Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reader, Writer and Read-Write Web

During Week Two of Blogging4Educators, participants are working on choosing a bloghost, Blogger or Edublogs, and getting their new blogs started. It is really interesting to see blogging from a fresh perspective; even though some members feel anxious about their lack of experience blogging, I think it is really interesting to see blogging from a different perspective.

One topic of discussion this week really caught my attention, and that is what kinds of topics to write about on one's blog. The title of our session is Blogging4Educators, so many participants create a blog that has something to do with education. However, there are numerous topics to blog about, including art, sports, culture, travel, family, and other hobbies. What is the important consideration when choosing a topic for a new blog?

In my opinion, blogs should be about topics that interest the blogger. No, not just something interesting to the blogger, but something the blogger is passionate about! For if a blogger blogs about a topic because he or she is "supposed to" the posts will perhaps not reflect the authentic, true voice of the blogger. I have seen this phenomenon in many cases in the classroom. A student writes a paper something like, Well-I have to write a paper about that tells my opinion about ...fill in the blank...

In the same way, when beginning a blog, bloggers should carefully consider what topics are going to inspire them to write, and in turn if that topic and the writer's passion for it will inspire others to read. Writing is two-way communication, yes, but the writer has to have something to say if others are going to be motivated to read and listen. Teachers HAVE to read students' assignments, but other audience's can give up reading and move on to something else that interests them more. Therefore, both the writer and the readers' need to be taken into consideration.

For example, a friend of mine created a blog to practice her Japanese writing. She was really dedicated to improving her language skills and passing the next level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam. After she started writing, she invited her Japanese-speaking students to her blog, and they left her comments and gave her feedback on her use of certain Kanji. Although at first the blog may have seemed like it was going to be a blogger writing for herself and her own practice (similar to keeping a journal in another language), in fact, it is read by her students, and perhaps by other language learners too.

There are so many different reasons for writing a blog, so many purposes, and just about every topic has an audience. My advice for new bloggers is to write about what you're passionate about, and the readers and conversations will start to flow! In my case, this blog reflects my deep interest in online professional development and communities of practice. I began it as a place to reflect on these experiences, and I have been so thankful for the comments and conversations that have started here.

How did you choose the topic for your blog? How did the topic, audience, and/or purpose evolve over time?

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Cutenekko said...

Awww, Mary mentioned my blog! Thanks!^_^

My thoughts about Mary's post:
It's better to consider a blog your "learning space" or "how-can-I-meet-others-with-similar-interests?" The more interest you create, the more like-minded people will visit your site! Thus, creating a larger network and lead you to new discoveries about your topic.

As a teacher, I think I will have to re-evaluate my blog topics--especially those I choose for my students. Mary's point about written assignments consisting of "fill-in-the-blank-opinions" was an interesting one. I think there is not a teacher here who hasn't handed out an assignment like this. I should be more considerate of my students, their interests and allow them to initiate topics for writing/posting. I think the result will be more engaging classes and students who will explore topics further--hopefully outside of the lesson!

Mary H said...

Awww, and cutenekko left me a comment! Thanks ;)

Your blog is such an inspiration for language teachers and learners; plus, I just love the phrase you use to describe your personal blog, a "learning space." The beauty of social media is the more you put into it the more you get out of it. Creating networks and connections is what it is all about!

Interesting that you mentioned re-evaluating the blog topics you use with students. We're talking about that very topic during this week (Week Two) at Blogging4Educators EVO session. Using a blog to continue conversations outside the classroom, or to initiate new ones will most likely inspire students to contribute more to a class blog.

Angela said...

Hello Mary,

As you know, I don't understand a lot about blogging but I loved your words. I was having this problem and I wanted to write about something other than education at the moment, but I read some comments that really put me down. I'm very happy with my blog but later on I'm going to make a blog using my original idea.
And thank a lot for the tip about the Japanese101 site.

Hugs all the way from Brazil,


Mary H said...

Hi Angela,
Yes, it was your question that really got me thinking about what makes a good topic for a blog. I am looking forward to seeing a blog in the future about your original idea because I think it would be really interesting. So great to have connected with you through the EVO session and to have found common interests: teaching, blogging, Japan!

Carla Raguseo said...

Dear Mary,

Great post! I definitely agree with you.

We can only blog about things we are passionate about. And, again, it takes a lot of courage to be ourselves and speak our minds, but that's the whole point of blogging, isn't it?

Sorry, I took me so long to drop by

Now that I know I can add it to the sidebar on my Edublogs, I'll change to Feevy! :)

Big hugs,
Carla R.

Mary H said...

Hi Carla,
Thanks for stopping by! I need to check out Feevy too; Carla A has been raving about it. Then, we'll be able to keep up with each other's posts about the things that we are most passionate about ;)