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Reflection, Why You Should Blog

What we talk about when we talk about what I’ve been up to since June…

September is here, and academic life has begun anew here at Agnes Scott. After a long summer of acclimating to my “new” environment, planning events, and assisting others on their respective odysseys through the blogging mucky muck, I am greeting the fall semester with open arms.

I won’t lie to you: as fulfilling and exciting as the Fellowship is, I was not a little intimidated by the job when I started. Making the transition from full-time student (a position practically defined by one’s ability to follow instruction) to full-time employee — more precisely, Fellow — is a bit jarring, kind of like experiencing culture shock upon entering a new place. Instead of blithely accepting someone else’s syllabus for work to be accomplished through a semester, I’ve been granted the unique opportunity to create my own, as it were. If one were to step into my office in McCain G-38, one would see a long list of potential projects spanning the year — a year that, for me, is marked by this fellowship. The list serves as my “inspiration board,” as it were, and keeps me focused on the tasks at hand: further defining the Digital Design Fellowship while working harder than hard to promote reflective thinking (and learning) across disciplines. If there’s one thing I’ve realized since graduating from Agnes Scott, it’s that you never stop learning. There’s still plenty of learnin’ to be done on my end, and I look forward to enhancing my digital experience right alongside the campus community.

As this blog is as much a chronicle of the Fellowship as it is an electronic resource for things electronic, I’ll take a moment (an Internet moment! Which is really like a nanosecond) to give you a few highlights of What I Did Last Summer:

  • The Common Reading Project: User Education Librarian Casey Long and I started a blog for Agnes Scott’s Common Reading Program, a summer reading requirement for all new incoming students at the College. This year’s book was Outcasts United by Warren St. John, an account focusing on the true story of the Fugees, a refugee boys’ soccer team in Clarkston, Ga. Casey and I created the blog in hopes of inspiring reflective thought (and, certainly, feedback) from students, faculty, and staff alike. Students are required to submit a creative project or written response to the Common Reading Committee before annual Orientation begins in August, and we were able to post some great reading responses by faculty and staff, ending with questions to provoke deep, nuanced thought on Outcasts United. Additionally, campus-wide Scottie Book of the Month Club hosted a raffle for staff members who contributed a response to the book on our blog. We’re looking to document the Project’s yearly progress in selecting next year’s book, and continuing the cycle of thoughtful, productive discussion!
  • The Leadership Retreat: Writing Center Coordinator Neil Simpkins ’10 and I attended the Student Leadership Retreat in late summer, held this year at a conference center in Helen, Ga. Aside from taking time to gawk at the awesome oddities of North Georgia (gem mining stands and surreal Bavarian villages were not the least of them), we were able to present to student groups and leadership organizations about how to blog effectively for the collective good. Main topics covered included the failure of the Outlook Public Folders message board system as a means of disseminating information campus-wide, and in that vein, what would be more productive ways of encouraging dialogue between students and organizations. My personal favorite point of the presentation was explaining the difference(s) between a website and a blog, and how different platforms serve different organizations (and individuals, natch) better! I’m hoping to incorporate that into my next post… in the meantime, Senate Secretary Jillian Pilch was kind enough to send me the link to the Tumblr for ASC Senate. Well done, y’all!
  • Honing the Digital Design Tutor position: 2010-2011 has already proven to be a banner year for the Digital Design Fellowship. Here in the Educational Technology Center, we’ve been working to tweak the specifications of the Digital Design Tutor, currently a work-study position open to any student interested in blogging technology and helping others. This year, our Tutor is Estefania Palacio ’14, who has already started to set up her own e-portfolio. She’s been doing some fantastic research on other e-portfolio initiatives on campuses nationwide, and is a great additional resource for blogging tools and ideas.

So as not to exhaust any and everyone, I’ll sign out for now and put more exciting news up soon (like new class blogs! Hooray!). Look forward to next week’s post on alternative blogging platforms and ways to maximize your e-portfolio’s appearance (and content) — as we all know, WordPress is never the only option! (Sorry, WordPress. I’m a Tumblr fanatic.)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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About Emily

I read! I write! I stand! I sit.

Discussion

4 thoughts on “What we talk about when we talk about what I’ve been up to since June…

  1. it was quite a trip, up to helen!

    Posted by neil | September 11, 2010, 8:30 pm
  2. Hi, Emily,

    you raise an important point with your title. ‘What we talk about when we talk about blogging.’ However, although you give some intersting data concerning one example of blogging, you don’t really come to a difinitive conclusion.

