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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 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.

263 Comments

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  1. I have found many blogs that I like to watch on YouTube I cannot remember what they are all called but when you pull different things out of them all you really can get some amazing information.

    • cassidylipelt
  2. I know I have mentioned Ashley before, but Teach Create Motivate’s blog is incredible. She has so many great ideas and I love hearing what she has to say. She tends to share a lot of technology tips and classroom management systems. She is also big on student motivation and encouragement. I follow her on Instagram so this is usually how I find out when a new blog post is available but I also check from time to time.
    https://www.teachcreatemotivate.com/blog/

  3. For Step 5, I researched ELL educator blogs. I decided to share these two:
    https://www.empoweringells.com/category/blog – I like the layout and easy organization of this blog and I like that it has a podcast as well. The blogger collaborates with many specialists in the ELL field and has offered self-paced courses in ELL teaching.
    http://everythingesl-everythingesl.blogspot.com – I came across this blog in Week 4, when we created our professional symbaloo. Although, it has not had very many new posts, the posts that it does have are meaningful and very informative. I loved reading about silent period in ELLs as I currently have a student who does not verbalize yet. Judie Haynes, the owner of this blog is also a co-founder and co-moderator of #ELLchat, where she is currently more active than on her original blog.
    I enjoyed the step 5 very much and after reading it I realized, that blogs might be “my cup of coffee” for creating my PLN. To be honest, before I read through this information, I did not know the difference between a website and a blog, even though I follow several of them for my personal interests.

  4. I chose to find a blog that I enjoyed. I found that “Simply Special Ed” was a blog that I very much liked. It was well organized- I was able to learn more about who the creators of the blog were and what their mission is. They have links to articles about adapting curriculum to fit special education students’ needs, and they even have links that help teachers with their resumes and interviews. If a person only wants information on high school resources, they can click on a link that will take them to just that level. The same goes for elementary and middle school. To stay updated, all I had to do was enter my email address and I received updates and notifications through my email. I think that other special educators should definitely look into this site!

    https://www.simplyspecialed.com/category/blog/

  5. A blog that I actually was introduced to by one of my professors is The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/pod/. This podcast is for teachers and addresses a wide range of topics from different approaches to the curriculum or building and maintaining positive relationships in the classroom. I am not subscribed or anything but I do check periodically or just go on there to browse through the different podcasts because I haven’t listened to all of them.

  6. Set up was simple and I feel this will be beneficial in my career and home life.
    I followed #art because I feel that it is important to understand students artistic side and incorporate that into understanding students
    I followed #mentalhealth because mental health plays a HUGE role in everyday life and I feel that in students it goes unnoticed often.
    I also followed #technology because technology is becoming more and more prominent in everyday life and I want to be informed about the technology that my students are using.

  7. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/blog/education-and-path-equity-series?gclid=CjwKCAjwx6WDBhBQEiwA_dP8rfYpZEBXl4OPBtAjNudDBHvj4S6tWiHHsubQJ8725JVVlCBHpEul3xoCTIMQAvD_BwE

    I found this blog quite by accident, and merely check in from time to time to see what is new. However, what makes this such a valuable resource is how it discusses hard topics and addresses problems within education. It can be difficult to address certain topics, or not know how to answer if it is brought up, but this blog provides a very valuable standpoint on these topics.

  8. I regularly follow http://maniacsinthemiddle.com/. This is not something that I really stay up to date on, by checking her blog/website, but she keeps her Instagram super active and links things from her blog, there. Although my focus is on elementary level education, the things that she posts about what she does in middle school and how she sets things up, help me learn what works and doesn’t in the classroom setting, all while looking super cute too!

  9. An educator’s blog that I enjoy reading is called “I <3 EDU,” by Meagan Kelly. On her blog, Meagan shares activities to be done in the classroom, ideas, and support for teachers. I enjoy her blog because of how passionate she is for teaching, and she is honest about what works and what doesn’t. The blog offers an email subscription, however, at this time I am not subscribed to it. I typically find this blog through a Google search and pull it up when I need inspiration or support.

