6 Reasons Why You Should Do a “Blog Study”

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by carlos.a.martinez

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 FerriterWill 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.




19 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why You Should Do a “Blog Study”

  1. Robert Schuetz

    This is a terrific idea! I am impressed with how much writing you get done while attending a conference. ASCD has inspired several bogging topics. Now I just need to sacrifice some sleep to get them written.

  2. Pingback: 6 Reasons Why You Should Do a “Blog Study” | The Principal of Change | Learning Curve

  3. hollyedtechdiva

    I was trying to do something similar (book club) with my staff and I discovered SubText and app that lets me blog and read collaboratively with everyone at the same time. We are reading a book together using this app and it is really an amazingly collaborative and creative experience. If you have an ipad you should check it out. Just like kids they are engaged and excited to read our book selection because it is so interactive and authentic.

    1. mseiteljorg

      Holly, I heard about SubText and thought it sounded great. I’m glad to hear from someone who has used it. I’m looking forward to giving it a try.

  4. Jon David Groff

    Point number 3 really touched home for me. Sometimes I don’t like it when I feel others have a specific agenda they expect me to pick up without question, and I certainly don’t like it when others view that I have an agenda when I initiate a learning activity. A blog study could truly let others know that the desire is for learning and conversing rather than for seeking to fulfill a predetermined agenda. Real learning comes from conversation with others; ideas mature through discussion.

  5. Jon David Groff

    I am an senior high ELA coach with Peace Wapiti School Div. 76. I would be very interested if anyone knew of some good blogs that might relate to my subject area, and meet George’s criteria of an author who updates regularly.

  6. mseiteljorg

    You have listed so many great reasons to give this a try. I would love to give this a try at my school. I’ll let you know if we get it going.

  7. Pingback: 6 Reasons Why You Should Do a “Blog Study” | Vicente Montiel Molina

  8. Patrica Hewitt

    This is a terrific idea! I especially thought the point in #1 would resonate with busy teachers who are genuinely interested but feel rather busy already. I also think the power of reading blogs (and tweets) of educators who put into practice what they say would be motivating. Finding bloggers who share common experiences for different groups in one’s school (prim/elem/HS) or have shared interests (e.g. science, D5, PBL) would be a powerful example of what connecting can be about. I am certainly going to suggest a blog study for our school!

  9. @jennedvt

    While I value blogs and read them regularly, I was at first wary of this post. My wariness comes from the personal experience of reading far fewer books than I used to, now that I spend more of my time reading blogs and other online content. Therefore, I find myself needing more external motivation to change my patterns and read a book — as opposed to needing that external motivation to read a blog. Again, I want to emphasize how much I value blogs (and other short online content), but I really do believe that the extra time and research that goes into writing books often results in a deeper level of ideas being communicated.

    All of that said, I understand that point of this post wasn’t to say “stop reading books,” rather it was to highlight the very valid benefits of incorporating blogs into professional development opportunities for teachers. And points numbers 3 and 4 (learn as you go with staff, and actual interactions with the author) struck me as exceptionally powerful advantages that blogs offer.

  10. lisamnoble

    I’m in love with this idea, and will suggest it to my admin, particularly for next year. A Google doc would allow lots of collaborative feedback, or even something like padlet. And it might stop people looking at me like I have 6 heads when I talk about something I read in a blog :)

  11. Heaven Ball

    I so agree that blogging can be less time consuming than a book study but it has to be done correctly. Blogging can become very time consuming if you try to read everything the educator writes on their blog. I see the potential for blogs increasing learning and discussion about multiple pertinent topics that our schools PLC groups could discuss.

  12. Kathy Melton

    We’d actually used a blog for a book study, so it is a little different format than what you’ve suggested. I did like that even though the study was with all teachers from my school, their interaction took on a different tone and they were able to personalize their experience based on when and where they read and wrote. Some teachers who wouldn’t have been able to participate due to home comittments were able to dig into this after kids were in bed or over morning coffee. While it is true that I chose the book (We Used Steven Layne’s Igniting a Passion for Reading.), I tried to post in a way that wasn’t too limiting. I also liked that I could create other lists of links, such as resources for matching kids with books or author lists all in one space. I’d done this a couple of years before starting on social media, and that coupled with your ideas sure give me some things to think about.

    Looking back to your first point above, I think it would even be interesting to do a study of video clips (even interviews & TED talks) and kicking off dialogue from there. So many cool ideas. Thanks, George.

  13. John Hannah

    Great idea George! Thanks for this. We have a small ‘tribe’ of learning leaders at our school and I am looking for a way to engage them in using Twitter and eventually creating a school BLOG. A Blog study may be a way to do both.

  14. Pingback: 6 Reasons Why You Should Do a ‘Blog Study’ | Compunet-Consulting.com

  15. Tom Whitford

    George, it has been a while since out chat at #ASCD13 and I can’t recall if I shared with you via twitter, that I actually went back and tried this out with my staff. It went amazingly well. I shared out 1 post each week via a link in my weekly update for staff. Then I created a shared Google Doc with my staff. Many of the teachers joined the document and shared their reflections from the post. Each week I shared a new post from a different educator, and each week I received back more and more reflective feedback from my staff. It was great!! I was able to get better insights into their thinking on a variety of subject matter and I think we all learned a few things. Thanks again for this suggestion. I look forward to continuing this practice.

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