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Why Do You Blog: Then Vs. Now?

I’m reposting Michael Fenton’s question here, less because I’m interested in you seeing my answers and more because I’m interested in seeing yours. Ignore his five-year qualification. If your motivations for blogging have changed over any stretch of time at all, let us know why.

In 2009, I blogged because:

  • I wanted a record of what I taught and believed about teaching that I could reflect on and laugh at later in my career.
  • I needed a community. I taught in a rural district with five other math teachers (two of them married). Fine educators, but they were in different stages of their career and had answered a lot of questions I was just starting to ask. I needed people.

In 2014, I blog because:

  • I want more interesting questions. In 2009, I was asking questions about worksheet design, PowerPoint slides, and classroom management. By articulating my questions and noticing which of them created vibrant discussions and which of them fell with a thud on the bottom of an empty comments page, over five years I have moved on to some questions that make my work a joy to wake up to every day. eg. What do computers buy us in curriculum design? What does good online professional development look like? What does it mean for students to think like mathematicians and how do we scaffold that development? What is the “real world” anyway and what does it buy us in math class?
  • I need to stay connected to classroom teachers. I’m fast approaching the date where I’ll have been out of the classroom for longer than I was in it. Which scares the hell out of me and keeps me asking for advice from real life classroom teachers on this blog and reading, like, five hundred thousand teacher blogs every day.

A readership is more essential to my goals now than it was then. If you guys aren’t tuning in and pushing back at my ideas and offering your own, those ideas get a lot dumber. (In 2009, by contrast, I had 120 students to let me know when my ideas were dumb.)

So a lot of what I do in my blogging lately is try to send you signals that I read and value and act on your responses. (See: the recent confabs; featured comments; putting the word out on Twitter that there’s an interesting conversation brewing, etc.)

Perfect encapsulation of all of the above: this week’s circle-square confab, which featured 62 comments from a pack of great teachers, creative task designers, and math education researchers.

That’s why I blog now. Why do you?

Featured Comments

John Stevens:

I started blogging way back in 2012 because I needed a way to reflect. I was in a very, um, rough patch in my teaching career and needed a way to get some thoughts out there. I was reading all kinds of other blogs and seeing what others were doing, stealing material from people left and right. Therefore, my blog was a way to thank people for giving me cool stuff.

Fast forward to 2014 and things have changed. I’m still reading blogs and stealing left and right, but I’m also trying to give back a little. As information kept pouring in, I started to get some ideas of my own. Sure, some of them are awful, but I’m proud of Barbie Zipline and some others. At this point, it’s still a 70/30 take/receive deal, but I’m all for it.

Bree:

I feel like I’m currently struggling to answer this question – which is probably why my blogging rate has been downwards of around once a month these days.

Shelley:

So many of the good teacher moves are invisible, and as I begin to blog I aim to capture some of the techniques that I have used to engage students. I often pass along worksheets and activities for teachers to use, but sometimes what I really want to pass along are the questioning techniques used throughout the lesson, along with a structure to ensure that students are discussing mathematics instead of working in isolation. Blogging allows for this extra commentary.

Michael Pershan:

When I started blogging, I desperately needed to validate my experiences. I was teaching in big ol’ NYC, but at a private school with just one other math teacher. I needed to know: Was my teaching weird? Was I actually figuring things out about teaching, or just headed down my own idiosyncratic path? I wanted to say things that made sense to other people, so that I could be really sure that they made sense to me.

Also:

My blog is for figuring things out, so that someday I’ll be able to help teachers and kids out in a real way.

Chris Hill:

I used to blog because I felt like I was coming up with some innovative lessons and I was learning some new approaches.

Recently I haven’t blogged because I’ve been handicapped into traditional direct instruction lessons (through resources and student culture). Maybe when I’m not in a different school every year (or when I’m excited about the school where I teach) I’ll start blogging again.

27 Responses to “Why Do You Blog: Then Vs. Now?”

  1. on 28 Feb 2014 at 2:24 pmJohn

    I started blogging way back in 2012 because I needed a way to reflect. I was in a very, um, rough patch in my teaching career and needed a way to get some thoughts out there. I was reading all kinds of other blogs and seeing what others were doing, stealing material from people left and right. Therefore, my blog was a way to thank people for giving me cool stuff.

    Fast forward to 2014 and things have changed. I’m still reading blogs and stealing left and right, but I’m also trying to give back a little. As information kept pouring in, I started to get some ideas of my own. Sure, some of them are awful, but I’m proud of Barbie Zipline and some others. At this point, it’s still a 70/30 take/receive deal, but I’m all for it.

