Edublogs Teacher Challenges

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Step 5: Using Blogs as Part of Your PLN

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Welcome to the fifth step in our free professional learning series on building your PLN.

The aim of this step is to:

  1. Explain what is a blog
  2. Explain the benefits of using blogs as part of your PLN.
  3. 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:

  1. Read and comment on other people’s blog posts
  2. 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:

  1. The Edublogger ( http://theedublogger.com/ )
  2. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day ( http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/)
  3. 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:

Comment on a post

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 :)

Notify of follow up comments

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.

Make sure you check out the tips for First Time Bloggers voicethread, created by Nancy Carroll! It includes excellent tips on what to blog about and how to get started.

Your 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. Check out “Advice to First Time Bloggers” Voicethread and then leave a comment on this post to share what you learned from the Voicethread.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!
  4. 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.

81 comments for “Step 5: Using Blogs as Part of Your PLN

  1. Lisa
    October 27, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Hi all, my blog is msrodrigues.global2.vic.edu.au I use feedly to follow a variety of blogs. I find it useful as I can read it when I choose. I do subscribe to some blogs as well, but lately I just add the blogs to feedly. I’ve started to use Flipboard as well. I clip tweets, blog posts (via feedly) and other articles of interest in my Flipboard magazine on Student Voice. At one point I had quite a few blog readers and sites to collect information and that became too much to manage. So I’m bringing it all into one place.

    • Sue Waters
      October 30, 2014 at 3:05 pm

      Hi Lisa

      To share the posts from Feedly to your Flipboard magazine are you opening the posts up in your web browser to add them? Or are you adding them directly from Feedly to Flipboard?

      Sue Waters
      Support Manager
      Edublogs | CampusPress

      • Lisa
        October 30, 2014 at 4:18 pm

        Hi Sue, I use the Feedly app on my phone. I click the share button for Android and it gives me a variety of apps on my phone to choose from. I have the Flipboard app so I add the articles directly into it.

        • Sue Waters
          October 30, 2014 at 4:25 pm

          Hi Lisa,

          I’m glad I asked! I use both every day on my Android devices and I swear that option wasn’t there previously. Both my devices updated today and I can now see the link you mean. Thanks for pointing out that option. That saves me so much time as I prefer to add all my links to my Flipboard Magazines and then share from the Flipboard editor on my computer.

          Sue Waters
          Support Manager
          Edublogs | CampusPress

  2. Aracely de Bech
    October 27, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Yeah … another question :-)
    - Politness … for how long should we “reply” back to those who reaplied our comments? … shoudl we reply to say “thanks for your comment” in case they have just made observations or should we just reply to those asking questions or starting an interesting conversation?
    - a “I like” button wouldn’t be wrong so that we know someonelse have already read our post/reply without the need of replyiing or ???
    …. Am I thinking wrong here?

    … how about tweeter … shoudl we reply “thanks” to those who tweet us back or???
    .. Please REPLY :-)

  3. Aracely de Bech
    October 27, 2014 at 4:22 am

    Question -
    I’ve just shared a very interesting blog link and at the end of the blog, right where you reply I could “Share” the informaiton by facebook, tweet, google+ and others ….. How do I that with edublogs?
    This blog link I’m talking about was on wordpress so I could not comment because I don’t have a wordpress account but I could share it with my colleagues and others.

    Have I missed something? would love to learn how to be able to do that … maybe I have to have a pro-account with edublogs? I ‘m on my way to getting one for my class blog. @AracelydeBech

    • Sue Waters
      October 30, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      Hi Aracely

      The Share options can be added to any Edublogs Pro blog using either Sharing by Jetpack ( http://help.edublogs.org/sharing/ ) or AddThis Social Share ( http://help.edublogs.org/addthis-social-bookmarking-plugin/ ). The Share options at the bottom of the WordPress post are the Sharing Module by Jetpack.

      You should have still been able to comment on the WordPress.com post however it is a bit confusing how to add a comment as they do have a lot of options. If you add a link to the post in this comment I can check if they did have an option to add as a logged out user using name and email address.

      Great question about commenting etiquette! We try to reply to most comments individually but we do this for a few reasons. 1) we’ve reversed the normal order of comments due to the number of comments on these posts. If we don’t reply individually it is hard for commenters to see which comments apply to their comments. 2) Responding back to a commenter shows that you value the time they’ve taken to leave a comment.

      Downside is if you have a large number of comments on a post, and people have selected Notify me of follow up comments by email, they get a lot of emails when you reply.

      On my other blogs I’m more likely to use a combination of replying to individual comments with replies to several comments in the same comment. When you use this approach you often use the @ symbol then the comment to the person.

      Here is an example.

      @Aracely Thanks for sharing your thoughts! etc

      @Lisa Thanks for sharing a link to your blog. I’m looking forward to checking it out.

      Ideally you want to make your comment more than thanking for a comment. Where possible I try to reflect on what the comment might have said or share extra tips that help. Sometimes that isn’t possible so I might just say a collective thanks to everyone for the comment or use some other way of acknowledging the comment. e.g on the Twitter post where some have just left their Twitter username I’ve only responded to those that asked a question or shared reflections. While collectively I’ve said I’m now following you.

      Hope this helped?

      Sue Waters
      Support Manager
      Edublogs | CampusPress

      • Aracely de Bech
        November 4, 2014 at 3:02 am

        Thank you Sue and sorry for the delay but I was on holiday last week. Thanks for the great ideas about sharing with other social media networks since I am about to start blogging with my class and that would be useful.
        I will check the link with wordpress and come back to you :-)

  4. Lisa Suhr
    October 25, 2014 at 6:34 am

    http://ljsuhr.edublogs.org/2014/10/16/using-blogs-as-part-of-your-personal-learning-network/

    I’ve used Feedly for quite a while to manage the blogs I like to follow and this challenge gave me a good reason to blog about the basics of it. The link to the article is above! Thanks for the challenges!

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