Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Metablogging and the Connected World

It's been 6 months since I wrote about how Twitter has had an effect on my professional development and 7 months since I talked about the value of networking to me. 6 or 7 months later and my feelings are still pretty much the same, albeit now I've discovered not just learning opportunities that I can take from Twitter and the like, but learning opportunities that I can partake in or even create for myselfThe difference is that in this time I have expanded my personal network by getting more involved rather than sitting idly by as an observer. I now have over 200 people following me on Twitter, where I have tweeted almost 1,000 times. 

One thing I haven't talked much about is what I think the value of blogging is. I've reached a few online milestones in the past week or so. My blog has now had over 2,000 views since I started which, minus a 5 month sabbatical for an eventful summer, I have only been maintaining for a few months.  For the first time, one of my blog posts reached over 200 views in one day, with a little help from Steve Wheeler and Oliver Quinlan retweeting the link. Not only that but a few days later another of my posts again reached 200 views in a day, but this time without being shared by people much more connected than myself. 

This last point, for me, was astounding. At first, I had the feeling that my initial success (on a personal level) was because the staff at uni were celebrating what I was doing by sharing it with their Twitter followers - in effect, my audience was actually their audience. When I saw the stats for my last post I realised that I had created my own audience, that people were interested in my blog on its own merit.

My blog views by country (top ten)

Yes, yes, yes, there's a lot of numbers there, but what do they mean? Well, it depends entirely on your viewpoint. For experienced bloggers, or those that are well known in their field (or simply well known), I'm sure those numbers would be disappointing to them. For me, I'm hugely proud of the figures. To think that what I have to say has been viewed over 2,000 times by people from New Zealand to the USA is incredible.

I've realised that what I'm writing is a bit shallow. It's all a bit 'look at me' or 'look at these numbers'. Is that what I value I place in blogging - popularity? No, not at all. I do however use the statistics as motivation, as I've already said, the feeling that someone is interested in what I have to say pushes me to write more.

The true value of blogging to me is reflection. To write a diary of what happened is easy and to a certain extent not very useful. To be able to look at what happened and analyse why it happened or what you took from it is, for me, very important. I think it's akin to learning content over processes in schools - what do you learn more from, what do you remember more - what happened or why it happened? Reflection on events that have influenced my learning or my teaching is all well and good, but why post these reflections online? The thing I find disappointing however, is that there are rarely any comments left. When Philip Selbie left a comment here, it really expanded my views on what I was trying to reflect on, and I found that incredibly useful. As I say in the video below, my views are limited because of my lack of experience - when others bring their own experience to a topic then we all gain a greater understanding of the issue. 

(Thanks to Oliver Quinlan for the video)

Well, as many of you who know me will know, I love sharing. I don't understand why people should keep things to themselves if they know that someone else may get something from it. If I share my thoughts on how music has helped me develop confidence for example, then what I'm hoping is that I'll have encouraged other people to try it for themselves because it worked so well for me. The response I got was several people asking me where to get a ukulele from and some tips on where to begin teaching themselves. Sure, that was a few people that asked me, but the feeling I got was that sharing my thoughts had made a difference to someone. Is making a difference not a key value of a good teacher?

The main reason I decided to blog about blogging is that this Friday, I'll be setting up some Year 7 students in a local secondary school with blogs and I wanted to reflect on the value of blogging before I did so, otherwise how can I tell them why they should blog? Admittedly, there's a difference between the blogs of children and the blogs of professionals, but is there really much of a difference? We both must be selective in what we reveal about ourselves and others and we both intend to use blogs to enhance our learning. The only real difference I see is content.

To be honest, this opportunity seems like a culmination of several stages of how online activity aids development. Stage one: See the ideas of others - I follow David Mitchell (@DeputyMitchell) on Twitter and have seen the fantastic work that he's done with blogging in schools, so I wanted to give it a try. Stage two: Know who to ask - as my personal and professional learning networks grow, there are more and more people I can ask for help with something I want to do. Finally, Stage three: Just do it - when there's so many opportunities out there, why not take them?

So, to sum it all up in a nice little paragraph, what is the value of blogging to me? Well, it's a tool for reflection, for exploring and sharing ideas in the hopes that it will either garner a response that expands your viewpoint and points you to new avenues or will have a positive impact on the development or practice of others.

Finally, in an attempt to generate some discussion about this and expand my viewpoint - if you've read this far, why not leave a comment with your thoughts and demonstrate the power that sharing ideas with an online community holds?