teaching developmental reading, the curriculum was so packed I left out the blogging. I have used blogs more recently in the classes I have been taking….almost every class I just completed here at UW for the E-Learning Certificate had us using a blog for a project-based portfolio or for reflection purposes. I will be truthful and reveal that I do not do much blog reading on my own these days because I spend so much time on the computer for work, and now with the two little ones, time is always the problem. When I find myself looking at blogs, I get immediately sucked into them, and I love exploring all blogs….tech ones, writing ones, authors and musicians, and more. Some colleagues along the way have been naysayers about using blogs for educational purposes, and I have heard varying opinions, especially from “old school” English teachers at times who refuse to believe blogs can offer much to the writing world, but I am a fan.
I am excited to begin a new journey here with blogging, and I know this experience will fire up my love of wanting to use them in the classroom. I look forward to our experience together.
Du, H.S., & Wagner, C. (2007). Learning with weblogs: enhancing cognitive and social knowledge construction. 50(1), 4.
I took Rhetorical Theory in the Spring 2013 semester. At that time I never thought of myself as someone who has blogged. I realized writing my introduction blog post for that class, I had blogged before using sites like LiveJournal. Also, in a previous job, I helped write and edit content for the company blog. The Rhetorical Theory course, similar to this one, used a blog as a class tool. By no means would I say I’m a blogging expert, but I’m not new to the blog scene either.
I think the article 16 Top Tips from Blogging Experts for Beginners has some good insight to those looking to start blogging, or even those that do blog and are interested in taking their blog further. I think the tip that says “write for yourself” makes a great point. We’re in a society where everyone is crunched for time. If you’re going to take time to blog, do it for you. I have had friends that started blogs to try to make money from it, realized it takes time to build a blog that can produce revenue, and then quit. It wasn’t something they really wanted to spend their time on, they just wanted a quick buck. As the article also states, give it time and be willing to fail. The odds are a blog won’t go viral in an evening.
If you’re blogging because you want to, another good point the article makes is to keep your audience in mind. A friend of mine has a blog that she doesn’t update that often, but when she does the content is true to the blog description. It’s clear she writes for herself, thinks of her audience, but just doesn’t have the time to really commit to blogging. I like that the blog is focused on cooking and it doesn’t focus just on her words, it also provides pictures and recipes. Check it out, if you’re interested http://www.girlversuskitchen.com.
I look forward to seeing all of your introduction posts and reading your thoughts as we go through the semester.
The first blog I ever read was written by an old high school classmate of mine. She linked to it from her Facebook page and I thought, oh, Andrea’s writing a blog! That’s great! This might be something I want to do one day, so let’s see how hers looks.
Essentially, she wrote about her life as a stay-at-home mom. She shared stories a few times a month that talked about the frustrations and joys of raising a family. This may sound harsh, but I don’t think I even finished reading the first paragraph of the most recent post. Although I like this person very much, I really was not interested in reading about her trip to the grocery store with the kids or her husband’s issues with his boss. And it wasn’t that I didn’t care what she was up to, but to come back to a site repeatedly just to read about one person’s life does not appeal to me. I can get all that information in one place, for many people, on Facebook, and in much fewer words. Based on this first experience, I believed blogs were just cyber diaries and decided it wasn’t something I wanted to spend time on, including writing my own. No one cares (except maybe my mom or husband) what I think or do each day. Sorry, Andrea! Keep on blogging, but I’ll pass for now.
I began to appreciate blogs when I started reading one written by a local physician who is partial owner of the allergy company that I work for. His blogs were not only informative and scientific, but interesting, humorous and easy to read. They detailed different patient cases and clinical experiences he’s had over the past 30+ years of practicing medicine. The site is a bit of a ranting site, but I still find it enjoyable to read. I invite you to take a peek if you have a moment: www.renaissanceallergist.com. So, why did I decide this blog was worth reading? It’s relevant to my life and I get something out it: information that helps me with my work.
Another blog that I began reading was www.allergymoms.com. Written by a woman with kids that have bad food allergies, it’s more than just a daily diary of her life and dealing with her kids’ diseases. She interviews experts in the field on the latest and greatest allergy treatments, posts links to recent news in the allergy world as well as links to other websites and resources on managing allergies, shares recipes, products, etc. Like the doctor’s blog, this blog relevant to what I do for a living, but it’s also educational and helpful to others.
I also read blogs from time to time on http://www.huffingtonpost.com.
That pretty much summarizes my experience with reading blogs, but I can now add to my resume that I have experience WRITING a blog, courtesy of last semester with Dr. Pignetti. Like with the current class, we were required in ENGL 720 to blog each week to share our perspectives on the readings. I found the communal blog to be extremely beneficial as it encouraged conversation and provided a unique situation to learn from fellow classmates. This is similar to what Du and Wagner (2007) discuss in this week’s reading. They talked about blogs as “online learning logs” (p. 2.). Blogging, or even just posting regularly to D2L like with some of my other classes, is a form of collaborative constructivism, also described by Du and Wagner. With collaborative constructivism, “learning emerges through shared understandings of more than one learner and the construction of understanding builds upon interaction with others” (p. 6).
My husband also had the opportunity to blog for an English class he had two years ago. Although the purpose was primarily to improve writing skills through the use of a modern medium (to make it more fun and relevant), he found there was a good deal of communal learning taking place. Everyone would provide constructive feedback on grammar, spelling and writing structure which was great because it was a writing-focused class.
From cyber diaries to communal learning…quite the paradigm shift! I am glad to embrace it, however, and I look forward to expanding my views even further this semester.