Wednesday, December 15, 2010

10 Tips for Starting an Education Blog

It was about a year ago that I really started to get into the idea of blogging.  I was hesitant, unsure, and fairly new to the whole idea.  I spent most of the initial stages of blogging just learning how to use the site to benefit myself, understanding widgets and embedding, and learning how to write for an audience.  Below are tips that I would offer someone based on my own experience.

1.) Develop a Memorable URL and Title - I originally titled this blog ZimmerTIS.  I did not think that let people know the purpose, plus the URL did not help explain what the blog would be about.  So I changed the title and URL.  Make yours something simple, memorable, short and sweet.

2.) Develop a Theme and Focus - I started doing daily posts related to different aspects of Educational Technology last year and created a Focus for my blog.  I no longer do that, but it helped me to create posts that are relevant and specific.  

3.) Create a Weekly Post - Develop a post that you have each week to keep readers coming back.  Make the post something that will be an easy read and provide beneficial knowledge or resources.  I started this year creating posts related to the Core Subjects of Math, Science, English, and Social Studies.

4.) Educate Yourself on Formatting - I have had to take some time and learn about HTML coding and embedding.  I like for my links, images, videos, and other resources I embed to be flush with my template, so I learned about understanding the simple aspects of HTML code.  This can be very helpful in the future and be beneficial to your readers.

5.) Learn About Widgets - Widgets are a great addition to a blog.  It allows you to add things for readers to access.  There are several out there that can be great additions.  There are also some that will slow up the speed of your page load.  I made the mistake of over doing this.  Be simple with what you add (blogs you read, labels, previous post, popular post, search bar, translator, etc.  A great addition will be to create a Social Signature.  Jason Bedell has created a great site called Social Sig 4 Me.  Use that site to add your RSS feed, Twitter name, etc.  This way your readers can find you in other social networks.

6.) Use Copyright Free and Creative Commons Images - There are several images out there that are copyrighted and you want to be careful when using those images.  Wylio is a great site for finding such images.  I recommend you bookmark that site and use it for adding images to your blog. 

7.) Watch Your Labels and Tags - You can add labels to your posts.  Be broad with your labels.  If you are to specific then you will have a ton of different labels and struggle with the organization of your blog postings.  I find myself editing my labels about twice a year where I merge some of the labels together.  For example, I had "comic," "comics," and "cartoons" all for the same resources, but did not include the same label throughout.

8.) Choose a Welcoming Layout/Theme - When I first started this blog I had a dark black background (even though I had "Happiness" in the title).  I realized that this was not as welcoming and inviting.  So I went with a lighter background and brighter hyperlinks.  So far I am happy with the change.  Blogger, Wordpress, and Edublogs all have themes and layouts that you can choose.  Choose one that is welcoming to your readers.  Here is a great post by The Edublogger for Introducing Blogging using Edublogs

9.) Join and Share Blog on Twitter - I discovered that Twitter was the BEST way to share my blog with others.  Steven Anderson has done a great job putting together An Educators Guide to Twitter, where you will also find my So You Are New to Twitter post.  Through Twitter you will be able to connect with other educators and share your blog.  It is the greatest way to increase the readership of your blog, as well as introduce you to other blogs that you can comment on.  By commenting on other blogs, many blogging educators will return the favor.

10.) Interact, Interact, Interact - When people comment on a blog post, interact with them.  Tell them thanks for commenting and taking the time to read your post.  Answer questions if they have any as well.  Turn your blog into a form of networking with others.  Creative commenting can lead to a large growth of readers. 

Have you just started creating a blog?  Comment here and share it with those that read my blog.

Project PLN Books

Project PLN was developed by a couple of educators that I follow on Twitter. Nick Provenzano and Kelly Tenkely have done an excellent job creating these great "books" for educators.  So far, with the help of the members of their PLN they have published 4 books.  They are:

1.) All About PLN's
2.) Best Practices for Start of School
3.) The Administrators Issue
4.) The Web Tools Issue

You can find all four issues here.  I highly recommend that you read some of the entries by some great educators.