The value of blogging and MOOCs

Recently, one of my students wishing to continue a discussion on the value of educational blogging asked this question:

Yesterday, I had a patient who happens to be a professor in English Literature from Cape Breton University. He was reading Hunger Games, as his specialty is in teenagers literature.He is planning to include this book in his next course.

I shared with him my thoughts about the movie and that I decided not to read the book after seeing both parts.My biggest concern was the violence in the movie committed by teenagers against other teenagers. He feels that teenagers and adult can relate to the positive aspects of the characters in the novel. So, we had the conversation turned towards the value and the importance of the thoughts in the novel. He thinks the author is building on the ideas of the  US breaking into different countries based on ideology of the population from different regions! However, he feels the book in less than 10 years will not hold a literature value.

I asked him why we still  happen to read novels or books like Don Quixote,Crime and Punishment , The Prince or The Catcher in the Rye.
Which made me remember your point about blogging in relevance to the current events at the time of blogging.

I  have a newspaper from last week,did not have the time to read it.Things have moved from that point in time just a week ago, so it became irrelevant.
Why Blogging would be any different than the editorial or the news from last week news paper.
Wouldn't blogging be just a conversation between invisible people/friends about certain topics that might not hold a value for writing a week later?
Which makes me wonder why to write a conversation/opinion that is very individual that is unable to pass a week time barrier in its relevance??

I responded with comments about how blogging is more than just reflecting in a public forum, it can also be about community. It takes time for community to form around a blog (in my experience about a year). Participating in connectivist style MOOCs goes a long way to helping form that community (hence the connection between MOOCs and blogs – at least in my world). 

I replied:

Interesting discussion – which makes me wonder if we could have it on my blog? Would you be OK if I posted your question to my blog? I could either use your name or just say “one of my students asked this question” … I think people in my network might have interesting things to say about it … 

Part of the reason I ask that, is that my blog has an audience. Over time, I have cultivated a following (it usually takes about a year to get a reasonable following on a blog). Many of the people in my PLN (Personal Learning Network) follow the discussions on my blog. 

So, it is not just about writing down my opinions – which is one valuable reason to blog – I just started a new blog to capture my research reflections for my dissertation process – but also to act as a sounding board. Sometime I’ll blog something just to see if it gets a reaction. For example see:

You’ll notice that both of these posts started discussions. In addition to the comments on my blog, they also creating some traffic on twitter and in other people’s blogs – which in turn causes more people look and comment at my blog. 

So, blogging is about more than just a place to share your ideas online – although that is often the starting place for blogs. It is also a way to connect with others whom you share an interest. In my case, it is a way to explore my thinking in writing, but also to see what others think about my ideas. 

The learning theory behind this, is the same as that behind the connectivist MOOC – which we really didn’t talk too much about in the MOOC presentation. In connected learning, it is much more about making connections than it is about the topic itself. The latest MOOC I participated in used the phase “the community is the curriculum”. It is definitely a new idea in education – although perhaps somewhat of a radical idea.

 

In many ways, the unit on blogging in my Emerging Tech class did not go beyond the basics. The students were starting with little or no knowledge of what blogs were or how they could be used in an educational setting. The focus on the learning in the course was more about learning how to "create content" in order to participate in the digital world (e.g. the mechanics of blogging). Creating a blog or website was a giant leap for many of my students, who made me proud by their assignments. We had too much to cover in the class to get into the depth about educational affordances of blogging beyond digital participation and reflective writing. 

So, now, I'm reaching out to my network. I found myself wanting to share this discussion with my personal learning network – wanting to hear how you would answer the question. Beyond the opportunity to think through and write out your reflections, why else do you blog? What are the benefits to being part of this community?

17 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing that, Rebecaa.
    I think I probably blog for similar reasons that Bonnie does. Mainly, I can’t help needing to write, and then i make it public because of the richness of exchange possible.

    Some posts have enduring value – like your MOOC frameworks one that you know recently became popular on twitter when I shared it with a new group of ppl outside rhizo14 (they needed to read it!!!)

    One of the best experiences my students had this semester was to have you guys (my online friends from rhizo14) comment on their blogs. My students also ask me why I have asked them to blog. I might point them towards this post for that.

  2. Interesting thoughts. I know my own blogging has evolved since 1998. Initially it was a way to share news and views with people far far away. Around 2003 (?) I started a blog to share news and views, but also to connect with other Greek Speakers (since I was no longer on Yahoo! Chat all the time). It was also a good place to vent 😉 I also started a WP blog to write, in Greek, about Apple and apple products. This second blog ran well but I ran out of time to post anything good, and at that point more people in Greece were picking up on Apple related news, so the market was crowded.

    in 2008 I needed a blog for education purposes (class requirement) so I started ID Stuff, which is what I use now for MOOCs and other educational blogging. There isn’t one reason to blog (as others have written). The topics will be varied depending on the goals of the author. What I would say is most important is a connection to a community. I can write something that I am pondering, and others can chime in. I think the value of the blog is more as a thinking tool rather than a reporting tool for most.

  3. There is no single way or purpose to blogging, which has more variants than moocs. Give moocs more time, and there will be — spin offs too. Just now, with the paired topic in front of me, I find myself thinking of the blog as microcosm, mooc as macrocosm. Maybe it is easier to start with a blog and then go to a mooc than the other way around.

