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How to use your blog for Tutor Marked Assignments

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 3 May 2014, 06:58

This is my approach, it works for me.

Everything goes in here: notes from what I read or come across, sometimes so I didn't lose track of them, course related comments I post on people's blogs too.

A good deal of this remains hidden (private), however I will sometimes 'expose' notes and cryptic thoughts in case someone can make sense of it for me, or chivvy me along to construct some rounded thoughts and sentences with the stuff.

There's some random stuff too.

Tagging matters immensely.

'Search' leaves it to chance, which might help you serendipitously to come across a thought or note you had, but is scrappy and can be time wasting, rather be tag happy and have a system.

Everything gets the module reference, if there is an activity reference this is added as a single word such as 'h807activity3.4' or some such so that it can be searched for and found with ease.

Come TMA time I revisit all the content from that block and start adding the tag, for example, 'h807tma2', or as I'm currently doing 'b822tma3'.

Gathered in one search list I then go through each relevant post refining my thinking.

At some stage I may add further tags to identify arguments or to give it a chronology if that isn't apparent. I then cut and paste to a word document.

I MAY assemble in PowerPoint simply to help shuffle ideas around.

A system?

Hardly. Each to their own. I panic like anyone else over an assignment but know the stuff is here and having done the reading and activities and having shared my thinking and had this coloured and shaped by others that I ought to be able to assemble a cogent case.


Tags are strategic, Search is more random.

I switch between the two when revisiting note

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Tips on blogging

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 04:28

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1) Keep it niche

You come to trust a person to have something to say about 'x' rather than the entire alphabet.

2) Keep it fresh

Depending on your ambitions update twice a day Yes, you have to have a point of view, no you don't have to make the posting public but you need to build a 'body of work'. 250 words will do, a picture and comment and from time to time a link and snip from something you have stumbled upon.

3) Keep it authentic

There's a light, conversational style that i think of as 'BJ' (Blog Jocky).

4) Read and comment on blogs you like

Reciprocity is vital, there is a virtuous circle of being read and contributing to other people's blogs. Vary the pace and approach. It works to include photos and video, though you risk setting yourself too great a task if you imagine you can generate or load a video clip every time.

5) Watch the stats

You can understand what makes your blog tick, what keeps it vibrant. It is motivating to know you are being read.

6) Promote

Put your content in front of those who are most likely to find it of interest or value by sharing it with specific Linkedin groups and by getting it out on Twitter as part of pertinent conversations.

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Why do you blog? What will keep you going?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 04:57

There are good reasons to encourage more people to do this, to share thoughts and ideas online, to reflect on their work, to aggregate ideas (like a portfolio), to generate and share content.

What do you think?

Why have YOU embarked on this journey?

What will motivate you to keep doing?

How about every day for a year?(the goal of us early bloggers in 1999).

 

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24 Reasons to Blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 05:03

'Many if the characteristics which would be frowned upon in scholarly articles, such as subjectivity, humour, and personal opinion, are vital elements in developing a dialogue in blogs'. Weller (2011)

I had another stab at this (did one yesterday on the fly). This one I've given a bit more thought as I am keen to promote the idea of blogging to colleagues; the more the merrier to me. It goes under the title 'User Generate Content'.

I do wonder though if it isn't a mindset, that I'd have the same issues getting people to take up drawing or singing.

You either do or don't?

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I realise that to get this right in the learning context you must define who the learner is and put it in context.

QUESTIONS

  • Why do you blog?
  • If you've just started will you keep going?
  • What's the incentive?
  • Do you have an external blog too?
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27 Reasons to blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 05:14

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I've forgotten a few, not least the ones that got me started here:

  • As an ice-breaker (introducing ourselves by way of holiday snaps and pets ... not to be recommended for setting the appropriate tone).
  • Reflection (and learning how to do this correctly).
  • Stream of consciousness
  • A Writer's Journal
  • As an e-portfolio

So I've missed out some important ones sad Visiting Channel Flip I was treated to a screening of Lee Hardcastle's new stop animation horror short. Is this blogging, or having your own TV channel?

