Comments as Inspiration

Where to begin on this one? I seem to have done little apart from read comments this week, and then trackback to the blog posts that spawned them. That was an interesting exercise in itself, and as is the way of blogs, one of Tony Karrer’s recent posts on eLearning Technology tracked me back to relevant comments from a couple of years back. The central topic was whether or not blogging should be mandatory for students and colleagues in education. It was a nice provocative question-based post.

OK that started the juices flowing for me … a bit of serendipity at work perhaps. Last week I spent a day with colleagues on a faculty retreat. We talked about many things including the need to embrace the arrival of e-learning, training requirements, and its introduction and development within the academic environment.

To the best of my knowledge very, very few of my colleagues blog. I’d wager many couldn’t define the term. I’ve also just come off a project with a class of students … one that required them to reflect on a daily or weekly basis on the work using blogging as a tool. I set up a class blog containing a page per student in addition to the front page, where everyone could post what they fancied about the project … this was usually me with my own comments, observations, focus statements, and video embeds to get them thinking. They could make their own page password protected or not … share or not; a couple wanted to create their own outside the class arena, and did so quite successfully. I’d visit and continue the conversation with each student on a regular basis. Anyhow I won’t go into details, but the results are in this week via individual wrap-up submissions on the project learnings.

So was blogging ‘mandatory’ for this exercise? Yes, but one or two students (as is the way of any class) didn’t do so. They kept written journals but forwent the conversation that blogging encourages. What did emerge in the student reflections was a general endorsement of blogging as an appropriate tool for this particular exercise at least.

The same comments series that got me trawling also mentioned colleagues’ use of blogging as a potential tool for sharing progress in current research projects, or attendance at conferences. This got me thinking. Given the general disinterest in this tool by faculty, would the cause of e-learning be assisted by forcing the horses to drink? Should blogging be mandatory? Perhaps not … any dictate from management is guaranteed to get your average academic back up. But would the by-product of this carrot and stick approach encourage productivity? Probably. Would it be useful? Heck yes. It would also be a relatively painless way of generating communities of practice … a buzzword right now in my neck of the woods but seemingly well nigh impossible to realise. ‘Too busy … too hard!” You’ve heard it all. The rebuttal to the no time-why do I need it line was a delightful other post from Tony Karrer in 2006: 10 Top Reasons to Blog and 10 Not to Blog. Check them out. They’re pretty much spot on.

What stuck with me was the bottom-line advice to get your priorities right and manage your time better … and as far as it’s being too hard … well, don’t be a little wuss. That sent me smiling into work this morning.


3 responses to “Comments as Inspiration”

  1. Sue Waters Avatar

    Yes I watched Tony’s post with interest. I’m thinking stealth mode is the way to go. Different people are engaged using different methods but incentives seems to work with many.

    They have to experience it first hand to appreciate how it can benefit them — instead of making it mandatory offer reward that makes them want to participate. Make it fun and include food with a bit of assistance. Yes I know I’m hoping too much.

  2. Michele Martin Avatar

    Kate, I’m back and forth on the mandatory thing. Obviously “mandatory” is NOT the condition under which many people do their best work. But maybe that’s OK, at least at the beginning. I’m sure that in many workplaces, email didn’t catch on until people were told they MUST use it to communicate with one another. So maybe we start telling people that it’s mandatory that they blog about what they learned at a conference–that it’s the “price of admission.” Or that it’s mandatory that they put a summary of their latest research into their blogs instead of emailing it to everyone. Eventually people would learn to adapt, just as they did with email. But I’m sure they’d be annoyed as hell in the process. 🙂

  3. Kate Foy Avatar

    Sue Waters I like carrots instead of sticks too … or chocolate, a glass of wine … . At aforesaid retreat last week we did the carrot thing … retreated to a local winery where we lunched, workshopped, discussed our future as a faculty and finished the day with a look to the future and a glass or two of the produce. There were still whiners about having to be there etc. etc. I guess one powers on regardless. Persistence wins out.
    Michele Martin Learning to adapt. That’s the key Michele. I’m working on developing cluster learning groups, where a colleague next door or down the hall is going to be there for you and lead you to the ‘drinking fountain.’ Seems to be an idea that’s gaining some currency.

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