Friday, November 4, 2011

21st Century School Leaders Are Bloggers Too!

I have been blogging for almost 4 years now. My first blog was an experiment on Blogger in 2008 that I'm not even sure anyone ever read. I posted to it infrequently, and to be honest, I can't even remember the name of that blog. I've long since taken it down. My second blog was a staff blog I created while principal of a middle school. I used that blog instead of a weekly newsletter, or even an email update like this one. The problem I discovered was the same. How do you find the time to blog, even if it is for your staff? In 2010, I closed down that blog as well, and I opened my current blog, The 21st Century Principal. In December, The 21st Century Principal turns two. Yes, I have been blogging away at it for almost two years now, and with this blog, I have been just a bit more successful, but perhaps not in the way you might think.

I recently earned my first pay check from Google for blogging. Perhaps I can now say, "I am a professional blogger," but I don't think I'm ready to blog full time. I’m not even close to reaching the six figure income level that the Probloggers claim you can reach, so receiving this check was just a novelty. The truth is, I never began blogging because I thought I could make money. I began blogging because I basically wanted to do four things: 1) Share my own thoughts and ideas about technology, leadership, and public education, 2) engage others in conversations about the same topics, 3) connect with others. and 4) satisfy my own fascination with writing that led me to be a high school English teacher many years ago. But, if I were to measure my own success at blogging, I would measure it by the simple fact that I have successfully met these four goals I originally had for blogging.

Since I began blogging two years ago, I have shared my thoughts and ideas 260 separate times. Unlike my first blog, as I look through my page view counts, I've had one particular post that was viewed over 6,500 times. So I do feel that I have successfully shared my own educational experience and thinking with others. I have to come to see page visits as an indicator that people are at least visiting the content I write. Whether they stay long enough to engage in all of the content is another question entirely.
In addition, I also feel I've engaged others in educational topics of interest to me and them. While I have only had around 266 individual comments on my blog posts, I have also received countless emails from educators around the world, sharing their ideas and thoughts too. So, I've no doubt been able to successfully engage in a global conversation with others.

In addition to engaging others in educational topics of interest,  I have also successfully connected with others. Through my blog, I have connected with Technology Directors in New York state, Portland, Oregon, and even Sidney, Australia. I connected with authors of books I've read and blogged about. I connected with teachers and other administrators worldwide. Out of those connections have sprung relationships where freely sharing ideas and resources is the norm.

Finally, I have been able to satisfy my "inner writer" through blogging. The had been one big fundamental thing about writing that has been reinforced by my blogging, "There's nothing like having an audience who reacts to what you write." Having something to say and someone to say it to is fundamental to the writing process. My blogging has made that very clear to me.

The truth is, I believe blogging to be the perennial tool to engage students in authentic writing. It is also the tool to get educators, especially school leaders plugged in to the global education conversation. When I started teaching 22 years ago, trying to find authentic audiences for my students' writing was impossible. They wrote in "essayese," which is stilted and inauthentic in language and in style. Very rarely did I read student writing in which they were truly engaged. From my own blogging experience I have learned that writing in the 21st century is engaging a global audience. Educational leaders need to be engaging in the use of 21st century tools like blogging too.

Blogging is one of the tools by which school leaders can demonstrate what it’s like to be a 21st century communicator and technology leader.

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