June 19, 2011
For the last couple of months I’ve been spending one evening a week working with Judith O’Reilly (better known as Wife in the North) running a short course through Newcastle University all about blogging. We’ve had a small class with a mix of people ranging from complete newbies to people running some well establish blogs, nearly all ladies, ranging in age from early twenties to an early retiree.
Whenever I mention things like “teaching blogging” or introductions to social media all of my tech friend sneer. “It’s easy”, “you just do it” and “it can’t be taught” are phrases I’ve heard time and time again. Annoyingly they are sort of right too, but what they don’t give credit to is that all of these things can be really intimidating for people who don’t live their entire lives online. That’s where I come in, to provide a guidance, a bit of non-patronising hand holding, and some practical help if people are stuck. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and in many cases there is no one right way to do it (though there are often lots of examples of how not to do it). I’m there to facilitate, not dictate.
Being no writer I was handling the “tech side” of blogging, from getting started on Blogger.com, wordpress.com (and a few others), though RSS, linking, embedding media, building an audience, blogging for business and finally a little about SEO and monetization. Being a writer Judith was working with students to improve their content, writing style and other such things.
Over the course of the 6 weeks I’ve learnt a lot, although most of it was how to do IT support for an entire class all on different kit and how badly the universities are set up to provide courses outside of office hours (no IT support after 5pm means all visiting teaching staff are on their own!) I’ve also got a lot better at helping to demystify some of the complexities of this internet thing too I hope.
Practical things aside, I’ve been amazed at the posts that my class have produced. I really enjoyed the first few posts from The Reluctant Buddhist, who sadly didn’t write a huge amount more. A post about self harming on the Antics Of A Brittle Asthmatic is a truly seductive and moving piece of writing. Little insights into the world of Estate Living have been really interesting (and I love “the view from the farm” snippet written in the persona of an animal in each one). I’m also hopeful that Musician Verses Student blossoms into an awesome online juxtaposition of lifestyles.
All of the students who stuck with the course right through produced work I was proud of, and I hope that they’ve found a sense of self confidence and assurity that means they will carry on blogging, either in their current guises or in new projects.comments powered by Disqus