How I Blog – Tracy Parish

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 Tracy Parish, Education Technology Specialist at Southlake Regional Health Centre, who live-blogging of session notes are an excellent source of learning from a conference.

tracyI was a bit surprised when I looked back at my blog to see when I started blogging.  I thought it sometime in 2009, but my first post was actually April 14, 2007, a week after attending my first Elearning Guild conference.

“I just got back from my first eLearning Guild Annual Gathering. Wow all I can say is what an amazing experience. I learned so much, met fascinating people, listened and learned from passionate people and now my head is spinning.  I generated so many ideas from the conference and from what I learned from various speakers. My first thing to do from my new book “1 Billion Things I Want to Accomplish” was to start a blog. “

Now, almost 8.5 years later I continue to write into the same blog focussing on the same general theme of “Discovering the world around me through eLearning; whatever form that may take.”

I’ve found blogging an invaluable tool to capture and process information that is presented to me, my own thoughts and ideas, information or ideas I find intriguing, and for sharing lessons learned during my own practice.

Since being inspired to blog at the first conference I attended, I have continued to live blog notes during each subsequent conference I have attended trying different methods along the way.

The one that seems easiest and quickest to do is straight note taking during a presentation. I tend to write these posts in bullet form capturing as much data as I possibly can.  I have found that these posts are the longest and most comprehensive.  This probably serves best as an archive of points to go back over and review.  However, for my own recollection this type of live blogging tends to put me into a “note-taking-robot mode”.  I capture everything, but don’t truly listen to the full content.

Another method I have used, which I really like for live blogging is using a particular online tool.  I first saw this method during the coverage of Apple’s initial iPhone announcement several years ago.  One of the sites I was watching for the announcement had a scrolling live feed that the writer was posting, but also tweets from anyone using the same hashtag.

This method of live blogging really appeals to me for several reasons, one of which is that it is truly live. It captures posts and tweets that are happening right in the moment of the event I’m participating in. I’ve used this method at several past Guild conferences during keynotes and concurrent sessions.  The more I used it the more I liked it. Not only because it is true live blogging, but also for my own personal learning experience during live events.  This method allows anyone to watch live from a browser and see what I am live blogging/capturing, replay or view the transcript after the broadcast. As I’m listening and making notes, I can post them live or tweet them live and I can adjust settings to capture others tweeting the same hashtag to feed into my live blog post. This allows me to capture my own notes and read/capture the tweets of others in the audience at the same time.  For me as a blogger this turns the event into a somewhat of a more “collective” learning experience.  Points I might have missed might be captured by someone else.  Images taken from another perspective might be shared.  Links to resources, expanded ideas, and other items shared during the event all become part of my feed.  So I end up listening, taking notes, and reading other tweets all at the same time.  It can be overwhelming and takes quite a bit of concentration to focus in on it all however I do find value in the method. It works extremely well during keynotes as everyone tweeting is using the same hashtag.  During concurrent sessions it hasn’t worked quite as well because everyone is still using the same hashtag, but their tweets may be about any session and not the one I’m trying to live blog.

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This leads to the third method of live blogging I have tried and perhaps the most fun.  That is of sketchnoting.  I’m not very good.  I never imagine I will be great at it.  It’s pretty challenging to distinguish my drawing of a dog from a cat, from a sheep, from a duck.  However, its fun.  Sketchnoting makes me listen more attentively to the presenter I think trying to hone in on keywords that I might be able to translate into an image.  It challenges me to be more creative in my thinking and processing of the information being shared by the presenter.  Once I capture my sketchnotes, I quickly post them to my blog so that they are live as quickly as possible.  I don’t re-ink them as some other sketchnote takers might.  I think that’s because I would be to critical of my own ability if I took time to review my chicken or is it a dog, maybe a cat???.

So, how do I blog conferences?  Many different ways.  Quick bullet points is the quickest method, but least retentive. Live Blogging is the most comprehensive as it captures my thoughts and those of others in the same audience. Sketchnotes is the most fun and most retentive method.

I’ll be at DevLearn this year and plan to live blog during the Keynotes and Sketchnote during the concurrent sessions I attend.  This should give anyone viewing my blog the opportunity to see how both are accomplished.  My live blog sessions will be scheduled on my blog prior to the keynotes and should go live approximately 15 minutes prior.

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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