To blog or not to blog…

As well as teaching, I am also interested in minimalism, passive income, and social media. The conventional wisdom in blogging/online communities is that it is necessary to have and actively manage an online presence. Write a blog, be active on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin: all with the ultimate goal of building a tribe and enhancing your credibility. If all goes well, this will lead to fulfillment and opportunities for professional advancement.

However, does this transfer to the ELT world?

My friend John Wiltshier does not have a blog. Instead he spends his time and energy creating textbooks and presenting to teachers.

Paul Nation does not have a blog, but that has hardly stopped him influencing language teachers all over the world.

Tim Murphey does not have a blog, although you can find his website here.

Scott Thornbury does have a blog, although he doesn’t update it very often (on the blogging scale of things, at least). Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto has a hugely successful blog, although she seems to be focusing on guest posts recently.

So what lesson to draw from all of this? Is blogging (regardless of its intrinsic rewards) something that is worth doing? Or is it, as some of my more pragmatic friends put it, a waste of time?

A lot of the time I feel I should shut down the browser and settle down to some ‘serious’ work: some official publications that I can put on my resume. Right now, in Japan at least, your blog or online presence will probably count for nothing when applying for jobs. Even the most cursory ‘kiyo’ (internal university journal) article would trump years of online writing when applying for a university position.

Thinking about the opportunity cost, the few hours a week I spend on this could probably be better employed elsewhere…

So what do you think? Blogging, from a professional point of view, worth it or not?

25 Oct 2011, 12:02pm
by WIlliam McDuff

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There are some benefits to blogging. Writing practice is one; a ‘kiyo’ might be stumping you, but the informal blog post might come tumbling out.

Also, if you can establish consistant posting, the blog can become a bit of a testing ground for ideas. When you have commenters, they can pick apart an idea from many view, increasing insight for when you rework the idea in a later form.

Also, I’m not sure blogging has really taken off yet in Japan. This is something you might be able to decide yourself, but being one of the first to take it seriously may have dividends later on. Social mores tend towards conservatism in Japan, no?

Hi William

Thanks for being a commenter :)

Sadly, I think that Japan has one of the largest blog communities in the world (http://globalvoicesonline.org/2007/04/16/japan-number-1-language-of-bloggers-worldwide/) so I don’t think I am going to get any prizes for breaking new ground.

Personally, my main motivation for putting time into this is that I enjoy it (it’s certainly not the fame and money). I would like to write more in the future and I guess this is giving me practice.

Also I really enjoy the community aspect of it. Having people drop by and leave comments is awesome.

I think that this is a very good question. My take on it is this: blogging, tweeting, etc. Will not help you get through the first round of university hiring, i.e. the review of your application. But, it will help you during the second and third stages of the hiring process, interviews, follow ups, etc. Your blog will be a great way to demonstrate what kind of person and teacher you are. A good, active blog is a great way to reiterate what you’ve talked about in your interview.

So, if blogging is keeping you from publishing, then you stop and work on research. Without the requisite number of published papers, you’re not likely to make it to the interview stage where a blog will help you shine. Ideally, you should have both – academic papers and a social media.

Hi Cameron

A very good point. Right now, I think I have enough publications to pass the initial threshold (as well as far too many presentations!). Also, having gotten one university job, I presume it will be easier to get another one in due course?

The question for me is: is it worth doing this instead of working on academic articles, textbooks and materials, or the curriculum for Cambridge English?

On reflection, I think it might not be.

On the other hand, I enjoy it, so I’ll carry on for the time being :)

You are sharing ideas with a community of like-minded people and our students benefit from all of this. It might not get you a job or be financially rewarding, but 100%, keep on blogging.

Thanks Philip

I feel like I am fishing for compliments now!

I am genuinely interested though, as it seems that few of the ELT ‘notables’ bother with a regular blog (too busy doing real work?).

Hey Ben,
Certainly must feel like a tough gig at times and you’re right, the time is in all reality, probably better spent elsewhere. The other side of it is though, it’s good to do things that we enjoy. You enjoy it and lots of others benefit from it, too. I know this is the first time I’ve commented, however, I often stop by and check out your blog. I find it very helpful and informative. You write well and it’d be a pity to see you stop.

Keep it up mate.

Best,
Greg

Thanks Greg

Appreciate the encouragement :)

I’ll be continuing, hopefully as well as starting some new projects…

I’ll keep you posted!

Hi Ben – I agree with the testing ground idea. I find it a useful way to discover if anyone I know has expertise in the area I am looking to discover – also find it useful to get comments that I can use to test my own thoughts. Most of all it is nice to commit thoughts to paper and see how people react. You write well and people read your posts so don’t stop!

Hey Parin

I hope you’ll be continuing your blog after you graduate! Send me the link if it changes.

If the writer is in education, I would be looking for something I could use in my own classroom to improve myself. As I teacher, I blog to not gain popularity, but to improve my own writing and communication skills.

I think the media is less important than content. Although I think Google+ is the way of the future.

Hi Tom

I agree it’s important to keep the larger goal in mind.

Not so sure about Google+ though. I have an account, but I prefer the blog for keeping info together and easy to find (and I like owning my domain).

Not sure if Google+ is going to go the same way, but I hate the way Facebook keeps changing things…

Tough decisions, Ben. I don’t have any answers, but I can tell you why I started blogging.

In my case, I took the Becoming a Webheads course through TESOL Electronic Village online (part of my “do something that will make you feel like a beginner” efforts). The only way to see how online stuff worked was to dive in. That meant starting a blog (among other things).

There were already a ton of excellent ELT bloggers, and I didn’t really know what I could add to what they were already doing. I’m not a fan of personality blogs, and don’t think I’m all that interesting, in any case.

That’s why I started collecting blog posts from other EFL teachers. THEY were interesting, and most of them didn’t have an online presence. It’s not a time saver, since most guest posts take more time to format and upload than my own posts take to write, but I’m happy to use what small recognition I receive to shine a spotlight on classroom teachers.

Some of my guest writers have personal blogs, and guest posts bring more readers for the rest of their writing. Some of my guest writers don’t have any sort of blog (and aren’t ready or interesting in maintaining one), or blogs that aren’t about teaching. For them, Teaching Village gives them a way to share their writing without the commitment to regular blogging about teaching.

I would still love to publish a guest post from you, too, Ben!

Best of luck with whatever you decide to do!

Hi Barb

Thanks for stopping by! I’ve been meaning to write something to submit to your blog for ever (well, the last few months at least), but haven’t found the right topic yet.

You can expect something soon though. Hope it meets the standard (it’s a fairly high bar, from the posts I’ve seen). For the record, what format would you like submissions in?

Great, Ben! I look forward to seeing your post. I can either add you to the blog and you can write a draft there, or you can send me your post as an email attachment (word) or as a google doc. I’m flexible :)

20 Nov 2011, 8:55pm
by alohastephen

reply

Tim Murphey is awesome! He was my first professor when I started grad school working on my MA in TESL.

As for blogging, I think that followers will keep following so long as you have something of value for them to read.

Great blog by the way. Found it on milepoint of course.

Thanks Stephen

Always nice to see a fellow milepointer around the place :)

 

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