Teachers, if you’re ignoring teaching blogs, you’re missing out!
Depending on your average class size, your classroom provides enlightenment and education to groups of 20 to 100 or more students, one class session at a time.
And while this is a good format for “one to many” teaching in a semi-personal environment, you could be reaching SO many more eager minds, including the most underprivileged people who can’t afford education in the traditional sense. Many, who would otherwise greatly benefit from all that you have to teach.
We’ll talk about creating mass exposure for your lessons later in this article. First, let’s explore the concept of teaching blogs, and examine why it’s such a powerful resource for teachers to utilize for education, exposure, and even a nice full-time, job replacing online income.
Photo Credit: hackNY.org CC BY-SA 2.0
Teaching Blogs Defined
Blogs, also known less commonly as web logs, are a very simple style of website where articles are posted regularly in an easy to find, easy to navigate main page.
New articles push down older ones, creating a streamlined content source where regular visitors can access the same homepage and see regularly updated content.
Common Uses of Teaching Blogs
Media platforms: Smaller news websites use blogs to update readers on what’s going on within their sphere of coverage.
Online journals: Among passionate and lifestyle oriented communities, blogs are often used by individual users as publicly available online journals.
Users enjoy browsing each other’s blogs and seeing how others are progressing along similar paths that they are also following.
Celebrity updates: Similar to the online journal format except less community focused, and more celebrity centered, the celebrity-style blog updates loyal fans and followers with the celebrity’s life choices, thoughts of the day, pictures and videos from exciting events.
Authority/educational blogs: Like any popular author who rises to stardom based on his or her unique insights and contributions to a certain field, authority blogs can build the same kind of viewership and exposure.
The only difference is the medium; instead of dealing with publishing companies and other complexities of print, good ideas on blogs can be rapidly shared and spread due to the viral nature of online sharing (think Twitter trending. Much of the internet works in a similar way).
Where Do Educational Professionals Fit?
Authority and educational blogs are usually where teachers and other educational professionals feel most comfortable.
This does not mean you have two maintain a formal, academic sounding tone and purpose, however.
Aspects of other blogging styles can be incorporated into an educational blog. For example, a breaking news event affecting your field of education could warrant a specific post on the subject.
And if you enjoy a little extra attention and connection with your fans and followers, you may even incorporate some personal posts from time to time, detailing not only what you teach, but your experiences in the field.
This form of gentle personality injection can be quite effective wherever your fan base is passionate, be it exploring the inner science of active volcanoes, or the graduate-level studies of microbes in the lab. It’s not whether your friends and family think what you teach is interesting, but how passionate your fan base is.
A Match Made in Heaven for Passionate Educators
Here are just a few of the reasons why blogging provides a wealth of community and educational benefits:
Connection with other experts. As an educator it’s quite likely that you have your own drawers full of notes and thoughts on some of your most passionate subject areas.
Unfortunately they don’t do much conversation-wise, when hidden away in a desk. But when you post these valuable insights onto your blog, it’s not just the students who benefit. Other experts also read blogs, and blogging is an excellent way to build connections with other experts in your community.
Some of these relationships might stay as a mere friendly exchange of thoughts and ideas. Others might evolve into more fruitful relationships that continue to persist into industry meetings and perhaps off-line relationships as well.
Teaching blogs makes students more active. It’s perfectly acceptable to devote a section of your website to a campus or class blog that only students can access.
By doing so, you can create discussions, post articles, and develop a community learning environment accessible from everyone’s home computer. It’s a great supplement to any classroom learning environment. In fact, some online classes are using teacher run blogs as the core discussion environment for the course.
Encourages writing among participants. This is especially useful in the English department, but as writing is a core focus of almost any school course, the fact that blogging is primarily a text driven medium further encourages students to develop their writing skills and critical thinking through written communication.
Built-in archiving, and its benefits on critical thought. Most blogs are set up in a way that accessing older posts is easy and convenient. This is quite helpful during lab assignments or other ongoing projects where students greatly benefit from taking a few steps back, and re-examining their thoughts towards the beginning of an assignment to see how their thinking developed as the project continued on.
Evaluation skills are developed, as is training of journal related disciplinary skills and metacognition.
Peer pressure — the positive kind. Certainly anyone who knows that his or her work will be put in front of dozens, perhaps hundreds of other people, will spend some extra time and effort on it.
Blogs promote this positive peer pressure due to their public nature. Even a private blog only accessible to fellow classmates still receives an audience, providing a powerful vehicle for students to put in a little extra effort to show off their best work.
Incorporating Your Teaching Blogs into Your Current Teaching Strategy
A good place to start blogging, is within the classes you already teach. By using your blog as a supplement, you can test out different assignments and blog structures to see how students benefit from each variation.
Eventually, you will find a combination of online tactics and strategies that improve the richness of your course offerings, decrease your workload, and make the process more enjoyable for all.
Later on, as you become more adept at blogging, you can consider unshackling your knowledge from the classroom environment altogether, and develop an authority blog that attracts people from all around the world, united under the common interest of your subject focus.
