Isolation is now a choice educators make.

blogging

I was reading some blog posts from a course that used my blog to push some thinking.  The post that they discussed talks about being proactive through blogging used for reflection.  It was interesting to read some of the posts which were mostly in agreement with my stance on the importance of open reflection, but one came off as critical of the notion.  Of course, this is for a university course where blogging is part of the requirement, and the motivator is obviously more extrinsic than anything.  That being said, when I started a blog, I thought it was kind of a useless activity, but when I immersed myself in it, I found it to be the best thing that I have ever done for my own professional development.

Teachers in my own district have started blogging, and I distinctly remember a first-year teacher blogging and sharing what she learned with her parents, students and community.  I was blown away by her transparency for learning, and how she brought along her own community by sharing her learning,  We often complain about the isolation that is evident in education, but it is no longer a foregone conclusion.  Isolation is now a choice educators make.  If we believe that we are better together, blogging is an opportunity to open the doors to our classroom.

Don’t just take my word for it though.  Below are some articles that have resonated with me on the power of blogging for our own development, and the development of our profession.

1. 5 Reasons Educators Should Have Blogs – A very clear and concise argument on the power of blogging in our professional practice.  The focus on developing understanding, collaboration, digital footprint and modelling stick out in this post.

Will Richardson argues that students aren’t really digital natives. In reality, while they may have little fear in using digital technology, they don’t really know how to appropriately utilize those tools. We can model blogging for our students so they can write for a purpose and for an audience.

2.  How To Make Better TeachersDean Shareski writes a compelling argument on how blogging improves teaching, and this has been a post I have redistributed often.  Dean focuses mostly on the transparency that blogging creates, and that this is part of the important work that we are NOT doing in our schools.

There’s a natural transparency that emerges. The teachers who blog as professionals in this reflective manner in my district invite anyone to look into their classrooms and you can get a picture of what happens on a daily basis. This goes a long way in addressing accountability concerns.

Teachers have for years had to fill in a plethora of reports and forms which in essence are accountability papers. For the most part they are of no use to teachers and in most cases aren’t very valuable for administration either. Busy work.

If we really took the time to think about what we do in our learning, which blogging often forces us to do, how could educators not get better?

3.  How Successful Networks Nurture Good Ideas – This blog is not focused on educators, but in my opinion, and more importantly, learning.  The author argues that even though much of what is out there is “crap,” blogging still brings a very powerful element to our learning.

But focusing on the individual writers and thinkers misses the point. The fact that so many of us are writing — sharing our ideas, good and bad, for the world to see — has changed the way we think. Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public. And that is accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge.

Kind of powerful stuff, isn’t it?

With all of the great ideas shared in the post, a few sentences stood out to me and I felt a figurative “slap in the face” when I read them:

Having an audience can clarify thinking. It’s easy to win an argument inside your head. But when you face a real audience, you have to be truly convincing.

Personally, blogging has made me really think about what I do in my role as an administrator, and I would say that the process has really clarified a lot of my thinking.  The other aspect of writing for an audience and getting their feedback has made a huge difference on my learning as being challenged has made me really think about my work.  In fact, I am writing this because someone read my blog post, challenged it, and I came back to revisit my thinking.  That wouldn’t have happened if I wrote it in a journal that I tuck away at home.

Questions…

Do you have a blog?  If you do, how has it improved your learning and made you a better teacher?

If you don’t, what is holding you back?

“Time” will always be an answer that jumps into the mix, but if it has the impact on learning that so many say, wouldn’t priority trump that argument?

29 thoughts on “Isolation is now a choice educators make.

  1. Robert Schuetz

    Because of you, Tom Whitby, Shelley Wright, Justin Tarte, Steve Wheeler, and many others – I have a blog. Here is my recent post highlighting my three favorite reasons to blog; http://goo.gl/5j0rBi
    My favorite post on the subject is Steve Wheeler’s, “Blogging as Conversation”; http://goo.gl/G74erD Today I asked him what has made the biggest impact on his personal brand? He quickly replied, his blog. And many connected educators, including myself, agree.
    In response to your questions. Blogging has made me a better educator by providing a platform for transparent reflection. The authentic audience forces deeper thinking and a thorough investigating of information. Blogging helps crystalize my learning and it provides opportunities for deeper reciprocal conversations. As Sue Waters says, “Blogs give learners a voice.”
    Story telling, as you know, is at the very core of how knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation. Who is telling your story? I propose that every living person should have a blog – if for no other reason than to document and share their stories. Thanks George – I hope that more people will choose to connect rather than isolate.

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  3. zecool

    This post resonates a lot with me, for two very different reasons.

    1. Personally, I have gained (as in ‘learned’) so much since I’ve been blogging (for 10 years now) and through other social media, mainly via Twitter. It is a reflective practice that forces me to articulate my thoughts (just as I’m doing here commenting) and I just ‘know’ that what I write, most of the time, is read and can resonate in other people’s mind. But basically, I do it for myself first. It has helped me immensely in fine-tuning my ideas on education and edu tech. The ROI gained: the rich connections to passionate folks, who challenge and nourish my thoughts on how we can make education even better. Bottom-line, having an audience HAS clarified my learning.

