Posting Neurosis

ImageIt’s a tough life, being a blogger.  It makes you neurotic.  You see, there are others out there blogging about the same things you want to write about.  They ‘get in there’ before you, they know better words, have a tighter, more cohesive writing style – and importantly, they know far more about the subject in question.

On two occasions this week I’ve decided to write a post – and both times somebody else has beaten me to it.  It makes me feel like the bingo player who only needs one more number to get a full house…and always gets that magic number just after somebody else has cried ‘BINGO’ and won themselves a pocket full of cash or a nice tinned ham.

The neurosis increases when I read through these posts, and I realise that compared to them, my own entry would have read like a ‘Dummy’s Guide to…’ rather than something informative and illuminating.  Bright side?  At least I didn’t put fingers to keyboard and look like a twit.

I then fall foul of ‘Bloggers’ Dichotomy’, a known side effect of what I shall henceforth refer to as ‘Posting Neurosis’ (PN).  I want more people to read my blog. I feel like a loser because I’ve been blogging (intermittently) for years and, as far as I know, have been the sole reader of my own posts.  Rival bloggers – and they do feel like rivals rather than peers: that’s one of the benefits of PN – have JPEGs of glowing rosettes and gold medals on their sites, because they win industry blogging awards every year.  And quite right too – their blogs are superb.  They make me envious.  And neurotic…

…so what’s the secret?  How do I get more people to read my blog?  Do I really WANT people to read it?  Aren’t I,  by offering it to the world, making a rod for my own back?   My first attempts at blogging back in 2008 resulted in some pretty hurtful comments from online trolls, a hastily deleted account with Blogger and more than a little soul searching. Looking back, this could be where I first developed Posting Neurosis.

Or is this behaviour normal but unspoken?  Are even the really successful bloggers secretly worried that they’ll lose their magic touch, that people will ‘unfollow’ them?  Do they worry that their blogging star is on the wane? That they can’t top last year’s awards, or think of anything new to say?

Of course, I have no idea what the answer is.  I guess people like these are so well-respected, so firmly entrenched in their field that they don’t need to worry about anything.

And yes, to paraphrase my favourite Timelord, I’m on WordPress now.  WordPress is cool.

Hello Reader (s). I’m over here now!

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Twitter bought Posterous last March, basically as a talent acquisition, for an undisclosed amount, possibly between $5 million and $10 million. The founder of Posterous, Sachin Agarwal, is now Twitter’s product manager, and apparently the Posterous team has been fully assimilated into the Twitter organization.  Just as well I guess, as Posterous will be closed as of April 30th 2013.

When I first heard the news, I was truly saddened.  I’d been a Posterous user for several years, and had referred so many students and fellow teachers to the blogging site over the years, that it felt like a familair friend was being executed.  Well – that’s a bit over-dramatic…but…

I have a blog on Blogger.com that has now accumulated so much dust I can no longer look at it without dressing a la Kim and Aggie and wearing industrial-thickness rubber gloves and a gasmask.  It’s a dithersome place – the theme of the blog keeps getting re-purposed, I never send links to the content as there’s not much of interest there anyway, and even though it looks slick and is very easy to use, I’m thinking that it’s probably time to shut it down for good and concentrate on one blog only.  So, on the advice of a few fellow Learning Technologists, I migrated my Posterous blog to my Tumblr account (incredibly easy to do – here’s a link)…and now here it is, same content, new, shiny home.

But what to do with it?  I notice other Learning Techniologists have very academic technology-related blogs that, though well-worth a read and insanely useful, don’t really match my personality or work with my embarrassingly poor attention span.  (Yes – it’s all about me.)  I notice that all my Tumblr activity is subsumed into this blog, so articles about the advantages of various online content curation sites now sit next to Buffy the Vampire Slayer gifs and Doctor Who videos.  I should thin this out – have at least two separate blogs – one academic and technology based, one more laid back, more general…but I think I like the blurred edges. This could end up working very much like my 2 Facebook accounts linhked to both my professional and my ‘outside office hours’ profiles…but I find that more and more, I use the day to day profile for everything. 

And so I will with this blog.  Yes, it’s about Edutechy stuff (read the title!), but read on and you’ll notice the word ‘Wonderland’ there too.  It’s the same title I have given my Facebook page (unashamed promotion…and a link here) and I want it to have the same ethos: because it’s for everyone.  Not just fellow Learning Technologists.  Not just those working in education who have an interest in using technology to enhance their students’ experiences and learning. It’s my wonderland, I’m building it, it has a definitive ‘slant’…and you’re welcome to join in. 

