GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Posts Tagged ‘Blogs’

Why You, in Higher Education, Should Blog

In Uncategorized on 2011/02/12 at 23:43

Lee Skallerup Bessette, writing from Kentucky in the USA

Almost a year ago, I decided to start blogging and got on Twitter. A few months after that, I responded to a call for submissions from the University of Venus. The collaboration with the writers I’ve met and interacted with online has been amazing. Writing about issues in higher education that I care about has been incredibly liberating and empowering. And being calleda role model, well, kinda rocks.

But this is all well-worn territory for me (and for you if you’ve been reading me at all). The point of this post is to try and convince you why you should blog, specifically for the University of Venus. UVenus was founded on the premise that the university was ignoring an entire generation of new voices. This is an opportunity to have your voice heard about your thoughts and experiences in higher education.

Our narrative? It has essentially been taken over and written for us. Professors and administrators are being spoken for and spoken about; for an example, look no further than the angry backlash when news that undergraduate students don’t learn was released. We are facing massive budgetary shortfalls (at least in the public system), increasing pressure from the government to increase graduation rates and other measures of accountability, and watching as an increasing number of young people, particularly non-traditional or minority students, are pushed out or pushed aside.

The university as a whole is under siege. Public universities are losing state funding. Adjuncts make up more than half of the professoriate. Undergrads are, apparently, not learning anything. Professors are receiving death threats for their writing and research activities. Students are defaulting on their student loans at an alarming rate, or sacrificing their physical well-being in order not to. The change has come, and so many of us are sitting idly by and letting the change happen to us, rather than being the change. Blogging is one way, albeit small, that we can come together, write about our real experiences, and work for change that isn’t dictated to us.

Mostly though, we need to start talking because we need to confront the bullies; that’s what the media, the politicians, administrators, and even a number of academics are, bullies. They intimidate and manipulate our behavior, they dictate the terms of engagement constantly to their benefit, and they disregard or misrepresent just about all attempts to authentically stand up to them. So many academics seem to have developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome; not only do we identify with our overlords, we seek constantly to please and appease them. It’s the only reason I can think of why people have called me “brave” for blogging as myself.

At the risk of being accused of appropriating and/or trivializing, please allow me to quote Chris Colfer in his acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globes: “Well, screw that, kids!” Having been bullied myself as a child, I know how painful it is. I also know how liberating it was to say, screw that, and hit send on my first blog post as myself. Stop standing on the sidelines and blog for yourself and blog for the future of higher education, whatever form it may end up taking. Our voices aren’t just for lecturing undergrads and writing endless articles and monographs. Our voices belong to us and we need to start using them.

And let me end by anticipating all the ways my writing here will be dismissed. I am writing from a position of relative privilege, which is why we are trying to create a space where people who do not have privilege can speak up for themselves. And as for being naïve? I’ve been accused of that my entire life. Doesn’t mean I can’t also be right.

Conversations that Count

In Liminal Thinking on 2010/10/18 at 21:48

Denise Horn, writing from Boston, Massachusetts in the USA

Today I received the first royalty check for my first book, Women, Civil Society and the Geopolitics of Democratization. It was an exciting moment–payment for my work! Knowing someone actually bought my book! A little extra cash when I wasn’t expecting it! It made my morning that a whopping 130 copies of my book were somewhere, out there, in the world. I am, I told myself, part of the academic conversation.

And then, of course, the inevitable self-defeating thoughts occurred to me. Libraries purchased a number of those copies–if not all. This could mean that no one had actually even read it, or ever would. Thus, all those years of work on the dissertation, then the grueling process of reworking the manuscript for publication seemed only directed at one end: to get tenure. But there is an excellent chance even my tenure committee won’t read it.

Of all the words I have written over my brief career, what I know is that people read what I have written in this blog. I know this because people respond to what I write. People refer to my words in other postings. People link to my posts. This forum is exciting because of the conversational nature of the blog form, and in that regard, it is more of a conversation than my academic work will ever be or can be. The irony of this situation however, is that this conversation, or those like it, has no place in the traditional measures of what is considered “work” in the academy. There is a line in my CV that proudly proclaims that I’ve written a (possibly forever unread) book. There is no such line for a blog for which I write that reaches a huge, immediate, and limitless audience. There is no way for this conversation to “count.”

