10 Tips for Blogging Teachers by @TeacherToolkit

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Last week, I shared my 10 Tips for Tweeting Teachers which (surprisingly) was well-received by teachers from all four-corners of the globe! As part of my weekly blogposts throughout the summer, this week I share my 10 Tips for Blogging Teachers.

THE ESSENTIAL #EDCHAT RESOURCE GUIDEBefore I go into details for this post, as a result of my tips for teachers on twitter, I was delighted to be contacted by colleagues in the USA, who work at USC Rossier School of Education. They have just published this guide, shared by USC Rossier’s online EdD, which contains a wealth of educational information and advice from the founders of EdChat. It’s worth a nose …

So, without any further ado, pull up a chair and get comfortable. This blog will need re-visiting.

 

10 tips for Blogging Teachers:

This 10-tips list is designed for teachers around the world, those who consider themselves newish to blogging. I do *not claim any sage rights here. I’m just sharing my experience and what I think will be well-received by teachers who are keen to join the edu-blogsphere. In the post, I have divided my top-1o suggestions into three levels for beginners, intermediate and advanced users.

Fonts WordPress Da Font.com Blogging @TeacherToolkit

Beginners:

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  1. Choose a relevant platform to host your teaching blog.

There are many choices, but you must choose one that suits you. I’ve been blogging personally since 2008, but my first ‘professional’ blog was over here on Blogger in 2010. I found the platform very cumbersome, so I soon moved over to WordPress in 2012. With so much to choose from, ask a couple of colleagues about their preferences, visit a few teaching blogs and discover what websites others are using. This will then put you in a position to make an informed decision. Once you have decided which platform to use, sign up and create a blog title (name) which should imply what you *may be writing about. Aim to create a little consistency and consider linking your blog title with your Twitter handle. This will help pair up various platforms effortlessly and make them easily identifiable by logo and name. Alternatively, you may want to keep yourself anonymous and retain a hidden identity. This is perfectly acceptable too. Other popular blogging platforms available are:

  • Postagon.com for blogging minimalists and Tumblr which lets you effortlessly share anything.
  • Ghost is dedicated to publishing and is completely free to modify. Up and coming Medium is the choice for some teachers.
  • Wardrobe is a minimalistic and Svbtle is an extremely simple writing and reading network.
  • Jekyll transforms your plain text into a static blogs, whereas Hexo is a fast, simple and powerful blogging platform.
  • Silvrback is a hosted blog that features a clean homepage for a profile image, bio and Twitter handle, with the ability to add links and navigation.
  • Bolt is a sophisticated, lightweight and quick to set up. Anchor is a super-simple lightweight blog system that gives you full freedom.
  • Roon is a distraction free platform, compared to Postach.io which is more advanced and turns Evernote into a management system.
  • Tools such as Disqus, Markdown and Google Analytics, and of course, Google+, are suggestions by Mashable in this source.

Social Media Blogging PlatformsImage: venturedigital.ca

  1. Create a conversation, teacher to teacher: use the words “you” and “I” within your post.

This will help create a conversation and hook your readers. “Them” and “us” will also create an interesting read, but no matter what language you use, it will all be a question of content and pragmatic use for other teachers/readers. I’ve found that the most-welcomed reads in my blog, are those that offer practical suggestions for others who may be looking for a similar experience. It’s hard to predict what people want to read, but my advice would be, is to observe statistics (tip 8) and write about what you want to write about.

Take a look at my blog statistics from September 2010.

Average per Day blog views on @TeacherToolkit

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Throughout September 2010, the average readership per day on www.TeacherToolkit.me was 121 views per day (and not unique visitors). In total, there were 3,617. This is a far cry from the 100,000 views I receive each month today (see tip 8 below) and I always say this to every new teacher-blogger that asks me for advice; understand that small steps are important before you can gain online validity.

Blogging advice for teachersDo not forget that anyone you know might read your blog, including students and colleagues. “Better still, imagine they will definitely read it,” as Tom Sherrington writes in The Guardian’s Top 10 don’ts for wannabe teacher bloggers. “Don’t worry too much about who will read it to begin with; just write something you want to say and then build up a collection over time ...”

This sums up education blogging perfectly. Looking back to 2010 when I first started, I can recall the reasons why I started blogging. They were simple. I enjoyed writing – not even knowing if I was any good at it – but that didn’t matter. Writing online gave me a forum to reflect, a cathartic process to share online and if I received any feedback, this was a bonus! Do not blog, expecting that you will be inundated with thousands and thousands of readers. That should not be your focus as a blogger.

Over the past two years, I have walked through school corridors, or been ‘on duty’ in the canteen at lunchtime, only to be stopped by a colleague: “Oh, I read your blog last night …” This is a very useful checkup for anyone who blogs, and provides a health-check for what you say. Remember, remain confidential and professional as all blogs can be sourced to their owners. It’s vital for your teacher-reputation beyond the school gates!

  1. Content: Keep your posts on education, under 1,500 words.

I have failed miserably (but deliberately) here so that I can share all that I know with you. We are all busy in the real world, teaching in our classrooms and catching up with marking and planning. The online world is even more congested! Most people will skim read, so it is essential that your blogs are concise and factual. Ideally for teachers, pragmatic (and very short) blogs are best. Engage the reader with images and fonts. This can be images from your own classroom or images using third-party websites. Most people, copy and paste from Google, and I would warn against this for copyright reasons! (See tip 6.) I also use DaFont.com for creating interesting font styles.

Fonts WordPress Da Font.com Blogging @TeacherToolkitTry to follow the following format suggested by Neil Patel: which is excellent advice for those lacking confidence about blogging: “Create a magnetic headline and open with a bang. Use persuasive words and write good sentences. Insert bullet points.

and choose images that engage and link to your topic. Finally, end with style and be authentic.” (Source here).

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Intermediate:

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  1. Approach blogging as a teacher for three simple reasons.
  • Blogging will make you more reflective about your teaching practice.
  • Any feedback is positive feedback. Keep the audience in mind. Remember, colleagues will read your blogs.
  • Blogging will give you meaningful connections, far beyond your own school.

“The need to be connected is, in fact, very basic in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the psychological theory that explains the largest and most fundamental human desires. Our need for a sense of belonging comes right after physical safety.” (What Happened to Downtime?)

  1. Host your own educational images, ideas and resources.

Sellfy resourcesYou can read why I passionately believe this here. I now host all my own classroom resources, images and written content on this blog. I also use a Creative Commons licence to protect my work. In today’s digital age, it’s vital. Create your own copyright licence here and protect your work. Regarding resources. I used to upload all my classroom resources here, but by doing so, I lost my moral rights as well as my intellectual property. Using WordPress allows you to do it all yourself. See my resources which are now hosted on this website, my Powerpoint presentations which are uploaded to Sellfy, which is a Pay-Per-Download (PPD) website. The current demand for ‘teachers paying teachers’ for resources is evident here and in many other start-up websites I’ve noticed. I share my secrets in this resource and will be blogging about PPDs very soon. It will divide opinion …

  1. Teacher-bloggers: be mindful of copyright when using quotes and images.

Compfight is a “search engine for visual inspiration and free stock photos for the advertising community, including images of creative commons and public domain.” It was introduced to me by @MrLockyer who spoke from experience. He recommended Compfight to me and I’ve never looked back! Search for an image. Choose a relevant photo below the faint line (which is free to use – as long as attribution is applied) and copy and paste the code into the photo.

Compfight Copyright images

When you choose the photo, a pop-up of the image appears. You then need to choose the file size and copy and paste the HTML attribution code highlighted into your blog. This ensures the image is credited appropriately.

Compfight Copyright images
This is an example image attributed to Compfight.

 

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Advanced:

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  1. Understand basic HTML to improve your educational blog.

Hyper Text Markup Language will help build your website. For example, within WordPress (see below) I can add a new widget to my blog. An example is found on the above, right-hand side of this webpage. Any of these images shown, are widgets. Although widgets are ‘click and drag’ codes for everyday bloggers, you will still need some basic HTML coding knowledge and ICT skills. There is HTML advice here and a useful coding academy here for learning and testing HTML codes. You’ll pick it up in no time.

Wordpress @TeacherToolkit Learning HTML coding

Some basic, yet useful HTML codes are below:

The Basics
<h?> … </h?> Heading (?= 1 for largest to 6 for smallest, eg h1)
<b> … </b> Bold Text
<a href=”url“> … </a> Basic Link
Text Formatting
<h?> … </h?> Heading (?= 1 for largest to 6 for smallest, eg h1)
<b> … </b> Bold Text
<i> … </i> Italic Text
<u> … </u> Underline Text
<strong> … </strong> Strong – Shown as Bold in most browsers
<em> … </em> Emphasis – Shown as Italics in most browsers
<font> … </font> Font tag obsolete, use CSS. (*)
  1. Understand blog data and statistics, so that you can analyse educational content to your advantage.

Receiving a high volume of traffic is of course flattering, but like any data, you need to understand it and use it to your advantage. What works? What doesn’t work? Here is an image showing my blog growth over the past 23 months.

