For the first blog post as a response to my Digital Media for Art Educators class, we are to find blogs by teachers and 'blog the blog' - an interesting concept that will serve many purposes in this class as a way to increase our practice in blogging, but also to network in the world of blogging. As a former Integrated Marketing consultant/expert, many clients would ask about blogging and the need for anything Web 2.o oriented. Keeping in mind that as the web became more 2.0 focused, I began to lose interest. I often had a problem with web sites that started to rely on user-generated content as a means to put a staff writer out of a job. AND, have you ever noticed the number of typos on sites these days? I think the other day I counted over 5 on the Washington Post web site alone. same for the local NBC news site. (but then again, they keep Barbara Harrison around...)
For me, there are many factors that make me want to dig-in to a blog and become a regular reader and follower. At first glance many things must happen for me as a site visitor:
- Does the blog look 'professional'? If there is a children's drawing as a main image, i'm gone. and won't return.
- How much content is on the main page - or in most blog cases, how is the blog organized? Is it a jumbled mess of ads?
- How long has the blog been around? (depth of content) Was the blogger/teacher an early adopter or was this blog a last minute fulfillment of some requirement - it shows.
- When was the most recent post, posted? Why should I read something that is six months old? You MUST blog regularly
- Are images used? and are they used well? Is this blog really just a digital refrigerator? Blech.
- Does the blogger understand the basics of writing for the web? You should be able to read a post in one sitting.
There are several blogs I like to visit routinely, but only one that is a regular stopping ground for me is that of my partner John Copenhaver. His blog Talking the Walk was started a couple summers ago as a means for him to blog about the fine line between teaching and making art - in his case, writing a novel. The creation of his blog was mostly as a marketing tool to get his name out there, but also to provide insight into the process HE was following to get his book published while trying to maintain a full-time teaching position at Flint Hill School in Virginia.
Because John is my partner, and the love of my life, it's hard for me to be biased about his blog - and, well, I forced him to do it. BUT, he has really taken it to the place that he can really 'talk the walk' and maintain it on a regular basis. At first he blogged quite frequently and I would give him prompts that I would give any client as a means to get more readership and exposure. Over time, he realized that the grueling writing schedule interfered with the purpose of the blog, and he now blogs less frequently but with more intentionality. His site stats have continued to grow, and he is very aware of how he needs to understand his traffic and who is linking to him and who posts comments. He is great at replying to comments and has started many dialogs with readers that he would not normally come across in his daily life. This is one of the aspects of blogging that I find most useful - the sharing of ideas and the dialog that is created by people that just stop by to read.
While not specifically a 'teacher' blog, I also regularly visit the blog at the Chronicle for Higher Education. This is a great resource for me as a future educator because there are many posts/articles about what is happening in education these days, something that I think is important to stay on top of. A particular interest of mine is the use of technology in the classroom. Technology changes with the wind it seems, so it is important for me as an early adopter to stay on top of trends so that I can keep up and change my focus as necessary. I believe that teachers much always stay ahead of the curve - especially since many teachers don't even know how to use computers (a generalization, I know) it worries me that a student will not be able to learn from me if I don't understand where they are at technologically. The blogs on the Chronicle site are very easy to read, but what I find most interesting is that because of the audience to the site, the dialog that is started in the comment area tends to take the ideas further and really make deeper connections of the thoughts.
For me, a blog really shouldn't be just a series of 'how-tos' - most teacher blogs are just that. I think what makes a great blog is the sharing of the good, the bad, and the ugly.