I hope this will not be the case for long. I am beginning to see more academics create their own blogs as a means of working out the intricacies of unformed thoughts, for commenting on current events, or, like my posts, for reflecting on the state of the profession and our place in it. Many of us are young professors, but not all of us. The point is that more of us can see the value of reaching a larger audience and the immediacy of the response the internet allows. You don’t always get the most constructive responses, of course, but knowing that someone has read your work and considered your ideas can be satisfying.

What I most remember, when my book was released, was relief. But now it often feels as though I simply howled into the wind, because as of yet, no one has answered me. With the blog, at least I know there are people out there, reading, responding, loving it, hating it, but most of all, talking. It may not get me tenure–and won’t even be considered–but I think that we need to ask ourselves which conversations should count, and why.

By the way, I’m writing that second book now. And wondering if the silence will be the same.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.

 

Portrait of the Scholar as a Blogger

In Anamaria's Posts on 2010/10/15 at 23:50

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, writing from Lund, Sweden.

I return to one of my favorite subjects, blogging in the academia, but this time with a focus not on the students, as in my previous post, but on the scholar herself. I believe that blogging may be a useful tool for those of us involved in the process of creating (and communicating) new knowledge.

How so? Because of the nature of blogging itself.

Blogging = Reading + Writing + Linking + Commenting


This concentrated definition (which I borrowed from Kosmopolito) summarizes very well the way blogs work. And this fits very well with the way scholars work as well, doesn’t it? We read or see or listen to other people’s work, be it in the news or at the movies or in academic journals.  We react to these inputs usually by making a note (at least a mental one, to self) and then connect through references to others’ writing, which we implicitly comment on (think of the mandatory literature overviews of every book or article). Blogging functions not so differently from the way an academic article does. So if the two are so close, why bother?

Blogging has some unique qualities. I will enumerate them briefly:

  1. Blogs allow for timely reaction to events. They are a comment on things almost as they happen.
  2. Blogs are more creative as they have no “submission guidelines” to follow.
  3. Blogs allow for easy and fast cross-referencing and checking of sources through linking.
  4. Through links, bloggers can create and develop networks of writers with similar interests.
  5. Quick feedback is possible through the “comment” function.
  6. Comments foster open dialogue and the direct interaction between the author and readers.
  7. Communication beyond the narrow circle of academia is possible on the Internet.

Taking into account these great opportunities available for the 21st century academic, I wonder how many of us actually use them? Well, at least some. In her recently published PhD dissertation at Lund University, Sara Kjellberg discusses the functions of the academic blog. Included in her research were interviews with scholars from two fields of knowledge: physics and history. For both hard and soft sciences, she concludes that blogging is a useful way to communicate research results and to engage in conversations with other people who share one’s interest.

Among the blogs written by scholars, there are a couple that I very much enjoy reading. My choices reflect my areas of interest, and are included here just as proof of the existence of scholar bloggers and examples of how one can go about doing it in practice. As I am comfortable with several languages, they may appear somewhat strange to you at first, but not after you have tried Google Translate! In Swedish I like to check out Peter Englund’s blog. Englund is the Secretary of the Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards every year the Nobel Prize, and a respected historian and writer in his own right. In Romanian I read the blogof Vladimir Tismaneanu, professor at the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland. In English I often check the posts by Timothy Garton Ash on the “Comment is Free” section of the British daily The Guardian. Garton Ash is professor of history at University of Oxford, also active at Stanford University and as a consultant for various European bodies. Also in English, another blogger with spot-on writing (and a great dose of humor) is Sean Hanley, lecturer at University College, London.

Perhaps you realized that throughout this post I was avoiding the inevitable question: do Iblog? Hmmm, I guess you know the answer. Not YET, but I will. Just give me some time to finish grading those exams, giving these lectures, going to the 3rd meeting of the day…

Some resources for those who might want to get going with their blog immediately:

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.

 

How Higher Ed Makes Most Things Meaningless

In Uncategorized on 2010/07/23 at 15:48

Guest writer, Lee Skallerup, blogging from Kentucky in the USA.

