#CynosuralAddiction to blogging by @TeacherToolkit


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@TeacherToolkit

In 2010, Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit from a simple Twitter account through which he rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on social media in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday...
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Are you a person (or blog) that is the centre of attention or admiration?

Are you a cynosural-addict?

Hashtag: #CynosuralAddiction

Are you an addict?  Photo Credit: epSos.de via Compfight cc
Are you an addict?
Photo Credit: epSos.de via Compfight cc

Okay, I confess … I’m a cynosural-blogger! I am addicted.

There, I’ve said it.

Context:

In October 2013, I wrote about the #GuiltyTeacher in all of us and its popularity proved very resonant with the teaching profession. The reason for this, was that there was a distinct pressure placed upon ourselves within the classroom and attendance/absence. In summary, this appears to be the nature of teaching in general.

However, there is a new breed growing amongst us; cynosure or the cynosurious-blogger. This may begin to amplify what has been said already in GuiltyTeacher syndrome and it is again here, that I explain what; why and how we are becoming a problematic breed. I also highlight and encourage others to take up the blogging-battle with awareness of cynosure so that you can avoid this at all costs.

Definitions:

What is a blog/blogger?
What is a blog/blogger?

BloggingTherefore, (in my own form) a Cynosural-Blogger (#CynosuralAddiction) is:

‘a person who records opinions on a webpage as a centre of attention or admiration; which causes a niggling self-addiction to communicate progressively and question their own self-control.’

Cynosura, from Greek kunosoura ‘dog's tail’ (also ‘Ursa Minor’) Image credit: Akira Fujii
Cynosura, from Greek kunosoura ‘dog’s tail’ (also ‘Ursa Minor’) Image credit: Akira Fujii

Note, ‘cynosure’ is also taken from Greek kunosoura ‘dog’s tail’ (also ‘Ursa Minor’). A notable star, as the location of the north celestial pole, and if you are into constellations, is commonly visualised as ‘a baby bear with an unusually long tail.’ (Source)

Discussion:

What I would like to discuss here, is the downside to teacher-blogging – and I am included here! I aim to touch upon the following areas:

  1. Getting started.
  2. What to blog?
  3. Web-tools.
  4. Statistics.
  5. and Well-being.

I would also like to briefly highlight, how new teachers can get started with blogging to aid their own reflections and in turn, impact on their own CPD. There are two sources which I will be quoting from. The first, is the ideal article for new-bloggers, written by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) in The Guardian here. He discusses his ‘top 10 don’ts for wannabe teacher bloggers’ and is referenced to balance the argument. The other is from 99u.com which highlights my #CynosuralAddiction:

“Interruption-free space is sacred. Yet, in the digital era we live in, we are losing hold of the few sacred spaces that remain untouched by email, the internet, people, and other forms of distraction… When walking from one place to another, we have our devices streaming data from dozens of sources. Even at our bedside, we now have our iPads with heaps of digital apps and the world’s information at our fingertips.” (What happened to downtime?)

If you are reading this. I am assuming the chances are, that you could be a cynosural-blogger with an addiction to social-media of sorts. Note the time you are reading this? Who are you with? Where are you you? What else could/should you be doing?

Why is it important to carry on reading this?

1. The What? Getting started:

As Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) says:

“Don’t worry too much about who will read it to begin with; just write something you want to say and then build up a collection over time. You’ll be amazed by how many hits you get but it doesn’t happen immediately.”

I could not agree more with Tom. I started over here on another @TeacherToolkit blog (version 1) in October 2010.

I know I am fully addicted to my own (this) blog and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t impacted on my own job and home-life …  So, you need to tread carefully and balance the benefits of blogging, versus the flexibility of your work/life and choice of web-tools available.

Throughout 2013, blogging has allowed me to produce a personal blog of high-quality; one that is fairly-pleasing to the eye and rich in content. Although, this has come at a price.

Why is this important?

Photo Credit: las - initially via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: las – initially via Compfight cc

Like any useful website, as a consumer, you need to be able to find what you are looking for. This cannot be found in content alone. You do need some basic HyperText Markup Language skills in order to structure your web-content; but this is possible, given the many website templates available to us all.

