My thoughts have turned to a book from my Phd thesis. It’s ambitious I know, in particular as the only place the thesis exists at the moment is in my head and there it’s more like a broken jigsaw than anything complete. But it’s a plan. The title would be – eteaching; pedagogy and practice for a digital age – so I’m laying claim to that now!
Advice on doing this is plentiful. There’s the phd2published site and Pat Thompson‘s blog posts as well as lots of doctoral writing support in general including Patrick Dunleavy’s Authoring a PhD and Kamler and Thompson’s Helping Doctoral Students Write. The key message seems to be a thesis is not a book. It needs rewriting for a different audience. Fair enough. I’ve always thought the strongest point of any research is the narrative which emerges from a qualitative data collection process and I prefer words to numbers. It’s everything else. Like head-space and time constraints which hamper the process. My never ending and never far away twin excuses!
The summer didn’t go quite as planned. Although I read a couple of research books and managed five interviews and transcripts, the dust on NVivo has remained largely undisturbed.
I thought a book plan might spur me on but recognise it could also be an avoidance technique. I’m good at those. I’ve repotted the house plants and my laminate floors are the cleanest they’ve been, even behind the settee and the sideboard. However, a book on e-teaching appears to fill a gap. There are books about online education but mostly either theoretical rather than practical or aimed at primary and secondary school. I had more of a research informed higher ed narrative in mind; one which combined pedagogy and practice of virtual learning environments and followed a number of different academics as they worked through the TELEDA learning blocks. Chapters would include Activity Based Content (ABC) Design, Introduction to Open Educational Resources and Social Media for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.
The framework would be one of educational inquiry and the scholarship of teaching and learning. It will also contain guidance on essential areas like accessibility, inclusive practice and copyright with TELEDA participant comments threaded throughout. All identities would be protected. My data is so anonymised even I’m not sure who said what and when, and I also thought about inventing a hypothetical learning environment so there’d be no worries about corporate branding. All VLEs do the same things and the whole point of educational technology is the generated learning opportunities rather than the tools which deliver the content and interaction. So eteaching; pedagogy and practice for a digital age. You read it here first.
image from http://www.icolortype.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Baby-with-iPad.jpg
Not sure if it was me or the theme but my blog broke so I’m on the hunt for a new one. This raises the inevitable questions. Why blog in the first place? What are the benefits? Who reads it? Is there anyone there? Blogging is the TELEDA topic for 21st – 28th November. Blogging ties in with the TELEDA Reflective Journal and portfolio style assessment which asks for critical narratives of the TELEDA journey. This seems like a useful place and time for some bloggeration
Why blog in the first place?
Well, why not? In a digital society, an online presence says things about you. It suggests you’ve engaged with virtual worlds, have considered your identity in pixels, can demonstrate some literacies with text and images, use reflection to achieve deeper approaches to professional development. Above all, it indicates you’ve accepted the influence of the internet on higher education. Technology is here to stay and there is much work to do in order to better understand how to use it to enhance student learning. A blog is a good place for exploring and sharing your ideas, practice and research around these areas.
What are the benefits of blogging?
In squeezed times, where priorities are continually juggled, blogging offers a point in the week for pulling together the disparate strands of your working life. It’s an opportunity to focus on a single topic, try out a new idea, demonstrate progress – or find the value in lack of it which is itself a worthwhile exercise. Blogging encourages you to keep to deadlines, develop an appropriate style and learn to write with precision and conciseness. Blogging is a mirror of your professional practice, it’s an opportunity to take control of your image before someone else does. Blogging also has the potential for networking with like-minded people on an international scale; this sharing of ideas and practice can be both affirming and inspirational.
Who reads it anyway?
This is harder to answer. Any blogger has to be comfortable with the idea of blogging for an audience of one and the cat. Yet someone might come across your tiny space on the internet and you want to make a good impression, so the craft of blogging is important. Categories and tags help ensure your blog pops up on searches (always have this function enabled) and new readers are picked up from a blog address on your email signature, online profiles like Twitter and Linkedin or from business cards. You can use Google Analytics to trace traffic to your blog and discover which posts were most popular but overall, I think audience numbers are probably less important than the craft and practice of blogging itself – for all the reasons already cited – and there will be more.
Like all digital literacies, blogs are personal. They reflect who you are and what you do and everyone has different blog drivers. It’s like the lottery – you have to be in it to win it. You need to give blogging a try to discover benefits.
The best thing about mess is its synonyms; clutter, litter, muddle, mishmash. Word pronunciation doesn’t get better than this. Sometimes life gets messy. Mine has gotten messy and the biggest mess of all is the Phd. A mess in the messiest sort of way.
There’s barely room for me on the settee or my feet on the coffee table. I”m surrounded with books of two kinds; open or closed, all unfinished. Ditto the papers; printed in haste with misplaced enthusiasm. Regretted later. Scribbled on pages 1, 2, sometimes 3 before the underlining and highlighting stops. I have scraps of notes everywhere. I’m good at notes and buying notebooks. These are my random ideas, written before they flit back where they came from. My PhD has become an art installation of unread literature while the NVivo laptop has dust on it, hidden under more piles of paper in the corner. A messy space is an unproductive space. The Phd is in a bad way; it needs resuscitation.
I’ve signed up for Academic Writing Month to get myself back on track.
It’s a write-a-thon by the PhD2Published team who along with The Thesis Whisperer provide social networking for doctoral researchers. The idea of #AcWriMo is you publicly declare your writing intentions, set your goals and get writing for a whole month with support provided by Facebook and Twitter. Academic writing is a problem no one talks about. Everyone needs to do it but not many find it easy or know about sources of support. There’s an assumption we pick up a pen and it all comes naturally. Writing is your alternative voice but while the ability to speak in public is recognised as a skill to be learned, writing in public rarely gets attention. #AcWriMo offers the opportunity to get something written and links up a network of people engaging with the same issues. The wisdom of crowds and all that can be a powerful motivator.
Here are some reasons why you should consider #AcWriMo …
- You choose your subject; it might be an ongoing project which has got stuck or something completely new. Either way, it will create time you didn’t think you had.
- Even if you don’t meet your goals, you’ll write more than you would have done otherwise.
- Academic writing is a skill and like all crafts needs to be practiced; #AcWriMo is a safe place to explore the power of words and make progress.
- It will lead to a sense of achievement; you’ll feel better afterwards than when you started
- You are not alone! You get to experience the networking effect of Twitter and/or Facebook. Across the world there are people struggling to find time to write and #AcWriMo brings them all together.
- A month is long enough to change attitudes and behaviours; taking part might lead to new and beneficial writing habits.
- In the west the days are shortening, mornings and evenings are dark and it’s getting colder. What else will you do with all your extra time indoors?
I’m not yet decided on my writing subject. I have problems with boundaries as evidenced by the ways my PhD floats off and gets lost. It’s absent at the moment. If I want to bring it back my subject needs to be e-teaching and the absence of voices in the literature. Rhetoric and reality. Fiction and fact. Postmodern v critical realism. But I’d also like to do something around creativity and academic writing or reflection as literacy. Clearly the first challenge is to find a subject and I set myself the public target of doing this by next Friday. Gulp!