Setting up and maintaining a blog requires a considerable commitment of time and energy. What reasons are there in support of investing one’s resources to such an enterprise (given all the other things in professional and personal life that need attention as well)? I spent several years occasionally visiting other people’s blogs, and then the past few months doing so much more regularly (through an RSS reader). Why not just continue to be a passive ingester of the thoughts and ideas of others? Why embark on the path of adding one’s own into the mix (beyond commenting on others’ blogs, without having one of one’s own)?
This question is about why teachers/scholars might want to spend the time to blog, rather than one focused on why blogs might be useful as part of coursework for students. Here I post some of my initial thoughts on the question, to be supplemented later as I get more blogging experience.
This self-reflective question has been asked by numerous bloggers, of course, but also by those who have a blog devoted to reflections on teaching and learning. Wendy’s EdTechBlog has a brief entry on this question. Anne Davis (blog: EduBlog Insights) has a post that lists reasons why one might blog as a teacher for reflection and sharing/learning from others, as well as why one might start to use blogs with students. I also found a link from Pedablogy that links to several discussions and comments on the question–great stuff! (I post the Pedablogy link instead of the other original discussions, b/c it has them all together in one place!)
Here are some of my own preliminary thoughts…
1. Reflection, analysis, evaluation are important to improving teaching. I often find that if I don’t write down what worked well or not so well in my courses while they were going on, and ideas for future changes, I would forget it for the next time and repeat mistakes (or fail to make changes I had thought of earlier). I used to keep a notebook in which I would, when I remembered, record some thoughts on what was going well or not so well in my courses, and ideas for changing things in the future. This notebook was not always readily available (being sometimes at home, sometimes at the office…I suppose I could have carried it everywhere I went!), and if I were looking for entries on a particular course or assignment. I would have to flip through the dated entries to find it. A blog is similar in some respects, in that it is sorted by date; but of course many blog programs also allow one to sort by category. The date sorting is useful for one to be able to follow the progression of one’s thoughts over time; but this is not always what one wants. The key, then, is to organize one’s categories on the blog to make finding relevant entries fairly easy.
I also used to keep notes in a file folder focused on “ideas for change for courses,” and when I remembered to do so I’d look at those notes while designing my courses each term. This, of course, can also be incorporated into the categories of a blog. But would a blog be *better* in some way than a paper file? Perhaps at least in that it is available wherever one can connect to the internet.
Having read a number of blogs by other educators focused on teaching and learning, I have seen how they have engaged in active reflection in their blog posts–on their own beliefs and values as teachers, how they put these into practice in their work, what they have learned from others (including their students), what engages them about teaching and learning, etc. These kinds of reflections are things I used to do occasionally in my own head without writing them down, or only recording them when I need to prepare a statement of my teaching philosophy. But I think, without having done any research on the issue, that such reflection can help one improve teaching by being conscious of what one is doing and why, and whether or not one’s teaching and learning activities support and further one’s goals.
Might blogging help one engage further in this kind of reflection? I think yes, if one is inclined to be reflective already. The blog is there already, and public–giving one a sense of some level of pressure to put something on it. Perhaps the blog isn’t read by many people, but the fact that it could be read by even one other person provides a sense that one should put something there that would be useful for someone else to read. Reading others’ reflections on their own teaching and learning activities has been useful for sparking my own; so perhaps I can do this for someone else.
Which brings me to #2…
2. Having read other edublogs and finding them helpful (for encouraging reflection on my own part, for giving me ideas on innovative pedagogical methods, and more), I felt it important to try to give back. If I can learn so much from others, why not share the wealth? I have found in the course of my teaching career (nearly 10 years now) that I learn most about teaching and learning from other people, from discussing with them what they do as teachers and why. I would LOVE to have had blogs to appeal to as a graduate student learning to teach (as I love to have them now!).
Which connects to #3…
3. Connecting to a community: in the limited experience I’ve had reading other blogs on teaching and learning, there seems to be a sense of community fostered that can lead to greater chances for discussion in the future, in the blogosphere and in person.
4. Even if no one else is reading, the blog is a fantastic space to think things out for oneself…getting back to the “reflection” piece. There is an interesting mixture of “privateness” and “publicness” to blog posting, if one’s blog is not read by lots and lots of people. There is a sense in which it is for oneself, a place to keep one’s ideas and thoughts for future reference; and yet it is potentially going to be read by others, so it needs to be relatively clear and organized (if one is concerned at all about it being useful to others). It seems to me it will be a great way to organize my thoughts, ideas, reflections on practice, values, etc., for myself–and if it’s interesting to others, well, great!
That’s probably plenty for the moment, and in the coming weeks and months I’ll update this list with new ideas. Please comment with your reasons for blogging as a teacher (apart from why use blogs in courses).