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 a blog is.
  2. Unpack the benefits of using blogs as part of your PLN.
  3. Describe some of the ways people keep up to date with blogs.
  4. Explore how to use blogs as part of your PLN.

Blogs play an important role in most educators’ PLNs and making blogs part of your PLN is more than just publishing posts on your own blog. If you don’t see yourself setting up your own blog, there are many benefits to simply reading, commenting, and sharing other people’s blogs.

What Is A Blog?

Blogs have been mainstream for well over a decade, so you might be very familiar with what a blog is (you’re reading a blog right now!).

However, let’s take a moment to define what exactly a blog is as the term continues to evolve.

Over recent year, the lines between blogs, websites, ePortfolios, and other online spaces have been blurring.

BLOG WEBSITE PORTFOLIO

Dynamic Community

Feedback and interaction (comments, sharing, RSS, and subscription)

Typically journal-like

Static information 

General term for online space — complex or simple

Scaffolding, showcasing or organization of student work

Typically over a period of time (years)

A blog is simply a website, although traditionally a website will have been more of a static space.

What makes a blog different than a simple website?

  • A blog traditionally would be updated fairly regularly and display posts in reverse chronological order.
  • Comments have always been a key feature of blogs, providing an interactive space.
  • Most blogs have pages where some key information is housed that isn’t updated very frequently (for example, an About Me page).

Nowadays, some people have a website that has a blog component; the home page doesn’t change but readers can click on a tab to view a regularly updated blog.

An example of this is Langwitches’ “Online Hub”. This is a website that displays Silvia Tolisano’s professional portfolio and there is a blog section that readers can navigate to from the front page.

Langwtiches Online Hub

An Introduction To Blogging Video

This video also provides a simple overview of what a blog is.

Reasons Why Educators Blog

The main reasons why educators have personal/professional blogs include to:

  • Share information and tips with other educators.
  • Collaborate with a global audience. Increased collaboration with others leads to greater innovation and new perspectives.
  • Reflect on their learning or their teaching/work practices.
  • Learn how to blog themselves so they can use blogs effectively with their students.

Refer to The State of Educational blogging in 2017/2018 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

Sue Waters, who is the backbone of Edublogs has reflected on her own experiences of blogging.

I’m sure that lots of people would be totally surprised by the fact that initially I really struggled with the concept of blogging — ‘Why would anyone blog and why would anyone 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 blogging helped me build a strong PLN.

It’s also important to remember that not everyone who makes blogs part of their PLN are bloggers themselves. 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.

If you have a vague thought in the back of your mind about starting your own blog but you’re not sure if it’s for you, hopefully Sue’s words above remind you that you can jump into blogging with some reluctance and you may be pleasantly surprised.

What have you got to lose?

Tips For Building Your PLN Via Blogs

The key components to making blogs part of your PLN are really simple:

  • Read and comment on other people’s blog posts. Then share anything that resonates with you with your PLN (e.g. on Twitter).
  • Publish posts on your own blog to reflect your thoughts, ideas, and/or to share resources. Remember, this is optional but keep it in mind!

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

Reading Blog Posts

There are thousands of educators out there who are regularly publishing on their own blogs. Many of these blogs revolve around specific topics, interests, or subjects areas. Others are more general reflections on all areas of education.

Reading blog posts is an important part of connecting with other educators. But how do you keep up to date with your favorite blogs and know if something new has been published?

There are three main ways you can keep up with your favorite blogs:

  1. Email subscription or email newsletter if available
  2. RSS feed (using a tool like Feedly)
  3. Social media and curation tools like Flipboard

Interestingly, when we did a quick poll of our Edublogs community in July 2018, 61% of respondents indicated that their favorite way to keep up to date with the blogs they like to read is via social media.

Poll showing 61% people keep up to date with blogs via social media

This might demonstrate that people are okay with consuming information serendipitously (there’s no guarantees they’ll see posts on social media). To avoid being swamped by emails, perhaps people choose to subscribe to only their very favorite blogs in this way. Feel free to tell us what you think in the comments!

Email Subscription

Many bloggers have an option to be notified via email when they publish something new. This might be via a simple email subscription widget on the sidebar of their blog. In this case, you’ll receive an email automatically to alert you to new posts.

It’s also becoming more common to see educators (and bloggers in general) create their own personal email newsletter to keep readers up to date. This might be sent out every time they publish something new, or there might be a weekly or monthly summary email.

Check out the sidebar of your favorite blog and look for a sign-up box.

RSS Feed (Feedly)

One of the easiest ways to keep updated with posts from your favorite blogs is to subscribe to their RSS feed using Feedly. The free version of Feedly allows you to follow up to 100 sources which should be enough to keep you busy!

