Blogging in Education
Education and technology are more integrated than ever before. But why is it that we see so few professors blogging? We, who have so much knowledge to share, are relatively silent in the blogosphere compared to our counterparts in other fields. Yet, increasingly, if you want to be a part of the global conversation about important issues, you need to be writing not only for peer-reviewed publications but also for a larger audience.
Here’s how you can build and maintain a blog to reach an audience that wants to read what you have to say.
1. Build something that looks professional.
There is no shortage of simple (and free) resources available for publishing your writing, so find something that will allow you to make a sleek, user-friendly blog. If the audience you want to reach shows up at your site and it’s poorly designed, then they’re going to either leave or assume you’re a dinosaur who can’t manage technology; neither of these is a good outcome. I chose WordPress for my site, and it’s been exceedingly simple. I paid another $20 for a custom domain, and I was off to the races.
2. Know your audience.
I have carefully defined who my audience is, based on who I think is likely to run across my site: grad students, K–12 teachers and teacher education professionals. Those are the people I write for. I don’t write for educational policy wonks, postsecondary administrators or people outside of the field of education. I focus on my target audience and I write solely for them. I keep a running list of relevant blog post ideas, and when I get time, I pick one off the list and write about it.
3. Share interesting content that you find elsewhere.
This is called reblogging. If you read an article that you find interesting or controversial, then quote it, link to it and discuss it in a new blog post. It doesn’t have to be a long and detailed critique; a simple paragraph that highlights why you’re sharing that link and your thoughts on it are sufficient. However, there is some etiquette associated with reblogging, so make sure to familiarize yourself with it before sharing someone else’s content.
4. Write in easily accessible ways.
Throw that academic-ese that you fill your journal articles with out the window. Your goal here is communication, not making your content sound more intellectual. Keep your content concise and your language clear, and consider breaking your writing up into manageable pieces (listicles, like this one, are one popular way to do that). Keep in mind that your audience is likely to be reading your blog on their smartphone or tablet and perhaps in stolen snatches of time between meetings or classes.
5. Keep your writing appropriate.
Don’t use your blog as a platform to complain about individual people; it might be titillating, but it isn’t appropriate to name names in your blog unless you’re talking about public figures. Professors and teachers especially need to be careful of this because you are legally prohibited from sharing any educational information about your students outside of directory information. Professionally, it’s also a poor move to publicly criticize your superiors or your colleagues for petty things. If you are going to offer criticism, criticize ideas instead of making personal attacks on people. I’m all for debate about issues and ideas, and it will make for more interesting writing. However, I don’t want to read your diatribe about how much you hate Sharon in payroll.
6. Publicize your work.
Whenever I write a new blog post, I immediately share it on Twitter and Facebook. I use relevant hashtags for my field and the topic I’m writing about, and I also mention my school so they will retweet me or share my post. This brings my content to a much larger audience. Then, join Twitter chats and talk about your field; that will lead to more followers, which will lead to more blog views. Additionally, schedule your postings strategically. I use services like Buffer and Klout to schedule my tweets for when they will have the most impact (which these services identify based on when people are online). I also try to share my blog posts more than once since only a small subset of my potential audience is online at a given time.
7. Keep at it and be consistent.
I’m busy, and I am sure you are too. However, blogging doesn’t need to involve a significant time commitment. Your posts don’t need to be long, but they need to be consistent. If you let your blog go too long without being updated, people will stop checking it, so keep contributing to it. Consistency is the key to your blog’s success. This is something I’m trying to work on myself, but scheduling services like the ones I have mentioned previously, as well as the built-in post scheduling in WordPress, are making this a lot easier. Now I can write a few posts during a day off, and they’ll automatically go live on the blog or on Twitter over the course of a few weeks.
So, take the first steps — you have important things to write that other people want to read, whether you’re a student, a professor or another professional, expert or enthusiast. Start writing, start sharing and be part of the larger conversation.