Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Glenn Groulx -
Number of replies: 14


I have aggregated the individual blogs of participants onto one pageflakes.com at http://www.pageflakes.com/edublogging/

If you have other blog URLs you want added, just let me know in this forum, and I can add them as flakes to the aggregation. I have also added bookmarks and a blog search flake.

Wire Feature Within ELGG

Within ELGG, I use the wire feature frequently to announce shifts in my blogging activty, and announce new content published with the Academic Blogging Circle, a group I maintain to focus on academic blogging issues and strategies. It is a lot like Twitter, but I need to distinguish between the two, as they serve different needs, and are intended for the most part for different audiences.

I have made this differentiation largely because of my own personal preferences of what I find useful/distracting as content within ELGG. Everyone's preferences differ, and so here are my views:

use the ELGG Wire for 'Internal Community' business

If I find a cool link related to my topic, I add it to my bookmarks; if I know it is of use to a few of my colleagues, I post it to the group as a bookmark. If it is a link of possible interest to a larger audience, I blog it, and set it to a public access setting. The Wire posts relate to shifts in direction, such as a new photo portfolio, or a new series of blog posts, or a new set of files uploaded,or a new poll, all intended to promote the academic blogging group. I sometimes use the Wire to re-promote older content, or promote a link to a research presentation of potential interest to the ELGG community.


I don't use the Twitter in the same way as the Wire. I don't, for example, post interesting links I may find in passing to the Wire; instead, I post it to Twitter only if I do not have the time to analyze the content and I am on the go. Twitter, to me, is a mobile (micro-blogging) app, useful for capturing resources quickly (I cannot help but think of skimming) .

I also send out a general announcement to larger audiences of some of my new blog posts using Twitter, and feed-forward the link to other learning communities external to AU landing. This is done sparingly, as every single Tweet is archived, and viewable by anyone searching using your twitter name (in my case, @ggroulx).

I cannot help thinking about the use of twitter as the more advanced app that builds upon the strengths of both USENET newsgroups and IRC. For this reason, I consider it an extension of the networking capacity that spreads out my social web. On the other hand, I consider the blogs as the information hubs, the repositories, so to speak, to which other content is connected.

In effect, for me, the Wire is a tool within ELGG to announce events relating to the group, or to announce the publishing of significant new content such as my own published papers, presentations, interviews, links to my academic portfolio and the recording of the academic portfolio defence.

Twitter, for me, is intended as both an announcement tool, like the Wire, as well as a mobile blog, to drop content while on the go. I have been watching the ways in which others have been using twitter, and this, for me, seems a reasonable way to add value for those who follow the tweets you create. Like the use of the Wire, the Twitter tweets can potentially benefit others, and so the announcements need to reflect that.

In reply to Glenn Groulx

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Sylvia Currie -
Good idea to round us all up into a Pageflake, Glenn!
Here are a few more RSS feeds:

Forum posts:

Bookmarks for this seminar :

In reply to Glenn Groulx

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Sylvia Currie -
I'm always fascinated by how others manage their workflows -- what tools and action come into play and why. During the Managing Multimembership in Social Networks a couple years ago we started out with a confession that most of us find ourselves fumbling along. We try out new things, watch what others are doing, yet still struggle to find a set of management practices that we stick with. We ended that seminar with a confession that we were still fumbling tongueout

So, what are you fumbling with? Here's my big fumble: I still have not figured out the best way to organize my interactions with bloggers -- how to find, follow, comment, track comments, know when others reference your blogs/comments, etc, etc.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Glenn Groulx -

Please visit my blog and comment on your own favourite tools and strategies.

Here are three new blog posts about using blogging tools within WordPress, ELGG and an LMS for network-building:

Monitoring and Coordinating Personal Online Activity: Amplifying and Attenuating

Piling - Reviewing Tagging Strategies

Jigging: Twitter and Activity Streams

In reply to Glenn Groulx

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Sylvia Currie -
I love the labels and metaphors Glenn used in recent blog posts on monitoring, piling, and jigging. I didn't see a way to comment directly on those posts??

