Time to raise your hand?Posted: April 8, 2016
If you are an Australian teacher then welcome to my obscure corner of the internet. I hope you have found something of interest. I don’t expect you to agree with me about everything that I write but I do hope to provide access to some ideas that you might not otherwise encounter.
If you find this useful or interesting then I have a proposition for you. Why not start your own blog? I am keen to read more blog posts from Australian teachers; posts of a certain kind; posts that think critically about education rather than those that simply describe or promote particular teaching methods. A description of how to use a new iPad app certainly has its place but I am more interested in questions of value and evidence.
What does blogging involve? Well, the overriding rule is to keep going. Tempting as it is to try to distil all of your thoughts about education into a single manifesto, it is better to write little and often. Use a news item to spark a post. Follow Twitter and respond on a hot topic. Do not worry about repeating yourself. I repeat myself a lot and it really doesn’t matter. The more you hone an argument, the better you are at articulating it. Your readership will be growing and there will always be someone making the same points that need the same response.
For instance, in my most recent piece, I took issue with an education professor who thinks we should teach critical thinking and creativity. I have argued against this before and I have drawn upon the work of others such as Dan Willingham, Carl Bereiter and John Sweller to explain why I think that these are reified skills. I guarantee that I will keep on making this argument until there comes a time that it is accepted in the mainstream; a time when professors stop promoting these objectives.
If you start a blog then what are you getting yourself in to? Firstly, you must decide whether to blog under your real name. I have no problem with anonymous blogs. You certainly shouldn’t use one to launch personal attacks against people but you shouldn’t do that anyway. Yet there are some people who take great offence at anonymous blogging. There are two reasons for this: They struggle to separate a criticism of their ideas from a personal attack and they want to know about you so that they can launch personal attacks of their own. The world of education has been a comfy one for a long time and it is hard for some people to accept that a different perspective could be valid.
The other issue with anonymity occurs when and if you start being asked to write for newspapers or present at events – it can be hard to navigate. When you start out, this may seem like a distant prospect but look at what has happened with education blogging in the UK. Bloggers have not only organised their own events, they have affected government policy and brought the schools’ inspectorate to its knees.
Importantly, whether you blog under your own name or not, you should avoid writing about things that are happening at your current school. Fair enough, if you are describing a particular approach in pretty neutral terms then there seems little harm but if you are being critical or if you are describing students then there is great danger. So I would steer well clear of that.
There are a few good, critical, education blogs by Australian teachers that are already out there. I was going to link here to Corinne Campbell’s blog but that appears to have gone private – I hope it’s back again soon because, although we don’t always agree, Corinne writes thoughtful, provocative posts.
I particularly like Disengaged Educator by Mark Johnson and Things Behind the Sun by Benjamin Evans who write great posts on how their thinking about teaching has changed. The Aussie Ed blog – which I think is written by Brett Salakas – has taken things up a gear recently by posting some polemics that I disagree with but that are a welcome addition to the debate. Educationalists have also started to dip their toes in the water of blogging and so this might be something to watch out for in the future.
Take a look at some of these blogs and you might get a few ideas about what you could write. I don’t have a comprehensive catalogue and there are bound to be great bloggers out there who I haven’t even read (let me know). Nevertheless, I still think that there is much room for growth within Australian teacher blogging. It is a means by which the profession can start to take control of its own destiny but we have to reach a critical mass before politicians start to take notice, particularly in a split federal/state education system. This is why I am asking you to take part.
So have a go. Setting up a WordPress.com account is easy and so I recommend this platform. When you do, make sure you go to the ‘sharing’ settings and change them so that it Tweets your Twitter handle whenever anyone Tweets your post (you are on Twitter, right?). That way, people can share your post with ease if they like what you have written, without having to manually tag you.
Let me know when you’re up-and-running. I look forward to reading your ideas.