In 1993, by 6:30 every weekday, you could find me in the computer lab at Washington Elementary playing one of these games on an early Apple computer. And as undeveloped compared to today’s standards as they might have been, playing them on my school’s Apple IIs gave me about as big of a rush as playing Magic Johnson’s Fast Break on my home Nintendo.
Isn’t that what technology in education is supposed to do — get students excited about learning?
I was an annoying little brother to two older brothers and an older sister. If there had been money in it, I could’ve dropped out of school in fifth grade to become a professional tattler. For this reason, I don’t think I was ever welcomed to experiment with their mid-90s technology, but when my brothers came home for summer or Christmas break, I got sneaky.
Font Options. Charts. Graphs. Automatic numbering and easy page formatting. I had used my mother’s electric typewriter a time or two. I knew the significance of these things.
But my family was a little slower than others to adapt to these trends, and the trends were coming fast.
In 1994, Justin Hall began what was basically an online diary. He reported regularly on his personal webpage his daily activities, making what otherwise would have been private information freely available to the public.
Blogging is one of the things that can bring back the fun of educational technology. But — hear this: only if it’s done with vigor.
I repeat. The ideas behind blogging have been around since 1994; they’re nothing new. I took a course in 2009 at the University of South Alabama on technology in education. Guess what we did in that class? Yep, we blogged.
So if blogging’s a history lesson, why have I just been asked to present a professional development (PD) session on the benefits of it in one of my district’s upcoming return-from-Christmas-break PD days? Is this equivalent to having a session on how to use a whiteboard and Expo marker or a session on utilizing PowerPoint as an instructional tool? I don’t see it that way, and I don’t think the district does, either.
I’ve recently started following Starr Sackstein’s (@mssackstein) “Work in Progress” blog (what I can of it; I’m not yet a paid subscriber). Sackstein teaches writing and journalism at World Journalism Preparatory School in New York. She also writes regularly for Education Week. Starr’s book, Blogging for Educators, offers some great reasons why teachers should blog. I’ve noted below (in my own paraphrase) a few that inspired me to get moving with my blog:
- When you have an audience, you hold yourself more accountable.
- You’ll improve in thinking and writing, which will serve as a great model for the students you teach.
- Documenting successes and challenges helps develop a support system from which you and your readers may benefit.
What teacher doesn’t like an opportunity to grow professionally? It’s why we preach to our students the “life-long learner” mantra. It’s why when we feel we’re running low, we forage for fresh material on Teachers Pay Teachers or Pinterest. It’s probably why you’re here right now, this far down into this post.
That’s what blogging’s about: making yourself a better professional. And the reason blogging continues to be relevant virtually 20 years after its inception is only in part about improved technology (i.e. embedded videos, infographics, social media links, etc.); it’s mostly due to the fact that education continues to improve based on the sharing of experiences, research, and expertise. Teachers like being treated as professionals, trusted subject matter experts who are fully competent to discern the best instructional strategies in the most suitable situations.
So today’s your day. If you have a teaching topic you feel strong about (and that wouldn’t cast you as closed-minded or fatalistic), blog about it. If you have a teaching experience from which you think others could benefit, blog about it. If you are curious about a subject, face a likely common predicament known to others in your field, or would like to venture some possible solutions to a such a problem, blog about it.
“[B]logging is like having a baby, there is actually no best time to start, you just have to jump in and start trying when the inclination hits.”
Communication is one key to professional growth, and appealing to an audience of informed educators who can contribute to the learning community you hope to cultivate will help you strengthen your practices, sharpen your presentation, demonstrate your accountability, rally moral support, model a growth mindset, and reignite the altruistic vision (you did have one, didn’t you?) that first spurred you toward a career in education.
Of course, you don’t have to blog, but if you have a hankering, take Sackstein’s words as expert advice: “[B]logging is like having a baby, there is actually no best time to start, you just have to jump in and start trying when the inclination hits.”
Whatever you do, don’t let your job get you down. Stay strong, and build a network of growth-minded educators at your school, on social media (I prefer Twitter. Follow me @cadesomers), and through insightful professional writing.
Blog! Feel the urge, not the dirge.
Do you have a blog? What are your experiences? What’s worked well for you? Comment with a link and share your story with others.