It has been almost 6 months since I began the journey to develop my teaching practice in the realms of social media and blogging. I was advised in a couple of inspirational guest visits at University by @ICT_MrP and @DrChips_ to join Twitter in a professional account and consider blogging in the classroom and as a teacher. It took me a little while to get round to it but on 16th Jan 2014 I made my first tweet and on 28th Feb 2014 I posted my first blog post!
It’s been a hectic 5-6 months since then. I discovered I would be becoming a father the second time and found out it’s a girl, I completed my Initial Teacher Training course and just had my graduation (see here), I completed a half term of supply teaching in various schools, I bought a car, I turned 24, I had a 2 day trip in London with the family, had 2 job interviews and got the 2nd, met my class I’m going to be teaching next year… so yeah, fairly hectic! However, through all that time I have been continuing to make my blog voice heard with many others through Twitter and blogs.
However, for me there are a number of things that I wish that I had known clearly as I began my learning journey in a community of educators. I will attempt to discuss them below. Of course, this is not a complete list but one I hope that those taking their first tentative steps into what can be an overwhelming and diverse sphere will take advantage of.
Things I wish I knew
1. Be ready to talk to yourself to begin with
What’s one of the main things I’ve learnt? That I’m very good at talking to myself. When I first began on Twitter and blogging, it took a while for me to seemingly have any impact. I would post a tweet…no one would respond, retweet, favourite etc. I would post on my blog – I would get very little, if any, views. In fact in the first month of blogging, I received an average of 1 view per day! My first blog post with content (I’m Walking with My Iguana) received 1 view in the whole of March! Today, it is 2nd most popular blog post with 95 views. Now of course, that’s not an astronomical figure but it has grown exponentially. By the end of March I had 20 views, that number is now over 1000 and counting. It is still slow progress but the principle is clear; the more you blog and tweet, the more you’ll be recognised. So don’t be discouraged when you think no one is paying you any attention – and even if they aren’t, I’ve found that blogging has given me a space to record my own thoughts and philosophies on pedagogy, a valuable practice to undertake in teaching.
2. Don’t be shy
I’ve found this is key if you are wanting more educators to notice and engage with you. It is still one I am working on. You must be tweeting at least once a day. I’ve found that blogging at least once a week is a respectable goal. If you can do more, the better. However, the key is to actually engage with other professionals. Make mentions in your tweets, use hashtags unmercifully and comment on other bloggers in your posts. This can be daunting, particularly if the other educators seem a lot more experienced and if you’ve seen some of the debates that go on on Twitter with some of the rebukes (you know who you are)! However, keep this in mind; everyone is aiming for the same objective – improving teaching and learning. So what if someone had a different opinion to you? Blogs and Twitter can be a brilliant place to learn and grow, but you will have to be prepared to listen to others points of views. So long as you maintain a professional manner, others will respect your views and listen.
3. Be a frequent blogger/Tweacher
I mentioned this in the previous point but I feel it deserves its own mention. If you want to be noticed, you need to contribute. I suggested one tweet a day/one blog a week but really, it must be more than that if you want your voice to be heard. Of course, blogging and Tweaching is not all about views, traffic and retweets. You may be simply around to learn from others which is commendable. However, the experience will be much richer and edifying if you contribute as well. As the saying goes ‘You reap what you sow’.
4. Don’t worry about not having anything to say
If the main thing stopping you from either going on Twitter as a professional or blogging is that you don’t feel you have anything to say, just do it! That was the main thing that stopped me about a month before I began my blog. You will find that if you keep up to date with educational issues, are currently practising teaching and/or read other’s blogs you will always have something to say. That is a promise.
5. Pay attention to feedback
One of the most powerful tools in edu blogging and tweeting is the Stats/Analytics pages. Here you see what interests other educators most from what you’ve said. It is instant feedback, the best kind of feedback. It allows you to adjust your future content, make your blog/tweets more interesting to others and engage with others more effectively. For example, one of your blog posts received great feedback through a large amount of views and others referring people to the post. Why is that? Pay close attention to the content, the way you organised your writing, how you used the tags and categories and if you linked your post to any other bloggers. Sometimes a small adjustment can mean a big shift in the number of interest you receive, so look closely!
Over to you!
There may well be more, these are the points that stood out to me as I sat to write. What suggestions/advice would you give to a new educational blogger? How would you support a new Tweacher? More ideas would be much appreciated in the comments section, I’m sure they won’t go unread! If you are a new educational blogger, do you have any questions? Any tweaching tips needed?
A great place to start would be @TeacherToolkit guide on using Twitter as a teacher. But don’t stop there, search for more!