A blog (letter, email, call, plea, shout, scream?!) to my fellow teachers: If you want some truly valuable Professional Development keep reading!
We are always striving to find valuable PD opportunities (uh, if you’re not, then you definitely need to keep reading!), that both meet our needs as teachers and don’t bore us to pieces by repeating old, outdated, or irrelevant advice. If the last PD session you went to made you think, even for a second, “this better not waste my precious time,” then do I have a PD opportunity for you! (Keep reading. I promise, I won’t waste your time!) Just so we’re clear, to me the term “Professional Development” implies just that: developing as a professional: growing, learning and reflecting on experiences as both an educator and as a professional. I see 3 ways that blogging can accomplish this goal for you:
As a reader of educational blogs (or Blogging as a form of professional learning)
Reading blogs of noted edubloggers (see the edublog awards for some good ones, or see the side bar of my blog --->) is a way to learn from prominent people in the field of education, even when they are half way around the world! Through these blogs you can learn new ideas, get links to current research (as in this post from Will Richardson, kindly flagged by my marvelous instructor, or this post about the Digital Divide, kindly forwarded by Jennifer Branch, or this post I found about Blogging in Education), and stay on top of the latest best practices in almost every field within education (like this post which discusses one of the worst barriers to implementing the use of educational technology across the school: teacher tech illiteracy. It’s called, “Oh, Sir, You Are too Kind” and don’t forget to read the comments too!). It is especially helpful to read about how a noted edublogger has tried similar things that you have tried and is reflecting and learning the same way you are (just like this series of posts from Cool Cat Teacher Blogger Vicki Davis about the uses of wikis in teaching, called “Where do I start with A Wiki” Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, also thoughtfully provided by my tremendous instructor Joanne for a previous assignment).
As a writer of an educational blog (or Blogging as a form of refection)
Frank and earnest (no, not my cousins from the farm!) reflection through blog writing on what you’re trying, what has worked for you, what you need to try, or even posing questions to the world (whether you’re looking for the answers or not) can provide a much needed tool for professional growth. Even expressing frustrations at how things are not working the way you had hoped can be helpful (see my own previous posts regarding uploading Word Documents to Blogger, which led me to find other Web 2.O tools that suited my needs, as I report in this post about Wikis). I believe blogging is truly beneficial for educators, allowing you to rethink your beliefs and theories, your roles, your lessons, your strengths and even come up with new ideas. Essentially this all allows you to grow as a teacher.
As a participant in the edu-blogosphere (or Blogging as a form of collaboration between the blogger and their select audience)
When you post your reflections to your blog, you are sharing with the world. To be honest, its hard to believe that some 6 billion people will read your blog (6 billion? The world . . . duh!), but there will be some who read it and many who may begin a dialogue with you about what you have said, expressing their ideas, thoughts and reflections in turn (like this post of mine on Facebook in Education, which resulted in a flurry of responses and even some further reflection from Jose Picardo on his blog. Note too that his posts on this subject are also a perfect example of how thoughtful reflection on your practice as a teacher can lead to growth and learning by you, but also by others who read your reflections and see your growth). This may or may not (but should) provide you with an important collaborative reflection on what you’re doing as a teacher, as long as you continue the dialogue, that is (see this post called “Is It Okay To Be A Technologically Illiterate Teacher?” where Karl Fisch respondes to the article by Terry Freedman and says, “If you're visiting this post for the first time, please read the comments as well - that's where most (all?) of the good stuff is.” Karl won an Edublog Award for the most influential post of 2007 for this post!) These discussions can even lead to online class collaborations (maybe like Vicki Davis’s Horizon Project of 2006 and 2007 or Flat Classroom Project 2008). And the best part? You can collaborate with colleagues from other parts of the world, whom you never would have had occasion to even meet, prior to your blogging experience.
(Just an aside for Joanne: I’ve been thinking about your comment on RSS feeds and when to cover this in the class. My first gut response was that yes, you should cover it earlier, as it would have really helped to learn about it sooner. But then I thought, “If I had learned about it earlier, what would I have done with it,” as I hadn’t gotten “into” the course enough to have anything to subscribe to. So my final conclusion is that maybe it could be done a little earlier, possibly during the same week that our class discussion responses revolve around managing information overload? That way we have some things to subscribe to already and we are staring to get to a point where we need RSS and we can see that RSS is really great and useful to manage info overload. Does that make sense?)
Sorry to the rest of you for the virtual "private" conversation, but I felt the need to continue that line of comments and I thought it might be a good way to show how continued dialogue can enhance both your and your reader’s your professional development!
Just as your teaching (and your learning!) should never remain static, but evolve and grow, so should your blog writing, and maybe even the purpose for your blog writing. Even if you just start out as a novice blog-reflector (or even just an occasional blog reader), as you learn and grow you may just evolve into one of those “noted bloggers” I mentioned. And who knows, maybe one day, novice teacher-bloggers will be turning to you for their professional development reading!
Happy learning, reflecting and collaborating :)