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You wanna do what for PD: Blogging AS and FOR professional development

August 10, 2009

Teachers rarely get to self-select learning opportunities, pursue professional passions, or engage in meaningful, ongoing conversations about instruction.

-Ferriter (2009)

Blogs can be the tool that helps to change this statement.  I would argue that blogs can be used AS a PD tool to help teachers learning and FOR a PD tool to help teachers learning.

AS

There are numerous blogs about learning and teaching that exist on the internet.  In a Google search of education and blogs, there were 273 million results.  Not all of these were blogs, some were listings for blogs, other were blogs about education blogs, but the vast majority were blogs written by educators for educators.

Topics in the field of education vary.  Technology education is a topic of many education blogs, but there are blogs related to special education, art education, and many others.  The amount of knowledge that the authors of these blogs posses is unfathomable.  From James Hollis who publishes a SmartBoard blog, to Vicki A. Davis who post a general educational technology blog, there are numerous blogs that will satisfy the thirst for knowledge for teachers.  Check out the Davis site as it has an “edublog roll” of other education related blogs.  Be sure to check it out.

How do you find the time to read all of the quality information that exists in educational blogs?  The answer to this question is through the use of an RSS reader or RSS aggregator.  An RSS reader is a free tool that checks out websites that you have subscribed to and will download new content.

RSS Feed Icon

RSS Feed Icon

The icon to the left is an icon that appears on most blogs.  There are a few other versions of the icon, but they all do the same thing.  When the icon is clicked on, it begins the process of subscribing to the “RSS feed” for the website.  In plain english, your RSS reader will now pull in any new content that is publihsed to that website/blog.  As a user of the RSS feed, the next time you go to the reader, there will be an update of all of the blogs that you subscribe to.  There are various RSS readers.  One of the most popular is the Google Reader.  Personally, I have set up my RSS feeds into my Microsoft Outlook.  When there is new content, the title of the feed turns to bold and I know that there is new content waiting for me.

Much like my travels through the internet, I quickly scan the titles of the blogs to see if there is anything that interests me.  I now see how extremely important it is for me to have a blog title that is catchy (more on this later).   With ten minutes before I have to be out the door to take my girls to gymnastics camp, I read 2 or 3 blog postings.  I have learned a bit about what a Twitter Panel is and will have to do some more research if I find the time.

There is a blog for everything education related.  My best piece of advice is to find a half dozen to a dozen blogs that you find interesting.  They may be interesting because of the style of writing (see a fellow classmates blog) or perhaps the content is just really really good.  You could spend all day reading blog postings, but you would never actually get on with the rest of your life.  There has to be a balance.  So,

  • find the ones that you get the most out of
  • find a certain amount of time each day to read them
  • engage with the author and other readers of the blog
  • and start your own blog – see next section

FOR

mrcoles.wordpress.com – my fingers have memorized the sequence and location of the letters as I have typed this address into the address bar of my browser so many times in the past 5 weeks.  This is not abad thing, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experiences blogging and hope to continue once this course comes to a close.

Blogging allows the everyday person to be a writer and a publisher.  Whether it is at the kitchen table, the computer desk, or from a cozy bed, with the covers pulled up, anyone can publish their thoughts and opinions for the world to see.  I have always been under the impression that my ideas were amateurish.  I didn’t have a book deal, a publisher, or an editor.  I would never see my name and face on the inside cover of a book.  I still don’t think I will ever see my name and face on the inside cover of a book and I won’t have an editor (other than my wife Meghan), but I can be a published author.  My ideas have value and I am sure there is someone (maybe only one) who will be interested in my thoughts and opinions on topics that interest me.

To blog is to be reflective in practice.  From the time I was in university, reflective practice was something that was preached.  As we went to out into the real world of teaching we were supposed to bring our reflective journals with us.  In theory this is a great idea, in reality this is not likely to happen.  The act of teaching (and marking, and coaching, and meeting, and …) takes up too much time.

Who was going to read the reflection anyway?  I wasn’t going to, I wrote it, why would I read or re-read it?  The co-operating teacher and University Facilitator might, but only until the field experience was over, then who would read it?  There wasn’t an audience, there wasn’t someone to give you feed back.  The exercise lost it’s meaning because it was a one way conversation.

This is where the professional learning blog comes in.  There are teachers out there who will communicate, who will share, who will comment, who will reciprocate the one way discussion into a two way discussion and give the act of writing one’s thoughts and ideas more meaning.  I fully plan to have two PD goals this year.  The first is to have continued work on my masters.  That is an easy one.  The second will be to have a blog on technology education as it relates to my use of it.  I may include information on the newest web2.0 technology to come out and how it can be used within the classroom, but I primarily want to discuss my abilities to use technology in the classroom and the success or lack of success that I have.  I hope that I can develop a community of people who will read and respond to my blog.  The response will give me feedback, ideas, and support so that I can continue my journey of education technology integration.  With support comes improved teaching for myself and improved learning (I hope) for my students.  Is this not the goal of a professional growth plan.  It is not a piece of paper that you make two copies of (one for you, one for your administrator) so that you can say you completed it.  The growth plan is designed to help the teacher grow and I feel that active blogging and reflecting will help me to do that.  I also believe that the readers of the blog can see grwoth as well.  They will be gaining in their knowledge, but they will be encouraged to try new things, learn more, do more, and teach better as a result.

References:

Ferriter, B. (2009) Learning with blogs and wikis.  Educational Leadership, 66(5), p. 34 – 38. Retrieved August 9, 2009 from CBCA Education Database.

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3 comments

  1. I appreciated your strategies for limiting the number of blogs you read. Keeping up really can be time consuming. I agree that there is a wealth of information out there on any educational topic that may be of interest. Perhaps schools should schedule PD days that faculty could devote to online searches. However, a few demonstration-type training sessions still lend themselves to face-to-face learning. Interesting.
    Lori


  2. Dan,
    Vicki Davis is a great source of information and ideas regarding integrating technology into the classroom. I enjoy reading her blog and being inspired by the things she is writing about.
    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts about your personal pd for the upcoming year and too believe it is more than writing it out and making two copies. Makes me think about my personal pd for the upcoming year – hmmmmmm????
    Thanks for that – lol – Carol =)


  3. Dan,

    I like your idea about continuing your blog to reflect on your use and teaching of these new web tools with your students this year. I look forward to following your progress with your students.
    Ruth



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