My academic research will not change the world. Don’t get me wrong; I love the authors I am currently studying and I found fascinating all of the topics and areas I have previously written about. But at the end of the day, most people are not really interested in what I am doing, including most people in the academy or in my discipline.

Recently, however, I began blogging and Tweeting, not about my current academic research interests, but more largely about education and the direction of higher education. This work has the potential, if not to change the world, then at least to play an active role in changing academia. Through social media, I have reached a broad audience of academics, teachers, parents, professionals, non-profits and other people who are interested in and care about education.  I have been invited to contribute blog posts for a number of different sites. My writing has been featured on other sites, UVenus included. Suddenly, not only am I working on a topic I am passionate about, but it also seems to matter.

With a foot in both worlds, there are a number of questions about what academia really values from its (theoretically) most important employees, the professors.

Are Academics really interested in “sharing”?

We, as academics, are not really encouraged to share our research and our knowledge. We are encouraged to “share” our findings in limited environments: the conference or specialized journal. If you miss a conference, you must typically wait years for the presentations to appear as either journal articles or chapters in books. These forums (conference, specialized journal, academic book) are highly priced (for the consumer) and highly valued (by the academy), giving the research meaning. We are taught to hoard our research and findings to share with a potentially smaller audience in venues with more “prestige.”

Why can’t a professor be rewarded for sharing her research through sites like Academia.edu or SlideShare? Why can’t a professor receive credit for creating or participating in Twitter Chats related to her discipline or sub-field (for an example of the power of Twitter Chats, browse the number of weekly discussion focused on education-link)? These means of communicating our research are “crowdsourced” instead of peer-reviewed. Hiring committees and tenure committees wouldn’t care, making the work meaningless, even if the reach, influence and impact of the research could be greatly expanded by using social media and the Web 2.0.

Are we allowed to be ourselves?

When I first decided that I was going to be an academic, I was told that I had to give up my online life (I blogged before it was even known as blogging) if I ever wanted to be taken seriously as an academic. I was encouraged by my professors and more senior grad student colleagues to give up every part of my life that didn’t have to do with my research. A professor is expected to be nothing more than the talking head in front of the classroom or a by-line on a book or article. Outside of those two functions of teaching and research, the person behind the professor would appear to be meaningless.

Deciding that I didn’t care about any of that was freeing in many ways. It allowed me to to engage with a larger peer group as my whole self, with all of my interests intact. And perhaps the most liberating part of no longer trying to be someone I wasn’t in order to be valued was that my research improved. I am no longer desperate to make my research sound like it will change the world in order to fit myself into a job or funding opportunity. I continue to publish and present at conferences, but I choose the opportunities that fit with the research, with me, and not the other way around.

Academia has such a narrow view of what is meaningful, and I, for one, have stopped listening to what higher education thinks I should be and started defining it for myself.

Lee Elaine Skallerup has a PhD from the University of Alberta in Comparative Literature. She has taught in two Canadian provinces and three States, and is now branching out as an Edupreneur. You can visit her blog at collegereadywriting.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter (@readywriting).

This post was also published on Inside Higher Ed.

Blogs in higher education – some ideas about their benefits and downsides

In Anamaria's Posts on 2010/06/07 at 09:00

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, writing from Lund, Sweden.

I have recently been awarded a small course development grant meant to use blogs in the teaching of European studies. I already had an idea about what I wanted to do: help students create and administer a web space where information about European politics, media, culture, and student life is presented in bilingual fashion (with posts in Swedish or English and in the foreign language of choice or in the mother tongue of students in the Bachelor and Master respectively). The blog entries will be structured along several themes, and the students will be grouped according to their preference in theme groups. The blog is planned to become a permanent feature of the programs, with different generations of students writing and commenting on each other’s posts.

