Sunday, March 15, 2009

Is Blogging Worth The Risk? For Most Teachers, No

Editor’s Note: Learning & Leading’s popular Point/Counterpoint section is looking for arguments on both sides of the question “Is blogging worth the risk?” After submitting my initial response in favor of blogging despite the risk , they contacted me saying they were considering publishing my post, but since they had received several submissions on the same side of the issue, they were wondering if I would be interested in drafting a post taking the other side of the issue. Always up for a challenge, I agreed.

This post is written in response to that request.


About a year ago, inspired by three innovative bloggers, Will Richardson (http://weblogg-ed.com/) who I dubbed my “Blogfather”, Penelope Trunk (http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/) my “Blogmother,” and Jim McDermott (http://www.techomnivore.com/) my big "Blogbrother," I eagerly jumped on board and started my own blog (http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/). These mentors served as cheerleaders and guides after I proudly gave birth to my first blog. I used advice from each of them to ensure its successful launch.

I learned 1) a great way to get people to know about your blog is to start commenting on their blogs, 2) to register at Technorati to begin gaining authority, 3) to install a stat counter, Google Analytics, and a Cluster map to track stats, and 4) to add my blog url my email signature. With about ten entries in my first month I thought I was off to a good start.

Not long after I received a generic staff email stating that employees should be using a standard email signature that included basic information such as address, phone, email, etc. Check, check, check. My signature had all that, and more, including graphically pleasing fonts and design features. A couple weeks later I received a call indicating that legal caught wind of the fact that I was sharing my blog in my email signature and I had to remove it. What? I couldn’t believe it! That generic-seeming email was specifically targeting me because I had the educational blog I was so proud of in my email signature??? I was doing what I thought all innovative educators should do. I wasn’t just talking the talk, I was walking the walk, creating a purposeful and professional digital footprint and sharing ideas that I hoped would be of interest to other educators.

Begrudgingly I followed the directive…and blogged about it, asking my readers what they thought of this mandate. WELL…this blew up into a bit of a story that spread its way around educational press circles with headlines like, “Education Dept. Restrictions On Blogs Rile a Staff Blogger.” The story became fodder for much debate in the blogosphere, throughout my department, and beyond.

Next thing I knew people at work seemed to be avoiding me and some colleagues came straight out and said they were afraid to speak to me for fear I may post something they say in my blog and they were afraid they may get in trouble if caught. Other colleagues were leaving emails I sent unanswered. I felt like I had just contracted the plague.

A few weeks later I wrote a post about a class I was offering which provides teachers with information on how to use Google text messaging as an educational tool. That post got picked up by the press with the headlines, Despite School Cell Phone Ban, Course Sees Them as Aid. As a result, the facilitator I had lined up to teach the class wanted to back out for fear he would get in trouble. Then, I received “a call” telling me that I had to make sure there were no cell phones used in instruction (which I could accommodate, because the Google site has a mock phone to use as a demo). However, I suddenly found the class that had been running for quite some time, was now under deep scrutiny and all eyes were on me. Not long after that a story appeared in the press with an inappropriate anonymous quote, and guess who they were pointing the finger at??? Me! What? That seemed to make no sense. I blog/write/speak under my real name. It didn’t matter. Because I had a blog, I was suspect.

Following these events, many of my colleagues shared with me that this was exactly the kind of thing that prevented them from ever starting a blog in the first place. While none of this deterred me personally, what I realized is there is a real risk in blogging that I had not initially considered. For many, even the most innovative of educators, engaging in an activity that constantly places you under examination, makes an already difficult job even more difficult and potentially jeopardizes job security. This is a position in which most educators working for school systems do not want to be placed. For that reason, I believe though educator voice is important, ultimately, most educators who report to an employer, will find blogging is just not worth the risk.

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Here's the article from Learning and Leading magazine:
Point/CounterpointIs Blogging Worth the Risk?
By James Maxlow and Lisa Nielsen Download the full article (PDF)




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