Thursday, 13 June 2013

7 Reasons Why Educators Should Blog

I have recently participated in one of the Seeta monthly webchats. You can listen to the chat here:

When they asked me to suggest a topic for the chat, it didn't take me long to suggest blogging for reflection. As you might know, I have been blogging for five years now. Preparing for the webchat gave me some time to reflect on why I blog. I have to say that I failed to come up with a rational answer to this question.

I blog because I like blogging.

I know, this doesn't lead anywhere. Especially since, in the chat, quite a few teachers expressed their concerns related to blogging. A few have tried this activity, only to stop after a while, disappointed. Nobody left comments in their blogs and they seemed to be talking to themselves. Blogging was time-consuming and left them with less time for classroom preparation. Teachers are too busy already. Why should they add blogging to their list of duties?

Although for me blogging is a passion, I have decided to try and look at some rational reasons why blogging for reflection might be something educators should do. I will also try to address the concerns that were expressed during the chat.

1. Blogging helps you reflect on what you do in class. 

This one is rather obvious, since I am advocating blogging for reflection. Steve Wheeler says that teachers naturally think back on what has happened in their classroom, and often wonder what they could have done better. Blogging can help with this process, enabling teachers to keep an ongoing personal record of their actions, decisions, though processes, successes and failures, and issues they have to deal with. Wheeler also observes that “Blogging can crystalise your thinking.”

Yet, blogging shouldn't be the same as sharing your teaching journal with the world. If you are one of those teachers who reflect on their practices through a journal, then you are probably not ready to share those thoughts with the world. Nor should you. A journal has to be the place where you can be completely honest with yourself, without worrying about what others might think. It is also not the right place to worry about punctuation, spelling and style. Just keep writing and keep your thoughts private. However, every now and then, there will be a journal entry that will make you stop and reflect. If you sit down and work hard on it until it is presentable, you can share it with the world and make other teachers benefit from your experience.

The teachers in the chat were worried about revealing too much about themselves in their blog and sharing something that wasn't appropriate. Now, remember the golden rule - you should never share anything you wouldn't want your mom, your boss or your child to see. Amy Dominello quotes blogger Renee Moore who says teachers should be careful about what they say on their blogs. She also quotes Anthony Cody: “Make sure your boss is aware of your blogging.”

2. Writing helps you generate ideas

Richard E. Ferdig says: "Drawing on Vygotsky's educational theory (1978), educators highlight the "knowledge construction" processes of the learner and suggest that "meaning making" develops through the social process of language use over time. As such, knowledge construction is discursive, relational and conversational in nature." What I have discovered since I started blogging is that just thinking about what I might post and freewriting for a while will give me an idea for a lesson plan. These ideas might come from anywhere - I might take a walk in the park or see an image on Flickr and words will start forming in my head. What starts as a blog post idea will end up as a set of activities that I can try on Monday.

One of the biggest concerns of the teachers I talked to was that they might have nothing new or original to say, that they might end up regurgitating something others have said. And why not? By all means, read other blogs and join the conversation. But don't regurgitate. Instead, you can summarise, question, expand and share. That's what I am trying to do in this post. The conversation among bloggers has been on for a very long time. A new voice is more than welcome. Sometimes people who know how to ask questions are invaluable because they make us think and re-evaluate our opinions. Which brings me to my next point.

3. Care to share

There are hundreds of busy teachers out there. They are troubled by the same self-doubts as you. Some of them are rookies, others might be suffering from teacher burnout. Reading your post might help them get through the working week. And if you share lesson ideas, you are genuinely helping.  So, if you have nothing to say, say it anyway. Maybe it is new to me, or I just might be glad that you are doing or seeing things the same way I do. Teaching is a lonely job and you are never quite sure you are getting it right, are you? But, if you start blogging, you will never be lonely again because you will interact with other bloggers. Which brings me to my next point and that is