    Thank you Dan, and the others in this wonderful (albeit terribly named) MTBoS, for indirectly encouraging me to blog and share my experiences.

  2. on 28 Feb 2014 at 2:51 pmShecky R

    Funny, I was recently thinking about this very topic in terms of my own blog evolution…
    My blog was initially inspired by the death of Martin Gardner in 2010 when I felt an impulse to honor him in some way, and shout out to the world, ‘Hey, mathematics isn’t dry and dull, but interesting and fun and all around us!’ Having already done a number of short-lived blogs, I didn’t expect it to last very long, but over time the pleasure (and ease) of doing it has continually grown.

    What’s been added over time is that I now use the blog (even though it’s not obvious) to learn more math on my own, and to get the chance of communicating with real mathematicians (which I am not) who likewise are reaching out to a wider audience than they likely ever imagined. For me, it ultimately feels like a return to childhood, and the simple joy of numbers and logic I experienced way back then.

  3. on 28 Feb 2014 at 2:54 pmClara

    Thank you for sharing. Not just why you blog, but the things/lessons/ideas you share. My teaching has changed incredibly this past year, and it started with your TEDtalk. I love to teach for understanding, and I love the way students respond as they realize they are getting it! I have to share these thoughts, ideas, knowledge with other teachers, the way it was shared with me. A blog was the best way I have found to share. So maybe it’s all your fault! However, I must lay some of the blame on Jo Boaler and her course on how to learn math. I have found that it is hard to write on a regular basis, because of school, and because I don’t always have something that I think is valuable enough to share. I try to get past that by reading lots of other really good blogs- thank you for the connections thru MTBoS- as I see that what I say doesn’t have to be brilliant and perfectly written, just about whatever I have a concern about.
    I also found it a great way to show my ideas to prospective employers! (Sort of by accident!)
    I’ll keep blogging and reading blogs and networking with other teachers- I am just happy to be a part of such an awesome group!

  4. on 28 Feb 2014 at 3:09 pmBree

    I feel like I’m currently struggling to answer this question…which is probably why my blogging rate has been downwards of around once a month these days.

  5. on 28 Feb 2014 at 5:13 pmJoel T Patterson

    Come on back to teaching, Dan. Wherever you go in America, there are a group of kids whose lives will be vastly better because they had a good teacher (like you) they learned with for a whole year.
    It may sound a bit like a Hallmark card, but I’m now old enough that at least once a year I hear about how one of my teachers has passed away. As I reflect on what they did for me, I am glad they worked hard and showed up every day.

  6. on 28 Feb 2014 at 5:19 pmJoel T Patterson

    BTW, I want to thank you for the 3-acts you’ve put up, especially the video of you teaching the penny pyramid. I’ve used a few of them, and moved into more improvisational teaching–in fact, this Wednesday I told my Geometry class, “See this big circle on the ENOBoard? Everyone is going to make the spot they think is the center.” And then one of them said, “How will we be sure which is the winner?” And then another said, “I know what you can do…” and basically conjectured the “perpendicular bisectors of chords run through the center” in non-geometry jargon.

  7. […] by this post by Dan Meyer, an abrupt question from a colleague, and the fact that the ticker at the bottom of […]

  8. on 28 Feb 2014 at 8:56 pmCathy Yenca

    Great question indeed! Here’s my response: http://www.mathycathy.com/blog/2014/02/why-blog-then-vs-now/

  9. on 01 Mar 2014 at 10:08 amShelley

    So many of the good teacher moves are invisible, and as I begin to blog I aim to capture some of the techniques that I have used to engage students. I often pass along worksheets and activities for teachers to use, but sometimes what I really want to pass along are the questioning techniques used throughout the lesson, along with a structure to ensure that students are discussing mathematics instead of working in isolation. Blogging allows for this extra commentary.
    We started using Dropbox this year in my department to share resources, and my addition to this is creating blog-like pages(Google Docs, Padlet, Pinterest) that allow teachers to collaborate, comment, and reflect on specific projects or units. We’ve done quite a bit with GeoGebra this year as well, and our micro-blog allows for links to how-to screencasts, screenshots, and activity worksheets.

  10. on 01 Mar 2014 at 4:44 pmMichael Pershan

    When I started blogging, I desperately needed to validate my experiences. I was teaching in big ol’ NYC, but at a private school with just one other math teacher. I needed to know: Was my teaching weird? Was I actually figuring things out about teaching, or just headed down my own idiosyncratic path? I wanted to say things that made sense to other people, so that I could be really sure that they made sense to me.

