Saturday, April 5, 2008

Blogs & Blogging for Professional Development

According to David Warlick, a blog is a Web-publishing concept that enables anyone to publish information on the Internet. Blogs or blogging have become a journalistic tool, a way to publish news, ideas, rants, announcements, and ponderings very quickly, and without technical, editorial and time constraints. We can access blogs for professional development and we can all blog ourselves for professional development.

TLs can express their ideas and direction of the librarianship profession through blogging. Stephen Abram in Teacher Librarians: Sharing and Taking Care of Themselves(Sept/Oct 2007) follows about 600 blogs a day, to try and get a sense of what is happening in all types of libraries-academic, college, school, public and special libraies. He says that he sees great new ideas being implemented throughout libraryland but worries that these ideas don’t diffuse quickly enough through our world. He wonders if there are ways to improve communication between practicing TLs. He has a list of favorite blogs related to teacher librarianship, school libraries and learning technologies. ( I have 9 on his list) Through creating our own blogs and commenting on blogs, it is possible to get our ideas out into the world and to do this faster.

To ensure the health and relevance of libraries, teacher librarians are encouraged to get involved with blogging. In the blog Library Garden(2006) one of the contributors, Robert Lackie blogs about librarians and educators using Web 2.0 technologies which include blogging to communicate, interact, share, create and publish information online. Lackie goes on to say that by using technologies like blogs in practical and worthwhile applications, we are able to connect with those we are already serving with those we wish to serve in the near future. He states, ‘We all know that we need to continue to reach out to our students and patrons and get them interested in what amazing things we can do for them.’ He suggests that we try setting up a library blog, or start receiving library or special topic related RSS feeds via Bloglines.

Many libraries are using blogs to make their web existence as inviting and interactive as the buildings in which libraries are housed. Libraries are benefiting too as well-written, up to date blogs help librarians relate to their patrons, generate support for new building initiatives and market programs, collections and services. Internally, staff blogs help to strengthen staff communication and solidarity. Tasha Saecker the director of Menasha Public Library, values blogs as an important tool for librarians. She is the creator of two longest-running blogs, Kidslit and Sites and Soundbytes. For Saecker, they provide a venue to stay informed about her own professional passions. According to Saecker, blogging has connected her with a wider library community, where she can gather ideas, know that she is facing the same issues as other librarians and learn from other people’s experiences. She states, “It is a vital part of my professional development as a library director, because, through blogging, I can lead the library to implement new ideas and new technologies. (Why We Blog - Nov.2007)

Teachers librarians who are located in more isolated areas benefit from blogging in order to keep up with the latest research, share information and receive support from others in the profession. The article Ending Isolation(Sept.2006) gives the example of a seasoned social studies teacher who is using a blog to ask her fellow teachers for information, as she is in a training program for schoolwide literacy coaches and her location is isolated. They communicate through blogs as they learn and experience the role of literacy coach in their respective schools. She and her fellow teachers are separated from universities and other educational organizations because of their rural locations and limited resources impede participation in professional development opportunities. The teachers who participated in the initiative needed a way to remain connected to one another. The Supported Literacy staff developed a section of the Literacy Matters web site specifically for the teachers. This site was tailored to fit their assignments, lessons, and reflections and also housed a series of blogs that the teachers could use to share classroom experiences, ask questions, and turn to one another for support. Blogs function as an instant Web publishing system and provided tools for posting comments and linking to information on other web sites. In their blogs they shared experiences using Supported Literacy in the classroom. They received feedback and support from the staff of the program. The blog entries varied from requesting support and assistance to success stories about using the literacy program in their classes. Using blogging to support teachers when they undertake new instructional practices is effective in overcoming time, distance and lack of resources for those who are isolated.

Blogs and blogging for professional development enable teacher librarians to keep up with the latest research on teaching, libraries, technology and learning. According to Laurel Clyde author of Weblogs & Libraries, not only do blogs bring current trends and issues to the attention of libraries and information scientists, but they can also help practitioners to keep up to date by reading and participating in library and information weblogs. They provide valuable resources and information for Library Media Specialists, looking for ideas and professional connections. For For example, Doug Johnson’s The Blue Skunk Blog and Joyce Valenza’s Neverending Search are using their blogs as a tool for professional communications.

In Blogs and Blogging, Part I(2006) Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson explain how library media specialists are using blogs within professional development activities. A TL created a blogger project as part of a sustained professional development activity. She involved teachers with discussions about blogging in schools, young adult literature and blog integration for credits in the course. Larry Johnson integrated blogging into a Web-based course for library media specialists. They shared their expertise in areas such as grant writing, budgeting, promoting the library, technology and leadership.

Teacher librarians can also get up to date information on the exploration of the application of Web 2.0 technologies, links to wikis, podcasts and discussion forums on teacher librarianship when blogging or reading other blogs. Steve Hargardon launched a social network for educators(A Little Help from my Friends -2007)which attracts educators who are exploring Web 2.0 technologies. Participants interact online to ask questions, provide answers, debate and trade information about various web tools including blogging.

One of the benefits of blogging for professional development is the opportunity to build your own professional development network. You can find people from whom you can learn, ask questions of them, comment on their thoughts and links and they do they same for you. “Learning with others makes the difference, since learning is a social process…and has now gone online with blogs. Learning with others means you take control of the flood of information and data coming into your life.”(Miguel Guhlin - Blogs: Webs of Connected Learning - 2006)

Michael Stephens’ doctoral research focused on why librarians blog. The reasons included participating in a learning/teaching community, sharing expertise and gaining recognition within the field of teacher librarianship.

Blogs and blogging enable the educator to reflect, discuss and explore possibilities for the use of blogs in education. An excellent blog to explore is Anne Davis’ EducBlogInsights with numerous examples of blogs in education. However it is not enough to just read blogs, you also need to write. David Warlick, at a TechForum explained that he first began to read a few education-related blogs and then he started exploring more. Teacher librarians and educators need to start leaving comments and linking them back to their own blogs for their own professional development, to learn more and to share knowledge. “Blogs enable me to learn from strangers.”-Miguel Guhlin and so can we!

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