Welcome to the fifth step in our free professional learning series on building your PLN.
The aim of this step is to:
- Explain what is a blog
- Explain the benefits of using blogs as part of your PLN.
- Show you how to use blogs as part of your PLN.
Blogs play an important role in most educator’s PLNs and making blogs part of your PLN is more than just publishing posts on a blog.
What is a blog?
One of the biggest challenges educators new to blogs face is understanding what is a blog and how a blog works.
So we made this quick intro video to explain.
Reasons why educators blog
The main reasons why educators have personal blogs include:
- Share information and tips with other educators.
- Collaborate with a global audience. Increased collaboration with others, leads to greater innovation and ideas, because each individual sees a different perspective – giving all involved greater “food for thought!”
- To reflect on their learning or their teaching /work practices.
- To learn how to blog themselves so they can use blogs effectively with their students.
Refer to The State of Educational blogging in 2013 for more information on why educators use blogs.
Your personal blog extends your relationships outside of your school and allows you to connect with global educators who all willingly help each other.
Using blogs as part of your PLN
I’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.
The key components to making blogs part of your PLN are really simple:
- Read and comment on other people’s blog posts
- Publish posts on your own blog to reflect 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 educators prefer to read and comment on other people’s posts while other educators also have their own personal blog.
Tips to building your PLN via Blogs
Like everything, there are tips that’ll both save you time and make you more effective.
Reading blog posts
Reading other bloggers’ posts is an important part of connecting with other educators.
One of the easiest ways to keep updated with posts from your favourite blogs is to subscribe to their RSS feed using Feedly (refer to these step by step instructions on how to set up Feedly).
Here are some blogs you can subscribe to using Feedly:
- The Edublogger ( http://theedublogger.com/ )
- Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day ( http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/)
- Free Technology for Teachers ( http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ )
Check out the Edublog Awards lists for more blogs to subscribe to!
Another option I use on my mobile devices is subscribing to my twitter timeline and twitter hashtags using Flipboard. This pulls all the links shared on Twitter into my Flipboard account in a magazine format where I can easily read, share and comment on articles shared by my network.
You’ll find detailed step by step instructions on how to set up Flipboard here.
Watch this video to see how I use Flipboard.
Commenting on posts
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.
Below is an example of replying back to a comment using threaded comments:
3. 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 by email of any follow up comments.
It’ll make your life easier
Set up your own blog
Like all other aspects of building a PLN — what you get back is directly related to what you put in!
You’ll get the most back when you read other bloggers’s posts, comment on their posts and publish posts on your own personal blog. The more you learn about being a blogger, and writing effective posts, the better you’ll connect with others.
For those who are new to blogging we recommend you work through our personal blogging series. The series takes you step by step through the process of setting up your own personal educators blog and includes links to other educators’ blogs so you can see how they use their blogs. You’ll find our tips for writing more effective blog posts here.
We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation about PLNs by undertaking one or more of these challenges:
- Check out “Advice to First Time Bloggers” Voicethread and then leave a comment on this post to share what you learned from the Voicethread.
- Set up Feedly and/or Flipboard. Refer to these instructions to set up and use Feedly or this information to use Flipboard. Here is a list of blogs you can subscribe to using Feedly. Leave a comment to tell us how you went setting up Feedly or Flipboard and to let us know who you subscribed to and why.
- Write a post on your blog about what you learned. The focus here is to reflect on your learning. For example, ‘What did you learn about using blogs for building a PLN that you didn’t know?’, ‘What did you like/not like about Feedly, Flipboard or blogs?’, ‘What advice did we give that you don’t agree with or we should have included?’ Please include @edublogs if you tweet your post — so we can share your post with our network. Leave a comment with a link to your post so we can read it!
- Leave a link to your blog in a comment on this post if you are participating in our PLN series so the other participants can easily subscribe to your blog.
Also feel free to leave a comment to ask any questions or share your tips.