Saturday, May 31, 2008

Will this be on the test? (Is blogging a worthy academic exercise?)

True confessions here...
I started blogging over a year ago just to figure out what this blogging business was about and whether it had any value for my teaching. As I continued blogging, I found that I have been focusing on a number of areas:

  • Bible software: I've tried to compare the capabilities of some of the programs available, but I am most familiar with Logos (48 entries) and BibleWorks (36 entries). I have tried to identify ways that one might tackle various tasks. I have tried to note significant updates in the field. I have tried to provide something of a survey of online resources as well as those designed for desktop and portable devices.
  • Digital resources for biblical mapping (24+ entries): I got started on this for my classroom presentations, and then I got serious about it for a presentation for BibleTech08. I am continuing to work on this stuff, because I will be doing another presentation on it at the SBL Meeting in Boston in November, 2008.
  • Visualization of data: I think it is important to get the 'big picture' as well as the details. A lot of these entries deal with OpenText.org manipulation of texts.
  • Greek and Greek instruction: Since I regularly teach Greek at my seminary, this has been a particular area of interest for me.
  • Pedagogy: The previous bullet on Greek instruction fits here, but I am also reading a number of education blogs, particularly ones that deal with pedagogy and technology. In a broader sense, many of my entries are ones to which I will be able to refer students, not only to learn about something but to learn how to do or think about something.
  • Research resources: This blog has been a place for me to highlight resources I am using to conduct my work: things like Zotero, library management, and issues related to the use of Unicode fonts needed for biblical studies work.
  • (Multi)media: Another interest of mine is the use of PowerPoint, graphics, photos, animations, video, music, etc. in my classroom presentations. Scan the "Labels" sidebar to see the various ways I've addressed such matters.
  • Syriac Tools and Resources: I really only had one post on this topic, but it was a lengthy one that tried to provide a comprehensive survey. It has turned out to be one of the most read posts.
As you can see from this survey, this blog is not really intended to be a discussion-generating blog, but it has been a neat way to make contacts with a number of others in these fields. I am grateful that Tim Bahula has provided some guest entries. This blog has also provided connections for me with people like Tim Bulkeley at SansBlogue, Todd Bolen at BiblePlaces.com, David Barrett of BibleMapper fame, the remarkable James Tauber (the person behind MorphGNT), Rick Brannan and others at Logos, the BibleWorks wizards Michael Hanel and James Darlack, and many others.

NOW, for the point of this post: As I mentioned in the
anniversary survey post, I have been keeping up this blog as part of my sabbatical work. I have developed an unsustainable lifestyle of posting about 4 times per week, so once I am teaching again, that will have to be cut back.

BUT, does this blog 'count' for real academic work? My seminary has been very supportive of my technological interests, but at the same time, my postings on this blog are not valued in the same way as if I had been busy instead writing articles and publishing books (though I am trying to do that too!). Take a look at this section from our faculty handbook that describes one aspect of how faculty performance will be evaluated.

The following sources and criteria for evaluating a faculty member's professional development shall be used:
  1. Publications and their reviews.
  2. Research and projects in progress
  3. Participation in professional societies.
  4. Appropriate sections of the Annual Report.
  5. External peer review
  6. Evaluation by the members of the Review Committee on such items as:
  • Keeping abreast of developments in his/her discipline.
  • Participation in the work of his/her professional society.
  • Contributions to research by means of publications.
  • Sensitivity to current theological trends.
  • Demonstration of a high level ability to interpret theological issues affecting the life of church and society.
Does this blog constitute acceptable "publication"? Does it count as "research"? Do the interactions with other scholars who read this blog serve as "participation" in the scholarly community? Do the few comments my posts generate function as "peer review"?

I suspect that those of you who are even of the sort to be reading a blog like this (and reading this far into a blog post like this) are fairly sympathetic to my hopes that this blog 'counts' as real research and publication. I don't know what kind of numbers publishers hope to attain when they publish a book or journal, but over the last month or so, this blog is averaging about 100 visits per day and about 2 pageviews per visit. A blog entry may be a rather shallow form of engagement, but that readership seems fairly wide to me.

Bottom line: When I write up my post-sabbatical report, how much emphasis should I place on the work I've put into this blog? What are the rest of you doing when asked to give an account of your work?

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