How I Blog – Shawn Rosler

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 Shawn Rosler, Lead Analyst/Project Manager for Geisinger Health Systems, whose live-blogging of sessions at conferences are a unique resource to extend and revisit conference learning.

CaptureI’m Shawn (aka Rosler)…And I Have A Blog

Recently, Dave Kelly (@LnDDave) from the eLearning Guild (and, more specifically, the #DevLearn conference) asked for vict…err…volunteers to contribute a blog post on blogging – What it is to us, how we do it, and how we use it once it’s out there.  Being a blogger myself, albeit a lazy one, I was all too happy to put together some thoughts on what I do, believe, and feel personally about the art of the blog.  It’s more than just reading, it’s more than just writing, it’s more than just sharing – It’s all these things, and so very much more.  Check it out…

Don’t Be Like Me

My first and strongest warning is this: Don’t.  Read the section header again…”Don’t be like me”.  YES, I’m writing a post on blogging, YES I’m known for my blog, but there’s a lot of features to my ‘blogging profile’, shall we say, that are less than ideal.  Plenty that work, too…don’t get me wrong, but let’s get the ones that DON’T work out of the way first, shall we?

First and foremost, I’m a conference blogger…I’m ‘streaky’.  What’s a conference blogger, you might ask?   Truthfully, I’m certain you’re not REALLY asking that, but let’s pretend you are (over-explaining for the sake of over-explanation):  A conference blogger is someone (like me) who dusts off the blog for the sake of the conference and, sadly, not as much as I should.  I’ve tried over the years to instill some sense of consistency in myself, but life gets in the way…it’s hard to focus on something like this day in/day out.  So, my blogging waits until the sheer intellectual and obligational freedom of a conference to truly spread its wings, but I should be writing more.  I know this.  But I don’t…three demerits for me.  More to come on the benefit and method to conference blogging in a bit.  Promise.

Second, I *rarely*, if ever, edit my writing.  Having taught English I’m familiar with the term (as many of you will be ) “Stream of Consciousness”.  I like to just let the words and ideas flow and throw caution out the window of the speeding vehicle.  Maybe I’ll pore over the “recap” post from a conference (more on that, too), but for the most part what you read is what I was thinking at the time.  Should YOU do it, if you’re new to blogging?  Sure…knock yourself out…but be careful.  Like riding a motorcycle, you can do it, but caution, Will Robinson: I’ve received a periodic Tweet or message regarding a post’s content which I’ve gone back and re-read…thought the better of and changed.  Frequent?  No. But necessary when I’ve done it.

Third…hmm…no third.  OH WAIT…it’s that I don’t really plan my posts.  Very little planning at play here (goes with points one and two), my posts are very “mood driven” and come about in the blink of an eye.  Problem there is that I often forget to share them after (or give a preview via social media before…more on the social element soon, too) because of their very “in-the-moment” nature.  Are they a little more honest and heartfelt?  Maybe…but I can’t help but feel like I’m a little disorganized when I write because of it (case in point, my outline is pencil scrawling on a post-it note stuck to my desk right now.  Can’t make this stuff up, kids).

So, that’s enough about what NOT to do based on my horrible example…let me share a couple of things I DO when I blog that might give you some benefit…

Recording History In The Moment…For Myself…For Others

Let’s step back a bit – I live blog (for the most part, and for the part that is most relevant to this piece).  With that said, some of you might wonder what LIVE blogging is versus blogging.  Sadly, it’s no The Walking Dead reference…doesn’t even involve zombies (boo, right?).  Live blogging simply means that while I’m in a session, whatever it may be, my laptop is out and I’m typing as I listen and absorb.  I attribute this habit to a number of different factors, first and foremost being I am EASILY distracted…like “Oooo, shiny!” easy.  What better way, then, to focus my mind on the words being said than to process them into my own thoughts through typed words, right?  Again, something that has taken, and will take you, practice, but the “Real Time” experience gives a very unique, honest imprint of the experience.

Also, when I write/live blog, I’m writing to record my own thoughts because my memory is absolute garbage.  Seriously…I wish I had some divine inspiration to write…that it was some kind of spiritual calling that I could embrace, plan, and elaborate on at a later time.  Nope – I choose to live blog because EVEN IF I TOOK NOTES, I wouldn’t remember the context(s) of the various moments being written about…or details truly only experienced in the moment (including gut reactions to words, concepts, etc.).  Live blogging has become my method and means of taking notes…it just happens to be more in a spoken word/dialogue format than bullet pointed crib notes.  Hey, it works…

Those thoughts, then…let’s look at those.  My written mental dialogue becomes my experience itself…seriously: Live blogging, for me, if I used it for nothing else, acts as my personal source of truth for my conference experience.  I can look at it and re-read my words, feel my emotions again, and realize what I learned.  Using them like this, the words benefit one person – Me.  Those of you who know me, and those who are reading and I hope to meet, know (or will know) that I’m all about community…so I like to, in the words of the immortal Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth), SHARE MY WORK.  And when I share, it becomes less a source of personal truth, and more a source of opinion that can be compared/contrasted with hundreds of others…in a little portion of the conference my friend Dave Kelly introduced me to called THE BACK CHANNEL.

The Back Channel, etc. – What It Can Mean to Others

What is the Back Channel?  Excellent question…in a nutshell, it is folks like me, in attendance at a conference, blogging, then tweeting/FB-ing the link to said blog/re-cap with the conference hashtag (Ex: #DevLearn) so that others can glean/enjoy/and so on.  As a result of this, what I’ve learned over the years is that the ABSOLUTELY, HANDS DOWN, MOST REWARDING part of blogging, to me, is sharing.  The act of putting my meager words out to the Twittersphere and Facebook…sphere (you know what I mean) to people who are in attendance but couldn’t check out the session, for folks who couldn’t make the conference but are playing along at home…even for the students in a class who got stuck with some bum assignment of checking out a conference hashtag on Twitter, only to find out we’re not all Project Management an ADDIE?  All of this excites me beyond words, like in a REALLY big way.

When you think about it, it’s almost like community service in the eLearning community.  This is an expensive industry, and budgetary strings are tighter than ever (not that Training and Development runs with a huge budget to begin with, but I digress).  I’ve been TRULY blessed to be able to find a niche in my eLearning existence that involves presenting at conferences, and I’m honored to do it (even moreso that people want to listen).  Most people go to a conference to pick up “nuggets” from folks like me (and the hundreds of other speakers at #DevLearn and #PSUWebConference, for example, who I’ve had the honor to share air with).  So, after my hour and a half of speaking is up, and I’m attending other sessions, why would I NOT want to share my experience with as many people as possible?  Rhetorical question, to be sure: I want to, and I do.

Just Answer The Question Already, Shawn…Why Do You Blog?

Why do I blog, then?  Simple. I blog to share.  I blog to give.  I blog to hear my thoughts bounced off others, only to hear them come back to me in a different form than when I formed them.  But, most of all, I blog because, as so many of us know: WE are smarter than ME…and WE are all in this together.

If you checked this piece out, PLEASE come find me and let me know your thoughts…I’d love to hear them, and chat more.  All the best to you, and we’ll see you at #DevLearn.

Want to share 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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