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Monday, October 02, 2006

LCB's Big Question - Should All Learning Professionals be Blogging?

Over on LCB, The Big Question for October has been posted:

Should All Learning Professionals be Blogging?
This is an interesting question and it’s quite timely given recent occurrences.

Okay, so to me this is a timely question, but I want to avoid the "Should all do it?" question. "All" won’t happen anytime soon. Instead, but let me make a case for why YOU should.

Blogs are a Great Personal Learning Tool

As learning professionals, we should all be at the forefront of knowing how to learn ourselves. Writing is probably the single best way to codify personal knowledge. A blog is a fantastic way to do this and at the same time do it in a way that allows you to explore topics with others.

And as you gain experience with blogs, you can start to gain experience with other Personal Learning Tools.

Blogs are a Great New Community Mechanism

Take a look at Nancy White’s great paper - Blogs and Community – launching a new paradigm for online community?

What Nancy calls a topic centric community points out that as posts occur and other people comment on those posts or put up posts on their own blog, a discussion forms. Sure, it's messier than a discussion in a forum, but it allows communities to form in a more organic way (based on common interests). It also allows more of the person to come through. Personally, I’ve connected with several bloggers and have got to know them through their blogs. Brent Schlenker - Corporate eLearning Development - I met through blogging and through that he's going to be on a panel with me at DevLearn. I don’t feel the same sense of connection from threaded discussions.

On this topic, it's worth looking at What's Better to Build Community: Blogs or Forums? What struck me was:

  • In general, blogs are great at connecting and bridging to a NEW community.
  • In general, forums are great at harnessing and growing an EXISTING community.

Put in a different way, blogs allow us to grow a community without going to a single location. A forum or mailing list is most effective if everyone agrees to go to that single location and abide by those norms. Blogs allow community to be formed based on common interests and the community grows and evolves in a very fluid manner.

So, let me end this section by saying that YOU SHOULD take up starts with greatly improving your personal learning and includes a nice benefit of blogging to join an interesting community.

Now Let’s Examine Why You Won’t Start Blogging
The 1% Rule says that in collaborative environments, e.g., discussion groups, for every 100 people who sign up, 89 will lurk, 10 will participate in a limited fashion, and 1 will regularly post content. This has been seen across a variety of collaborative environments. So, history tells us that we should expect relatively low participation levels with Blogs (maybe 1%). However, learning professionals are way below 1% levels.

So, what reasons do people give?

  1. Cost or No Blog Tools Available

    Whoops, it’s free from a lot of places. Try

  2. Fear – Take a look at the post Fear of Blogging:

    I had to fight through ALL of these emotions when I started blogging. - Will I be accepted or rejected?- How much criticism will I get?- Will others discover
    that I am a phony and realize that I have absolutely no clue of what I am talking about?
    Note: Wendy got over her fear and does a great job raising interesting questions on her blog.

  3. Lack of Time

    How much time should you spend learning on your own each month about eLearning? Do you think you would be better served rearranging the time you spend to actually codify your learning?

  4. My Corporation Won’t Let Me

    Most corporations have no such restrictions. Of course, you shouldn’t come close to the line of divulging anything sensitive and should avoid calling your boss a jerk, but having a discussion around a topic like – "should we be blogging" – is a great thing to do.

My honest belief is that even if you don't post regularly on your blog, but do post around interesting challenges you are facing, you will find personal value in blogging. If you start, let bloggers know. Post a response to the LCB Big Question. Post a challenge you are facing. If you don't find value, then let me know - because I will be really surprised.

Come on in - the water's fine.


Jesse Ezell said...

The part about the whole Brandon Hall thing that gets me is that they set up their social networking site to look and feel almost exactly like MySpace, which is generally considered to be one of the worst web apps out there. It's success certainly doesn't have anything to do with it's look. If you believe Trent Lapinski, it has more to do with spam and shady dealings than anything else:

MySpace: The Business of Spam 2.0 (Exhaustive Edition)

Wendy said...

Even if no one EVER reads what you write - just the act of codifying your thoughts for outside consumption is a useful exercise.

Besides - if we are going to ask our students to blog, wiki, etc., shouldn't we at least be familiar with the process?

Tony Karrer said...

Jesse - MySpace is a very interesting animal. I'm not so quick to dismiss it as Spam. It is certainly not well done, but it has become the standard. Just like SEO, you now have to take into account MySpace.

Of course, just because MySpace worked well doesn't mean a MySpace clone for eLearning (BH network) will work well. I would be really surprised if the BH network takes off. And even more so if they get people to pay.

Tony Karrer said...

Wendy - great comments - as always! I hope you don't mind the link to your blog. I've really enjoyed reading your experiences.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone can ever say definitely what "everyone should be doing". That would presuppose that the person making that call has all the answers.

What I do know is that today's kids are living out a large proportion of their lives online. For teachers and parents to leave them to get on with it without researching it ourselves and ensuring that they are apprised of any dangers we discover, would be tantamount to allowing a toddler out into the street to figure out for himself the best way to get across.

Not all learning professionals work with children, of course, so perhaps the pressure is less for those whose focus is an adult audience.

I also know that I have learnt more via the blogosphere (and I've been at it for about a year, now) than I learnt in the preceding several years! One of the things I learnt was that some people were actively looking for information that I already had. And here was a tool by means of which we could pool our knowledge. Which we have been doing to great effect.

However, I am the only member of a team of 4 learning designers who blogs. The others roll their eyes at me every time I use the word in conversation. They seem to consider it unseemly to splash oneself about on the Internet, a bit like appearing on reality TV.

Whatever the case, I'm with Wendy: even writing this comment is causing me to marshall my thoughts, to consider various angles, to examine my views and ask myself if that's what I really think. For someone with a 50 horsepower mouth and a 5 horsepower brain, this is good discipline!

At the end of the day, the words horse and water come to mind. When it comes to my peers and colleagues, I can tell people how much blogging would benefit them and they will either blog or not. When it comes to my kids' teachers, though - it frustrates me no end that they seem to prefer wilful ignorance of the online lives of their charges. This is both a missed opportunity and a dangerous omission.

Barry Sampson said...

Thanks for using my blog as an example, it's geat to know it's being read.

It's an interesting challenge trying to get your colleagues to blog. To start with it can take time to get people to even read blogs; a colleague said to me today "ooh, too much text". I'm not sure how to answer that!

The lack of time answer is probably the most common one I get, and I do have a degree of sympathy with that. I do most of my blog reading, and all of my blog writing outside of working hours. That's my choice, and it suits me, but there are plenty of people who don't want to do that.

I would find it difficult if I tried to contain all of my blogging activity within my working day. If I was prioritising my time, would blogging be high on my list, or on the list at all? Truth is I don't know.

I have to echo a couple of things that others have said;

Taking the time to blog forces me to really think about things, and for that reason alone it's worth doing.

I've learnt more from reading blogs over the last couple of years than through any other medium, and I don't just read about learning (I do have a bit of a life!).

Tony Karrer said...

Wow, Karyn and Barry - that's incredibly powerful statements about your personal learning through blogging.