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The 350 year old blog of a 26 year old - Samuel Pepys

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 05:25

Episode One (Saved in BBC iPlayer for one week from broadcast)

Episode Two (10h45 Today, repeated 19h45 this evening)

This first episode is a wonderful interplay between domestic and civil life, the prospect of joining the ship that will fetch the King from exile, while the 'wench' who works for them refuses to kill the turkey they've been feeding up because it's her friend.

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On the 1st of January 1660, the 26 year old Samuel Pepys decides to start keeping a diary.

He's behind with his rent, he goes out too often, and drinks too much. He lies awake worrying about work, and despite being happily married, can't keep his hands off other women.

He gives us eyewitness accounts of some of the great events of the 17th century but he also tells us what people ate, wore, what they did for fun, the tricks they played on each other, what they expected of marriage, and of love affairs.

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This BBC radio drama is on every day at 10.45 and again in the evening at 19.45. Episode 2 today.

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Follow Samuel Pepys on Twitter. You get regular 140 characters or less updates.

 

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Read his diary, offered on a the basis of 'on this day 350 years ago.'

Nothing's changed much, the most important things in our life are loves, family and friends. Our lives may touch on the politics and events of the time, they may not. Pepy's got through the restoration of the King, Plague and the Fire of London.

He so often ends is entry with, 'and so to bed'.

For radio for boring bits have been left out; it therfore reads like a novel.

Not a recommended style for these pages, but great for an external blog in Wordpress, Blogger or LiveJournal. Or my favourite, Diaryland.

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Why blog? Why not!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 14:10

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As an advocate for and practioner of blogging since 1999 and I couldn't let this pass by (even though I am meant to be writing at TMA that is due today).

Search 'blog' or 'blogging' in my OU Student Blog (here) or click on one of the tags.

The research shows that in the overall active online community of many millions online:

95% read (lurk/observe/consume blogs)

4% will go one step further and engage (i.e. add a comment)

1% actually 'create' (write essentially, though this may now include blogs that are essentially photogalleries or YouTube  uploads)

Neilsen, J (2011).

In the student population (the study was last done in 2009 with undergraduates in Australia), the figure rises to 34% having uploaded content to a blog ... 'in the last 12 months'. (which for my money means they are not blogging at all).

Good luck, enjoy!

They have a multitude of uses and value and I will of course say that this value greatly increases over time.

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Blogging works – you too should keep a diary. You can always go private.

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 16:10

Blogging works – you too should keep a diary.

Don't think its anything new, this one dates to the 16th century. Lady Anne Clifford would know how to build a website and keep a blog. She did.

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You can always go private.

Edit, then publish later. Or password protect so only a few get to read.

To give you confidence.

To become emboldened.

Start small. 50 years before Twitter there was the Five Year Diary. This is mine. I think the entries here are around 140 character.

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‘Maketh up a quote at ye beginning of thy book; it will make people think thou art clever.’

Christopher Marlowe ‘The Obscure Tragedie’ Act II, Scene ii.

The following comes from a seminal book on diary keeping by Tristine Rainer.

Here are some key thoughts:

Some of this thinking can be brought up to date in the context of keeping a diary online; the essential principals remain the same.

A dairy is many things:

‘Everything and anything goes. You cannot do it wrong. There are no mistakes. At any time you can change your point of view, your style, your book, the pen you write with, the direction you write on the pages, the language in which you write, the subjects you include, or the audience you write to. You can misspell, write ungrammatically, enter incorrect dates, exaggerate, curse, pray, write poetically, eloquently, angrily, lovingly. You can past in photographs, newspaper clippings, cancelled checks, letters, quotes, drawings, doodles, dried flowers, business cards, or labels. You can write on lined paper or blank paper, violet paper or yellow, expensive bond or newsprint.’

