Sure. You’re thinking “I really have to add something else to my To Do List?”
Well, that’s the beauty of blogs. It’s not a stack of magazines that pile up until you can get to them. In most cases, new posts are made only a few times a week, or sometimes, only a few times a month. And who cares if you miss a post? Most of the good ones feature archives that list topics addressed in past articles. Best of all, you’re not paying a dime!
Some blogs invite reaction from visitors. Others, not so much. And while the reader posts may be interesting, they should never be the heart of the matter. To warrant an occasional visit, it’s the blogger who needs to speak to you, not the other folks who also happen to stop by. Plus, that’s another advantage of blogs if you want it to be. You can just read it and move on. Unless you want to there’s no oblogation to discuss, no need to debate.
Reading a blog is not a lifetime commitment. In fact, you never have to go back! But if you search the internet carefully, you are sure to find a few places where you feel at home as a public school employee. Soon you will feel like that blogger is a good friend who knows what you want to read about, answers your questions, and helps you fully explore how you really feel about the issues.
So, here they are, in no particular order. Of course, there’s really no pressure here. But we promise that if you take the time to read any or all of these blogs, you’ll be a better-informed, and perhaps more effective professional educator.
NJ Spotlight is an online news service providing insight and information on issues critical to New Jersey. It is nonpartisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded. It also happens to feature the state’s most respected education reporter. The website’s founding editor, John Mooney, has covered education in New Jersey for 15 years as a reporter for The Newark Star-Ledger and The Bergen Record.
Just click on the education tab and you’ll find a steady flow of information about the actions of the N.J. Department of Education and the State Board of Education and articles on education reform, standardized testing, charter schools, and much more. On occasion, Mooney will hand his keyboard over to a guest blogger.
Because NJ Spotlight is looking to engage New Jersey’s citizens on education and other topics, it sponsors occasional forums that are open to the public. Recent events looked at high school graduation requirements in New Jersey and the state’s new teacher evaluation system.
The anonymous Jazzman is a music educator and composer who lives in New Jersey. While he occasionally writes about the arts and other less politically charged topics of interest in the Garden State, the vast majority of his posts relate to education. His blog has quickly become a must-visit site for those who are critical of the education policies of Gov. Chris Christie. (This quote is prominently displayed under the blog’s banner: “I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor,” Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ," October 2009.)
The author is a prolific writer (he had more than 600 posts in 2012) who never shies away from controversy and isn’t’ afraid to hold an elected or appointed official’s feet to the fire. You may also find his long list of favorite blogs, dubbed “Jazzman Approved Linkage” worth the visit alone.
The Jazzman occasionally blogs for Blue Jersey (www.bluejersey.com), a progressive source of news, political analysis and activism in New Jersey.
Lily Eskelsen is vice president of the National Education Association (NEA). She is one of the highest-ranking labor leaders in the country and one of its most influential Hispanic educators. Her blog is crisp and easy to use.
Naturally Eskelsen’s posts have national appeal and often address issues related to the workplace. But at her core, this elementary teacher from Utah cares about kids and believes that we all have a responsibility to fight to make the promise of public education a reality and to prepare every student to succeed.
The Blackboard can be your one-stop shop for lesson plan ideas and NEA Today news. Eskelsen also lists her favorite blogs and popular links. The home page includes “Talk to me,” where you can see posts from readers, and in some cases, Eskelsen’s responses.
Education Week blogs
It would take an entire feature article—perhaps a series of articles—to fully describe the blog offerings on the Education Week website. Currently, there are more than 40 active blogs. Most of them are designated as opinion pieces as opposed to straight news.
The topics and the number of blogs in each category are listed below:
- Politics and policy—8
- Technology, industry and innovation—6
- International Perspectives—2
- In the Classroom—4
- P-16 connections—2
- Education special populations—4
- The teaching profession—9
- Health and wellness—3
- Parents and community—2
- Books and photos—2
- Charters and school choice--2
As you might guess, you’ll find good information on topics that you don’t find in many other places. From school law to rural education to school athletics, you are bound to discover something of interest. Take a look.
