PLN Challenge #5: Using Blogs as Part of Your PLN

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Blogs play an important role in most educator’s PLNs.

And for most it’s a lot more than publishing blog posts.

So now that you’ve started building your PLN, we’re going to look at how blogs are used as part of PLNs.

Overview

Blogging as part of your PLNI’m sure that lots of people who are very glad I’m a blogger would be totally surprised by the fact that initially I really struggled with the concept of blogging — ‘Why anyone would blog and why others read their blogs?’

It took almost a year from being shown what a blog was to becoming a blogger.

The online tools I used before blogging were excellent for sharing information.  But blogging gave me what they lacked; the ability to reflect, collaborate, exchange ideas and connect with other people.

Ultimately blogging completely changed my life; it’s the reason why I’m now employed to do the work I do and helped me build a strong PLN.

So what are the key components to making blogs part of your PLN?

It’s really simple:

  1. Other blogs – read and comment on other people’s blog posts
  2. Your blog – reflect periodically by writing posts about your thoughts, ideas and/or to share resources.

It’s also important to remember that not everyone who makes blogs part of their PLN are bloggers.   It’s really up to you!  Some prefer to just read and comment on other people’s posts while others have their own personal blog.

Like all other aspects of building a PLN — what you get back is directly related to what you put in!

And like everything, there are tips that’ll both save you time and make you more effective.

Here are my tips:

#1 Keeping up with reading blog posts

Reading other bloggers’ posts is an important part of connecting with them.

One of the easiest ways to keep updated with posts from your favourite blogs is to subscribe to their RSS feed using Google Reader (here’s how to set up Google Reader).

Another option, for iPad users, is to use Flipboard.  You can read more about the different ways educators can use Flipboard here.

Check out the Edublog Awards lists if you’re looking for more blogs to subscribe to.

#2 Becoming an effective commenter

Your commenting skills and how you engage in comments with others on blogs posts is one of the most important, and often over looked aspects, of using blogs as part of your PLN.

Key aspects that’ll help include:

1.  Approve comments quickly

If someone leaves a comment on your post, make sure you approve the comment quickly (if you moderate comments)

There’s nothing more annoying to a reader to see that their comments haven’t been published.

2.  Always respond back to readers on your own posts.

If readers have made time to comment on your posts the very minimum you should do is respond back to your readers (ideally each reader) in the comments on your post.

This is very important for building your blog’s community; it demonstrates that you value your readers and their input.

Tip:

  • Enable threaded comments if it is an option!
  • It’ll allow you and your readers to respond easily to individual comments.

Using Threaded comments

3.  Enable Subscribe to Comments

If your blog has an option to allow readers to subscribe to comments by email — make sure you enable it!

This means anyone can choose to be notified of new comments and makes it easier for them to quickly respond back to new comments — if they want.

Enable Subscribe to comments

4.  Use the Subscribe to Comments option

If a blogger provides a subscribe to comment option, then make sure you select this option when leaving a comment, so you’re notified of all new comments.

It’ll make your life easier :)

Subscribe to comments by email

#3 Becoming an effective blogger

The more you learn about being a blogger, and writing effective posts,  the better you’ll connect with others.

Our Kicking starting your blogging series will help if you’re new to blogging, or want to set up your own blog.

You’ll also find Writing Better Blog Posts: What You NEED to Know helpful!

Check out this tips for First Time Bloggers voicethread, created by Nancy Carroll, and add your own tips!

Your Challenge Task

We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation about PLNs by undertaking one or more of these challenges:

  1. Leave a comment on the “Advice to First Time Bloggers” Voicethread
  2. Write a post or write a comment on this post to share your tips for building a PLN using blogs
  3. Leave a comment on this post! Ask us a question.  Join the conversation!
  4. Leave a link to your blog in a comment on this post if you are participating in our Whole new PLN series so the other participants can easily subscribe to your blog.
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62 thoughts on “PLN Challenge #5: Using Blogs as Part of Your PLN

  1. I’ve been blogging for a year and love it. It is a great way for me to reflect on my job, share my thoughts and (hopefully) help other librarian out there.

  2. I started my first blog with this blogging challenge last year. Now, I have 4 blogs! It’s a great experience and I’ve learned so much and met so many talented educators.

    I will send a link to my post when complete.

    Thanks!
    Theresa

  3. Great post! I’m always looking for ideas to improve my blogging. I have only started blogging in the last couple of months. I feel that keeping a blog post relatively short and too the point helps. Blogging is an extremely useful tool encourages reflective practice. Hopefully at the same time I am contributing to the wider teaching community as well.

  4. Sue
    Thanks for another great post. One thing I find really useful on my edublgos blog and blogspot one is to have a feed widget on the side bar that shows the blogs I am following. It gives the title of their latest post and the date. In that way I have a quick nifty way to identify a new post.
    Kathryn

  5. This could not have come at a better time! I’m just now setting up my blog that will reflect on the every day life of a middle school teacher, and I needed some constructive advice to help me get started. Thanks for all the great tips!
    ~Vicki

  6. Thnak you for these tips. I recently began to blog and to read blogs. I’m excited about the possibilities.
    Denise

  7. Great tips, I would add to designate time for your blog or for your reader, such as always posting on Fridays or whatever works for you. I had a great first year blogging, then got too busy at the end of my second year.

