Apr 302015
 

Let’s say you have thought about your reasons to write, and you want to get started. But how do you start?

I guess the best scenario is that you already feel the urge to share something with a wider circle of people than your immediate environment (family, staffroom, local association), rather than “just” the wish to write without knowing what about.

But even if you know what you want to write about, it can feel like a daunting task if you’ve never written for the “public”. So, how do you start?

Writing for teacher development

In my case, I started by taking notes for myself in private. Writing needs practice and this is a “non-threatening” way of doing it as there is no public.

Then, I started taking notes on my lessons and sharing lessons plans publicly on my first professional blog about my experiences of teaching in the 3D virtual world Second Life. Blogging is a wonderful way of starting writing publicly. The posts can be short, they can be informal and personal. Some people like writing guest posts on other people’s blogs without committing themselves to their own; others might find it easier to write on their own as they can decide what the style will be, the length, the topics, etc. A third option is to write for blogs of publishing houses, online magazines, and similar.

The next, bigger step would be to write an article for submission to a magazine or journal. I would assume it’s easier to write for a professional magazine, as it doesn’t need to be academic, and they will accept shorter pieces as well. Many start by writing book reviews or submitting lesson plans and similar.
A great way of making this task easier is to write a series of blog posts on a topic and then combine these and rewrite for an article in a professional magazine. I did this with my blog posts about teaching in Second Life — my first published article in a print magazine!
I have also rewritten some of my MA assignments for publication, for example, my article on using podcasts in an English course for taxi drivers. Like with the blog post series, it makes the task easier because it’s already written. But it needs to be rewritten for a different audience, which can mean making it less academic or less formal, using fewer sources, shortening the text, adding new sections, removing others, etc.

For book chapters, you can do the same as for articles, but they might need to be more academic; therefore, it might be easier to rewrite dissertations rather than blog posts, because the former will already have references. In book chapters, they also often want some results, some kind of research with outcomes. In most cases, there will be a call for chapters to which you can submit your proposal and if they accept, you write the full chapter. For my first short book chapter, I have rewritten my MA assignment about the taxi driver course for a book on Blended Learning. You can compare it with the one for the magazine in the paragraph above to see how they are different (length, style, formality, images, etc.)
I have also written a longer book chapter completely from scratch based on an editorial brief about technology-integrated ESP lessons.  This has been the most challenging one for me so far.

The next step would be to write a complete (e)book, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon 😉 But I’ve edited quite a few written by others.

Although it might sound very daunting to write articles and book chapters, the great thing is that, in both cases, you will have editors who help you improve your draft, so you are not alone in the process.
Writing to share my experience has been a great experience for me. And when what you write is published in a magazine or book and people appreciate it, it feels like a great achievement and motivates me to do better work.

Writing course materials

Just like when writing for teacher development purposes, writing course materials was a gradual process for me and probably is more many. I can’t think of any example where a teacher who has never written anything would suddenly start writing a whole coursebook. Let me know if you know one 🙂

So, it usually goes something like this (which is how it has been for me):

  • write some extra exercises for your students
  • write extra activities to go with a coursebook unit
  • substitute some coursebook activities
  • write whole worksheets
  • substitute a whole coursebook unit with more relevant content and tasks
  • write a complete course or set of materials for your students with special needs (EAP, ESP, etc.)
  • share lesson plans, worksheets, or courses you have written publicly on your blog (SLexperiments), or a special course website (English for taxi drivers, English citiy planners)
  • write for someone else (a school, publisher, online lesson plan banks, etc.)

Writing course materials for others is still a very new experience for me  and so is the logical (?) next step: editing the work of other writers. But it’s exciting and I’m learning a lot in the process.

Where are you in your writing journey and where would you like to be?

Is Blogging in ELT out?

 Teacher Development  Comments Off on Is Blogging in ELT out?
Mar 082013
 

A well-known teacher trainer in our field has recently commented that blogging in ELT might not be in anymore, that fewer teachers continue blogging.

I myself had had a rather long break from many of my online activities but particularly from blogging and Twitter. Doing an MA while working full-time and working on other non-teaching projects, I simply had no time left to keep up with everything in the (excessive) manner I had done before.

Twitter

I won’t go into details here why I almost entirely stopped using Twitter. There is a lot to be said about how Twitter can be used for a teacher’s own development and for language learning. Here, it shall suffice to say that I used Twitter extensively for two years or so and did find it enriching then. Now, it’s simply not a tool that meets my current needs. I believe that in different phases of our professional lives, we need different tools but that the choice of tools is also very much a personal choice. I might write more on this in a separate post.

Blogging

I started blogging in 2008. It was a personal blog but set up for the purpose of trying blogging for the first time to see how it worked and whether it was something that I wanted to use with students. After this initial experience, I’ve created several blogs, some personal but most for professional purposes.

My first professional blog was Teaching in Second Life. I started it to reflect on and share my experiences learning to teach in the 3D virtual world of Second Life. As it is a niche topic (still) in ELT, it has never drawn the masses and many comments  but, over the years, I’ve received many emails from teachers who have used the information for their MA or PhD dissertations. I rarely update it  because, 3D worlds are  not my focus at the moment. There is, however, still a lot going on in 3D worlds in terms of teaching and teacher training. So, occasionally, I will hopefully find the time to add new posts.

Another reason why I completely stopped blogging in the past one or two years is that I only had the Teaching in Second Life blog to write about my work and professional development. I had always wanted to create a “hub” (including a blog) for all my online activities, materials, and websites but simply didn’t have the time to set this up. Now, after finishing my MA, I’ve created this hub.

Is blogging out?

I don’t think that it is? I believe that among the many tools and activities that have emerged on the Internet, blogging is here to stay as one of the “staple” tools. However, just like with Twitter and many other tools, when they are new, many people want to try them out. Then, some stay with a tool and some move on.

There are also different types of bloggers. Some teachers set out to blog a certain number of times a week.They also try to keep up with reading other blogs and commenting on them regularly, as this is supposedly what blogging is mostly about.  However, for many, including me, as much as this might be desirable, it’s not sustainable. I guess it also depends on one’s purpose for blogging. In my case, I sometimes like to reflect publicly or share information or discuss ideas, but I don’t depend on “traffic”, though I’m always happy, of course, when visitors come.

Blogging and other types of writing

My Teaching in Second Life blog helped me a lot when I wrote my first published article Starting a Second Life. The article was basically a summary of my blog, and the posts, which I wrote immediately after my lessons in SL, helped me “remember” essential information. The article basically wrote itself.

However, with all the blog posts and micro-blogging I was doing (including following links on Twitter), I also sometimes thought that this kept me from writing articles or book chapters, simply because I didn’t have time for it all; and, at least in my case, I need to have long stretches of focused time to write longer academic pieces.

I guess, in my case at least, it’s a balancing act to, on the one hand, keep up with developments in the world and engage with the community and, on the other hand, to take a break and isolate myself a bit in order to reflect silently and write in different modes.

Hello again (online) world!

So, after a long break from most (not all) my online activities, I’m now planning to come back to it slowly, in a more measured pace, and with occasional breaks to retreat into my own world.