    My first two years of blogging were exciting. At times, it felt like I was being “discovered” by others. More people were reading my writing and following my tweets, and I liked that. For one, it made me feel more confident in what I was learning about teaching. But I also started to think that blogging might be good for my career. After all, I had seen other bloggers become popular and end up with opportunities. Wasn’t that through their blogging? Why couldn’t I do that?

    These days, though, I think differently. Thankfully, there are many, many math teaching blogs out there, and I don’t add much to the big pot of teaching knowledge with my blog. That’s not an intended knock on the quality of my blogging, but instead an observation on the landscape of the math-teaching-blogging world.

    The above is also not an argument against blogging. Instead, where I am now is that I make a big distinction between process and product. My blog is for the process — thinking things through, trying out ideas, piecing an instructional sequence together. My product — and I mean “product” in the best possible way, as a meaningful contribution to the well-being of teachers and kids — is not my blogging. My blog is for figuring things out, so that someday I’ll be able to help teachers and kids out in a real way.

    Also: I blog for fun! To stay in touch with friends! To announce! To mock! To contribute, in any small way, to the community, this living, knowing organism!

  11. on 02 Mar 2014 at 12:16 pmDan Meyer

    Bree:

    I feel like I’m currently struggling to answer this question…which is probably why my blogging rate has been downwards of around once a month these days.

    Blogging good for what it’s good for and even then maybe only for a certain season. Personally, I hate the thought of anyone feeling guilty for not blogging / tweeting but I get those remarks from people all the time. (Not that I don’t miss your blogging!)

    Michael Pershan:

    My blog is for figuring things out, so that someday I’ll be able to help teachers and kids out in a real way.

    I feel similarly. This is my R&D lab.

  12. on 02 Mar 2014 at 12:23 pmBree

    I don’t feel guilty for not blogging…though there have been moments in the past that I have…but I do sometimes think about my blog and wonder whether I should put something up. I need a reason to, though. And at the moment I don’t have a compelling, intrinsic need to share my thoughts through that medium. So, I haven’t been blogging.

    I think your question just resonated with me because it articulated what I’ve been thinking about recently, that I don’t have a purpose for blogging at this particular “season” and therefore I haven’t been blogging. Simple as that. You just put it into words.

  13. on 02 Mar 2014 at 12:25 pmcheesemonkeysf

    I blog because blogs and Twitter are the fastest professional feedback loop I have for tuning and refining my classroom practice, which is the best way I have found to become a better and more effective teacher.

    When I blog what I am doing, anybody who is interested in the same challenge or problem gets food for thought and gives me food for reflection. Even though I’m a part of an amazing department of reflective practitioners, everybody isn’t always thinking about the same question in the same way. Using my blog, I get insights, feedback, and ideas that would take years of teaching cycles to find for myself. I can also share whatever of value I have with those who are now where I was when I started blogging.

    The group concept map assessment is one of those ideas that sparks a community of practitioners. I have learned a ton from Zach Cresswell and Tina Cardone’s extension of the ideas I got from Andy Rundquist and Frank Noschese. We really are stronger and more effective when we stick together. :)

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)

  14. […] As usual, Dan’s page is generating some great responses. You can jump to that page here. […]

  15. on 03 Mar 2014 at 5:23 amJim Doherty

    Just took a swing at this question (the why do I blog now part) over at my space this morning. It boils down to two simple things for me – I want to try and contribute to a world of ideas and conversations that has been so nurturing to me and I hope for feedback to help me continue to grow. I admit it’s not profound.

  16. on 03 Mar 2014 at 6:43 amGraham Fletcher

    The majority of the elementary math I encounter on the internet and in general is “cute” and “clean”. I want and need learning to be messy…not procedural!

    Being a K-5 math coach I continually hear the terms upper and lower level math but I am in search of ideas that engage students in the continuum learning. I read MS and HS blog’s (such as yours) and the amazing ways that students are asked to grapple with concepts and I strive to make that same connection with/for elementary students. Making students think should look the same K-12.

    I blog to improve and evolve! I believe that in order to be a better educator I need to make myself vulnerable and surround myself around people that are smarter than me. In blogging I am able to do both. I blog to purposefully be a better teacher through reflection, collaboration, and sharing!

