Reflections on Networked (Academic) EduBlogging
Sometimes I am drawn to the back and forth of forum discussions, with humour and even edgy comments thrown in. And sometimes I prefer to lurk, watch, reflect, and blog my own stuff, and invite a few others to dialogue with me. Edu-blogging appeals to both faces, that of the ivory tower intellectual, and that of the forum gladiator. However, to blog, and blog well, one needs to be prepared for both tasks.
I find at times I am the ivory tower intellectual type, reflecting on a more meaningful level and working independently online, contributing to discussions sometimes intensely, and sometimes dropping off the virtual radar, especially when my own areas of concern do not match the forum discussion topics. Then when I am ready, and emerge from the tower, I post a reflection I think is of higher quality that others find useful, and respond vigorously to. I find I contribute to community by doing this, spending time to work through my ideas, than I would if I “forced” myself to attend to replying superficially to posts on discussions I have little to contribute to.
Also, I find process summaries are very useful to share with others, and though the posts do not get many replies, it contributes to community just as much as it gives an honest “this is where I am at now” appraisal others might compare themselves to.
At other times, the to and fro of idea exchanges in the arena (forums) appeals to me, and I am in a more engaged, playful, extroverted mindset, and I engage in the fashion of a gladiator primed for battle, defending ideas, offering counter arguments, engaging in debates and grappling with others’ perspectives.
In my experience, the community builds over time, with short exchanges first, followed by bursts of activity. “Rules of Engagement” tend to be established from post one, as some communications forms are preferred and encouraged by the cohort and the instructor over others. The community can be built up or torn down by whether the instructor or other students writes short, terse posts/comments/replies, and do not show warmth. Whether the learners/instructor respond warmly to some responses, while ignoring/dismissing others? What is the tone? The vocabulary?
How are we reading the signals? What cues are present that we intuitively rely on when first deciding whether or not to engage honestly, openly with others online? How does the structure of the course, the way it is delivered, and the types of communications sent between students and the instructor, and between students, all have a strong bearing on the nature of community, and whether the community will be developed or not?