Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students- Part II: Writing

You are reading Part II of a series of blog posts that started out of the desire to help teachers learn more about blogs for themselves in order to help/coach/facilitate their students’ blogging adventure. My guiding questions for this series of blog posts are:

  • How can I make it easier for teachers to learn about the process of teaching and learning with blogs?
  • How can blogging enhance student learning?
  • What are components of QUALITY blogs?
  • How can I guide teachers in experiencing a shift in teaching and learning and help them make a pedagogical commitment to blogging.

In Part I, I laid out the importance of READING blogs in order for the teacher to be able to gain and understanding of student blogging as a platform FOR learning, not “just” a vehicle for technology integration.

I do see blogging as a journey. It is not as simple as waking up one morning and deciding “Let me blog with my students” or attending one Professional Development workshop or conference presentation about blogging and thinking to yourself: “I’ll start blogging on Monday.”

The journey begins with reading blogs, but it has to continue with WRITING.

I firmly believe, that an educator who expects his/her students to blog for learning, NEEDS to be blogging for their own learning. 

The biggest obstacle for writing is YOU! I hear educators, who are or want to blog with their students,  tell me over and over again the reason why THEY don’t/can’t/won’t blog for themselves:

  1. I have nothing to say that might interest anyone
  2. I am not a good writer/ I don’t like writing
  3. I don’t have time

Let me address each one of these:

“I have nothing to say that might interest anyone”

My response to the reluctant or scared bloggers, who feel that they have nothing to contribute to the edubloggersphere, is usually that blogging should not be about “others”. Writing a professional  blog should foremost be about yourself as a learner and about your own journey. Writing for others might come later down the road.

I explored “Who do You write for?” in a previous post. I listed MY reasons for writing.

  • I write for myself, because I enjoy writing.
  • I want to practice writing in order to get better at doing it.
  • I blog because I want to have a record of my thoughts, my learning process, and resources that I find.

Seth Godin,  in a video, expresses that the METACOGNITION of thinking matters when blogging.

It does not matter if anyone reads it. What matters is the humility that comes from writing it. What matters is the metacognition of thinking about what you are going to say. How do you explain yourself [...]? How do you force yourself to write in three paragraphs why you did something? How do you respond out loud?

The blogger needs to realize that the primary reason for their blogging is NOT to please others, but to be a process that aids in their own learning.

Obvious to You, Amazing to Others” is a short video clip by Derek Sivers that talks about what so many new want-to-be bloggers also feel like in respect to their potential writing contribution to the field.

“My ideas are so obvious, I will never be as inventive [as others]… but I continue to do my work, I tell my little tales, I share my point of view, nothing spectacular, just my ordinary thoughts.

He continues to explain how one day someone emailed him to ask HIM how he ever came up with that genius idea?

“Everyone’s ideas seem obvious to them[...] so maybe what seems obvious to oneself, might seem amazing to someone else.”

We need to keep this profound little discovery by Derek Sivers in mind, when we think that we might not have anything to contribute through our writing that would be of interest to others!

“I am not a good writer/ I don’t like writing”

Diving into blogging with our students, it is our hope that they grow as writers, that they connect their learning with new knowledge and that they will be able to express themselves in age appropriate eloquence. We also acknowledge that looking and preparing our students for their future must include a literacy (of reading and writing) through different media and new genres.

If we are in charge of preparing our students, we need to be riding the wave as well.

Karl Fish asks on one of his blog posts titled “Just Write Poorly. In Public. Every Day.

This begs the question, of course, about how much our teachers are writing. Particularly our Language Arts teachers, but really all of our teachers. If it’s so important for our students to write, how come we’re not modeling it?

Seth Godin continues to share in the same video mentioned above that

If you are good at it (blogging) someone is going to read it. If you are not good at it and you stick with it,  you will get good at it.

If you are one of those who feel that they just don’t like writing, maybe due to writing assignments from their own years as a student, keep in mind that:

Writing for your own blog IS NOT like a writing assignment from college. There is pleasure, inspiration and satisfaction to be found in your writing.

Give writing another try, without the deadline, performance Angst or grading pressure that used to come with it. Remember you are writing for yourself. You are writing for your own learning journey.

