Another year, another IATEFL conference that I wish I could have gone to… At least there is the extensive online coverage of live and recorded sessions and interviews to dive into and the chance to once again be a registered blogger reporting from afar.
To kick things off, I am going to give a brief summary and share a few thoughts on three interviews that focused on online professional development and, in particular, blogging. This is partly because online CPD is a personal interest of mine and partly because the interviews feature some of my favourite PLN people.
Social media has truly been a game changer in terms of professional development for language teachers. It is so easy to go online now and find blogs and articles, connect with other teachers on Facebook and Twitter, and attend webinars and online events. However, it was interesting to hear the work and thought that goes into running and maintaining the social media presence of a site like Teaching English. As Ann and Paul mention, for online CPD to be effective, it still needs a focus and some structure. Teaching English does a great job of this with their featured blog posts, webinars and articles and it will be interesting to see how this all evolves in the future.
I share Sandy and Adam’s experience of starting blogging with little direction or focus and also not much of an audience. It takes time and persistence to build an audience and make connections to get your blog going. It also helps to write posts that come naturally and are driven by the blogger’s own interests, which for me (as with Adam) usually comes from the classroom. I found I also have a common trait with Sandy in that multiple blog ideas often fly around in my head and continue to do so until they are extracted by writing them out. The chat also touched upon the paradox of blogging – it is essentially an individual activity driven by the teacher’s own desire to pursue their own professional development. And yet, it also has a much-valued element of community, which can greatly enrich the process with interactions, hits, and visiting other teachers’ blogs… A kind of collective of individual voices but with a common goal.
This chat focused on the audience aspect a little more. James shared yet another familiar experience as he highlighted the role people’s comments play in reshaping your thinking and helping you look at things from a different perspective. Willy also brought up something I have found to be very true, that blogging helps you initiate conversations that are not always easy to find elsewhere. This can be with other teachers or with well-known authors and presenters in the ELT world. Interacting with them can really push on a teacher’s reflective thinking. Both Katherine and Willy mentioned something that I found during my MA research – reading other teachers’ blogs and being part of their blog’s community can be just as valuable as writing your own. So, please feel free to leave comments on this or any of my other posts – not, as James says, to feed my ego but to help me engage in conversation and reassess my thinking!
You can check out each of the interviewees blogs/blog posts from these links:
All well worth a look!