“OK Sean, I am ready to start reading some blogs. Can you tell me where to start… give me a few places to begin?”
The above question is one I have begun fielding more and more often from faculty members as of late. Many teachers at Benton, and a growing number from other schools in town are ready to start tapping this powerful resource. In my opinion, this is a fantastic way to begin. Read. Read. Read. The best way to understand blogs is to read them.
The second step in the process is usually making your mark publicly and actually commenting on a few blogs that stir your interest. This is a very important move because it is the step that actually defines you as a contributor. This is no small thing, for this is a contribution to what has become a vibrant and global conversation.
For some, the final step in joining this conversation is to set up a blog, which is a place to guide a community of conversation of your own. Sure, some folks will say that they blog “for reflection”, or to “sort out their thoughts”, or even to “create an archive of what is happening in my life or work.” To this, I agree completely.
Blogging fulfills many of those things for me as well. However, if that was all I really wanted to do, I certainly wouldn’t need to go to the Internet for it- much less do it in global public spaces. I would simply download one of the available free journal applications… or just tap away at MS Word. Right? Okay, perhaps Pages for me… but you get the point.
For me, the act of blogging has been responsible for more synthesis of thought than I have experienced in a really long time. For me, this is not only a place to put together professional thoughts, life experiences, and opinions, it changes the way I experience things. I find that I am now engaged in the act of “blogging” even while away from my laptop during most waking hours (and likely a few while asleep). I have always composed in my head, and this exercise makes it happen often. That said, for me personally, it is also very much about the interaction with those who reply to, link to, or blog about the ideas that I present there. That interaction between interested people from many countries not only changes the conversation after I post to the blog, but it also affects my future writing as I once again consider the audience that unfolds there.
So, where do I tell folks who ask where to look? The first place I suggest looking is down the right-side column of my blog under the header “blogroll.” This is a list of bloggers who, for differing reasons, have compelled me to plaster a permanent link from my site to theirs. Looking through someone’s blogroll is akin to mining the bibliography of a really super journal article. My blogroll is my “go to” list when I get a hour to read. How did I find those names in the first place? The answer to that question is as diverse as is the list.
However, more and more I realized that before you fill up Google Reader with a ton of blogs you may or may not read later on, there might be a better place to begin. And really… if you are just starting to open up to blogs as a learning resource, you probably aren’t ready to mess with RSS just yet. I really do like Alltop. I still use it. I came pretty close to titling this post: “RSS for the masses.” When I want a visual version of the latest posts from the best blogs, I scan the screen there and click at will. In the words of Alltop, their service “is an ‘online magazine rack’ of popular topics. We update the stories every hour. Pick a topic by searching, news category, or name, and we’ll deliver it to you 24 x 7.” There is also a nice little explanatory video linked near the top of the main page.
In fact, just this past week, Alltop has now added a feature called “My Alltop.” As you can probably guess, this is a user-customized screen showing only the latest posts of the blogs you choose from all categories. I created my personal page the day it went live, and it bookmarks tons of blogs on the topics of education, science, neuroscience, literacy, news and even a few humor and “being a daddy” -type blogs. To me, it feels like something between that of a beefed-up blogroll and an aggregator. Another cool feature is that you can share the URL to your personal page with others.
Give Alltop a go. Clicking here directly will take you to the “education” page. There you will see some of my favorite blogs by Will Richardson, Karl Fisch, Clay Burrell, Michael Doyle, and many others. You will also see EdNews, the US Dept. of Education, and Boardbuzz: The National School Boards Association. Technologically, this site is really basic stuff. Geeks will tell you this is nothing special. But think… have you ever heard Mick Jagger sing? The guy sucks as a vocalist. He can’t sing a lick, and yet the Stones sound awesome. Much like Apple touts its products, it just works.
In fact, as of a couple of months ago, you can also find my nascent little blog there.
The day my link first appeared on the site, I received a message that invited me to go to Alltop and download a badge to adorn the blog. I’m not above badges. Badges are fun. Steeenking badges. The one you see just above is the one you’ll see in the right sidebar of my blog. However, if public education wasn’t my business of choice, I might have been inclined to choose the more playful one shown modified below:
Add Alltop Education to your bookmarks toolbar. Click when you have a slot of time that couldn’t dare handle the latest print release by ASCD, but certainly could slide in a blog or two. Oh and of course, look for me there:
Oh yeah… I almost forgot: My name is Sean, and I approve this message.
*Artwork thanks:“would you read like this?” by ken-ichi. “sharing” by furiousgeorge81. “numeral types” by threedots.