Towards CER, part 1: blogs and microblogging

This post is part of a series about the things I’ve found helpful in raising confidence as I progress towards becoming a chemistry education scholar; the main article can be found here.

Blogging or microblogging is an excellent way to start talking about chemistry education. Even before I became a chemistry educator, twitter was a big part of my professional identity: I participated in an open-source science research project on antimalarials, on the basis of a single twitter exchange with a research group on the other side of the world I’d never met. It was a pretty cool project to get involved in, and it even gave me my first experience of independent research supervision with project students. And if you’re reading this, you probably already have a twitter account.

Although twitter (like other forms of social media) can be empowering for disenfranchised or maginalised people, I have to acknowledge the abuse problem. As someone who is neither prominent nor a target of abuse, it feels ignorant for me to call twitter welcoming when it isn’t always, to everyone in our community. But at least as a way of supporting a professional network it can be a useful tool. And I personally love the informality – I’ve learned a lot about gin, indian politics, adoption, ME/CFS, and how busy Fraser Stoddart still is. Personal tweets, from professional contacts. A virtual staffroom, Zumba and pedagogy coexisting peacefully.

So I’d encourage you to talk about your work! Tweet about the successes and failures of your “just trying it out”. In the last six months, I’ve shared photos of indicators, partaken in the shared lament of term-time pressures, and interacted directly with the people that invented half the innovations I teach with every day. Twitter isn’t, in itself, a route to undue influence or opportunity, but it’s a way to quickly and accessibly grow and maintain professional connections. Who is on your own “I tweet and would like to meet” list?

Sometimes 280 characters won’t cut it and I just need to write about something. In this regard, I’m not very successful: the back archives here are a consistent two posts a year about conference reflections and some drivel about toothpaste. But others are much more productive, with excellent blogs (or blog carnivals) from Katherine Haxton, Kristy Turner, Michael Seery, and Michael O’Neill to name just a few. And some of my most heavily-used literature references are to blogs on MCQ design or the validity of pedagogical research.

I mostly engage with blogs as “here’s a giant tweet”, a polyp of content that extrudes from a timeline or a passing email. But, this is only my experience. How do you find blogs? How did you get here?

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