There was a serious side to this. I used April Fool's day to explore many of the issues that confront educational bloggers. Hopefully I succeeded - albeit in a tongue in cheek way - to illustrate that blogging is never easy, but it can have great rewards. Challenging as it may be to sustain writing at a high level of quality (most of us don't succeed!), the rewards are that your ideas are quickly 'out there' in public, and can be discussed, built upon, challenged and otherwise explored by your professional peers, your community of practice.
Of course blogging carries with it the risk of misunderstanding and even rejection, and some bloggers are the targets of those who overstep the mark and who are aggressive or even abusive. No matter who you are, there will be people who oppose you. Some bloggers do indeed suffer from depression and may even resort to alcohol or other substance abuse to escape from the pressure of sustaining their writing. Others are profoundly affected by harsh comments on their blogs. It's not always a bed of roses. Anyone who is a public author must try to come to terms with such issues if they are to make any progress with their writing. Most of the comments I receive on my blog are very constructive and even those that disagree fundamentally with what I have written are generally presented in a firm but polite manner. Discuss: Is a 'joke' like this a valid way to promote discussion?
Blogging does indeed raise your professional profile. It gives others in your wider community of practice a clearer view of who you are, what you do, and most importantly, what you think. Engaging with your community at this level and especially at a global level is incredibly powerful and completely valid as professional practice. My remarks about some university hierarchies undervaluing or even rejecting blogging as a valid academic practice are true in many respects. Anything that is considered 'grey literature' (i.e. not peer reviewed) is seen as inferior to those articles that appear in highly rated journals. Yet somehow, I feel this is a huge mistake, because many academics who write in those 'high quality' journals also blog. Peer reviewing is performed on blogs by those who read and comment, and publishing is instant to a worldwide audience, so peer reviewing can be much more extensive. I often counsel my fellow academics that if they really want their ideas to get out there quickly, and to a potentially huge audience, then blogging is definitely an option to consider. Publishing your work in a highly rated closed access journal may be great for the Research Excellence Framework or other funding rounds, but how many will read your work? This blog has gained me more than 4 million views. What academic journal could promise me that kind of audience? Discuss: Will academic blogging ever replace peer reviewed journals in the future?
The argument about lacking time and energy is often one used by those in the professions who simply aren't interested or who can't see the point in blogging. They think that time spent on blogging could be spent more productively elsewhere, but I say to them that blogging for me has improved my professional practice to such an extent that I really can't place a value on it. It has pushed me to think more creatively and this has emerged in my professional practice in the classroom. Believe me, it is well worth the effort and time to sit down occasionally and write something that relates directly to your teaching (and of course your personal learning). Are you thinking about blogging? Try it and see.
So there you have it. I'm back. In fact I never went away. Thank you for all your wonderful, supportive comments. I value them greatly, and apologise to anyone who may have been offended. I take blogging seriously and I promise I will continue for as long as people want to read.
Photo by James Clay
Seriously... by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.