Thing 3: Start your blog

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Did you click on this entry first? This blog is organised in reverse chronological order (newest posts first), so you should begin with Thing 1 instead.

Throughout this programme we’ll be exploring issues around publishing content online using a variety of tools and platforms. Blogging is a key tool for this, and will also be a key to your participation in 23 Things.

This Thing outlines the benefits of the most common blogging platforms and gets you started on your own blog.

What are the features of blogs?

Most blogging platforms have a number of features in common. They display entries or ‘posts’ in reverse chronological order; often include media such as photos or video to accompany posts; and index posts using tags (keywords associated with the post) and tag clouds, or month-by-month archives of posts.

What started out as a simple form of online diary (the original ‘web-log’) is now so flexible that even within the specific confines of academic blogging, the style, format, appearance and purpose of blogs is as varied as the people that write them. Even if the traditional online ‘diary’ format is not something that you feel comfortable with, there are still many ways of using blogging tools.

Why academic blogging?

Blogging is an important development tool for academics, educators, librarians, and researchers for a number of reasons, including:

  • Sharing research findings and discussing them with stakeholders / other agencies / your online professional network
  • Incorporating reflective practice into your work or research process
  • Building a community of reflective practitioners who ‘follow’ one another
  • Making professional contacts
  • Extending your online network and presence
  • Broadcasting your professional insights, establishing you as a ‘thought leader’

Academics who blog cover a wide variety of topics and many use it to publish material that they might not publish in traditional formats. Material may include lectures, class and course outlines, thoughts about teaching or the research process, work-in-progress, highly-developed research, book reviews, or opinion pieces on the current educational, social, cultural, or political context.

Getting started

WordPress and Blogger are the two principal blogging platforms currently in use; nearly 20% of the world’s websites (blogs or otherwise) run on WordPress. Tumblr is also popular for blogs that rely primarily on images and visual media, and can be a useful online scrapbook to post thoughts, ideas, quotes and multimedia.

If you’re intending to use your blog to disseminate your research and raise your research profile then consider WordPress or Blogger. WordPress is particularly effective if you’€™re intending to set up a collaborative blog with multiple users.

Increasingly blogging platforms and other websites are offering greater degrees of integration with one another. This makes it easier to build a following, for example by giving you the option to Tweet your blog posts on Twitter, or promote your blog post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Google+. We’ll be talking about this in later Things.

Site Pros Cons
WordPress Easy to register a domain name for your blog
Extremely powerful and flexible
Supported by large and active community
Easy to set up with multiple users
Degree of flexibility can be confusing for first time users
Blogger Owned by Google and convenient if you already use other Google products
It can be easier to use than WordPress
It’s possible to build your own templates
Easy integration with your aucklanduni.ac.nz email account when using the Chrome browser
Many people think Blogger sites look less professional than other services
Sites hosted by Blogger are sometimes slow to load
Tumblr Visually attractive
Easy to use
Social networking functionality built into the platform
Great smart phone functionality
Excellent for multimedia
Limited customization
Designed for ‘micro-blogging’ and less suited to larger pieces of writing
Generally more effective for multimedia than writing
Other blogs may have objectionable content

(Also worth noting: WordPress exists in two forms, as a free blog hosted at www.wordpress.com and as blogging software that you pay for and host yourself. The free version has a large number of templates available but has limited customisation; hosting it yourself allows for greater customisation but there are costs associated with it and it requires a little bit more expertise. For this course we suggest using the free version.)

try-this-iconTry this

For this Thing, we’d like you to set up a blog, register your blog with us, and make your first blog post. If you already have a blog, you’re welcome to use it. Your blog can be anonymous or you can make it part of your online presence (more about that in Thing 7).

In this course, you’ll mainly be using your blog for reflection and to share good ideas and links with other participants. It will also function as a practice blog – if you have a great idea for a blog, think of this as a “dry run” rehearsal so that you can get comfortable with the technology.

You can choose any blogging platform you like. Most websites have good online instructions:

If you want a step-by-step guide, try this video series on joining WordPress:

And of course you can ask us if you have any issues:

Once you have created a blog, send us a link to the front page (23research@gmail.com) and we’ll add it to our list of participant blogs. We encourage you to read and comment on the blogs of other participants – and we’€™ll be reading and commenting on them as well.

Finally, add a short post to your blog. For this first blog post, you don’t need to write more than a paragraph – although you’re welcome to write more if you want!

Choose from the following topics:

  • Introduce yourself and tell us what interests you about the 23 Things programme
  • Tell us about your experiences with social media. If you’re new to social media, do you have any ideas about how it might help or affect your work? If you’re using it already, what do you use? What are you hoping to explore?

explore-further-iconExplore further

In the next Thing we’€™ll be looking further into the world of blogging, but these sources are a good place to begin:

A good pithy summary of blogging in education, from Educause
7 Things You Should Know About Blogs

“what starts as a blog, ends as an academic output, and an output with a ready-made audience, eager to cite it”
Twitter and blogs are not add-ons to academic research, but a simple reflection of the passion that underpins it

“a new twenty-€first century academic identity with more involvement as a public intellectual”
Kirkup, G. (2010). Academic blogging: Academic practice and academic identity. London Review of Education, 8(1). doi: 10.1080/14748460903557803

“a distinct form of authorship that can support the goals of higher education institutions and can complement and contribute to traditional forms of scholarly publication”
Powell, D. A., Jacob, C. J, & Chapman, B. J. (2012). Using blogs and new media in academic practice: Potential roles in research, teaching, learning, and extension. Innovation in Higher Education, 37, 271-282. doi: 10.1007/s10755-011-9207-7

“academic blogging does not exclusively belong to either learning/teaching or research but it enables an interaction between teaching/learning and research”
Busch, R. & Jamieson, A. (2011). Constructing an evidence-practice relationship between teaching, learning, and research: Reviewing and reflecting on academic blogging. A paper presented at the National Tertiary Learning & Teaching Conference 2011. Retrieved from https://akoaotearoa.ac.nz/community/national-teaching-and-learning-conference-2010/resources/files/busch-jamieson-constructing-evidence-practice-relations

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