I don’t have time

Oh yeah… the good old response: I don’t have time…

It is a great response for almost anything. It is easy and quick to say… It fits perfectly, it molds itself to any request, idea, proposal, thought… for the not so good, the great and the best ones…My thoughts are somewhere between “then don’t”… and … ” choose your priorities wisely”…

So, let’s get down to real life tips to help you write your blog. Keep in mind, that the same basic principles apply when facilitating blogging with your students.

  • Just write!
    Write for yourself first. Blogging is about your own learning. Use it to remember, to document, to follow and refer back to your own journey. Remember that the destination is not always the goal, but that the journey is what you after. No more excuses for not getting started.
  • Write about what interests you
    No reason to force subjects and topics on you that bore you. Digg deeper into your area of expertise or explore something you always wanted to learn more about. Don’t feel confined. You can find a niche by writing about one area of interest/subject matter or you can write about anything that think and wonder about. It is, after all, your blog
  • Don’t force a certain writing style on yourself
    Find your own: be formal/conversational/narrative/ straight forward in outline form, etc. Experiment with different forms.
  • Link to what you read
    Connect ideas you read about to your own ideas and thinking (give credit where credit is due of course!). Collect quote and citations you come across, as you read traditional books or during your online reading. See them as puzzle pieces that you assemble during your writing to paint a picture of your point of view.
  • Add visuals
    Find ways to add visuals that support your thoughts. Creative Commons images (from Flickr for example) are your best friend. Sometimes a single visual can even spark your writing. Remember to also take your own images( to use in your blog) as you explain the way you see the world. If you enjoy graphic design, consider creating your own visuals as well. Many visual minds learn best by taking an idea or concept apart and by visually re-assembling it.
  • Make writing  (on your blog) part of your work and learning process
    Don’t see blogging as something in addition to what you do. Incorporate, embed, braid it into your work.
    Need to write a lesson plan? Lay it out via your blog. Explain your rational for choosing certain activities and pedagogy. After you taught a lesson, make reflecting  (on your blog) part of the lesson planing cycle.
    Doing research about a certain topic and need resources? Use your blog as the platform where you collect and review the resources you find.
  • Leave a positive Digital Footprint
    What would you like others (colleagues, students, parents, administrators, future employers) to find about you, if they were to google you? The answer to this question can give you ideas about what you could write about as you are starting to share and shape your digital footprint.
  • Create a professional brand
    Brands used to be reserved for companies. Since we have become a “producing” society (not just a consuming one), the concept of branding has spilled over to us “individuals”. Your “brand” represents who you are, your beliefs and points of view across different media and online platforms. The writing on your blog will help define your professional brand.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist
    Obviously do your best, but the point is to get it out, to process your thoughts, to formulate your thinking. Don’t spend hours on finding the “perfect” image at the expense of actually writing the post.
  • Don’t get stressed
    You don’t/ won’t (most likely) get paid for your blogging, so don’t add unnecessary stress to your life. Work at your own pace. Don’t set yourself deadlines that you won’t meet and only stress you out. You will enjoy your writing much more.

Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian,  in a post titled ” Just Blog it! Blogging Tips & Ideas” gives the following advice:

Blogs are like pets – you have to feed them regularly [...] If you start a blog you should try to maintain it. Post when you can, be upbeat, share what you can, give anecdotes about your profession, tech tips, lesson ideas, student successes, & professional philosophies.

  • Start When You’re Ready, Already!
  • No Excuses!
  • Keep an Idea Folder Going!
  • Schedule it
  • Get Graphic
  • Share Shamelessly
  • Gimme a Widget!
  • Be You!
  • Give Credit
  • Be Thankful
  • Be Stubborn

Just as Karl Fish called for above: Just Write Poorly. In Public. Every Day. I am calling educators out to start writing too. To start writing FOR their students (Not necessarily FOR them to read your professional thoughts), but in order to become:

  • better writers FOR them (to teach/coach/facilitate)
  • transparent learners
  • aware of their own learning journey

How can we teach/coach/facilitate blogging and hence writing, if we have not gone through the process ourselves?

What is the most important advice you would give a teacher to start blogging/writing?