To those of us who read or write for websites habitually, the value of “blogging” [a broad term that denotes any website with frequently-updated content] is obvious. Publishing and sharing content regularly puts us in touch with news we otherwise wouldn’t hear about – witness the blogosphere’s popular support of a teacher committed to integrity. It allows teachers to discuss relevant professional issues and then share that conversation with anyone who’s interested – just check out Luke Walsh’s collaboration with Angela Quiram of Teaching in the 21st Century, available in text form or as an audio podcast.
Put more simply, using websites/blogs as a communication tool connects us to ideas we otherwise wouldn’t find and to people we’d never meet. It helps us do our jobs better and deliver more value to the people we’re charged with serving.
But the real value of websites and blogs isn’t just in networking with peers; effective teachers, administrators and school board members [and really, people in every job] already do that in one way or another. The most important benefit of this medium is communicating and interacting with those members of the community who, traditionally, we have a tougher time reaching. In our case, that’s parents, voters, and anyone in the community who is concerned about education.
Blogging is free, as easy as sending an e-mail, and offers a direct link between interested parties in the community and the principle members of the organization they want to know about. Businesses are increasingly turning to this method of communication to learn more about their customers’ concerns and opinions; in turn, the customers are a lot happier with the businesses. Many CEOs and business leaders blog regularly and candidly, putting a touch of humanity to what we’re conditioned to think is a cold, selfish position of power. If you want evidence that high-profile CEOs are – or at least can be – regular guys and gals who really do value the opinions of the little guy, take a look at Mark Cuban’s blog. His customers appreciate it.
In a way, successful public education depends on the business/customer relationship. The dynamics aren’t exactly the same as in the economic/private sectors, but the lines of communication need to be. Teachers are already starting to populate the blogosphere using their real names and locations so they can provide resources – and open lines of communication – for parents and students. There are too many exemplary teacher blogs to begin to list.
Principals and school board members, however, have even more reason to encourage communication with the community. They develop and implement policy, define the direction and purpose of the school, etc. They lead the institution, and an institution of any sort can’t be led effectively without knowing what its constituents think. If their thoughts are to be productive, they need you to disseminate to them freely both information and evidence. You see the way this works – you give the public as much information as you can so they can add value to a public service.
School administrators and elected board members should want the public to do this. Why?
- Increased accountability. Giving the public all available resources/information allows them to judge with effectiveness a school’s progress. They pay for it and it’s their kids – they’re the shareholders.
- It makes an administrator’s/board member’s job easier. The naysayers will say that making so much information freely available or, even worse, encouraging its dissemination, will generate problems for the school. They couldn’t be more wrong. Open, accessible dialogue stifles many more problems than it creates. When school officials commit to working with the public, they can bridge any philosophical or practical gaps quickly and efficiently. When you know what people are thinking and what they want, you can respond effectively. Give it a try.
- Increased trust and willingness from the public. Transparency and honesty breed trust; greater trust generates participation. It’ll revolutionize the way your school and community interact.
I’m not the only one who thinks administrators/officials of all sorts should increase communication with their constituents. Dangerously Irrelevant, a proponent of school administrators blogging, points to the Principal Blogging Project that has helped administrators connect with their community:
The Principal Blogging Project is a new initiative to help principals tap into the power of blogging. We will create a free blog for any principal interested in using these new communication tools. If you are a principal interested in blogging, participating in this project is easy!
At least they can’t complain about the expense. The Project even has a short information packet [5 pages] about blogging as an administrator, available for free download [download will open in a new window, Adobe PDF format, 119kb].
The document references Debbie Weil’s The Corporate Blogging Book, a thoughtful, conversational common-sense guide to administration/management blogging that I have read in full and also recommend. Although it is geared toward blogging from business leadership positions, it is highly relevant to anyone who wants to work with the public – or wants to do it better.
If you’re in public service, especially in education, consider blogging as an effective way to communicate with your constituents. Mr. McLeod invites us to ask, “Are we doing what is best for our students, or what is most convenient for us?”
Step 1 is answering the question; step 2 is setting up your blog.
UPDATE at 5/01/07, 8.45pm:
For those of you in New York State, check out the following principal blogs:
- Hugh Keenan of St. Joseph’s School in Croton Falls, NY
- Kimberly Moritz of Gowanda High School in Gowanda, NY
- Nicholas Pulizza of Mexico Elementary School in Mexico, NY
You can also find a principal blog in your region [Note that some of these principal blogs are works in progress and haven't reached maturity].
4 Responses to “Why We Should Blog in Education: Teachers, Administrators and Board Members”
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