Refer to these step-by-step instructions on how to set up Feedly.

This short video by Joshua Essary explains how to get started with Feedly.

There are other similar tools, but Feedly is one of the most popular.

Here are just a few popular education blogs you can subscribe to using Feedly.

Click here to open this spreadsheet in a new window.

Social Media And Flipboard

If you follow your favorite bloggers on Twitter, no doubt you will see them announcing when they have something new on their blog. Of course, there are no guarantees that you will always see this.

Another option Sue Waters uses on her mobile devices is subscribing to her Twitter timeline and Twitter hashtags using Flipboard.

This pulls all the links shared on Twitter into her Flipboard account in a magazine format where it’s easy to read, share, and comment on articles shared by her network.

You’ll find detailed step by step instructions on how to set up Flipboard here.

Watch this video to see how Sue uses 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 overlooked, aspects of using blogs as part of your PLN.

The comment section is where the deep learning, questioning, and reflection can occur. Comments turn your blog from a static space into an interactive conversation.

Commenting Tips For Bloggers

1.  Don’t just lurk — comment!

Of course you’re probably not going to comment on every blog post you read, but every now and then make the concerted effort to scroll down to that comment box and type a response, ask a question, or share your own insights. Your comments don’t have to be long to make an impact.

Remember, being part of a PLN is about giving as well as receiving. Taking the time to begin conversations will pay off!

2. Approve comments quickly

If you’re a blogger and 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. They might forget about it and not check back to see your response.

3.  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

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 by email of any follow up comments.

It’ll make your life easier. 🙂

Notify of follow up comments

Set Up Your Own Blog

If you’ve never blogged before, hopefully you’re reading this with the open mind to consider starting a blog now or even in the future.

But there are so many blogs out there! Why should I start one?

This is a common concern for people contemplating whether to start their own blog. They might feel like there is so much noise and so many blogs that are already established. They wonder what they could possibly have to add to the community?

We can assure you, you do have something worthwhile to share!

You are the only you. Your unique perspectives could be exactly what someone else needs to hear.

As George Couros has said,

My best advice…write for you and don’t overthink. See every blog post as a rough draft to something you are building over time, not a college term paper.

The more you do it, the better you will become.

The better you become, the easier it will be.

Be kind, be thoughtful, but don’t overthink. It is probably holding you back for inspiring someone else, and probably surprising yourself.

Still not convinced?

Check out Obvious To You, Amazing To Others by Derek Sivers.

A Blog Is Your Online Home

There are many advantages to blogging.

George Couros’ three reasons for blogging are shared by thousands of educators worldwide.

Reasons George Couros Blogs To share my thinking. To develop my thinking. To archive my thinking.

One of the great advantages of having your own blog when you’re setting up your PLN, is that it’s your online home.

Maybe you’ll discover a really cool tool, article, or resource. You could write about it (and share your learning with others).

Perhaps you’ll connect with some like minded teachers and possibly start some sort of collaboration. This would be perfect to blog about.

Even if your blog doesn’t really have an audience, a blog can be a fantastic place to keep track of all the work you’re doing both online and offline.

Your blog can also become an excellent professional portfolio. This can be an advantage when you’re trying to demonstrate who you are and what you’re passionate about for future career opportunities.

As Stephanie Thompson pointed out on her blog, 

An effective personal learning network and a willingness to share has enabled me to enjoy some incredible learning opportunities both inside and outside the classroom in the last few years. When I look back, even getting that first job offer in a market saturated with teaching graduates was directly attributable to an online professional presence.

What Platform Should I Blog On?

If you’re still reading, hopefully you’re thinking that setting up a blog is a possibility.

So you might be wondering where to set up your blog?

There are many choices.

Edublogs and CampusPress are powered by a customized version of WordPress. WordPress is the tool of choice for the large majority of professional bloggers and online publishers. In fact, over one-third of the entire web is powered by WordPress.

It’s highly customizable, export-friendly, and it works!

It’s free to sign up for a blog at Edublogs and it’s the world’s most popular platform for educational blogging. Just go to https://edublogs.org/ to sign up!

Read more about the advantages of using a WordPress based platform like Edublogs in this post. 

How Do I Start A Blog?

Ready to start your blog? We can help with that.

Our Personal Blogging Series takes you step-by-step through the process of setting up your own personal educator blog. It includes links to other educators’ blogs so you can see how they use their blogs.

Already dabbling with blogging? You’ll find our tips for writing more effective blog posts here.

Conclusion: Why Blog When You Can Microblog?

There’s a lot you can learn from getting involved in the blogging community whether that’s writing your own posts, or simply reading and commenting on other blogs.

However, this takes a certain amount of time. So what is the benefit of using blogs as a part of your PLN, as opposed to a tool like Twitter or other forms of social media?

