How to Make Blogging a Part of your Online Teaching Presence
A (wo)man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence ‘the’ heart first opened.
How do you reach out to the world of education and discover yourself at the same time?
To be a positive force in education you’ve got to open yourself up to the global community of teachers and learners online. Gone are the days of advertisements, neat suits and polished curriculum vitaes. You are no longer a number or a statistic in education. You are a unique personality with a presence. I can think of no better way to build up your online presence than to blog and show the educational world who you really are.
This article will show you how to make your presence shine, both through the detours of your own self-discovery, and through dynamic networks of challenge and change. It’s all about building trust from the inside out.
That is your purpose. The blog is your medium.
My job is to give you the facts dressed up in a little philosophy.
1) First of all, set up a blog.
I recommend wordpress for this. If you don’t know how to set up a blog or website I recommend the LearnOutLive publishing website by Andre Klein as the place to go to find out more. He has also written a very useful book called ‘How to blog’.
2) You’ve got the look – do you know how to use it?
Think about the look and feel of your blog. Your blog is not an encyclopedia of quick-drying cement, nor a curriculum vitae of dry facts. The blog is your teaching personality where you share exciting knowledge, thoughts and feelings.
Don’t worry about showing off. When your blog is already full of good content and substance, a little extra flair will make your presence sing. You may be of a shy disposition but don’t hide your true charm on a bland blog. ‘Showing off’ is not only acceptable in blogging, I’d say it’s a requirement. In fact, I’d say that a big secret to building up your presence through blogging is the irresistible force of intelligence mixed with boldness. Blogging is the new medium for popularising the ‘nerd’ effect. I get away with sharing nerdy thoughts by presenting them in fun, visual ways – we could say that blogging is an avant garde style of decorating intelligence through sticky text and multimedia.
Bearing all that in mind, you now know that you’ve got to design your own look. Blogging is a personalized art, and first impressions count. It’s a good idea to look at different interfaces before you decide on something for yourself. Sometimes simple is best, but a little out-of-the-box, quirky charm will help it to become its own brand online.
3) What kind of a teacher are you?
What do you want to share on your blog? Are you attracting students or teachers? Are you sharing materials, advice, or both? There are many, many different types of educational blogs, which is why a first step in building up your own presence is to read other blogs, make connections on Twitter and Facebook, and through learning from others on the blogosphere, carve out your own niche. It’s a good idea to curate and collect blog links on Pinterest and Scoopit. That way you keep your favourite sources of inspiration in one place, follow leading thinkers in ELT, develop your niche interests, and when people start to follow your scoops etc., that’s when your blog presence will fly through cyberspace.
Three major different types of educational blogs are the information based ones, ‘stickier’ types that can sometimes be a bit more commercial but very attractive, and personal ones that are kind of like ‘hobby’ blogs. I try to combine all three elements into my blog. Well, ‘try’ is the wrong word. It just evolved that way. Although it’s important to shape and plan the look of your blog, it’s also good to let the content develop naturally as you change your interests and activities.
A ‘sticky’ blog is one that attracts people for several reasons. One reason is colour and attractive layout when it’s matched with unique content. Another reason is the authenticity and connection that readers can feel when reading your blog. That’s why the personal touch is a must.
4) When great images become great concepts.
I feel like basing this article on the quote by Albert Camus above. I’m going to discuss the ‘how-to’s’ of building online presence through the concept of three images representing three of my ‘golden rules’ in the art of engagement.
Here are my three images.
They stand for reflect, create, share.
My heart opens in the presence of thought, day dreams, poetry, psychology and wild reflections. Creating and sharing is what makes blogging a worthwhile pursuit for me and that’s why it’s powerful for my online presence. If you reflect upon my ‘quote theme’ above, you may come up with three different images and concepts. The important thing is for these concepts to make your work special, your blog special and your online presence dynamic.
People want compelling content, but not empty content. This doesn’t mean that you need to be intellectual, but it does mean that you share and write intelligently. What constitutes intelligent blogging?
Intellectual blogging can be unintelligent if people find it unintelligible. Be yourself and don’t try to follow ‘popular’ trends or show a high-brow side that doesn’t suit who you really are. Intelligent blogging is all about expressing authenticity and personality.
Here are two examples of reflective and personal articles.
Groping for trout by David Deubelbeiss
Making history: A thank you letter to my students by Shawn Storm
Creating is about making something of your thoughts. Many bloggers create lesson plans and share them online. They are immensely popular and welcomed by innovative educational communities such as the thriving Teaching English/British Council page on Facebook which is run by Ann Foreman. More about that later.
Here are examples of two creative, ‘how-to’ blogs.
Nik’s Learning Technology Blog by Nik Peachey.
Russell Stannard’s blog with a nice personalised header image too.
This part is huge for me. My personal learning network is expanding exponentially. I need to show you the amazing sharing communities online who elevate blogging to massive networks of inspiration that really make a difference. I hesitate to use the words ‘inspire’ and ‘make a difference’ as they can be over-used or even cliched and cynical.
Yet, what I’m about to show you here are the most authentic and touching communities of teachers I’ve met online. This is not emotional feel-good stuff. This is practical for your online presence because the more authentic you are and the more you care about your work – the bigger the impact you will have. I also hasten to add that if you don’t have an extra zing of passion about your work, you won’t be able to blog in the first place.
As you write your first articles, share them on social networks, build up a personal learning network and join communities, your blog will become bigger than yourself, and your presence will climb and shine.
The 30 goal challenges by Shelly Terrell created a global movement of teachers making a difference and blogging about it. I joined this movement last year. It became a beautiful challenge, it became a whole new personal learning network, and I had many more amazing articles to read, such as this one on the topic of blogging by Vicky Loras. The Edugoal movement also led to many collaborative projects with Shelly herself, who epitomises my definition of authenticity and caring in a teacher. One example of such projects is the current #ebookevo course. Led by Shelly, we are moderating over 500 teachers in a global coming together of writers who want to create the ‘eperfect textbook.’
The Reform symposium goes beyond blogging into online webinars and training, yet it’s still powered by blogging and sharing. That’s what keeps the community together. Here’s an example of the RSCON magazine filled with blogs from global leaders in education. Here’s one I wrote.
David Deubelbeiss of eflclassroom 2.0 and English Central, the multimedia platform holds an annual blog carnival based on certain themes suggested by member bloggers.
Teaching English /British Council is one of the most popular, creative and innovative pages on Facebook for educators. Ann Foreman and Paul Braddock work together helping teachers around the world. They help new bloggers to shine and welcome all kinds of creative ideas from grassroots ELT. To even begin to imagine how many teachers have been encouraged by Ann foreman, I’ve only to remember when my website was first set up and my first articles were shared by Ann with whom I had connected on Twitter. Since then I’ve seen teachers in my network set up new blogs and become ‘blogging stars’ almost overnight through Ann’s page. You can see frequently featured bloggers by following Ann’s Scoopit profile.
Ann and Paul also organise blogging competitions through voting. WizIQ was awarded in 2013 for my article about top ten tools to use online and I’ll be presenting at a British Council Webinar on January 28th.
ELT-Techniques MOOC on WizIQ. We are planning to add a new blogging element leading up to and during the March sessions of Jason R. Levine’s ELT- Techniques MOOC.
Spring Blog Festival by Nellie Deutsch. I’ll be helping Dr. Nellie to run the Spring Blog Festival on WizIQ with Shelly Terrell.
Please join us in our Spring Blogging Festival if you’d like to start blogging or build your network.
This article is dedicated to all blogger and teachers – may the fun continue