I have been struggling with a post that will set the stage for 2015 and serve as a worthy inaugural nugget for the new year… and I finally happed upon it. The inspiration came from a blend of Carl Hooker’s “21 Things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Do This School Year” and a tweet from a dear friend, Brianna Hodges, sharing her new site, “Educationally Techtastic” hot off the blog press. I found myself disseminating a few tips and best practices for blogging through a series of texts and next thing you know it I had drafted a list of 21 Blogging Do’s for the 21st Century Blogger.
Before I release the list, I wanted to share Brianna’s insight and a link to her own blog beginnings that I hope will serve as support and inspiration for you to create (or amplify) your own blog in 2015:
“I absolutely love being an educator and, as a lifelong learner, I am continually searching for inspiration & exemplars to incorporate in my classroom. One of those searches led me to TechChef4U and, there, I found my touchstone, my source of energy & innovation. I truly believe that we are at a pivotal moment in education and, in her blog, I found the perfect combination of creativity & practicality, sprinkled with a hefty dose of foresight & imagination. Moreover, Lisa helped me see that I can have a voice and a place at the EdTech table. I believe that we owe it to our students and children to help form tomorrow’s learning environment &, to do that, we need to share our experiences, ideas, failures, & successes. With that, my blog, educationallyTECHTastic, was born.” – Brianna Hodges
So here we go… can I get a drumroll? Or should it be a drumstick (#foodpun) 😉
Truly, these are not in any order and not all necessary to accomplish at once. I do hope that they provide you with a festive feast of fresh ideas to make the leap to a blog or spruce up your own blog in 2015:
1. Choose a Template that you can Customize and Grow with…
When choosing a template and a blogging service, consider what widgets and themes are offered and if you can truly grow with the site over the years. Though my site has changed designs over the years, I am and will forever be a WordPress girl… this time I just had to shell out a little cash for their paid templates.
2. Buy Your Own URL
3. Plugin Your Feeds
If you are social geek like me, then you most likely already have a Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Add these feeds using a plugin to your site so people that visit your site know how and where to connect with you further.
4. Test Your Contact Page
I say this with a bit of frustration as my current contact page had to be taken down and recoded and in its place is a Google Form. Contact Pages are very integral for people to communicate with you for a variety of reasons ranging from permission to use your work to possible collaborations. Always test your contact page (and have others do so too) and if it doesn’t work, then add another means to initiate email contact. It never hurts to add social media contact info here as well. (Truthfully, I am fifteen times faster at answering a tweet or DM than I am an email.) I really like Holly Clark’s contact page because it includes a form as well as additional means of contact.
5. Tag All Posts with Your Name
This is something I have “stolen” and adopted from George Couros. Many times we tag posts with relevant terms like #iPad or #EdTech but we don’t even think to tag with our own name. Tagging with your name helps with Search Engine Optimization as well as brand recognition.
6. Infuse Pictures of Yourself
I have read many a blog with paragraphs of text. Truly there is nothing wrong with text but I find the sites that share relevant content blended with pictures of themselves and their students during these projects tend to resonate better and deepen the text for those of us that are visual learners. These posts also pin better. 😉
7. Watermark your Images
I truly wish this was something I had done from the beginning. I have found my images floating all around the internet and Pinterest completely uncited with no way to find their way back to me. Matt Gomez does an excellent job of using the Signature Watermark Ultra WP plugin to add a special watermark using his own logo to each of his images. I also stumbled upon this Listly of 15 additional tools to watermark your images. Not only does this help with his branding but it allows people to find him and his work through his images as they are pinned and tweeted. Kevin Honeycutt takes this idea one step further and adds a personal quote to many of his images… they are called Honeyquotes!
8. Include a Disclaimer Statement
This is really key. When I started my first blog, it was considered “rogue” as it was not a district regulated website. To ensure there were no issues with my postings and my job, I added a simple disclaimer statement, “The content on this website in no way represents the opinions or beliefs of … district”.
9. Connect Content you Curate and Create
Many bloggers curate and create additional and supplementary content for their blog on other sites. Cathy Yenca not only blogs… she has a booming Teachers Pay Teachers store, an iBook, and a variety of Nearpod lesson bundles which are all directly linked from her site. People don’t automatically know what else you curate and create unless you share it so don’t be afraid to add this content as badges or even a tab on your site. Laura Moore of Learn Moore Stuff also does a fantastic job of connecting you with her other resources as she includes links to her bulb, Padlet, Smores, and much more on the right hand side of her site.