For now, let’s talk about a few ways you can enhance the learning environment in your classroom…
Find ways to encourage collaboration. Each week, consider linking to an important article that you believe your students would find valuable. Assign a comment on the article to every student.
Some students may comment on the article itself, other students may comment on other comments, providing a dissenting opinion or thoughtful alternative.
This is just one more way to encourage collaboration within the classroom environment.
Use the blog as a classroom portal. You can post new assignments, updates on upcoming exams, and other relevant class information directly to your blog, and direct students to go there for information.
By building this setup with the blog acting as a main component of the course, you subtly encourage students to access the website on a regular basis, which increases the chances that they will make use of other resources also found on the blog.
Teachers who run classes with infrequent physical meetings will find this strategy especially useful for increasing time spent on the course material.
Promote active learning. It’s one thing to use your blog to post classroom updates and encourage thought-provoking comments. But the community aspect of blogging doesn’t stop there; why not have your students post valuable content themselves?
This can be done in several ways. You might break the students into groups and have them post a high quality contribution, along with a discussion from their own view of how the material relates. Or you can have smaller assignments, even contests, encouraging each individual student to post relevant references around a core topic.
The possibilities are endless, and there are endless opportunities to engage students into active learning using blogs as an online hub.
Photo Credit: U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv CC BY-SA 2.0
Developing a Public Internet Blog
You’ve seen above how to use the power of blogging to engage students, and found out firsthand just how powerful it was as a learning supplement. Now, how can we use a blog to educate even more people beyond the classroom?
Blogging is an excellent vehicle for thought leadership; that is, the spread of new ideas all across the Internet, made available to anyone who has the interest to read it.
Here are some ways you might use blogging to promote your thoughts and ideas online:
Free education: Imagine a world where every student, no matter his age, income, or country of origin, could access a wealth of information and use it to educate himself and become a more productive member of society.
By tapping into the power and global reach of the Internet, and combining it with thoughtful and generous educators like yourself, such a world is possible. More educators blogging will eventually create this egalitarian learning environment to students across the world.
You can use your blog as a pure outreach mechanism to help more students learn your subject area.
Do you have to give away everything you teach in your physical classes? Of course not. The opportunity is yours to share as much information as you’d like, and also reserve some information for those who take the extra steps to participate in your face-to-face class settings.
Enhanced and higher level programs. Another blogging model you want to consider is one that produces some free content to help students learn an idea with more clarity or ease. In addition, you also provide a paid product or membership area where more advanced lessons can be learned. This is commonly known as the freemium or “step up” model.
This is a very common model among authority bloggers inside and outside of mainstream education. By providing free content, the blog gains in popularity through word-of-mouth, social media exposure, search engine indexing, and many other online channels.
Paid content is then used to compensate your time and energy on creating and developing the website.
Study guides, rapid learning courses, video breakdowns, even private tutoring are all options. Some educators have gone on to quit their teaching job and provide education entirely online through their blogs. Certainly they didn’t do so overnight, but with the proper medication and devotion to the blog’s readers, many teachers can follow this same path themselves.
Teaching Blogs to Draw Inspiration From
Below you will find some of the most popular educational blogs online today. If you aren’t inspired by these blogs, nothing can help you!
Just kidding. Pay attention to the positive traits that stand out about each one – they are an excellent source of inspiration.
Websites of the Day by Larry Ferlazzo. As the name implies, Larry shares a lot of helpful websites and other resources that teachers would find useful while teaching their students or even developing more background in their own profession. He shares many useful tips and tricks as a result of his research into the most effective ways to teach.
MindShift: How We Will Learn. A peer into the future of learning as it is slowly shaped through culture and new technologies. If you’re interested in the future evolution of education, MindShift is a great blog to follow and learn from.
Ozge Karaoglu. Finding it difficult to keep up with all the latest web apps and tools online? You need to follow Ozge Karaoglu’s blog. It’s an excellent resource for keeping abreast of the latest technologies that you can put to use this week, especially technologies of the kind that improve the learning experience.
KidBlog: Made specifically for K-12 students, Kidblog encourages teachers, students, and even parents to actively engage in the blogging process. Teacher run blogs are restricted by access code, allowing students to participate in private classroom sessions online.
Now it’s Time to Start YOURS
Build Your Own Blog teaches you how to build a blog – not next month, not tomorrow. Today.
And that sense of immediacy is important. For the same reason you do your best actively engages students in their learning materials, learning how to blog is a skill set best developed with real world, in-field practice.
Go to Build Your Own Blog to see how to do it in a simple step-by-step guide that will take you from the “mindful of questions” stage, to becoming the proud owner of a functioning blog, complete with your own fans and website visitors.
And most important of all, remember to have fun. Blogs exude personality and passion when the author has a smile on her face as he’s building it for her adoring audience.
Final Photo Credit: Teaching Biking by Heather Harvey CC BY-SA 2.0