10 things my blog taught me

Jacqui Murray

IMS Expert on websites/online content, tech advice and computer support.

Jacqui is the editor ...

Website: askatechteacher.wordpress.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When I started my blog three years and 657 posts ago, I wasn’t sure where to take it. I knew I wanted to connect with other tech teachers so I used that as the theme. Now, thanks to the 491,000+ people who have visited, I know much more about the ‘why’. It’s about getting to know kindred souls, but there is so much more I’ve gotten from blogging. Like these:

How to write

We bloggers divide ourselves into two categories: 1) those who write short, under-1000-word posts and 2) those who write in-depth, lengthy articles. I’ve chosen the former. I like pithy ideas that my readers can consume in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. As a result, I’ve learned to be frugal with my words. I choose verbiage that conveys more than one-word’s-worth of information and I leave tangential issues for another post. Because I realise readers are consuming on the run, I make sure to be clear–no misplaced pronouns or fuzzy concepts like ‘thing’ or ‘something’.

Prove my point

This part of writing transcends what print journalists must do. Yes, they do it, but my readers expect me to support ideas with interactive links to sources. If I’m reviewing a tech ed concept, I link to other websites for deeper reading. That’s something that can’t happen in paper writing. Sure, they can provide the link, but to put the paper down, open the laptop, copy that link–I mean, who does that? In a blog, I get annoyed if someone cites research and doesn’t provide the link.

Listen

When I write an article, I cross post to other parts of my PLN, sometimes to ezines I contribute to in other parts of the world.

And then I listen. What are readers saying? What are their comments/suggestions to me? Often, I learn as much from readers as what I thought I knew when I wrote the article.
For example, I get many emails from tech ed professionals with questions about our field. I used to answer them based on my experience. Now, I have my Dear Otto series where I share my thoughts and solicit input from readers. Wow–have I learned a lot from that! The flipped blog–teacher becomes student.

How to work through the dry times

I rarely have writer’s block, but when I do, I jump into the blogosphere and see what my colleagues are writing. In my fiction writing, I discovered that researching would water down the dry spells. The same thing works for blogging. I visit my favourite tech ed blogs, get inspired by their inspiration, research the pedagogy/topic, and often come up with my own take on it, based on my unique classroom experience.

How to persevere

Three years of blogging and I’m still waiting to make it big. What’s that mean to me? I want that knock on my virtual door from Byte or PC Magazine asking me to come on board as a paid house blogger. Truth, that probably won’t happen and by now, I’ve stuck it out so long I wouldn’t know what to do if I stopped blogging.

How to market my writing

I try lots of ideas to market my writing, but thanks to the blogosphere, I know what everyone else is doing. I can try as much or little of it as I want. For me, I found a comfortable baseline and add a few pieces every year (this year, it’s Pinterest).

One point worth mentioning is headlines. Usually, all I get from a reader is seven seconds–long enough to read the title, maybe the first line. If my title doesn’t seem personal and relevant, potential readers move on. There are over 450 million English language blogs. That’s a lot of competition. I better hit a home run with the title.

There are lots of opinions out there

Often, I share my thoughts on the future or current status of tech ed. Sometimes, I’m surprised at comments I get. They might touch a corner of the idea I hadn’t thought of or be 180 degrees from my conclusions. It forces me to think bigger as I write, consider how people who aren’t me will read my words. That’s both humbling and empowering. I think I’m much better at that than I used to be.

There are a lot of smart people in the world

In a previous lifetime when I built child care centers for a living, I read lots of data that said people thought the education system was broken–but not in their area. They considered themselves lucky because their schools worked. Well, as I meandered through life, I realised that applies to everything. People are happy with what they’re comfortable with and frightened/suspicious of what they aren’t used to. Through blogging, I get to delve into those ideas with them because we feel like friends. I’ve found that lots of people are smart, intuitive, engaged in life, looking to improve the world. I’m glad I learned that.

How to be responsible

Yes, blogging is demanding. I have to follow through on promises made in my blog profile and posts. When I say I’ll offer tech tips weekly, I have to do that even if I’m tired or busy with other parts of my life. It’s not as hard as it sounded when I first started. If you’re a mum, you’ve got the mindset. Just apply it to blogging.

How to be a friend

My readers visit my posts and comment or poke me with a ‘like’. Maybe, on my good days, they repost. Those are nice attaboys. I always return the favour by dropping by their blogs to see what they’re up to, or to leave a comment on their latest article. It takes time, but like any relationship, it's worth it. I have online friends I’ve never met who I feel closer to than half the people in my physical world. I’ve seen them struggle with cancer, new jobs, unemployment, kid problems. I’ve learned a lot about life from them.

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