Education Needs Reflective Educators

In blogging for education reform, Greta Sandler and I have collaborated together on an initiative we believe represents what education needs, bloggers for education! The project is Blog 4 Edu (The Blogging for Education project), a Twitter account (@Blog4Edu), wiki, and Facebook page to help support bloggers, blogging projects, and blogging challenges. Our vision is to persuade as many educational stakeholders worldwide to blog as possible.

Why Blog 4 Edu?

We suggest that blogging and social media are two of the main components of improving education worldwide. This won’t fix everything in education but through blogging we can open the conversation to the possibilities. When we blog we open the conversation to all education stakeholders (the public, parents, students, administrators, and educators). We automatically get an audience for our message even if it initially consists of one. Eventually, we share our message and reach someone who joins the conversation of how to improve education worldwide. This conversation continues for as long as we participate in the conversation.

Supporting Each Other

Teachers can choose to make a difference in their classrooms each day so why don’t many choose to inspire a passion for learning within their students? Many teachers don’t feel supported. Somewhere along the way their vision of reaching their students became blurred by the restraints of standardized tests, burdens from administration, parental complaints, and lack of support. Several educators also don’t reflect or run ideas with other educators about improving their practice. We lose so many great teachers because we fail to support them. After they lose their initial vision they also begin to lose their passion.

Blogging can be difficult at first, so we decided to start Blog 4 Edu to support, encourage and inspire edubloggers. Blog 4 Edu is meant to provide that support through commenting, sharing blogging resources, inspiring posting through blogging challenges, and providing bloggers with several projects to collaborate on. We won’t be initiating these projects. Instead, we will be sharing the ones many educators have already started and hope to inspire a collaborative spirit and enthusiasm for participating. Often educators come up with innovative ideas that die because of a lack of support and participation. With over 50,000 educators in our various social networks, there are plenty of participants but the word just doesn’t get spread. We hope to help spread that word.

Spreading the Word

Through blogging students and teachers exemplify what works in education. Blogging is a great way to share what is happening in every classroom. Transparency is very important to education transformation. The general public and parents need to see what we are doing in our classrooms. Through blogs we can share videos, share why we believe in our instructional practices, and share our humanity. We share our successes and failures and for parents and the public to read our raw reflections reminds them we are not superheroes, we are passionate individuals wanting to improve the world by inspiring children to love to learn. Transformation starts in the classroom but builds through the spreading of our message. Blogging is a great way to share what is happening in every classroom. Moreover, educators can also get other educational stakeholders on board by sharing their successes. Let’s spread the word and passion and make it contagious.


Every passionate teacher should be a lifelong learner. Learning and reflecting will inspire and motivate teachers. Blogging is a wonderful tool for educators to reflect on their practices and grow professionally and personally. Through reflection we are able to improve on our instructional methods.

Ending Thoughts

We both believe that something must be done. We can’t just sit down and wait for other people to do something. We decided the way to best exemplify education transformation was through collaborating on this blog post and on this project. By the way, Greta Sandler is located in Argentina and I am located in Germany. We met on Twitter about 4 months ago and came up with Blog 4 Edu yesterday. This is the power of collaboration! This is how we believe transformation will happen!

Find out more about this exciting project:

This post has been cross-posted by Greta Sandler at About a Teacher!


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The Best Kept Secrets of Highly Successful Edu-Bloggers, Part I by Karenne Sylvester

Part of the series: The 30 Goals Challenge, Goal 4: Support a New Blogger

Karenne Sylvester, a prolific blogger, offers some advice for new and established bloggers….

With over 70,000,000 blogs written weekly – thousands of which are written by fellow educators – it is actually a good idea today to stop, take stock and look deeply look into why some of these blogs have become internationally popular sites, visited by hundreds of thousands of readers, daily, and why some of them have never got beyond a handful of friends, family members and colleagues visiting.

What are the intrinsic qualities which distinguish a great edu-blogger from a hobbyist?

1. Great edu-bloggers know why they blog

A lot of new bloggers kick off with an almost mandatory post, starting off somewhat hesitantly, with a cry out to the universe of oh, what shall I write about? (I did too) however the what is actually not as important as the why.

Bloggers don’t generally become successful until they have a relatively clear picture in their minds about their reasons for becoming a part of and participating in the vast blogopshere.

