Benefits of Blogging (and reading them too!)
Exciting new CASC feature announcement:
The Benefits of Blogging – a little backgroundWritten by Jeff Ream - CASC Technology Chair - High School Counselor at North Tahoe High School in Tahoe City, CA - Writer of TheCounselingGeek
Before we jump into why blogging and reading blogs is great for professional growth and learning – I want to make sure you know what we are talking about. A blog (much like what you are reading now) can be thought of like a diary, a series of shorter articles, or reflection pieces. They take on different looks, voices, and purposes – but are usually either a stand alone blog (like mine: www.thecounselinggeek.com) or a blog that is a part of a larger website (like CASC's). There are generally no rules when writing blogs, but some best practices to include things like good grammar, use of images, and breaking up longer posts into digestible sections.
Blogs are also beneficial for both reading and creating one for yourself. This blog will be focused on why writing your own blog can be helpful - but for a list of super blogs to read, visit the SCOPE Blogroll (http://scope4scs.org/featuredblogs/). This list is maintained by Dr. Erin Mason of DePaul University and a huge counselor technology leader.
Why should you think about blogging?
If you have ever taken notes, wrote in a diary, or journaled, you may know how valuable both note taking and reflecting on your experiences. Most bloggers find one of the biggest benefits of blogging is using their writing as a tool to think about situations and share their knowledge learned with other readers. We teach this skill to students all the time but it seems we, as adults, feel like reflecting on our knowledge loses value once we finish college. Our daily experiences can teach us valuable lessons on a multitude of subjects however we usually write it off as the daily grind.
Instead of taking this approach, write down these experiences in daily, weekly, or monthly recaps. Your first blog posts do not have to be revolving around a certain topic but can be a narrative and reflection tool. Even this can be helpful to others. I also know of some bloggers who kept their blog private initially and then began publishing publically. That is the nice thing about learning to write - you are in control of the content, who can see it, and what direction you take. The key thing is being brave - take a chance and make it happen.
Best practices for blogging:
One of my suggestions for getting started with a blog is through Google's blog platform called Blogger (www.blogger.com). It is free, easy to setup and maintain, and gets tied with a Google account. You may want to create a new Google account specifically for your blog to keep your personal email private. It has many templates, themes, and there are endless tutorials that can be found with a simple Google search. Another tool that may be a good start for someone with a little more tech experience is Wordpress (www.wordpress.com). This has more expansion possibilities and can be more customizable. For my blog - I began on Blogger and in the last year, migrated to Wordpress to take advantage of some of the key features there.
Another key part is picking a name for your blog. Most blogs will be focused in a few key niche areas (mine would be technology, job hunts, and marketing within the School Counseling worlds). Pick a name that fits with your key themes, do a google search to see if the name is taken already, and then start setting up your site. If you are setting up a blog for parents or students from your school perspective - be sure to check with your administration and learn about any policies in place regarding technology in your district.
Get on social media to promote your blog. Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and Google+ are all ways to help publicize and learn about other cool blogs to read. If this sounds like too much effort - focus on getting the blog going and then step out once you are comfortable.
Sounds good but I
I have heard or experienced most of these excuses in my time blogging and working with people on tech. The biggest two are: I don't have time and I don't know where to start. In work and life - we are all busy people. In college, I learned about the importance of margins in my life. Margins, like the margins on a paper, are spaces left intentionally empty to pursue passions, learning, or other things that would normally not have a space in our busy life. Perhaps that is an answer to your time issue. Setting aside an hour a week, every two weeks, etc is also a way to begin. If you want it - you can make it work. It may take some sacrifice but what type of value does learning and professional development have in your life? Another thing we tell our students but most of us don't believe - you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it.
But what if I don't know how? Well good thing you read this blog post and it is amazing the amount of resources that are out there to help you along the way. If you google “getting started with blogger”, an endless amount of helpful tutorials, tips, and articles are found. YouTube is also a powerful tool with step by step guides to answer your questions. Also asking some of the other bloggers out there for some assistance when stuck!
CASC members - I want to implore you to take a little risk for a big reward. Start blogging but at the very least - start reading some of the super resources out there already! Happy blogging.