I am fascinated by the concept of personal branding and have often read and cited Tom Peters’ seminal and inspiring 1997 article on this “The Brand Called You” Nowadays, a key part of our personal brand is what we put on social networking sites. On Twitter, we can write a short description which summarises us – our personal brand as we want other users to see it.
This explains the significance of the Twitter description I posted a couple of weeks ago, which begins:
“Tutor, course designer, blogger, Chartered Accountant, MA student…”
The new, and surprising, word is “blogger”. In less than eight weeks, blogging has become not just something I do but part of my identity, my personal brand – who I am. I appreciate that I am following a well-trodden path here among educators. Steve Wheeler, a man at the top of the field, who has much more experience in this than I have, set out his thoughts in a recent blog post:
“From personal experience blogging is one of the most beneficial professional development activities I have ever engaged with. I learn more from blogging than I do from almost any other activity I participate in.”
I agree, and have discovered my own reasons why this is so for me. Maybe my new vocation is not so surprising. As described in a previous blog post, I have enjoyed writing for many years, and went through a sustained period of keeping a reflective journal (I called it a diary then) twenty years ago. I have wondered from time to time about starting a blog. But I did not – fear, lack of technical skills, children arriving, work pressures – various factors held me back.
However, my OU course (module H808) requires that we keep a blog to facilitate reflection, and it also provides a ready-made “starter” audience – my tutor and fellow students, who give feedback and encouragement, although my audience has steadily widened as I have gone on. So I was pushed into the water and learned to swim. I have discovered for myself how much I enjoy the writing, which is a spur to formulating my thoughts and reflecting. Monitoring blog statistics provides instant feedback that is gratifying and a spur to continue. Comments received, where someone has actually taken the trouble to read what I have written and respond, are a tremendous compliment. Some blog posts have led to further discussions on Twitter, where you can find all kinds of interesting people.
So, by introducing me to blogging, the course has turned written reflection into a regular habit, and brought my reflections into a dialogue that can include the world. This has been incredibly satisfying.
Along with the practice of blogging, I have had to learn the necessary technical skills. This has been an interesting learning process – technical skills do not really form an “official” part of the H808 syllabus. Instead, the course puts us in a position where we are encouraged and enabled to go out and acquire these skills for ourselves. In this, the course reflects a major shift in learning.
I am still adjusting to this. When I was growing up, you found out about things by reading a book about them, or asking an expert. So I was looking for a good book about WordPress, but had not found one that seemed right. One of my colleagues at work runs a successful blog about gaming, so I asked him if he could recommend any resources on WordPress. He clearly thought this was an odd question, but was too polite to say so. “Errr, Google?” he suggested, then, bringing up his WordPress page, thought again. “Actually, pretty much everything I’ve learned has been from just fiddling about.”
This is of course the only feasible approach. So far, by “fiddling about”, I have managed to set up my WordPress blog, choosing a theme to make it look better, linking it to my Twitter feed, adding pages about me and the blog itself, and finding out how to create private posts. I know I am only starting – further use of themes and photos are the next step. I can see others doing great things with WordPress and it should be fun finding out how.