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The Benefits of Blogging

April 3, 2014

I created my blog, A History Teacher’s Toolbelt, back in September 2013 with the hope that it would help me to think more deeply about pedagogy.  At the time, I had made the decision to take a year off from teaching to spend time with my family, but I still wanted to develop professionally during my self-imposed sabbatical.  The idea to start the blog came from Tim (Tibbitts) who suggested that I create an online journal not only to cogitate about my teaching but also to to share ideas with other educators and display what I had learned to potential employers.

Over the course of the past seven months, I have written more than 50 blog posts on topics ranging from creating effective homework to the power of passion to the effect of technology on classroom instruction.  Delving into topics such as these and then writing about them is a powerful way to learn.  Here’s why:

#1 Writing slows down my thought process so I can develop my thinking about a topic.  It literally helps me to construct understanding.

For example – I recently joined a discussion about grading policies with other teachers on Twitter.  They were questioning the value of my approach, and I needed to think deeply about why I graded in the way that I do.  So, I sat down and wrote a blog articulating my grading philosophy.  What started out as a task I thought would take 15 minutes turned into several hours (and four pages) worth of thinking and writing.  By taking the time to expound about my philosophy, I was better able to articulate the value of my methodology.

#2 I have complete control about how my blog is written, so I have free reign to utilize my creativity to gain a deeper grasp of a topic and/or to convey my understanding more effectively.  For example, when I was examining the topic of homework, I read articles by Alfie Kohn who is the standard bearer for the movement to end traditional homework.  To gain a better understanding of his paradigm and to clarify my own, I created a fictional conversation with him about his beliefs by taking snippets of his writing and weaving them into my own.  Additionally, having creative license helps me break through writer’s block.   In fact, I decided to create a list like this one because I was having difficulty 30 minutes ago coming up with a way to express my ideas for this blog.

#3 My blog records my thoughts and opinions so I can share them with others.  Learning for the sake of learning can be incredibly rewarding. but it’s difficult to generate new ideas when you don’t have the opportunity to gain feedback from people with different paradigms.  Blogging lets me express my opinion and feelings about certain topics and then receive feedback from people who read my blog.  It started with just friends and family members commenting, but Twitter and other social media sites have allowed me to create what I call “the world’s largest faculty room” where I can share ideas with other educators.  In fact, last week I was exchanging ideas with a teacher in India who had seen an article I had posted on Linkedin.

#4 My blog will help me to share my ideas about teaching with parents.  We’ve all been to Back To School nights where teachers hand out a two-page description of their teaching philosophy.  While the handout may contain the nuts and bolts of the class, I can’t think of a better way to share my teaching philosophy than my blog.  Parents will have the opportunity to dive into a rich description of my thoughts about pedagogy and see that I’m a lifelong learner who is eager to learn new ideas while constantly honing my skills as an educator.

So, how does the blogging process work for me?

Usually, I find my inspiration via Twitter; an educator will post an article or articulate a point of view that lights a spark in my mind.  Once inspired, I spend time delving into the subject either by reading a book or by surfing the web.  To be honest, the web is a better resource because it provides different points of view about topic.  For example, last week, there was a great discussion on #slowedchat (a Twitter chat where teachers exchange ideas over the course of a week) about whether or not traditional grading (giving students letter grades for their work) stifles and inhibits learning.  So, I read several articles containing positive/negative views and then I wrote a blog to address my thinking.  By thinking and writing about it, I earned a deeper understanding of the topic and my feelings about it.

I do most of my writing in the quiet hour between five and six a.m. when the kids are in bed and it’s completely quiet.  I fire up the kettle on the stove and take the time while the water is heating to read over what I wrote the previous day.  Then, with coffee in hand (this morning, I’m enjoying a killer cup of Kona coffee), I sit down on my couch and go to work in my dark living room.  The writing process for me never really comes easily.  I tend to be a perfectionist, and that leads me to write and erase several times before the words begin to flow.  However, when I am passionate about something, the words tend to rush out, and I do my best to capture them in a Google Doc.  Once the rough draft is written, I usually let it sit for a day and then work on the draft the next morning to fine tune and make edits.  If I’ve learned one thing about writing this year, it’s that I actually enjoy the editing process of finding the right word or the best phrase to express an idea, and I will keep hammering on it until I get it just right.  One blog I wrote about the flipped classroom model and how it transformed me as a teacher took over three weeks to write.

Once I have written my blog, I share it on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to obtain feedback and exchange ideas with other teachers.  I’ve found that when it comes to social media, there is always someone willing to collaborate to help me learn more.  Perhaps the best example of the benefits of networking occurred in December after having an epiphany about the power of the flipped classroom (teachers have students watch videos at home for homework to create opportunities in class to work one on one and in small groups with students).  I had posted a blog about some concerns  with the model and a physics teacher wrote back expressing his point of view.  This exchange lead to a fruitful discussion, and eventually he invited me to come see his flipped classroom in action.  It’s these dialogues with my PLN (Personal Learning Network ) that have had the greatest impact in changing or developing the way I think about pedagogy, and  sharing ideas on Twitter and other social media sites has made me a better teacher.

Plus, by creating my own Personal Learning Network to examine topics related to teaching during my sabbatical, I will have an amazing resource to use once I return to the classroom.  Right now, I have more than 500 followers on Twitter, and while I only get feedback from a small number of these people, the feedback I have received has been invaluable.  Next year, I will be able to post questions or lesson plans on social media sites and receive feedback from teachers I trust the very same day.  Additionally, my PLN provides me the opportunity to engage my love for curriculum development by helping other educators create lesson plans of their own.

Blogging has also changed the way that I view myself as a writer.  Being dyslexic, it takes an incredible amount of energy for me to develop written content.  But it’s that difficulty that allows for the depth of thought that the writing process gives me.  For example, I was grappling with writer’s block when I sat down to write this blog, but my struggles led me to create connections that I might not have seen.  Writing for myself rather than for others has been incredibly empowering for me.  By freeing myself from the expectations of others and writing about topics that I am passionate about, I have discovered joy in the writing process.  In fact, there have been plenty of times when I thought to myself, I can’t wait to write about this.  I’m an incredibly verbal person who enjoys discussing ideas, but now I have the confidence to write about them.


One Comment
  1. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but
    your sites really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your website
    to come back later. Many thanks

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