I have been using blogs as personal professional development for many years. While I have started my own blog here or there along the way, I’ve always found the time to read others’ posts but not write my own. Educator blogs inspire me to try new things while helping me to refine my goals and set realistic aspirations. I prefer blogs where the authors share the grit, perseverance, and perspiration that may have gone into achieving the wondrous things they are posting. I prefer to hear the real deal from my blog authors!
For several years, I’ve followed the blogs of Gwyneth Jones, Ian Byrd, A.J. Juliani, and John Spencer. Over the years, they have become published authors and featured speakers. I think their success is due to the honest nature of their posts and their timely topics. While I strongly recommend their blogs, I wanted to explore and review a few blogs that were new to me.
One of the first blogs I chose to explore was that of Catlin Tucker. I’d seen her name in print a few times in the past few months as I’ve explored the concept of blended learning. As I was clicking through her tabs I realized I’d actually visited her blog during my last class to explore Web 2.0 tools. I was so busy with grad work and lesson planning that I didn’t take the time to read any of her actual blog posts. I am so glad I rediscovered her blog! Tucker is a teacher, speaker, and author in California.
In a post entitled “Flipgrid: Connect with Other Classrooms,” Tucker provides a narrative of a project-based learning experience. She describes the importance of an authentic audience and how to introduce the design thinking process with a high-interest topic. She also explains how she used Twitter and Flipgrid to connect her students with a broader, authentic audience – other classrooms around the country. Tucker used Twitter to reach out to other teachers globally. She requested that they have their students use Flipgrid to communicate with her students. Tucker demonstrates Standard 4 of the ISTE teacher standards as she promotes and models digital citizenship using digital age communication and collaboration tools throughout her blog.
In another post, Tucker discusses the work she is doing to teach and assess soft skills including communication and collaboration. She describes the importance of explicitly teaching these skills. Tucker also shares several rubrics to be used to provide feedback to students. Each rubric focuses on a different aspect of soft skills. She addresses communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving. Tucker encourages others to make copies of her Google Docs to modify for use with their own students. I appreciate the fact that she is willing to freely share her work. Her blog demonstrates her efforts to engage in professional growth and leadership.
Tucker’s blog also provides the reader with insights into the successes and struggles of the work she is doing to design and implement learning experiences for her students. She shares her own experiences while encouraging reflection on work and life balance. In a post entitled “6 Shifts to Maximize Productivity and Happiness, ” Tucker shares her synthesis of an article she had recently read. Through her own reflection and narrative, she asks the readers to consider what strategies they are using to find balance.
Catlin Tucker’s blog provides inspiration through her posts explaining the integration of various technologies into her own teaching. She shares her experiences and tools such as documents and presentations to help her readers lessen the amount of perspiration needed to implement similar experiences in their own classrooms. Personally, I enjoyed reading her posts and have already signed up for a FlipGrid account. As a new media specialist in an Apple Distinguished School, I feel the pressure to effectively and creatively blend technology into my instruction. By following Tucker’s blog, I will be able to explore new resources and engage in reflection that will help me reach my aspirations of being a digital leader and role model for my students and colleagues!
The second blog I chose to review is that of Colleen Graves. I’ve been following Colleen on Twitter for a while thanks to the work she has done with makerspaces. I hadn’t considered whether she was a blogger until I realized she was the author of a book I recently purchased as a Christmas gift for my children – 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius. Her blog entitled “Create+Collaborate: Innovate” is filled with technology infused learning experiences for the classroom, library, or makerspace.
Graves recently transitioned from a high school setting to an elementary library. She shares her experience in this post entitled “Risk Taking: a new school year, a new school!” Within this post, I discovered she also follows and takes inspiration from Andy Plemmons whose library blog I reviewed in my previous post. Graves modified Plemmons’ book tasting post to use as an introduction to herself and as library orientation. She candidly shares what didn’t go well and what went right. I appreciate that she isn’t afraid to be honest about abandoning her original plan or overestimation of what elementary students could accomplish within her allotted lesson time. Headings like “what went wrong” and “where I failed” help the reader relate to the realities of designing learning experiences. Graves demonstrates her commitment to “continuously improve” her practice as described by ISTE Standard 5 for teachers.