Simply put, the more you put in the more you get out. Blogging allows you to dig deeper and really form strong connections with others. You’re not limited to 280 characters like on Twitter. You can write thousands of words if you like! Or at other times a few short sentences might suffice. The choice is powerful.

Tom Barrett created the following diagram for a post where he explored the impact of microblogging.

Tom Barrett Microblogging
Image by Tom Barrett

Tom Barrett said,

There is nothing wrong with the amber lit retweeting and sharing, but for many people we are sharing in an attempt to have the most impact on others. The micro engagement that occurs as people share without reading and, reposting content without engaging any further, is much more prevalent than the more in depth discussions of 10 years ago.

There’s definitely room for the amber, but think about the benefits that the green could bring to your professional life too.

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

In an article for EdTech Review, Saomya Saxena explained how blogs are an essential part of an educator’s PLN,

Hence, blogs are one of the most significant online tools that can help you build your professional and personal learning networks. There’s no limit to the people we can connect with, be inspired by and stretch our professional wings with and blogging offers a great opportunity to do that. I feel that, blogs will be a must for anyone who wants to develop a PLN for himself, since it is the most open, creative and free way of sharing knowledge and expressing oneself. So embrace blogging in your daily lives and grow your learning networks personally as well as professionally.

Definitely food for thought.

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. Share a link to an educator’s blog that you enjoy reading. Tell us what the blog is about what you get out of following the blog. Also, mention how you stay updated with the blog. Do you just check from time to time? Do you have an email subscription? Or do you use a tool like Feedly or Flipboard?
  2. Set up Feedly and/or Flipboard, referring to the instructions in this post. Leave a comment to tell us how you went setting up the tool. Let us know who you subscribed to and why.
  3. Write a post on your blog with your own thoughts about using blogs as part of your PLN. 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! In your blog post, you might like to cover topics like:
    • How do you use blogs as part of your PLN?
    • What tips do you have for newbies?
    • What did you learn about using blogs for building a PLN that you didn’t know?
    • What do you like/not like about Feedly, Flipboard, email subscriptions, or blogs?

Also feel free to leave a comment to ask any questions or share your tips.

How to leave a comment: Scroll down to find the comment box. Write your comment, then enter your name and email address (email addresses are not published). Enter the anti-spam word. Press submit and we will moderate your comment ASAP.

470 thoughts on “Step 5: Using Blogs As Part Of Your PLN

  1. I joined Flipboard and I subscribed to Education, Self-Improvement, and Women’s Health. I have already enjoyed some of the articles that have come up for Education. I look forward to gaining more resources with Flipboard.

  2. My dad uses Flipboard a lot and has been using it for many years, so I thought I would go with that one. Setting it up was super easy because I was able to register with my email and was given the option to immediately subscribe based off of my interests and their suggestions. I chose about 20 topics to follow that I wanted to see news on and a “For You” page was created with articles that fit these topics. Some of my topics include science, climate change, mental health, and education. These are all topics that are important to me as a person, but even more so as an informed teacher.

  3. Prompt @1- @JenWilliamsEdu is a twitter blog that talks about education and activism, and I think that having them together is really impactful! She posts pretty often, so there is always something new to read about when you look at her page.

  4. To be completely transparent, I don’t use blogs much. As I mentioned early in one of the other tasks, I like to use other various social media platforms for me to find content and connect with others. However, I do see the appeal of having a particular blog to save and go back to for reference or see what has been newly updated. While looking up ELA blogs, I found one titled Building Book Love. I like how organized the general website was and it was quite intuitive in terms of where I go for more information. I already bookmarked a specific blog post about having a comment bank on Google Docs, which blew my mind! I also skimmed through some other comments and saved a couple that I saw was interesting.
    https://buildingbooklove.com/blog/

  5. After reviewing Twitter, the internet, and even some of the comments here I found a blog that I believe will be both enjoyable and beneficial to me. I selected the blog by Helen the ADHD Teacher (shoutout to user Skyler Padgett). I believe this blog to be useful for me because being someone with ADHD I am very interested in hearing tips from an ADHD educator and how they work the two together. The way I stay connected to the blog is through an email list and as well as following her on Twitter (@HelenAW_SEND).

  6. I recently just found out about the “iLearn Technology” blog and this blog is about teaching teachers about different online platforms and explaining how to incorporate them into the classroom. I check this blog page from time to time to see what new things they have added.

  7. So I actually scrolled through the previous comments to look for a good blog to follow. I ended up following the Cult of Pedagogy. I liked how the content was clearly organized by themes and subjects. What I also really like about this blog is the casual language it uses in its writing.

