Talking with good friends Tom and Leah Whitford, we were discussing moving staff forward and some of the conversations that drive our thinking. As I started to think about how many leaders do “book studies”, and have been moving those conversation back and forth from and online and offline setting, I thought about the notion of having a “blog study”. I know that administrators like Kathy A. Melton have done this before, but I just wanted to write what this could look like.
For example, look at an educator blog (Bill Ferriter, Will Richardson or Dean Shareski could be good options) and have teachers subscribe through email to their posts. As they write, perhaps have a discussion time once a week or month, on things that were stated in the blog, and whether they agree or disagree, and how those ideas apply to your school. You can host a chat online through something like twitter, or keep them offline if that is what works best for your community. Ensure that if you do pick a blog, make sure that it is someone that updates consistently and perhaps connect with the blog author and let them know that you are doing a “blog study” on their work. This is something that you do not have to do with necessarily an educator blog (Seth Godin would be an interesting one), but I think that it would be more applicable to use a blog on education for schools.
Here are some of the reasons this would be beneficial:
- Powerful conversations can start from short time commitments. Books can be very daunting in any profession where time is always at a minimum. Reading an entire chapter from a book can take a large amount of time yet a post can take you 30 seconds and still spark a powerful idea. It can be a video that is shared, a quote, a podcast, or whatever medium that the author decides to use. For some, video is a much more powerful medium to receive a message and resonate in an entirely different way than a written post. The blog format can give educators an opportunity to have some powerful learning in small amounts of time.
- Anywhere, anytime, any place learning. The nice thing about a blog is that I can access it from any device that I have connected to the Internet. I can literally be sitting at the doctor’s office and read while I am waiting, or at halftime of a basketball game. As long as I have my device with me, I can connect to that blog. Although many people enjoy reading paper books, if you are not carrying that book, you don’t have access. The Kindle app is a great opportunity to have that anywhere, any time, any place learning, but the blog guarantees that access.
- You are truly learning as you go with your staff. There is a reason that administrators choose the books that they do. They convey a message that the administrator is in total agreement with and they want to share that message with their staff in some manner. With a blog, you might not necessarily agree with what the author has said on any day, but the discussion that can ensue is where the real learning can occur. Yes, you will have an idea of how the author writes, but you have no idea what they are going to say. The learning that can happen there can be truly authentic and real with your staff which could lead to some interesting conversations.
- Interactions with the actual author. One of the biggest benefits of doing a “blog study” over a traditional book study is that you are more likely to be able to interact with the actual author of the blog. Through the process of commenting, you can ask for clarifications on ideas, push back, challenge, or even thank the author for the idea. After you read a chapter you disagree with, there is no opportunity for clarification from that author. What is written is what you are left with. More authors see the value in connecting through social media with people that read their books, but you are more likely to get a response from someone who is already sharing openly in that space.
- Learning can lead to more learning. Bloggers rarely only share their own ideas, but often the ideas of others. I have connected with many great blogs, twitter accounts, and articles by reading specific blogger material. Learning (again) doesn’t stop at what is written on the page, and you can’t click a physical page in a book. Many authors reference in books some other books that they have read, yet you have to put down the book, grab your computer, do a search, etc. With a blog, you click and go. Who knows that this will lead your staff towards.
- Teachers can see the power of blogging to start conversations. The potential of a teacher of every teacher in a study writing a book is slim to nil. The opportunity of them deciding that they write a blog is considerably higher. Seeing the power of sharing ideas in different mediums might inspire them to do the same. It may also encourage them to explore using this same idea with their students. I was not comfortable starting my own blog until I was able to see what other blogs looked like and how they shared. This might be the inspiration that others need to start sharing some of their own ideas and inspiration.
There are ways that you can do this online as well as offline. Creating your own hashtag or blog space to ask questions can help archive your work, and using sites like Storify can help you share your ideas in a single space in an organized manner. It can also open the study to others outside of your school.
As I go through these points myself, I think there would be a lot of benefits of trying something like this. Any other thoughts? Suggestions for blogs to follow that would be good for this kind of learning? I think that there could be some real power in this type of learning.
Thanks to Kathy A. Melton for the face-to-face conversation that helped me flesh out these ideas.