How I Blog – Cammy Bean

At this year’s DevLearn, we’re putting a spotlight on the power of blogging for learning via the DevLearn Bloggers program. We’ve invited members of the DevLearn Bloggers team to write a post exploring how they approach blogging, and how it enhances their personal learning.

In this post we hear from Cammy Bean, Vice President of Learning Design at Kineo US, whose blogging of session notes are a great resource to extend the value of conference learning.

Bean_CammyI’ve always been a note taker. At college, I filled notebook upon notebook with my somewhat illegible handwritten text. (This was in the days before laptops, so yes, I am dating myself.) The act of note taking kept me focused on the lecture or conversation, helped me connect dots, and augmented the faulty memory of my brain. When I wrote papers in the wee hours of the night or studied for finals, those notes were critical reference tools for me.

Many years later, I started blogging for professional development. I asked questions, reviewed articles and books I was reading, and shared what I was discovering in my own personal learning journey as I was creating a more intentional ID practice.

I attended webinars and started “live blogging”– that is, typing my notes as I watched and them immediately posting them for all to see. My mad typing skillz came into play—I may have been a court stenographer in a past life, naturally inclined to capture almost word for word what people say.

I captured the attention of one of the webinar hosts from one of those early sessions. Jane Bozarth reached out to me that she LOVED my notes and really appreciated that I had done this – both for her own ability to reflect back on the webinar she had delivered, and for the benefit of the audience and those who couldn’t attend. Now that was validating. I had confirmation that I was doing something good for others! Jane Bozarth had noticed me!

In 2009, I started showing up as a regular at eLearning conferences, like DevLearn. I took my blogging to the road and began live blogging the sessions I attended.

At DevLearn in San Francisco – 2010 or was it 2011? — a man sitting next to me shushed me for typing so loudly during a keynote session. “The slides are posted”, he said, supremely annoyed with me and rather incredulous that someone would bother taking notes. As if that was the point. No, for me, the point is the act of the note taking. The slides may be posted, but not all of the wonderful things that the speaker has actually said – the stories and the sidebars that never made their way onto those slides.

I sheepishly moved away. I do type loudly and this is something I do my best to monitor. I try to sit in the back or side of a room. I sit with friends who know what I’m doing and know that they’ll likely be reading my notes later that day. I attempt what I call stealth typing. Hint: it ain’t easy when you’re typing so fast.

As a session winds down, I do a quick read through and format, but I don’t spend any substantial time editing or cleaning up. I always preface my live blog with a note: “These are my live blogged notes from [insert conference name and location]. Forgive any typos or incoherencies.” I include the conference hashtag in my post title. And then I hit publish. Within seconds my blog auto-posts to my Twitter feed.

What happens next is out of my control, but what usually happens is this: Retweets. Lots of them. People who are at the conference, people who are watching the back channel from their desks at home. I get notes from people thanking me for sharing the conference with them.


And what I’ve got is a lasting record of my conference experience. Sometimes I look back through my blog and have absolutely no recollection of that session I attended in 2012. And look at that, there’s some great information there! I get to rediscover it all again. Unlike the moldy notebooks from college that I still have hanging around in my attic, my blog is a nice clean and searchable place for me to refer back to from year to year.

So this is how I blog a conference like DevLearn. And this year will be no exception. Look for me with my battered old keyboard (yes, I have actually worn out the spacebar on my Macbook Air. The geniuses at the Apple Store tell me they’ve NEVER seen that before!)

Interested in sharing how you use your blog for learning and at conferences? Contact David Kelly to learn how to contribute to the “How I Blog” series.

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