It is time for a post where I encourage you to start blogging. My advice has changed over the years but my objective has not. Blogging about education has low barriers to access and is a potentially high impact way that teachers can start taking back control of our profession. Here are my three tips.
1. Begin under a pseudonym
I used to be more ambivalent about this point, but I am now convinced that new bloggers should generally start writing under a pseudonym. There has been a worrying trend in people complaining to bloggers’ employers in an attempt to silence them. After I made fun of the titles of some papers presented at an Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) conference a couple of years ago, a group of academics even lodged a formal complaint with my university. This kind of thing can be a scary and wearying experience. Do not for a minute believe that the educational establishment will welcome your well-reasoned critique. Instead, they will view it as a mortal threat to their legitimacy. Which it is.
It is also true that such attempts to silence people are also a mortal threat to the legitimacy of the silencers, but they haven’t worked this out yet and so it’s best to stay safe.
You need to be thorough. You will need to create a blog account and I recommend WordPress for this. You will also need set-up a pseudonymous email address for use with WordPress and a pseudonymous Twitter handle if you want to use Twitter. If you post a comment on a WordPress blog using your own WordPress account then the email address that you have linked to your WordPress account will be visible to the blog’s host. That’s how I know, for instance, who wrote this comment.
Writing under a pseudonym will cause you problems if you want to start writing or speaking under your own name, but it is always far easier to come out than to go back in.
2. Focus on ideas
The focus of an education blog should be ideas about education. Please avoid the trap of relating anecdotes about your current school. Even a pseudonymous blog does not guarantee anonymity and the more specifics you give away about where you work, the more likely it is that someone will figure out who you are. It is also a morally questionable practice.
By focusing on ideas, you avoid the trap of focusing on people and personalities. This does not mean, as some would have you believe, that you must use detached, academic language. Be as flowery or impassioned as you wish. But if you think a certain commentator is an idiot, take some time to work out what ideas he or she espouses that make you think this. If you can’t come up with anything then it’s a good job you didn’t blog about it and you might need to reevaluate your position. If you can come up with something then criticise that something.
It is also important to be clear about which ideas appeal to you. Nobody wants to read someone who criticises everything but who stands for nothing. Some people worry that by taking a position, they may turn out to be wrong. Relax. It’s fine to be wrong. Your role is not to synthesise the debate in order to develop an overall position that represents the truth, your role is to take part in the debate in order to allow the truth to emerge to the community.
3. Tweet your Twitter handle
This is a technical point that only applies to WordPress and Twitter, but enough bloggers use these platforms to make it worth mentioning. When someone clicks on the Twitter icon at the end of one of your blog posts, WordPress generates a Tweet for them. By default, it includes the handle “@wordpressdotcom” in that tweet. You don’t want it to do that. Instead, you want this to be your Twitter handle so that you can track these tweets in your notifications and so that other Twitter users who see the link and read the post can follow you.
You will need to click on “My Site” at the top left-hand corner of your blog and then scroll down the menu that appears and select “WP Admin”. You will then need to select “Settings” and “Sharing” and scroll down the page until you see the field for entering your Twitter handle as below:
Now, go and write a blog.