Two blogkheads are better than one.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Document Your Thinking!

My Learning 1.0
Before last summer I would have said that I was an avid learner. I read many professional development books, went to many conferences, and participated in face-to-face book clubs. I would converse with others about what I was learning, but I rarely wrote anything about it (unless it was for a class/credit).

My Learning 2.0
Then, last summer I discovered blogging, wikis and even twitter. The collaborative nature of these web 2.0 tools facilitated the need to express my ideas/reflections about what I was learning in writing. I now feel like I understand what I have been learning much more deeply. I am more confident and capable of teaching the things I have learned, and feel much more committed and capable of facilitating and advocating for change in those areas.

The Difference
I have always been rather tech savvy, but for some reason the whole web 2.0 evolution caught me sleeping. The web 2.0 tools helped me to become a more active learner in two ways:

1) Writing - I knew what the research said about the benefits of nonfiction writing or “writing across the curriculum”. Now that I have experienced the benefits I understand that it is not about benefiting writing (a misconception on my part). It is about the increased understanding of the subject you are writing about. The benefit to writing is a by-product. I prefer to call “writing across the curriculum” “documented thinking across the curriculum” because of this misconception.

2) Collaboration – I could have done the writing about my learning without web 2.0 tools in a diary or something similar. However, the web 2.0 tools offer an added dimension – an audience. When I write for an audience I think more deeply about my ideas and what I have learned, and I spend time organizing that thinking so that I can articulate it in such a way that it can be understood by others. The audience itself provides additional opportunities to learn. They may agree, disagree, pose questions, or take your ideas in directions you would not have thought to take them. It is quite exhilarating to have someone from across the world comment on one of your posts or have the author of a book you are reflecting about comment on your reflection.

Typically, I advocate for the use of technology as just another tool. There are other tools that we have at our disposal that can accomplish the same thing. Sometimes technological tools can help accomplish our goals more effectively. However, in this case I cannot think of another tool that can accomplish the depth of understanding that my learning has undergone with the use of web 2.0 tools (primarily blogging). So, in the case of blogging I will advocate for it’s use as the only tool of it’s kind.

Implications for School Leaders
While there are great learning gains that can be realized by our students through the use of blogs, that is not what I am advocating for directly. I am not necessarily advocating for teachers to begin blogging as a professional learning tool either. I am advocating for school leaders to begin blogging to further their learning. I have heard people say that if we don't inspect it - we can't expect it. How can we inspect it, if we don't use it ourselves? If we are the leaders of learning organizations, then we must do everything we can to enhance our own learning and model that learning. There is no other tool better suited to that purpose than blogging.
Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means. - Albert Einstein

How Do I Get Started Blogging?
1. Start following some blogs that are of value to you. Scott McLeod has compiled a list of Great Blogs for Busy Administrators.
2. Comment on some blog posts that caused you to reflect, have questions, or think of extensions to the ideas that the author presented. Why not start today and comment on this post. If I haven't convinced you that blogging will be beneficial to your work, tell me why. What other benefits do you see or have realized through blogging?
We cannot be speakers who do not listen. But neither can we be listeners who do not speak. - Mohandas Gandhi
3. Begin your own blog to share your learning, reflections and ideas. It is much easier than you probably think. Here are some easy instructions to help get you started. The toughest part is not the technology; it is the writing and thinking (tasks as school leaders we should be more than willing to take on - learning and sharing ideas after all are the very nature of our jobs).