John Burk’s Mushy Love Ode To His Online PLC

John Burk reflects on his online PLC and at the same time serves up a primer for anyone wondering, “What’s the deal with Twitter / blogs / etc?”

The teachers I see that truly embrace the online world–those who move from simply consuming neat ideas and bookmarking cool applets to engaging in the conversation and sharing what they do–see a leap in their growth in teaching that can’t be matched by any workshop, conference, degree or professional growth plan.

Agreed. Totally. In a webinar Q&A last week, someone asked me to make a pitch for blogging. I speculated that the edublogosphere gave me a two-for-one deal: two years of growth as a teacher for every school year I taught. That isn’t remotely empirical, but blogging openly, transparently, with an explicit invitation for criticism, accelerated me through a lot of my misguided early-career enthusiasms. (Worksheets, slide design, and NCLB, let’s say.) A lot of commenters worked overtime to help me understand the ceiling on those devices was lower than I thought. The positive response to the first WCYDWT, on the other hand, turned me toward a productive vein which I’ve been chipping away at ever since.

I'm Dan and this is my blog. I'm a former high school math teacher and current head of teaching at Desmos. He / him. More here.


  1. And what I enjoy with many blogs is that the knowledge free and searchable, where workshop knowledge is mostly forgotten and handouts misplaced. Bloggers, like Dan, even give his audience user friendly quick access to his favorite posts and some of the more popular posts. I can’t find that at most of the workshops and classes that I attend. Thank you to Dan and all other bloggers for adding to the cloud of knowledge.

  2. I’ve been working with computers in class since 1981. I must say the introduction of the likes of Twitter and blogs has left me more in touch with other teachers and the work of children. First serious computer use in 75, computers in class from 81, email mid 80s, internet late 80s, photo and video 90s, YouTube & Facebook 00s and now blogging and Twitter 10s. Much has changed in 30 years.
    Good blog post.
    Ross Mannell (teacher)

  3. There are, undoubtedly, benefits to blogging that are completely independent of the size of your audience. And you can participate in the conversation by commenting on the blogs of the big boys and gals. But I think it’s a mistake to sell blogging on the feedback you can get for your ideas. Because to get that kind of feedback, blogging isn’t enough. You have to be a really, really good blogger.

  4. @MBP, the big-name bloggers get the most feedback, but even small bloggers get some, as long as they make some effort to let other people know about their blog. But it is true that few readers comment–my estimate is about 2% of page views result in comments–so having a large readership is a prerequisite to having a conversation in the comments.

  5. gasstation: so having a large readership is a prerequisite to having a conversation in the comments.

    Everyone starts with zero, right?

  6. Indeed, everyone starts with zero, which means that the first several blog posts have to done without the expectation of feedback or conversation. If these are interesting enough and brought to the attention of the right audience, then eventually enough people will start commenting to have a useful conversation. But few people get the large active audience that you have accumulated, Dan, probably because few blogs consistently have good material, and people wander away. Even after over 300 posts, my own blog only averages 3 comments per post (which means many posts with no comments, then a flurry of comments on one post).

  7. I have tried blogging on several occasions. I’m not putting a lot of effort into it at the moment, but I have in the past. I’ve found benefit in the writing, but it’s not enough. I want to be part of a conversation. The only time I’ve come close to having a conversation is when I created a blog in connection with an organization.

    So…how do you go about promoting your blog?

    I realize promoting is not enough. You have something worth people’s time to read and return to. It could be that I haven’t had what it takes, but I feel it’s more likely that I’m not so great in the promotion department.

  8. Yeah, great link from Sarah there. Otherwise, I’d ask you “what do you enjoy about reading blogs?”

    Personally, I enjoy blogs that mix brief content with longer pieces, that use visuals for description not auto-generated filler, that engage an audience with follow-up conversations, prompts, and activities, that are a little sarcastic and a lot self-deprecating, that come from a position of some knowledge but not knowing-it-all. So I try to write the kind of blog I’d enjoy reading.

    I guess what I’m recommending is: write for yourself.