This morning the Connected Educators Blog posted a quick guide for “How to Start Blogging“. It was well intentioned, meant to give people some quick tips for starting your own blog, and gave just about the same exact advice that I give individuals. It just got the order of the steps wrong. In most “intro to blogging” workshops I see the typical routine as described in the aforementioned post.
- Pick a blogging platform and setup your space
- Decide or define what to write about
- Share and enjoy
That order works most of the time. It’s easy for most tech facilitators to start with the technology platform and then work on the finer points of setting up your blogging “house” given the toolset of WordPress, Blogger, or some other blog hosting service. Instructional technologists come from all areas of education, so it’s easier for us to start with a common place; setting up and fidgeting with new technology.
But is starting with the platform the best place to start for a truly meaningful experience? I didn’t start driving by choosing my first car. I didn’t start writing by choosing which pencil, crayon, or pen was the best fit for me, and I certainly didn’t start this blog because WordPress was the best tool at the time. I started driving to escape being chauffeured by my parents. I started writing because society expects us to be able to express ourselves through written language. And looking back, I started blogging because I wanted to create a small home-grown network of educators sharing resources about technology. My choice of car, preferred writing implement, and blogging platform all came later.
I’m not convinced that the order mentioned above, or in the Connected Educators post, is the best way to handle getting started with blogging in today’s connected environment. Thanks to many websites and hosts, starting a blog is a 5 minute process now, and posting out to one is incredibly easy depending on the platform you choose. The question of “how” to start blogging is now relatively basic, and is readily answered with a quick search on Youtube (over 93,000 videos are returned when searching for how to start a blog). The more meaningful question for me then is “why” blog. The metaphysical questions about “who is your audience”, and “what do you want to communicate to them” and “how do you invite conversation” may seem bothersome to some. To me, it gives me an opportunity to craft a simple roadmap with the educators that I work with, so when they do start blogging they have some ideas about what they want to put out into the world, and can craft their space to better suit those thoughts.
I’m sure that I’m being needlessly nit picky here, and unnecessarily splitting hairs over the process; I just like knowing that before I help someone “build a house” for their writing, that we both have a clear understanding of what they want to put into the house, and what it’s going to need to look like to accommodate all of the thoughts placed inside. Bud Hunt wrote much more eloquently about this several years ago, while thinking about the “long game” that we must play as educators. Jim Groom extolled the virtues of blogging and how it has “opened up avenues of happiness” for him in his professional life. Thoughts like that don’t stem from pros and cons of which blogging platform to choose, and can feel like a huge speed bump if you’ve put the tools before the planning.
Why start with the easy stuff, when the more difficult conversations are so much more rewarding and full of aspiration, promise, and energy? Looking back at my first blog post, I didn’t just want a blog; I wanted a vibrant, networked learning place for people to converse! I might not have hit those goals, but at least I started with a clear intent of where I wanted to be, not just the shell of an empty house before deciding how to fill it up. I hope that any seasoned instructional technologist thinks twice about leading a “how to blog” workshop with the creation of the blog as the first step, and instead uses valuable face to face time to connect with educators’ passions, needs, and what compels them to want to share openly on the web. The ideas shared in the Connected Educators post under the second step “Define Your Message” are a great starting point. They just need to come first if you really mean to blog for the long haul.