Emerging Science Educators Use Power of Blogging to Engage Differently in Their Professional Practice

Prior to going back to school to become a high school chemistry teacher, Christopher Young worked in the Internet industry for more than a decade. He knew about blogs and followed them frequently, but as a multimedia designer he never thought he had a need for a blog, nor did he think he’d ever have anything to say in one. Today, he is one of 14 graduate students in the Warner School’s science teacher preparation program who blog regularly about classroom and student teaching experiences on their way to becoming science teachers.

“It was interesting to have blogging be a requirement of the program because I found that I had plenty to say once I started my graduate study here at Warner,” says Young who will complete the 15-month master’s program this fall. “And it has since become a very useful tool for communicating with others in my cohort.” 

Preservice teachers in the program have found that they continue to boost their confidence in both science education and in teaching as they share knowledge and make time for thoughtful, meaningful, and engaging conversations in the profession.

Students in the program are required to blog at least weekly about something that was significant to their professional growth. April Luehmann, an associate professor who directs the science teacher preparation program at Warner, says that these experiences can be as non-traditional as a student attending a yoga class for the first time and using his or her discomfort to empathize with how their high school students, who don’t see themselves as scientists, enter the classroom for the first time.

Young, who shares his own personal experiences of teaching and experiments with visual design and technology in his blog, enjoys sharing anecdotal notes around what takes place in his classroom.

“People enjoy hearing about embarrassing things that happen or really cool things that work out well in the classroom,” he explains. “And when you have a challenging day, it’s nice to write or vent about it and then have people commiserate.”

Blogs have become a growing trend in the teaching profession, but it’s difficult to pinpoint the number of teachers who maintain a blog. According to U.S. News & World Report, Technorati.com, a blog-tracking site, counts 6,046 blogs with teacher “tags,” but that does not mean a teacher is behind each one of these.  

“Blogging, which positions teachers as producers—not just consumers—of knowledge, can shake up traditional classroom interactions and relationships,” explains Luehmann. “Because blogging is public and invites a broader audience beyond the classroom and school, it gives new professionals a venue to engage in larger conversations about science education. It’s a place where they can seek outside opinions, share resources they find valuable, and actively advocate for the kind of science education they feel is needed.”

Suzanne Kirsche, who recently received her bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Rochester, says that blogging forces her and others in her cohort to do a certain amount of reflection about things they learn in class and in their student teaching placements that they probably wouldn’t have done otherwise without the blog there.

“As graduate students, we get so busy and caught up with what we have to do and it’s easy to not take a minute to reflect on what we’re doing,” she says. “I think it’s really important because for me I like to pause every once in a while and think, okay, this is what I’m doing and this is where I am. It gives me a chance to reflect on what I’ve accomplished so far and to think about what I can do better from here on out.”

Luehmann explains that blogging gives preservice science teachers, who are immersed in challenging science teaching experiences, the space and opportunity to figure out what meaning these experiences hold for them. “This reflection is core to supporting the learning and development of an inquiry-minded science teacher,” she says.

Kirsche also realizes the importance of and value in taking time to read about what others in her cohort are doing. “It’s a really great way to communicate with everyone and stay current with what others are doing because with 14 of us you don’t always know what everyone is working on,” she adds. “They might be doing a really neat project in class that inspires you or they might have resources or contacts that can help you with your own teaching, so we share resources a lot that way too.”

Kirsche hopes to keep her blogging practice alive once she is out in the field working as a science teacher.

“Ideally, I would like my blog to be a resource for new teachers to come and look at, and as it evolves I see it maybe becoming a place where there are resources for educators. We can talk about some of the stuff that there just isn’t time for or the inclination to talk about during the school day,” Kirsche adds. 

To view Chris Young’s blog, visit http://getrealscience.com/teacherchrisy/ and to view Suzanne Kirsche’s blog, visit http://getrealscience.com/teachersuzannek/.



Tags: April Luehmann, science, science education