Friday, April 07, 2006

Why Web log (Blog)

This question is one that has been asked of me often in the past several weeks. Why? In the past few weeks, we have demonstrated how our Portal can be used as a web log. (Link to my web log on the PUSD system - While it is not as fancy as the commercial web logging tools, it is still effective. This explains why I have been asked the question. The question itself is not as simple, and one I will try to answer as I see it. Note: This certainly will not agree with conventional wisdom.

A few years back, my former boss Ladd discovered Blogging, he became very excited about the process, (Ladd was also and English teacher), and he would talk about what an effective collaboration tool it could/would be. In fact, he even installed Blogging software on his home computer and enlisted several teachers to use the software in a book study. They discovered Blogging to be a most effective tool. No shock to most people who have been Blogging for a while.
So why would I jump off the dock and a try web logging now? Growing up there was one class I dreaded more than any other, (If you are thinking English class… You are correct). The rationale of why I dreaded this class so much will be saved for another entry, suffice it to say writing makes the list.

While I realize this next statement is not true, it seemed like every time I walked into my English classes, my teachers assigned a writing assignment. I would sit down with pen and paper and slowly, painfully try to put words down. While topics based on facts were difficult, creative writing was excruciating. When the process was finally complete, I would turn the paper in and wait for “her” comments and the impending failing grade. For years, I thought my teachers required a new RED pen when they completed grading my works. Most of my work then and even today contains mechanical mistakes, those issues seemed to over shadow the content. At least they did in my mind.

For the past nine years I have worked in a job that requires me to write. I live in Outlook and Word. Outlook obviously is required to communicate with other teachers, administers etc… During this time, I have discovered the ability to be clear and concise is paramount. Word is utilized to create technical documents explaining how to complete specific tasks using various pieces of software. This type of writing I actually enjoy and I consider myself to be a competent technical writer. (Considering some of the assembly manuals, I have read over the years, (Yes I am a man and I do read directions.), this is not a skill all people possess.) Seven of those years, I worked for Ladd. As I said, he taught English for a number of years and working for him, I quickly discovered why he was a successful teacher. Ladd wore out several red pens on my works as well. However, he was great at pointing out the value of the content. While he would not discount the mechanical issues, he would always say, “Oh, those are minor”. Over the next several years, the red marks became fewer and fewer. Then the day came when he handed me back a letter with no marks. He told me it was good, send it. This was not uncommon at this point. I would often get a document back with a couple punctuation errors to fix before emailing or publishing to the web. This particular day, there were no marks. I accusingly told him he had not read the document. Ladd looked up from his computer and said, “I read it, now send it.” Maybe I was looking for that “A” on the paper. Nevertheless, the absence of red marks to me was the same as an “A”.

As stated above, I enjoy technical writing. However, I find creative writing extremely difficult. Over the past couple years I have begun writing short stories as part of the e-newsletter I send out to the district staff. (Visit the Tips & Tricks web page. - Sometimes the stories were written to inspire and others were written to invoke thought. They were always written to force me to do something that terrified me. (I wrote these stories for the same reason basketball great Larry Bird would shoot over 1000 shots a day… PRACTICE!) With each issue, something amazing began to happen. Readers of the newsletter began commenting on my stories. In fact, several people have written back stating they look forward to my stories and didn’t read the software tips contained in the newsletter. WOW… for the first time I felt as if my content mattered and was appreciated. Additionally, more than one person was reading my work, something that never happened when I attended school.

Today, I don’t always have time to write an inspirational or thought provoking story. Fortunately, a number of readers have shared stories of their own or stories that have been passed along to them via email. However, I have come to realize the tremendous value of having others read my work.

Why would I start keeping a web log now? It is a great way to keep a written journal of my thoughts. (Obviously, the ones I feel compelled to share.) It is a great way to allow others to read my thoughts and make comments. Finally, it is an alternative method to do something I feel I need to improve. Conventional wisdoms call this Blogging or Web logging. I call it PRACTICE!

Thank you for your time. Comments are always welcome.


Terry said...

Great stuff, Shawn!

Terry said...

Good stuff, Shawn!