April 24, 2024

Blogging: Five of the best

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Photo by Florian Klauer on unsplash

I have been privileged over the past few years to have garnered a good audience for my writing. As this blog approaches 8.5 million views, I though it would be interesting to reflect back the posts that have attracted the most interest from readers, and why they might have been so successful.

Blogging has always been one of the ways I best express my ideas, and coupled with teaching, public speaking and a number of interviews on video and through podcasting, it has been my main channel of communication and dialogue with my professional community in recent years. I haven’t given up on peer reviewed publishing, but I have turned away from closed journals and publications toward openness and accessibility.

That is one of the key reasons I believe blogging is a powerful method of professional engagement, and as Lawrence Lessig argues: “Blogging, a bit like forums, are spaces where people can congregate to share ideas, engage in dialogue over particular issues, and learn a great deal. They are the important form of unchoreographed public discourse we have.” (Lessig, 2005, p. 41).

It’s important to realise that the posts listed below have been amplified through social media, reposted and shared on various platforms, and also translated into other languages. All this has been possible because they are all labelled as Creative Commons with a repurpose licence. So here they are – the top five posts in the history of Learning With ‘E’s:

1. Fire And Brimstone (>92,000 views, 11 comments)
I wrote this post in a beach hotel just outside Lisbon, Portugal where I was an invited speaker at a conference. Ostensibly, the post is about a bizarre blog post by an academic who claimed that (ironically) blogging is ‘sinful’ and hampers research productivity. The author claimed that academics who blog are simply avoiding ‘the harshness of the peer review system’ and that their ideas are ‘Half-baked’. I couldn’t let that one lie. I wrote a riposte and gave it the title above. As an added measure of my invective, I found an image of fire and published it at the head of my post. Interestingly, the post went viral not so much because of the subject matter, but more likely because the image I had inadvertently chosen was the top Google image search hit for ‘fire’.

2. The Meaning Of Pedagogy (>62,000 views, 8 comments)
This was a post I wrote in response to questions from my students while working at the Plymouth Institute of Education. One group asked what the origin of the word ‘pedagogy’ was, and as I explained, I realised that I needed to capture the idea behind ‘leading someone to learning’. This post was created the following day and it shows no signs of slowing down in its popularity, with regular visits from readers from all over the globe. It helps that the image used to illustrate the post shows ancient Greeks, one of whom appears to be using a laptop computer and stylus!

3. Seven Reasons Teachers Should Blog (>53,000 views, 46 comments)
At the headers of this post is an image from the start of the First World War, in a British high street, with a soldier and his partner walking past a man selling newspapers. I have doctored the image with speech bubbles to illustrate my zeal for educational blogging (read it to discover the joke). I still maintain that blogging is one of the best methods of engaging with professional practice, and is a very powerful aid to reflection. It attracted many comments from readers, some more useful than others. For balance I also wrote and published a follow-up blog called Reasons Teachers Don’t Blog – which also attracted significant comments from readers.

4. One Of The Best (50,000 views, 18 comments)
Carol Woodward was a wonderfully gifted and caring head teacher who led the school my three children attended. She took particular interest in supporting my son who is on the Autistic Spectrum. Tragically, following a bad Ofsted visit to her school, her body was discovered in her garage. She had taken her own life. This post paid tribute to her life, and questioned the stress to which teachers are subject. The issues flagged up around mental health support were particularly of interest to readers. The post went viral (especially on Facebook) and received more than 40,000 views in the first week of posting. The 18 comments on the blog were dwarfed by the hundreds of comments received on my Facebook wall. We need to value the teachers in our communities, and we need to ensure that they know how much they are appreciated. One reader wrote ‘The world needs many Carols to care for the little ones who struggle with their challenges.’

5. A Convenient Untruth (42,000 views, 39 comments)
I wrote this post while travelling in New Zealand. I was in the middle of a lecture tour and I noticed the same questions kept popping up from my audiences. The questions related to learning styles, and whether they could be useful in higher education. My view was no, because there is no scientific or empirical evidence to show that learning styles actually exist, let alone have any effect. I gave the post the title in homage to former US Vice President Al Gore’s book on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, which similarly was an attempt to debunk commonly held views in society. As you can see from the number of comments and discussion that ensued, the post certainly hit a nerve and got people talking. Some people complained that they found the accompanying cartoon distasteful, but I appreciate the shock value.

Honourable mentions:
6.  Ten Characteristics Of Authentic Learning (>34,000 views)
7.  The Industrialisation Of Learning (31,000 views)
8.  Anatomy Of A PLE (>29,000 views)
9.  What The Flip? (>29,000 views)
10. Learning Theories For The Digital Age (>22,000 views)

Reference
Lessig, L. (2005) Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity. Penguin Books: New York.

Creative Commons License
Blogging: Five of the best by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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