What a teacher blog should be

Invariably when I introduce the concept of blogging to teachers, they want to resort to using it as a homework page. I understand that for many this is natural. After all, for many teachers, reflecting and sharing their work and ideas offline is not part of their practice, why would it be online?

So while I’m careful to point out that the power of blogging lies in the reading, thinking, writing process, I haven’t seen many evolve out of the typical homework thread. While the homework blog has its benefits, it hardly does anything to help students understand what blogging can be.

Konrad Glogowski
is certainly a blogger every teacher needs to watch. Today Konrad writes a post called “Learning to be Myself“. In it he writes about his plan to be a blogger in the community of his classroom. Not a teacher but a learner like the rest of them.

My own blog in our class blogosphere has always been used to post updates, assignments, commentary on student work, and words of encouragement…I don’t think my students ever perceived it as a blog – a place where the author shares his thoughts, ideas, or experiences and engages in meaning-making. It was a place that my students would visit regularly to read their latest assignment or download a rubric. I don’t think they ever learned anything from my own blog.

So his plan is to write about things that matter, things that may not be curricular based. What? Not curricular based? I can hear it now, “I don’t have time for that”. We don’t have time to be people?  He continues:

If we are to be a community of learners, we need to know each other as individuals, not people who, for six hours every day, play assigned roles. In other words, I don’t believe teachers should engage in self-censorship. If we do, then our students end up interacting with an automaton, an actor performing a role. Our schools, administrators, and classrooms cannot demand that the richness that makes us human be stripped down because the students are only fourteen, for example, and should not read about human rights abuses, or because time in class should be used only to study the curriculum.

Konrad is one of those writers that I”m glad doesn’t write everyday. His posts regularly make me stop and reread two or three times. It’s that good and deep. To really see his full vision, you need to read the whole post.

Others and I have often wondered, “Should all teachers blog?”. Many think “no” since it’s not the medium for everyone. Should all students blog?  Many that would read any blog would think yes. Why? Because we want students to share their work, have an audience, connect with others, document and track learning, become global citizens, and communicate. So are we hyprocrites if we as teachers don’t do the same? Maybe it’s not a blog but it should be something. (If it’s not digital, how do you have 25 learners share their learning with each other in a 50 minute class, how superfluous would that be?)

Konrad embodies the belief of developing community of learners. So my question is, if you’re not blogging with your students about your learning, your passion and ideas, how are you demonstrating to them that you are a learner? How do they know?

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  • Cheers Dean,

    I to have rarely seen teacher blogs evolve to much more than an ornate list of homework posts and assignments. This is not a bad thing, but the power of the read/write web extends far beyond that. As you say the power lies in the discussion and the writing process but so many are reluctant to do more than read things. I am talking about teachers now, not necessarily students, partly because in my role as administrator that is the group I work with on professional development but mostly because I see it as our job to teach students to have their own voice. How do we teach students to find their own voice if we are reluctant ourselves to share. There is something very different about sharing your trials and tribulations in the faculty room and posting those same trials and tribulations for everyone to see.

    The shift, then has to be in the idea of that safe, learning community. Be it a blog or a wiki or some other social network the idea is to contribute as much as you can and once you start, it is very difficult to stop.

    My school wide wiki has gotten off to a slow start. My staff is visiting the site and I know people are reading what I post, but few actually post or comment. Why is this? I have’t quite figured it out yet.

  • Brad,

    My guess is most have only dipped their toe in the waters of the web or only stayed in the shallow end…Web 2.0 and embracing virtual learning communities takes us out of our comfort zones. Most teachers are observers from the sideline and aren’t sure how to get in. Telling them the water’s fine just isn’t enough for most, they need someone to take them by the hand and stay with them for a while.

  • I understand the value of blogging with my students. I am curious: how has/could blogging with and/or for other educators contribute to one’s professional development or to the establishing of a professional learning community? I ask because this idea of blogging is quite new to me.

  • Laurie, for me this is my professional learning. Not simply my own writing but more importantly the conversations that I have with others via their blogs and other networking tools.

    I’ve written about it often
    http://ideasandthoughts.org/2007/07/25/timeline-of-learning-and-connecting/
    http://ideasandthoughts.org/2007/04/19/whos-on-your-research-team/

    Others have written as well.

    http://weblogg-ed.com/2006/blogs-for-professional-development/

    The trick is to become vulnerable. To share your experiences and ideas and spend more time reading and commenting than writing. There is a great community of educators who are sharing freely some great stuff. You can’t buy this type of PD.

  • “We don’t have time to be people?” — Love it. One of my favorite topics – the disappearing of I and Thou into “teacher” and “student.”

    We’re having parallel thoughts right now. Incredible conversation on this thread, and I don’t usually do this, but will here, because I wrestled with this “Teachers as Blog-Vampires” (blogging as another way to turn in homework) for about a week of posts starting here.

    I think this is one of the most essential conversations to be had. And I think we need to encourage multimedia creativity in order to open blogging to non-verbal types intimidated by writing. Working on a “Digital Arts Menu for Multiple Intelligences” toward that end for my own staff dev workshop next week. Others are contributing from the sphere, and welcome more of the same.

    Dean, I’m so far removed, here in Seoul, that it’s taken me this long to find your blog (though I’ve seen your name more times than I can count, all over the place). Nice to find you. Time to start reading 🙂

  • No need to apologize for sharing your work….only adds to the conversation. Thank you.

  • Laurie,

    Yes…you’re doing the right things….as far as finding those focused on counseling, I’m not sure I know anything off hand but I’m sure they’re out there….searching Technorati and or even edublogs.org might turn up something.

    But also don’t simply limit yourself to one niche area. I’m finding that having lots of connections to folks in different situations and perspectives keeps me from falling into the echo chamber. I look for dissenting voices and also ones from non school environments. I’m finding I can learn from anyone.