Student and Teacher Blogs that Succeed

from Educators' eZine

There is a new teacher or student blog created every 2.2 seconds. Okay so I just made that up, but the point is we are seeing blogs created at blistering pace with the hopes of connecting with the world and providing an authentic audience for writers. Sadly, many of these well-meaning blogs die a slow death after a smattering of posts. Well-intended teachers and students often lack perspectives need for success.

Blogs are easy to create. But just because something's easy doesn't mean it will stick. As someone who supports teachers in understanding and using digital learning tools, this is a pattern I've seen all too often.

So how does a teacher or her students find blogging success? Here are a few things I've discovered in both my own blog as well as with my work with students and teachers.

Blogging is mostly about reading
Blogging is way more about reading than it is writing. Many teachers don't see this at first. Most classrooms provide a good balance of traditional reading and writing opportunities. Teachers recognize that in order to be a good writer you have to read good writing. Yet when it comes to blogging, most want to write immediately and sit back and wait for the world to pay attention. It won't happen. Provide as much time for your students to read blogs as write. If you decide you want to blog or have your students blog, don't feel badly about spending a few weeks or even months reading blogs. Look for exemplary work. Look for blogs that you relate to. Find blogs that have a different perspective on things you're interested in Talk with your students about the blogs they enjoy. Before you write a post, be sure you are responding to something you've seen, read or heard.

To make a friend you have to be a friend
When I talk with students and teachers about blogging I liken it to the playground. How do they go about making friends on the playground? By waiting on the sidelines? Dominating the equipment? Students quickly recognize they need to interact and talk with others. Blogging is no different. If you want to have others read and comment on your work, you'll need to begin reading and commenting on others.

On my own blog I posted a couple of times about something I've called an Updated CommPost Rating. It involves taking the number of comments you've left and dividing it by the number of blog posts you've created. You should have more comments than posts. Comments generally are clarifications, encouragements or challenges that usually involve less time than original posts. What's the saying? You have 2 ears and 1 mouth. This should apply with blogging as well. Since I wrote this and began to walk the walk, my readership has steadily increased and, more importantly, so has my learning.

It's personal
So once you establish a pattern of reading, thinking and then writing, you need to write about what you know. Teachers, who structure their blogging too much, lose the concept of conversation. It must flow from personal meaning. That's why having your students find others who share their interests is so vital. The best bloggers are able to provide personal perspectives but also connect those personal experiences with others. Good conversations don't simply involve stories about yourself but stories to which others can easily relate and contribute.

In this effort to connect, hyperlinking is also essential. Hyperlinking is what makes the web work. It is the connecting vehicle. I can't believe how many students and many teacher blogs neglect to hyperlink to other sources. Most see this as an advanced blogging tool. It isn't. It needs to be utilized immediately; even with young students. Generally when I read a blog post that has no hyperlinking, I wonder about its validity. How many of us can write without crediting or referencing others? This is when blogs turn into online journals. Unless you are an outstanding writer with highly original ideas, a blog of this nature is not likely to last or at least not likely to gain readership.

Get Graphical
Finally, we have a wonderfully graphical web and are beginning to recognize that writing is only one way we express ideas and communicate. The use of embedded video, audio and images provides a rich communication that goes well beyond words. Text still has importance but allowing embedding pertinent, interesting media can express ideas like never before.

These are some common mistakes I've seen teachers and students make. To avoid these, check out Vicki Davis's CoolCat Teacher Blog, especially these two great posts on blogging: "10 Habits of Blogging That Win" and "How to Comment Like a King or Queen".

If you've had struggles with sustaining blogging, try these tips and if you've had successes using other methods, what are they? After all blogs are conversations—so converse!

Email:Dean Shareski