    Yes, as in your example, a diary or record of past persuits is important, particularly if you might refelect upon these events at a later date. However, I would add a few more:

    2) Younger pupils, in particular, might use a blog to celebrate particular successes to a restricted circle of friends.

    3) Similarly, one might use a blog as a medium for self-advertisement ie that I am a good web-designer or dancer etc.

    4) The purpose of the blog might be to inform peers so that they might have a better understanding of the writer and their mission in life.

    5) Sometimes we might blog-post in order to advise or instruct others.

    6) We might write just in order to provoke discussion.

    7) That discussion might lead to a better understanding of an issue with which we are concerned.

    8) Some instructors may require a blog as the medium for tracking students’ learning progress as a record of all of one’s academic persuits within a course of study.

    9) Obviously a restricted blog can be the perfect medium for collaboration or group-work – particularly if different groups within a class are competing against each other.

    10) Yest others may use a blog just as a ‘talking aloud’ device which helps the owner to think through or plan especially when studying a myriad different subjects (in lower-Secondary school) all at the same time.

    However, blogs tend to be somewhat restrictive, linear and mono-chromatic in their organisation and presentation. I wonder, therefore, why people do not use a proper ePortfolio, which can embrace all of the above and include a lot more inbuilt tools (such as polls, surveys and Liekart Scales)?

    With specific reference to Digital Design I would again commend the use of ePortfolios as being superior to a blog, both in simplicity of use and also sophistication of presentation.

    I could go on for longer but feel I’d better stop!

    Best Wishes,
    Ray T

    Posted by Ray Tolley | September 13, 2010, 6:14 am
    • All excellent points, Ray. Thanks for commenting. In truth, I just put the wrong title – started off on one idea, meant for another! I’m en route to finding a more appropriate one.
      Let me see if I can respond to you in kind …
      1. For present purposes at ASC, I’m finding it easier to instruct people on basic web-based blog platforms like WordPress or Tumblr, in addition to the fact that many students wishing to create individual “e-portfolios” do not have the tech skills necessary in creating a fully-designed, flashy (no pun intended) portfolio. In that case, using a platform as functionally simple as, for example, Google Sites accomplishes the goal of showcasing the individual’s achievements without a whole lot of work or design savvy. Unfortunately for me, perhaps, the name of my fellowship does not necessarily accurately describe what I do! Perhaps I’ll do a post on what I can’t claim to do professionally (i.e., graphic design!).
      2. I agree with you in principle that a blog, in its most basic form, is linear in practice. Additionally, however, I’m coming to find that the word (phrase?) “e-portfolio” describes an idea more flexible than that of an Internet briefcase. Quite frankly, I’ve also found students aren’t very excited by the phrase itself. I think it’s interesting to gauge reactions based on what words are used — e.g., a “blog” usually evokes the idea of a diary and over-sharing on Xanga, while an “e-portfolio” sounds fairly bland. And really, how do you get students to want to engage in thoughtful, reflective dialogue (to say the least, post about it) if they’re confused or bored? Anyway…
      3. Amongst other points, for the purposes of enhancing personal development/intellectual engagement with coursework, blogs work just fine as baseline “e-portfolios.” At their most bare bones, e.g. with WordPress or Blogspot, even the most tech-illiterate individual can eventually figure out how to upload a resume, or a particularly great paper, as a means of showcasing their intellectual achievement. The best part about using blogs that allow hosting of documents (which excludes platforms like Tumblr, natch) is the idea of dynamically maintaining content over time. They’re multimedia-friendly without requiring extensive (or any!) knowledge of coding, permit audience access and feedback as per the owner’s personal preferences, and can look good without too much effort. In addition — and more specifically to do with Agnes Scott’s digital storage capabilities — they allow for nearly infinite (at least, I hope) “storage” or “filing” of important documents. Sure, you can use Google Docs as a web-based backup (as everyone should, IMO), but it’s nice to have other options. Perhaps one of these days ASC will offer more design- or computer-based training so that students DO have the ability to formulate an e-portfolio that will last forever (rather than only 4 years, as is the current set-up), but only if the need is truly there. At the moment, I think we’re serving our needs pretty well without having to exert our brain noodles too much.

      That was a lot, and hopefully not too incoherent! I haven’t had enough coffee this morning…
      -Emily

      Posted by Emily | September 16, 2010, 1:07 pm
  3. PS apologies about the spelling errors, in my enthusiasm I forgot to find the spell-checker!

    Ray T

    Posted by Ray Tolley | September 13, 2010, 6:21 am

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