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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.

102 Comments

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  1. I had problems to post today so I am writing again.
    If you ask me about the importance of blogging in my life I would add that it has helped me think and reflect.
    I have also become a follower of many blogs online, I regularly receive mails and check the content. I learn about new tools, projects and I share my experience online and what I would like to do with the new tools.
    Blogging helps rethinking and we can connect with the others. Social networks have done a lot and I check them too.
    Here is the link of my post : http://educationalandissue.blogspot.com/2018/09/using-blogs-as-part-of-your-pln.html

    • Tiziana Angiolini
    • Nice work, Tiziana. I look forward to reading this new post!

      • Kathleen Morris
      • Thanks. I have learnt so much about the best ways to be online and connected.

        • Tiziana Angiolini
  2. I think blogging is a great way to share information and it really seems like a great tool to use. I think it can be a more personal way of saying what you want but at the same time you can add more of your own touch to it and I think it’s a really great tool.

    • Mattie Bennett
    • Great to hear you can see the potential of blogging, Mattie!

      • Kathleen Morris
  3. I think blogging is a great way to reflect and share my thoughts as a teacher, I am gradually building my PLN and will be subscribing to other blogs. I set up both the Feedly and the Flipboard. I love the way Flipboard is so easy on the eyes, and the way the pages turn, and I like the way feedly organizes my interests and it is easy to use. The voice thread is a nice change from reading everything, and it promotes the connection feeling!

    • Mary Ellen Mulderrig
  4. I like the idea of blogging my experiences as a teacher, as well as learning from other teachers through their blogs. I think the voicethread proves how personal these blogs can be in order to share real life experiences, rather than idealized pictures of what a classroom should look like. I am participating in the Edublogs PLN series and my blog can be found at: nicolescalfaro.wordpress.com

  5. CardinalRulz.com

  6. I am still Ada Ortega, just that for my blog I am edufd4thght.
    I also signed up for feedly.
    Exciting!

  7. Creating the blog was easier than I thought it was going to be. I hope I can keep up with it.
    Here is the link to my blog. It is very basic at this point but I hope I can work on it soon.
    https://edufd4thght.edublogs.org/

  8. I think the blog voicethread is a more personal and non threatening way to share ideas and information in a more real time medium. It also showed me that I can use twitter and blogs together and I never thought I could. Before this, I really did not know much about blogging and only have a slight idea about twitter.

  9. From the “Advice to First Time Bloggers” Voicethread, I learned that you should blog about what you’re passionate about. You should dive in and begin, and not worry about whether or not people are reading your blogs. Finally, you should just enjoy yourself!

  10. kmellie.edublog.org is the blog that I have set up. I have learned a great deal about blogging because before today, I wasn’t enthused about blogging. The fact that you have to visit and maybe blog daily has me concerned as I’m not sure I have the time for that. I do love the Flipboard thought.

  11. The voice thread taught me that I can use twitter and blogs together. I would never have thought to link blogs through twitter, but it seems like a great way to do more sharing.

  12. I signed up for Feedly and am excited to read the things I have already added.

  13. Well, I did it! I created a freedly account and my own blog. I would like to use the blog to recommend books to read. The more students talk about books, the more they read!

    The link to my blog is:
    https://beckysaf.edublogs.org/

  14. @Mary Beth and Candace Interesting to read both of you have set up Flipboard accounts. Flipboard is an essential part of my work flow.

    @Daniel Common reflection I hear from others is “I don’t have anything important enough to share with the world.” I’ve always taken the approach that if I don’t know it then others probably don’t know it as well. That is often the case and they appreciate the informaton shared. I would also add I often learn the most from new teachers, especially those new to blogging because they share reflections I hadn’t thought of.

    Sue Waters
    Support Manager
    Edublogs | CampusPress

  15. I just set up a Flipboard account on my mobile device and saved many useful articles relating to technology in education. It is important to stay current and technology engages this current generation of students.

    • Mary Beth Kulin
  16. I sometimes think out loud, “I don’t have anything important enough to share with the world.” As a young teacher, I am still a sponge, soaking up information from others and making variations to fit my students abilities. I have found blogs to be a good resource for non-commercial resources. An online search for something doesn’t always lead you to the best source. Sometimes blogs are the best ways to find out about the hidden treasures within travel range.

    • Daniel Surovchak
  17. We set up a flipboard as part of our faculty meeting on PLN’s. It was simple to set up using these instructions.

    • Candace Clark
  18. 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.

    • 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

      • 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.

        • 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

  19. 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 🙂

    • Aracely de Bech
  20. 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

    • Aracely de Bech
    • 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

      • 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 🙂

        • Aracely de Bech