Tristine Rainer, ‘The New Diary’ 1976.

Is this so different to blogging 25 years on?

Not at all. I go with the view of Reconstruction 6.4 that a blog is like paper, as versatile, but online.

Think about. I have and academic 'papers' have been written on the theme.

‘Flow, spontaneity and intuition are the key words. You don’t have to plan what you are going to do. You discover what you have done once you have set it down.’Tristine Rainer.

Keep it all in one place

‘When the dreams like next to the fantasies, and political thoughts next to personal complaints, they all seem to learn from each other.’

  • This works for blogging:
  • Write Spontaneously
  • Write quickly
  • This is so that you don’t know what will come next.
  • How the unexpected can happen.
  • Surprise yourself.
  • Write Honestly

Be open about what you really feel.

Few diaries actually lie to themselves in a dairy, but many out of shyness with themselves avoid writing about the most intimate aspects of a situation.

Write Deeply

Anais Nin, disappointed with her childhood diaries, developed the practice of sitting quietly for a few minutes before beginning to write. She would close her eyes and allow the most important incident or feeling of the day or of the period of time since she last wrote to surface in her mind.

That incident or feeling became her first sentence.

Write Correctly

  • Expressive language is not a science.
  • There are no rules.
  • You are writing for yourself, so self-expression is the key.
  • Test the range of your natural voice – it will develop.
  • Errors are part of the form of the diary, as they are part of life.

Blogging for Dummies claims this thinking for itself, treating the ideas of others like a tumble-dryer of ideas from which you can pick willy-nilly.

Choose your audience Your best audience is your future self.

In ten years time you won’t remember the situation unless you capture all its sensual vitality now.

My frustration is with the new comers jumping on the blogging bandwagon professing to know all about social media (including blogging). They don't unless they have done it; I have. I do.

Value contradictions

In time they will develop towards a larger truth; leave them in.

‘Some diarists find when they go several weeks without writing they begin to feel off balance and take it as a signal that they are avoiding the inner self.’

Those of us who keep a diary regularly are stuck with it; whether it appears online, and which bits of appear online is another matter.

‘We taught the diary as an exercise in creative will; as an exercise in synthesis; as a means to create a world according to our wishes, not those of others; as a means of creating the self, of giving birth to ourselves.’

Anais Nin, December 1976.

There’s more to follow from Tristine Rainer on basic diary devices and special techniques.

The Marlowe quote is John O’Farrel’s invention and appears in ‘I blame the scapegoats.’ A diary cannot be ghost written, I’m sure some blogs.

A corporate blog isn'nt a blog it's a online brochure.

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Love your memories in a blog

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 16:35

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“I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is." Nabakov

I thought 500 page views was a landmark, then 1000. There has been steady growth to 10,000. It went crazy for a week in April with 1,000 views a day then settled back to 150-250  day. Whose counting? Basic analytics are a form of recognition, even reward for the blogger. 50,000 is a biggy that has taken 14 months to achieve. 100,000 is unlikely within the Masters in Open & Distance Education, though a MRes, another module in the MAODE (because it interests me so much) or a MBA are all of interest for later in the year and all would be blogged upon right here.

Are you saying something worthwhile to this audience?

Even if I feel the PC Screen is a mirror and I'm writing this for my benefit first as a reference I can return to later: what did I think? Where is that quote? Where was I in the learning process? Aren't I glad I've moved on! Editing old entries, bringing them up-to-date develops this. As Nabokov wrote,

Read Backwards

e-Reading 'A New Culture of Learning' backwards in a large font isolating interesting gems I may have missed. Also reading it by search word; 'play' works and is appropriate with over 160 mentions.

I liken this to panning for gold.

Once I've done this a few times typing out notes may be irrelevant; I'll know it. 'Play as the new form of learning?'

