I was asked recently to reflect on why I keep a blog. To be honest, as the last two months have been incredibly busy, I have not spent as much time blogging as I might have liked. However, I created this blog originally for several purposes.
1. Professional communication
In this case, I am largely using the blog to share activities and experiences that may be relevant to the academic community at large. This may include reflecting on the use of technologies in political, educational, social, economic and other systems to support individuals or groups towards some form of change. In other instances, I am sharing my own experiences as a professional and reflect on them, hopefully for the benefit of others.
2. Reflect on large problems and challenges
The blog is sometimes just a space for me to try to reflect on how I feel about and understand large-scale, global problems. These problems range from big issues of designing instruction in a world of individuals to tying learner problem-solving to local, national, and world challenges such as poverty, climate change, and conflict. Sometimes, these reflections are brief and building towards larger conceptions, while others are in-depth as I try to sort things out. These are not meant to be perfect, but, to quote the redhead in Accepted, it is me “sitting around, thinking about stuff.”
3. Reflect on local problems and challenges
There are a lot of local problems in Denton, in my university, and other systems that directly impact me that I feel like I can have more of an impact on now. While I often tie them to larger problems in the long-run, blogging here allows me to think about what I can do and the consequences of doing them. It becomes somewhat meditative. In some instances, I use it to reflect on my teaching, pedagogical methods, student needs, and other issues related to my daily work towards a goal of improving both my teaching and their learning.
4. Communication of ideas with students more clearly
There are instances where, in class, I’m not great at getting something across. In the blog, I can expand on issues and thoughts by providing videos, text, web sites, audio, and other materials to get my points across more clearly, if not more succinctly. The Comments also allow for a discourse between and among us in the form of constative communication in which I make a claim to truth in the blog and then enter into a dialogue constituted of acceptance, rejection, and revision of these truth claims over time. Many of these conversations switch to Twitter, because I can respond more quickly to smaller questions in 140 characters and the iPhone is just awesome for that. Sometimes, I even use strategic communication where necessary to just tell a student what they need to do, though I try to restrain myself. In other instances, I have communicated bits of my identity through my blog posts as a means of self-expression as well and have even conveyed certain norms through what I communicate in the blog.
5. Start arguments
Sometimes, I’ll make outrageous claims to truth just to get a dialogue started. In one instance, someone came after me because I let my daughter do something involving Barbie and he was offended. That was not on purpose, it just turned out to be a fight surrounding our conflicting truth claims, which was great. In other instances, I’ll intentionally say something that is contentious simply to get people thinking and to challenge my thinking. Soon, I’ll be posting on an article I’m writing titled “There is no social science.” That should stir up some debate. This form of constative communication is incredibly beneficial for my learning, since I no longer have the benefit of sitting in class and picking at my professors arguments.
6. Build theories through critique
I have posted some of my nascent and early theory about Learning and Teaching as Communicative Actions in the blog, which has generated thinking on the part of my students. This has had them contributing to my thinking and helped make the theory stronger. Some day, I’ll be able to finish revisions and try to publish the thing in a journal. My goal is early July if I can get some of these other deadlines out-of-the-way.
7. Express Lifeworld experiences
In some instances, I just like to let people know what is going on with me in a non-academic space. I have two small children and we do things. Sometimes, those things eventually translate into my practice. It is nice to see where they start in the Lifeworld and eventually influence my work systems and thinking. Thus, it becomes a record of me and my multitude of expressions, both poignant and simply descriptive.
8. Share resources
Many times, I just want to let people know about cool resources I have discovered. I often reflect on their value such as an upcoming post on my use of Schoology for the last 6 months in place of Blackboard. The stories I can tell about their use may help others as they decide whether or not to try something out and I can warn against any pitfalls.
9. Tell stories
As you can tell from the blog title, I believe that others often learn best through stories. These stories are simple forms of communication ranging from those that convey just a bit of plot, characters, and narrative to those that portray major thoughts and reflections on the systems in which we exist. To some extent, I tell the stories of my experiences with teaching, research, life, etc., just to share with others and it lets me know that I’m not alone in this and they can know that they are not either. I’ve been video recording my teaching for the last six months now, because that very act tells the story of my beliefs, approaches, thinking, influences, and actions. They are rolled into this dramaturgical act of identity expression that is me. Everything I do and everything I utter is part of this process, which is largely open to critique by peers, students, and even in my own reflective research practice. As noted by one of my students on Tuesday, Habermas said that those expressive actions that are found to be valid by the majority, eventually make their way into my strategic teaching actions. These activities that I require students to complete in a course generally started as dramaturgical acts and it was not until I received feedback in the for of critique that they became part of the strategic curriculum to which I adhere.
I’ll stop with an odd number here as there are likely many more reasons that I blog that are not currently occurring to me. However, I like the number 9 and it is my blog, so I get to choose where this post ends.