So don’t expect the technological knowledge, the wisdom and academic rigour that come from others’ blogs. Expect a technological joi de vivre that includes technology in post-compulsory education, links to nerdy things that may interest or bore you in equal measure.  Maybe I’ll sort things into categories…maybe it’ll just be a rather ponderous journey.  Who knows.  I’ve not written it yet!

 

Educator’s Group in Second Life: Session 5-Stepping Stones (Extract from Robin Heyden’s Blog)

Landing on Cornwall Island

Today was a “tour day” for our intrepid SL Educators group.  We made our way to Cornwall Island to meet up with Bex Ferriday (aka Bex Mavendorf / Hebask Falconer)  and Julia Dando (aka Julala Rexie), both from Cornwall College in England.  Bex is a lead practitioner and subject learning coach working in the School of Education and Training.  Julia is the eLearning Development Manager for the college.

Together, they’ve built most everything you see on Cornwall Island – a lovely replica of a Cornish village, a beautiful beach (complete with hangliders and jet skis), a pier, teaching areas, a farm, a woodland walk, a public sandbox, a Cornish tinmine, a shopping area, and  – of course – a pub.  It’s clear that these two make a formidable team.  They support each other well – while one is leading a class, the other is working in the background to solve technical problems, take snapshots, or record the proceedings. And they clearly collaborate on everything.  I was also struck by their humor and easy-going manner.  You can tell that nothing ruffles these two!

Bex is currently leading and teaching an online course referred to as the “PTLLS” course (which stands for Preparing to Teach in the Life-Long Sector).  This is an 11-week teacher training course designed for people who want to teach in higher education. It is accredited by the UK accreditation board and the graduates earn a provisional license to teach.  In the past, Bex ran this course partly online (using Moodle) and the rest with real life meetings.  Now she’s teaching what was the “real life” portion in the virtual world of Second Life.  In addition to SL and Moodle, Bex uses Flickr, Skype, a wiki, a Posterous blog, and a Twitter group as additional tools for her students.  They use the wiki for lesson plan writing – each student in the course has their own personal wiki page.

The SL class sessions are used for group discussion (for instance talking about examples of good and bad teaching) and teaching practice.  All notes from these discussion go up on their Moodle forum and they sometimes film the session (using QT). Althought its still early days, Bex and Julia are finding that the teaching in SL works just as well as the teaching in real life (with perhaps, a bit more sizzle).

The pub.

After Bex and Julia gave us a tour of their beautiful island, we settled into the pub for a chat.  Our SL Educators had lots of questions for them.  For instance, how many students do they have in their course now? (12)  Where are they based (Italy, Spain, and Portugal mostly, a few from the UK).  Who are they primarily?  (late 30’s mostly, slightly more women than men).  How did they manage assessment in the course?  Bex described two graded assignments that she gives.  The first is to write a 200-300 word theoretical essay. It could be a look at relevant legislation, group management, roles and responsibilities of the teacher, or the boundaries of teaching.  She sets that up on Moodle as an electronic assignment – the students submit online and she provides feedback to them online. The second assignment is a practical one. The students each deliver a 30-minute lesson (referred to as a “microteach”) on any subject.  They give the microteach to their peers and receive feedback.  In the past, this was done in person, in a classroom.  Now, they all do the microteach in Second Life.  Students can choose to incorporate any element of SL into their teaching practical – for instance, their microteach might involve taking the “students” to another location for a relevant experience.  Bex will be filming these so that the students can watch and listen to themselves later.

A particular challenge with this course is that the students come from many different disciplines.  So, in a way, explained Bex, having the huge resources of Second Life is an added advantage.  Whether they plan to teach science, literature, psychology, or business, there are relevant builds for them to investigate and use.  Bex tries to instill in her students the idea of identifying likely resources and using them well – whether online, in a library, in the community…. or in the virtual world.

Groupshot, taken on the student area skybox on Cornwall Island

Julala and I gave an informal overview of the PTLLS course and a tour of Cornwall College Island to a great group of Educators from America (and Cardiff!) this week. Had a really good time chatting to them all and answering their questions about how we use the island to teach and assess, and it’s great to read such positive feedback from Robin via her blog post. Woohoo!!!