Blogging can be seen as a gateway experience for students who will likely be using digital technologies and media in their future endeavors regardless of their discipline.
Morris 2014, p. 2.
I can recall the time in my life when the prospect of writing first became exciting. I was about 14, and had just begun secretly watching Sex and the City while babysitting my cousins who had Foxtel. Carrie Bradshaw had it all – the dresses, the apartment, and of course, the job. Now that I am an actual adult I realise that writing one small coloumn a week is not elusive enough to maintain a life of luxury in New York, filled with Gucci and Fendi; but hey, a girl can dream. Regardless, I have since had the itch to dip my toe in the public writing arena myself, and through this platform, I have been able to.
Blogging as a student was a challenging experience at first. It was difficult to navigate writing something that was simultaneously academic and entertaining enough to invite and engage new readers. Not to mention, I had come straight from my HSC which focused wholly on regurgitating essay after essay. I do think the awkwardness of this transition and being thrust into the deep end of blogging, however, was worth it in the end. I seriously doubt I would have begun writing in public if it was not a course requirement – yet, upon reflection, I realise that blogging has shaped my writing persona, contributed to my learning in a very unique way and given me a greater and more intimate appreciation of audience.
Finding my own personal voice was one of the most challenging aspects of student blogging. As other subjects focus heavily on academic essay writing, removal of first person and drill in the important of objectivity, blogging can be a very refreshing yet arduous change. There is more flexibility in the structure and formality of writing, but it takes a lot of effort to create and maintain a persona that is present and consistent across posts, without overpowering the actual message in a piece of writing. In this way, blogging has the unique ability to blend the freedom of writing short informal posts with the shaping of one’s own voice and as Morris (2014, p. 1) explains, assist in developing analysis and articulation of ideas when presenting them to the public.
When I first created my blog in 2014, for example, I had only just begun to dapple in world of politics and media. Covering topics like feminism, satire, the development of the internet or the idea of TV as a permanent and transcending object, all shaped my understanding of media and as such also influence my writing style. My banner title is the most obvious outcome of this writing journey – while developing my personal voice, I also developed my sense of self, my politics, and the ways I wanted to present this to the public. This aligns with research conducted by Levy et al. (2015, p. 67) which alleges that “…results of [their] quantitative and qualitative analysis indicate that blogging experiences were positively related to students’ development of political interest, internal political efficacy, and self-efficacy for writing about politics” – I am testament to this.
Blogging has also been a phenomenal tool for me in learning about and truly comprehending ideas and concepts. By producing multiple short pieces of writing across 6 + communications subjects, I have been able to take the time to research and collate data that appeals to me on a range of unique and interesting topics. I think this is the greatest advantage of blogging over formal essay writing – the opportunity to fully engross myself in the content matter across several weeks of learning, rather than focusing on one sole idea or concept.
In this way, blogging encourages constant contemplation and rumination of content matter. In fact, according to Lew and Schmidt (2011), evidence suggests that one of the most effective ways to encourage reflection is to have students share their thoughts and experiences while they learn – such as through blogging. Muncy (2014, p. 102) upholds this view, explaining that when blogging, “…students do not focus solely on the acquisition of knowledge, but rather on the connection of the material with other life experiences and existing understanding.” Furthermore, research conducted by Lin et al. (2014, p. 430) proved that blogging is an effective tool for improving writing skills and enhancing learning towards writing. So the combination of blogging and academia is a natural one, it would appear.
Furthermore, BCM240 has made clear to me the importance the relationship between media, place and audience when creating and distributing my own media content. It’s all well and good for me to have an active blog, but if I am not in communication with an audience, the effort will fall on deaf ears. The cause of conflict for myself in respect to this was the initial layout and functionality of my blog – simple to say the least, and in need of some TLC after two years of neglect. By reformatting my online space, adding social media links, my twitter feed and archive tools in the hardware, I have seen an improvement in the flow of traffic to my blog. This was a very important improvement for me, because it was definitely what was keeping my blog sitting at the ‘student’ table – preventing growth and diminishing a sense of seriousness or maturity in my writing. I had to really consider who my target audience were, and edit my blog to suit this niche.
Writing publicly has also given me a greater understanding of the essence of audience. A blog is not a magazine or newspaper, with the possible response a one sided letter to the editor. A blog is an interactive platform, where readers can comment, compare opinions and share information. As Morris (2014) explains, when undertaking blogging, one “can take ownership of their writing, become better observers of others’ writing, and develop a more immediate and powerful understanding of audience.” Thus it is essential that navigation and formatting allow for a dynamic and fluid conversation to flourish.
For BCM 240 specifically, interviewing and writing about my Nana was one of the most rewarding exercises. How fantastic to be able to visit my Nan, have a cuppa and learn about her experiences of war, loss, technology and liberation. This blogging journey has definitely been a testing but rewarding learning experience for me. My political interest has grown because of blogging, my style of writing has been greatly influenced by the intricacies of public writing and my understanding of media, audience and place has been greatly expanded. My blog is definitely still in the humble stages, but perhaps one day I’ll be living the high life like Carrie Bradshaw, with my feminist high heels purchased from Fendi, not Vinnies.
Lew, D. N. M. & Schmidt, H. G. 2011, ‘Writing to Learn: Can Reflection Journals Be Used to Promote Self-Reflection and Learning?’ Higher Education Research and Development, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 519–532
Levy, B. L., Journell, W, He, Y & Towns, B 2015, ‘Students blogging about politics: A study of students’ political
engagement and a teacher’s pedagogy during a semester-long political blog assignment’ Computers & Education, vol. 88, pp. 64-71
Lin, M. H., Li, J, Hung, P. Y. & Huang H 2014, ‘Blogging a journal: changing students’ writing skills and perceptions’ ELT Journal, vol. 68, no. 4, pp. 424-43
Morris, G 2014, Using Blogs in the Classroom, Sweetland Centre for Writing, viewed 2 October, <http://www.lsa.umich.edu/UMICH/sweetland/Home/Instructors/Teaching%20Resources/UsingBlogsintheClassroom.pdf>
Muncy, J. A. 2014, ‘Blogging for Reflection: The Use of Online Journals to Engage Students in Reflective Learning’, Marketing Education Review, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 101-113