PLN Challenge 5 asked educators to reflect on the use of blogs as way to building a Personal Learning Network.
While twitter is great for quick conversations and finding people to connect with, tweets are only 140 characters long. Blogs are a way to develop more comprehensive thoughts and conversations
As an old-time blogger it never really occurred to me that blogging was a great way to learn. In the past I had mostly used blogs as a way to keep in touch with families and friends while I was overseas and also as a way to ramble on topics of interest/annoyance.
But when I stepped back and asked myself the question should student teachers blog? I found that there was a lot of learning to be found in blogging. Since I’ve started this blog, I’ve developed a Graduating Teacher Standards eportfolio page for posts where I have reflected on one of the standards. I’ve found this process a highly useful tool in developing reflective practice. So much so I’ll likely continue blogging against the Registered Teacher Criteria next year (if I’ve got a teaching job).
How do I blog?
I suggest that you first start reading blogs. If you are already on twitter, you probably get tweets announcing new posts on your favourite blogs or you can also subscribe via email for post updates to your favourite blog but the best way to manage blogs is via RSS feeds.
What are RSS feeds?
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. You might notice a lot of blogs have buttons like this:
Some websites just have the letters RSS. But the point of the RSS is when a blog or newsite is updated they’ll send out a notification which is picked up in your feedreader. A what?
Feedreaders are ways to centrally manage updates from blogs, instead of visiting a blogsite everyday, you can just look in your feedreader to see who has published a post. A lot of newspapers also have feeds you can subscribe to. So for instance if you are a New Zealand-based teacher you might want to subscribe to the education feeds of Stuff and the New Zealand Herald so that every time the papers publish an education, you’ll get an update about it. If you have a google account, then you already have a reader account Google Reader. If you don’t have a google account, then sign up and you’ll have one! Google has more information about how their feedreader works here.
Commenting – go for it!
Blogs are essentially a social platform, so please feel free to comment! As a blogger I love getting reader comments or tweets about my posts. Commenting on blogs is also a great scaffold for blog readers before they decide to set up their own blog.
So you’ve been reading and commenting and now want to start writing. There are a lot of free blogging platforms for you to set up your blog. You simply sign up with a username, decide on your theme and away you go.
I initially started over at Blogger, which is also owned by google, back in 2003 but made the (easy) move to WordPress in 2010 and much prefer it. Aside from the interface what I like about wordpress is that is easy to moderate and edit comments. At the moment first time commentators are moderated but then they are able to respond freely. There is also an option to moderate all comments and edit comments which I find useful. There are also microblogging sites like Tumblr which is kind of a hybrid between facebook, blogs and twitter.
Perhaps the biggest tip I could give anyone looking to start out a blog is that you need to commit to a regular posting regime. Blogging is a bit like exercise, it works best when you do a little bit regularly rather than a huge amount in one go. Try and use something like a Weekly Reflection to keep you in the habit of blogging regularly. Most blogs now have the option of scheduling posts ahead of time, so if you happen to bang out a couple of posts then you can schedule them to appear over the course of a few days. You could also think about teaming up with a group of teachers to form a blog with multiple authors which is a great way to lessen the burden of content and increases your readership.
Driving traffic to your blog
Let people know about your blog! Put updates on Facebook and twitter when you update it (a lot of blogs now will automatically send out tweets when you publish posts). Install buttons to enable readers to share your posts through their social networks. Make sure that your blog has an RSS feed enabled, link to other posts and also keep commenting on other people’s blogs.