The Far Side is a comic by Gary Larson which ran in newspapers in the 80’s and early 90’s. It was known for its surrealistic humor and often portrayed events which were highly unlikely to happen. In this blog post, I use the term “far side” not to refer to the comic strip, but as an illustration of reaching the end of my journey with blogging.
Dr. Gilhan Osman, assistant professor, discusses the usefulness of journaling in an article about blogging. Osman (2012) states, “One of the most powerful uses of blogs within education, in my opinion, is integrating it as a medium for self expression, reflection and knowledge construction.” I found that statement to be true for my blogging experience.
When I was first tasked with starting a blog, I thought that I would write an informational blog about do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. I envisioned posting about my current projects using a lot of pictures, instructions, examples, and links to further resources. However, as I began to blog, what came more naturally to me was simply to tell my own DIY story. I then began treating my blog as a personal journal and entertainment source instead of an informational site. What I experienced as I blogged is that I developed a personal style that allowed me to be genuine in my self-expression, reflected on how I acquire DIY knowledge, and organize my thoughts regarding future projects.
The act of creating a blog and writing out a narrative for someone else to read caused me to develop a personal style which allowed me to express myself in a genuine manner. Jo Ann Oravec (2002) discusses this concept in her article “Bookmarking the World.” Oravec argues that the varied nature of blogs (topic oriented or wide ranging, personal/autobiographical, etc.) makes them an excellent tool for students to express their unique voices.
In order to share my thoughts through blogging I was forced to consider things such as what to name the blog, the aesthetics, how to organize the blog for ease of access, what topic to write about, how much detail to include, etc. While overwhelmed at first, I was able to navigate through each issue and ultimately create a blog that I find appealing and which expresses my unique style.
Another aspect of my experience with blogging is that I reflected on how I acquire DIY knowledge. My blog name is “homemade handiness.” With this title, I wanted to convey that I engaged in informal learning which led to my DIY skills. As I considered each project, I thought about what resources I used that made me consider my knowledge “homemade.” I began to notice that I utilize many forms of virtual learning communities (VLCs). The primary aspect that kept drawing me back to this form of learning was, as Ferraro and Palmer (n.d.) point out, that I “always [have] the option of re-reading” the article, blog entry, forum, etc. Even with multimedia forms of VLCs such as YouTube, I find myself re-watching videos to gain a deeper understanding of what I’m trying to learn.
I also found that blogging about my DIY projects led to reflective growth. Eisenbach (2016) found that students who kept self-reflective journal “were able to identify their newfound knowledge and see their own growth and awareness of the content.”
By reflecting on my DIY projects through online journaling, I found that I was able to identify processes that could be made for efficient in future projects and adjust my plans accordingly. For example, when I wrote my third entry regarding my family’s guest bathroom update, I had to think about the order of the changes that were made to bathroom (i.e. first-demolishing the floors, second- installing new tiles, etc.). Thinking about that caused me to consider the renovation order of our next project (kitchen renovation) and how I could improve my process. If I hadn’t journaled about the experience, I may not have changed my process or thought-ahead when tackling the next project.
While I found my blogging experience to be enjoyable and educational, there were a couple of drawbacks I discovered to keeping an online journal.
First, I struggled with how much information to share with the reader. Once something is published online, it seems that it never goes away. The idea that “the internet is forever” is so common in our cultural that songs have been written about it, television shows have been themed after it, and middle and high schoolers are being warned of the consequences of posting unbecoming information about themselves online or through digital formats (McGilvery, n.d.).
The Atlantic, a long-time American magazine, published an article about the long “shelf life” of information uploaded to the internet. The beginning of the article states:
You may not remember your Myspace account—the early aughts were a while ago—but it remembers you. So does your LinkedIn account, even though you haven’t logged into it since you were desperately casting about for a job after college. Those retail-website accounts that promised 15 percent discounts? They haven’t forgotten, either (Waddell, 2016).
The article goes on to discuss how digital personal information is saved and shared across platforms and can eventually fall into the hands of criminals.
I personally know someone who interviewed for a position at a large corporation and during the interview, the selection committee pulled up an old forum post where the candidate had berated the company and asked about why the candidate posted the opinion and if they still felt that way about the company.
Since the type of blogging I engaged in was personal in nature, privacy was a concern for me.
Second, I found blogging to be a time consuming experience that, if not motivated by this class, I would likely not have persevered in. Many bloggers discuss this aspect of blogging when addressing the pros and cons of blogging (Vilhelmsson & Wright, 2018) . If I were to blog on a frequent basis, the quality of my writing and reflective growth would likely suffer because of the pressure to get something post.
Though there are drawbacks to blogging, the two I mentioned could easily be remedied for educational settings. To address privacy concerns, for example, a professor could require that the blog posts be located within a ‘classroom only’ forum (such as we use with Canvas). If peer feedback were not involved, the professor could also give the student the option to submit blog-style entries through email or a learning management system.
Regarding time issues, the professor could facilitate time management by assigning checkpoints throughout the semester for how many posts should be completed at that point in time.
Overall, my blogging experience was a positive one. Not only did I benefit from the exercise personally and academically, but I believe the experience will prove helpful in my professional life as well with any future courses I may have the privilege to facilitate (whether online or face-to-face).
Eisenbach, B. (2016, February). Student reflection: a tool for growth and development. Retrieved February 16, 2018, from https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/586/Student-Reflection-A-Tool-for-Growth-and-Development.aspx
Ferraro , V., & Palmer, K. (n.d.). Differences between oral and written communication. Retrieved March 07, 2018, from https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/speech/differences.htm
McGilvery, C. (n.d.). Promoting responsible and ethical digital citizens. Retrieved March 10, 2018, from http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/responsible-student-technology-use.shtml
Oravec, J. (2002). Bookmarking the world: weblog applications in education. 45(7), 616-621. Retrieved March 10, 2018, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40012246
Osman, G. (2012, November 20). Blogging: a powerful tool for student self-expression, reflection and knowledge construction. Retrieved March 10, 2018, from http://dar.aucegypt.edu/handle/10526/4123
Vilhelmsson, A., & Wright, M. (2018, March 09). To write or not to write? pros and cons of blogging as an ecr | plos ecr community. Retrieved March 10, 2018, from http://blogs.plos.org/thestudentblog/2018/03/09/to-write-or-not-to-write-pros-and-cons-of-blogging-as-an-ecr/
Waddell, Kaveh. “Your data is forever.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 2 June 2016, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/06/your-data-is-forever/485219/.