Blogging in Academia

An Instructional Technologist will be dropping in on the blog every now and then to provide faculty with tips and tricks for using technology for teaching!

David Scozzaro is the manager of Instructional Technology here at LMU, and this week he wrote about the advantages academics can take advantage of by blogging.

There’s an Instructional Technologist embedded in every college and school here at LMU, and they also work together to staff the Faculty Innovation Center on Level 3 of the William H. Hannon Library—they’re always happy to help you integrate technology into your teaching. And now, on with the blog!

blogging-academia

I would like to build upon last week’s blog post from Jeff Schwartz, our new Instructional Technologist in the College of Business Administration. Jeff provided some poignant arguments as to why Academics should blog. Establishing authority, building rapport, creating opportunities and attracting an audience all sound like solid professional goals for any Academic.
At this point, however, it looks like as if academia is not taking advantage of the opportunities that blogging provides of bringing our intellectual and creative endeavors to the the mainstream. Although self-admittedly limited, a study by Pat Thompson, the Director of the Centre for Advanced Studies at the University of Nottingham has shown that we are not blogging for lofty professional goals, but rather, blogging about academia to the rest of us in the Ivory Tower. According to her study, 41% of academic blogs she researched were cultural critiques of life in an academic setting, with another 40% dedicated to the trials and tribulations of conducting research today. Combined with the other topics that emerged in her studied, well over 80% of blogs focused on the daily life of academia. Granted, if she searched more deeply along the lines of discipline, she would have likely found more blogs written by Academics about particular subjects; but asking her to do that would be like asking her to research the whole internet… and without any funds to do it.
So what can we take away from her study? My argument would be better marketing. Showing yourself off as an expert who comes from academia that can connect with practically anybody who has an internet-connected device is key. Balancing status, authority, and humility is always tough, but a worthwhile goal to gain traction. Keeping an open dialogue with commenters is probably the best way to achieve this. With so much information available at our fingertips (thanks Google), it is easy to mesh facts and opinions, even for the best of us. Keep your responses to wild opinions or improper facts civil and ask that your commenters do the same. Ultimately, most of us are looking to make this world a better place, and sometimes we disagree on how that needs to take place. I think we can all agree that being constructive and working together is a much better route to getting there than simply slinging mud.
Another thing to do is start small. Twitter is a great micro-blogging platform. It is a wonderful place to spurn thought, generate conversation, and drive people to deeper discussions on a more formal blogging platform like WordPress or Blogger. One of the toughest things to do when starting up a blog is gain followers. Twitter is a low-cost method for people to start broadening their horizons in 140 characters. With over 600 million users, there is certainly no shortage of potential audience members.
Blogging is about sharing ideas, thoughts, and opinions. If you are looking to publish, this may not be the platform. If you are looking to start generating ideas and writing early drafts for your next great published work, blogging can be a powerful win-win for you and your readers.

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