    I doubt blogging is natural to all despite being nearly obligatory in many learning situations. That right there could put me off blogging, which sure would interfere with keeping up with my other blogs. It might be more natural for those who come to it with a journal keeping habit. How you come to blogging is bound to influence style, approach, habits. Newsletter writing would be another.

    Blogging, you write — sometimes even simultaneously — both for yourself alone and for an audience. Audience — even when silent and not in evidence — shapes blogging.

    Often courses will start the (near obligatory) blogging unit with assigning a “why blog” post, so I’ve got a few in archives (along with what is blogging posts). Andrew Sullivan’s 2008 Atlantic piece may still be my favorite, http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/11/why-i-blog/307060/

  4. I’ve only recently begun to blog, but it is an important way to me to publicly clarify and share my thoughts, even if it ends up just being or myself. I am recording a journey of part of my becoming. My blog currently is about my professional practice. I would also like to have a personal one to share writing and others interests, but that will wait until I can carve out the time for it.

    Will it survive time? If it’s well archived, my children could certainly take a glimpse at a part of who I am/was. Blogs can certainly be a rich source of thought data. How are people connected? How do ideas spread online?

    I admit I’m facing some challenges with a group of students who have begun to blog as part of their course requirements. I see value in making tacit knowledge explicit. But I can also see how for some students, the process seems to interrupt or interfere with their learning. I continue to monitor and gather data to discover why.

    I do like blogs for their conversation. Will I remember all the conversations I’ve had? Nope. But I do enjoy them while I’m engaged in them.

    • Hi Barry, thinking about students resisting blogging it occurred to me they may understand the process as documentation. A dry and uninteresting list of expectations that others have of them. As kid I didn’t have a sense of myself as an initiator or director of my life–not openly anyway. Everything listed out in the “subject responds” category was merely parroting to seem “agreeable” which was my interpretation of school’s purpose.

      All that confusing stuff (life) was my property to share or not. Especially not with instructors who were obviously pushed beyond the ability to keep up anyway. I know this throws a wrench in things but thinking about blogging made me realize that all the important and exciting stuff in my early years was trouble if it ever got out. I didn’t particularly mind trouble or seek to escape its consequences–it was the only power I had to be an individual. But I wonder if blogging openly in the lock-down of school expectations isn’t asking too much?

  5. I think that blogging shifted when Twitter became popular. People who had formerly blogged more frequently found that they were blogging less, some of its function being replaced by Twitter. I think the emphasis shifted to reflection – the blog content may be timely but the style was reflective, and included synthesis of ideas.
    When I started blogging, I was my own most important audience – others were an added extra. That sounds ego-centric but it’s like reflection in a public setting. Possibly for that reason I do not sense community forming around my blog although I value comments and interaction greatly. The spikes of traffic on it are more related to events – ones I am responding to, or in which I am participating. I really appreciated the value of my blog when I lost it due to ISP deceipt and my lack of backups.
    I see my blog as an important part of my personal learning network – I direct my network to it when I blog and/or include it events such as MOOCs.

    • I totally resonate with the comment “I am my most important audience” … I have a new blog relating directly to my thesis research. In it, I have given myself permission to write raw thoughts and collect bad first drafts. This blog is more pollished, but it is still written to help me capture thoughts and ideas that I want to share with whoever is listening. The idea of someone being there to listen does motivate me to write. It has also become a resource – when someone asks me “how do you do that” … after being asked the same question three or four times, I usually end up blogging about it.

      • I concur with the idea of a resource (FAQ) and think it’s great to blog thesis ideas – maybe not so great to blog thesis data;)

  6. I started blogging about 3 years ago when I joined one of the first MOOCs on connectivism (CCK11). I find that writing stuff down clarifies my thoughts about something. Knowing that just anyone can see what I blog concentrates the mind! Other people’s reactions are particularly valuable and can lead to new insights and information. Posts I fondly thought were deep and thought-provoking can be ignored whereas others can unexpectedly result in multiple comments and interest. The silly MooCow illustration I did during CCK11 is my best post so far – almost 500 views last year and keeps popping up all over the web!

  7. Blogging hasn’t been productive way for me to stay connected. There might be a form to it that features an elusive conversational skill I don’t have? Or a projected quality that invites connection is missing? Be interesting to study this because to my mind it isn’t resolved that blogging is any more “educational” than the school lunch.

    I do like the idea of blogging as claiming a space in the learning process, a tool for developing voice. But worry about the presumption that blogging is a natural ability built into all humans and the open risk that not being accomplished may silence someone.

    A question I have. Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room the other day–as pointed out by Clarissa, a fertile realm of inspiration that could be licensed to the Dali Lama himself marking profundities to follow… there were 3 women actively texting on their phones and 3 males including myself communing in apparent amazement with the notion of being completely free of thought. The 3 of us had phones but didn’t use them. Is it true women are more connected and might this affect blogging?

  8. I agree with Bonnie. I blog about half formed thoughts I am working with, and find that comments from friends help me to see what I am trying to say. I find that if I can comment on other blogs it helps me to remember and contextualize them. And, yes, it helps me form my community (I don’t like the term PLN) as well.

  9. I blog primarily for two reasons: one, for what I call the “trail of breadcrumbs” for myself and others, where ideas (even in partial formation) can be kept and revisited, and two, for the network, the possibility of choral conversation and participation and the deepening sense of other people and what they think that comes from those exchanges.

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