4. The virtual staffroom

Gabrielle Deschamps says: "In a really weird way, I no longer feel like my staffroom is limited to the four walls around me at school. My horizons have widened, and now I feel like the music teacher in Iceland I spoke with yesterday is just over there by the window.” You will connect with the teachers who share your interests, be it project work or CALL or material development. I suppose the main difference between blogging and sharing in a forum is that you will interact with these people through their work, rather than share on a common, pre-assigned topic. Blogging gives you more freedom than forums and bulletin boards. As Sam Patterson says: "I blog for myself, but with a clear sense of my audience, I hope. So I try to 'be useful' ...". Which brings me to

5. Your own space on the web

I see my blog as a home. I can close the door behind me and let my hair down. I can be who I am. Maybe no one is reading this right now, but that is OK. Because, by the time I am done with this post, I will be the one who understands better my own reasons for blogging. And if no one leaves a comment, that's fine too. Don't do it for others, do it to please yourself. Write about what interests you. Ask questions, then come back a week later and answer them. Come back a year later and give different answers. Whatever you do, don't take yourself or your blog too seriously. Blogging should be fun.

6. Your e-portfolio

Blogging will help you keep track of what you are doing online and in the classroom. This is, again, something I feel you should be doing for yourself rather than for others (your boss, your future employer, etc.). All your thoughts and discussions, all your links and ideas, all your digital artifacts will remain there for you to reread and reflect upon. Blogging about conferences and online workshops you attend will challenge you to try out the new approaches you have heard about. George Couros shares the example of a teacher called Kendra, who "shared what she was learning not only with her students and parents, but with the entire world." He adds: "She didn’t even wait until she returned before she started implementing the practice and starting asking questions of her students, while sharing her own learning." You can read Kendra's post here.

7. Because you can

I am not going to lie to you - blogging takes time. Yet, if you treat it as a hobby rather than a chore, you will feel free to post as often (or as rarely) as you wish. Says Ray Salazar: "“There are bloggers who post something every day (some post a few times a day). But I’ve learned that posting once a month is good—considering our workload.  Setting aside 20-30 minutes a week to draft some ideas will help craft meaningful posts.“

And it is easy to set up your own blog. Blogging platforms are very user-friendly and require no prior technical skills. Follow this tutorial by Sue Waters.

I am sure I could go on and find more reasons why blogging is good for you. However, I am going to stop here. Seven is such a nice number and, besides, no amount of reading why you should blog will convince you unless you try it yourself. And don't give up too soon. Because, as Dean Shareski says: "The only people allowed to criticize or challenge this idea are people who have blogged for at least one year and written at least 50 posts. The rest of you can ask questions but you can't dismiss it."

I challenge you - if you still have second thoughts about blogging, write a blog post in which you will list 7 reasons why you feel blogging is not right for you. Post the link in the comments area and I'll be happy to respond.

So, what are you waiting for? Join the conversation.

Works cited:

1. Wheeler, Steve. “Seven Reasons Teachers Should Blog.” Learning with e's. 11 June 2013>

2. Dominello, Amy. “How and Why Teachers Should Start Blogging.” Ideas that Work, Social Media in Education. SmartBlog on Education. 11 June 2013>

3. Ferdig, Richard E. “Content Delivery in the Blogosphere.” The Journal Online. 11 June 2013>

4. Deschamps, Gabrielle. “`10 Reasons Why Teachers Should Blog and Tweet.” Music Teach.n.Tech. 11 June 2013>

5. Patterson, Sam. “`Why Teachers Should Blog.” My Paperless Classroom. 11 June 2013>

6. Couros, George. “`... and this is why teachers should have blogs.” The Principal of Change. 11 June 2013>

7. Orris, Kendra. “Where Was I?!” Miss Orris' Blog. 11 June 2013>

8. Salazar, Ray. “Top 10 Reasons Teachers Should Blog” The White Rhino: A Chicago Latino English Teacher. 11 June 2013>

9. Waters, Sue. “Kick Start Activity 1: Setting up Your Blog - Create Blog and Customize Look” Edublogs Teachers Challenge. 11 June 2013>

10. Shareski, Dean. “How to Make Better Teachers” Huff Post Education. 11 June 2013>

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