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Tom Selling, author of The Accounting Onion

Tom Selling, author of the The Accounting Onion, has just published a new post, “Why Do Accounting Academics Blog Less Than Other Academics?” [October 12, 2011]

There is a very select list of bloggers who I view as must reads.  Tom is on that list.  He is both an excellent writer and an insightful commentator.  He also is a retired professor.

The organizational structure of his post is very interesting.  I can’t ever recall Tom sharing details of his speaking engagements, but he does today.  He starts his post by disclosing that he will be the keynote speaker to an accounting academic conference (Northeast Section, American Accounting Association) on Friday, October 28, 2011.  He has been asked to speak on IFRS issues, a subject he has blogged on dozens of times in recent years.  He’s the only blogger who has written more frequently on the subject than I.

In other words, the organizers of an accounting academic conference have decided to give top billing to a blogger.  Yet, accounting academics shun the act of blogging for themselves?  Why is that?

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It is late March and windy in Chicago.  It must be that I’m attending the annual conference for MBAA International at the historic Drake Hotel.

The MBAA conference annual draws about 800 academics from the areas of finance, accounting, international business, marketing, management, legal studies, information systems, economics, operations management and entrepreneurship, case research, and BSG (business society and government).  As you might imagine, I’m here for accounting.

I like coming to the NAAS portion of the MBAA conference.  There are only 80 accounting academics in attendance, but they all are really cool (especially TF).

This post is about my presentation, titled:

If you want, you can view my presentation slides.

Should professors be using blogging in the classroom? Duhhhh, yes.  Blogging should be used in any class where the professor wants to accomplish anything other than memorization for multiple choice tests.  It is not uncommon for teachers to use blogging in elementary education classes.  If second graders can handle it, then college students should be able to.

A professor does not need to be a blogger to use blogging in the classroom.

Why use blogging?  For many reasons, but here are two.  First, it’s a social media world.  College students that can do anything with SM other than Facebook are at a premium.  Accounting and law firms use social media and blogging.  Obtaining SM proficiency gives students a leg up when they graduate.  Second, it’s such an easy tool to use if you want students to do anything more than memorize.

There are four ways to use blogging in the classroom:

  1. Professor can transmit useful content to students.  Blogging is a great platform for writing informative essays.
  2. Professors can introduce a provocative issue in a blog post, and require students to make comments.  The first student reacts to what the professor wrote.  Each successive student reacts to what both the professor and previous commenting students wrote.  It is a great way to achieve a group thinking environment.
  3. Professors can assign students to write their own blog posts, and then publish them to the student’s own blog or to a group blog.  This is a great way for a student to learn what others in the class are thinking.
  4. Professors can assign blog essays that are published and available on the web, and then students can write their analysis of or reaction to that essay.  These can be submitted online or via paper.

There are three types of blogs and blog posts:

  1. Informative or news.  The purpose of these types of blogs is to pass along news tidbits.  A great example in tax is the TaxProf, by Paul Caron.  He gets about 7,000,000 hits per year.  I asked another tax professor if he reads TaxProf, and he responded that he does on a daily basis.  I then asked him if he has his students read TaxProf.  He said no.  No?  By the way, Professor Caron makes the Accounting Today list of 100 most influential people in the American accounting world.
  2. Commentary or editorial.  Most bloggers have an opinion and they want to persuade readers.  Having students read, analyze and react to these commentaries is a great way to introduce students to developing professional values.  So often professors never ask students what they think.  This is a great way of doing so.  In the study of liberal arts, critical thinking is defined as reading, analyzing and reacting. A great example of this in the accounting area is the Accounting Onion, by Tom Selling.
  3. Lifestyle, or welcome to my life.  Students don’t yet know what it is like to be working as an accountant.  A blog focused on the young accountant’s working environment is a great way of showing students what the working world of accounting is like.  Examples are Accountant by Day (working accountant), and Pondering the Classroom (accounting professor).

Debit and credit – – David Albrecht

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AECM (Accounting Education Using Computers and Multimedia) is the listserv for accounting professors.  Membership fluctuates between 600-1,000.

Over the years, the e-mail discussions have been carried out between Bob Jensen, David Fordham, Paul Williams, Jagdish Gangolly, Amy Dunbar, Ed Scribner, Richard Campbell, myself and several others (my apologies for not mentioning any that want to be recognized).

How do these discussions get started?  It’s just like in any group.  Usually there’s a leader, who in this case is Bob Jensen (emeritus professor from Trinity University).  He’s always finding interesting articles out on the web (he’s a prolific surfer).  He’ll bring them to our attention, sometimes with his own comment.  Then, if the article strikes someone’s fancy, they’ll respond and pretty soon there’s a pretty good exchange going.  Discussions can get started in other ways, but not usually.