One final thought. Two decades ago I liken learning to a nurturing process, of an educator/teacher or course designer/principal sprinkling water on the heads of students buried like heads of lettuce emerging from the ground.

This no longer works for me.

What I now see are kids in a large paddling pool having fun and making up games with toys offered to them by supporting parents and older siblings.

The mantra for e-learning is 'activity, activity, activity', perhaps it ought to be 'play, play, play'; that's what you'll come away with if you read John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas 'A New Culture of Learning; cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change.'

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Blogging - cover to cover

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 2 Nov 2012, 08:26

It'll not come from one book, or two or many. Having blogged for 11 years and six months I should know some things. I share some ideas here alongside some thoughts from Argenti and Barnes's 2009 book 'Digital Strategies for Powerfurl Corporate Communications' that I have read cover to cover these last few days courtesy of Kindle.

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Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications

Blogs and social communities have sparked ‘a complete overhaul of the business environment, especially in the context of communication.’ Agenti and Barnes (2009:K168)

K = Kindle ... they don't give a page number. How could you in a e-Book?

Education is changing too, blurring the lines between school and the workplace, and encouraging workplace learning with distance learning specialists and online courses from members of the Association of Business Schools surely set to grow

The difference between web 1.0 and web 2.0 – observation versus participation, status versus dynamic, monologue versus conversation. Agenti and Barnes (2009)

What is most relevant to corporate communications managers is as relevant to other institutions, whether government, education or charity.

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You need to be using:

• Blogs (such as WordPress. Edublogs, Diaryland)

• Microblogs (Twitter)

• Social Networks (such as Facebook, MySpace)

• Video-sharing platforms (YouTube, Vimeo)

• Search engine marketing and optimization

• Corporate web sites/ online newsrooms

• Wikis • Mash-ups • Viral/word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing.

The trick is to find ‘a middle ground between a completely centralised and a wholly decentralised structure is the best way to maintain an effective communications strategy in today’s environment.’ K593

My take on this is that to succeed organisations need to be:

• Informed

• Engaged

• Responsive

• Frequent

• Authentic

• Relevant

• Appropriate

• Pithy

• Real (neither journalistic, corporate or academic in style)

• Understanding

• Passionate but not obsessive

• Media Savvy

• Connected

• Tooled up

• With a give, take, try anything and receive mentality.

• Tag it all

• Optimise out of habit

• Have fun, be playful with surveys, questionnaires and polls.

The view Sir Martin Sorrell takes is ‘The more control you keep over the message, the less credible it is. And Vice Versa.’ Martin Sorrell (2008: K1520)

There are three skills sets required to take advantage of this:

1. Identifying influential bloggers 2. Building relationships with them 3. Engaging with them with the intent of receiving positive coverage

Points 1 and 2 was the experience I had in Diaryland.

Here from 1999 bloggers teamed up with designers, where the two functions were recognised as different, like the copywriter and art director in advertising. Here you could form groups and join groups, link to friends for a myriad of reasons, but best of, in the list limited to 70 friends you were/are updated constantly on the status – it helps to know that you’re in a group where people update regularly. It is largely from the community of those who write, that you find people who also read and comment, they are various consumers and emitters of content.

So much that I experienced here has migrated to other blogsites.

Things that work, as well as buddies and buddy updates, are the surveys and groups, creating engaging or fund questionnaires to share with others and forming groups too, where for example I set up lists for those to be the first to make 500, then 1000 and then 2000 entries … Fun too are the banner ads you can make and use to promote interest within the Diaryland community. Perhaps Andrew’s (its creator’s0refusal to allow advertising is what is causing a Diaryland demise.

‘Metaphorically speaking, RSS is the gateway drug of experiential online monitoring’. Agenti and Barnes (2009:K1183)

My view is GoogleAlerts does this better, it spread the net for you, whereas with RSS you need to have found the feed first. What is more GoogleAlerts feeds you snacks of information that are easy to consume, note, reference, keep, pass on or over.