And what makes you and I come back to websites? Well, we treat websites (blogs) more and more like the extension of some of our Facebook friends. You know, the ones you have only met once, who flood your timeline with selfies; holiday shots and mundane status updates, quoting inspiring quotes we have seen posted countless times.

We all do it. We all dip in and out of their lives when it is convenient to us.

The freedom to choose what content we consume, or the promise of more of the same.

This is why it is crucial to consider your audience when blogging; develop an ethos; content-focus, or a particular style of writing. After-all, you cannot improve or receive feedback, if you do not have a blog, or have not published anything. You need to get started in order to know what and what-not to do.

2. The Why and What to blog?

Toms opening line in his article is significant:

“Don’t forget that anyone you know might read your blog including students and colleagues. Better still, imagine they will definitely read it.”

So, consider what you will write and who your audience will be. There are a wide mix of teacher-bloggers online and many choose to do this publicly and/or anonymously. You can see a recent publication in The Guardian: Teacher blogs: who should I be reading?

“Whether you’re looking for lesson plans, teaching resources or want to stay up-to-date with the latest education debates, teacher blogs are a great way to share ideas…”

In this article, they have selected 12 bloggers from a full educational-spectrum. I am one of them. I have no idea what the selection criteria was, but it is important to note, that they are MANY other bloggers out there – regardless of any notable lists  – that blog on topics that suit your interests. They are all worthy too. My list is here.

We all have choices...
We all have choices…

Choices:

The choice is yours. Do you want to model what someone is already doing? Or are you at the stage, where you want to branch out and consider new perspectives in blogging? Is there an unspoken market in educational blogging? Do you have a role in education, where your voice is not heard, or you fail to connect with like-minded colleagues; perhaps in need of a network? Then blogging could be for you.

(I have just been distracted from writing, after a 30-minute distraction on blog rankings. This is a prime example of #CynosuralAddiction. (More to follow in part 4 below.)

Finally, do not think you do not have something to say. Even if you just write about your day-to-day experiences in education; someone will be interested, “especially if you are evaluating what you’ve been doing”. (Tom Sherrington)

What do we really need?

But, what we really need is a slow-debate. In an interesting article on ‘Tweet less; read more’, this encapsulates the biosphere world for me as a seasoned blogger.

“What we really need is slow debate. It would trade the sugary highs and lows of rapid-fire outrage for a more balanced diet.” (For 2014, Tweet Less, Read More – NYTimes)

In part 4 below, I go on to explain the quantitative nature of blogging/posting articles, versus the qualitative elements of blogging.

3. The How? Web-tools:

“Don’t be put off by the technical aspect; blog sites are very easy to navigate and you can add extra features as you go along. Take time at the start to choose your blog’s appearance from all the options, lifting ideas from existing blogs, but once you’ve started, it is very straightforward.” (Tom Sherrington)

Tags; keywords; categories help people search for ideas. Web-tools enable you to customise your own blog-style, as well as hyper-links to text within other blogs and webpages you refer to. This creates a forum for mutual support and cross-referencing.

Here is a screenshot of the tools available to me on this blog:

Wordpress

All this will become natural to you, the more you delve deeper into blogging. This is very important for cynosural-addicts …

4. Statistics:

I blog on average 1-3 times per week. Is this sustainable? Well, with a full-time school leadership job. Just!

In my recent Back-catalogue post, I go on to elaborate on my very own blog statistics throughout 2013.

“The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 670,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 29 days for that many people to see it.” (Link)

Why is this statistical analysis so fascinating to me? To you? And to other bloggers?

Well, as Tom goes on to say in his blog-wannabe article:

“Don’t be afraid of a bit of self-promotion; Twitter is the best way. Without Twitter, most blogs would be accidental discoveries and it’s really helpful when links are tweeted. For me, Twitter and blogging are inextricably linked.”

I (now) see blogging as an extension of my work – not just my thoughts. Blogging has opened up many doors for me and has led to me writing my book; presenting at national conferences; speaking and presenting at TeachMeets; blogging for others, for example, Blogsync; and writing for The Guardian and many other publications.