Diane Ravitch's blog
Ever since this member of Pres. George H.W. Bush’s education department realized that the No Child Left Behind law was hurting public schools and the students who attend them, Diane Ravitch has been in the news. She is a historian of education, research professor of education at New York University and author of 10 books, including her most recent work, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (2010). She is a tireless defender of public schools and public school teachers.
Ravitch posts frequently, often several times a day, as she comments on education news. It’s her job to read about education, so she’ll let you know what’s important and why.
Edutopia is produced by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, which is dedicated to transforming the learning process by helping educators implement strategies that work. Its blog features practical classroom strategies and tips from real educators, as well as lesson ideas, personal stories, and innovative approaches to improving your teaching practice.
You’ll find information that will help your work immediately. Posts are tagged in one of the following categories:
- Brain-based learning
- Education trends
- Five-minute film festival
- Game-based learning
- New teacher support
- Project-based learning
- Social and emotional learning
- Student engagement
- Teacher leadership
- Technology integration
While you’re checking out the blogs, be sure to click around the rest of the Edutopia website, which allows you to browse by grade level and features an education video library.
Free Technology for Teachers
The name of this blog says it all. Authored by former teacher and Google-certified educator Richard Byrne, the site has 45,000 daily subscribers. It has been an Edublog Award winner in each of the last four years.
Although this site is heavy on advertising, it is easy to navigate. Most important, you don’t have to be a techie to get help. Tabs such as “iPad apps for schools,” “Free downloads,” and “Favorite resources” keep things simple. Be sure to click on “Alternatives to YouTube,” which lists 48 sites that you can use if YouTube is blocked in your classroom.
School Finance 101
This blog on education data and public and private school funding in the U.S. is authored by Rutgers Graduate School of Education professor Dr. Bruce Baker. An author and consultant, Baker is clear that his blog is simply a collection of random thoughts, usually written in response to ill-conceived arguments and poorly presented data in the field of education. “This is not a ‘research’ site,” notes Baker. His site occasionally goes dark (he takes breaks to work on “scholarly stuff”), but when he does post, he is presenting the facts behind the headlines and holding education policy makers and education writers accountable for what they do and say.
Of particular interest are Baker’s musings on charter schools, value-added models of teacher evaluation and federal education polices. Plus, you have to love a blog that lists a category of posts called “[The] Dumbest Stuff I've Ever Read!”
The Answer Sheet
The Answer Sheet is the Washington Post’s education blog, written by education reporter Valerie Strauss. Its posts are divided into four categories: school reform, vouchers, and education policy, and the blog is updated frequently. Yes, a few of the posts may only have local appeal in the Washington D.C. area, but Strauss cranks out so many articles, you won’t mind.
The blog also features “Guest voices,” where Strauss introduces a piece written by folks you’ve probably heard of (Diane Ravitch, Arthur Levine) as well as some you haven’t (a father from Pennsylvania, a professor from South Carolina).
Steve Barkley Ponders Out Loud
Steve Barkley is a favorite presenter in schools across New Jersey and at NJEA professional development events. He is actively engaged in NJEA’s Priority Schools Initiative.
Barkley is an internationally recognized teacher-educator with expertise in designing training programs to meet the criteria set by state departments of education and school districts. As executive vice president for Performance Learning Systems, Steve weekly presents, observes, studies, reads, and learns about teaching, learning and leading in K-12 schools.
Barkley regularly writes about peer coaching and professional learning communities for the purpose of improving student learning. If you are looking for ways to better work with your colleagues to raise student achievement, this is the site for you.
What are your favorite blogs?
Did you really think we’d only name nine blogs? Here are a few others that deserve a mention but didn’t make the cut.
There are many, many other education-related blogs in cyberspace. Share your favorite on NJEA’s Facebook page. Go to www.facebook.com and search for “NJEA.” If you would like to discuss your selections on Twitter, use the hashtag #edblogs. Or you can always email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We may highlight them in a future issue.