In a post entitled “Adapting #Scratch + #MakeyMakey Poetry for Elementary Makers,” Graves shares how she collaborated with fourth grade teachers to integrate technology and poetry. Her narrative of the lesson guides the reader through the learning experience and includes suggestions for management before, during, and after the experience. She includes videos and photos to help the reader visualize how this might look in the reader’s own learning space. At the end of the post, she encourages her readers who might try this lesson to post student work to Twitter using #makeymakeypoetry. Since this is an adaptation of a lesson Graves used in her previous role as a high school library media specialist as well as in workshops, a quick search using the hashtag produces global results that span the grade levels. As a result, if choose to use this as a lesson seed for work in my own Learning Commons, I can find example of the process and exemplars of the product to share with my students and teachers.
The title of this blog is spot on! Graves’s connections between creativity and collaboration inspires me to consider how I can be more innovative within my own practice. Being new to the world of librarianship has been a bit overwhelming. In an effort to feel successful, I’ve been playing it safe and sticking to the basics with the technology I infuse into my instruction. Thanks to the posts in this blog, I’m reminded that without risk I won’t fail but I also won’t grow as a professional. A.J. Juliani recently tweeted, “Fail-ure has a finality to it. It’s like taking the test once and being done. Fail-ing is the chance to revise, fix, improve. #g2great” Blogs like this, and that of A.J. Juliani, provide the reader with enough of the struggle and perspiration to make the aspirations feel possible.
The third blog I chose to review belongs to Nicholas Provenzano, The Nerdy Teacher. As a 2013 ISTE Teacher of the Year and a TED-Ed Innovative Educator, Provenzano has serious credibility in the world of technology integration. His blog documents the work that he is doing as a technology coordinator in a middle school as well as his endeavors as a professional developer and ambassador for a variety of technology brands.
Provenzano is new to his current role and in a post entitled “My First Fail #DigCit,” he shares his experience with facilitating his first digital citizenship lesson. The focus of the post isn’t on the materials he used from Common Sense Media, but on how uncomfortable he felt using the materials because he hadn’t made them his own. He bravely shared how the lesson failed and the reflection process he went through before eventually developing a new approach more authentic to who he is as a teacher.
In another post, Provenzano shares his reflections on the successes he has had with project-based learning (PBL). After providing some background, he highlights five major components of PBL that make it powerful for students. His narrative is succinct and tied to a specific learning experience to allow the reader to visualize what these components look like in the classroom. Creativity and critical thinking are among the five. The emphasis on these two big ideas is evident throughout Provenzano’s blog posts. As a teacher, he understands the importance of inspiring students’ creativity through the development of digital learning experiences. It is obvious that Provenzano values exploration of and reflection on his professional practices as described within ISTE Standard 5 for teachers.
While this blog provides inspiration and seeds of aspiration, it also provided validation as I read through older posts. Provenzano’s post entitled “The Case for Kits #MakerEd,” addresses one of my biggest fears related to my new role. I’ve been reading about and exploring the potential of makerspaces for several years. With that said, I suddenly found myself in a setting with an established makerspace but without any real experience with the resources on the shelves. Spheros, LittleBits, and MakeyMakey kits were materials I had only read about. Suddenly, they were real things that teachers wanted me to use with their students and I had no idea how to do that. This post validated my approach and encourages teachers to apply the concepts of differentiation to the makerspace. Kits and their instruction booklets provide the scaffolding needed by students (and teachers) who are new to the technology or tool.
Again, I have stumbled upon a blog that I can use as professional development and inspiration. Provenzano’s honest approach to sharing what works and what doesn’t work will save me some perspiration and scaffold my efforts to reach my aspirational goals. By continuing to follow this blog, I hope to use his posts to initiate reflection on my own practice and to validate my own nerdy teacher persona!
Following and reading blogs written by prominent and effective educators can inspire me and my colleagues to examine our goals and take steps towards our achieving our aspirations. I chose these blogs because they all incorporate the struggles they have encountered into their narrative and reflective posts. While bloggers who feature their best products and lessons can inspire, the sparkle of the chevron backgrounds and trendsetting fonts tend to make me uncomfortable. My process is messy and often filled with struggle. I’m not afraid to admit that perspire more than I sparkle.
@ajjuliani. “A5: Fail-ure has a finality to it. It’s like taking the test once and being done. Fail-ing is the chance to revise, fix, improve. #g2great.” Twitter, 2 Nov 2017, 10:04 p.m., twitter.com/ajjuliani/status/926253596362117121.
Graves, Colleen. Create+Collaborate: Innovate, colleengraves.org. Accessed 4 Nov 2017.
Provenzano, Nicolas. The Nerdy Teacher, thenerdyteacher.com. Accessed 4 Nov 2017.
Tucker, Catlin. Catlin Tucker, catlintucker.com. Accessed 4 Nov 2017.