Much consideration has been given to the effects of blogging in education. Usually; though, the research considers blogging from the standpoint of the learner: How does blogging enhance a student’s learning environment? Does online interaction between students and/or teachers improve the student’s understanding and educational experience? While most of this research returns positive results, surprisingly little literature can be found on the effects of blogging on teachers. Even then, the research involves either inservice teachers or the blog’s effect on the learning environment. But what of the teacher? How does blogging further both the professional development and the well-being of the teacher? How does researching pertinent material for one’s classes or voicing opinion on education policy create an environment for growth and learning for the teacher?
Dr. April Luehmann, of the University of Rochester, led a case study that sheds some light on the effects of blogging on the teacher. In her paper, Using Blogging in Support of Teacher Professional Identity Development: A Case Study (2008), she follows the blog of “Ms. Frizzle” and “the adventures of a science teacher in a small public middle school in the Bronx.” Ms. Frizzle updates her blog at least once a week and posts on a variety of topics. Blogging is her favorite method of both reflecting on her craft of teaching and communicating with a professional community.
Through her study of Ms. Frizzle, Luehmann identifies five claims in support of blogging:
- Blogs Allow for Self-Direction
Each educator can determine the focus of their blog. Some blogs focus primarily on education policy, while others are used for disseminating information and tips on lessons; still others are used for research and development within a field of study. Also, blogs allow for a teacher to create their own agenda; no administrator determining topics or direction.
- Blogs Provide Rich Opportunities for Reflection and Metacognition
There is something almost therapeutic about blogging. Being able to organize your thought and ideas to construct an article offers a kind of release that is rarely found in education. The reflection and metacognition really allows the blogger the opportunity sit back and understand their own voice.
- Blogs Invite Perspective-Making and Perspective-Taking Through Interacting with an Audience
Blogging can create a wonderful environment for growth. Through feedback from other educators, a community of learners can form, offering support and constructive ideas to aid all parties. New perspectives and new ideas can develop from this “social cross-fertilization”.
- Blogs Allow for Knowledge Brokering
As educators post to their blogs and read others’ blogs, information is often connected, shared, and added from one related post to another. Also, educational blogger usually use past works from different educational gurus or specialists that help to corroborate or strengthen their positions.
- Blogs Can Support Identity Development
You are what you blog…or at least your ideas are. When creating articles and posts, bloggers allow a bit of their personality to shine through and can lead to either a formation or development of an identity.
Ultimately, Dr. Luehmann’s case study of Ms. Frizzle finds blogging to be quite beneficial for the teacher:
“This study documents that blogging enabled this teacher to engage in a number of practices deemed valuable in the literature on teacher education, including connecting to one’s autobiography, engaging in critical inquiry, interacting with professional community, critically reflecting on practice, integrating expert voices, and engaging in professional work in a long-term and sustained way.”
I would like to add five benefits of blogging I have experienced through the few months of writing this blog:
- Blogging Reignites a Flame for Teaching
Although I certainly wouldn’t call myself “burned out”, beginning to read and write about some of the latest findings pertaining to the subject-matter of my class (AP Psychology) has created a renewed appreciation for the subject.
- Blogging Reignites a Flame for Learning
With the ever-increasing deluge of “stuff” teachers have to do on a daily basis, it’s easy to put our learning on the back burner. Life takes over and we begin answering emails, completing lesson plans, attending meetings, coaching sports or leading clubs, grading, etc…and that’s just what happens at school, nevermind having a life at home. Blogging gives me the opportunity to research specifically what I am passionate about (cognitive psychology and education) at a pace I can manage. I do not feel pressure to follow anyone’s agenda or complete a certain amount of posts in a month. The act of blogging is mostly just for myself and my development as an educator. If by publishing my research, thoughts, and beliefs online I help others or start a conversation, that’s just great. The more I read and learn, the more I want to read, learn, and write. Sometimes learning is a beautiful, almost poetic, venture.
- Blogging Increases Your Professional Learning Network (PLN)
While creating this blog, I have communicated with countless other teachers and college professors about my work or their work. These connections are usually made through Twitter, but also occur via email. By increasing my PLN, I feel like I belong to a bigger community of learners.
- Blogging Increases Your Confidence in Your Craft
For many reasons related to blogging, I don’t feel like just your average teacher, but a teacher connecting with those who influence my passion and profession. I have a stronger voice as an educator. A year ago, I would’ve never thought to comment on someone else’s ideas or participate in #edchats on Twitter. Now, with a healthier sense of self, I seek out other’s blogs and regularly participate in chats on differing social media platforms.
- Blogging Enhances the Classroom Environment
I believe this benefit has the largest positive effect on my class and is also one that I did not foresee experiencing. In the minutes between classes or before, during, or after lunch, I am working on my blog. My students walk in my classroom and see me reading, annotating, and writing. They see the struggle with writing, proofreading, and rewriting. I tell them about this new, cool study I’m reading. They experience my nerdiness. At first they playfully mocked me, but eventually I heard statements that they couldn’t believe that their teacher still learns stuff. They think it’s great their teacher “actually likes what he teaches”. This has positively influenced my classroom environment more than any other strategy or policy ever has. There is a level of trust between my students and myself. Their knowing that I am passionate about the material makes them care about the material. They know I am concerned with their learning enough to continue learning myself; which is imperative when teaching such a research dense class like psychology.
I believe blogging to be a wonderful exercise that all educators should try. We consistently talk to our students about stepping out of their comfort zones, but rarely do so ourselves. Showing our students we can be vulnerable and fallible is ironically powerful in the classroom. Blogging is a great way to show our kids we are in the trenches of education with them. We don’t necessarily hold all the answers and we too are the lifelong learners we profess they should be.
Http://rochester.academia.edu/AprilLuehmann. “Using Blogging In Support of Teacher Professional Identity Development: A Case Study.” Academia.edu – Share Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2016.