Monday, 23 February 2009

On blogging

It's a strange thing, to find myself actually the proud owner/author of a blog as opposed to a comfortably anonymous lurker. I've played the latter role for a long time on various blogs, and now I'm childishly excited to finally have my own. However, now that I have it I think I may have developed the blogger's version of stage fright; it's surprisingly difficult to press the 'publish post' button after tapping away into this composition box. Thankfully the course tasks require me to get on with it, but it still feels rather exposed: it's a little like writing the reflective practice journal I produced for my PGCE, but then presenting it not just to my tutor but to the entire world!

It seems to me that anyone taking this on needs to be absolutely sure what the function of their blog is and why they are producing it. Without a definite purpose, a blog turns into either an inadvisably public virtual bits-and-bobs box, or a cavernous expanse of nothing at all. I can think of a couple of reasons why I might create and continue to contribute to a blog - as a space for creative and reflective activity, as a teaching and learning tool, or even as a kind of meeting place for people with the same interests - but I'd need to create these individually and keep them separate. Unless I timetabled in each update, I think they would all come into the 'infrequently updated' category though!

RSS Feeds and readers

Having spent a week exploring RSS (after spending about a year wondering exactly what that little orange icon actually did), I have mixed feelings about this. One the one hand, I have found some great feeds that allow me to find and explore all sorts of new material; it's the kind of effortless 'keeping in touch' and 'keeping up to date' that I used to dream of. Yet, on the other, it's also like drowning; I now have a constant stream of information coming into my reader, and its ever expanding contents are beginning to make me feel as guilty as unanswered email in my inbox does. I simply don't have time to get through it all, and I find the huge quantities of 'stuff' overwhelming. I would prefer it if what comes in could be more easily organised, and perhaps processed a bit by personal settings on the way in. Anything that would keep Google Reader from looking like a disorganised information dump would be good, really!

I can see how this can really help with subject specific updates in relation to learning and teaching; it would be possible to recommend particularly good sites to students too, and encourage them on the way to the latest on their area. In some situations this could be research-related, and I'm sure that choosing which feeds to pursue and following them on through linked searches and so on could easily be integrated into some kind of explicit EBL environment.
I guess also that if it were set up properly it could be a great way of streaming information through to students; if you had a module or course webpage, this could be a way of ensuring it got to everyone. The downside, of course, would be the necessity for all students to have a regularly checked online identity outside the University system, and I can see all kinds of problems with that, as things are currently set up at least. The University itself, however, could (and probably does!) use RSS for all sorts of things, particularly in disseminating information to potential students, to staff and to the press.

In personal terms, this is another way to get alerts to things which are happening in special interest or hobby areas. The theory (that this means not having to look up sites but having the information brought to you) is fantastic, but again in practice I find the problem is the amount of stuff that comes through. Perhaps I'm supposed to function as my own personal filter, but this seems to me a time-consuming exercise. There is a danger that my Google Reader will cease to be terribly functional for me just because it's so busy to look at, and so full of items all clamouring for my attention. And that's in addition to all these new blogs... Perhaps it helps if you stop sleeping?

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

First Post

This sounds strangely forced, but welcome to my blog! At some stage I'll attempt to write something of more substance...