Why Are You Blogging? [Guest Post]

You hear that all teachers should blog. You follow the tutorials and set up a blog.

Now what?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the idea of blogging, especially if you are unclear about the purpose of the blog. Is the blog for you or for students and parents? Will it be written as a medium for reflection, a newsletter, or a source of advice for other educators?

This post highlights the most prevalent types of education blogs and includes links to blogs that exemplify each of the types.

A Blog is Not Just a Blog

A single classroom blog may exist for many reasons. It might be for…

  • personal reflection on teaching and learning
  • communication between you, parents, students, and the world
  • exhibition of student work
  • recommendation of resources to other teachers

Student blogs also vary. You may encourage or require student blogs for…

  • ongoing reflection on lessons, work, or projects
  • portfolios of work for parents, friends, and the world
  • students’ exploration of interests or passions

When you clarity the purpose behind your blog, you begin thinking differently about your practice. You mentally note classroom events for future reflection. You make schedules for student blog posts. You discover ways in which your students’ blogs will demonstrate knowledge of curricular objectives. You notice other bloggers, relate to the struggles of others, and no longer feel alone in your classroom.

Below are some examples of blogs that illustrate clear purposes.

Teachers’ Personal Reflections on Teaching and Learning

Google “the resume is dead”. Note how many books and posts discuss the importance of a strong online presence as the medium through which you communicate your philosophy and describe your professional practice.

In My Island View, Tom Whitby is currently writing a series about his strong belief that Twitter should be used by educators to develop Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). In Wright’s Room, Shelley Wright reflects on student engagement, flipped classrooms, and her year as a consultant. A new blogger, Kristina Buenafe, writes about career decisions about whether to pursue NBPTS certification or an administrative certificate. If you’re looking for a good laugh, check out Jessica Lahey’s Coming of Age in the Middle. Her casual voice is refreshing and her comments make for good faculty room discussion. Chris Kennedy, a superintendent, writes a blog to improve transparency, reflect on leadership, and solicit opinions that push his thinking.

If any of the aforementioned bloggers applied to work at your school, you would know the individual’s beliefs and practices far better than you would know those who submit only paper resumes. You can easily ascertain the bloggers’ passions for learning and professional growth. Also notice how bloggers develop a Personal Learning Network with fellow bloggers and Tweeps – they exemplify lifelong learners. Consider setting up a blog for reflection.

Communication Between You, Parents, and the World

How many times per year do you get from emails that sound something like this…

I know you sent an email last week about the field trip, but I can’t find it. Can your remind me…?

So you rewrite the expectations or search for the old newsletter. How much easier would it be to have all communications logged in one place and have each message automatically delivered to parents’ email inboxes? You don’t even need to copy/paste or attach a file before sending.

If you set up a class blog for communication, you have all your information in one place. Even better, you have a format for parents and students to comment, post questions, and answer one another.

Classroom blogs create a sense of community. Two of the best-known classroom community blogs that consistently show up in the Edublog awards are 4KM and 4KJ and Mrs. Yollis’s Classroom Blog. Not only do these blogs demonstrate a community of parents and students, the teachers have grown an international community. Children from the classes of Mrs. Morris and Miss Jordan from Victoria Australia regularly interact with students in Mrs. Yollis’s class in California. Learning and Sharing with Ms. Lirenman documents participation in the Flat Classroom Global Project. If you want to create a stronger community, consider using blogs as a way for you, parents, teachers, students, and other classrooms to interact.

Exhibition of Students Work

A Room With A View: Class 2! is an example of student work displayed for a wider audience. You can watch students sing, make Christmas chains, play with alliteration, and more. Ms. Cassidy’s Classroom Blog features 3D projects, bulletin board designs, and artefacts of electronic conversations on iPads. Mr. Salich encourages individual students to write about their classroom activities as well as their personal interests. You can tell that these third graders take their blog posts very seriously.

Recommendations for Teaching Professionals

This category of blogs can be divided into hundreds of subcategories. Some write for particular subject areas like history or math. Others comprise book reviews or recommend tech resources. Tech resource blogs can be further sorted into curriculum materials, free online resources, iPad apps, and worldwide classroom connections. Expat Educator is written for upper elementary school generalists worldwide who juggle multiple subjects and new technologies.

Other teachers blog to inspire. Shelley S. Terrell has a 30 Goals Challenge as a part of Teacher Reboot Camp. Angela Maiers writes about character and attitudes of effective schools. Vicky Davis writes posts that remind us that our work is a noble calling.

If you’re looking for specific lesson ideas, a whole host of teachers both share ideas and promote materials for sale. Many materials are given away for free. Others are sold for a few dollars on Teachers Pay Teachers. The ideas they share are super-practical. Materials can be downloaded and used immediately, Some personal favorites are the Math Journal and art ideas from Runde’s Room, Science lessons from Teaching in Room 6, and Reader’s Notebooks from The Panicked Teacher.

Perhaps you have subject-matter expertise, a gift for motivating others, or a creative flair. You can set up a blog to share your ideas with the world.

