The other day my CIO asked me, "So exactly how much time do you spend each day blogging?" Maybe not a question you want your boss asking in these times of fiscal constraint. But I was able to answer immediately and truthfully: 30 minutes.
Now I'm not claiming that this or any other blog couldn't stand more time investment. What I'd argue is that rapid writing is one skill to have in our toolbox. For conference presentations or article submissions there is no substitute for invested time in reflection, writing, and re-writing. For blogging - well it goes on the page as it goes through the brain.
The best preparation I received for blogging was teaching online. One of the most important elements for running a successful online course involves presence. The instructor must be "present" in the course discussion boards and blogs. Teaching online gave me tons of practice in writing rapid, hopefully thought provoking, discussion and blog posts around the curriculum and the student's work. Much has been written about how teaching online can improve on-ground teaching. I'd add comfort with blogging to the benefits online learning.
Is the ability to quickly produce prose that (at least sometimes) may interest a reader the sort of skill that we want to cultivate in our students? The importance of rapid, persuasive writing is growing as blogs and other social media displace other forms of communication. We all need to learn to make our case, to persuade, to make arguments based on evidence - and to do so in a limited attention economy. For all of us, both writes and readers, time is our scarcest commodity.
Perhaps participating in online courses provides students the same practice with rapid and persuasive writing as teaching an online course. The same behaviors that make for a good online instructor, namely the willingness to be active and engaged with the asynchronous communication tools, are also those behaviors of a successful online student. An online course is all about collaboration and interaction. The best students post persuasively, briefly, and often.
A book that has a big impact on my thinking is Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters, by Scott Rosenberg. Have you read it? One of Rosenberg's main arguments is that a blog mostly benefits its author. People who are able to blog consistently do so for internal motivational reasons, rather than for extrinsic rewards. Writing a daily blog helps me sort through all the information around learning technology that crosses my screens. Any discussion that takes off around a particular blog post is a wonderful bonus, I always learn more about the issue from reading comments and other blogs, but the discussion is not the prime motivator. I'd blog if my only audience was my dog.
Which brings me back to online learning and blogging. My hypothesis is that people who enjoy online teaching and online learning may also enjoy blogging. Teaching and learning in an online format may be good preparation for blogging, or at least for practicing the art of brief persuasive writing. On-ground and hybrid classes can also take advantage of the collaborative LMS tools such as discussion boards and blogs to provide students with opportunities to practice, and receive feedback on, short persuasive writing. The advantages teaching online should not be restricted only to online courses.
Do you see a connection between online learning and blogging? (26 minutes)