Teaching Blog 101: So You Want to Start a Teaching Blog
You have been seeing them pop up all over the Internet. Teaching blogs are the latest and greatest way for teachers to connect, share ideas, and, for some, earn extra income. After spending more time than you may care to admit reading and surfing the blogs of fellow educators, you may have decided that now is the time to start your own. So you want to start a teaching blog, but are not sure where to begin. Join us for the next eight weeks as we delve into the world of education blogs and blogging basics. We will share everything you need to know to get your blog up and running, as well as, giving you tips and tricks for monetizing it to earn some extra cash during the year.
First Things First – What’s Your Purpose?
Before you start registering domain names or scouring the web for graphics that you adore, take some time to think about the purpose of your blog. Is it going to be a blog where you share your daily adventures? Is it going to be a showcase for your classroom projects? Are you going to focus heavily on marketing and driving traffic in an effort to sell products or earn money? There is no “wrong” purpose, but each purpose can influence how you go about setting up your blog. By knowing what you want the blog to accomplish in the beginning, you can then determine how and where you will begin. It is okay to change direction once your blog gets going, but in the beginning, a strong sense of purpose and a clear vision will help you stay focused.
Choosing a Platform
A platform is where you will put your blog or who will host it. The decision about where to start blogging is one that should not be taken lightly. While there are many, many platforms to choose from, most teachers choose either WordPress or Blogger. Both are free services that give you the ability to customize their basic templates, add custom designs, and insert various tools. If you look at some of your favorite teaching blogs, half of them will probably be hosted on one platform and the other half on another. There is really no right or wrong, but there are advantages to each – which is why knowing what you want from your blog is so important.
WordPress is often considered the more sophisticated option of the two platforms. It has a more detailed Dashboard or main screen from which you can work. It also gives you the ability to add multiple authors if you are hoping to create a collaborative blog. One of WordPress’ nicest features is the ability to add widgets, or outside tools, to the blog for little or no charge. Everything from a calendar to a followers list to a tool that helps you find Creative Commons images are all readily available. We will talk more about widgets in the upcoming weeks. WordPress is, by far, the most versatile platform in terms of functionality and design. If you want to add multiple pages to your blog, WordPress allows you to do it with ease and style. It does require a modicum of blogger know-how, so take the time to try out a free account before committing to hosting your blog on the site. WordPress also allows you to purchase and register a unique domain name with them, so that your blog will have its own url. For example, instead of using “MyCoolClassBlog.wordpress.com” you could register your blog as “MyCoolClassBlog.com.” If you already have a domain name registered, you can redirect it to your WordPress blog for a small yearly fee.
Easy to set-up and use, Blogger, Google’s version of a blogging platform, is also a popular education blog site. Users pick from a variety of templates or upload their own and can begin blogging in a relatively short amount of time. Sidebar widgets can be added with some basic HTML knowledge and plug-ins which are found on the site. Blogger also allows you to redirect your blog to a custom domain name, but the process is a bit less straightforward than with WordPress. Some bloggers prefer this platform over others, as it is a bit more integrated with Google’s tools, since it is a Google product. This makes it easier for adding AdWords and other monetizing features. It is worth testing out a blog on Blogger and comparing the two platforms to see which will work best for what you have in mind.
Just as each teacher is unique, so too will each teaching blog be different. Look at your favorite teaching blogs and see where and how they are hosted. Peek at the bottom of the page to see who designed the template and then check out their site. Find one blog that you admire and start planning out a wireframe of what your blog will look like. Take it one step at a time. Even if it means that the only thing you do today is think of a name for your blog. It is a step in the right direction.
Coming Next Week: Designing Your Blog