@TeacherToolkit WordPress statistics

It is important to understand the difference between ‘views’ and ‘visitors’. A view is counted when a visitor loads or reloads a page. A visitor is counted when we see a user or browser for the first time in a given period (day, week, month). (Source) Typically a view is reported within five minutes, while it can take up to two hours to report new visitors.

Views by Country: Within WordPress you can see how many views you’ve received per country by day, week, month, quarter and all time. This is useful for understanding what content is well-received in other countries.

Top Views by Country @TeacherToolkit WordPress

*Every country is not listed above. My RevolverMap widget informs me that my blog has been read in 188 countries across the globe …

Referrers: Sometimes you may see referrers in your statistics from sites you don’t want. If you wish, you can report those referrers as ‘spam’ and they will no longer appear in your list of referrers. You can see from the data, that I drive most of the readership via Twitter myself, with my followers also tweeting and sharing blog links on my behalf. Facebook has also provided 29,923 views since I first started my Facebook page in September 2010, as well as other leading education websites and teaching blogs. Using other social forums is vital for driving up influence if you are interested in how blogs are ranked.

Referrers for @TeacherToolkit WordPress

You can also see below, that search engines (or teachers searching for my content) include 194,478 views to this blog. I have taken an image of the top 5 search engines. Using WordPress, you can also understand what your audience read. I have shared this here in January 2014. Here is some useful advice about getting more views and traffic to your blog.

Search Engines data to @TeacherToolkit WordPress

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  1. Don’t become a slave to blogging. Teachers work hard enough!

I’ve written about my cynosural addiction in the past. For the past two years, I’ve blogged sporadically, but a pattern I’ve identified, appears to be 2-3 posts per week. Study your data. This is quite difficult to maintain with a busy work and home life. It means I have been in front of the computer almost every evening and it’s not sustainable or healthy! So my advice, cut your blogs down in size and/or aim for one blogpost per week at most. This will ensure you keep your website updated (see tip 10), the content can be focused more on quality and by reducing the numbers of blogs, you will get some of your life back. Oh, and there’s nothing wrong with an impulsive blog when a hot topic is in the news.

  1. SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation Search) tells search engines that your website is actively maintained.

Finally, SEO is vital for search engines to make referrals to your website. They will be checking it frequently for updates.  My current score is 75/100 according to Quick Sprout analysis by Neil Patel. Ensure you keep up with valid content by listing keywords and tags in each post and every image. This will increase the opportunities for your page to move higher on the search engine results. Tags; keywords; categories help people search for ideas. Web-tools enable you to customise your own blog-style, as well as hyper-links to text within other blogs and web-pages you refer to. This creates a forum for mutual support and cross-referencing.

Finally, consider running a website test with Quick Sprout. Although I have managed to reduce my front-page speed size dramatically, this analysis informs me that I have:

  • heading tags which are too long or too short
  • dynamic URLs
  • iFrame content
  • Images that do not have descriptive ALT tags
  • a high number of no-follow links and internal website links.

Quick Sprout @TeacherToolkit WordPress analysis

A social media impact is also provided …

Quick Sprout @TeacherToolkit WordPress analysis

 … as well as a table highlighting the importance of keywords. I look to be failing miserably at the moment, so this will be my aim from now on …

Quick Sprout @TeacherToolkit WordPress analysis

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All this experience I have gained, by becoming a teacher who blogs. Not bad for someone who gained a grade F in ICT at GCSE level in 1989? Finally, and I do mean finally, read up on the queen of bloggers, Danah Boyd (@zephoria) who first started blogging in 1997. Her article, Am I a blogger? is a powerful read! You’d be a fool to get this far and not take a look!

“As more and more people have embraced social media and blogging, normative societal values have dominated our cultural frames about these tools. It’s no longer about imagined communities, new mechanisms of enlightenment, or resisting institutional power. Technology is situated within a context of capitalism, traditional politics, and geoglobal power struggles.”

Danah Boyd Am I a blogger?

Good luck and get in touch if you’d like some advice.

Fonts WordPress Da Font.com Blogging @TeacherToolkit

Post publication:

Snapchat is more popular than twitter among millennials. (Statistica)

Statistics Blogging Twitter
Snapchat more popular than Twitter among millennials: Statistica

@TeacherToolkit

Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, a simple Twitter account which rapidly became the 'most followed teacher on Twitter in the UK'. He is an award winning teacher and an experienced school leader and as @TeacherToolkit, curated this website you are now reading as one of the 'most influential blogs on education in the UK'. In 2015, he was nominated for '500 Most Influential People in the Britain' by The Sunday Times and one of the most influential in the field of education. He is the only classroom teacher to feature. He is a former Teaching Award nominee for 'Teacher of the Year in a Secondary School in London' and has also written 3 books on teaching. Read more here.

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