Reasons drive passion, you see.

Let’s be immediately clear, if it’s not already obvious to our readers and those who would be bloggers, real edu-blogging is real work.

For the vast majority of us, this activity provides no (or virtually no) income and there is a steep learning curve to climb while we learn all the ins and outs and adopt the jargon as part of our daily lives – and while it might seem, at times, really quite crazy to put this much effort into doing something which does not pay: we are united through our passion for the page.

Ask friends what drives them to get up in the mornings and they may not know but ask a trainer why she travels around the world, educating others, sharing her skills – her answers may vary but mostly you’ll hear:

I love what I do.

Ask a teacher working in a tough inner-city school how they have managed to stay in the classroom and they’ll shrug shoulders saying “dunno” or perhaps they’ll smile shyly with a little glint in their eyes, admitting that it’s because they know that they are inspiring others to reach their own potential.

And so it is with edu-blogging. It is passion which brings us here, lone writers hacking at our pages, honing our craft, very often for years. Conversely, it is the loss of this meaning that leads some of us to eventually quit, to let our blogs die peacefully.

Yet when we stay, when we push through the beginning days of low readership and poorly crafted posts, we grow.

Ask successful edu-bloggers how they have managed to stay on their pages: they know. Ask their readers why their blogs are read in large numbers and they will tell you – it’s because she’s just so motivated, she makes me want to be passionate about my teaching too…

Passion, it is delicious. Passion, it is the most contagious of all emotions out there.

It is addictive. Elusive and tricky to describe (and even a dirty word in some circles) but whenever you see it, whenever you find it, you want it. It’s the sheer smell of happiness – the quality we all want to have and it is this that gets readers following, readers turning into bloggers themselves, participating in conversations and coming back to the page to read, to write, to grow, to share even more.

Where does it comes from?

Here are some of the reasons why your fellow edu-bloggers blog with passion (a list without judgment or prejudice for no blogian should decree why another blogian participates in the ‘sphere):

  • to develop their creativity and test out ideas
  • to share lessons plans and ideas with other teachers and get feedback
  • to provide one’s own students with easy links to common errors
  • to give students a permanent space online to find out their homework
  • to share what’s going on in the classroom with parents and the broader community
  • to participate and aid the development of democracy in education
  • to unite other teachers, globally
  • to keep in touch with those they have trained in the past/ will train in the future
  • to create a space where they can reflect on their own learning as they develop professionally
  • for the discipline of writing regularly
  • to hone and tighten their writing skills
  • because blogging will eventually replace the paper based notebook and it’s a good idea to get in the practice now – a skill which can be shared with students
  • to raise their own and others professional profiles
  • to sell a book(s) they’ve written in the past or books they’ll be selling in the future
  • to think through, out loud, ideas for new books and get feedback
  • to have somewhere to put the book submission that was turned down, may as well put it up for free
  • to be hired to eventually write a book which is based on themes covered in one’s blog
  • to create an e-portfolio of their knowledge and skills
  • to promote their workshops and/or get hired to do others
  • to be hired by an e-consultancy business
  • to be considered as an expert in edtech
  • to get a job as teacher trainer-senior teacher-ICT specialist
  • to get a job as a educational company’s blogger
  • to make side-cash by selling other people’s products or advertising
  • to have the thrill of having thousands of google hits attached to one’s name
  • to join the party: everyone else is blogging, might as well too!

Why are you?

No matter the multiplutide of reasons your fellow bloggers may blog, knowing your own reason(s) will help you, like all of the great edu-bloggers to find the willpower to consistently come back to the page.

And if you’re not blogging yet but you are considering it, why?

2. Great edu-bloggers know who they are writing for.

Although a handful make the following type of statement and get away with it:

“I am going to Blog about whatever I Freakin’ feel like Blogging about!!!!!!! Just read and Enjoy…”

Most do not.

The underlying principle uniting all great edu-bloggers is that they understand that the blog they write is not only about what they feel or what they think – a web log is not a diary – instead they keep their audience’s needs central and in focus.

Those who insist on writing on whatever topic pops into their heads, randomly, spontaneously, generally do not ever generate high readership: educators are very busy, unique individuals themselves and if they find this happening over a long period of time, basically articles of only blog-babble or blogcandy, or worse, topics they have already read thousands of times elsewhere, they stop returning.

