Blogs are all around us on the internet and you may sometimes read posts from popular news blogs without necessarily thinking of them as blogs or formally subscribing to them. For anyone involved in teaching and/or learning, however, there is a great deal to gain from engaging with blogs a bit more. This posts offers 5 ways in which blogs can help you as a learner, researcher or teacher.
1. Read blogs to connect with and keep up with your discipline.
Reading blogs written by other researchers or related to your area of interest, can be a great way of keeping informed about developments in your discipline and connecting to a community of interest. Blog aggregators such as Feedly or Inoreader allow you to subscribe to many blogs, then see the latest posts in one place, accessible from any of your devices. With a range of different display options and the ability to create categories to organise incoming content, either of these apps will be a great help in keeping up with what is being blogged about in your area of interest. Here is an example of a page in Feedly on an Android phone. You can easily and quickly flip through the headlines until you see something that you want to read.
Most blogs will have a ‘comments’ section where you can get involved in discussion around the topic.
You can find blogs that interest you in a few ways:
- If you are using Feedly or Inoreader you can use their ‘add content’ search to find blogs on particular topics.
- Your usual search engine (Google etc.) will usually find a few blogs to get you started.
- Check whether any professional bodies or journals associated with your discipline have a blog. For example, here is a blog from The Pharmaceutical Journal and one from the American Philosophical Association.
- Use Twitter to find blogs that other people are finding interesting. If you follow academics in your field you will see links to any blog posts they have shared on Twitter.
2. Write for a blog to develop ideas for future papers and projects
Writing for a blog is different to writing academic papers for publication. The informal space and style allows you to express your ideas in a different way, which can lead to new ideas. Engagement with readers through comments can also spark new ideas. The episodic nature of a blog also encourages and makes explicit the development of ideas over time.
If you are not ready to launch your own blog, you could try writing for a blog that already exists. The University of Sussex Communications and External Affairs team have put together some guidance on ‘Writing blogs and opinion articles’ which suggests, among other things, that you consider writing for The Conversation, a blog supported by many universities, including Sussex.
3. Promote your research publications through blogging
When you have published work in academic journals, a blog is a great way to promote that work to a wider audience. The less formal style of blog writing also means that it can open up your research to a wider audience. Blogs and other social media, such as Twitter, can also lead to more academics reading your journal articles and citing them (see the LSE Impact Blog post/article Exploring the effects of blogging on published research).
4. Blogs for your students.
Just as reading, commenting on and writing blogs can be beneficial for academics, so these activities can be useful for students. Encouraging learners to engage with blogs from reputable sources within a discipline and offering them the opportunity to share their writing with a wider audience can enhance their learning and develop digital skills for life.
5. Reflective Blogging
A blog can be a great way of reflecting on your learning, research or teaching. This type of blogging is often referred to as Journalling. Some people like to do their reflecting in public and blogs are great for that – but you can also create private posts in most blogging platforms so you can choose what you share with the world. For alternative ways of using digital tools for reflection, see Reflective practice goes digital.
How can I get started?
To start your own blog, try WordPress or Blogger. These are both free tools and are suggested in the University of Sussex’s guide to Publicising your work. Sussex also has an in-house blogging platform, SPLASH which allows you to blog from within the university website. It is also possible to set up an institutional Sussex WordPress blog for a department or project – contact the web team to learn more.
These online resources will help you get started with each of the 3 platforms: