Metawriting posts from the new blog location

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My blogging persona

I am writing my 100th blog post at the same time that many elementary school students are marking their 100th day of school. For many of those students the 100th day brings with it an assignment to collect/display/share 100 items of some sort (buttons, paper clips, etc). I can still remember my son agonizing over what he should collect. He wanted it to be something unique, but it also needed to be readily available and portable. Now I can’t even remember what he chose, but I suspect it was something we found in the kitchen. However, my recent consternation about what to do with my 100th blog post combined with recent Facebook posts by parents and teachers of primary students celebrating the 100th day of school reminded me of that dilemma and helped me put my own struggle into perspective. Yes, this is an exciting milestone, but there will be many more blog posts to come.

But what can I, or should I, use this occasion to discuss? I started two different posts (about alternate academic career tracks and my annual review) and considered a host of teaching-related posts (my recent experiments with badges and Google+ communities, for example) but in the end decided that these posts can wait for a less momentous occasion.

Then I contemplated whether this might be the best time to wrap up this blog – as a Blogger blog that is. I have a professional web site and have been considering for months the advantages and disadvantages of maintaining a separate blog and web site as well as the issue of Blogger vs. Wordpress. But I’m pretty sure I’m making the switch to a Wordpress blog on my own web site (the control and aesthetic issues I’m having with Blogger are simply beginning to outweigh the advantages of Blogger) so there goes that topic which many others have ably discussed such as this post on The Painted Hive and Build Your Own Blog.

Then I mulled over the idea of discussing my history and development as a blogger. This blog is three years old so I have been able to maintain a fairly consistent presence, but the fact that it took that long to arrive at the magical “100” is a clear indication of my inability to post weekly and doesn’t tell us much about me as a blogger. My tags are a little more telling, but also somewhat problematic as I haven’t always been consistent (or smart) about their use. I’m kind of interested in my Top 5 Posts (as indicated by readership) but that also says more about my readers than about me. In the end, I concluded that a picture was worth more than words and simply plugged my blog into a Wordle. This simple graphic summarizes what my blog is all about.

My description of my blog is:

This blog reflects my interest in writing pedagogy, agency and efficacy, and teaching with technology -- as a rhetorician and researcher as well as writer, teacher of writers, and teacher of writing teachers.

The Wordle clearly highlights the topics that I write about although some trends were a little surprise to me. Obviously as a teacher and National Writing Project site director issues surrounding students, classes, and education are of keen interest and I clearly write about them a lot. However, I tend to write from a more personal place about my own experiences and experiments in my classroom. As a social media proponent and online teacher/learner it is also not surprising to see that idea highlighted.  Similarly, as I am interested in the idea of community as a teacher, administrator, and researcher I was not surprised to see that featured prominently. But I was rather surprised to see that writing was not among the most prominent topics I write about. Perhaps I need to consider that as I plan future blog posts. I think using Wordle as a reflective and analytical tool can help a blogger consider the past and plan for the future. It was certainly a worthwhile exercise for me.

Finally, after reading Pat Thomson’s post about blogging identity I decided that this might be the perfect time to explore my own blogging identity. Like Thomson (and most other humans), I have multiple private and professional identities and have written about this identity problem before. However, I tend to keep this blog focused on my various professional identities (although I have upon occasion discussed more personal topics that connected with these professional interests). I do not do a good job separating the personal from the private when it comes to social media, but that is another post for another day. Unlike Thomson, I did not delete my rant about education, but then as someone who works (and writes and researches about that work) with teachers I think my concerns about my son’s education touch on (at least peripherally) what I write about in the normal course of blogging.

I really like two ideas that Thomson shares in her post. I, too, blog in an effort to “de-privatize” my own thoughts and struggles with teaching, learning, and researching. Yes, I sometimes worry that I overshare, but as someone who advocates reflection for her own students how can I not practice what I preach? I truly believe in the importance of reflection to learning and growth and this blog plays a tremendous role in my own growth and learning. Interconnected with this is the simple fact that I am a teacher and a National Writing Project site director. As such it is my job, my duty, my calling to make visible my struggles, failures, and successes in hopes that these experiences will provide lessons for others as well as my entrĂ©e into conversations about these issues. That is the power of blogging and social media – that I can connect/communicate and learn/share with someone like PatThomson who is not even on my continent.

Also, blogging is a powerful tool for creating that sense of “there” that Thomson discusses in her post. Face-to-face and real-time connections can be powerful and have a long-term impact, but they are also transitory. I have a terrible memory, especially when it comes to verbal interactions, but blogging can live on and remains accessible. It can provide a “just in time” spark or response -- at least I hope mine does.

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