A few things have stood out for me as I read how individuals talk about blogging tools and strategies.

One is that there seems to be emphasis on posting blogs, adding alerts and resources to the activity stream, and reading/filtering what others are adding. There is less emphasis on responding to and building on what others are posting.

I also notice a tension between personal learning/management, and how others might benefit from individuals' practices. Blog tagging practices illustrates this tension nicely. Are you adding tags for your own benefit, for for the benefit of others?

And finally, I think for me what is missing is to be able to visualize the dialogue as it develops. Forums do this nicely (of course some forum tools are better than others). Blog hopping/commenting feels disjointed. Even the word "comment" seems odd to me.

In our blogging practices, is there too much emphasis on individual and not enough on collaborative and group?

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Dr. Nellie Deutsch -
Hi Sylvia,

This has been an incredible workshop although I have been a lurker. The topic and discussions are awesome. I have been blogging forever in my own way for years both online and offline in the various diaries I have kept since I was a kid. I prefer to keep my personal journal private and to blog collaboratively online. I would gladly join a group blog. Just say where and I'll be there.

Thank you for contributing to my learning.

Warm wishes,
In reply to Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Hi Nellie,
I like the idea of a group blog -- with SCoPE folk. Jo Ann
In reply to Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Glenn Groulx -

I would like to participate in that type of blogging circle as well.


In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Glenn Groulx -

Ultimately, the idea of blogging as a task requirement in the conventional pedagogical model does not work. I fundamentally disagree with requiring students to blog in the following circumstances:

  1. Tying the task of personal blogging to external validators not of the bloggers' own choosing;
  2. Externally imposing learning outcomes not negotiated with these bloggers; 
  3. Requiring student bloggers to blog in the open for grades without having the educator fully participating in these same blogging processes and guiding them as an active role model;

There are a series of assumptions that underlie the nature of autonomous blogging as I see it. I have seen many learners blog to the task at hand, or blog for establishing and building a network, or blog for oneself, deciding at some later time to blog in the open for a select few. There are many different reasons for choosing to blog, for choosing to put one's ideas out there. The nature of the power imbalance often in place between instructors and students serves to objectify autonomous, personal blogging and strips it of its intrinsic value.

You cannot get students to blog. Period. You cannot convince a single student to invest themselves into a long-term blogging journey if the educator is trying to convince them to participate with simple "carrot and stick" motivators. Students should instead enter into a conversation that encourages them and reassures them that their personal investment is worth the effort. This conversation should be moderated by a learning companion, by a mentor who is an active blogger, who is completely convinced of the significance of long-term sustained personal narrative as an end in itself, as an incredibly important tool that guides and shapes oneself over time, through transitional events, through courses and programs and seminars and conferences. 

Such a mentor would model the journey, model the processes, and model both the serious sense-making activities and the rehearsing and play-building and celebrating. Students need to experience the mentor's blogging firsthand if they are to be convinced that the blogging journey that starts with a first step is worth embarking on at all.

It is the blogging tool (and related network learning tools) that ties learners together and threads personal identities over the lifespan. Encouraging learners to start a blog and sustain their personal commitment to blogging is best done by serving the individuals' long-term core identity needs, not the short-term goals of making the grade for the course in the short-term.

The thing is, blogging as I am referring to it is fundamentally different from cohort-based interactions within an asynchronous forum.

There are many who assert that sustained autonomous blogging in the open without the benefit of a guarantee of a cohort or circle of peers to comment and encourage further contributions is a seemingly pointless exercise ... it seems even more pointless in the absence of direction or prompts by the moderator about what is to be discussed, what the group is going to work on together, without the leadership of another. Blogging seems pointless and far too subjective if it is lacking a method for formally assessing the activity in terms of learning outcomes.

