I sent out the following tweet regarding some “simplified” steps for blog that are crucial to the process:
4 easy steps for #blogging that we tell our students. 1. Write 2. Categorize 3. Tag 4. Publish
— George Couros (@gcouros) August 1, 2014
Although blogging comes easy, putting your thoughts out there and writing isn’t so easy for others. I often get writer’s block and have trouble sharing my thoughts but I push through as a personal challenge to myself. I try to average one post every three to four days. For others, it is tough to start:
The nice thing about someone asking about tips on how to get started blogging is that it gave me a topic to blog about. In reality, Twitter has been great for pushing me to blog more because sometimes (most times) 140 characters is not enough to go deep into anything, but it can definitely be a spark for going deeper into our learning.
So based on Andrew’s tweet (thanks!), here are some suggestions that have worked for me to help me to blog.
1. Read other blogs. Seems like a common sense idea but it took me to really start reading other blogs before I felt comfortable to share my own voice. It helped me to some examples of what was being shared and either build upon or challenge ideas. A lot of people use things like Feedly to help aggregate blogs, but my two favourite “apps” for reading the work of others is Zite on my iPhone or iPad, any InoReader on my computer. I have also really enjoyed reading books on my Kindle app, not only because of the ability to carry a ton of books on one device, but more importantly, the opportunity to highlight and write notes and have them shared in one place. Those passages that I have highlighted often give me ideas to write about and build upon. When organizing reading became easier for me, so did the writing.
2. Always have some place to write down your thoughts. A lot of great writers suggest that you always have a notepad and so I tried to learn from them to do the same. The problem is that I never have a pen or notebook, but my phone has notes on it from years ago. Observation is also important and although I will write ideas down from professional development to write about, I often get my inspiration from situations that are outside of the realm of education. I also love running with my iPhone because my best ideas often come from a clear head, yet by the time I got home, I would lose those ideas. Those little ideas that you write down, can often turn into something bigger, but you have to write those initial thoughts down somewhere.
3. Write for you and for what you need. When I first started blogging, I tried to write the university essay style. Then I was reminded that I hated writing that in university, so why would I do it on my free time? Sometimes I write numbered lists, sometimes I write down reflections, and sometimes I share videos and have two sentence reflections. My biggest thing is that if you met me and I talked to you, I would sound a lot like my blog. I write how I talk (I end a lot of sentences in prepositional phrases in real life as well). People often suggest that you should “think about your audience”, but I really think that if we are trying to do this to learn, we have to think about what we need to write at that time. The idea that anyone can read this post makes me think a lot more about what I share, but it also doesn’t determine my writing styles at any time. This blog is mostly to clarify my own thinking which makes me want to write, as opposed to some external motivation. When writing becomes an internal need, you are more likely to do it more often.
4. Start with questions instead of answers. When I start to blog, many times I do not have an endpoint. It is sometimes to work my way through ideas. I love this quote:
“I write to understand as much as to be understood.” – Elie Wiesel
Going back to how Twitter facilitates blogging, I often will tweet a statement or question that I am thinking about, and read the responses. That does a great deal for my thinking, but I don’t really learn until I make the connections for myself. It is great to have ideas and answers for others, but it is also great to work your way through something you don’t know. It shows a definite vulnerable side, but it is also a humbling experience. Both good things. If we are going to ask our students to “start with questions”, blogging is a great way to model and go through that same process.
5. Decide how many times you are going to write in a period of time, and stick with it. Forcing yourself to write is tough but it also helps facilitate the process. I try for twice a week as a minimum, although I used to try once a day, which was pretty impossible. I do know that the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to come back. It could be once a week, once a month, or something else. Whatever it is, try to stick with it (if you miss here and there though, I promise you will be fine). I have found that having this “schedule” in my head, helps me to look around the world more, and I try to find inspiration for blogging. Like anything you want to get better at, practice is important. You want to become a better writer? Write more
As teachers, we often have DEAR time (Drop Everything And Read), but do we promote the same amount of time for kids to just write about what they want? That is what I love about blogging. I can write about sports, family, my dogs, or anything that I find relevant. I love trying to make the connection between the “real world” and education when I write, and I think that is a great practice to promote with our students as well. Perfection is not the goal; learning is. Paraphrasing Dean Shareski, “if we want to become better teachers, we need to blog”. I took that advice to heart, and ultimately, if it makes us better learners, we will definitely become better teachers.