Blog is the shortened form of ‘web log’ and so a blog can relate to any topic imaginable. This two page series explores the purposes of blogging and the process of setting up a blog for professional learning and reflection. It will be relevant for any professional, but has been particularly written with educators in mind. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!
A printable (PDF) version of this two page series, Blogs and Blogging for professional learning may be downloaded here.
A blog is a contemporary way to contribute to professional dialogue that occurs within the online context. Blogging allows for reflective practice to be shared publicly with other professionals, and the genre is useful for documenting a learning journey.
Blogs can form a rich element of one’s professional digital footprint, and regularly blogging can lead to the development of a vibrant professional digital identity. Building a professional digital identity is a valuable way for educators (and all professionals) to demonstrate active engagement in contemporary social technologies and to maintain connections that enhance professional learning and career aspirations.
A blog serves also as a useful archive, capturing your professional growth and offering a digital space (domain) of your own, which may be used as a portfolio and record of high quality practice.
Although the video below features Matt Mullenweg speaking about his new venture, .blog, a lot of what he says is relevant for anyone interested in blogging on any platform or space.
Choose your blog space
If you are completely new to blogging, it is best to begin with a free blogging platform, so that you can experiment with different hosts and find the option that suits you and your style. In most cases you can transfer or simply build upon content developed on free platforms over to more flexible (paid) services should you choose to expand your blogging at a later time.
Free web-based blog hosts include WordPress.com, (please note WordPress.org is a paid self hosted option), Edublogs and Blogger. You might also consider Tumblr or Medium (although if you are developing a blog for assessment in a University course, these are far more limited and will probably not be suitable).Wix and Weebly are also platforms you might consider. These two options are more suited to websites that also feature a blogging function, whereas WordPress, Edublogs and Blogger are specifically designed for blogging.
Set up your blog
There are many options available to users when setting up a blog. If you are setting up a blog as part of your assessment for Uni (and even if you are not) here are some things that you need to keep in mind when choosing the style, layout and design of your blog.
*The blog must be one available on the open web at all times. Setting up a blog within a learning management system or intranet limits access to those who have the password, and possibly only to those within your place of employment. The blog must be freely accessible to all.
*Comments must be activated on every blog entry. This is ESSENTIAL if you are setting up your blog for assessment! Even if you are setting it up for personal, professional purposes, commenting is part of the blogging experience, and how you create community and gather feedback. Most blogging platforms enable you to MODERATE (check the comment) before publishing it if you are concerned that someone may leave an inappropriate comment (rare, but it does happen ).
*You are free to use a pseudonym. Protecting your identity is a personal choice. For a professional blog, a pseudonym may block connections being made (people will not know who is sharing all the great content, and will be less likely to get in touch with you). However, there are many reasons why people may choose not to use their own image and name online, and only you can make the choice.
*There is a difference between Posts and Pages – you are free to use either (or a combination of both!). Posts are time ordered entries, which readers can scroll through, presented in order from most recent to least recent. Posts are what blogs are generally formed of. Pages are stand alone entries that are usually connected to form a website. Here is a great explanation of the difference between the two with examples from WordPress.
*Create a hand-drawn blueprint for your blog to help you decide whether your blog will be all Posts, all Pages, or a combination of both. Look at examples online or from previous iterations of the course to see the ways in which previous students have set up their blogs in regard to Posts and Pages.
*When choosing your blog template, choose one that has a wide content bar which will give you plenty of space for images an tables. Some themes or templates have very narrow, newspaper like columns for your content, which may suit some bloggers, but which will make including multimedia, images, tables, diagrams etc much more awkward (hint: use the affordances of the blog to include information in different forms – no one likes to read long blocks of text on a screen!).
*Set aside plenty of time to choose your template/theme for your blog. It will take much longer than you think to find one that works for you. Once you’ve started, if you don’t like what you’ve chosen, don’t worry. In most cases you can change the template or theme and your content will be reformatted to fit the new look.
*Another thing to preview when deciding on your blog template or theme is the menu style. Some offer only a static menu, while others offer a fly-out or drop-down option. Fly-out or drop-down menus make it much easier to organise your pages, as you can have main pages and sub-pages (known as Parent and Child pages). Make sure your menu is easy to see and use – it is how your readers will navigate your blog. If it is too much trouble, most won’t bother and will go somewhere else!
*Table editing can be tricky in blogs. In many cases the built in table option is clunky, and may look ugly. If you find that this is the case (or if there is no table editing option at all) a good tip is to create the table in Word or PowerPoint (I like PowerPoint best). If you use Word, simply screenshot the table. If you use PowerPoint, choose Save As and then from the drop down for file-type, choose .jpg or .png (image files). It will ask you if you want to save just the current slide as an image or all of the slides. I prefer PowerPoint because you can make the table quite large, and saving the table as an image rather than taking a screen shot usually creates a clearer picture. You can always scale an image down once you insert it in your blog, but dragging a smaller image to make it larger usually results in loss of clarity. Test and see!
*When initially setting up a blog, consider naming the url with a meaningful name that relates to the content. Try to find a name that describes what your blog is about (so that people know whether they might be interested from the web address) but is not too narrow (so that you can continue to maintain the same blog even if your professional interests morph and change. For example, this blog, www.linkinglearning.com.au has seen me through my role as an educator, librarian, PhD student and now University lecturer – it is always about learning, but what I am learning and how often changes, so my blog changes with me!
The second page of this series focuses on the content of your blog. It explores the writing style of a blog (or ‘how to blog’) as well as advice on including images and multimedia. Also included on the second page is a printable PDF version of all of this content.
Enjoy your blogging journey!
*The information on these pages has been adapted from the work of Dr Mandy Lupton, and used with permission.*