“Allie” is a pseudonym: Blogs, Privacy, Kindness (or not!) and lifelong learning

I’ve blogged on and off since 2004. I had a blogger blog – which I kept anonymously – for about 3.5 years, and recently started up a sewing blog on WordPress. I chose WordPress for strategic reasons; Blogger tends to be used strictly for personal blogs, while WordPress has much broader enterprise-level applications. I’m learning WordPress for my sewing blog so that I can add that skill to my portfolio, and I plan on building a personal site on WordPress for my teaching portfolio (after working out the kinks on my sewing blog). I don’t find it as user-friendly as Blogger, but I’m keen to learn. Drupal, I’ll leave for the web developers; my partner, who has a photography practice, has effectively used tumblr to promote his work (though predictably, his stuff has been ripped off, as, I expect, many images online will be over their digital lifetimes.)

I’ve always blogged anonymously; on this site, I’m using a pseudonym (though when the EdTech blogger whose report I critiqued *found and wrote (favourably) about my post*, I started to rethink that choice!). On my old blog – used mainly to document my life in Texas – I used a pseudonym and occasionally showed a photo of my face. I’m more cautious now with internet anonymity, and tend to crop faces, including my own, out of my sewing photos. That being said, I’m doing a photoshoot today, and may keep my head/face… as doing so tends to lead to more traffic and comments since other sewists feel more connected to you.

It’s that concern with internet privacy that leads me to be a little wary of using blogs in educational settings; I don’t teach K-12, but I’d be especially concerned with minors. In Austin, I used to upload some of my posts to Austin Bloggers, and I remember feeling hurt when I found another blogger dismissing my blog (which felt like dismissing me!) & my political observations because I happened to also blog about the Apprentice (hey, it was 2004!). The anonymity of the blogosphere can make academic peer review look like sunshine and lollipops. I get that one of the pedagogical reasons for blogging in education is to have students engage with a broader public on things that matter to them. In my courses that would usually have to do with very tender political issues concerning Aboriginal peoples in Canada. In my courses, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having novices in the subject feeling compelled to publicly test their nascent ideas on an undefined public (see above on the blogosphere and nastyness). I also think it’s hard for many people – and especially young people – to separate their personal identity from their work. When your blog gets attacked, it can feel like *you’re* being attacked. (I think it’s okay to feel loved when your blog is loved, however!:) )

From my experience in the garment sewing blogosphere, I do find it has a tremendous role in lifelong learning. One of the things I *love* about the sewing blogworld is that women (mainly… sewing has been pretty feminized in North America) of all ages are blogging. While we often think of bloggers as young ‘digital natives,’ in the sewing world, we have *tons* of middle-aged women maintaining sophisticated blogs. Buh-bye assumptions!

There is a lot of learning that goes on within this community of passionate sewing bloggers – and this blogging community is extremely supportive (the tacit rules of engagement being very much ‘if you don’t have something nice to say…’). Some of the advanced sewists host sew-a-longs where people worldwide get the same pattern, and sew it together in steps, sharing tips and getting advice all-the-while (I participated in one of these and learned to transform a casual men’s shirt into a formal dress shirt). Advanced sewists also publish loads of well illustrated tutorials that help the rest of us gain new skills in sewing, fitting or patternmaking.

Blogging has led some of the superstar sewing bloggers to develop businesses in sewing. One has started her own pattern line, another an online sewing supplies shop, while another landed a book contract and travels around North America teaching workshops and repping one of the big sewing companies. These are just a few examples.

As a young person myself (an almost-digital native), I do sometimes roll my eyes at how the older generation can be a bit paranoid about social media, including blogging. However, I do think that we have to be SO cautious when we encourage our students – of any age – to produce work in the public domain. I use wikis a lot in my classrooms – but also as a private wiki that only my students can access; were I to introduce blogging, I think I would need it to be a closed circuit of blogs as well.

Posted in: Week 07: Blogs