Skunk Work and Edupunk: Or Why am I blogging?

A tale of two ‘what is blogging for’ conversations.

A couple of weeks ago, Dr Inger Mewburn (The Thesis Whisperer) gave a talk about how her blogging was a kind of edupunk, something outside the system.  Chris Bigum, a self-styled ‘free range academic’ wrote a really interesting blog reflection on it called ‘Of whisperers, skunks and lemmings’, http://t.co/SFxjAdrKGH in which he talked about ‘skunk work’.

It was a term I didn’t know before, and in a footnote, Bigum explains:

The term skunk works is commonly used to describe projects set up by companies conscious of the conservative/conforming logic that controls the running of most enterprises. Projects are set up completely removed from the oversight of routine management. The oversight of managers limits what can and cannot be done and thought about. If it does not fit the strategic plan or mission statement it does not happen.

Oh! I thought as I read it—that’s what I’m doing!

***

Just over a month ago, I was chatting to an academic who now works in Learning Environments at the University of Melbourne.  He’s been an early adopter of online technologies—he’s taught Sports Science anatomy by text message; he’s embraced Twitter; he’s all over digital curation; and is currently knee-deep in six MOOC projects.

So, a cool guy. But he still sees blogging as a kind of online journal.  A place to keep a track of things you’re processing, that are not quite ready to be put out in public.

And I don’t see blogs like that at all, now.  I see blogs as a means of quickly and broadly publishing resources from experts, or field leaders or just people who know what they’re doing.

***

Today, as I publish these posts, I don’t see these pieces as unfinished, or incomplete. They are often the outcome of knowledge or work I have been polishing for a couple of years.   They tend to be resources, ideas or tips that I give as an expert in my field—I’m paid to tell RHD students how to research and write effectively, and I have been since 2006.

Rather, I see this as a ‘skunk project’—a way to share my experience with more than just the people who can enrol in a class I teach; as a way to get the tips, tricks and techniques that I know transform student’s lives out there, without having to submit them to the editorial committee as an official publication of the place where I work. There is a place for those resources—and that’s what I do during my working day.

I see the blog as something I do that is extra, that reaches extra, that gives back free some of the experience and wisdom I’ve been fortunate to pick up, to be given, to have worked out for myself, in the hope that it might help you.

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