  10. Blogs are a great way to share multiple types of information to numerous people, as well as having it for yourself to look at in the future. Blogs are a resource that can take on diverse formats and provide knowledge in individualistic ways. Blogs can be centered around activities or general knowledge, or it can be a recounting of specific occurrences and advice. I think incorporating blogs is a fantastic way to both keep track of personal progress while also amassing new information.

  11. One thing that I noticed in setting up my blogs has been the need to approve comments. I didn’t think about that type of maintenance behind blogs. The advice on approving comments quickly makes a lot of sense in order to build communication with subscribers and promote conversation between folks. I don’t know if it’s my internet connection or not, but Feebly and Flipboard won’t open for me. As for teacher blogs, I typically follow Cult of Pedagogy. There are other forums such as fishtank that offer excellent teaching materials and reflections from teachers. I have not been able to maintain my own blog on a consistent level. I think that if I can focus the scope of my blog, then I would be able to update it more frequently. A blog without specified intentions feels overwhelming, so my advice would be to narrow down a focus for the blog.

  12. In response to the first prompt, the blog of an educator I like is @thecrazycreativeteacher on tiktok. This is not your average blog and she shares her information through videos. She has a few series she does often which are teacher tip tuesday and after the last bell rings. For the first one she shares tips for teachers to try in their own classrooms. For the second one she shows what she does when she leaves school and how she wraps up her day after teaching. I especially like her because she uses a very new mode of technology to enhance learning and to share with others.

    • Jennifer Carranza
  13. I really like the blog Pocketful of Primary. https://www.pocketfulofprimary.com/
    I usually keep up with her through YouTube! I do occasionally prefer to read the information given and peruse the free organizational tools she has, but I am better at paying attention to videos. I think that the woman who runs this blog is so positive and creative! She really has impacted the way I want to organize my class. She also has a really large community of teachers that follow and communicate with her, so it’s a great resource for me as well to connect with other educators.

  14. http://applefortheteach.blogspot.com
    One of the blogs I think is great is called “An Apple For The Teacher”. The writer of this blog is Kelly Malloy, who is a 4th grade teacher and shares a number of great resources for teachers on her page! You can find fun activities, inspirational posts, and enter great giveaways like a chance to win a Teachers Pay Teachers gift card! Kelly updates her blog twice a week so I typically just check her site from time to time.

  15. I love blogs I follow a variety of people not only within our class, but also outside on social media sites such as Instagram. For example my old fifth grade teacher has her blog indented within her Instagram for people to read weekly. I find blogs so informative and intriguing as there are ideas or resources spoken about that I have personally never thought of. I enjoy it other educators informing other educators, this is nice I learn so much from others words and ideas.

  16. Blogs can be such a helpful resource for someone’s PLN. Blogs can host a multitude of great articles and resources for teachers to refer to. They often have great ideas that can easily be brought into the classroom. The education blog I am most familiar with is https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/. This blog has a blog section, a podcast section, and a videos section to help educators learn new skills.

    • Kathryn Hopping
  17. I chose to try out Feedly and it was fairly simple to make an account and navigate through the site. I chose to subscribe to The Cult of Pedagogy, What the Teacher Wants, and Classroom Freebies. I was already familiar with The Cult of Pedagogy podcast and blog because one of my teachers frequently assigns podcast episodes for class assignments and discussions. Feedly makes it easy to see what they are posting and provides a simple way to get to the different podcast episodes and blog posts with the click of a button. What the Teacher Wants provides different tools and resources that can be used in the classroom, and I thought it would be cool to comb through and see what all they have to offer and what I can potentially use in my own classroom one day. Classroom Freebies is pretty similar because it provides us with free resources, websites, and materials we can use in our classrooms. I’m excited to keep searching for people to subscribe to on Feedly because I’ve only scratched the surface of what they have to offer.