Teacher as Writer
Whew. I barely got this logged in time. Too much fun making snowmen as of late. Or work? yeah, that too. Allow me to get straight with it…
Last year I nominated Michael Doyle for the “Best Teacher Blog” in the 2008 Edublog Awards in this post. Dr. Doyle writes a blog quite simply entitled “Science Teacher.” If you dare think, “oh, a science blog… what’s the next one” then you and going to miss out in a big way. This blog doesn’t need a snazzy title. It doesn’t need a dozen crafty widgets or badges. Here the words speak for themselves.
If you’re a science teacher at any level, then this is your blog. If you love honest and crafty writing with a fat dose of wit, then this is your blog. Far more importantly, if you have even a shred of a connection to our natural world left within your spirit, (or perhaps even more importantly if you don’t) …then mark it.
Doyle blogs about the daily experience of teaching in the classroom, from the newspaper as a conscientious citizen interested in education in America, and from the Atlantic shore as a curious observer of life. These threads are present from post to post as you read down the page from day to day. However, what is particularly inspiring is the fact that they are typically interwoven within most individual posts as well. If this award was more about writing from the heart and soul and less about edtech popularity then Science Teacher would be a shoe-in. I hereby nominate this blog once again in the category of “best teacher blog” in the 2009 Edublog Awards.
Networks or blogs?
I am a huge proponent of the power of Ning networks done well. Like most things, if you don’t know what you’re doing, the slick and simple technology at Ning certainly won’t save you. However, if you are really good at facilitating strong community, then this platform has a million advantages. I have led my school, our district and my classrooms through the use of this platform for rich sharing and reflection. A quick glance to the right sidebar will net links to the networks I manage in some way or another.
Speaking of facilitating community, Connie Weber has it going on at Fireside Learning. She is one of the few network creators who does things that make me say: “hey… I need to try that.” This network is also not an edtech toolfest. Hear me loud and clear: I am a huge proponent of the potential of web technology in education. However, I am rarely an outspoken fan when said technology is not mostly invisible. Anyone can tap keys on a blog. A monkey can start a social network on the Ning platform. Yet where gifted educators apply their skill, sweat, and spirit… good things happen. Fireside Learning is a solid recommendation for “Best Use of a Social Networking Service.”
However, there is a bit of overlap where the rubber meets the road on blogs/networks. Bear with me on this one. It’s like this: Melissa Corey’s Benton Media Center network is truly one of the best technical uses of social media in a school library that I have seen. I am far more than happy to say that this is the website of our school library media center. This site is truly a blog, but obviously also a crafty aggregation of multiple tools on the Ning platform that help to bring information to the students at Benton. In fact, if I need a second pair of eyes on any design I create, she’s the gal I consult. My nomination for “Best Library Blog” goes to Benton Media Center. Yes, you wish your library were like this. And yes… I fully understand that this site doesn’t use traditional blogging software, but it really is primarily just that… a library blog. It is certainly the dominant feature on the site.
School administrators blog? Seriously? Wait… did you say central office administrators? What impact could they possibly have on a school system? OK, sure, there are a small band of school administrators who write publicly in blogs. For example, Chris Lehmann is the school administrator of a model school that rides the progressive edge. I have followed Chris’s blog for a while. His blog is an excellent blueprint for an administrator blog. There really isn’t an award for “Best Administrator Blog.” This is a pretty substantial shame. We have a nomination for “best tweet” but not for a school administrator? OK, I love Twitter, but I’m not remotely capable of laying out a nomination in that category. Wait, I know- let’s pretend! Let’s assume for the time being that there really is a category for school administrators who blog.
For the central office administrator up-and-coming blog to follow, I recommend: In The Lead. This blog is written by Dr. Jaime Dial, the Asst. Director of Secondary Education in the Saint Joseph School District. Jaime has only been writing this blog since summer, and I think you’ll see that her strength is slow blogging. She allows ideas and experiences to simmer away inside before spilling out some very readable synthesis. Not many people do that well. I think you’ll agree with me… this is a blog to keep track of. I would love to see In The Lead score an official nomination in the 2009 Edublog Awards. Perhaps next year we’ll score that category, huh?
In fact, if I could point to two, I’d also nominate my close instructional partner in crime at Benton High School. Jeanette Westfall is Co-Principal at Benton High School in Saint Joseph. She is the boss in charge of instructional improvement. As the instructional coach at Benton, I work closely with Jeanette in the “pedagogy” sphere of the TPACK framework. Jeanette is the author of Ancora Imparo. She is an excellent example of a day-to-day practitioner in a public school who writes about it in digits for all to see. In the end, keep your eye on these two. Surely next year we’ll have a category that honors the rarest of educator-bloggers: the school administrator.
Artwork*Desperate Horseshoe by Bemep on Flickr *legs by Thomas Hawk on Flickr *3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept by lumaxart on Flickr
Wow–deeply honored to hear of this nomination, especially from you!
We’ve been working hard to do exactly what you said, “facilitate community,” and it’s so validating to hear that it’s actually working.
It’s so great when you put up posts on Fireside. You get us all stirred up. You are such a good writer; your stuff is so deeply thoughtful (and often so funny)! Thanks for all your contributions, thanks for enriching the community.
What a great way to begin this dreary, snowy, slushy, icy, rainy November-in-Michigan day. I’m suddenly energized!
I do have an affinity for stirring things up… usually in a very productive way at least. 😉
And really- “working hard” at developing a sense community is where it stops with others. I’m a member of a ton of networks competing for my time. There are others who work far “harder” than you do by sending broad messages time and again imploring me to take action. Hard work equates to banging your head against the wall if you aren’t doing the right things. In my opinion, you certainly are. Your place seems less about “building the most massive, influential network” and more about creating a really unpretentious place for smart folks to chat about smart things. I like it.
Thank you for the mention in your blog. I can’t thank you enough for pushing me off the cliff and making me step out and synthesize my thoughts. As a leader, I think it is easy to forget the impact we can make through our writing. Through this blog, I now have a medium for sharing some what used to just sit in my head…or get shared with my husband over dinner. 🙂
Yeah- Erin and I know all about that “shared over dinner” thing. Thinking about it now, it is the mark of a relatively young central office administrator to be so “connected.” Meaning that the sheer fact that the generational gap between most upper admins across the nation probably aligns with a gap in digital communications. And really- not to mention the type of two-way communication you are beginning to engage in.
Actually- it is funny, age is not directly correlated with proficiency in web-friendliness. There are plenty of brand new teachers that enter our ranks at the ripe age of 22 or so and have little to nothing to do with using the web as a learning tool. They’re social… and usually on Facebook… but many know little about digital learning and professional interaction.
Anyway, thanks for getting out there and being a strong example in our district. Here’s betting there are some really rich connections for you to come via blogging in the coming year.
Cool horseshoe crab tracks!
(And thanks for the plug–much appreciated. I am still amazed at how folks get connected with nothing more than photons etching patterns on flat screens. It’s been an interesting week–I could use a little less “interesting.” Your words came at a mighty fine time.)
You’re right. Days ago folks could still connect back and forth with swipes of ink on paper. It was largely two-way between two people who already knew one another. You’re right- the whole “get connected” part you mention here really is the interesting part. Of course most of those connections are rather superficial. However, think about those that aren’t… and how those would have likely never happened just a decade or so ago.
Once all of the smoke clears surrounding this digital explosion in another decade… these will be the things that remain interesting even then. Methinks.