  8. I have had a classroom blog for a year and I because of this challenge, I started a personal blog last month. Thanks for the tips. I am very excited about using Flipboard on my iPad. But I am having a problem adding my own blogs to Flipboard. Everytime I search on them, then just come up with Twitter or Flickr mentions. Any suggestions?

  9. Thank you for the great tips and suggestions.
    I just opened a Google Reader account to access all the blogs I am following and added FlipBoard to my iPad. FlipBoard was confusing but I will keep trying to figure it out. I added a comment on the voicethread but I don’t think my voice is coming across?? any suggestions?

    I just finished a new post on my PLN blog about the book
    Classroom Instructions That Work – I would love to have your comments about the book and hear about instructional strategies you’re using in the classroom.
    http://lstolldses.edublogs.org/

    This PLN challenge is wonderful and I’m learning so much from each of you!! thank you
    Lisa

  10. Hi Sue,

    This is such a great post! You’ve asked for advice/tips for building PLN with blogs. Here’s mine:

    The main thing to remember is it takes time to build readership and community. It honestly reminds me of moving to Arizona 13 years ago, away from everyone I knew (I’m a California girl). I found that making friendships took time and energy. Some of those relationships ended up being my closest friends, while others are still only at the acquaintance level. That’s normal. — I find parallels in building friendships in my physical world to my online world. — It takes time and effort. So, stick with it!

    Kind regards,
    Tracy

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  12. Thanks for the great post. One of our bloggers asked a question in a comment on my blog — see how effective our conversations can be— so I created this post on how I organize to build my PLN from my blog learning/reading:

    Build PLN with Organization Tools

    This blog links to Sue Waters info on RSS readers and to the social bookmarking platform, Diigo.

    Blogs connect you to other social networks (like Diigo mentioned in my blog) on which you further connect to your PLN. It truly does become a network.

    If you join VoiceThread to leave a comment (which I did), that is another way to connect to your PLN — through shared VoiceThreads.

    And I second the idea of adding blogfeed to your sidebar. I need to update mine.

    Thanks all, for helping me learn. Sheri

  13. This is a really helpful post! I’ve been blogging for about six months now and am only just beginning to feel ready to start making links with other bloggers and educators – I’ve had no idea what I was doing for most of the time! But I’m feeling much more confident now, so here I am!
    I once attended a PD where we were all asked to share our ideas for activities to do with grades during garden classes… sadly most people just looked at each other blankly as they seemed to have nothing to share or didn’t seem to think their ideas were worth sharing! So, I’m trying to start the conversation with our blog, and hopefully give other people some ideas and also the confidence to see that their ideas are great too!
    http://bfpsgarden.global2.vic.edu.au/

    • Hi Michelle,

      Your blog looks fabulous! Only six months? Nicely done!

      It sounds like you’d like to have more collaboration of ideas through your learning community (physical and connect in the digital community). Is that one of your goals?

      Have you thought about connecting through the Class Blogging Challenges? Theresa Allen posted about it.

      Kind regards,
      Tracy Watanabe

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  15. Another motivating and reassuring post. I started blogging about 6 months ago and just started a personal blog for this challenge. Many of the steps I took along the way are listed in this post. I am encouraged to keep on with the journey. I am really enjoying hearing from other educators and am getting better at commenting on the blogs that I am reading. Every time I read a blog I get a new idea. It is always a positive experience. Sometimes it is difficult to know what to share but I found that if a set the goal for myself to blog at least once a week then I took more time to reflect.

    • Hi Ms. Kirwin,

      I realized that I only want to post one time a week around Sunday(ish) give or take a day. That way I can spend my other efforts learning from others, reading their posts, commenting, and reflecting. I believe Michal Graffin said it in the VoiceThread above, quality over quantity. Thanks for reminding me of that!

      Kind regards,
      Tracy Watanabe

  16. Three suggestions for blogging I have followed off and on:

    1. Develop a morning and evening personal learning algorithm. In other words set up your internet search into a daily routine. Mine is centered around Google Reader, Tweetdeck, Diigo, Google Mail, and several curation sites. I get inspiration from them.

    2. Use an annotation tool like Diigo to highlight and extract information.

    3. Experiment with different ways of gathering and filtering information on your blog like VoicePress–a way to blog via speech to text.

