Blogging is becoming a more important part of my life as an academic. I started blogging around August 2010 as a way of sharing interesting resources with students in online subjects I teach on community engagement and community capacity building. Given how I became an academic, I’m also interested in providing material that is relevant to practitioners working with communities.
The following are some of the ways I use blogging as an academic.
1. To collect community engagement resources for students and practitioners
As I come across useful or interesting resources on working with communities, I put them on the blog. I often try to add something that adds value to the original material. For example, the Collaborative for Building After-School Systems has a video on 10 Ways to build school-community partnerships which I added to my blog with a list of their 10 ideas. At other times I place an interesting resource in the context of concepts covered in courses I teach. For example, Angela Blanchard has a great TED talk (Building on the strengths of communities) which I placed in the context of asset-based community-driven development.
2. To write original content for students
I am increasingly writing original content for students to introduce concepts (e.g., What is community capacity building?) or to discuss useful strategies (e.g., Making parents feel welcome in schools). Because my teaching is nearly all online, providing material through my blog is a good way to make it easily available.
3. To raise environmental issues and to discuss ways we can contribute to a more sustainable world
We are facing major environmental challenges and need to explore ways of becoming more sustainable. My academic work focuses on community engagement, and I have a particular interest in how community engagement can help create alternatives that are more sustainable. Through my blog I try to encourage readers to think how we can contribute to a more sustainable future as individuals (e.g., Parenting for a better world) and as a community (What is the Transition Streets Challenge?).
4. To reflect on, and document, my work
I continue to be actively involved in the practice of community engagement and the blog is an opportunity to reflect on, and document, this work. In particular, I use it to document my work with Transition Newcastle (e.g., The Transition Streets Challenge: Potential and challenges). I’m also documenting the Kids’ Vegies on the Verge (a vegetable garden started by my partner and our children for kids in our street) which is helping to transform relationships in our street.
5. To help me develop my writing
Like many academics, I find writing challenging and the blog is a way to develop my writing. At times my posts are fairly informal (e.g., Turning off the taps) and at other times they are more formal (e.g., What are vertical and horizontal community engagement?)
6. To make my publications easily available
The blog is a good way to make my publications available to other people (e.g.,Supporting residents of caravan parks and Service-learning at retreats for children with special needs and their families).
7. To develop research ideas and publications
I sometimes use the blog to develop research ideas and publications (e.g., Ethics and community engagement). Writing for the blog forces me to refine my thinking and helps me create material that can be used towards a publication.
8. To reach the audience I want to reach
Finally, I’m particularly interested in writing for practitioners who often don’t have access to academic publications (if they even wanted to read them). As well as making academic publications available through the blog, I can also write posts specifically aimed at practitioners (e.g., A World Cafe in a school – a step-by-step description).
I’m convinced that blogging can be a useful tool for academics and hope that it will assist me to develop as an academic while maintaining my focus on the practice of community engagement and community development.
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