  17. on 03 Mar 2014 at 6:44 amSammy

    Aside from making new friends, blogs are an extremely useful and informal way of starting conversations, organizing your thoughts, and reflecting. Blogging is a valuable activity for educators, and it can be just as so to the readership – especially if it can serve as mentoring/sharing-what-I’ve-learned that is so often missing in schools for our teachers.

    http://illinois.edu/blog/view/6010

  18. […] do you blog?” was the question that Dan Meyer recently asked and I thought it was a really good one. I’m relatively new to the […]

  19. on 03 Mar 2014 at 1:17 pmChris Hill

    I used to blog because I felt like I was coming up with some innovative lessons and I was learning some new approaches.

    Recently I haven’t blogged because I’ve been handicapped into traditional direct instruction lessons (through resources and student culture). Maybe when I’m not in a different school every year (or when I’m excited about the school where I teach) I’ll start blogging again.

  20. on 03 Mar 2014 at 1:38 pmDan Meyer

    Bummer. It’s interesting to me how our blogging – its quality, frequency, enthusiasm, etc. – functions as a dependent variable of so many other variables in our day-to-day grind.

  21. on 03 Mar 2014 at 3:24 pmJoe Schwartz

    I’ll echo many of the comments. Community, reflection, learning…all reasons that I find compelling. In addition I’ll say this: I’ve been teaching for over 25 years and this is the best way to document what it is that happens in classrooms. A friend looked at my blog and then said to me, “Now I get what it is you really do.” Of course we can never actually capture all the moments, both large, small and in between, but I think all of our blogs together can do that. And in the climate we find ourselves in today I think that is very important.

  22. […] Joe Schwartz: […]

  23. on 05 Mar 2014 at 10:45 amSam Shah

    In 2007, I started blogging because I was about to enter my own classroom for the first time and I was nervous and excited, and had been getting psyched up (in a good way) by reading the math teacher bloggers out there at the time. I continued doing it because I found I wanted to talk about my experiences in the classroom and talk with others about theirs. Lots of reading and commenting. It was inspirational. (This is pre-twitter MTBoS days). I also knew at heart I’m an archivist and so I would one day want to see my evolution as a teacher.

    In the past year and a half, I feel as if I’ve (not on purpose, but by practice) half taken my foot out of the online community compared to the two feet I had firmly planted on the ground beforehand. I have been trying to pinpoint exactly why that is so — and although I have a ton of conjectures, I suspect it all comes down to me feeling down about my own teaching, and too paralyzed (for whatever reason) to fix it. When I’m feeling good about my teaching, I feel inspired and excited to blog. To archive things, to share things. When I’m feeling meh or nah about it, it’s harder to bring myself to the table. (And like you, I never blog when I don’t feel like it… or out of guilt… I do it when I want, for myself!)

    Sam

    PS. I suspect that the best thing to do to come out of my teaching nadir is to spend a few hours reading my feedly links and getting inspired… Now only if I had the time and energy!

  24. on 05 Mar 2014 at 1:09 pmKevin Hall

    I blog, and comment on other blogs, because it gives me a sense of hope. Even if I could become the most amazing teacher ever, that would end when my career ended. But if we’re building a continuing community of practice together, then we’re potentially at a scale that can make permanent change for the better (or, since nothing is really ever permanent, at least long-lasting).

  25. on 05 Mar 2014 at 6:21 pmLeslie Dickason

    I’m a first year teacher, so blogging gives me an outlet for all my first year teacher feelings. Half the school year is over and I’m still trying to figure out the basics of this teaching thing. Amidst all the chaos, blogging gives me a chance to slow down and reflect on my teaching. Even if I’m ranting about how terrible a lesson went or how terrible of a teacher I think I am, there’s always a moment when I stop and realize how the day or the lesson or whatever could have gone better. Those moments are important to me because they help push me to improve.

    Eventually I’d like my blog to be filled with great lessons and resources and other mathy goodness, but right now I’m ok with it trying to answer the question, “What the hell did I get myself into?!”

  26. on 09 Mar 2014 at 12:44 pmLaura Wheeler

    “What does good online professional development look like?”

    Perhaps this book would be of interest to you then? I’m about halfway through & he writes a lot about effective online education / training programs:
    http://www.amazon.ca/Teaching-Minds-Cognitive-Science-Schools/dp/0807752665

  27. on 21 Jun 2014 at 1:04 amInternet Field Trip, June 14

    […] from Dan Meyer: “Why do you blog, then vs now.” If you’re not writing online, give it a […]

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