When writing the course development proposal I had clearly in mind the advantages of using a blog. In discussions with one other interested colleague, we came up with a list, which I will share with you below:

  1. Allows web-savvy students to legitimately use their favorite source of information, the Internet, and makes use of their skills for the purposes of the program
  2. Increases the students’ motivation to take an active part in the learning process, since blogging is fun and interesting
  3. Develops the communication skills of students that are less internet-savvy through peer-to-peer learning
  4. Keeps students informed with the most up-to-date information about of their object of study
  5. Through the use of comments and other forms of feedback, it develops critical thinking (and the appropriate ways to put it into writing)
  6. It is a portal for creativity and personal initiative where good ideas are rewarded not only with good grades but also with direct responses from colleagues and,  hopefully, from readers across the web
  7. It increases the visibility of our programs on the web and has the effect of giving it a more clearly defined positive image, which in turn may result in higher commitment of the students to the program and a sense of pride in their work
  8. It makes learning flat, not hierarchical, with the teacher as control point rather than unique source of information and interpretation

Of course, the list is not complete, and several other points could be added (if you have any suggestions, they are welcome). The last point is for me the most important: the fabrication and distribution of knowledge is no longer in the hands of one person, the teacher, supposed to be in control of the information flow and in the possession of the “truth”. On the contrary, students and teacher are nodes in a knowledge network, where information is communicated and, most importantly, interpreted and contextualized.

Despite the great enthusiasm with which I embarked on this project, I could not help but worry about all sorts of possible downsides. I will enumerate these points as well:

  1. Students may in fact be less web-savvy than I assume – harder to teach them the tools of web communication and publication
  2. Students may be less interested in participating in the knowledge network and may prefer the one-way teaching system with the teacher as the unique source – too costly to engage in knowledge production
  3. Students  may lack self-criticism or may air controversial, politically and factually incorrect information
  4. Students that do possess relevant and important information may be reluctant to share it because this would take away their advantage in the classroom

So, after having considered these negative sides of the project, I am now in the phase of thinking of preventive measures against them. If any of you has any ideas or direct experience of using blogs in your teaching, I would really appreciate your feedback. After all, this blog is also about sharing knowledge, is it not?

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten

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The Whys of Venus: Blogging as a Social Movement

In Mission on 2010/02/03 at 08:42

• Why Higher Education?
o Education is our passion and ultimately, we believe in the power of education to change people’s lives. Some of the most influential people in our lives have been our teachers and our students. Our teachers have inspired us to believe in ourselves, to dream big, to have passion, and to make a difference. Our current students and images of our future students inspire us to make a difference NOW, to change higher education for the better, to use our global networks to redefine education. While the current state of crisis in education most likely signals the end of an outdated system, we believe that it also offers hope for a new system.

• Why Women?
o Women are at the forefront of this shift. We are the students, the faculty, and the administration. I believe that we are more collaborative and solution-oriented than men. We are less likely to compete purely for the sake of competition. In our universities, we face a daily barrage of game-playing, power-grabbing, ladder-climbing, and an overall loss of perspective on why we are in higher education. I believe that we should never lose sight of learning, of students, of faculty. Too often, a wounded ego takes center stage in the decision-making process.

• Why GenX?
o Those of us born between 1964 and 1980 represent the next wave of leadership – not just in higher education but in all sectors. Tammy Erickson has a brilliant new book What’s Next GenX?. She calls upon us as the new heroes of the age. As a whole, we are the most educated generation in recent history. We are passionate, reactive, and action-oriented. We are the cultural and social critics of the time – the translators of languages, cultures, and identities. We rely on our “tribe” of friends and colleagues from down the street and across the globe. The blackberry/iphone is omnipresent in our lives and enables us to excel in our careers, marriages, parenting, and friendships. We bring the power of our tribes together as we become those heroes.

• Why a blog?
o We are the generation that created and launched social networking. We view Googling as a way of life and Wikipedia as a resource. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. We view blogging as a social movement and the University of Venus is our rallying point. We bring together people who feel passionately about education and who want to work together for change.

If you are a high school student thinking about college, a GenY undergrad terrified of your job prospects, a recent graduate struggling to make ends meet, a GenXer striving for balance while trying to inspire others, a Boomer who has had enough and wants change, or just someone who believes in the power of education – We need your passion and ideas to help us make change happen.

Looking back on your time in high school, undergrad, grad school, or reflecting on your current work in education, if you could change ONE THING about education – what would you change? Study hall, standardized tests, cafeterias, libraries, mentoring, advising, tenure, promotion, school mascot? ( As an aside – I went from St. John Jets to Linden Eagles to Michigan State Spartans to Northeastern Huskys – I started out as a fast airplane and ended up as a sled dog..)

Mary

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