So it seems. So, many educators and their learners can't or won't contribute to their own blogs without some possibility of reciprocity and sharing by others, without some form of external validation or sense of externally imposed purpose. The extent to which we are dependent on others' comments and feedback or on meeting explicit goals determines the extent of personal commitment to using the blogging tool as a lifelong learning tool. Doesn't this bother anyone? Doesn't it bother anyone that the majority of things worth learning in a formal setting is what is in fact externally imposed?

So I come back to the question: should we get students to blog? I would answer no. There are plenty of other tools for enforcing compliance among learners and reinforcing extrinsically-motivated learning. Leave the blogging tool alone for the autonomous bloggers and their peers who voluntaily engage in lifelong learning.

In reply to Glenn Groulx

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Dear Glenn,
You are a prolific writer and already an amazing, and inspiring leader in blogs and what is happening within the blogging world. I agree that it is not about getting students and faculty to blog. It is more like a developmental process and even an evolutionary process, if people begin to engage and then find that they make time and focus and even discover what their style of blogging really is at any given time. I am still a novice blogger, but I now have three blogs and I have very little time to blog in them though I am moving towards that behavioural goal, and not because there is a need for others to "comment", but more because of the idea of birthing these sites and seeing what I can do with them. Some people have already asked for the sites, but I'm very reluctant to post the sites as they feel like new creations that need more time to gestate, grown, and have substance. I do like commenting on others blogs, and I feel like I give back when I comment. I enjoy some blog content, but something has to grab my imagination or interest -- otherwise I do a surface read and move on.

I'm resigned to being a lifelong blogger now. I want to put more of my art in one of my blogs, including videos from movement work. In another of my blogs, I want to discuss clinical issues and psychological interventions. In another I'm wanting to have distance education outreach themes. I hope to berry pick, and to link up with some other blogs, and also understand more of the networks for blogs over time.
Jo Ann

In reply to Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Glenn Groulx -

Hi Jo,

Thank you for your post.

I look forward to reading your blogs on movement therapies and art therapies when you are ready to open them up to the public, and I think that blogging in the open is a transition between  thinking of oneself as a practitioner to becoming more of a practitioner-mentor.

The challenge is to extend oneself as a blogger into various settings (anonymous, embedded, autonomous, private, networked) so we do evolve and become more comfortable sharing our ideas in various ways.

More and more experienced bloggers (those who experienced blogging in one setting or more, and wish to expand its routines to other types of personal blogs) are encountering the liminal state (as you know, Jo Ann, this is a recurring theme I touch on from time to time). I also see the pull towards setting up separate blogs, each with a different focus, and I also see the appeal of consolidating the streams into one mega-blog, migrating the posts from my other blogs and applying categories to them, so I can keep the posts all under one hosting space, rather than scattered across the net.

I really like the metaphor of the birthing of blog sites, and requiring gestation periods before blogging out in the open outside the safe, secure space of the private (semi-private) sphere.

In reply to Glenn Groulx

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Paul Left -
I agree with some of your key points, Glenn - eg that 'You cannot convince a single student to invest themselves into a long-term blogging journey' and that the educator needs to be a mentor and model.

But I don't fully agree that there is no place for using blogs for assessed work. I teach education technology courses for teachers and some of their written assignments are completed using wikis and blogs. Why?

1. They learn experientially about the technology rather than purely in the abstract. Of course, in other subjects this would not be relevant - but in what I teach, it's very important.

2. There's a lot more opportunity for peer feedback through comments etc than there is with a traditional 'essay' using desktop word processing software. They don't all make use of it but some do and seem to benefit.

3. I can keep an eye on their work in progress - often at their invitation.


In reply to Paul Left

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Glenn Groulx -

Hi Paul,

Thank you very much for your post.

As part of my own narrative inquiry, I make use of the dialectic and take a stance that is only a window into one perspective, and then sit back and review what i had written after a few days and follow up with the other perspective, poking holes in the arguments. Both are authentic perspectives, and I completely agree with you about the relevance and usefulness of using blogs with learners who produce assignments for assessment.

Sharing one's awareness of a network, articulating frustrations and ambivalences about the tools, sharing and describing one's personal way-making , and reflecting on one's doubts and eureka moments while getting used to blogging in the open, are legitimate ways to engage student bloggers.

