Sunday, December 7, 2014

11 Reflective Blogging Tips & Ideas

Why Blog?
You don't start blogging for awards. Although they're very nice!  More about awards at the very end of this post.
Do not let anyone force you or guilt trip you to start a blog. You blog because you are passionate about your profession, and have ideas & content to share with potential readers, or want a living, growing on-going journal of your professional life.
If you blog it, they will come. Eventually. It may just take a while! Don't give up! I blogged for YEARS out the aethernets and for a handful of readers! And you surely don't start blogging for comments. If you are expecting comments when you start blogging you're gonna be quickly discouraged and give up. I get about 6 or 7 comments per blog post and most all of those are spam. That's why I treasure and am grateful for each and every REAL comment I get!
Now, I am in NO WAY saying I'm an expert blogger, (or writer! Ha!) but I do have some reflective ideas and tips for blogging that I've gathered over the years that I'd like to share. Why 11 tips? Because 11 is 1 more than 10. (Bonus points if you catch that movie reference!)
1. Start When You're Ready & Not Before!
I started my first blog in 2006 after my first AASL05 in Pittsburgh. It was an epiphany! Why struggle with a static library web page when I can have an ongoing conversation with my students, parents, & community with a blog?! However, my first year I wrote only eight posts — that’s it. I started this professional blog after being inspired and emboldened to go transparent after the DC NECC09 (ISTE) conference.
If you choose to blog, it is a long-term relationship.
If you're just trying to start a web presence my  advice is to start with a Wiki, Twitter, or Scoopit, and not a blog! (blogs are hard work!) Blogs are like pets - they require a lot of care and feeding; Wikis are like a cactus plant - you can water them occasionally. Wikis don't judge you, wiki's don't give you internal guilt trips, and wikis can be neglected a bit. I'm a longtime Wikispaces fan. Bonus: they're also super easy to use and don't intimidate the new or reluctant tech user! But if you start a blog you should try to maintain it.

2.  Be Reflective
Think about your profession and share your successes and more importantly, your failures. Try to be honest but upbeat. Think of that first year teacher librarian or classroom teacher reading your blog and how you could possibly save them time, ease their stress, and give them encouragement to go on. Reflective blogging also helps you remember HOW you did something! As I get [coughs] older,  it's really helpful to re-read my blog postings sometimes to see how I did a lesson & what handouts and graphics I used. Reflective blogging is also a journal of your growth.

3. No Excuses!
When blogging, do NOT apologize for not posting! Ever. Have you ever landed randomly on a blog & started to skim past posts and noticed that almost every other one started with "I'm so sorry I
haven't posted in a while I've been so..."  (insert lame excuse here) People don’t want to hear that!  It's boring,  it's pathetic, it's unnecessary,  and yes, I've done it myself! Why? Because it's also human nature! We innately feel self-induced guilt for not writing... FIGHT IT! Here's a challenge - go back and check your past blog posts and if you've started more than one post with that - take the time to edit that out & promise never do it again.

4. Schedule & Plan It
I try and blog on Sunday mornings. But be flexible. Having a schedule helps me "git er done" but if I'm traveling over the weekend or just don't feel like it, I don't blog. If I'm inspired & excited to share something on a Wednesday night - I blog Wednesday night! Whatever. It's a balance....having a schedule but not being a slave to it.  Plan for blogging success. When you see an interesting Tweet or think of something that might make a cool blog posting - Scoopit, bookmark it, file it away, or jot it down. I sometimes keep blogging ideas in my Gmail drafts folder or my blogger Drafts folder. That way, whenever you feel like blogging but just can't think of a topic - then you can go to those brainstorming ideas. It's like creating a little safe-deposit box of blogging awesomeness!

5. Get Graphic
Show pictures. People love reading blogs with graphics embedded that help illustrate what you are sharing.  Wrap those images around your text. Alternate left and right. Don't just float small pictures in the center of your blog post. Make it look like a magazine! If you don't want to get as graphically saturated as this blog, with a picture for almost every paragraph, try to at least find a coordinating picture for the top of your blog post. You can easily (and for FREE!) use Flickr Creative Commons or one of the many copyright free image resources.  You can edit or tweak those graphics with the awesome PicMonkey   Just always give attribution!

6. Share Shamelessly
Share the content you create enthusiastically and shamelessly. If you invent a wheel (or even a spoke!) share it so that someone else (remember that first year librarian or teacher?) doesn't have to re-invent that same wheel! This goes for lesson plans, activities, reading promotions, and cool products.
  • Use Slideshare to embed your PPT's & Docs
  • Use Flickr or another easily navigated photo sharing site for your pics & graphics
  • Link to your wikispaces or web page for complete lesson plans
  • Use Google Docs & Google forms 
Techie Tip: Every time you share a link on your blog, make sure to check "Open this link in new window" that way your reader won't be navigated away from your original post and can easily come back to it via an open window or tab.


7. Be Transparent
Buy your name. Think long term. If you name your professional blog by your school name, what happens when you switch schools?  If you build a readership do you lose them going to another school and starting another blog? Sure, start a school library Edublog named after your school, but keep your professional blog about you. As you grow in your profession, your blog will grow with you. This way you can create and model a positive digital footprint.

8. Be You!
Speak from your heart. Speak your truth. Be original and authentic. Be passionate, be positive, and always be professional. People will connect with you if you sound like you. Be personal, but don't be private. I share personal information on my blogs and Tweets but I don't share private information. There's a difference! It's the difference between my sharing that I've watched Catching Fire on Netflix 4 times or that I adore a mani-pedi, versus how many times I've been married! ;-) 
Don't negatively vent about your profession or trash talk your students. The kiddos we teach are in our trust and just like a doctor or lawyer we protect our kids by not talking about them in any way that could be negative. I'm privileged to have that privilege. Cheering their successes is a whole different thing. We all have frustrations in our jobs but a blog is not where to vent them. Don't blog yourself out of a job. Doug Johnson has a great post about this! BFTP: Blogging and a little common sense

9. Give Credit
Don't forget to credit your sources, quotes, inspiration, graphics, & more! The more you give the more you will get back. Giving attribution is hot! Creative Commons - it's not just a license, it's a way of life! I wonder how many times I've used the term Attribution in this post! At least 4!

