Virtual School Meanderings

October 4, 2010

EDGE 2010 Blog Panel: Tell Us About Your Blog

The first question that we have been asked to address as a part of the Academic blogging and tweeting: Connecting people, ideas and research panel at the EDGE 2010: e-Learning – The Horizon And Beyond… conference is:

Tell us about your blog and its content. How did you get started and who is your audience?

The easiest way to describe this is to say that the  official tagline for the blog reads:

“This blog and podcast focuses upon issues pertaining to distance education within the K-12 system, specifically the use of virtual high schools.”

And the About VSM page reads:

I post entries items about K-12 distance education (mostly online learning).  At the heart of it, there are really two main purposes to the blog.  One is as a one-stop-shop for people involved in K-12 distance education, specifically K-12 online learning, to get information about what is going on in the field.  The other is to provide a place for me to play with ideas related to K-12 online learning prior to them being ready to be published in formal academic outlets.

One of the difficulties in describing this blog is that it doesn’t fit into the general categories that have been developed by those who have written about blogging in higher education.  Regardless of which author or study you read, the description or classification for academic blogging is almost always cited as Walker (2006), who described blogs as falling into one of three categories:

  1. Public Intellectuals: “Many academic bloggers use their blogs as a platform for political debate based on theories of political science, feminism, discourse and media analysis, and so on.” (p. 130)
  2. Research Logs: “The ‘pure’ research log is a record of research conducted and ideas that might be pursued.” (p. 130)
  3. Pseudonymous Blogs about Academic Life: “The kind of title given to this proliferating branch of the academic blog is characterized by a tongue-in-check refusal to revere the ivory tower experience…” (p. 130).

One of the difficulties with these categories is the rigidness in which they are generally applied.  For example, this particular blog does not fall into any of these three categories.  Interestingly, when other authors have cited Walker’s categories they fail to include her own qualification:

“When I began blogging, I intended to write a pure research log. What I ended up writing was a hybrid genre, my favorite kind of research log: the blog that discusses both the content of research, the ideas themselves, and that also discusses the process and experience of researching.” (p. 131)

Even Walker indicates that the categories aren’t rigid and that blogs can fall into multiple categories.  However, that still does not address the issue of how to categorize or classify this blog (and I believe this applies to some of the other bloggers on this panel.  While this blog does discuss research – both research that has been published in journals and presented at conferences, along with research that is currently being conducted; that only accounts for a small number of the entries published in this space on a monthly basis.

Personally, I believe the best way to address this question is probably to examine the kinds of blog entries that I post.  After reading a wide range of classification schemes for blog entries in the literature, and asking other bloggers using a variety of social media, I decided to use the categories presented by Kjellberg (2010).

  • Disseminating content – as a possible way to disseminate something they would like others to read (which I operationalized as posting news items, research articles, links to other blog entries, newsletters, etc. – all without commentary)
  • Expressing opinions – to express opinions in a way that is seldom possible in other academic writing (which I operationalized as writing entries that were essentially opinion pieces)
  • Keeping up–to–date and remembering – blogging to make the effort to read and discover new things in the field, and also find things that might have otherwise missed (which I operationalized as posting notices of events – such as webinars, chats, conferences, training, etc. – without commentary from my having attended the event)
  • Writing – blogging to become a better writer (which I operationalized as writing entries in an academic fashion)
  • Interacting – blogging to interact with others or have others interact with us (which I operationalized as responding directly to someone – such as writing an entry in response to someone blog post or forum message or in response to a comment left on another entry)
  • Creating relationships – blogging to support the development of social networks or relationship management (which I operationalized as entries specifically designed to create or maintain a specific community using social media tools)

If we use the month of September as a typical month, the entries I posted during those 30 days could be categorized as:

  • Disseminating content – 41 entries or 42%
  • Expressing opinions – 6 entries or 6%
  • Keeping up–to–date and remembering – 48 entries or 49%
  • Writing – 0 entries or 0%
  • Interacting – 2 entries or 2%
  • Creating relationships – 0 entries or 0%
  • And note that I spent approximately 540 minutes or 9 hours in September preparing the entries for this blog panel (which would normally have been spent on entries in the “Expressing opinions” or “Writing” categories).

It should note that it is likely that September isn’t a typical month. It is the beginning of the semester – both for me and for most K-12 online learning programs that follow a specific school year. This means that I had less time for original entries (such as the ones that would be considered Expressing Opinions, Writing or Interacting), and that there would be additional content that I was able to copy and paste from other sources (which generally end up in the Disseminating Content or Keeping Up-To-Date And Remembering categories). Also, there are very few academic conferences in September, most of which seem to happen in October, November, March, April and May for educational technology academics; so there was little conference presentation commentary that I could post.

Having qualified the numbers that you see above, it would still be save to say that in almost any given month the majority of the entries would fall into the Disseminating Content or Keeping Up-To-Date And Remembering categories – lending support to the belief that the “one-stop-shop for people involved in K-12 distance education, specifically K-12 online learning, to get information about what is going on in the field” purpose of this blog is the dominant one.

Which brings us back to the question of how to classify this academic blog: Public Intellectual, Research Log, or Pseudonymous Blogs about Academic Life?  It should be clear that the third category (i.e., Pseudonymous Blogs about Academic Life) is not applicable.  While this blog is my blog and I use it to play with ideas that I am exploring, the blog itself is not necessarily about me and doesn’t really fall into the Public Intellectual category.  This leaves only the Research Log category, however, this blog is far from “a record of research conducted and ideas that might be pursued” – particularly when you consider that the vast majority of the monthly entries appear to either be letting people know about blog entries, news, resources, and research related to the the field or informing and reminding them about events that are taking place that may be of interest to people in the field.  Given this reality, I think a fourth category needs to be added to Walker’s classification: Community Network.

Community Network, as defined by me, is a space where the community can come to find out the latest news and events.  Think of it as the bulletin board that one would find on the wall of a department or residence in the traditional, brick-and-mortar university environment.  The place where the department could highlight research being done by its faculty, events that may be of interest to the students and the faculty, and any other news that the administration, faculty, or even students felt that may be of interest to the community.  If we accept this fourth category as a new and different category from Walker’s original three, I would suggest that this blog is a Community Network blog with some aspects of a Research Log from time to time.

In terms of how I got started, it was actually at the suggestion of a colleague in my professional association – Nathan Lowell – who was behind many of the blogs that I maintained.  He, and a group of others, were blogging about the change that they felt was required in the main educational technology professional organization.  I created a personal blog and began to join in that conversation (and incidentally, most of the changes we said were needed five and six years ago are still needed today – as for the most part they were never acted on).  It was around that time, if not at the same time, that I began blogging about K-12 online learning – and the rest, as they say, is history…

Bibliography:

Kjellberg, S. (2010). I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context. First Monday, 15(8). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2962/2580

Walker, J. (2006). Blogging from inside the ivory tower. In A. Bruns & J. Jacobs (Eds). Uses of blogs (pp. 127–138). New York: Peter Lang.

Note that my response to this question from the session at the 2009 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences is available at About This Blog.

1 Comment »

  1. […] Tell us about your blog and its content. How did you get started and who is your audience? […]

    Pingback by EDGE 2010 Panel – Academic Blogging and Tweeting: Connecting People, Ideas And Research [REVIEW] « Virtual School Meanderings — October 14, 2010 @ 8:16 am | Reply


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