Monday, October 17, 2016

Three Reasons Why Teachers Should Blog

Ignite!

Ever see or participate in an "ignite" presentation? To say that it is stressful is an understatement. I've done my fair share of presenting in front of my peers or at various conferences, but the amount of time it takes to prepare for an ignite speech is a bit shocking considering that it only lasts a grand total of five minutes. The presenter gets a total of 20 slides that last 15 seconds each. Did I mention that the slides move automatically? 

At the Indiana Connected Educator's Conference, I had the opportunity to give my first ignite session. I suppose it is very fitting that I'm going to blog about my topic: Teachers Should Blog. There are a number of reasons that I run through as to why that is, but it all roots from my own experience as a teacher. I had a website. It was terrible to use, but it is what I had available. I attempted to make the most of it and genuinely made an effort to engage students and parents with it. I would update it frequently with pictures/videos of learning experiences taking place in class. I would make homework help videos and post them to assist with mathematics. I even had students helping me with making math videos and updating the homework list on my site. I put a lot of time and effort into my teacher website as it was my main source of communication with parents.

What I found over time was that it didn't meet my needs. Websites are intended to be more static. You may update bits and pieces of information from time to time, but websites are intended to stay fairly consistent. What I truly needed was a blog. I needed a chronological record of learning experiences.

Here are three reasons you should have a blog:

1.  Be Informative

The chronological nature of a blog allows eliminates the problems that exist within a traditional website. Teachers need to have a continual flow of information that parents can count on week after week. This is much like your weekly newsletter you are more than likely already creating. What types of information do you include on it? Classroom learning experiences, upcoming events, and other various classroom needs. These pieces of information can all be covered within the confines of a blog. 

What do you avoid by discontinuing a newsletter and moving into blog format? Students/parents losing your newsletter. Your readers merely need to subscribe to your blog so that they can receive email updates letting them know that you have updated information. Also, it is quite simple to push out to forms of social media. Teachers do not have time to utilize Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. What if you pushed out news via your blog but use social media as a means of distribution? 

I know what your next question is before you can even ask it. You're going to ask about your parents that do not have Internet access. Surely you still need a newsletter to send home in paper format. The solution is quite simple: PrintFriendly. (Click for more information) Find out which parents need a paper copy and create printer friendly versions of your blog posts just for those individuals.

2. Share Your Story

There is a lot of negative information floating around about educators. How much of it is actually true? Eyewitnesses are key. Being transparent about the learning experiences you are providing for your students will build rapport with your stakeholders, students, and even your colleagues. It is essential that you are the one telling your story. By doing so, the teacher can reduce the amount of fiction floating around and build support from parents. Who wouldn't want to see a quick blurb of what is happening inside the walls of their child's classroom?

As I said previously, eyewitnesses are key. So if you are feeling like a blog is something you cannot maintain, make it a class project. Have students get involved by making it a continual writing project. Students love the idea of being able to contribute to a class blog. They go home and share with their parents what they wrote. In turn, you get traffic building up to your blog as they also share these experiences with extended family.

3. Refine Your Craft

Teaching is an art form. It is something you never truly perfect as there are always things that can be changed and new challenges arise. When I look back at my teaching experience, I have only my memory on which I can rely because I was constantly updating my website. Those experiences are no longer recorded. Ultimately, a blog allows you to store your memories so that you can bring them back and relive a teaching experience. What better way to refine your teaching craft than to be able to revisit the experience that you or your previous students recorded? It will give you the opportunity to reflect on what worked and what didn't. How is your class different this year than last year? How can you better meet the needs of individuals? 

When I visit my blog, I can visually see growth. I can see where I once was and where I am going as a teaching professional. I have five years of information built up that helps me recall my experience in educational technology. The greatest value of a blog isn't so much in the nature of it as a communication tool or the opportunity to share your story. The greatest value comes from the opportunity to reflect upon my work. 

I'm Talking to You

I understand the reluctance to have a blog. Many teachers believe they do not have anything to offer. Teachers are busy people with a long list of responsibilities. I'm not suggesting you tack one more thing on your list. It is about replacing. Replace your newsletter. Replace your traditional site that you hate to update because it takes too much time. Blogging is easy because it is about sharing the passion you have for this profession. Be proud of what you accomplish with students. 

Want to get started? Blogger is a great place for teachers to have a blog. It is easy to use! Click here to see all my tutorials and suggestions on using Blogger. 

My Ignite Speech