Lessons learned from one year in the sphere

On January 10th, I was able to celebrate one year in the blog sphere, so it seems natural to reflect a bit on the lessons learned …

Why do I blog?

  • Well, first of all my much, much younger colleague, Thomas Ryberg provoked me by jokingly saying that the older (meaning over 40!) ELL researchers often just don’t understand new media, and as we all know understanding strengthens through practice. TY, Thomas – IOU ;-)
  • I’m inquisitive by nature and had been enjoying lurking in the sphere for a couple of years, and I do think that there are some very high quality, professional blogs out there, so I wanted to join this great knowledge network more actively.
  • As a PhD Candidate I need a place to collect my thoughts and experiences. Old style notes and Post-it’s still work great for me, but the major advantage of blogging is that preliminary thoughts become just a bit more processed or reflected through the writing, so when I return they may still seem unfinished, but yet more coherent than just a few words or lines on a yellow piece of paper.
  • As a PhD Candidate I’m also obliged to disseminate on a regular basis in various types of media. Writing research papers has been the most common way of getting your thoughts out into the research communities, and even though this is a very important activity I find the more immediate nature of blogging very profitable too.
  • Blogging is a great way of documenting activities and storing contextual ideas, links and files.
  • I have to write my thesis in English and needed a place to practice on a regular basis. Blogging in a second language can be really frustrating. I often lack words and phrases, so sometimes I leave out reflections and arguments simply because I don’t know how to articulate them. I’m also aware that especially my grammar often is incorrect. Even though it has become easier over the last year I’m really looking forward to staying at an English speaking university at sometime during my PhD period!
  • My research object, Second Life, brings me so many great and challenging experiences both on a professional and personal level, so this is also a way of showing my appreciation by telling “the world”. As in many other countries Second Life often gets belittled by the Press, most often due to poor research, so this is also a way to counterpart that.
  • When I meet people and talk about my research, I’m often asked for more information, and since I’ve never had a website, this seemed like a perfect way to have a public reference.
  • As a teacher at a Masterprogramme on ICT and Learning it seems not only natural, but also necessary to “practice what I preach”, and I also know that some of my students find it interesting/inspirational to follow my activities.

How do I blog?

I’ve written 72 post during this first year, which I actually find quite ok, since I didn’t blog at all from February till July due to illness both personal and in my family. I’ve written 2-3 personal posts, the rest are professional. The 46 categories reveal that SL, education, MIL, my PhD and research are my favorite 5 topics. I never lack topics to blog about, but due to time restraints I try to focus on topics directly related to my PhD project. I’ve expanded my blogroll quite a lot, and now it works as my favorite list related to my PhD work (my Firefox is more off-topic and often contains temporary links).

I’ve recieved 68 comments. As you may have noticed above I didn’t mention the asynchronous dialogue as an advantage of blogging. I have a dozen of blogs I follow on a regular basis, but I’ve only posted a few comments on other blogs. So far my own posts have mainly been descriptive and have served as a way of preserving preliminary thoughts and ideas. Due to both language restraints and, I guess, professional insecurity I haven’t felt comfortable engaging more and I haven’t done anything to ensure that my blog would show via search engines etc. I started blogging as a very personal experience, as a way of finding my own voice as a researcher – and this may take some time. Being a PhD candidate is very much about learning and I intend to take advantage of this unique opportunity of having three whole years to strengthen my thoughts and expand my knowledge.

In a recent Australian study on the advantages of blogging as part of a PhD candidature by Ward & West (2008:63), it is stated that:

The process of PhD development should, presumably, be one of growth in intellectual confidence, independence and originality of thinking. It would be fair to expect it to result in empowerment and ultimate entry to an elite community. These attributes – that we presume are valued by all the participants in the process – by definition are not, and should not, be easy to achieve.

Although there apparently are major differences between the learning conditions for PhD candidates in Denmark and Australia, I do think that Ward & West’s paper summarizes the advantages of blogging quite accurately, and I would much certainly recommend blogging as part of the PhD learning process.

/Mariis

BTW, thanks to Greg Wadley – another blogging PhD Candidate – for the Ward & West reference :-)

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