Blogging to Build your Professional Profile

Last month the University of Edinburgh rolled out a new centrally supported Academic Blogging Service, which provides staff and students with a range of different blogs to support professional development and learning, teaching and research activities.  The service has already been hugely successful, with almost 200 new blogs created in the last four weeks.  My colleague Anne-Marie has written a lovely post about the service here: A month of Blogs.Ed

I’ve been blogging for more years than I care to count and my blog has been hugely important in supporting my career and my professional practice.  So much so, that I reflected on the significance of my blog in my CMALT portfolio, which is also hosted here, and I presented about Using WordPress to build an online academic identity at last year’s PressED Conference.  So I was really pleased to be asked to develop a new digital skills training workshop on Blogging to Build Your Professional Profile to support colleagues at the University.

Because we like to practice what we preach, I’ve created all the workshop resources on a WordPress blog running the SPLOT theme developed by Alan Levine.  The SPLOT was Anne-Marie’s idea.  I’ve been a fan of SPLOTs for a while but this is the first time I’ve used one and I think it’s the ideal format for presenting online resources like this.  The workshop covers using blogs to build your professional profile, writing for blogs, group and syndicated blogs, privacy, openness, copyright and licensing, and amplifying your blog with social media. It also includes practical guidance on setting up a blog on the new blogs.ed.ac.uk service, provides links to additional training courses running by the University, and examples of some fabulous professional blogs to provide inspiration.  There’s far too much material here to cover in a one hour workshop, but the beauty of the SPLOT format is that workshop participants can access all the course materials at a single URL, work through them at their leisure, and refer back to them as needs be.

And because we believe in spreading the love and supporting OER and open practice, all the workshop materials are CC BY licensed so you’re welcome to take them away and adapt and re-use them.  All the lovely header images are from a collection of  Architectural Drawings by William Henry Playfair, and they’re available under CC licence from the University of Edinburgh’s Image Collections.

If you’ve got any comments or feedback on these resources I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Blogging to Build your Professional Profile

thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/professional-blogging/

Open Pedagogy – A view from a distance

I’ve been thinking on and off for the last few days about the fascinating discussions going on around Open Pedagogy. Maha Bali has curated a diverse and thought provoking series of posts on the topic here and has organized a hangout to discuss What is Open Pedagogy? later today. Other than commenting on a few blog posts here and there, I haven’t contributed much to this debate and it’s taken me a little while to figure out why.

To some extent this is bound up with a post I wrote last week What do you do? That post is an off the cuff reflection prompted by my first attempt to make a start on my CMALT portfolio, but it does relate, if only tangentially, to the question of open pedagogy too. I think one of the reasons that I’ve felt slightly distanced from the open pedagogy discussions is that to my mind pedagogy is intrinsically bound up with the theory and practice of teaching and although I’ve worked in Higher Education for years, I’ve rarely been involved in teaching and I have never considered myself to be a teacher or an academic. This is one of the issues I was trying to grapple with, all be it facetiously, in my What do you do? post. I’ve very rarely taught staff or students, though I do hope that people have learned things from me along the way. I do help to support teaching and learning, but even then, I’m several steps removed from the pedagogy and the teaching process. I don’t do teaching so I’ve always felt I don’t really do pedagogy either.

What I do consider myself to be is an education practitioner. I participate in the process and practice of education and hopefully, some way further down the line, this contributes to teaching and pedagogy. Perhaps more importantly for my own personal and professional identity, I see myself as an open practitioner. I try very hard to practice my profession in the open, I try to learn from other open practitioners, I try to listen and learn and engage, and I try to be guided by the principals of openness and inclusivity.

This is why I identified so strongly with the questions Josie asked in her blog post Waves not Ripples

“I’m suspicious of the current distinction between open pedagogy and open practice, and in particular, how little explanation is being given to the privileging or even just use of the term pedagogy over the term practice. Is the use of pedegogy being used as shorthand for educational practice? Is it being used to underline the importance of formal education, or the primacy of teaching? Why not open heutagogy? Is it being used as a form of interpellation, a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education? What is wrong with ‘practice’? How do we benefit from continuing to insist on a break between theory and practice, or theory and politics? Is this distinction as harmful as the disavowal of the relationship between the personal and the political?”

Josie’s questions also called to mind the point Amber Thomas made in her wonderful blog post Perhaps I’m not one, which I linked to from my earlier post. Amber’s blog post is primarily a reflection on what makes a learning technologist, but she also includes this thought, which still resonates with me three years later.

“And another thing: I’m not an academic and I don’t teach. I consider myself to be a para-academic. (Like a paralegal, or a paramedic ). I have a particular skillset which has a place in universities. I’ve lost count of the number of sessions I’ve been in at elearning conferences over the year where the presenter asks “how many people in the room actually teach?”. Cue a few hands raised and the majority looking down at their feet, embarrassed, as if the 5/10/15 years experience in education counts for nowt. Universities are multi-professional places and learning technologists, in all their flavours, have a rightful place at the table. People like me shouldn’t have to pretend to be something we’re not.”

Like Amber, I’m not an academic and I don’t teach, so I’m not sure how much I can contribute to discussions about pedagogy. It’s not that I’m disinterested, far from it, it’s more that when people talk about pedagogy is often feels like they’re talking about something I don’t do, something I haven’t thought deeply enough about.

Of course that may simply be a massive misconception on my part, but there’s no denying that I tend to feel I have more to contribute to discussions about open practice, policy and politics than discussions about open pedagogy. Josie asks whether open pedagogy is being used as a signal to include and exclude specific groups within open education. I’m not sure I would go as far as to say that I feel excluded, but I do feel slightly distanced.

I don’t know how to draw this post to a sensible conclusion, because I don’t really know if I have one, but I suspect I’ll continue thinking about these issues of identity, experience, inclusion and exclusivity for some time to come. And perhaps if I can joint the hangout later today I’ll find out whether there is anything I can contribute to the discussions about open pedagogy, and whether this feeling of distance is just a misconception on my part after all.

A view from a distance