This afternoon I spent some time updating my feeds in Google Reader. If you haven't taken advantage of GR you really need to give it a try, in fact by not taking advantage of the tools out there for discovering and finding blogs I think we are contributing to their demise (more on that later).
A few weeks ago I put out a message on Twitter that I was looking for blogs by current public school music teachers. I was able to get a hold of about six. This afternoon I decided to go through the 2009 list assembled by Joe Pisano which at the time contained 100 active music education bloggers. I went through the list with two simple criteria: First, the blog must have a new post within the last two weeks, and two, the blog must be authored by a current public school music teacher. How many of the 100 fit the bill?
About ten. The others were either defunct or collecting dust. To be fair, there are some on that list that are active but did not meet my criteria of being authored by current public school music teachers. There are several by college profs, consultants, and studio teachers that are active. Even so, I think it's pretty clear that we have a blogging dearth in the public school profession, and this seemingly was not the case about a year ago.
Has Web 2.0 led to the demise of blogging? In a way, I believe it has. People are busy "connecting" but not spending as much time reading and writing. But at the same time Web 2.0 has provided us with the tools needed for a resurgence if we can manage to wrap our minds around a few simple thoughts.
1. Websites are becoming less relevant every day.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that people will visit your website on a daily basis looking for your latest posts. You need to bring your information to them. That is a fundamental shift in today's online world. Make sure your blog features an RSS feed (nearly all do these days) and the ability to offer subscriptions by email. This way your posts will be taken to people in whatever way is most convenient for them. It is completely possible that the majority of your readers will never visit your site. Who cares? All that matters is the content you are sharing. Bring it to their doorstep and they are more likely to read it. The site itself is inconsequential if your goal is o share your thinking with the profession.
2. Join Twitter
Twitter is quickly becoming the de facto method for distributing ideas, links, and building Professional Learning Networks. If you blog something that is worth reading, Twitter members will make sure people hear about it. My ID on Twitter is teaching_music. Start connecting with colleagues online. Having said that, please realize that Twiter is not the magic solution by itself. Twitter is very temporal, and is not (although I fear some people think it is) a replacement for blog posts.
3. Don't "try to blog" but rather share what you are doing and thinking about.
One of the biggest reasons that blogs die a quick death is because people "don't know what to write about." If teachers would focus more on sharing what they are thinking about, rather than trying to write the "perfect blog post" we would all be much better off. Don't try to change the profession in one post, just type some thoughts.
4. If you want readers, then be a good reader.
Many of us have put a blog post out there, then sat back and wondered if anyone had any thoughts about it. Leave a comment (or a tweet) the next time you read a good post. I know I myself have to get alot more proactive about this. And as I mentioned earlier, get an rss aggregator like Google Reader or Bloglines so you can manage and more easily keep up with all the posts out there. You can even just simply bookmark an rss right in your browser (called "live bookmarks" in Firefox, for example). There are also some great rss reader apps for the iPhone like NetNewsWire. Blogging in Music Education isn't about your ideas, it's about the exchange of ideas. The bottom line is that we all need to work together if we are going to revive this important aspect of the PLN. To that end, I have an RSS Feed containing some active public school music teachers, and you are welcome to subscribe to it: http://feeds.feedburner.com/MusicPlnBlogs. If I missed you and your blog fits the criteria, I would love to add you to the list. Drop me a line.