Survey Says … Educational Blogging

I am participating in an Educational Blogger research project exploring communities of education blogging. Below are my survey answers; I hope this is helpful to the researcher! I think it’s a fascinating process and phenomenon to study.

Blog URL:

prattlenog.com

What do you blog about?

Higher education, teaching, learning, assessment, adult learners, Prior Learning Assessment, accreditation, educational technology, and sometimes my kid, my dog, or my own learning opportunities and challenges.

Are you paid to blog?

No.

What do you do professionally (other than blog)?

I am the Dean of Learning & Assessment and Director of the Center for Experiential Learning & Assessment at Marylhurst University

I also am a private consultant specializing in higher education teaching, learning, and assessment work.

How long have you been blogging at this site?

About 3 – 1/2 years.

Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?)

Yes.

Can you remember why you started blogging?

To engage in higher educational scholarship my way; to write about things I want to write about; to connect to my students and colleagues.

Here is a picture of  my blog prior to blogging, and still is my “thinking/writing” place most of the time when I have major ideas to process for myself. But now ideas start here, and get refined when and if I move them to the more public space of the blog.

This is my pre-blog : before I blogged, I wrote here, and it still serves as a place for me to process my thoughts and reflect on my learning privately. You’ll also see the drawing my 4-year old made me for a book mark. It’s a very important part of this notebook.

What keeps you blogging?

I have things I want to say …   I blog as a way to test out new ideas or insights, share tips, connect with others.  Primarily I write-to-learn (blog-to-learn?) … writing is a very important learning process for me, and I use my blog to process ideas, respond to things I’ve read, and to get feedback from others who might be interested in having a conversation.

I also use my blog as a travelogue of my professional journeys (and sometimes my personal journeys), and in some ways, an ePortfolio and a way to establish my personal “brand.”

A while back I posted a response to a question asked about how I use my blogging. WordPress pushed it to Freshly Pressed and I got TONS of readers that day, which was kind of fun. Here’s that post:

Verb: To Blog

Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How?

Kind of – through some site analytics and follower notifications. But I don’t track that very well.

What’s your attitude to/ relationship with people who comment on your blog?

I LOVE comments! It tells me I’ve connected to someone in some way, and that someone is reading it.

Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology)

Maybe higher education as a community, and teaching/learning/assessment as topics primarily, but my topics are pretty diverse within this area, so I likely don’t fit a specific community.

If so, what does that community give you?

I learn a lot from other bloggers. I also like to get feedback, share ideas, connect, and find ways to work together. I have met very important colleagues and friends (such as Harriet Schwartz – blogger at The Encouragement Lounge), by blogging. Harriet and I, for example, have since collaborated on some blog and some not-blog scholarly projects together.

What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations?

Advantages: It fosters my own reflective thinking; I like to write-to-learn so writing my blog provides me a way to clarify my thinking about topics that are important to me; it provides an authentic audience (if anyone reads what I write); and it connects me to other people that I might otherwise never be connected to.

Disadvantages / Limitations: Educational blogging may still not be considered a kind of scholarship — even though in many ways what we write is “peer reviewed” in larger ways (potentially by the entire world).

Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)

Yes, but I don’t call myself a “blogger.”  PrattleNog is my website; I happen to publish things that I write here.

Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked?

I am continually surprised by who reads my blog and how it gets out there. I think a key to this is in linking my blog to other social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.  The other thing I find fascinating is how it takes very little effort to keep my blog running. I try to post once a week if not more often, but sometimes I don’t post much at all, and sometimes I post quite often. I keep reminding myself: it’s my blog, my project, and I can write about what I want, whenever I want. There is a freedom in that — especially when I see that people read it.

Good luck with your research. I’d love to hear about what you learn!

“A” Is For …

Ha! You thought I was going to say “assessment,” right? Well, not this time! You know why? Because assessment for the sake of assessment is lame. For one thing, it’s not a good use of our time or resources. For another thing … well, there is no other thing. We need to be able to do something with what we learn from assessment work. So this time:

“A” is for actionable!

Assessment geeks like me refer to this as “closing the loop” — using our assessment findings (whether direct or indirect) to make improvements in our assignments, course design, instructional methodologies, programs, or our student services. Or, when appropriate, using our assessment findings to showcase what we are doing really well!

In the Assessment Program at my university, we constantly try to ask this question: What can we do with this data? We often all have the What? and we might even have the So What? But then …

NOW WHAT?

Simply put: How will what we learn here help us improve? What actions should we take accordingly?

So now we are writing about some of these assessment projects we’re working on making more actionable in my colleague’s Actionable Data blog. (By “we,” I mean “she.”)

(Oh – who is she? Her name is Kim Firth, and she’s an awesome data geek and a very cool colleague.)

Here’s part 1 of several posts to come about a project we are working on (again, by “we” I mean “she”): the revision of our Alumni Survey. Read it and weep. Ok, don’t weep – it’s not sad. If anything it should make you happy that we’re being so intentional about making this survey actionable.