    2. I have colleagues who do great things in education. They keep pushing the limits and have a genuine love for the kids and passion for continuous learning. Truly professionals. However, some tell me that they don’t feel the need to share with a large audience what it is they are doing. They would rather do this in more closed circles, their own community of practice where learning happens together. Just not out there for all to see/read. But they lurk. A lot. For their own reflective process. Their bottom-line: students are the first benificiaries of what they do, and continuous learning is a constant issue with them.

    Does this come down to extravert vs. introvert ? Still juggling with this.

  4. macduude

    As we say to our students about journaling, having to put your thoughts in writing forces you to clarify. Doing so in a reflective manner not only makes you clarify but examine and evaluate. Further, doing so in front of your peers takes courage and a willingness to be challenged or corrected. Here’s to the reflective bloggers, in education.

    1. Robert Schuetz

      I sincerely appreciate the way you state your support of writing. May I use this for an upcoming presentation?

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  8. Mark Gleeson

    When I started blogging early last year, I wasn’t sure where it would take me. It didn’t take long though to have a huge impact on me as an educator. Reflecting on my true beliefs as an educator in a forum in which I had control ( which rarely happens in a staff meeting!) really clarified what I wanted to do as a teacher. Sharing my thoughts and ideas with a real audience who wanted to engage with me and come back to read what I had to say has continued to inspire me to investigate new ideas and consolidate and streamline my own. I wish more in my teaching circles would the same. When I hit the 100 post mark, I reflected on my journey in this Storify post.
    http://storify.com/mcglee1966/the-mr-g-online-100th-post-anniversary-special
    You may or may not find it interesting.

  9. Jennifer Carey

    This is such a great topic! I think you are right. Even if we are all scheduled to the T, we can reach out (at least virtually).

    To answer your question – yes I do have a blog that I (try) to update regularly. It serves as a sounding board for my own thoughts, a “critical friend” for an assignment, and a means for me to be involved in the broader educational community. I get a lot when I post a lesson plan and other educators ask questions or point me to new resources. It also gives me time to reflect. Sometimes I look back over an assignment and think, “What? That doesn’t work. Why didn’t I try this?”

    It also gives me a place to model for students. This is what connecting on line can look like. This is why it’s powerful. This is why it’s constructive.

  10. Lissa Layman

    I wrote my first blog post 2 years and 1 month ago. I started my blog solely as a place to reflect professionally as I started my 2nd year teaching. I was starting to integrate more technology into my lessons and wanted an organized place to go back and look at what I’d done and how it went. In the last 2 years I’ve added 2 other blogs: a personal blog (for our experiences teaching internationally) and a blog for COETAIL.

    Blogging has come to mean more to me than I could have ever expected! Besides professional reflections, blogging has allowed me to keep in touch with friends, bounce my ideas off other educators, request input on a variety of topics and so much more. I have grown tremendously as an educator and a person because being connected has taught me how to reflect, take constructive criticism and continually learn. Although I don’t always have the time in the day (week, month) to blog, it always feels comfortable to go back. When I do make the time to blog it leaves me feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next challenge!

  11. Leah Obach

    Thanks for the validating post – I knew it must be good for me to blog…

    I have a blog and the more priority I give it, the better. It serves a variety of purposes and it grows as I blog more and become a better blogger. My Grade 1 students know they can ask to share their learning on my blog and we often post together to share classroom learning. I use personally it for reflection, communication and sharing ideas.

    To those discouraged or not started yet – try it, keep at it, it will be a positive thing in the long run!

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  14. Anthony Edwards

    I can see real value in blogging.

    Following your presentation at our 21st Century Learning conference in August. I am happy to say that 90% of the schools under my supervision have adopted Twitter as a communication tool. This represents a dramatic change in direction for myself as well as most of my schools.

    Blogging, however, is more involved. It’s potential to deprivatize the “laminated lesson plan” and inspire a fresh, open and transparent practice is something I can’t mandate if it is going to evolve into an effective tool. To gain traction I suspect that the best way that I can provide leadership would be to monitor the handful of teachers that I know are blogging. Once I can identify a small group of teachers who are active in blogging I will nurture, encourage, support and promote their work as pioneers. I will then use that opportunity to enable other teachers to learn from the natural leaders and will jump on board myself, because I too have much to learn.

    Although I am really using your blog to think aloud, I would certainly welcome the thoughts of anyone who can appreciate the challenges of introducing change. Thanks for the forum.

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  24. Matt Renwick

    Nice post George. Sorry I missed this 10 months ago; thanks for tweeting it out again. Blogging has been described as a learner’s “personal pensieve”, alluding to Dumbledore’s actual pensieve for saving memories in the Harry Potter series. As educators, we can go back into our writing and find evidence of our growth and learning. The feedback I gain in the comments is invaluable.

    Thanks for encouraging this conversation! -Matt

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