For the past ten years, I’ve blogged off and on, first using Blogger then continuing with Tumblr. Until now I blogged anonymously. When I first began posting a decade ago, my online life consisted of email, a bit of Internet surfing, and a single social media account on the now defunct Tribe.net, which was once a thriving community of special interest and hobby groups that Facebook, despite its size, has never quite duplicated. My blog posts back then were personal journal entries. I enjoyed maintaining my profile on Tribe and writing in the online environment of Tumblr. Sometimes I browsed blogs and followed a few. But mostly Tumblr provided a sub rosa alternative to my paper journals. I found that I used Tumblr for my most confessional entries. Even though such posts were never made public, it provided a sense of catharsis that writing in my other journals strangely did not. Perhaps it was the element of risk that my online entries could somehow be discovered. I don’t know. Over time my online presence expanded to include Facebook, Twitter and, for about two years, Elance.com before it sadly merged with a competitor. Until recently, that was good enough.
Then in August 2016, I began mentoring the University of California San Diego course Human-Centered Design: An Introduction hosted on the Coursera platform. By far, joining the Coursera mentor community of over 700 mentors from all over the world was the highlight of 2016 for me. It expanded my online professional and social life significantly. By responding to learner inquiries, I developed confidence around writing publicly and authoritatively. The variety and volume of inquiries and learner responses provided me with hours of practice and useful feedback. Additionally, I’m an instructional designer currently completing graduate coursework at California State University Fullerton. I am researching the use of contemplative pedagogies in online courses. So now that my academic, professional, and volunteer lives are embedded in the online space, I find myself regularly connecting with classmates, Coursera mentors, instructors, and colleagues via video meetings, webinars, social media, and discussion forums. Going to work or school now means logging into my computer and setting my Slack profile from “away” to “online.”
Despite my joining the online revolution, the transformation of my personal relationship and use of blogging from one of private rumination to professional participation has been a slow, internal one, taking place one moment of insight at a time. Basically I hesitated at the vulnerability of it, at the making of the commitment to write regularly, at the sharing of my process and work with others. Thankfully finding role models online nudged me forward.
Twitter by far has provided the best source of examples on how to live and write well professionally online. I’ve learned a lot by following instructional designers and academics in a variety of fields, reading their blog posts, listening to podcasts, or watching video series. I’ve attended free professional development opportunities that turned up at the right time in my Twitter feed. I now use Hootsuite to keep track of hashtags for groups or subjects in my field. I’ve discovered ideas, papers, and conferences this way. Essentially I’ve learned about my research area using blogs, online courses, webinars, social media, and Google. I’m glad I waited until later in life (I’m 48.) to begin my graduate work, (higher ed, alt-ac concerns notwithstanding). Truly it’s an amazing time to be a scholar, teacher, and instructional designer. Discovering the opportunities over the last year to connect with others through blogging, social media, and academic repositories has ignited my enthusiasm for online teaching and learning.
As I work to build my instructional design practice and consultancy, it’s clear that creating and maintaining a public facing blog is essential for sharing my research as it unfolds and for connecting with folks who may need my services or may benefit from my intellectual contributions in the future. With the encouragement of #EDUBLOGSCLUB, I’m making a start in this direction. And I hope to support others who are also just starting out on this exciting journey, so please do say hello!