10. Add Links to Presentations, Videos, Podcasts, and Webinars
As you begin to prepare presentations and deliver webinars or even create videos for your class or school, share them on a tab on your site so others can get to better know you, your content, and your flavor. In the interim of cleaning up my site, I have posted all of my videos and webinars in a Pinterest board for easy access. If you don’t have speaking videos or webinars, consider posting video content that you have created. Both Carl Hooker and Dean Shareski do a most excellent job of blending their recorded speaking engagements with their own content ranging from Carl’s app smashes and iPad Orientations to music videos and to Dean’s workshop promos and success stories to his archived presentations and YouTube creation! The Langwitches genius, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano, includes her latest slide decks as a panel on her main site.
11. Creative Commons Your Work and/or Your Site
As you begin to blog and create content and resources, it will inevitably be tweeted, reposted, downloaded, and repurposed. Providing a Creative Commons Attribution license on your site allows your audience to know exactly what they can and can’t do with your work. One can provide a blanket statement for all content on the site or an individual statement for each piece of work. The Creative Commons site easily allows you to create these licenses and even populates a custom embed code for your site. Kasey Bell has an excellent example of the blanket statement at the bottom of her Shake Up Learning site and I have included a singular license for this list after #21. Beth Still provides and excellent write-up on how sites can be perceived when they do not properly attribute work within the Creative Commons framework.
12. Share Both Your Failures and Your Successes
It is easy to share and celebrate our successes but much harder to make public our failures or lessons learned. Everyone fails… let’s face it and embrace it. One of my favorite bloggers truly tackles the tough conversations – she is bold and honest and never sugar coats the truth and I simply adore her candid thoughts on life and education. Her most recent posts “From Midway Negativity to a Positive Ending” and “Facing Insecurities: You Are More Than Enough” frankly address the struggles and obstacles so many of us quietly face and endure.
13. Don’t Be Afraid of Lists
I often shy away from lists because my O/C gets the best of me and I feel the list must be comprehensive before posting. That being said, there is a real time and place for lists. For some reason, we are drawn to numbers and the potential to see if we measure up or can relate to the list and so the power of the list is maintained. I was inspired by Carl’s “Top 10 Things Not to Do in a 1:1 iPad Initiative” and “21 Things Every 21st Century Teacher Should Do This School Year” and recently wrote “11 Useful Tips for Managing iPads in the Classroom“, “6 Do’s and Don’ts for Secondary iPad Deployment and Support of New Initiatives” and “9 Must Read iPad Instructional Support Resources“. And I have to say there is nothing better than an infographic from the amazing talented Sean Junkins to revive or amplify even the finest of lists. I love how he put a spin on both Carl’s and my lists (scroll to the bottom of both posts to see the infographic). Another creative take on lists is the idea of dividing one in to reasonable time frames for completion as Ashley Cronin did with her New Things to Try in 2015: Things to try in 5 Days, 5 Weeks, and 5 months.
14. Break Up Text with Interactivity
As I mentioned in #6, images help others to connect with you and your content. With the fire hose of information at our very finger tips, we have become a society of scanners and skimmers. I find that I tend to glean more information from a blog that has some sort of interactivity to support or extend the content. Sites that embed beautifully into a blog and offer this type of interactivity range from Tackk and Haiku Deck to Thinglink and Listly (all embedded in posts linked above). Not only do those tools jive up your content, they drive traffic to your blog as they are also hosted on additional sites.
15. Provide a Link to your Blog on all of your Social Networks
This goes hand in hand with #3 and #10. Most of the traffic to my site comes from Pinterest and I want to ensure that people not only come to my site from the pins I post and curate but know how to connect directly from my boards. Any social network you maintain (e.g. Linkedin, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, Thinglink, Snapguide, Scoop.it) should include both your brief bio as well as a link to your site so people can connect with your content no matter how they initially discovered you.