    Lastly, you can adapt a comment post into a blog post like I did here: http://www.tex2all.com/?p=86

  17. Thank you for the post. The link was just sent to me by my tech ed instructor because I am learning about blogs, how they can be useful in the classroom and to the educator. I see lots of excellent tips here in the original post and in the comments and I will be reading them all through their links. I am excited about the possibilities and fearful of the time commitment. However the professional development potential is huge and worth persevering. thanks again,

  18. I have just started my own blog and stumbled upon this site. What a great resource with great advice. My goal this summer is to create a PLN and I hope I am on my way to reaching it. Last year I started a blog for my middle school’s new advisory program. It served as a resource page and was supposed to be a place for the advisors to share ideas and experiences. It turned into a place for me to post ideas sent to me by others and for me to comment on my successful experiences. I will continue to manage and use that blog. Reading all of the wonderfully written blogs out there is quite intimidating and very inspiring for me. Despite my shy nature I’ve put myself out there anyway. Her is a link to my blog http://aneducatorstechnologyjourney.blogspot.com/ and my advisory blog http://smsadvisory.blogspot.com/
    any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks,
    Heather

    • Well done Heather!

      As a painfully shy person who has learned to hide it I know how hard it can be! Although I do find I am less shy “online” and would be really intersted to know whether this is so for you also?

      |I have also left a comment on your blogpost

      Jo

      • Thanks Jo!
        I appreciate your feedback. My shy nature mostly exists “online.” I am self conscious about what I write when I know that others will read it. I guess I worry too much that I will not look as intelligent as I view others that post and tweet and blog. It is interesting that in person I am not as reserved, I teach staff development classes within my district and I have almost 20 years of teaching experience K -8 general and special education. So, I guess hiding behind a computer doesn’t make me less self-conscious.
        Thanks again,
        Heather

  19. Hi, I too have been changed this past year through blogging. I owe my PLN to the Edublogs community! I, like so many others, lurked about for over a year, just blogging obliviously with my students and me.

    Then I joined the teacher blogging challenges and have joined with so many wonderful people in conversation about important educational topics. My blog is Dare to Care

  20. Thank you so much for kicking me into gear! I’m still overwhelmed by all that’s out there but at least I have a way to start getting a handle on it! A small group in my district are trying to get a tech-assisted PLN going. Wish us luck!

    • Good Luck Gail and your group!

      With Twitter and Blogs and the community you are building I think your PLN is off to a great start

      Jo

    • Hi Kristy

      So well done for making a start with blogging.

      I have written a more complete comment on your post. I remember so well how excited I was (still am) when I get comments on my posts rather than tweets or other feedback. :)

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    • Hi Jessica

      Am always so impressed by people who reflect consistently in blog posts – not something I am good at! I have left a comment on your post.

      Jo

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  23. Better late…isn’t that what they say?

    I started blogging with my class at the beginning of the Australian school year, after lurking around many class blogs, and participating in the ‘Kickstart Your Blogging’ Teachers Challenge – an extremely invaluable process!

    I now have my Class Blog, which has just reached 2000 visitors, and my own teaching blog PrimEd, which isn’t updated as frequently as I would like. Insert sad face here.

    Through blogging, I’ve learnt so much about the blogging process, and even myself as a teacher, trying new things I’ve seen posted on Blogs, more professional reading, bring back ideas to my own colleagues, and expanding my PLN beyond anything I thought was possible, coming from a small school!

    It really is an amazing process, giving learning such authenticity for students!

    Cheers,
    Kirby

  24. I am way behind in these task for the challenge but I feel that is because having to blog so much for school and now for this it is like I have parallel lives running. Aim finding the challenges good as something you find out is that you don’t know everything you thought you know about these. It is the little ideas and the suggestions that can make your experience with these tools so much more effective. Thanks everyone for the great suggestions.
    http://nickcoulter.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/bloggedy-blog/

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  29. Wow, I just lost my entire message…bummer. Anyway, thank you for your helpful guide. It helps to demystify the blogging world for people like me (I used to consider myself “non-techy” but I can’t afford that lazy moniker anymore, at least not as a teaching professional). I am wading in slowly, both as a blog consumer and a creator. My 5th grade class is creating a blog about our Global Citizenship Study. Your guide will be helpful. If anyone has any tips, cautions, or ideas about how I can most effectively facilitate this project, please do not hesitate to weigh in. I am still trying to crack the blogging code. Thanks again. Kyle Redford

      • You are too good to me! Thank you both for your support! We have a few entries into our blog (we just started). There will be more as we move through the study (probably one or two a week). The students are SO excited about it. I have never seen them this excited to volunteer to do work :-) Next…they will start their own blogs, but we will learn together with this one first. Here is the URL: http://mcds5.blogspot.com/

        Thanks again for your support!

        Warmly,

        Kyle

  30. Miss W,

    THank you for all your support. Apparently, I couldn’t respond to both you and Tracey at the same time. Here is the URL:
    http://mcds5.blogspot.com/

    I would love any feedback. The students are so excited about their blog! Next they will start their own blogs.

    Warmly,

    Kyle

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  32. Hi,

    I’ve never written a blog before and have just discovered this strange universe of PLNs. I hope to start using this in the future as it seems to have a lot of potential.

    Gavin

  33. I’ve never really seen many educational blogs until I started taking this education tech class, and I’m really starting to like it!

  34. Great post!
    I am currently in the process of starting up my own blog, but I am having a great deal of trouble with it. I think I, too, am in that questioning phase, and I am needing a bit of advice. My blog is mycardiganclub.blogspot.com, and I would appreciate any sort of feedback.

    Thank you!

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