The most successful bloggers develop a keen sense of what their audience likes reading and write articles aimed at this specific niche, sub-niche or even to a broader field – following trends in the media, classrooms and staff rooms and they learn how to equate these discussions into their own posts; they focus on stories that they know their fellow teachers will be really interested in, saving personal anecdotes of non-related to educational issues for their personal inner circles on Facebook Notes: they don’t assume that educators, parents and students all want to read the same articles, separating these into different blogs; they provide new, unique voices rather than copy popular blogs; they offer a service which really helps their readers and they take themselves, as much as possible, completely out of the ego-equation.

Do you want to be a great edu-blogger?

Ask yourself often:

  • Who am I writing for?
  • Where are these teachers based?
  • What do they teach?
  • What are their primary concerns?
  • What are they interested in reading more about?
  • How can I serve them better?

image credit

Mike Licht, Notions Young woman blogging, after Marie-Denise Villers

(c) KarenneJoySylvester, 2010

This post is part of a new series: Thoughts on Edu-blogging. For part 2 of this particular article, please visit Janet Bianchini’s blog!

Karenne is an ELT edu-blogger, a ESP:IT teacher, EdTech teacher-trainer and materials writer, originally from Grenada in the Caribbean. She currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany and blogs at Kalinago English and BusinessEnglish~5mins. Find her on Twitter as @kalinagoenglish.

Try Karenne’s tips!

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From Butterflies to Wings by Janet Bianchini #30Goals

Part of the series: The 30 Goals Challenge, Goal 9: Be a Guest Blogger

Image courtesy of Photobucket butterfly pictures

So many butterflies were fluttering around frantically in my stomach when I did my first guest post last year. As a relatively newbie blogger, I was so nervous, I couldn’t sleep the night before. It was a big stage.  I was at the right place and at the right time when I saw the opportunity via a tweet to do a guest post for Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog. I remember feeling very excited when I saw The Voyage of Discovery had published ok, and it really made my day.  Since then I have done quite a few more guest posts, including this one here for Shelly on the subject of Phrasal Verbs, and I  have not felt as nervous as that very first time. Those butterflies have now developed powerful wings to make them soar as high as they want to go.

The Impact of Goal Challenge 9: Be a Guest Blogger

You may be thinking, “Ok, you’ve done a few guest posts already, including one for Teacher Reboot Camp, so how could this be a new challenge for you? Well, when I read Shelly’s 30 Goals Challenge for Goal number 9 – Be a Guest Blogger, it inspired me to be even more pro-active and embrace any opportunity that I came across. The words that touched me were  “One of my long-term goals is to post more guest pieces on other websites or blogs.  I love having my writings published on other websites….” That really made me reflect, and I realised that I felt exactly the same way, but earlier this year, I wasn’t really pushing myself to achieve this goal more fully.

In the Flow

When I recently saw a tweet from OUP ELT Global blog asking for guest bloggers, I had Shelly’s motivational words in mind when I immediately and without hesitating, actually volunteered to go for it.  Up until then, I had only been invited personally to do a guest post by members of my  PLN that I had good social contact with.   “Renew the Passion and Go with the Flow” was a post I wrote to help teachers experiencing a loss of flow in their teaching.  It was a way for me to share my thoughts and hopefully impart some helpful advice and re-ignite the flow.


At the same time by sheer coincidence, a member of my PLN, Eva Buyuksimkesyan from A Journey in TEFL, asked me if I would like to do a guest post for her.  The result is The A-Z Files.  Again, my confidence had grown by then, and I saw it as a great way to share some more tips.

Below is a mind map I created with  It shows the reasons why I think being a guest blogger is a great goal to achieve. Please press on the image for a bigger view.

It’s All in the Timing

Well, I can’t really think of any specific reason why being a guest blogger is not a good thing for you!  Maybe, the timing has to be right and that is the only drawback, as far as I can see.  You need to devote enough time to ensure that what you write is of a high standard.  My motto is that I would only publish a guest post if I would also publish it on my blog. If you are really too busy to contemplate doing a guest post, and you don’t want to offend by saying no outright to an invitation, then just explain and make a note in your diary to  find some time to write the post at a later date.  Make sure you really want to contribute by asking yourself the question, as Larry Ferlazzo suggests here, before you decide on a goal. I am sure the blogger who invited you will not be offended by your honesty and will look forward to your contribution at a later date.

