Thoughts on ways to improve the management of professional services firms

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Should All Learning Professionals be Blogging - Practical Issues

Update: The Big Question experiment already appears to have been a considerable success. In less than 24 hours there have been supporting posts on 18 blogs discussing different aspects of the question as well 18 comments on the blog entry itself plus some comments on other blogs. I have yet to read all the posts (list here), but there are some thoughful contributions. My congratulations to Tony and Dave.

Email from Tony Karrer to say that he and Dave Lee and have started something new over at the Learning Circuits Blog. As mentioned before, this blog has been sponsored by the American Society for Training and Development to provide a public forum for e-learning issues.

Each month they propose to to post “The Big Question”, hoping that they we will get posts on the topic from bloggers in the community, from readers and from the larger ASTD community. The first one question selected is Should All Learning Professionals Be Blogging?

I stand in awe of Dave and Tony's energy. I see that Dave has already put up a post on his own blog cogently arguing the reasons why it is just silly to expect all learning professional to embrace blogging with enthusiasm. Tony has already responded with a counter post on his blog. Accepting that all learning professionals will not blog, he sets out the case why the individual learning professional should consider blogging.

This is not the first time this type of question has come up on Learning Circuits. Back in March 2006 Jay Cross inspired an interesting discussion on blogs as a knowledge management tool that covered some of the same issues. This included comments from Jane who had been using her blog as a tool in her work on UK higher and further education. In turn, this inspired me to prepare a case study looking at the potential use of blogs as a management tool in the world of the Australian specialist medical colleges.

My conclusion was positive. However, I also pointed to problems including especially that of limited time. Mind you, I was personally sufficiently inspired to actually launch my own blogs as a device to further test and extend my thinking. So in that sense Learning Circuits has a lot to answer for!

Later I drew from this as well as later material to prepare a post on my personal blog - UNE Strategic Planning - impact of new technology - looking at the application of technology in the context of the University of New England's strategic planning process.

In that post I suggested that the University and especially its staff had been slow to adopt and fully utilise the possibilities associated with the new on-line technology. I also suggested that staff training might help.

In a response, the University's Bronwyn Clarke responded:

"Jim, I'm not sure it's so much a 'training' problem as a cultural and strategic one. UNE has such a strong and proud tradition in distance education that, IMO, we've been a little slow in adopting new strategies. Because we did things so well in a pre-internet era, much of our thinking about teaching and elearning is still in the mode of providing quality text-based resources in hard copy for individual study."

This triggered a further post from me - UNE Strategic Planning - Impact of New Technology 2 - looking again in part at the technology issue. In that post I quoted a distinguished UNE staff member who wrote one Saturday morning:

"I agree with you about the usefulness of blogs. I wish I had time to get one up and maintain it - mostly, maintain it. I'm at UNE today, marking assignments since early hours -I started around dawn at home & then transferred 'up top' where a colleague and I are coordinating a seminar for postgraduate scholars - a task involving running around to make sure everyone's happy - publishers, editors, academics from interstate, etcetera... and then, quiet time in my cell block with undergraduates' assignments. Sigh. The old story"

Again, the practical problem of time. I know that blogs could be an extremely useful device for Michael, but I do sympathise.

So where do I come down in all this? I clearly remain a strong supporter of blogs for both business and individual professional purposes. But the proportion who actually blog is likely to remain small.


Bronwyn said...

This is just a fly-by, spur of the moment comment - perhaps the question isn't so much 'should all learning professionals be blogging' but rather 'should all learning professionals be actively engaging with the current developments in their discipline?' To which, in my mind, the answer is Yes.

The 'How?' question then leads naturally to blogging or similar activities - because the exciting, new and innovative developments in pretty much all a university's discipline areas are being discussed, reported, analysed and further developed on the web, through online journals, news, blogs, wikis and so on. The web is the home to the current knowledge and ideas, and is much more up-to-date than most traditional print-based academic journals, where the time-frame from research to publication can be years.

Participating in those online communities is a true scholarly activity - contributing to the 'unending conversation' in our discipline areas, debating ideas, furthering knowledge and understanding, and sharing that with the wider community.

Yes, it's a time commitment, but it's part of our pursuit of knowledge in our respective discipline areas - and it's also a timesaver in some ways, with easy access to the leading thinkers and resources, the opportunity to share and seek feedback on ideas and drafts of papers, and so on.

Jane said...

I would support the view that blogs enhace scholarly activity and, indeed lifelong learning (CPD?) for academics and professionals alike - but they are so much more ...

It is certainly the case that blogs can capture the emotive context of the individual posting, particularly when the initial tremulous blunderings around the notion of authorial tone have been conquered and type flows more freely. This variation in tone and phraseology captures the reflective element of blogging and certainly, in my experience, provides a platform to take such reflection further (e.g. why was I feeling like this about that?)

Jim Belshaw said...

Bronwyn, I agree with you and have nothing to add. I have copied your comments onto the Learning Circuits blog to make it available to a broader audience.

Jane, I think that your comment about the emotional content of blogs is very important.All the best teachers establish an emotional context with their students,