It’s been 2 months since I started blogging on Mr G Online and I never expected to have over 22 thousand page views and over 10 thousand visitors in such a short time. Up until the end of last year, blogging was never really on my Bucket List of things to do. In my typical cynical way, I used to have the same view of bloggers as the cartoonist below. Since “Mr G Online” came into existence, though, my views have changed in a big way. So in an attempt to finally post a blog entry in less that 2000 words ( I’m still amazed you want to read my encyclopaedic efforts sometimes!), I feel the need to reflect on what I have got out of blogging and what I hope students and other staff will benefit from as well.
A Sense of Intrinsic worth
I’ve always been a sharer of ideas. I get a buzz out of helping people out. Blogging has given me the opportunity to share my knowledge and opinions in a sphere beyond those who have listened to me for years. The interaction with readers has sharpened my focus on what I have to say and the positive energy received from comments and visits from around the world has sparked my creativity, which can become jaded when it doesn’t get a reaction. It may sound pretentious, but that’s how it is.
Everybody loves a stage
Those who know me well know I am an extrovert trapped inside an introvert’s body. Shy in unfamiliar surrounds but put a microphone in my hand and you can’t shut me up. Blogging has given me a captive audience whom I can communicate my opinions to without interruption. It allows me to fully think through my real belief systems which no one gets a chance to really do in the crowded setting of conferences and meetings when everyone has to wait their turn to get a single point across. I would recommend blogging to anyone who feels their message is hidden under the burden of scheduled talk time.
My development as an Educational Thinker
The biggest impact blogging has had on me by far is that it has allowed me to truly develop my thinking about education. I’ve always considered myself to be an innovative, adaptable, lifelong learner as a teacher. Sometimes though, I have coasted through my career without really focussing on what I really believe about Education. I attend PD sessions, come back excited, tried out new theories then moved on to the next one after the next PD day. Better that than ignoring what I have learnt and stagnating as a teacher. Starting this blog, though, has given me a real focus on recording and reflecting on what I have learnt and believe.In the past I have scoffed at the thought of keeping a journal but now I truly believe in the concept, but its a journal I want to share.
Blogging has given me the opportunity to really concentrate on analysing where I stand in the age of 21st Century Teaching and Learning. To me, blogging encompasses so much of what 21st Century Learning is about and it’s why I’m so excited about the prospect of getting other staff members and their students involved. The table below outlines the 3 broad areas of 21st Century Skills. I want to finish this post by linking these skills to blogging and why I think it is so important not just for me but all other teachers and students (whether they want an audience or not) to blog.
The 4 Cs
Through this blog I have become more discerning about the educational and logistical merits of the iPad and Technology. Without taking on this blog, I would not have taken the time to critically analyse the pros and cons of implementing an iPad program. Through this critical thinking, I have been forced to problem solve issues and come up with practical ideas. I believe this is a great benefit for students and teachers alike. As 21st Century Learners, they must think critically and solve problems and blogging can be the platform for much of this to happen in their classrooms.
In dealing with these issues, I have had to be creative and innovative to satisfy the point of bringing up the discussion. By having a topic to discuss and potential readers to convince, blogging has developed my creativity in using the iPad in ways I hadn’t previously thought.
As a public forum for expressing views and opinions, blogging makes it necessary to communicate clearly and effectively. It makes me think clearly about what I want to say and to ensure I get my point across I am forced to go into more detail to benefit the readers. Hopefully students and other teachers will take on this challenge to depth their communication skills rather than just produce text for the sake of publishing.
I have also learned from others through blogging. Not only have I received comments to build on my ideas but through being a blogger I have felt the need to read and contribute to other blogs. This sense of collaboration has further built on my knowledge and understanding of the topics I am engaging in. Students and teachers alike should be able to see this as an opportunity to further develop their understanding and skills as well.
It may seem self explanatory but blogging takes Digital Literacy skills well beyond what most students and teachers have done in the past. Embedding media form other websites, seeking out images that can legally be used in a public domain ( instead of just ripping anything off Google Images for a printed project), editing work before publishing to a real audience, linking to other sources, sharing information with others, replying to posts and comments…. there is so much involved in authentic, effective blogging that prepares students for future opportunities in the world beyond school.
Career and Life Skills
Flexibility and adaptability – When writing in a public domain, you have to think flexibly about how you are going to present your ideas. You can’t say anything if you are going to a responsible blogger. As I have written some of my posts, I have changed my original ideas as I have gone along. I’ve responded to commenters replies with ideas I hadn’t originally thought of. As circumstances for writing about a topic change, you have to adapt and make hangs to what you want out of your blog. While that sounds a bit deep for students to deal with, they will be challenged to be adaptable in what they post if they find certain topics are getting more attention than others. If you want to maintain your audience, you have to be flexible in what you provide.
Initiative and Self Direction – Obviously, blogging is a decision you make for yourself and how far you go with and how much effort you put into it is entirely self directed. When I first started blogging, I had no idea how detailed my posts would end up being. But as they evolved, I felt I needed to do more research, provide more links, go into more detail. I thought I would whip a post up in a hour or so. Some posts have taken me a week to put together. But that was my decision. Students will need to make that decision too. What do they want to get out of it? How much effort do they want to put into it? It’s their call.
Social and Cross Cultural Interaction – I’ve built up a small group of regular commenters and from checking the stats I have a large number of subscribers who visit regularly. I get a buzz out of the fact I have been visited by 96 countries, some only once or twice, but still I have struck a chord with several countries from adverse range of regions. Its early days. but I can see opportunities for this to open up communication with others around the world. This is definitely a big benefit for student blogging. Communicating with other students around the world will open up the chance to learn much about the world.
Productivity and Accountability – Blogging encourages you to maintain a work ethic to maintain your audience and get your ideas out there. Following the rules of Blogging etiquette develops a sense of accountability as well. Students will learn to edit more effectively and if they are given the responsibility of personally monitoring their blog, they will have to be more accountable for what they publish. Following copyright laws is a requirement for public publishing they will have to deal with. It’s been a challenge for me. Google Images is not the answer, kids!
Leadership and responsibility – This blog has definitely impacted on my leadership qualities. The deep thinking I have done through blogging about ICT has given me a real focus in terms of ICT leadership. It has also made me think more about deeply about future directions and made me become more responsible for the areas I am involved in. Our student ICT team can get similar benefits out of the experiences we have planned for them as well and all students have the opportunity to use their blogs to discuss real issues rather than just post recounts of their holidays and weekends. When publishing views publicly, you need to develop a sense of responsibility for what and how to publish.
Blogging has had a real impact on me in a short time. I hope it has the same effect on the students and other teachers as well. I would like to hear from others about their blogging experiences too, either through their personal blogging or class blogs.