I’d run websites before to share stuff with people I knew. I’d even set up a class blog. I’d had a Twitter account which I set up when Twitter was simply IT geeks tweeting about their breakfast. So I some rough idea what I would have to do.
So, here are my top tips for blogging about education.
1) Decide what you want to say, and name your blog accordingly
If you want to blog about your life as a teacher, go ahead. If you want to blog about your subject, put its name in your blog. But if you want to challenge the status quo and make a difference, think about what you want to say and find a name which reflects your core ideas.
I had a very good idea about my core thesis. My experience, research and considered opinion – which still isn’t shared by many people (yet) - is that school adds a relatively small percentage onto what a child brings to school. Most schools add about the same amount, so for most children it doesn’t matter terribly much which school you go to. Schools are the icing on the cake in a child’s life. So I called my blog Icing On The Cake, and I’ve been expanding my ideas since I began in February 2014.
Tom Bennett called his blog Behaviour Guru, Daisy Christadoulou called hers The Wing to Heaven. Behaviour Guru is self-explanatory, but Daisy’s is a quote from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part II, “And seeing ignorance is the curse of God, Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven”. As you read Daisy’s blog, you understand the thought behind the title. I like that.
2) Use Twitter to promote your blogs
Before I started writing about education, I barely tweeted anything at all. I’ve sent less than 20 tweets from my original account. I used it to follow others, and it seemed presumptuous to offer an opinion via a tweet.
All that changed when I began my blog. I set up a new Twitter account which I used to advertise the blog. I picked up a small number of followers early on, and it wasn’t until I began writing about Ofsted and RAISEonline that my Twitter numbers began to jump upwards in steps of more than one a day.
3) Interact with interesting Tweeters, read and comment on their blogs
I have @learningspy to thank for my first big increase in followers, when he tweeted my ‘Raiseonline is Contemptable Rubbish’ post in March 2014. A combination of an eye-catching headline and me tweeting things at him clearly persuaded David Didau to read my blog, and his retweets of the post quadrupled my followers in a 24 hour period.
To find interesting blogs, either find lists on writer’s own sites (@learningspy, for example) or use the simply incredible Echo Chamber, run by Andrew Old and friends, which tracks every UK education blog, as well as some based elsewhere. Use Twitter lists such as those compiled by UKEdChat or Teacher Toolkit to find interesting Tweeters.
4) Write regularly
I initially set myself a target of writing something every week, and I decided to call them ‘articles’ rather than blog posts, as they were quite long pieces. Six months in, once I’d created a fairly solid presence, I dropped down to an article every two weeks. This was also partly because I wanted to comment more on other people’s posts, and also because I was having more discussions on Twitter with interesting people. I was also being asked to write for other people, and that meant I had less time for writing my own articles.
A year in, I’m writing very regularly elsewhere, and I’ve changed the way I use my blog entirely. I now write as and when I like, as well as writing ongoing series of posts which link together. I still use Twitter a lot to interact with people and I tend to read and retweet a lot of material about education data, or which uses education data to under pin research reports and papers.
5) If people ask, try to say yes
I’ve been asked to contribute to books, speak at conferences, write book reviews, write cover stories, write a book, offer an opinion and review research, amongst other things. Whilst most of these are tangentially related to my core Icing on the Cake thesis, they are enjoyable, interesting and challenging to boot.
6) Go to conferences and say hello
I’ve really enjoyed getting out and about to ResearchEd, Northern Rocks and the Festival of Education. Meeting engaged teacher folk, many of whom I read a great deal, is a rare pleasure. Even if I don’t agree with everyone – how could you? – engaging with other teacher-writers is some of the best CPD I’ve had.
So, here are some useful lists:
On Twitter, listen in and contribute to regular weekly Twitter chats:
#primaryrocks - Primary focused Education chat - Mondays 8pm
#asechat - Association for Science Education - Mondays 8pm
#senchat – All things special needs - Tuesdays 8pm
#mathschat - Maths teachers - Wednesdays 8pm
#ukedchat - The main UK education live chat - Thursdays 8pm
#NQTchat - Newly qualified teachers - Thursdays 8pm
#NUTchat - union related discussions - Sundays 6pm
#sltchat – senior leadership discussion - Sundays 8pm
Of course, you can use these hashtags to read what was discussed any time you like, and the following hashtags are used throughout the week:
#scichat - ongoing science teacher discussions
#edtechchat - technology and education discussions
#langchat - language teacher discussions
#STEM - science, tech, engineering and maths
7) Finally, make your voice heard
The explosion in social media has open up a fantastic new channel for teachers to broadcast their ideas. From the wonderful insight into life as a parent provided by Nancy Gedge to the scathingly frank writings of Disappointed Idealist, to the wonderful resources compiled by Amjad Ali and prolific outpourings of David Didau, to the life of a teacher typified by Emma Hardy, social media has given teachers a voice as never before. If you have something you want to say, now is the perfect time to say it.