Whenever I keynote, lead a workshop, or write an article about blogging I always get the same handful of questions about getting started. I believe many educators want to start blogging but they just don’t know where to start or what to do. Blogging can be a highly reflective practice that more educators should do. Not only to share the resources they find and use in and out of the classroom but to look back on our personal practices of both learning and growing as professional educators.
FAQs for Educational Bloggers
I want start a blog. What’s the first thing I should do? Congratulations! You are about to embark on a journey that will bring you great fulfillment but can also be fraught with frustration as well. Don’t let that deter you. Blogging is a practice that can open doors and help you process who you are as a learner. In order to become a blogger you must be a reader of blogs. When you read other blogs you get a sense of what you want your blog to look like, sound like, and to just have a general understanding of what works (and doesn’t).
The best, first step is to spend time each day reading blogs. Try to find blogs that align with your interests. Are you an elementary teacher? Read elementary blogs. Are you interested in Edtech? Read those types of blogs. Who are your favorite people to follow on Twitter or other social media channels? Look at their profiles. Many have blogs that they write. Read those. And don’t just read the new stuff. Go back in their archives. Many times the gems any blogger has written isn’t their last post. It’s buried deep, so go after it. Check out the Teach 100 for a great list of blogs to read. Also this list is a good one to check out.
Ok, but what do I write about? This is probably the most common question I get. Everyone wants to know the magic formula for what to write about. The fact is, there isn’t one. The best advice I have is to write about what interests you. If you have a project that you are working on in your class write several posts about how you got started, what planning went into it, what works and what doesn’t. Much of what educators do can be turned into a blog post or three.
The key is to just write. I carry around several notebooks with me where I can jot down ideas, paragraphs or just free form write whenever the mood strikes. I also use the Notes app on my phone or a blank Google Doc. To find what you are passionate about you have to first write. Maybe what you initially write isn’t for public consumption. Maybe it’s just to get a feel for your voice and your form. The best thing all bloggers do is just write.
Where should I put my blog? Do I need my own domain name? Doesn’t matter and doesn’t matter. I use Blogger. Some bloggers want more control over design and widgets and prefer to use Wordpress. Others use Medium or other services. Some don’t host a professional blog at all and regularly post their thoughts on an open forum such as ISTE Communities or ASCD Edge. The platform doesn’t matter; each has their advantages and disadvantages and they are all about equal.
As for your own domain name, it doesn’t much matter either. If you want a more personalized feel for your blog, a unique domain name can help. It can also be good to have that domain name as part of your larger brand if that is something that interests you. However, in the end, having your own domain or not doesn’t make your posts any more readable.
How often should I write? This is the second most popular question I get. And it’s another that has no definitive answer. The more you write, the more opportunities folks have to read your work and share. But if you write too much it doesn’t give your posts time to have longevity and for others to digest and respond to them. I try to post once per week. But as we all know, real life gets in the way and sometimes I can’t stick to that schedule. Do what works for you. Don’t go so long that people forget you blog. Try to come up with a schedule that works for you and stick to it.
How long should my posts be? Here is another question I get often. If you do a search you will get a wide array of responses from shorter is better to longer is better and everything in between. Think about your own personal preferences. Do you want to sit down and read a novel in one sitting? Probably not. And think about who’s going to be reading your posts. Busy educators. The more detail you can pack into one post and keeping it brief the better. Don’t be afraid to split posts into series or parts. This also gives readers a reason to come back and read more.
How do I get more readers? This is a tricky question. On the one hand we should be writing because in the process of writing and reflecting we are growing. On the other hand you want to have audience. If you look at many of the most popular and widely read educational blogs they will all tell you that when they started they struggled for readers. Growing your audience takes time and patience and it definitely won’t happen overnight. Use your social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to let everyone know you have a new post. This will help extend your audience. (And remember, having that regular schedule definitely helps.)
How do I deal with negative comments or comments in general? One of the best parts of blogging are the conversations that they can start. Sometimes you will write a post and people will read and share but won’t leave a comment. Other times your comments section will blow up and you won’t be able to keep up. You have to prepare yourself for those that disagree with you too. A little bit of push back is a good thing. We all have different perspectives on things and sharing with each other is how we learn and grow. But there is a difference between comments that push back and those that are just inflammatory. You don’t have to respond to the inflammatory ones. Using a comment service like Disqus can not only help moderate comments but cut down on spammy ones too.
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