By Bev Novak.
Blogging is a powerful way to learn, explore and discover.
Replete with an infinite source of information on a limitless number of topics, the blogosphere is a perfect location for educators to create and direct their own learning path. That which is learned from either reading or writing blog posts expands both their knowledge and their thinking. By posting comments on blog posts, it is possible to engage in a form of social networking that is distinct and different from other social networking platforms. Connecting with those who write blogs or with those who read their blogs is exciting, stimulating and inspirational.
Which Blogs are Worth Reading?
Like any new venture, it can be hard to know where to start. While there are dozens of online services dedicated to helping people locate the best blogs, sometimes the best way to get started is to literally jump in feet first. Some starting points for new bloggers could be to:
· sharpen their focus by deciding on their interest: personal or work related
· run a Google search using keywords to locate blogs of interest
· get recommendations from online lists by searching ‘best blogs on…’
· ask others – face-to-face or on social media – for recommended blogs
· check the ‘blogroll’ on the side bar of blogs they read for recommendations
· create a list of about ten or twelve blogs to regularly follow
· set aside time to read blogs by creating a daily or weekly routine
· subscribe to blogs via email or through an RSS reader
· use tools such as Pocket or Google Alerts to get organised
· engage in the blogosphere by leaving comments or ‘liking’ a good post
How to Blog?
Being the author of a blog can be quite daunting. Apart from achieving the technical know-how required to produce a blog post, bloggers need to have a good idea of what they want to blog about. Regular exposure to the blogs of others will help shape the voice, style and format of their own blogs, but the content is often a very personal expression, which is driven by an inner passion to share and be recognised by others in the vast universe of the blogosphere. Learning the technical details of blogging is a bit like driving a car. While the format of a blog dashboard can initially be overwhelming, patient practice will ensure success!
New bloggers should check the blogging platforms used by the blogs they read and then select one that best suits their needs. Anticipate the likelihood of needing help to figure out features, so choose a blogging platform that has good support – easy access with prompt response. Bloggers should select an appealing name for their blog, one which perhaps reflects the content they hope to incorporate. A short, ‘catchy’ name is better than a long, convoluted one.
Creating a blog is often a process which evolves over a period of months, so be patient. As thoughts and ideas are sorted, the blog will slowly take on a character of its own.
Generally, a blog post is not very long. Short and sharp is better than long and rambling. It is better to develop a few ideas rather than many complex thoughts. Blogging is a way of sharing knowledge, so aim to make the blog post informative. Include original thoughts or corroborate the thoughts expressed in the posts of others. Be sure the title of each blog post is a clear statement; one that is both reflective of the blog post’s content and is appealing. Publishing blog posts on a daily basis can be quite demanding, so bloggers need to determine their publishing schedule and be realistic about what they can achieve.
It is also important to ensure that the look of the blog is pleasing and easy to navigate. Vary the presentation of the blog posts to enhance the overall look and appeal of it. Use numbering or block quotes to indent and break up its format. Insert pictures, videos, graphics, links, audio files and images to create variety. Establish a theme or a style. This will attract and inspire repeat visits to the blog by readers who will develop an expectation about the look of the blog. Ask others for feedback to help get it right.
While writing what he/she wants to write may be foremost in a blogger’s mind, those reading the blog must have a reason to read what is written. Compose interesting posts that comprise worthwhile and valuable thoughts. A blogger needs to create a unique voice that others will distinguish as him/her and then promote the blog so as to expand readership. Bloggers should use any and all forms of social media to promote their blog, their thoughts and themselves.
Being a member of the blogosphere is a sure way for bloggers to enrich their life and to extend their thinking, experience and knowledge.
- Blogs are a source of infinite information about a wide range of topics. An extensive list of blog posts on a vast range of subjects, are constantly being added to the blogosphere – science, maths, education, sport, hobbies, recreation, music, environment. The list goes on and on.
- Blogs can take on an almost limitless format. They can be reflective, informative, personal, educational, opinionated, technical or experimental.
- Blogging can be a portal to think and reflect on new experiences, new discoveries and new thoughts.
- The published thoughts, reflections, experiences and discoveries of one blogger form a source of information and inspiration for others with similar interests.
- By reading the blog posts of others, knowledge is shared and expanded. Blog posts add to an ever growing pool of knowledge and thought on an enormous range of topics.
- Blogging invites and encourages others to comment. The comments of others add to this collective pool of thought and knowledge. These virtual discussions in turn inspire further blogging.
- By posting comments on each other’s blog posts, links between bloggers are forged and virtual friendships flourish. Without realising it, these connections evolve into Personal Learning Networks.
- Blogging provides an outlet for the expression and sharing of passionate beliefs and opinions that matter to each individual blogger. Knowing that thoughts and ideas published in a blog post contribute to a collective pool of knowledge can be a powerful motivator to blog.
- Blogging is inspiring, motivating and empowering. Being able to link up with others who share similar interests and knowledge is awesome. Feedback from readers develops confidence and a desire to continue blogging.
- Blogging is addictive. The more one writes, the more one wants to write. The more one reads, the more one wants to read. Whether participating as a reader or writer of blogs, engagement with the blogosphere allows everyone to journey at their own pace along the exciting path of lifelong learning!
What Really Happens when Blogging?
To be able to write, add hyperlinks, embed a picture, a video, an audio file, a widget, a calendar and all those other bits and pieces that can be seen on blogs is really a great achievement. Learning the ropes of blogging, including identifying the purpose of blogging, is akin to all learning. It evolves over time.
Writing a blog post involves researching and thinking. It encompasses a process of searching for information, then sifting through this information, analysing and deciding on its relevance to the subject of the post in light of the blogger’s thoughts about the subject. As information gleaned from reading and listening to videos and podcasts is processed against information already held, the resulting blog post produced becomes a synthesis of the blogger’s own thoughts and the information gained through researching. Sometimes the process can be long, other times it is faster. Either way, the process always produces feelings of excitement, elation and a distinct sense of satisfaction.
What is the Real Power of Blogging?
- Indulging: being able to rant on about issues and thoughts about which one is passionate.
- Impacting: knowing that others are reading one’s words and thoughts, considering what is being said, thinking about those thoughts and adding them to their set of experience and knowledge.
- Engaging: as someone leaves a comment and the blogger responds, a virtual conversation is started where ideas build on top of one another. Reading and considering the comments left on blog posts feeds the never ending chain of knowledge.
- Contributing: one of the real joys of blogging is knowing that everyone is a part of an enormous store of knowledge. Absorbing the ideas and thoughts of each other is very powerful.
Blogging is a powerful way to determine an individual’s own growth and development. By pursuing topics of personal interest, by considering the words and thoughts of others, by writing reflective and informative posts, a rich, supportive network is built. Engagement with the blogosphere enables educators to enhance their own skills, knowledge and experience and in the process define their own path of lifelong learning.
Read and learn more about blogging by viewing an excellent video created by Ronnie Burt (@ronnieburt) What is a Blog? (ow.ly/LkwJc) or by participating in an online Edublog Teacher Challenge: Set up your blog (ow.ly/LkxtY).
Bev Novak has had extensive experience as a classroom teacher, specialist and Head of Library in a variety of school settings where she constantly aims to inspire a love of reading and ignite a joy of learning among students and teachers. Having published widely, Bev also authors two blogs, NovaNews and BevsBookBlog, in which she shares many tips, tools and experiences. In between exploring, discovering and experimenting, Bev actively encourages others to expand, embrace and enjoy their own journey of lifelong learning. Bev can be contacted via her blog novanews19.wordpress.com or follow her on Twitter @novanews19