10. Be Thankful
If someone took the time to leave a comment on your blog, Tweet a thanks! Or comment back! Better yet, go to their blog - read one of their posts, & give back a nice comment. If you get a lesson idea from someone's blog - post about how it worked for you! Include any changes or adaptions you made, printables, graphics, and pictures. Credit, link back, and thank them in the post that they were the font of inspiration.  I've even sent a little present to their school or made a surprise phone call! The personal touch is really appreciated.  Pay it forward! 


11. Be stubborn!
The school library Blogger I started in 2006 was blocked by my district a few years ago and it really threw me for a loop. I blogged about how Life is Not Filtered & moved my MHMS Daring School Library Media blog over to EduBlogs - I didn't migrate the old posts (I'm lazy, right?) and I had to learn a new publishing format - Ouchie! In the end, it was for the best. So, if you're starting a new education related blog whether it's a professional or school blog, I'd recommend an EduBlogs. Doubtful your district will block those. But, you never know....be nimble, be daring, be digital, be flexible, be ready to roll, and always have fun! Thank you for reading!

What are YOUR blogging tips? What works for you? What did I miss? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! 
 
I was honored to be named and nominated by my EdTech colleagues as a finalist in the global Edublog Awards - I've been fortunate to be a finalist for 5 years, but I've never won! Argh! LOL
For all those dear readers who voted for this blog, Thank you! I came in 3rd. Not too shabby - maybe someday I'll win!! 
So Why the Edublog Awards?
  • It's a global recognition award. Any education blog in any country can be nominated and win!  For example, The Russian language educators are passionate & proud of their edublogs! And boy do they trounce us in the votes! Bless their hearts!
  • It's crowdsourced and democratic. The finalists are chosen by the amount of bloggers doing the award nominations. I am always honored to be recognized by my peers - it makes me squirmy, happy, and go squee that people still read my blog!
  • It's positive! Paying it forward and recognizing hard work is great! Highlighting educators who are sharing shamelessly and promoting a positive digital footprint to the world is a good thing. 
  • It gives me a great new list of people to follow and learn from!
Don't like the Edublog Awards? Try the EduBro Awards! They're all about AWESOME!




Credits & References:
This is an updated post that I penned almost 4 years ago - it was due for remix!
Storm Trooper Minifig photos are by Kristina Alexanderson and I learned about them from my amazing and inspiring friend Jennifer LaGarde! Screenshots from my blogs & wikis. (links on right)
The chunky font I used for a lot of the graphics is, of course ---wait for it, --> HanSolo
The scripty print font is called TrashHand. All FREE!
Some quotes were from a Washington Post interview -What is Literacy Today
My Blogs are Blocked-Life is Not Filtered


15 comments:

  1. Thanks so much for your kind comment, Marge! If you think of anything I left out, let me know & I'll add an addendum.
    Cheers! ~G

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  2. Thanks for a great post. Your blog inspired me to start blogging five years ago.

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    1. Oh my goodness, Niamh! WOW... this comment means the world to me! As ya'll would say, I'm gobsmacked! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. ~Gwyneth

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  3. I VOTED! I think The Daring Librarian is absolutely one of the best blogs on the internet. (And NO, I don't say that because I love you or because you didn't happen to give me daring little great nieces and nephews!) ;o) LOL!

    Your blog is filled to the BRIM with ideas, tutorials, tips and guides galore, for those in education especially, of course, but those of us in other fields read and learn too. Your knowledge, expertise, common sense and plain ol' GREAT advice (not to mention your very enjoyable, fresh, fun and sweet, slightly snarky writing style!) make this blog a delight to visit often.

    THANK YOU for all you do! Keep up the good work!

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    1. Aww, thank you Aunt Lynn! Thanks for the Vote - SQUEE!
      Now, if you could just get ALL your friends to vote, too! ;-) LOL Muuuwa!
      LuvUM2P!
      ~Gwynnie

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  4. This post is so much awesomeness. I've been blogging for about 8 years, the last two of which have been professionally (I used to blog about style/fashion/food). I had to learn a lot of lessons through the years. I love that this post brings all those together (and more)! I have a lot of friends who are just starting out to blog, and I'll definitely be sending this post their way. Thank you for being awesome! (PS - I voted for you)

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    1. Oh Diana, Thank you for your comment! Your kind words of encouragement mean the world to me! What did I miss? Any suggestions? I love your blog so very much and all the amazing things you do!
      Cheers!
      @GwynethJones

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    2. Ps. Thank you so much for your vote, too! W00t!

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  5. Great tips! I'm slowly trying to integrate my book blog with the idea of what I do/thoughts/etc of being a librarian. It's a slow process because obvious with certain information protections I can't just drop names like I might've if I was using a LiveJournal diary in my teens.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Krys!
      It's great that your blog is evolving! I would just add posts about your day to day teaching & practice in between your reviews - name dropping is OK, unless you go over the top and get to the Kardashian level, amirite!?
      Cheers dear!
      @Gwyneth

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  6. Very interesting and creative blogging.. ok guess I need to shift a big gear in mine ..

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  7. Nice tips. These will be a big help for my blogging.

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  8. Very interesting and informative article, especially for librarians who wish to share their ideas and knowledge.

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