My Top Tips

  • Share your knowledge with your PLN by accepting any invitations to be a guest blogger
  • Do not be afraid to reply to requests for guest authors outside of your PLN
  • Do not be shy to offer to do a guest post on a related subject matter
  • Be confident in your abilities
  • Write about the particular subject matter that you are passionate about
  • Research your topic matter as thoroughly as you can
  • Enjoy the different environment
  • Learn about a different blogging tool if it is not the same as yours
  • Enjoy the experience
  • The time is NOW!
Photo courtesy of KRB, then made into my own motivational poster by using

All Credit Due

I’d like to thank Shelly very much for creating such a wonderful set of 30 goals, which can be realistically achieved if you really, really set your mind to them. Shelly continues to surprise me with her amazing and boundless enthusiasm, her great acts of kindness and altruistic endeavours to help so many people. I learn so much from her truly unique sense of motivational powers. The makebeliefscomix below says it all. Please click on the image for a clearer view.

Teacher Reboot Goals

Janet Bianchini (@janetbianchini) has been an EFL teacher for over three decades.  She still loves teaching and she is enjoying the challenge of learning more about new technologies and how to integrate them into her lessons. She writes a blog called Janet’s Abruzzo Edublog.  When she is not writing her blog, studying, editing or teaching, she loves to spend time in her rather wild garden with her menagerie in tow.

Submit your own guest post to this blog when you complete one of the goals or to another blog.

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Through the Archives: A Challenge for Bloggers

Flickr image by alamodestuff
Flickr image by alamodestuff

Darren Elliot in his blog, The Lives of Teachers, challenged bloggers to go through the archives of some of their favorite bloggers. I am calling this a blogging challenge versus homework. Darren’s fantastic idea is optional and challenges bloggers. Here are some guidelines if you would like to participate!

1. Have a look through the archives of your favorite bloggers by looking at the sidebar, clicking a tag or category, or searching for keywords in a search box.
2. Leave a comment.
3. Link to it on your blog, or tweet it using the hashtag #hiddengems, which was created by Mike Harrison.

Here are the blogs I chose to explore in 2 categories along with quotes from their posts.

English Language Teaching Blogs

In Henrick Oprea’s blog, Doing Some Thinking, he questions Is One Born a Teacher? I enjoy the thought-provoking posts on this blog and this one definitely makes you reflect on why you entered the profession. I enjoyed this reflection from the post:

Maybe there is such a thing as people who are cut out to be teachers and will be extremely successful at it with little effort. Others may be just as successful, but will have to work a bit harder at it. It may come across as cliché, but I believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Perhaps you will not be the most famous person who’s ever worked in your area, but you may definitely be great at it – whatever this it may be.

I love to visit Sue Lyon-Jones’ blog, The PLN Staff Lounge, because I get the comfort I need. Her posts make you really feel like you are in a staff lounge among your peers who empathize with the quirks of our profession. In her post, Murphy’s Law of TEFL, I especially enjoyed these:

If you plan to use the Internet during your lesson, the network will go down 30 seconds after the students have logged on and remain down for the rest of the session.
If you plan to teach a session using Twitter, you will end up delivering a 3 hour lesson on The Story of the Fail Whale.
Whatever level of English your learners are at, the phrase “please do not poke the LCD screens” will go completely over their heads.

In Anne Hodgson’s blog, The Island Weekly, she not only regularly publishes great posts, but she includes interesting podcasts and videos as well. I enjoyed this post and podcast, Which Thinker Taught You to Think?, where she reflects:

I don’t pretend to be a great thinker. Going to college didn’t go to my head, but the experience did teach me to use it. So I’d like to ask you: Which thinker taught you to think? For me, one of the most important thinkers was Jürgen Habermas, who turned 80 last Thursday. His belief in our communicative competence and his theory of communicative reason influenced the way I think and live.

