Share, Record, Network

imgres.jpgWith the amount that I talk to educators I’m often asked about why I started blogging and what advice I have on how to get other students to blog. So I thought tonight was a good night to finally put it in writing. First though I want to make something clear: The thing is, blogging is not for everyone and the key to why I blog is because I want to blog, so if you want your students to get all of the benefits of blogging, they have to want it as much as you want it for them.

I didn’t always want to blog. What few people know is that my blogging journey actually began as a freshman when I was required to write a blog post for every section of Hamlet that we read. The not so popular, asmithroman2017 site is where I first started blogging and I didn’t hate it, but I definitely didn’t care about it besides knowing I wanted to make a good post to get a good grade. There was one night where I had some fun because I wrote one of my entries entirely as a haiku for what my friends and I called “Haiku Monday” where we only communicated virtually in haikus. Even that night though I remember it being late and not having much desire to blog.

So when did the mind-shift happen? What made me enjoy blogging? Why did I even start a new blog?

Well it started with a game of bingo. At the end of my freshman year I was officially inaugurated into the first ever Innovation Diploma cohort, and for the summer we were all sent an “ID Bingo” document that had various ideas for things you could do over the summer to start thinking like an innovator. One square was about trying something for 100 days in a row and documenting your progress, and another was about starting a blog. I knew how to use wordpress due to my Hamlet assignments, and I couldn’t think of another thing to try for 100 days, so I thought “Why not mix the two squares and try them together?”

So in short, to be completely honest, I started blogging just because I’m the kind of person who likes a good challenge and a little competition and strives to accomplish goals I set for myself (even though I don’t remember even doing much with the bingo game after school started). I know I’m not really the average student though…

However, I know exactly why I continued to blog after achieving my goal, and I don’t think this was just because of my own personality. As I said in the post where I completed my challenge:

“Blogging everyday was definitely a challenge. There were days were I was not motivated at all to blog; I either had a bunch to do, or I was really tired, or I would have to use my phone to post within that day, or some other excuses I may have had. However, if I have learned anything from blogging, it is how I found that even when I couldn’t think of anything to write about, there was still something to write about, because there is always something to think about.

Blogging has helped encourage me to observe the world more closely, and I’ve really enjoyed the thoughts that have come from the observations. I’ve also enjoyed having a place to share my story. With all of the design thinking I’ve done, I’ve really become apparent of the importance of a story, but also the importance of sharing a story. If a story isn’t shared what can it really do?”

144,000 Minutes (100 days) Of Blogging; Challenge Accepted!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t think there was a light switch “ah-ha” moment. At least I couldn’t pin point it to you. I just know that the more I blogged the more I felt myself clarifying my own thoughts, and the more comments, likes, and re-tweets/posts that I got, the more confident I got that my work was valued and maybe even needed in the community. I couldn’t stop, and I still couldn’t if I wanted to. I notice even after a few days that my mind starts spinning with things that I just need to get out of my head because there is only so much room in there.

However, as much as I love blogging, that’s just me. Like I said at the beginning, “blogging is not for everyone,” and I think part of the reason it was successful for me is because it wasn’t forced on me. I chose to blog. My blog was mine. While I love feedback on my blog, I was never blogging for a specific person or people during those 100 days that hooked me on blogging. I was blogging for myself, to sort through my ideas, and share my story. I feel an odd sense of comfort blogging and to be honest when I’m asked to blog about something specific I feel weird about it because it made that post feel like it wasn’t completely mine. It’s one of those weird psychological things that’s hard to explain and I don’t completely understand what I’m trying to say, but I notice a difference when I’m asked to blog about something rather than when it’s something I just decide I want to write about when I sit down at my computer that night. It actually bugs me a little when someone says “oh this is what you should blog about today.” Like I said, I don’t know why, and often times the person is right that it’s something worth me blogging about, but it’s different when it’s not my own observation that I should blog about something.

A blog should be a place of freedom for observations, rants, stories of success as well as failure, a place that you feel proud to call your own. That’s what hooks people from my observations. When people see that something purely from their brain is making other people stop, read, think, and share is when they feel most empowered to blog.

And by a blog being a place of freedom, I’m essentially saying that it can’t be forced. It doesn’t matter if you see all of the great advantages of blogging, because it’s something the blogger must discover in order for them to be a committed blogger.

And I repeat, “blogging is not for everyone.” I keep repeating this because I feel like everyone (and I say this loosely) is on this big blogging kick where everyone is trying to get their students to blog. But I believe the secret is to think about why is it that we want to blog? I believe a blog is a place to share, record, and network. And the great part is that a blog is not the only way to accomplish these goals. Really any form of social media can accomplish these goals, if used to your advantage.

I don’t think students need to be pushed to blog, but I believe 100% is pushing some form of social media, though it should be the form of the students choice. I personally hate Facebook after a few rough times in the past trying to use it and finding it not user friendly. I’m sure it may not still be this way and if I would try again maybe I’d love it, but I can be stubborn and that’s just not my choice tool. However, some people love Facebook and they have millions of post, photos and contacts which allow them to share, record, and network their own learning adventures. Twitter, Instagram, even Snapchat I bet could be used to accomplish these goals if you really take advantage of the tools.

I hate how so often in society, especially school, social media is looked at as a negative thing. How many times a day do you hear someone say, “get off of Snapchat”? I don’t even have one, but I hear it all of the time. What if rather than focusing on the negative we focused on the positive? I’ve written on this topic before, so I don’t want to dwell on it; however, I just wanted to make it clear that blogging isn’t The Answer, it’s just an answer on how to share, record, and network your learning.

So to answer the question as to my advice on how to get other students hooked on blogging here are my 5 big thoughts:

  1. Don’t force it!– blogging needs to be “safe” and “free”
  2. Make it fun: maybe it’s a competition, a challenge, a contest, whatever motivates your students
  3. Help grow their confidence by sharing their work so they expand their network; comments from new people is super motivating
  4. Help create the “time for blogging” sometimes it’s hard to think of something to say when you first start out, or you think you don’t have the time, so help set a time for students. Maybe the last 20 minutes of the last class of the week is “blog time” where you can write about anything, but you have to make a habit of it otherwise you’ll always have an excuse to not blog.
  5. Embrace the why over the how: If blogging isn’t the right form of social media, find another, even if it’s out of your social media comfort zone, let it be the student’s choice because they need to use what they are most comfortable with, and embrace how the “why” -share, record, network- can be achieved in different ways
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