  8. One blog and site that offers amazon information for teachers that I like to read is The Cult of Pedagogy. It offers great topics of discussion for teachers and future teachers. They mention areas of topics like backward design, creating a welcoming classroom environment, and edutips. I actually was introduced to it through one of my classes but I now check it periodically each week.

  9. I decided to create a Flipboard account and subscribed to a story by Trevor Mountcastle through Forbes Magazine titled “12 Places to See the Northern Lights”. The setup was super simple, you just enter your email and then follow the hashtags that interest you the most to personalize your account (this is optional though and you can begin by exploring all hashtags. I subscribed to this person and magazine because he describes what Northern Lights are, how & when they occur, and most importantly the best places to travel both near and far to see them. I chose this person/ story because I’ve always wanted to travel to Norway, Iceland, or the Netherlands to see the Northern Lights in person.

  10. I love educator blogs! I use them for so many different things like creating new lesson plans. I find myself highlighting the different ways educators manage their classroom behavior as well. I am subscribed to a few educator blogs. Subscribing to them allows me to stay up to date with all of them. A tip for newbies: Subscribe to blogs that you like/blogs that you find positive and helpful!

  11. I’ve never been one to get interested in blogs, especially since I prefer to find education and learning activities through other social media platforms. Also that I feel as if I wouldn’t have the time to look through a blog that I’m a part of and take time to comment and share my thoughts and ideas as an early educator who is very new to the whole experience and already know the platforms that work best. But I did find some blogs that talked about certain topics and subjects that were interesting and seemed useful.

  12. So I actually went to Pinterest and looked at different educators blogs as well as different tips on how to start a blog. I think one of the important things to note is that a lot of blogs are opinion based. I try to keep the classroom a neutral area so I would only use a blog for ideas on activities but maybe not for actual curriculum or how to build relationships with students.

  13. The blog that I found and feel like has a lot to offer is teachertoolkit. This blog provides teachers with many resources and strategies that are backed up through studies. They also share many of these studies, their findings, and how they can be applied to classrooms. I want to eventually become a school psychologist and with that career there are many parallels to teaching and teaching strategy. This blog is a perfect way for me to keep up to date with the newest educational researched trends and is something I can use before and during my career. The blog offers free resources as well as some premium that can be paid monthly for. 

  14. I made a feedly account, which was really straightforward. It immediately prompted me to search for blogs based on keywords. I followed the Heinemann blog, because I like the books that they published. I followed a few other ELA related blogs and one for teaching ELL students. To organize the blogs I am following, I created an education folder. If I find other blogs related to teaching ELLs, I will create a folder specifically for that. This site is easy to navigate, user friendly, and much better than simply trying to remember what blogs you are following. I’m not a fan of email subscriptions, especially if I am following multiple blogs.

  15. I used the step-by-step instructions given in the article, and it was super easy to set up. I subscribed to the profile of teacher updates, just to get the latest and newest updates on teaching around the world.

  16. Using blogs as part of PLN is a great way for people to find you and start connecting with you and for you to give your thoughts on whatever you want to speak about. Blogs is a way for readers to get your POV on a topic and even have them leave their thoughts or comments down below.

  17. Prompt 1: What is a blog you enjoy? One teaching blog I have found very useful is Cult of Pedagogy, which can be found here: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/blog/. I’m not usually the type to read blogs, but this has been recommended by several classmates. I am not signed up for emails, but generally just check the website from time to time. If I am looking for information on something in particular, I sometimes search on the website because I know I can trust it as a good source.

  18. I didn’t have a lot of experience with blogs and was not familiar with Feedly so I created an account. It was super easy to do, I created the account using my VCU google account and subscribed to three blogs: The Daring English teacher, Two Writing Teachers, and Solutions for the Secondary Classroom. From what I have read of them, these blogs seems like a great place to find ideas to help support beginning writers and for activities to use in my classroom.

  19. One of my favorite educator blog’s is: https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/blog/ I was introduced to this blog in one of my prior college classes. I thoroughly enjoy this blog because it has multiple resources to assist me in becoming a better teacher. It has multiple links to help you become an adequate teacher to your students. Some topics covered in the blogs are instruction, classroom management, technology, pedagogy, equity, leadership and many more! I also subscribed (via email) to this blog because the creator has podcasts available that amplify these topics with other professionals. It also covers hot topics in education like “why are so many teachers leaving?” It provides real life experiences for current or teach futures.

  20. I personally have not had too much experience reading and searching for blogs. After reading this step, I have now just created a Flipboard account. This was super easy to do and has a great amount of resources. It allows you to search hashtags which allows you to find content specific to what you need! I decided to subscribe to Coach William Jeffery as it looks like he has a lot of great information and resources on incorporating technology in your teaching! I look forward to keeping up with his posts!

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