In Eva Buyuksimkesyan‘s blog, A Journey in TEFL, she writes a beautiful post about reflection, failure, and student expectations, entitled, The Power of Feedback. I enjoy Eva’s honesty in her posts. I enjoyed this reflection from her post:

The end of the term was near and they were too tired as they studied for lots of exams and their projects and they were complaining that the teachers and parents were too expectant. That day I asked them to write an article about what I expect from a student instead of writing a feedback. I told them that way I would be able to understand if I was too expectant or not.

In Nicky Hockly’s blog, The E-Moderation Station, I enjoy the technology activities and pedagogy. In this post, Activities for Online Courses: The Beginning, she describes in depth how to have students create profiles using Glogster. I enjoyed this reflection from her post:

Like any good play, an online course has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Okay, admittedly some good plays – like Waiting for Godot – have none of the above, but bear with me on this. Some courses are short one-act plays,  and some are full-length Shakespearean dramas – especially when real-life tragedy does unfortunately intervene, and participants are forced to withdraw because of bereavement or illness.

Education Blogs

In Mary Beth Hertz’s blog, The Philly Teacher, she reflects on the way education is radically changing in scary ways in her post, The Times Are A-Changing. Mary Beth shows true passion in her posts for a better education system. I enjoyed this reflection from her post:

it seems everyone in education (or those with no hand in it) have something to say or do about education.
It’s scary as hell.

I enjoy the technology reflections and updates from In this post, A Few of My Favorite TED Talks for Educators, I enjoyed this reflection:

“With profound simplicity, Coach John Wooden redefines success and urges us all to pursue the best in ourselves. In this inspiring talk he shares the advice he gave his players at UCLA, quotes poetry and remembers his father’s wisdom.”

I enjoy the passionate posts in Chad Sansing ‘s blog, Classroots. In this post, Republics of Change, he has educators question what they want to accomplish to be better educators. I enjoyed this reflection from his post:

Look back at what you’ve accomplished. Look ahead to what you want to accomplish. Look in all of your work for your best self. How does that teacher do it? How does that teacher plan such authentic, engaging work? How does that teacher spark a smile on the face of that student? How does that teacher communicate with parents and convince administrators that new ideas will work?

I am still working on commenting on all these great blogs and I wanted to include many more.


Look through some of your favorite blogs archives to see what #hiddengems you may have missed!

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18 Resources for English Language Learners to Learn via Blogs

Part of the Cool Sites series

Perhaps your students are like mine and are not quite ready to make the leap to begin blogging. I work with very young language learners and adult language learners. Many of my adult learners will not put the effort into blogging but that doesn’t mean they will not try learning from a blog. I have found several valuable blogs for my students to learn English. Daily they can receive a lesson through e-mail or through RSS readers. Last semester I decided to teach my students how to learn with blogs.

This was how the first lesson plan went:

  • We were learning about travel in America, therefore I had my students read Shonah Wraith’s post, Big, Bigger, BIGGEST.
  • I asked students to leave comments on Shonah’s post.
  • Shonah did a great job of responding to my student’s questions and comments. Scroll down to the end of the post to see the fantastic results!
  • You can do the same lesson in any subject by telling a blogger ahead of time that your students will visit the blog and asking the blogger to answer the students’ questions.

2nd Phase: Video Tutorials

In the first phase, my students became familiar with the process and realized the amount of learning they could receive through interacting with blogs. Therefore, my next goal was to get my students to subscribe to the blogs. In order to teach them how to do this I made a video tutorial on how to subscribe to blogs with e-mail and get a lesson in their inbox regularly.

I shared this video so that students could also subscribe by Really Simple Syndication (RSS).

List of Blogs

I also shared a list of blogs the students could subscribe to. I told my students to explore the various blogs and subscribe to the ones that best appealed to their learning styles and interests. Each of the blogs had different aspects. Some had audio, others had video, and some had written words. I put these links in my wiki for my adult students to explore. Below are the English lesson blogs I suggested sorted by e-mail subscriptions and RSS subscriptions:

Blogs with e-mail/RSS subscriptions:

Blogs with RSS subscriptions only:


Have your students learn English by interacting on blogs. Gather a list of blogs in your subject area for students to explore.

You may want to subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

What are your favorite blogs in your subject area (math, history, science, English, etc.)? You can have your students even interact on their own blogs?

Do you want to add more blogs to my student list?

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