“…It’s easy for us to think that quality alone will be enough to promote our work. Yet we need to open the door to the outside world for our ideas and creations, because if we make something and nobody’s there to see, why did we create in the first place?…” (Dismantling the Myths of Self-Promotion)

I say more about my thoughts on blogging here.

5. Well-Being:

It’s all about quantity, not quantity. I can also fall victim to this on Twitter too!

“Don’t try to spread yourself too thinly, covering every topic there is; the best blogs are those that have a clear identity and style, building a set of resources you can rely on.” (Tom Sherrington)

I have been there. Posting blogs as often as possible to express thought; to cease the moment (educational news of the day); or to respond to social-networks. Either is unsustainable with a full-time job, unless you work out what to write; when to write it and when to post content … it then becomes much more manageable.

I am even editing this now at 04.38 am on Friday 3rd January as I cannot sleep! … and re-editing at 21.35pm!

I do occasionally pre-determine blogposts and schedule them for release throughout the coming weeks. For example, I currently have 22 blogpost topics backed up in reserve for posting. Some need tweaking; editing and deleting! This is perfectly suitable for work-life balance and to stagger varying content; to suit the time of year, as well as giving your own readers time to catch up and digest content.

Blogging

But, is it time to control this addiction?

There is a very useful read here; What Happened to Downtime? (thanks to DHT, @cijane02) which states:

“The need to be connected is, in fact, very basic in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the psychological theory that explains the largest and most fundamental human desires. Our need for a sense of belonging comes right after physical safety.”

The people who are still with you at the end of the day, are the ones who need you. Photo Credit: Adam Foster | Codefor via Compfight cc
The people who are still with you at the end of the day, are the ones who need you.
Photo Credit: Adam Foster | Codefor via Compfight cc

Conclusion:

To answer the question; are you a cynosural-addict? Well, despite the downsides, the answer for me, is a resounding ‘yes’.

Blogging; tweeting and even my new @TeacherToolkit page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TeacherToolkit is all part of reaching a wider-audience. And I ask myself, why do I seek this craving? And why do we all want to connect with everyone online?

I crave ‘Likes & RTs’; the reblogging from Echo Chamber; the Knowledge vs. Skills debate – even though I haven’t contributed to the debate (yet); the downsides and quirks of trolling and cyber-bullying; teacher-twitterati; anonymous bloggers; spammers and so forth.

Why? Well, I discovered this abstract statement: Right to Internet access which states:

The right to Internet access, also known as the right to broadband, is the view that all people must be able to access the Internet in order to exercise and enjoy their rights to Freedom of expression and opinion and other fundamental human rights, that states (we) have a responsibility to ensure that Internet access is broadly available, and that states may not unreasonably restrict an individual’s access to the Internet….”

Of course, the need (and desire) to blog is much more fundamental than this. Psychologically, we can refer to this quote from the second source I referenced at the beginning:

“The need to be connected is, in fact, very basic in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the psychological theory that explains the largest and most fundamental human desires. Our need for a sense of belonging comes right after physical safety.”

But what about digitally? Considering our relationships are increasingly digital rather than physical …

“..We are social animals; longing to belong to a group and this can also be said for blogging. Determinism; particularly through blogging, can also shape identity of the self and our perception of others. Social identities help define our schema… ” (@CiJane02)

Hopefully, you will very familiar with this diagram and may have also seen this modern social-media twist on Abraham Maslow’s theory!

Modern Maslow
Modern Maslow

To conclude: Do we enjoy blogging for the sake of blogging? Or, do we opt out, for fear of public exposure, gratification or ridicule?

“Your confidence and self-esteem can quickly be reassured by checking your number of “followers” on Twitter or the number of “likes” garnered by your photographs and blog posts.” (Source)

It is clear, despite openness or anonymity, that those who blog, are a person who records opinions on a webpage as a centre of attention or admiration; which causes a niggling self-addiction to communicate progressively and question their own self-control.’

If we are tarnished with this brush, do we have a #CynosuralAddiction?

Welcome to web 3.0 perhaps? It is there for us all to govern …


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