Blogging has been both transformational and life-changing for me. As a result of blogging, I’ve changed how I learn, and I’ve helped others make a difference in their life.
What’s even more incredible is that I’ve battled writing and processing language my entire life. While my English teacher and I would agree that my expression continues to be rather odd at times — blogging helped me become a better writer.
It’s not perfect — and continues to be a work in progress — but I can’t imagine either of us ever thought that one day I would be paid to write.
And yet my blogging story isn’t that unique. Blogging has made a difference in the lives of so many.
Which is why I’m often asked for advice by educators setting up their own personal or professional blog. I’ve written this post to provide helpful tips to get started blogging or to take your blog to the next level (it is also a companion post for the Reflect on a Blog presentation that I gave for 30 Goals Conference and you can watch the presentation here).
This post is also a good example of how blogging changed the way I learn. None of us are experts….it’s impossible for any of us to remember every key point to include — this post was crowdsourced from tips, ideas and questions shared by my network on Twitter, Voxer and Facebook. Hopefully it highlights the importance of connected social learning. Thanks everyone who helped!
When educators say ‘Why should I blog?, ‘Why should I blog with my students?’ or ‘How do I find time to blog?’ I understand. It took a year to understand why I should blog after being shown a blog (2006) and after starting my own blog (2007). Prior to starting my own blog, I shared my learning via podcasts and wikis; it wasn’t until I reached the point where I wanted to reflect on my learning that I started blogging.
For me it was a combination of not understanding, 1) what is a blog, and 2) the importance of reflection, sharing, connected learning and learning as part of a community.
The importance of reflection, sharing, connected learning and learning as part of a community takes time. It isn’t something you’ll necessarily appreciate immediately.
For those times you feel like giving up because you assume that no one cares what you’re writing, or you don’t feel like it is making a difference, remember Kevin Jarrett’s advice.
And reflect on Matt Wallaert’s tips.
Each of us have our own reasons why we blog and you can check out examples of personal educator blogs here. Having a clear understanding of why you blog and what you are trying to achieve really helps as you develop your blog.
Reasons why I blog are:
- Reflect and share my learning
- Help others
My personal metrics are:
- Did reflecting and sharing help my learning?
- Did it help others?
My advice for new bloggers is to avoid focusing too much on metrics such as visitors (number of visits to your blog), shares (number of times your posts are shared on social media) and comments (how many people comment on your posts).
Blog to satisfy your own personal needs, don’t worry too much about writing for an audience (it can stifle some new bloggers), and as Steve Wheeler says, above all, be passionate about what you blog.
What you need to know about blogging
It’s an easy trap to focus too much on publishing posts while failing to appreciate that reading other people’s posts and commenting on posts are a very important part of the learning process as a blogger.
Blogging is a constant cycle of:
The idea of reflective blogging is you’re evaluating, reviewing, reflecting, revising while reading other people’s posts, commenting on their posts, writing your own posts and commenting back on comments made by others on your own blog.
By following this process you’re learning at a deeper level and differently from how you’ve learnt previously; and you’re doing it as part of a community.
Simply put — Reflective blogging is about connecting with others!
Watch this video by Steve Wheeler on 3 Things you should know about blogging!
What do you blog about?
So what do you publish as posts on your blog? Pretty much anything you want to share you’ll publish as a post. Your reflections, what you’ve learned, how-to’s and cool information — there’s so much you can share!
Don’t wait to get started. Everything doesn’t need to be perfect to start sharing with the World. The key is to take the first steps!
Your posts don’t have to be perfect– blogging is a work in progress!
What is Obvious to you is amazing to others. Don’t assume others know what you know. There is always someone who will be grateful of what you shared — even if they don’t necessarily tell you.
Remember it is your personal blog
Let the reasons why you blog guide your decisions as to what you blog about. Blogging on specific topic areas can be better for building audience but may not necessarily achieve your personal metric of success if an important of your reflective learning involves blogging about your passions.
One of the best advice given by Kathryn Greenhill when I first started blogging was making decisions on what you’ll blog on and what you won’t.
In Kathryn’s Drawing the Veil post she explains “my yardstick is not about individuals, but about the group to which they belong. When I want to mention what someone else said or did, I think:
“If I write about workmate x, will my other workmates think I am looking at them as blog fodder too? If I mention the cute action by one of my kids’ friends, even with the parents’ permission, what does that do to the trust relationship with other parents ?”
Also check if there are any policy or guidelines that you need to follow as part of your employment conditions.
It’s better to think long term rather than short term.
- Choose a platform that allows you to use your own domain name. Your own domain helps build your brand while also allowing you to seamlessly move your blog to another service if you ever decide to change. My domain is suewaters.com (here’s instructions on how I mapped my domain).
- Choose a platform with a wide range of features. While I am biased, there is a reason why most professional bloggers use WordPress powered blogs. A WordPress powered blog hosted on Edublogs, WordPress.com or your own self-hosted WordPress blog is the better option.
Refer to The State of Educational blogging in 2014 for more information on which platforms are used by educators and why.
Our personal blogging series is a good started place. It guides you step by step through the process of setting up your own personal educator blog. Each step provides examples of personal educator blogs so you can check out how they are used by other educators.
Refer our class and student blogging series if you want to set up a class blog.
Some people find that having a blogging routine helps them get started.
While I’m often asked how frequently you should publish posts, it is better to choose a blogging routine that suits your needs and what you are trying to achieve.
As a general rule writing a post 1-2 times a week is a good option for most educators.
Choosing which days you publish your posts can also help. You might decide to publish posts on Tuesdays and Thursdays but write them at the same time and schedule them to publish on those days.
Here’s some post ideas:
- Work through the 30 Goals and post your reflections on your blog.
- Check out this collaborative Google Doc of writing prompts for Teachers and Preservice teachers for ideas of what to blog about.
- Participate in a challenge, MOOC or community activity. #YourEduStory is an example of a community that share their posts once week on Twitter using their blogging prompts.
Don’t worry too much about post length. There is no right or wrong answer as to how long or short a post should be. But these tips will help you write better posts.
Find an audience
Yes I did say don’t worry too much writing for audience however as you develop your blog you will want to increase your blog readership and subscribers. Readers can be a motivator when you first get started and comments are an important part of the reflective learning process.
An important part of connecting with other bloggers is making time to read other educators’ posts and commenting on their posts. Make sure you select the ‘Notify me of followup comments via e-mail‘ when leaving comments on other blogs posts so you are alerted of any follow up comments and reply back to any responses quickly (if appropriate).
Also remember to respond back to comments on your own posts. It shows you value readers’ comments. Some educators also send an email reply to their commenters. This ensures the commenter receives your response and provides a more personalize response — which helps build personalized connections with others.
Mobile devices and social networks have changed how we source the content we read. It’s also impacted on how we connect with others.
We’re far more social now and more likely to use social network sites like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ as a buffet. Consuming whatever we want at our leisure by selecting posts from links shared by our networks.
To increase our chances of posts being read we need to:
- To be an active part of the edublogosphere and make time to social network with others via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.
- Add social share tools like AddThis Social Share to make it easier for others to share your posts.
Twitter is the key network used by educators and the primary location where most educators source links to posts to read.
If you aren’t using Twitter or don’t follow many educators on Twitter — now is the time to build up your Twitter network! You learn more about using Twitter here.
Participating in challenges, MOOCs or community activities are a great way of building your blog community.
#YourEduStory is an example of a community that share their posts once week on Twitter using their blogging prompts.
Please leave any and all questions or important advice I’ve missed below!