In recent years, Bob has been picking up on the commentary provided by bloggers.  Bob has passed along links to many posts written by some of the AECM members.

Bill McCarthy (Michigan State AIS guru) got the idea that a blogger panel discussion at the American Accounting Association annual meeting would be a good idea.  Five of us–Tom Selling, Ed Ketz, Francine McKenna, Joe Hoyle and myself–quickly jumped on board.  At the last minute, I’ve had to drop off due to a scheduling conflict.  It has been eating at me for weeks that I won’t be there on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 in San Francisco.

Here’s a preview of these bloggers and what they mean to AECM.

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Accounting and/or financial blogs are a big deal.  As the world evolves and becomes faster paced, long-lived jobs will disappear.   We accountants will adapt by piecing together a career from many project-length opportunities.  I believe it will be a matter of professional life or death for accountants to get on top of evolving current events and stay there.  For there to be life, we all need to make life-long learning a lifestyle.

The ability to think will separate thrivers from survivors and hangers-on.  We accountants will need to think critically (buzzword for analyze and understand what is going on), creatively (inventing solutions) and practically (applying cutting edge skills to implement solutions).

How will we learn to think these ways and grow our thinking?  Independent blogs commentaries like The Summa, and re: The Auditors, and TaxGirl.  Blogs provide input to fuel critical thinking, seeds for creating thinking, and energy for practical thinking.

So, I want to encourage accounting/financial blogging.  Then along came this e-mail. from a Summa reader, asking about my blogging process.  Although I don’t reveal his identity, I’m already aware of his writing and his unifying message.  He has a lot to contribute, and I think he should blog.   So, I wrote this blog piece.   His comments/questions are  in emphasized green, answers in normal font.

Love your blog. I’m thinking of starting one………… How many hours a week do you spend on it?

A simple answer is 20-30 hours, but it really depends. Posts, which frequently become essays, start with a four hour time commitment and grow from there.  Some of the technical essays I did on IFRS could took a week to ten days of writing for a 6,000 word essay.  And this was on top of my already having mentally planned the structure of the essay.  If you aren’t already an expert on something, add research time.

An important factor in budgeting for time is your expectation of the blog post’s permanence.  Quality essays that will still be read a year later require more time to create, or else it will be GIGO.

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Just like anyone else in our fast paced world of American on the Internet, I have many things tugging for my attention and too little time to do them all.

Professors potentially have many task masters, and being a blogging professor means asking for a never-ending work load.

The purpose of today’s blog piece is to show you just how busy and pressured is the life of a blogging accounting professor.

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By day and night I’m an accounting professor.  By inclination, however, I’m a [place adjective here] blogger.  Pick you favorite adjective:  financial, accounting, regulatory, professorial, or whatever.

A few days ago, a reader e-mailed asking why I blog, etc.   Summing it up in a few words,  “I think and because I must express myself, therefore I blog.”   The reader continued with another question, asking where the ideas come from that turn into blog posts.  My vague reply probably dealt with living in a diverse world during interesting times.  But that’s not all of it by any means.

The essence of my day job is to observe the world of accounting (and education), figure it out, and then explain it to students at my academic institution.  By some perverse twist of thought, I have substituted “any past, present and potentially future reader of The Summa” in place of students.  Voilà!

Ideas for blog posts spring naturally from the manner in which I look at the world, and what part of my world I’m looking at.   Generally speaking, the manner in which a person looks at the world has an influence in that person’s world view, a topic I wrote about a few days ago (On Developing a Worldview).

For me to explain anything, in class or on this blog, I must be able to figure it out.  And to do that I must ask questions.  Frequently asked questions include, “What just happened here?” or “Why did that happen here?” or “Is it likely to happen again?” or “What is the pattern?”  Questions must precede answers, and answers dictate the response.

Today, the part of the world I’m looking at is the start of classes for a new semester.  Hence this blog post.  My classes meet for the first time on Tuesday.  I’m getting ready today and tomorrow.

What will the course be like?  What will be covered?  How will it be covered?  What skills will be stressed?  Essentially, I’m in the middle of figuring out how to explain to students how I look at the world of intermediate financial accounting.

But that’s not all of it.

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It is December 31, and so many of us are getting ready to party.  Everyone is, except accounting bloggers and those who read their blogs.  So as to give you something to do tonight while you sip your diet coke, you can reflect over the high points of The Summa.

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