NECC ’09: Blogging Best Practices

Just met Scot McLeod of Dangerously Irrelevant in the Bloggers Café.  Hi, Scott.  That’s definitely a blog worth reading regularly.

About to attend a session with John G. Hendron of Goochland County Public Schools, titled Blogging Best Practices for Educators. John’s been blogging since 19919, he’s an instructional technologies, a musician and the author of RSS for Educators. In 2005, he ran the Teacher Blogging Initiative which required each teacher to maintain a weblog on the school division’s server from principals down.  In 2003 they had 10 teachers blogging, 18 in 2004, 205 in 2005, and WordPress multiuser they’ve gone to 230 bloggers in the district, along with podcast support, and comment and trackback performance.  Shout out to Akismet for WordPress, mentioning that it needs a purchased license from the company.

If you can write, you can e-mail; if you can e-mail you can blog.

Why blog? Well, first, it’s easy.  In schools, we send home paper, we communicate through websites, we can do public access television, and we can use telephone services. A lot of parents in Goochland have learned to connect with teachers through blogs.

Size vs. Frequency: Tomes are huge, get published infrequently, and are often life’s work.  Books get published every few years, magazines get published weekly, newsletters often, blogs should come out often, twitter feeds frequently.  Audio and video podcasts are denser with information, but get published more frequently.

Community: Initially, some blogs had to be published in paper, too.  Then other teachers outside of Goochland and students from outside Goochland began publishing comments to teachers in Goochland. When they added comment support, conversations expanded all over the world.

Patterns: Short, regular updates. Everything in one central location. Broadcast-style communication, searchable text, multimedia tools, monitored via RSS, easy as writing an e-mail, many audiences, feedback from comments & trackbacks.  PowerSchool software can link blogs to a student account, so if parents login to one, they know about the other.

(Using: to track messages )

Make communication easy, increase communication  between school and home, make students and teachers comfortable with a read/write world.

Labels/Brands of blogs: edublogs, squarespace, blogger,, Movable Type, Tumblr.  Lots of others.  Questions to ask:  Is it free?  Is it hosted? Do ads run on your site?  Is the software tested?  Goochland uses WordPress-Mu, using a Mac OSX server, MySQL.  150 MB per teacher, unless they fill it; then they get 300MB.  SuperCache and Akismet Plug-ins.

Hendron’s advice is the same as Steven King’s, but wordier. ( Steven King’s advice is “Write to read, read to write.”)  Each good blog find begts another, and another, and another….

Decisions about your blog: Is it transportable? Where are you going to host it? What’s the policy (your policy) on comments? What’s my school’s policy on sharing? What topics will I cover?  Is it under Creative Commons? Should I have a group blog? what colors, designs and templates should I use?

Best Practices:

  1. Define your focus and audience :

    I’d agree, but I’d add that you should allow your focus to narrow and broaden over time, and consider alternate opinions to avoid confirmation bias.
  2. Tell us a little about yourself:

    Of courseThat much should be obvious.

  3. Read blogs, read education literature
  4. Tell us what is going on, Show too

    This is where YouTube support,, and some other tools and widgets are very helpful.  The more materials that you can combine into a blog, the more elements your students and teachers have access to from home, in study hall, or elsewhere.

  5. Share Student Success: Give your students and parents access to the material.  Don’t be afraid of YouTube; kids like the mention.

    John Hendron’s district sets the rule that you can use first names and grade, but not last names.  I wish we had that.

  6. Be honest, be sincere.

    Having one blog is like having only one Gutenberg printing press.  It’s a voice crying in the wilderness.  Having many causes a flowering of ideas.

  7. Get bookmarked

    By linking to other people in your blogroll, you get links back, and it makes you less of an alien node. That’s Hendron’s comment.  Mine is, the network works better the more you’re joined.  A net with only one knot catches no fish.  A Net in the right places catches 153, so many that it swamps the boat.

  8. Share What Works

    Tell people not only what is good, but why, and how you’re using it.  The posts that you produce will be much better, and others will pick up on it too.

  9. Content over Aesthetics, content over tools
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  1. Great points to keep in mind when writing on my blog. I especially agree with point number 8 – there should always be a point to what you say and the more you can expand on your ideas the more useful they will be to others.

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