Jason Price writes
Turkey is an acknowledged superpower in the ELT blogosphere, with a growing band of Turkish bloggers winning plaudits and celebrity status among the global ELT digital community. As well as establishing names for themselves, these bloggers have created a genuine and autonomous learning spaces going some way towards meeting teachers’ professional development needs.
In a large, geographically disparate country where many teachers are unable to participate in set-piece ELT conferences, blogging has proved to be a useful means for teachers to reach out to colleagues throughout Turkey and build their own self-support networks. A young tech-savvy teaching population well versed in the art of social media has shown an intuitive understanding of how to nurture online communities, with blogging a key activity in many Turkish teachers’ personal learning networks.
In order to support, develop and expand this network of bloggers, the British Council Turkey ran a Blogathon competition during 2011 and 2012, offering winners the opportunity to attend the annual Iatefl conference in the UK and actively contribute to coverage of the event through the dedicated Iatefl Online website. Competitiors were invited to post blogs of up to 250 words on selected themes to kick-start a dialogue between teachers. This provided a platform for teachers to contribute to their own and their peers’ ongoing professional development by providing workable solutions to real classroom challenges relevant to the local Turkish teaching and learning context.
The conference trip undoubtedly enticed teachers into participating, but the nature of the competition helped to ensure that, by its end, bloggers had managed to establish a genuine mutual support network with potential impact on actual classroom practice. In its first year, 2011, the Blogathon attracted 135 entrants from eighty provinces in Turkey, with support provided for first-time bloggers from more experienced peers. In 2012 bloggers from Armenia, Croatia, Israel and Russia joined Turkish colleagues to provide opportunities for virtual networking with cross-border ELT professionals. In this second year of the competition a total of 250 teachers participated, generating more than 1,500 blog posts.
As a by-product of the competition, a number of teachers who had been new to the medium set up their own teaching blogs to further consolidate Turkey’s position as a global hub of teacher blogging.
In the words of one contestant, ‘I met great bloggers during this journey and enjoyed reading their posts thoroughly. I hope they also enjoyed writing and sharing and I’m looking forward to reading their future posts.
‘It’s great to see that my personal learning network is becoming bigger every day. Blogging is an activity which allowed me to improve myself very much. As I mentioned many times before, it’s a great platform for professional development. It’s a great chance for us non-native English-speaking teachers as it provides an atmosphere where we can use real English. If you’re working in a small school where you don’t have any native speakers, you’ll understand me much better. If we lock ourselves inside the four walls of our classroom, we get rusty.’
For the 2013 Blogathon, Turkish teachers are mentoring and handing over the baton to colleagues in five other countries to help establish new teacher mutual support networks and maybe even new star additions to the global teaching blog firmament.
Jason Price is the English language programmes manager for British Council Turkey