16. Build In Twitter Quote Widgets Within Your Posts
This is a recent development for me. I discovered the Tweet This WordPress Plugin on my brother-in-law’s site and have been itching for a way to begin incorporating it into mine. Essentially, the plugin allows you to build the content of a tweet for someone so all they have to do is go to your site and click on it and tweet it. If you build it… they may tweet it 😉 If you are interested in seeing this type of plugin in action, check out one of Book Creator’s most recent posts.
17. Proudly Display Badges
The design of my site makes it difficult to host badges next to my posts. This is something I am looking to remedy in the future. While bragging and boasting are bogus… celebrating accomplishments is important. An easy way to do this is to post badges. Jamie Forshey, Erin Klein, and Gwyneth Jones do a fantastic job of highlighting their achievements and badges on their sites. Badges can range from awards and nominations to blogs that you cross post too. An added bonus of cross-posting or blog tailgating is that you offer your content to a wider audience. Technology Tailgate is one of my favorite sites for this process and offers a special badge you can embed if you author content within their feed.
18. Provide Consistency with Images for Brand Recognition
For me variety is the spice of life and I tire easily with the same color schemes and fonts. Unfortunately, my need for diversity sometimes leads to confused branding and attribution. That being said, two of my counterparts have really carved out their niche within this realm. Kasey Bell’s Google Resources, Gwyneth Jones Comic Tutorials, Mathy Cathy’s Math Thinglinks, Brad Ovenell-Carter’s Sketch Notes, and Ryan Read’s App Dice are all recognizable and each contribute to a cohesively branded collection (wow – was that a nod to Project Runway?).
19. Provide Consistency with Content
People like to know what to expect and how frequently it will be posted. Richard Byrne does an excellent job with his Free Tech for Teachers site as most of his posts have a consistent framework which includes a summary and educational applications for each highlighted tool. Terri Eichholz is a shining example of consistency with frequency of postings as her site Engage Their Minds typically releases a new post every day. While I am not a daily poster, I do try to provide some consistency to the time of day my posts are released by auto-scheduling them to publish at either 9:30 or 10:00 am CST.
20. Build Your PLN by Answering Where?
As people start to really connect and relish your content, they like to know where you will be (e.g. upcoming conferences or speaking engagements) so they can connect in person and or even attend one of your sessions. You can add this information on a separate tab or at the footer of your posts. Many conferences offer an “I’m Speaking at…” badge that you can add to your site as well.
21. Start a Trend or a Tradition
After blogging for a few years, I found myself in search of a little whimsy. Thus, I decided to start an alliteration collection of posts ranging from Marvelous Monday and Thought Leadership Tuesday to Wicked Good Wednesday and Freebie Friday. I didn’t post one of these each day of the week but I did try to post enough of them that people knew what to expect. In the same realm as a tradition of weekly alliteration, Technology Tailgate offers a Techie Tuesday Link Up where you can feature someone else’s content on your own blog and build off of it and then link back your thoughts to the main site. Another fun trend in education is #hashtags. Consider starting your own or building off of a hashtag that can connect your content with others. Carl Hooker used #student4aday to share his reflections.
22. Share Your Why
This is a nod to Simon Sinek and a post I wrote earlier in the year. I started this blog almost 4 years ago and have crafted 315 posts since then. The blog has evolved as I have so this year I wanted to carefully craft my WHY for the blog and the content I share to ensure that I stayed true to the path and meant the needs of my audience in doing so. As you embark in to 2015, consider establishing a WHY or a mission statement for your blog to guide you in the future.
“21 Things Every 21st Century Blogger Should Do in 2015” by Lisa Johnson @TechChef4u is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Bonus Blogging Tips
To be quite honest, I strived for 21 but ended up with a few extra so here goes: keep a notebook of ideas for posts, reduce the size of your images so your page loads faster, install a Pinterest widget so all of your images can be easily pinned, add a blog subscription so others can receive your latest scoop in their inbox rather than having to hunt it down, and make sure links within the post open in a new tab rather that redirecting your audience away from your post (this typically is a default for most WP blogs but that is not always the case for other blog hosting services). This list for me is a work in progress as there are a few I need to tweak in 2015 to amplify my own blog but thought there was no harm in sharing the ideas in advance of their completion.
Stop Being a Secret Genius…
As I am still on a bit of a professional development high from Miami Device and some of the epic quotables gleaned from that event, I thought I would leave you with a little inspiration from Kevin Honeycutt:
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