Student Reflection

As students get older and become more proficient writers, they can “own” their own blogs and use them for continuous reflection. Felicia Young recently wrote an Edudemic article on how blogs can be used for reflection on math concepts. Hannah B. blogs about her grad school experience, especially her growing knowledge of speech pathology. Consider swapping paper journals for online journals in the form of blogs.

Student Portfolios

Ann Michaelsen’s teacher blog links to individual student blogs. Ann’s students’ entries include book projects, essays, and more.

There are many ways to showcase student work. By giving students a blog, you give them a virtual place to display projects. Parents who frequently travel appreciate the ability to see their child’s work no matter where they are in the world.

Student Exploration of Interests or Passion

Martha from the UK is likely the most famous young blogger. Martha began writing about her school lunches. She took pictures of her school lunch and created her own ratings system (including numbers of hairs!). Martha solicited pictures of lunches worldwide, began her own charity to feed children living in poverty, and worked with her father to write a book.

Ryan’s Blog is a great mentor blog for students. He writes about both sports and technology. Ryan sets an example of how young writers can present an honest voice while remaining cyber-safe. Jacob’s blog is another great example. Students might explore way in which Jacob’s writing has progressed since his blog began in 2010.

Some of the best personal blog advice for children (and adults!) is written by eleven-year-old Jake.

Final Thoughts

In the end, your blog may serve multiple purposes. For example, you can require that student blogs include certain portfolio elements, but also give students freedom to write about personal passions. Your classroom blog might both feature student work and serve as a newsletter for communication with parents.

Why do you blog?

Janet Abercrombie is the author of Expat Educator and regularly writes practical tips for improving teaching and learning. Her top tech posts have been about ePortfoliosclassroom management of 1:1 environments, and student news videos. Janet works full time as Head of Junior School in a school outside of Melbourne. She consults with educational leaders who are looking to improve curriculum, instruction, and assessment.

photo credit: Louish Pixel via photopin cc

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9 Responses

  1. Kathleen Morris says:

    Hi Janet,

    Thanks for mentioning my class blog (4KM and 4KJ) in this post.

    I often tell people when I first started blogging with my students in 2008 I didn’t really know why I was doing it. I thought it would be a bit of fun and a good way to connect with parents but I didn’t realise all the other educational benefits and flattening of classrooms walls that it could facilitate!

    I first started my teacher blog 5 years ago as I was working on a research project and wanted to share the resources I’d come across. Since then it has really evolved. I tend to write more about my passions now – particularly educational blogging and global collaboration. I guess in some way I’ve also been directed by readers.

    I have only really used student blogs as a way for students to explore and share their passions and interests in the past. I’ve had very loose guidelines about what they should be blogging about. This year we are starting a 1:1 program so I am hoping to have all students blogging more like a digital portfolio (with the freedom to blog about their interests as well).

    I guess my point is sometimes you don’t really know why you’re blogging or what will work for you/your students until you just begin and give it a try!

    Cheers,
    Kathleen

  2. Jess Lahey says:

    Thanks for the mention, and I checked out many of your links. My bookmarks overflow with great resources…

  3. tasteach says:

    G’day Janet,
    Just thought I would mention that Jacob, who you have linked to, is actually Jaden. I totally agree with Linda and the 4KM and 4KJ blogs. I use them as examples all the time. But it was great to see some other subject specific blogs I had not visited before. Thanks.

  4. Rebecca Jones says:

    I am new to blogging and this article has given me some great ideas. Thanks again.

  5. tetracarbon says:

    Missing element: Teacher’s reflection on their own practice.
    —————-
    Hi Janet,

    ==Teacher reflection==
    You have mentioned “Student Reflection” but what about the teacher’s own reflection? They need to reflect as much, indeed possibly more than the student does. If two teachers have worked for 20 years, the reflective teacher will have 20 years of experience and improvements. The non-reflecting teacher will have only one year of experience, repeated 19 times, and will have zero improvement in their practice (Biggs & Tang 2011).

    ==Personal marketing==
    There is also another reason why I blog: Personal marketing. I seek to create my own personal internet brand of what I do, and what I research. Brand recognition helps me network with other educators and opens me to (sometimes brutal) peer review. It helps secure my job, and helps me push the issues that matter most to me: Equity, cross-cultural issues, & professional ethics. A blog is credibility as it makes your pedagogical reasoning transparent.

    ==Writing Practice==
    Finally, it’s writing practice. All educators need to be published if they wish to be career minded; irrespective if they work in early childhood or high end masters level teaching. A blog is a safe-to-fail sand pit of ideas. Nobody expects perfection, but it’s a great place to hone skills.

    I really enjoyed your post and will read your posts in future on the Expat Educator

    -Phillip
    Tweet: @tetracarbon
    [email protected]
    —————-
    Reference:
    Biggs, John, and Catherine Tang. Teaching for quality learning at university. Open university press, 2011.

  6. Dante Smith says:

    Hello [WRITERS NAME] -

    I really loved your latest post on [WHAT THE POST WAS ON]. I have gone ahead and added [BLOG NAME] to my Flipbaord. Keep writing awesome stuff, and I will keep reading

    it.

    Thanks again,

    Dante Smith

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