Six months after starting the blog "G-Town Talks," which chronicles her experiences and thinking as principal of Gowanda (N.Y.) High School, Kimberly Moritz got a request from her district superintendent to add a disclaimer to her site: "The views expressed in this blog are those solely of the author and do not represent the views of the district." But while she quickly heeded the request, Moritz took the additional step of writing how she felt about it on her blog. "Certainly the views expressed in these posts are mine, and are not necessarily the views of the district," she wrote. "I sort of thought that was obvious. But who then is the 'district'? I'm writing as the principal about the high school. As the principal hired by the district, my views should be in line with our community, the superintendent and the Board of Education. Otherwise, I'm likely to find myself using this blog to look for employment."
Moritz is among a growing number of administrators getting "on the blog" and writing about their successes, failures, hopes and frustrations for readers far beyond their districts. And in doing so, they are getting an education, not just in managing the legal and safety issues that come with blogging, but in becoming active learners on professional practice through networking and interacting with educators around the world. They are also modeling important online reading, writing and publishing literacies for their staff, students and parents.
In Moritz's case, the experience has been transformative on a number of levels. First, because of her frank and honest blogging, she has a sizeable audience of readers in her district and many time zones away. For example, only a week into her blogging life an educator from Israel commented on one of her posts. Students are also joining the conversations, and when Kim wondered whether it was "cheating or initiative" to score well on mid-terms built on old state Regents exams where the questions and answers could be found online, dozens of students responded with passionate replies. Readers of the blog expand her thinking, share their own experiences and point to relevant online resources.
Blogging has also transformed the way Moritz looks at her own professional development. Now it's on demand and almost completely relevant to her needs. "It's thinking about my audience and what I want to say that can potentially influence or serve a purpose for another educator, student, or parent," she says. "My time spent blogging-writing and reading comments and reviewing resources-is all about my own learning. It's free, it's accessible 24/7, and it's what I choose."
Blogs are becoming universal, thanks to powerful software that simplifies the process even for people who know little about computers. These range from fee-based services such as Manila, Moveable Type and Type Pad, to free options including Blogger.com and LiveJournal.com.
But even though growing numbers of K12 administrators are setting up blogs on education topics-as can be confirmed in the Technorati.com blog directory-such as those listed in the resources box, the numbers are still small. Blogs offer huge opportunities for your administrative staff, and they can transform Web users from being passive consumers of information to active participants in sharing expertise. Visit these learning communities and consider launching your own.
Will Richardson is a contributing editor to District Administration and The Pulse: Education's Place for Debate (www.districtadministration.com/pulse).