How and Why I blog…

A little history

I published my first blog-posting on eLearningIsland on the 6th February 2009. It’s title was Hello world (…yet another blog).

This is now my three-hundred and eight post!

I generally publish ten months of the year, taking July and August as a break from the process, making some time available to smell the flowers!

EBeLearningIsland is a WordPress blog served by EduBlogs on a pro-account at a cost of about $40 per year.

Downtime has been at a minimum and even when the site disappeared for a short while, the reasons became a subject for a blog posting on issues surrounding copyright and access to servers (here)!

I use the  WordPress theme Yoko (what you are looking at) that renders well on desktops, laptops and most-importantly mobile-devices. The WordPress plugins provided by EduBlogs meet my publication needs (plugins allow you to do things with your site, like embed the map you see to your right).

Writing style

I try and write as accurately as possible using good grammar, referencing many articles using the Harvard Style.

I began the blog as part of my PhD studies in the School of Education at Dublin City University.

While I have deferred from that course for now, I try and keep up a standard, since should I return to my studies, the content of eLearningIsland may form the basis of a literature review and a narrative of the development of my thought about teaching, learning and technology since 2009.

CCI have also become much more cognisant of citing images and value the development of Creative-commons licenses and Wikimedia Commons over the last number of years.

Philosophical Standpoint

Riel-action researchI am interested in practical educational research and shy away from writing about technological applications in education for the sake of the application.

I am an action-researcher and use the model of planning, acting, observing and reflecting in all that I do within education. I believe in a critical approach to pedagogy, though I find this a constant challenge to “do” within the educational system, that we have in Ireland.

I am always aware of a charge of hypocrisy and am careful to at least try and do what I write about, prior to making a blog posting.

Authors I frequently refer to are  Donald Schön, Paolo Freire, Elliot Eisner and Howard Rheingold. I like the editorial stance of the online database infed (here) and consult their resources on a frequent basis.

Educationalists from Ireland whom I value are Margaret Farren and Yvonne Crotty from Dublin City University. They are very clear on the importance of influence in education and in making change happen in small, significant and reflective conditions.

I admire Conor Galvin in University College Dublin for the direction and support he gives teachers who are interested in research in the area of Information and Communications Technology, especially through the Computers in Education Society of Ireland (CESI).

I think Anne Looney of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is very brave in seeing through reform in Junior Cycle education here in the Republic of Ireland and laudable for promoting social-media in many aspects of its development.

Portmarnock Community School

I am very lucky to teach in a school that encourages innovation and am surrounded by a significant number of colleagues who like to experiment with new ways in their classes despite time and other constraints thrown up by the system.

They are as important to me as the academic educationalists mentioned above!

I have engaged in two major blogging projects with students one entitled History Matters and the other Ada Lovelace. I have had many experiences of teaching and learning, both within my own classroom and with my colleagues that I have shared on eLearningIsland.

Some of these postings were amongst the most popular with readers.

But why blog?

There are many reasons

  • Blogging keeps me current
  • Blogging encourages me to read
  • Blogging makes me think, justify and engage in debate
  • Blogging makes me develop a discipline and a time to write
  • Blogging encourages me to make practice explicit
  • Blogging is for me a form of curation, of gathering sources that matter

Increasingly I see blogging as a form of professional self-development.

I follow others who blog and have developed a thriving Professional Learning Network (PLN). This is a model I encourage and one that teachers as professionals can gain much from. It also provides a strong evidence trail that gains recognition by educationalists in Ireland and beyond.

I see it as a positive move in 2013 that Tomás Ó Ruairc of the Teaching Council in Ireland responded positively (here) to educators who participated in an online #edchatie discussion forum on Twitter. I hope that the type of blogging that I and other educators in the Republic of Ireland undertake, can become part of the evidence of Continuous Professional Development required for the annual renewal of teacher registration.


While I was formally doing my postgraduate studies, some sources came more easily due to access to academic databases.

Teachers in Ireland now have access to some of these databases through Scoilnet and the Teaching Council of Ireland.

IncreasingTw though my sources are through Twitter where I have nurtured and developed a strong presence amongst educationalists in Ireland and beyond.

I am not sure how Twitter is going to develop. I notice a falling away of some regular users but then again there are always new arrivals!

I like the work of the New Media Consortium especially their Horizon Reports, I try and understand the digital humanists on HASTAC, especially the work of Cathy Davidson and value the initiatives of the MacArthur Foundation in Digital Media and Learning.

I have valued sources in Ireland via Twitter and I live dangerously by naming some – they are all worth a follow on Twitter. Fred Boss, Simon Lewis, Fintan O’ Mahony, Anne White, Maria O’ Sullivan, John Heffernan, Evelyn O’ Connor, Pamela O’ Brien and Mary Loftus. There many more, but these are some I connected with, in the last four or so days!


I have written previously about filter bubbles (here) about how social-media allows your followers to be defined as like minded people.

This is something I must exercise care about.  There is a danger in what I do that it becomes an exercise in navel gazing.

eLearningIsland has struggled to develop debate around its postings.

Debate happens sometimes but not as frequently as I would like. This may be down to my personality and it may also be down to time.

I am very busy and tend to use the time I set aside to write, to present an idea that I want to understand and want to make available to the wider education community. Positive (on and offline) comment I receive from time to time are about the quality of the links I make available on Twitter and the  relevance of what I write on eLearningIsland.

A final thought

I notice too that sometimes I write less and less about technological applications and more and more about the act of teaching, learning and in recent times, assessment.

I am developing interests in the area of collaborative assessment especially in an online environment.

I am looking at portfolios and reconsidering how Moodle or other applications might be used as a tool to enable to help students record their processes of learning.

And so on. One of my favourite educational images (left) of 2013 says it all!

Here’s to 2014!





Image credits

  • Screen-grab from Creative Commons
  • Screen-grab form Edublogs
  • Action Research By Margaret Riel ( [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
  • Screen-grab from Twitter
  • Filter Bubble from the NewScientest Breaking out of the Internet Filter Bubble
  • My favourite image from Scott McLeod Pinterest page here Well worth a look!


  1. Fiona Farry

    Inspiring as usual Donal! I would not have livestreamed our Christmas plays in our litte two teacher school in Donegal if it you hadn’t written that blog post on Live Streaming GRMA and keep blogging!!

  2. Noel

    Thanks for this Donal – it acts as a nice overview for others looking to start down this route.
    You noted the following:

    “I am very lucky to teach in a school that encourages innovation and am surrounded by a significant number of colleagues who like to experiment with new ways in their classes despite time and other constraints thrown up by the system.”

    I would be interested in hearing more about how this works. I suspect (but would be happy to be proved wrong) that your school is well ahead of the curve here. How did this develop (future blogpost perhaps?)