On Wednesday I witnessed the future of Science Blogging at Imperial College, when I ran a Science Blogging Workshop for Graduate Students. I have blogged before about Imperial College Graduate Schools‘ Transferable Skills Training Programme. The Graduate Schools offer a range of courses, so I was surprised that there was not a course on Science Blogging already on the programme. The Graduate Schools issued a call for proposals for new courses:
To my surprise, the proposal was accepted, and my course duly added to the calender. We did not know how much blogging experience our students would have, so we decided to keep the workshop general and centre it loosly around the why, what, who and how of science blogging.
It seemed important to me to make the workshop interactive. My first idea was to have the students draft a post, perhaps publishing the best one, but it was Dr B O’H of
Helsinki Frankfurt [corrected 14/3/2010] who suggested that we have the students blog during the session. Fearful as I was of a Zukenberg moment, I agreed, and cast around for a starting point – what should the students blog about? They would not have long to write the post, maybe half an hour or so.
It was actually on the Guardian website that I first saw the winning images from the Wellcome Trust Image Awards. Other bloggers have used these images not far from here. There are twenty-one images and we had twenty registrants. Perfect, I thought, one for me.
What we covered in the workshop is described here, and my slides on why graduate students should blog are at the bottom of this post. After I and Jenny had spoken about why and how to blog respectively, it was time for out students to have a go. We assigned each student an image from the Wellcome Trust Image Awards winners and gave them half an hour. After a couple of hiccups with the wi-fi and wordpress accounts, we were up and blogging. Appropriately fuelled by coffee and biscuits, the student bloggers got to work.
We seasoned bloggers (Occam’s typers?) answered questions and helped students to insert links and of course the eye-catching images. As the half an hour mark came and went, one by one the students hit “publish” – for most of the workshop attendees this was their very first blog post.
You can see their posts on the website. I have a couple of favourites – Don’t forget the mosquito repellent (in part because this image is my favourite among the Wellcome Image Awards winners*) and The future made flesh because the blogger put the image in a broader context.
We continued the workshop with Stephen explaining blogging from his perspective – that of a Professor and lab head.
Richard covered the technical aspects – should you host your blog yourself or
get your blogging friend to do it host it at wordpress or blogger? We discussed handling commenters and spam and how to customise and promote your blog.
As we drew to a close, the students posed interesting questions and raised concerns many of us have, about online identity and about finding sufficient material to write about. We encouraged them to make a start at blogging. You never know where it might take you.
This post comes with special thanks: to Richard (who took the pictures), Stephen (who formally supported the workshop proposal) and to Jenny, all three of whom gave their time and support to the workshop; to the Graduate Schools for facilitating the workshop, and the Wellcome Trust Image Collection for permission to use the winning images from the Wellcome Image Awards.
*The genus of the mosquito is Culex. Geddit?