Tuesday, July 21, 2015

From Books to Blogs

I have shelves and shelves of professional books.  If you can think of a book about literacy
instruction, there’s a good chance it’s on one of my shelves.  Or because the shelves are overflowing, you might find it in one of the stacks that have begun to accumulate on the floor.  Since I became an educator, over a decade ago, my knowledge related to literacy and teaching has increased ten fold because of the authors of these books.  I have learned countless effective teaching practices from reading and writing giants such as Ellin Oliver Keene, Stephanie Harvey, Katie Wood Ray, Georgia Heard, and many others.  This is just one piece of evidence that I am a lifelong learner, dedicated to refining my practice as a literacy educator. I’ve engaged in a myriad of other professional development experiences: graduate courses, professional conferences, webinars, study groups.  I’ve been seeking knowledge, but also collaboration with like-minded, passionate literacy educators.

I recently read Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger.  The book has been invaluable in helping me understand how technology can enhance learning, teaching, and leading in the twenty-first century.  One chapter, focused on professional development, has led me to think about how I learn and connect with other educators.  Sheninger describes the traditional teacher network as consisting of curriculum resources, colleagues, popular media, print and digital resources, and family and local community.  He suggests that professional development can be enhanced through a digital teacher network.  A digital network consists of all of the traditional tools, but includes the addition of digital tools such as blogs, wikis, social network sites, and online communities (p. 120).  Although I consider myself to be technologically literate, my professional development has revolved around more of the traditional tools rather than the digital. 

I do engage in the use of technology for learning and growing as a professional, but it has been limited.  I occasionally view webinars, which have provided me knowledge on a variety of topics related to literacy instruction.  Many times I am unable to participate in the live event, but instead view the recorded version, which does not allow for connection with others through opportunities to chat in real-time.  I have a Facebook account through which I link to the pages of educational organizations, such as the International Literacy Association, National Council of Teachers of English, and Choice Literacy.  The updates from these, and other organizations, provide me with information about the happenings in literacy and links to useful articles and resources.  I also regularly read blogs written by other educators.  Through the use of an RSS reader, Feedly, I subscribe to my favorite blogs, organize them by topic, and skim through new posts so I can read those of interest.  A few of my favorite blogs include Burkins and Yaris: Think Tank for 21stCentury Literacy, Two Writing Teachers, and A Year of Reading.  I greatly enjoy reading many of the posts in my favorite blogs, but I have been more of a spectator than a participant.  I have not made a habit of commenting on posts in order to connect with the authors or readers of the blog.

After reading Digital Leadership, I was inspired to move towards become a more digitally networked educator.  Scheninger makes the case that leaders and educators who use digital tools, including social media, have unlimited possibilities in where, when, and who they learn from.  Information and knowledge are at one’s fingertips and connections with other educators can be made across the globe through online tools and social media sites.  I would like to expand my personal learning network through two technology tools that are new to me.  

My Own Blogging Journey

Yes, blogging can seem a bit scary.  The fact that by blogging I am putting my ideas and my writing out there for the world to read can put some unsettling thoughts into my head. What if no one cares about what I have to say?  What if my writing is terrible?  What if I run out of ideas to blog about?  Oh, I could probably go on and on.  But, rather than let these fears of failure dominate I’ve decided to focus on the reasons I should blog.  I share my teaching practices with teachers all the time, informally with my colleagues and more formally when I present at workshops and conferences.  And I love doing it.  Blogging is another way to share my practices with others.  Blogging is also a way to reflect on my teaching.  Through blogging I will be writing to learn – organizing my thoughts and thinking through my ideas.  In addition, I hope blogging will give me the opportunity to communicate with teachers beyond the walls of my school in order to expand my personal learning network.  I think these reasons outweigh the fears so my blogging journey has begun.  I am looking forward to sharing what’s on my mind related to literacy.

PD Through Twitter

I recently signed into Twitter and realized I have had an account since 2010. Up until a few days ago I had never tweeted a thing.  Now that I’ve started using Twitter as a professional learning tool I am wondering why it took me so long.  I have found many literacy education experts and teachers from around the globe with similar interests to follow.  The sharing of ideas and teaching practices is amazing.  The tweets of other educators, although 140 or characters or less, have provided me with ideas to support students’ literacy learning:

Many tweets also contain links to articles and blog posts providing more resources for professional learning.  In the future, I am looking forward to engaging in Twitter chats in order to interact with other educators.   

There are many other possibilities for using technology for professional development.  I may choose to explore other options in the future.  Creating a professional learning community through an online discussion forum or using wikis to collaborate with others on a literacy topic intrigue me.  The new ways that I have found to use technology have already helped to energize my learning and spark a new enthusiasm for professional collaboration.  


  1. When I first started blogging, it was a way to do the things I ask students to do; to live and teach in public; to share; most of all, to reflect. Now, I think what I most value about blogging is community. There are several wonderful weekly communities I participate in: It's Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Unleashing Readers; Slice of Life or Top Ten Tuesday (Broke and Bookish blog); Celebrate (Ruth Ayres's blog). Those memes help me organize my writing week and give me things to write about. I look forward to following your blog and learning from you!

  2. Thanks for mentioning the memes. I'm going to have to participate in one or more of those.