In emails the authors interviewed Courtney Barnes and Shabbir Imber Safdar.

‘You need to understand that it’s not a cut-and-paste job. You need to participate in the conversation and adapt the content for the environment. ‘ Thus said (Agenti and Barnes (2009:K1159)

Look, listen and learn ... engage

To do this engagement is the first things, so blogs and Twitter, social networking and video, photographs … even some family history and reuniting with school and college friends. Then you tools like Technorati and Goole Alerts.

 

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Technorati

Google Alerts

Search out appropriate keywords

Joined Linked In too.

Having been engaged with four/five groups I made the mistake of joining and dozen and will have to drop most of these. Some post several times and hour 24/7 and I have ceased to see the worth of reading that much from one group, especially if the same question is being answered a thousand times. Managing this maelstrom is a task in itself, being alert to the new, dropping the redundant, buying into and out of the right people and places as their influence and quality of comment waxes and wanes.

Forrester Research on 90 blogs of Fortune 500 companies. June 2008.

Most company blogs are ‘dull, drab and don’t stimulate discussion’. • 66% rarely get comments • 70% only contain comment on business topics • 56% republish press releases or summarise news that is already public.

REFERENCE

Argenti P.A. and Barnes M.C. 2009 ‘Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications’ McGrawHill.

Sorrell. M (2008) ‘Public Relations: The Story behind a Remarkable Renaissance,@ Institute for Public Relations Annual Distinguished Lecture, New York, November 5, 2008.

 

Meanwhile I've got these two to read.

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And why books cover to cover?

I'm sick of snacking from a smorgasbord. I want a consistent voice, something up to date, that leaves an impression. A book does this for me, an article never does.

A year later

‘You need to understand that it’s not a cut-and-paste job. You need to participate in the conversation and adapt the content for the environment.' This said in Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications' Agenti and Barnes (2009:Kindle page 1159).

As I go through 33 months of postgraduate blog posts (the Masters in Open and Distance Education with the Open University), I stumble upon a great deal that some might call aggregation, but a year or so ago was linking and tagging.

In the module 'Innovations in e-learning' we were give a list of aggregating tools to try. Personally, the curator - and potentially their team, as in the real world of museums and galleries must surely add value above and beyond the mere pulling of content using a set of terms in an off-the-shelf bundle of software?

Over the last week or so since the meet up I have returned to various tools and tried new ones. I've gathered screen grabs and given it some thought - and largely concluded that as a result of this exercise I will be dropping them all in favour of reading a few choice blogs and receiving feeds from them - blogs where an opinion is expressed, you can leave a comment and expect feedback. At the heart of this is socially constructed learning.

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When is a blog not a blog?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 03:48

Try deciding where the North Atlantic becomes the South Atlantic.

The boundaries are somewhat fluid.

I go back through my OU blog from day one early Feb 2009 and amend, rewrite, 'doube-up' or muck-up this content, reviewing and ameliorating my recollection.

Is this a blog, or re-blog?

It's the same memory. All I'm doing is what we do all the time to make a memory stick; I'm reflecting on it. Taking a difference stance. And depending in good part on my mood thinking either postive constructive things about it or negative destructive things.

Does an amended 2FEB2010 become an entry for 2FEB2011, if for simplicity's sake this is how and when I do this?

You see, I know what happens. As a teenager I kept one of those Five Year Diaries ... I could see year after year what I was doing this time last year, or five years, or far more years than that ago.

Businesses compare quarters, and year on year. All false constructs. All chosen periods of a time.

My mind don't care.

It's simply stuff.

And often you have no control over what you recall in any case.

I smell Swarfega and I am a six year old washing oil from my bike-chain off my hands with my Grandfather. And I see the work bench, the shed and the bike. I can smell his tweed jacket and see his flat cap.

It will be extremely interesting to see how a professional take on looking at OU Blog entries Feb 2010 to Jan 2011 works out.

 

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