Blogging and Professional Development was the title of the webinar led by Sandy Millin on May 21st as part of the British Council webinar series. This was actually the first webinar that I have been able to take part in and I wanted to take some time to reflect on what I learnt.
I really enjoyed the webinar despite the fact that my brain, fingers and keyboard couldn’t seem to work in unison. I did take two really good things away from this webinar though. The first was about a reader called Feedly and the second was a lot of great blog suggestions from all the participants.
Feedly was a great tip because I receieve a lot of e-mails from all the blogs that I subscribe to and although I value reading them, sometimes they drown out the e-mails that I receive from my other accounts.
Now I have Feedly set up, new posts are kept for 30 days. This means I can take my time reading the latest posts and with the app installed on my iPhone, I am able to browse through the blogs I follow on my morning commute. Everything is in one place and I don’t have to worry about losing great posts in a sea of e-mails.
As well as giving some great tips, Sandy also tried to answer some common questions that people might have. Here are just a few of them.
Why read blogs?
There were a lot of great blog suggestions during the webinar. I didn’t get a chance to copy all the links, but I am hoping that a list of them will be collated at a later date. I’m looking foward to having more great sources of material to read.
Sandy asked the participants why they read blogs. The most popular reason seemed to be ‘picking up new ideas.’
I’d have to agree with this as I have picked up lots of great ideas from reading other people’s blogs.
One example that comes to mind is when I read this blog post about designing houses out of paper by Carissa Peck, I created my own 3D house template, which has worked extremely well. Many thanks Carissa.
Another reason to read blogs is that you can become more aware of the ELT industry, and some of the issues that teachers face. A good example of this is TEFL equity advocates and the work they do to advocate equal job opportunities for both native and non-native English speaking teachers.
This was one of the questions that Sandy asked and it is something that I have thought about before. Back in January I wrote this post as part of the ‘What’s your Story?’ blog challenge that was hosted by Vicky Loras.
It took me a long time before I knew what to write for this blog challenge, until I realised that one of the biggest changes in my life was my blog. Now that I had an idea I started to write about the reasons why I started to blog, but I also wrote about how my blog changed me. I was partly inspired to start blogging by Sylvia Guinan’s post ‘30 reasons why your blog can make a difference.’
Back to the webinar though, Sandy also put forward several reasons for blogging, which included:
Reflection, Sharing materials with others, Keeping a portfolio of work, Making connections and networking with other teachers and bloggers, asking for help and finally carthasis. Taking a moment to express what you are really thinking.
I started blogging as way to internalise what I was learning. Blogging was supposed to be the outlet, so it came as a great surprise when my blog turned into the catalyst for new ideas. I wasn’t just blogging what I was learning, I was learning because I was blogging, and I took these new ideas back into the classroom with me.
I remember that I taught myself new aspects of Excel in order to create the Word Jumble template for my blog. I was then able to use these templates in the classroom. The template made making ‘Word Jumble’ materials a lot easier than before and I probably wouldn’t have made the template if it wasn’t for my blog.
What to write?
Sandy recommends several things you can write about:
The things that interest you, Introducing and sharing your material or ideas, or reflections on lessons – looking back on what worked and what didn’t. Other ideas included asking for help, responding to issues or questions raised on other blogs or responding to webinars.
Typically, my blog focuses on things that interest me and for sharing ideas. Occasionally though I will write the occaisonal opinion post, respond to another blog, and today I find myself writing about a webinar.
I think it is worth writing about a wide variety of things. I am one of the worst judges of what people want to read. A post I spend a week on may not be as popular as I think, but one I spend a short time writing on a Sunday evening might surprise me. In fact one of your most popular posts can be a completely different way of writing, for example I wrote this post as a response to a post by Anthony Ash. It was just my attempt to answer some questions that I thought Anthony had raised.
It just goes to show that it is difficult to predict what kind of blog post will become popular.
Another point that Sandy raised about writing blogs is that you shouldn’t feel the need to write weekly or to a schedule. You should write when you have something to say and when you want to. Forcing yourself to write can be counterproductive because you will become frustrated trying to think of new ideas, and the quality of your posts will drop. As a result, your readers may lose interest in your blog if they sense that you don’t have any interest in what you are writing. If you are not interested in it, why should the people who read your blog be?
I largely agree with Sandy, but still I do try to write something every week. In the early days of my blog, I tried to write on a certain day, but then my schedule changed and so did my obligations. Life definitely got in the way. I then tried to write on the weekend, but that’s not always possible, so I write when I can and where I can. Right now I am writing this on the train to work.
I do this not because I feel I need to, but it’s because I feel I have to. I feel I have to stay involved, because I am the kind of person that can change my focus easily. Drifting from hobby to hobby, learning one thing one week, to losing interest in it the next. There is no better example of this than when I started reading Moby Dick but decided I would take a short break from the book, promising myself that I would go back and finish it, despite the fact I lost interest in the story. That was over 10 years ago.
Now I haven’t lost interest in my blog, far from it, but I have found a routine helps me to focus on the things that matter.
I do agree with Sandy, don’t feel that you need to write every week, but I think you should listen to yourself. Write to suit your personality, whether it is free and sporadic or according to a routine.
How has blogging contributed to my professional development?
I suppose the only question left is how has blogging contributed to my professional development? Well, I learnt new things by reading other people’s blogs, I learnt new things because I wanted to develop ideas for my own blog. I have collaborated with other bloggers and I have become much more aware of the ELT industry and some of the issues that teachers face.
Would I go back to the days before I started tekhnologic? No. I wouldn’t want to give up something that has given me so much.
Do you blog? How has blogging contributed to your professional development? How has blogging changed you? Leave me a message in the comments if you want to share your experiences.
Finally, many thanks to Sandy Millin and the British Council for putting on the webinar. It was greatly appreciated.