Monday, 7 December 2015

The 1950s blog - an insight into life at Bedford College of Physical Education

Lots of you probably know that what is now the Bedford campus of UoB has a long history of offering higher education in the local area, beginning with the Bedford College of Physical Education. Opening in 1903, it provided training for female students in PE at Lansdowne Road, until it became the Bedford College of Higher Education in 1976.

Here at Bedford Library we have the fantastic Physical Education Archive, which contains lots of material from the college days. The archivist has now started a blog, sharing letters home written by a student called Alice who studied there in the 1950s, which offer a fascinating insight into life at the college. It's well worth a read for anyone interested in the history of PE teaching or just social history in general. Take a look here.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Five reasons why students should be blogging

I remember well from my student days the pressure to be on top of everything; to be collecting skills and knowledge which we could put on our CVs. It seemed like something new came up every six months, and it was a battle against the physics of time to fit everything in.  I know it can be difficult to know where to start and what to focus on. So today I want to suggest to you an activity which can help you to develop and demonstrate skills in various ways: blogging. Here are five reasons why I suggest you give it a go.

1. It can be quick and easy
You may well be thinking that you don’t have time to set up and maintain a blog, but it doesn’t have to be onerous on time or effort. There are several platforms which allow you to set up a blog for free using nice and easy templates – is my personal favourite, although many people like too. And your blog posts don’t have to be long and philosophical every time – just a few hundred words reflecting on something you’ve read in the news or looked at for your assignment is enough.

2. It’s a great way to showcase your engagement with your subject area
We’ve all been there – you get asked a question in a job interview and you know that you know the answer, but it doesn’t quite come out right! It’s likely you’ll be asked about your thoughts on challenges or developments in the area in which you’re seeking employment, and getting into the habit of blogging your reflections on new stories, developments, policies or issues will give you loads of specific examples to offer of your current awareness and engagement with your subject area. Plus you’ll be contributing to your area itself too in your blogging - sharing your thoughts with the wider profession – which is another brilliant thing to mention in job interviews. I am pretty sure my personal blog has helped me to get the jobs I’ve had in Libraryland so far.

3. Blogging helps to develop your writing skills
It’s a cliché that practice makes perfect, but when it comes to reading and writing, the more you do, the more you will improve. Blogging is often reflective – thinking about an issue and offering your thoughts on it – which will help you to develop those reflective writing skills your tutors so often want to see. It’s generally believed in the blogging world that readers lose interest after about 500-600 words in a post, so this is an opportunity to practise writing clearly and concisely. You’ll want to be checking your spelling and grammar too before publishing something for the world to see, so you’ll improve in that area as well. Better writing = better marks in assignments, of course!

4. You can practise being critical
At university you are expected to not just read and digest information, but to think about it critically. This can be daunting, and it can be hard to know where and when to start. Blogging is an easy way to start doing this; for example, when a story appears on the BBC News about a new study of physical activity levels amongst children, you might look at the evidence used and write about how robust you believe it to be, or compare it with a study that you know of which contradicts it. Critical thinking is a vital skill not just for your studies, but for life, and your blog can help you to develop it. 

5. Blogging can open doors or attract opportunities
Some people actually make a living from blogging. It’s not easy or common so you can’t rely on this as a career path (though if you find yourself becoming passionate about your blog, by all means do your research and give it a go!), but you may find that your blog attracts attention sometimes, which can lead to opportunities or networking. I have made some great contacts in the library world through blogging about library-related things. I also run another, non-work related blog, on a personal interest, which has blagged me some freebies and free event invites! You’re becoming a part of the discourse around your subject area, even if you only get a few post hits a week, and getting involved in this way could lead to all sorts of things.

Blogstock is the world's only bloggers' festival, and it takes place in North London!

A word of warning…
You know this already but I’m going to reiterate it; remember that anything you put out there on the internet stays out there. Be critical, be radical, be controversial even (as long as you can back it up and you’re not just saying something inflammatory for the attention), but don’t be an idiot. Used properly, your blog can be a great tool to get involved with your subject area and to improve your employability. So what are you waiting for…?