Lessons from an attempt at action-focused survey revision

Learning From Colleagues

One of my colleagues is attending this ELI  conference that I’d really like to be at as well. Alas, I can’t be in four places at once this week (three will have to do), but thankfully, he’s using his blog to share his experiences and reflections with us at home. Here’s the link:

Consider This Out Loud

The conference has an online option, which I’d seriously considered registering for, but the reality is that things here on campus would get in the way and it wouldn’t be worth it.

His first post begins with “Assessment Assessment Assessment.” It’s like he packed me in his suitcase and took me with him.

D’OH – I Forgot Too!

I am sure many other Twitter users have already defined what I am calling the Twitter Effect (there is, in fact, a Facebook page called The Twitter Effect). Even though I am professionally trained to read and evaluate what others have said before I say what I want to say on a topic (in academia we call this a literature review), I am going to skip that step right now; these definitions are irrelevant to my point, anyway.  I’ll engage in some grounded theory instead, and offer this up as a personalized definition of  my own Twitter Effect.

My own Twitter Effect is characterized by some — no, all — of the following:

  1. Like @injenuity, I sometimes forget I have a blog! I am not posting as often on this here blog, and the posts I have written seem less — well, less ________________.  Just less.
  2. Because I receive Twitter feeds from people I am trying to learn from (I carefully select the people I follow to avoid Twitter Litter), I sometimes feel like I might miss out on something important if I don’t check Twitter at least three times a day. The sky could be falling and if I miss Chicken Little’s tweet at 3:01 informing me of this news, I might not otherwise find out! This is perhaps the only negative experience of my Twitter Effect, and, to be fair, it’s totally self-induced.
  3. I no longer need to read many of my RSS feeds because I get them through Twitter; by the time I remember to check my RSS feeds, I’ve already seen most of the posts. However, because of #2 above, I am keeping my RSS feeds; they help control my anxiety about potentially missing something.
  4. I am continually amazed by what a good source of learning Twitter can be, which is why I keep using it so diligently.  It helps me scan key publications easily (example, The Chronicle of Higher Ed); it keeps me connected to certain goings-on in conferences that I can’t attend in person; I get to hear multiple perspectives on any given topic that might otherwise not come together in any organized space; and I get to connect with people I might otherwise never have known.
  5. I am also  continually amazed by what some of my good sources of learning will tweet on Twitter — many of my Twitter superstars are actually humans with sick kids, pear trees, and great recipes to share. That’s cool! I like that they are human and care about whether or not their favorite football team wins in addition to whether or not their students are learning or their university gets its needed funding.
  6. Finally, as I’ve been diligently working at living an integrated life instead of a life in silos, I have found support with Twitter. I follow organizations and people who are in my professional realms, I follow my yoga studio, I follow my local farmer’s market, I follow friends, and I search and follow specific topics that are of interest to me.

My own Twitter Effect is neither bad, nor good. My own Twitter Effect just is, and I’m ok with it, even though I sometimes forget that I have a blog. (And a kid. And a husband. And a dog. And 2 cats. And a class to teach. And a paper to write. And dinner to cook. And  … ok, ok,  just kidding. Twitter humor, people. Twitter humor.)

“P” Is For Problem (Solving)

"Day 202" from A Collection A Day, 2010

Indexed has posted a good one again:

"Zoom Out" from Indexed

How ’bout this for a problem-solving process?

  1. Step back.
  2. Get some perspective.
  3. Let it “marinate” in your head for a little while. Maybe a big while.
  4. Then tackle it again!

Does this work for you, or do you have another suggestion for solving the seemingly impossible problems?

(Yippee! I got to post pictures from 2 of my favorite visual blogs in one post: Indexed and A Collection a Day, 2010. Thanks to Harriet for pointing me to the latter! )

Five Blogs I Read

I am becoming fascinated with blog rhetoric. This makes sense, I guess, given that my MA is in Rhetoric & Writing, and I write this blog (less often than I would like to, but still …).

In any case, here is a sampling of the blogs I read every day (or when there are new posts; whichever comes first). That’s right! You read that correctly. Every. Day. Reading blogs is starting to become for me like reading the local newspaper used to be (before the newspaper became so uninteresting, before the new dog and cats came, and before the toddler insisted that he read the newspaper too).

BEFORE? Cup of coffee; bowl of cereal; NPR; newspaper; good start to the morning.

NOW? Cup of coffee; bowl of cereal; NPR; toddler reading sports section upside down looking for “bik-e-sols” while pining for a piece of my shredded wheat… dog chasing cat/s under table …coffee spilling on front page of newspaper … iPhone on; Google Reader enabled:

GIMME MY BLOGS!

