blogging for personal professional development

How I blog for personal professional development: you can do it too

Why write blog posts? I write about whatever it is I want to yell to the rooftops at the time. I might think differently about it in five years, but that’s fine. It’s what I want to say to the world right now. I write about me, and what I am thinking and feeling right now. My blog writing is raw, semi-immediate, and passionate.

I enjoy writing. I see myself as a writer. I am a writer, was a writer and I want to be a writer.

My writing self is always changing. When I was a child I wrote little plays and I forced my siblings to act them out. Then I was a student and I wrote assignments. As a teacher I wrote lesson plans and resources. I was a curriculum leader and wrote unit plans and policies. I wrote a thesis and a blog as a PhD candidate. Now I am an early career researcher and I write academic papers, project briefs, and again I write a blog.

Blogging isn’t essential to writers, of course. It doesn’t put food on my table (yet) but I’ve come to appreciate it as an important part of my scholarship and professional development as an educator. By blogging I mean both the longhand and shorthand kind. Twitter is considered a micro-blog so when I refer to “blogging” I mean both micro-blogging and the type you are currently reading. Longer blogs can also be a mix of personal and professional (like EduResearch Matters) and media based (like The Conversation).

Twitter fits neatly into blogging

A growing group of educators are using social media, particularly Twitter, for “grassroots” professional learning.

Communities of learning, anchored by Twitter chats, are sharing professional practice in primary, secondary, tertiary and adult education (#edchat, #aussieEd, #highered, #phdchat #ozchat), engaging with the disciplines (#histedchat, #scichat, #engchat etc), promoting the use of technology in the classroom (#edtechchat) and more.

Inger Mewburn has made a career out of engaging with #phdchat, blogging about higher degree research. Some educators have even suggested that Twitter chats are superior professional learning to formalised workshops provided by institutions.

I write blogs to inquire

At its core blogging is a process of publication that inevitably includes self-promotion. But my favourite (and most motivating reason) to blog is for my own personal professional development. Blogging helps me work out what I think in the first place.

Writing as inquiry is not a new notion. People sit down in front of their computer or with their notebook and just begin to write their thoughts. The idea is that through the process of writing, concepts and beliefs crystalize.

By blogging I take this notion a step further. I do not use social media to quickly get my publications “out there”, but to help them develop slowly and publicly. I tweet, I use personal, institutional and curated weblogs, open access journals, and conference paper planning to develop my papers for journals and books.

How blogging fits into my writing process

Whenever an idea begins to emerge I write about it. I tweet about it and I write extended blogs. I write for special days. I use metaphors to see if I can make an idea more concrete. I riff (or openly and playfully plagiarise) a writer I respect with my own terms strategically dropped in. I write stories. I write to already published outlines and graphic organisers. I basically experiment with the idea in as many ways as I can until it begins to take shape.

What blogging can do that private writing as inquiry cannot is provide an audience for the development of an idea. When I publish a blog, it is automatically promoted on Twitter and I work to promote it further. By actively asking others to engage with my ideas I can begin to feel more confident in my thinking and I can see where the logic is still needed.

If an idea in my personal blog resonates enough with my readers, I submit versions of it to professional and media blogging outlets, increasing my audience and therefore my feedback. The idea is to eventually firm up those ideas enough to formulate academic publications like journal articles and book chapters.

The more I write (and blog) the more I know what I think

The point is, the more I write, the more I know what I really think. My brain is so full of ideas that the process of writing sorts it all out for me. A bit like Dumbledore’s Pensieve I draw them out and place them in front of me so I can think about my thoughts in a more concrete and observational way.

So while you are thinking of your own social media usage and whether you want to write and publish blogs about your education practice, consider blogging as inquiry as a strategy worth trying.




Naomi Barnes is a postdoctoral fellow at the Griffith Institute of Educational Research. Her key areas of research are transitions and social media in educational research.