7 Reasons educators should blog
Like many others, I find blogging a useful activity. So useful, in fact, that I think everyone involved in education should do it! Here, in no particular order, are my reasons.
Keep an online (research) notebook
I think some people eschew blogging because it can be frightening to expose your thoughts to the world. However, I’ve come across people who keep their blog private, as far as they can, ie they don’t tell anyone about it and don’t promote it in any way. (This is no guarantee of your blog not being found, of course. If you really do desire privacy, start a private online journal. For example, a quick search provided me with the name of Penzu.)
So, you might ask, what’s the point of that? Well, it’s a way of keeping research notes if you are currently undertaking a course, or simply a place where you can “do your thinking”. There are other services, such as Evernote, which are arguably more useful or this than a blog. However, have found that a blog is the best solution I’ve come across for quickly putting up a photo, say, with some notes about it, perhaps as an aide-memoir for me to pick up again when I have more time. Evernote, despite the fact that you can include photos, isn’t the same as far as I’m concerned, but it is a matter of personal preference.
One limitation of Evernote, and possibly other, similar, services, is that it’s hard to share all of the notes you’ve made, unless you email them or tweet them out. As an experiment, I’ve tried sending a link to an Evernote note to someone, and that works quite well. So if, for instance, you wished to let your tutor have a look at your notes, you could do that via a direct message in Twitter. But if you wished to open up your notes and reflections to others, blogging, in my opinion, is a much better option, because it will be findable and able to be commented on by more people over a greater length of time, should you want it to be.
Why might you want to do this even if you are not doing a course and therefore do not have a tutor? Read on.
To my mind, it’s essential to reflect upon one’s practice. The idea of reflecting in the form of a blog follows on quite logically from the previous suggestion. If, for example, you try a different approach to the way you teach, say, data protection, it would be useful to not only log what you did, for future reference, but also how it went and how you could improve upon it.
What can make reflection even more powerful and useful is allowing other people to comment on what you’ve done. If that is done in a supportive and professional manner, it can be very useful indeed.
Keep a progress record
I’m all in favour of classroom-based research, by teachers and other people involved with initiatives or events. For example, if you have been instrumental in introducing a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) programme in your school, it could be useful to document its progress, both for yourself and for others thinking of going down the same road.
Interestingly, this does raise another issue. Very few of the schools (in the UK at least) that have started to adopt a BYOT scheme publicise the fact on their website. This led researcher Mike Sharples to ask whether BYOT is the policy that dare not speak its name. Perhaps it’ because schools don’t want to risk publicising their mistakes if it all goes horribly wrong. So one caveat I would add is that if you are going to be blogging about your school, you may be wise to obtain permission to do so. Alternatively, you could always write anonymously and hope nobody discovers your true identity!
A less contentious type of progress report would be the documenting of a school trip. Illustrated with interesting photos and videos, this is something that would be interesting for parents.
I do think, though, that blogging for your school, say, and blogging for yourself are two different things. The aims are different, and the rules are different. For example, you may want to use or imply “robust” language in your blog posts. (I don’t, but some people do, and good luck to them.) I doubt that doing so on an official blog, or even a personal blog post about where you work, would be terribly appreciated by your boss.
So, a more personal version of a progress report type of blog would be a more focused version of a reflection kind of blog. For example, a few years ago I was involved in a multimedia project spanning several schools. If I had been a teacher in one of those schools, I might have written a series of blog posts describing how the equipment had been used, and how using it was changing the nature or the amount of learning that was taking place in my classes. I would then have been in a pretty good position at the end of the year to evaluate the success or otherwise of the enterprise, rather than having to rely solely on a gut feeling and purely anecdotal evidence.
Teachers and others often have the opportunity to look at sample resources. Writing an online review of them can be beneficial both to yourself – because writing about something helps to organise one’s thoughts – and to others who may be thinking of buying that resource.
This leads me on to two further considerations…
Be the “go to” person
There is no harm, especially as far as career prospects are concerned, to use a blog as a way of establishing yourself as an expert in a particular area. Writing about new developments in that area, offering your opinion, and writing reviews of relevant resources are all grist to the mill.
Share the love
If you come across something useful, why not tell people about it? If you’ve given some thought to a new Government decree, why not share those thoughts? (Your opinion is as good as anyone else’s.) One of the things we in education are really good at is reinventing wheels. Sharing your thoughts and discoveries can help to reduce that tendency, even if only in a small way!
One of the nice things about blogging, if you enjoy writing, is that there is no pressure. You don’t have to write to a specific word count, or to a specific deadline, or even to a specific style. You can just enjoy yourself.
A related set of ideas, expressed more academically, is Steve Wheeler’s article, Seven reasons teachers should blog.
Also, I wrote a similar article to this one, for writers: 7 Reasons writers should blog.
The following reference will be useful to those who use Evernote and wish to integrate it into their Wordpress blog.