Yesterday morning, Doug Peterson’s blog was all about “Starting or reflecting on a blog”. You can find the whole blog here.
A lot of what he said resonated with me. And some of it, I don’t disagree with, but I think is just different for me. And maybe I’ll get to where he is. As far as blogging goes, I still feel like a beginner in a lot of ways.
He listed 10 things, which I will post part of and my responses below. Parts of Doug’s post is in bold letters below and my response is underneath each section.
1. Having a plan is essential for making your blog a success
” I had to come up with ideas on my own. Once I realize that, blogging became easier. Then, the light bulb went on. I needed to have quick and easy information about a resource.”
This is new thinking for me. My blog plan has always been to share the work that I’m doing with other teachers. It kind of bubbles up as I make connections through different conversations and things that I’m working on with others. I think I take a lot of my inspiration from that. But, being on mat leave, I have fewer opportunities and perhaps this might be a good way to go. I’m going to think about keeping a book or a digital place where I can “store” some ideas. Maybe I’ll use “Google Keep” maybe just a journal.
2. Your blog is more likely to succeed if it is social
I like to think that I do this right. It’s posted here; I try to make sure that it gets posted at 5am daily and is automatically sent to Twitter to let the world know about it. I have learned the value of scripting so immediately, it’s cross posted to Facebook. I also share it to Google+ and I have a Pinterest Board as well. I supposed that it might result in increased readership but the real value for me is that it can generate comments and thought from others. I also like it when my ideas are challenged or confirmed. The real challenge is staying on top of things.
I copied his entire paragraph here and I agree. Unfortunately, my blog is too sporadic to post at a regular time- I write once or twice per month, sometimes more. It’s funny, I post my blog on Twitter, but I haven’t posted it on Facebook. I don’t even think my parents know that I blog! Perhaps I should take a leap there. A lot of my friends are teachers, they may respond.
I know that I appreciate the consistency of Doug’s blog. I have some early mornings with the baby, and even if he’s not actually awake, it has been comforting to feel like someone else is up too! I know that Aviva is! I also subscribe to Doug’s blog, so it shows up in my email each day. I would add that subscribing to the blogs you love to read would be great encouragement for that person.
3. Content is king!
In the beginning, I tried to have a very narrow focus of ideas. Quite frankly, that became difficult to maintain and come up with variations on a theme on a regular basis. I think that’s the death knell for many would-be bloggers. There was a moment that I thought – why do I need to focus on just one topic? Why not write about whatever comes to mind.
My blog is a bit of everything. Sometimes it is school related, sometimes it’s about parenting. I find lately, working on my TLLP project means that I’m writing mostly about that and connections I’m making with relation to the goals of that project. A while back Doug posted about a conversation he had about with someone on Twitter who had left it because it was largely about self-promotion. I think I’m worried that my blog is becoming a little more “me, me, me” while on maternity leave because I’m not out and about as much. One thing that I’m sure of is that my blogs that are about content get spread more widely as opposed to my more “opinion” pieces that are a bit more self-centered.
4. You may have to learn basic Search Engine Optimization
But, I have good friends. People like @NoelineL, @avivaloca, @vickyloras, @DavidFifeVP, @jen_aston, @ProjectPupil and others who regularly reshare my posts. That’s the best optimization a person could want. I respect their efforts and, by inheritance, the efforts of their networks to maybe decide to click over and read the post themselves.
Some weeks, I don’t think my blog would get read if Doug didn’t occasionally mention it in his weekly “Best of Ontario Educator Blogs” on Fridays. I will tweet out my blog, once, sometimes twice. But I know I appreciate the retweets by David Fife, Aviva and Doug. I do read a lot of blogs and tweet out the ones that I think my #fslchat #tvdsb TLLP team or anyone else might appreciate.
I would also add that if a blog doesn’t get a lot of reads or shares not to take it personally. I have weeks when I’m “interesting” and weeks when I’m less interesting. That’s okay. Something to reflect on. Why didn’t what you wrote hit a nerve. Is there something in it offensive or that has not been completely thought out? Maybe. But keep writing.
