It has been 7 months since I started this blog and I have found it to be one of the most rewarding things I have done in my career as a teacher. I am now firmly of the belief that it is something all teachers should do on some level. I can think of no better way of building links with other teachers allowing you to experience new ideas and widen your skill set. So here are 5 key things I have learned so far from being a teacher blogger. I have to say that up until this point, I have stayed away from the 5 things format but in this instance, I think it is the easiest way to structure this post.
1) Professional development
Too many teachers think that professional development is a course (or series of courses) that you go on. When doing recruitment, I get frustrated by teachers who have a CV with a list of one day, non-assessed courses who then mention nothing about how they have developed in a covering letter. I am much more interested in people who have been proactive and have taken steps to build communities and share their learning with their colleagues. Since I have started this blog, I have made connections with people across several continents and learned of new useful technologies and new approaches. My only regret is that Edtech is only part of my job and I wish I had another blog to discuss school leadership and subject specific work. I am planning to start one where I can do this but I haven't got it off the ground yet.
There is no doubt that blogging leads to you developing a far reaching learning community or network. I have been eternally surprised by how much busy professionals are willing to take time out to help answer a question or make contributions to Free Technology for Schools. Could it be that blogging brings out the best in people and promotes altruism? My favourite occasion this year was when Memrise contacted me for some advice. As you can probably tell from some of my posts, I think this is one of the most amazing new pieces of technology available for learning languages. Having the opportunity to help them develop new tools for educators was an excellent experience.
3) Learning new skills
By simply committing to writing on a regular basis, it has made me become more proactive about learning new things. I can't write a blog about free technology if I am not learning about new technology, therefore blogging for me has promoted learning. It has also allowed me to dust off the old skill of writing, something a science student in the UK system doesn't really do from age 16 onwards. I will be honest, the quality of my posts is variable but I do think I have made some improvements.
4) Making time
This goes without saying. To blog effectively it should become routine. Different people have different time allowances. I found I was able to do it once or twice per week. When you blog regularly you notice it with your traffic. At one point I had built my traffic up to 18000 page views per month. Once it got to June with the usual end of year report writing coupled with the needs of a pregnant wife, my writing fell and so did my traffic. It is going to be interesting to see how easy it is to blog in November once the baby arrives. I might become the nocturnal blogger...
5) Promote your blog
You will not be making the most of your time spent blogging if no-one is able to read what you write. I would also say that you really want the right people (i.e. other teachers) reading your blog so you should really think about how you promote your blog. I have found the following really useful; Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Edmodo. I also use Pinterest, Scoop it, Teach 100 and a few other blog networks.
There is a danger that you can spend more time promoting than writing which is bad so here are a few tips. Edmodo and Google+ will give you the biggest traffic surge if you post in relevant communities and you can automate posts to Facebook and Twitter using www.ifttt.com. The key is to promote enough to get people reading and then interact with readers.
I hope these 5 points are useful. Now that I have the free time during the summer, I am going to start work on a few other blogs. In particular, I am going to start a personal blog to discuss wider issues in teaching and learning along with some fun things that I experience and learn from. I'm sure I will let you know about it here on Free Technology for Schools.