I think that students would benefit enormously from a discussion about how to assess the posts, argue and negotiate and bargain with you about what constitutes a good post, a great post, and a post that needs work. I think there is a great potential role for assessment as long as the students get involved in the process, and contribute to the discussions.

I recognize the potential for generating feedback among learners using the commenting feature, but the issue arises that some posts will be more popular than others, will generate more comments than others, and will draw on personal experiences that resonate more closely with a greater number of learners than others.

I have concerns that frequency, coherence, and mechanics as elements of evaluation are going to limit free flowing posting by some students. But would an absence of these elements lead to much better sense-making and more meaningful learning in the long-term? Or much lower caliber of posts in the short-term that negatively impacts participation? Hard to say.

I like the idea that the feedback you provide is often done at their invitation, and not imposed. I like the idea that students have some choice about what to reveal to their assessor/instructor and their peers.

In reply to Glenn Groulx

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Nicholas Bowskill -
apologies for a long message

Glen, thank you for some wise words here. I not only agree with all or most of what you said about blogging in public, I would also relate the same points to the other tool for reflection that is so widely encouraged and hyped up - namely e-portfolios. They both often lack social context and ignore the value of the institution as a safe and supportive space to learn. Generating a narrative may be a learning process but it doesn't follow that it generates knowledge or an understanding of the self in the social/subject context. Its also reflection as performance - performance to others (known or unknown) and to those assessing performance. This is not the same as learning for understanding.

There is a breed of person, amongst what is called a 'learning' technologist, that often seems to celebrate and promote 'disruptive' technology and who seem to validate, to themselves at least, the whole idea of 'disruption' in general. They justify it on the basis that only by being disruptive will we somehow reach the promised land of 'authenticity' etc (as though some learning is other than authentic or that authentic learning is to be judged by others as authentic or not authentic).

What the learner really needs is stability, community and coherence. What the learner really needs is a safe place. They need a reflective conversation in which they can obtain the perspective of others in that safe space. They need a sense of 'belonging to' and being 'connected to' our heritage of knowledge and learning. All of this is supported in the aims of an academic institution that values such beliefs.

Filling up blogs and e-portfolios is indicative of the modern culture of individualism celebrated by learning technologists promoting disruption as a goal. Public blogging renders the learner potentially vulnerable to other agendas that may not be conducive to learning. Despite sounding like an old and deranged lunatic (i know and I agree), I would argue that learners need order and chaos in their efforts to synthesise different perspectives. Education is all too often disrupted, performative or aligned only to commercial ideals.

Similarly even 'community' can seem individualistic when it means little more than displaying your wares in public (a.k.a. social networks). It should mean thinking with and about each other as a way of learning. It should mean placing our own goals in relation to those of others and being mutually supportive. In saying this, I am simultaneously aware of the irony of posting my views here as something that can also be seen as an act of individualism (and I must stop doing my own mind-spill all over the internet).

Sadly we live in an education system in which *competition* is the prevailing ideology. This is despite cooperative learning being evidenced in academic research as miles more effective for learning (see Johnson & Johnson for years and years of research and evidence that shows cooperation over competition in learning). I would argue that learning technologists, and individualistic views of learning, feed into further fragmentation and competition - evidenced at least sometimes by blogging and e-portfolios - which may not always be the most helpful way of learning.

I hope that if I *am* a deranged lunatic, (i think i probably am) I may also be promoting order, collectivism and safety as a process of empowerment rather than working towards the goal of subservience, through such a view. But that's a whole other conversation!

Best wishes,


p.s. what about authentic learning as a topic here?
or even disruptive technology?

Nicholas Bowskill
Department of Education,
University of Glasgow


In reply to Nicholas Bowskill

Re: Week Two: Blogging to Expand Your Learning Network

by Sylvia Currie -
Nick says
p.s. what about authentic learning as a topic here?
or even disruptive technology?

Excellent seminar topic suggestions. Noted!