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4 Ways Blogging Can Reshape Education

Educated By Design Blog

4 Ways Blogging Can Reshape Education

Michael Cohen

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I love writing. It gives me the ability to translate my thoughts into a physical space as well as the chance to reflect on my experiences. Blogging has always been a big part of my writing. Since Geocities and Livejournal, I have used blogging as a space to document my life, gain insights from friends, and a moonshot aspiration that my ideas might inspire and help others. But then I stopped. Recently, I was speaking with a friend about book writing and speaking, when he abruptly asked "why hasn't your blog been updated in a year"? The question caught me off guard and I realized that many of the challenges I am facing right now professionally are because of my lack of blogging. With that inspiration I sat down to write this post about how important blogging is not just for the author, but for the readers, and the engagement that can ensue. While there is no shortage of reasons why blogging is a powerful medium, I felt that these four ways are significant, especially in the world of education.

Blogging, creates a clearly defined purpose or value in writing. In high school I hated writing. Why should I write? When will I ever need to write a 5 paragraph essay? These are not just questions that I hear students still asking in 2017. These were questions I asked my teachers in high school and demanded answers. So how do we answer these questions for our students? If my teachers had told me that writing is a vehicle to express myself and share my ideas, and there is a platform that I can share that with others then I would have been all over it. So in 1999 no thanks to my teachers (its not entirely their fault) I stumbled upon Live Journal, and it was on.

So what makes blogging so powerful? There are so many reasons and these four are just the tip of the iceberg. Side note, it would be great to hear your reasons too. Here are 4 Ways Blogging Can Reshape Education:

  • It helps you become a more effective communicator 
  • It challenges you to put your ideas out there and embrace feedback
  • It empowers you to work on refining your craft and sharing it out
  • It gives you a platform to help others and change the world

Communication is key. Whether its written, verbal, or visual communications, we must strive to master effective communication in order to succeed in almost any profession today. Think about it. If effective communication is not required, it sounds like a job that a robot can do right? So what does it mean to be a good communicator? With a focus on writing, we need to constantly explore mediums and methods to help develop our writing. Blogging, and any digital publishing challenges you to be an effective communicator on two fronts. On one hand it requires you to successfully express your ideas in a clear and concise manner. No one is reading your dissertation on a blog. Buffer, a social media management tool for example puts highest engagement at 1600 words. People need to be able to interface with your writing and actually want to be involved with your story and engage with your ideas. Thats the beauty of blogging. While it is a place for you, a blog also has the potential to develop into a community. On the other hand, it requires you to communicate in a way that will achieve that desired result. Blogging then becomes a medium in which you are challenged to be both an effective communicator and communicate effectively. While this play on words is not mutually exclusive, it is important for us to understand that beyond grammar and writing quality, there needs to be substance to our writing. It needs to engage others, strike conversation, and promote interest in topics we are passionate about, and hopefully knowledgable about. So whether your blogging as a diary for you, a roadmap to change the world, or something in between, blogging can provide a meaningful space for you to become a better writer and build relationships with others through what you have to share.

In 2014 I had an article featured on the blog Mindshift. For me it was a huge opportunity to be featured on a major blog. Still, I knew that with that level of exposure comes feedback. People challenged both my insights into technology integration, and how capable our students are of mastering devices. It was a powerful moment for me, because feedback is hard. It is hard to have our ideas challenged, questioned, or even rejected. At the same time, no one is going to grow and become better at anything if they are patted on the back and told that they are spot on every time. Feedback is one of the key ingredients of growth and it is an experience and a skill that needs more attention in school. We need to learn how to not just embrace feedback, but learn from it. We need to learn how to Explore opposing ideas or views, and discover how it can help us succeed in our writing, and life as well. Once we are comfortable with embracing feedback, we can discover how someone questioning our ideas can actually challenge us to do more research and produce an even better product than before. Bottom line is that if you are looking to become better at anything, you need to be open to others feedback to get to a more meaningful and significant place.

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People want fresh content. We live in a time in which media is consumed at a whopping 8 hours a day! One of the amazing things about blogging is how your readership connects not just to one off blog posts, but to a series of posts that showcases a journey. To be successful in this you really need to be on the ball and always looking at ways in which to improve your professional practice or personal hobby. Blogging then can become a sort of portfolio that gives you a chance to reflect on a skill you're looking to develop, a project you want to launch, or a method in which you plan to help someone. When I look at some of the top blogs both in and out of education, the main thing that all of them have in common is that they are constantly learning, growing, and discovering new things. People want to be part of that and benefit from your experiences just as much as you want a place to document the process. One of the greatest experiences I have had blogging is looking back at a blog article from two, three, or even five years ago and see where I am at today and what I have accomplished. This makes blogging a powerful tool that curates your journey bringing value to both you and your readers.

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We all want to change the world. Growing up I wanted to be a doctor or an astronaut and it always had to do with helping others. The hope to change the world is a moonshot for a reason, and as life unfolds the door to change the world begins to close. Today that door is a thing of the past, and today the internet has the potential to amplify our voice and ideas times a million. But where do you fit in? As an Orthodox Jew my close knit community is comfortable. I live, eat, pray, work, and school my kids in a 2 mile square block radius. Even my parents live within that block. To give you perspective after 3 years our minivan has only 15,000 miles on it! So when I decided in 2012 to start blogging about my experiences in Education I didn't think much of it. I had blogged before about spots, religion, and technology but outside of engaging comments, there wasn't much else there. As I got more connected to a global community of diverse educators, who were digitally connected and social media engaged I realized that blogging is a vehicle to reshape education and change the world.

As educators we are not just preparing students to know and understand the world around them, we are preparing them to run the world around them. Online, educators around the world genuinely want to learn from each other, help each other, and grow with each other. The real problem is that this population represents such a small percentage of the global educational community. So when my articles started to spark interest, and my speaking and workshops multiplied, I realized that blogging is a medium to connect you with an enormous community of educators giving you an opportunity to help others, and be helped by them as well. Think about it. I am an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi and I just gave an Ignite Talk to 500 educators at ISTE 2017. My professional career and success is without question attributed to the blogging, and online conversations that have ensued around education, technology, design, and creative problem solving. So why did I stop? I started to write a guide book on how developing a creative mindset to tackle the problems we face. The same friend told me better to engage with an online community blogging about this creativity mindset that might inspire a book than to write a book that no one will ever read. Hows that for feedback? 

So what are you waiting for?