Many teachers, administrators and artists come to EducationCloset.com daily, weekly and monthly to gather unique resources and information that they can’t find anywhere else. But do you know what the number one question is?
“How do I start or use a blog.”
So this week’s series is going to be all about blogging. From the best ways to start and use a blog to the ways to make money blogging, we’ll be featuring it all this week.
Now, I am not claiming to be a blogging expert. In fact, I find that there is still so much about the blogging process, SEO, and advertising that I have to learn. However, I will say that this blog has been in existence for almost one year (a short period of time for a blog), and it has managed to develop a great Alexa ranking, a Google PageRank of 3 and a wonderful RSS, subscription and Twitter following in that time. So – I must be doing something right! It’s my hope this week to help others who wish to begin this journey with tips I wished I had known from the beginning.
Starting a blog
The reasons to start a blog are vast, but one of the best reasons to start a blog is because you have something unique to say and contribute. I started EducationCloset.com as a way to share my knowledge of Arts Integration in a field that is not saturated with content as of yet. In addition, this blog has also become a way for me to reflect upon my own teaching practice and to build a community with so many others from around the world who add value to my professional network. I HIGHLY recommend blogging to any teacher looking to grow professionally. From veteran teachers who are stuck in a rut and disillusioned to newbies who are looking to build a group of mentors, blogging is a wonderful avenue.
Let me caution you though. Blogging is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for people looking to make a fast buck on the side. It takes patience and perseverance and you really need to be in it for the community and as a way to serve people. The absolute worst bloggers I have come across are those who slap together 10 pages on a site and put ads all over the place with no worthwhile content. These are people who are just looking to take, take, take and they will never be truly successful. People see right through that and you will only earn a negative reputation. Please don’t go there.
I recommend starting a free blog first at wordpress.com and see how it goes.
If you like the features and you feel like this is something you want to continue, then I suggest going to wordpress.org, which allows you to have a whole host of options for web design, plugins and the ability to display ads. However, you’ll need to pay hosting for wordpress.org through a place like godaddy.com or bluehost.com and if you are just starting to wade into the water, don’t invest right away. You can always transfer over all of your previous information from the free blog if you decide to take it up a notch later.
WordPress.com has a lot of nice templates which you can easily customize and transfer at a later date. Plus, it’s fairly (like 99%) stable. I know a lot of people who use Blogger.com, but I also know several people personally who have lost all of their content randomly on Blogger. The plus side to Blogger.com is that you can put up ads on their free platform, which you can’t do at wordpress.com. However, I’d happily trade the ability to put up ads (which will get you almost NO money at the beginning anyway) for stability of content. Ultimately, the choice is yours, but I’d go with WordPress. You can find easy setup information here – you’ll be up and running in about 3 minutes.
So now that you’ve got a blog set up, what do you do with it? Well, first you need to decide how you want to use this platform. You can use a blog in so many ways – here are a few ideas to get you started:
* A reflection journal
* A way to communicate great websites and products that you use or have found helpful.
* To share information on a particular subject or practice that you are an expert in, or that you truly love.
* As a collective of news items that are noteworthy to your profession.
* To communicate with the community what your program is all about.
* As a portfolio/resume of your work.
* Or as a combination of any/all of these!
The most important thing, though, is to develop a focus. Really think about this before you start publicizing it to all of your friends and relatives that you now have a blog and they should read it. If you are scattered and don’t have a clear purpose for your site, wait until you do before you really delve head first into producing content (aka: writing). Otherwise, the only person who will ever read it will be your mom. And you might not like her feedback.
Plan of Action for your Blog
Once you are set up with your blog and you have a clear idea of what you will use it for, it’s time to develop a plan of action for your blog. You need to sit down and write out a month-by-month plan for what you are going to post and develop. This should be a fun process! Allow yourself to dream a little bit about what you’d really like your blog to eventually become. Write that down first. Then, begin to lay out a plan for how to get there. It could look something like this:
January – Tweak the blog design and develop menus and headers for what I can offer. Write 3 posts per week.
February – Decide if I will move to WordPress.org. Research and find templates that work for me. Write 3-4 posts per week.
March: Create a Twitter feed and link it to my site. Tweet my posts. Write 3-5 posts per week.
And so on and so forth until you have mapped yourself out for the year. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t go back and revise things. This is a fluid site – it can change as you grow. But it really helps to have a plan and a big picture because this will help to focus your writing and your objectives with your blog.
In our next post, we’ll look at how you can take this new blog and use it to make a living….
Til then, have a great time experimenting! Let me know what you create and I’ll be happy to subscribe!
Susan Riley is the founder and President of EducationCloset.com. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, Common Core State Standards, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and Arts and the Common Core.
Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter.