Much has been written about blogging in education. I read a couple of posts this morning that got me thinking more about it. One was from George Couros titled “Isolation is now a choice educators make“. Given how easy it is to get connected and how I can speak from experience to the number of ideas I personally get from this self-help market, I can never say it enough – thank you to all the people that I interact with regularly. You are so appreciated.
Much of George’s post relates to the concept of blogging and that’s great. I would just note that that’s not the only way to escape from isolation. There are a number of tools that people use and that’s great. The choice should be the user but the results are so well described in his blog post.
If you’re a regular reader here, you know that the blog is one of my favourites and, as luck would have it, immediately after reading George’s blog post, I read this one. 9 Do’s and Don’ts to Make Your Blog a Success. If you’re a blogger, I would encourage you to give it a read and then see how you stack up. If you’re contemplating starting blogging personally or with your class, it does provide some points to ponder.
Here’s how I think I stand up to the 9 points. (Regular readers know I love these things…)
Do: Blog Regularly
I absolutely agree with this. There’s nothing that’s worse than loading a great looking blog’s RSS and then wait months or maybe never for the next post. In the beginning, I struggled with this. It was a lot of work and it took a lot of time. At least until I started to do it and then reap the benefits. When I turned blogging into something that I did to record one piece of thinking on any given day, the process took on a life of its own. I now have the opinion that, if I’m not blogging, I’m not thinking and I never want to do that. Consequently, if I’m reading something or exploring something, I write about it. It forces me to think deeper about the topic and the blog post is now on record and I know that I can always dig into the archives if I remember that I once looked at or thought about something.
Don’t: Switch Topics All the Time
I’m guilty of this and I don’t think I want to apologize for this. If I chose the same topic day after day after day, I think it would get boring and repetitive. I do try to keep my thoughts roughly educational. Does that count? As mentioned above, if I’m thinking, I’m blogging.
Do: Have a Contest
No budget. Can’t do it. This operation is run lean and mean.
Don’t: Be Mean
Well, not that mean. I understand the concept here and I’ve seen blogs that are just mean and the content is just scathing for whatever topic is being discussed. I think that’s so counter productive. You can disagree without being disagreeable. I know that when I run into a blog that operates that way, I just keep on going.
Do: Connect with Other Bloggers
Absolutely. Bloggers are among the best group that you can connect with. We’ll comment on each other’s blogs, interact on other social media and always search each other out if we know we’re going to be in the same place at the same time.
Don’t: Post “Just” a Blog (with no planning)
This is great advice. If all that you’re doing is posting to say that you’ve posted, it takes the excitement out of it. You need to blog when you’re inspired to write. In schools, if you “go to the lab” and blog during the 40 minutes that you’re there, you won’t be universally successful. I think that’s a major reason why I like the concept of BYOD or other ways to get computers in the classroom. You need to brainstorm, research, do your rough drafts, and then finish the product when inspired.
Do: Use Images & Video
Used properly, they do serve to break up large bodies of text. While I like to include things that I’ve created myself, like drawings, pictures, or screen captures, there are wonderful copyright free resources on the internet should you need it.
Don’t: Forget Links & Tags
One of the really nice features of working with WordPress is its ability to analyse your work as you type. Based on your content, you’ll get a nice collection of tags recommended and related articles. I think the related articles, in particular, help to extend the conversation that you’ve started in the blog. And, it’s equally cool when you end up linking to yourself. I’ve got nothing against circular references! Remember the old days with endnotes to support the thesis of your paper? Think of inline linking as a step up in reference. The resource is readily available as you read – not at the end of the content!
Do: Have Fun with Your Blog
I think this is the best advice of the nine. I’m often asked “When will you quit blogging?” My answer has always been “When I want to stop learning” but the answer may well be answered better as “When it stops being fun”.
I know that there are many classrooms that will be making blogging an integral part of any program this year. At first blush, it may seem to be perfectly designed for Language classes – and it is. But it’s equally as helpful in Mathematics, Science, … in fact anywhere where you want students to dig deeper. I think it’s perfect for blended learning classrooms. That’s just in the classroom. Circle back to George’s blog post about professional growth and isolation. What better way to show that you’re learning, ask questions, engage others, create a call to action, define just where you stand, share your vision – the possibilities are endless.
Regardless of how or where you see blogging, you want yourself or your students to be successful. These nine tips can be very helpful getting started and also used periodically to take a deep breath and reflect on the way things are.