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Thursday, June 09, 2005

Independent Writing: The Challenge (and Promise) of Blogging (and Research)

I suppose this is a quick transitional "... and Life" post... ah, but I do manage to sneak some Educational Technology in... online discussion boards, blogging as thinking, and blogging for children.

If you've been following along, then you are probably wondering what happened to me, but you can probably guess why I haven't been posting.

On the 29th of May I turned in my last paper in my last class of my doctoral coursework. I took a week off for a quarter break and then started up work on my first Knowledge Area Module (or KAM) at Walden University... which incidentally finally rolled out a new (spartan) look for their web presence just today.

So I didn't post much during my quarter break, and now I am beginning to deal with the reality of 16 months or so of solitary research and writing, sans classmates, and sans professors. I suppose at this point I am supposed to be working with colleagues, and luckily I think I am getting to that point, both professionally and academically. Still, I've found that with my online course discussions over the past 20 months or so, and with my blogging over the last seven months or so, I've become very accustomed to processing my thoughts through writing. I knew I was going to need to communicate with my faculty advisor more during this period, but I even found myself sending him emails with content like this in addition to the discussion of the objectives for my first KAM...

I am already noticing how strange it is not to log into my [personal start page] and check the discussion boards in my classes first thing each night. Also, I am already getting more into real research than I did a year ago. There are books all over the desk and searches all over my... desktop. The final paper in my last class was a great warm up. I just hope I can keep it up for another 16 months or so. ;)

Anyway, apparently I've also become accustomed to processing my thoughts by writing each night... good thing I started blogging.


Ironically, after formulating this thought earlier in the week, I then got this email from a friend's wife earlier today...

The other day [our daughter] asked if she could have a blog. [My husband] and Ithought this would be a good idea given proper security precautions, but *you* are the expert :) Anything in particular we should know?
I know you are busy, and there isn't any rush. Just thought we'd touch
base with you on this one.


Even though I have about a hundred emails in my follow up folder (this is really becoming a management issue for me) and there was no rush, I took this one on straight away and wrote this response...

It's great to hear from you.. and thanks for thinking of me. I hope this helps...

Somewhere I saw a great list of rules for parents to discuss with their child bloggers, but I'm having trouble finding it now... read it in an RSS feed a while back.. makes me wish I archived everything forever. I did find this though. Making these rules explicit (in a conversation) would be a great place to start. You might consider having her post under a pseudonym to start, both for security reasons and because what she writes may very well be with her for the rest of her life... what if a future lover or employer were to google her writing at this age... is that something she wants out there? (It sure wouldn't bother me, but I've heard this suggested elsewhere.)

Anyway, the two most important things are this (and I suppose they're pretty much common sense):

1. Be sure to lay down some ground rules off the bat (like the above)... make sure she understands the dangers, but also make sure she understands the potential. Talk to her about the power of writing to help the writer process and compose her thoughts... help her see that self-publishing is a powerful privilege... if appropriate you can discuss the freedom of speech, and the "flattening" of the world... the read/write web is causing an information reformation similar to the printing press... you can talk about the roll of blogs in relation to the main stream media.. consider the importance of everyone being a reporter in her lifetime. If she understands the power and potential of blogs (and her potential to contribute something to others) it will be less likely she will abuse it. ;)

2. Read the blog. Subscribe, but be sure to read the comments, too... with her if appropriate. It might make for good conversations, and it will help her to deal with anything unpleasant that might come up.

That being said, I doubt much unpleasant will come up, and I'm sure it will be a powerful and meaningful experience for her, and for you guys.


Boy, have you guys all seen this before somewhere? I realize I have a bear of a time giving credit when I am reading so many feeds every day... and I don't find most blogs easily searchable. Does anyone have a solution for this?

Suffice to say I read pretty much all of these ideas somewhere else... probably in one of the feeds to the right on this page.

At any rate, I thought my response might be worth sharing here. I'm often surprised what kind of connections throwing something online produces.

Unfortunately, returning to why I am not posting as often right now... one of the other things I have lost with the end of coursework is the motivation to write posts on different topics several times a week. I am pretty well working on different variations on the same topic for the next year and a half or so.

I find I still have much I want to write about, but less time to do other writing now. I'll keep at it though...

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

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