5. Relationships matter
Relationships do, in fact, matter. That may well be the number 1 personal benefit. I enjoy it when folks take the time to comment or retweet a reference to a blog post. I’ve mentioned many times how lonely education can be. Social media and the connections/relationships that it affords is something that education has wanted forever. I sit back and am humbled with the relationships that I’ve made over the years and can’t help but thank social media for being that big enabler. There’s something so impressive when you go to a conference and immediately strike a conversation with someone you’d never make a connection without the impact of social media.
I think it is hugely about relationships. But also about building community. I would add that it’s also about raising each other up. I think there are roving leaders out there that informally do this every day. An this is hugely important to model for our students. By blogging you can show the actions that you take that back up your words.
6. Commit to posting regularly
I’m trying 🙂 I need to commit to responding in comments more often. Sometimes I get put off by all the screening and having to login to post a comment. Make it easy for people to comment on your blog.
7. It doesn’t have to be in print
I might… I am making my first forays into Google Hangouts. That’s a big step for me, because video is not a medium that I am super comfortable with.
8. Take risks
Blog about something you’re just learning about. You don’t need to be an expert to have an opinion. And, being wrong can be a great way to start a conversation. (or so I’ve heard)
Lol… see above! This is great advice. What can you write that might create not only views, but conversation? Maybe start with commenting on the blogs of others and this might end up blooming into your own blog.
If someone is good enough to drop by your blog, visit them back.
Yes! I need to be more consistent at this.
10. Look for a niche not already done
Please read his own numbers 6 through 10 in more detail. I know that finding my own niche and a topic that has not been explored a lot (his number 10) is one that I am going to think long and hard about. He has definitely given me food for thought for “bumping” up my blog and some “next steps” if you will.
Doug is great at helping me find new things. I use “unsplash” a place to get high quality images that are free to use and share. I run my computer on Ubuntu now partly because he used it. I think what I respect too is that what he shares are Windows things, Apple, Google, Linux etc. He’s not too narrowly focused on the merits of one product. I know this comes from his former role, but it’s something I think we all need to look at. Our students will be exposed to all of our teacher preferences and will have to be flexible. We need to model the same flexibility and be more open to what our students prefer to use. And so we need to be open to “new” and “changing” tech things.
It feels great to discover something “first”. Or to use something that already exists in a new way. Share that with others.
A couple of points I might add?
11. Complaining can be boring.
I know of a blog or two out there where there is nothing but negative and complaints with no solutions offered. I know that we need more critical thinking in education, but part of that thinking needs to be alternatives. You can’t just blog about something being wrong and not offer up ideas you think might be a part of a solution. Teaching is complex and riddled with issues. But there is also a lot to celebrate. Mix it up. I’m not saying don’t complain – because sometimes I think we do have to. But, you need to do it in a way that we would expect our students to – back up your ideas with supporting facts and think of solutions or actions that you can take to change things.
12. Be mindful that students or people you work with might read what you write.
Students may come across what you write. Be mindful that they won’t be able to recognize themselves in your blog. Seek permissions where necessary. I’ve even seen some blogs where I cringe that a complaint about another adult in a network could result in defamation. Just be careful. There are ways to express your opinion without tearing someone down.
13. Have a sense of humour, be personable and human.
I think people will read your blog more if you seem like a real person with a sense of humour and some self-deprecation. Show that you are not perfect and that you make mistakes and laugh and learn from them. Your blog needs to show people that they can relate to you. I know that I write like I speak. I would hope that when you meet me in person, that it matches what I say online.
I can’t tell you how many times my train of thought has been interrupted during this blog. The baby had her first ear infection last week and this week she is getting through her first cold. Sleep has not been something I’ve had a lot of over the last couple of days.
What would you add to the list of the thinking above? And while you’re at it check out Aviva Dusinger’s blog in response here!