Enough about my morning routine. Alas, here are five of the blogs I read on a regular basis – a truly random sampling:

  1. Carnegie Connections Daily News Roundup (“News You Can Use”): Keeps me apprised of most of the latest higher ed news.
  2. The Encouragement Lounge: For one thing, Harriet has lovely photographs (almost all hers); for another, the blog is geared toward adult learners in higher education. I admire its style; I admire the “mentoring” I see within it; I admire the regular schedule on which Harriet posts.  Harriet is a nice person and a far-away colleague and I wish we worked together more. And, I usually learn something. So I read her blog.
  3. RealDelia: Finding Yourself in Adulthood — This is a new one to my collection as I’ve only started reading it recently. Delia Lloyd tends to write on topics that are mostly relevant to me: getting older, parenting, work/life balance stuff. Her recent post The Private Language of Marriage captured my attention for some reason; I sent it to my husband with this note that none of you will understand: “We’re going to need a special marketing plan.” He laughed. You know why he laughed? We have a private language. And in our language, that’s funny.
  4. Indexed: Smart. Visual. Nuff said.
  5. ChrisBrogan: He keeps me informed about social media / Web 2.0 stuff.  He’s also, in my opinion, a master blogger. Why not read the master?

Of course I try to keep up with my Student Bloggers as often as I can as well.

So … there out have it:  a list of five blogs that I read regularly (I have spared you all of the cooking / food ones for now; there are at least 15 of those that I peruse). Want to share 5 that you read? Please do! I might find more to add to my collection!

My Third And Final Major Was English

David Brooks has written an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times called History for Dollars in which he advocates for studying the humanities, and it has me nogging.

Thanks to quinn.anya on Flickr for making this image available.

Brooks argues that studying the humanities will make a person more employable because they will be able to read and write well, will deeply understand human emotion, can think analogically, and can “befriend” what he calls “The Big Shaggy,” behaviors and phenomena that are difficult to explain. Of the latter, Brooks writes:

The observant person goes through life asking: Where did that come from? Why did he or she act that way? The answers are hard to come by because the behavior emanates from somewhere deep inside The Big Shaggy.

Technical knowledge stops at the outer edge. If you spend your life riding the links of the Internet, you probably won’t get too far into The Big Shaggy either, because the fast, effortless prose of blogging (and journalism) lacks the heft to get you deep below.

But over the centuries, there have been rare and strange people who possessed the skill of taking the upheavals of thought that emanate from The Big Shaggy and representing them in the form of story, music, myth, painting, liturgy, architecture, sculpture, landscape and speech. These men and women developed languages that help us understand these yearnings and also educate and mold them. They left rich veins of emotional knowledge that are the subjects of the humanities.

I object to his implication that blogs “lack the heft” of critical thought and inquiry, but I have to agree with almost every other proposition of his editorial. Let me tell you why.

My first major in college was journalism. I had spent the previous 3 years in high school tirelessly advocating for Freedom Of The Press and a separation of advertising and editorial (my main objective being to convince the school administrators that placing a Planned Parenthood ad in the student newspaper paper was not an endorsement for having sex). It made perfect sense that I would be a journalism major: I had prior experience on the newspaper and yearbook, passion, and it could be practical. I could get a job.

My second major was speech pathology and audiology. I changed it from journalism about a month into college because I decided I wanted to try to do something different from what I had been doing. It wasn’t an analytical decision at the time; it was more like wanderlust meets “I want to be employable after graduation.”

I liked this new major because I was learning in multiple disciplines: anatomy, language development and linguistics, psychology, neurology, etc. We also got to look at cadavers, which was scary and horrifying and amazing, all at the same time. However, in my first session in the speech clinic, when a distraught but forceful mother of a child with a bilateral lisp was insistent that we “FIX HIM!!!” in time for a speech he had to give at his church, my clinical supervisor turned to me and said, “Welcome to your future.” An off-the-cuff comment, but I listened.

My third and final major was English because I liked to write and I liked to read, and I didn’t want to spend time taking courses that I didn’t like. I temporarily set aside my pragmatic paycheck-oriented concerns and decided to focus on learning. And with that came great freedom and deep engagement and, as Brooks argues and I fully believe, marketability.

I have applied lessons from my English courses — from all of those Australian novels and Middle English Prologues and poems and essays and tree structures and Latin roots —  to every aspect of my work. From supervising and supporting employees, to preparing and monitoring budgets, to writing grants, to giving presentations to friendly and challenging audiences, to teaching and mentoring, to learning new computer programs or programming my voice mail, to communicating with various stakeholders and advocating with fierce grace, I call upon my English major skills and capacities of mind each and every day.

Brooks implies that there is money associated with a humanities education; I suspect that might be true (it has not been, for me). But what I DO have is compassion, creativity, energy, communication, and, in general, happiness with what I can and like to do.

My third and final major was English.  And as for The Big Shaggy? I’ll continue to nog on it, with heft (eh hem!), because, as Brooks asks:

…doesn’t it make sense to spend some time in the company of these languages — learning to feel different emotions, rehearsing different passions, experiencing different sacred rituals and learning to see in different ways?

Yes. Yes it does.