Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Blogging about blogging

When we started this blog for the 2011 regional conference, one of its goals was to introduce the region to various web 2.0 technologies and technology applications you might make use of as academic advisors.  We've introduced you to RSS feeds, Twitter, online document sharing/collaboration and facebook so far, but I knew the time would come to introduce you to blogging.  So this is it--I'm writing a blog post about blogging.

Contribute to the discussion

First, let's go ahead and identify the elephant in the room.  There are some bad blogs out there.  There, I said it.  Blogs evolved from online journals and as they became more popular and easy to use, more people started to use them.  In fact, there are over 150 million blogs in existence now and some of them are riddled with enough grammatical errors, typos and personal rants to set your teeth on edge.  However, I want to bring you over to wonderful side of blogging; the side where people write to inform others and contribute to the shared pool of professional knowledge.

by cobannon (license)
Blogs are a great way for people to communicate their ideas and programs in "real time" format.  To me, they're an easy way to increase my knowledge about academic advising and student affairs in general, providing another avenue for professional development.  Each day, using my handy RSS reader, I have news and information on topics that I care about brought to me and, because most blogs are personal, I'm usualy provided with varying viewpoints, especially regarding current or "hot" topics.

If you're ready to dip your toe in the blog waters, I would suggest beginning your blog reading adventure with the variety of blogs offered by Inside Higher Ed or The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Because these blogs come from recognized and reputable sources in our field, I feel better knowing that their authors have been vetted and usually have good, pertinent things to say.  Of course, if you're already reading those blogs and are ready to expand your blog diet, the Student Affairs Collaborative has done a good job of creating a list of blogs (divided by category) related to higher education and student affairs.  I encourage you to check it out when you have some free time and, if you already have a blog, add it to the list.  I do want to point out a couple of the ones specific to academic advising.

Both the Advising Centers at the University at Buffalo and the University of Oregon have student focused blogs, a type of blog of blog that is becoming more popular.  In fact, the University of Oregon presented on their blog at their regional conference (winning best of region) and the annual conference in Orlando. These types of blogs provide us another way to reach out to students to notify them of important information in an environment where they are more comfortable.  Because you drive the blog and control the content, it's usually a good way to discuss timely information with students.  Some advisors also have blogs whose audience is other advisors.  Our very own Art Esposito has a blog that straddles the line between being student and professionally focused and Sarah Howard's (an academic advisor at UNC) blog is primarily professionally focused.

The big two

by Rosaura Ochoa (license)
If you want to give blogging a try yourself, go ahead.  There's no hard and fast rule about how often it has to be updated.  The only advice I offer is make sure you have something to say before you commit it to the web.  When it comes to free blogging platforms, there are 2 big players: Blogger (Google operated) and Wordpress.  I use WordPress for my personal blog to share information with friends and family but we chose to use Blogger for Region 2 blog.  Each platform has its pluses and minuses and you can find a pretty good comparison of the services offered here.  I would recommend just taking a few minutes with each one to find the one you are comfortable with.  Once you do, you'll be set to start blogging.

There's a lot more detail I could go into about blogging and you've seen some of the extra functions we've been using on this site (like RSS feeds, subscribe by email, tagging, etc).  If you have additional questions about blogging, join the discussion and post those questions in comments box below.

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