The Best Kept Secrets of Highly Successful Edu-Bloggers, Part I by Karenne Sylvester

Part of the series: The 30 Goals Challenge, Goal 4: Support a New Blogger

Karenne Sylvester, a prolific blogger, offers some advice for new and established bloggers….
With over 70,000,000 blogs written weekly – thousands of which are written by fellow educators – it is actually a good idea today to stop, take stock and look deeply look into why some of these blogs have become internationally popular sites, visited by hundreds of thousands of readers, daily, and why some of them have never got beyond a handful of friends, family members and colleagues visiting.
What are the intrinsic qualities which distinguish a great edu-blogger from a hobbyist?
1. Great edu-bloggers know why they blog
A lot of new bloggers kick off with an almost mandatory post, starting off somewhat hesitantly, with a cry out to the universe of oh, what shall I write about? (I did too) however the what is actually not as important as the why.
Bloggers don’t generally become successful until they have a relatively clear picture in their minds about their reasons for becoming a part of and participating in the vast blogopshere.
Reasons drive passion, you see.
Let’s be immediately clear, if it’s not already obvious to our readers and those who would be bloggers, real edu-blogging is real work.
For the vast majority of us, this activity provides no (or virtually no) income and there is a steep learning curve to climb while we learn all the ins and outs and adopt the jargon as part of our daily lives – and while it might seem, at times, really quite crazy to put this much effort into doing something which does not pay: we are united through our passion for the page.

Ask friends what drives them to get up in the mornings and they may not know but ask a trainer why she travels around the world, educating others, sharing her skills – her answers may vary but mostly you’ll hear:

I love what I do.

Ask a teacher working in a tough inner-city school how they have managed to stay in the classroom and they’ll shrug shoulders saying “dunno” or perhaps they’ll smile shyly with a little glint in their eyes, admitting that it’s because they know that they are inspiring others to reach their own potential.
And so it is with edu-blogging. It is passion which brings us here, lone writers hacking at our pages, honing our craft, very often for years. Conversely, it is the loss of this meaning that leads some of us to eventually quit, to let our blogs die peacefully.
Yet when we stay, when we push through the beginning days of low readership and poorly crafted posts, we grow.
Ask successful edu-bloggers how they have managed to stay on their pages: they know. Ask their readers why their blogs are read in large numbers and they will tell you – it’s because she’s just so motivated, she makes me want to be passionate about my teaching too…
Passion, it is delicious. Passion, it is the most contagious of all emotions out there.
It is addictive. Elusive and tricky to describe (and even a dirty word in some circles) but whenever you see it, whenever you find it, you want it. It’s the sheer smell of happiness – the quality we all want to have and it is this that gets readers following, readers turning into bloggers themselves, participating in conversations and coming back to the page to read, to write, to grow, to share even more.
Where does it comes from?
Here are some of the reasons why your fellow edu-bloggers blog with passion (a list without judgment or prejudice for no blogian should decree why another blogian participates in the ‘sphere):

  • to develop their creativity and test out ideas
  • to share lessons plans and ideas with other teachers and get feedback
  • to provide one’s own students with easy links to common errors
  • to give students a permanent space online to find out their homework
  • to share what’s going on in the classroom with parents and the broader community
  • to participate and aid the development of democracy in education
  • to unite other teachers, globally
  • to keep in touch with those they have trained in the past/ will train in the future
  • to create a space where they can reflect on their own learning as they develop professionally
  • for the discipline of writing regularly
  • to hone and tighten their writing skills
  • because blogging will eventually replace the paper based notebook and it’s a good idea to get in the practice now – a skill which can be shared with students
  • to raise their own and others professional profiles
  • to sell a book(s) they’ve written in the past or books they’ll be selling in the future
  • to think through, out loud, ideas for new books and get feedback
  • to have somewhere to put the book submission that was turned down, may as well put it up for free
  • to be hired to eventually write a book which is based on themes covered in one’s blog
  • to create an e-portfolio of their knowledge and skills
  • to promote their workshops and/or get hired to do others
  • to be hired by an e-consultancy business
  • to be considered as an expert in edtech
  • to get a job as teacher trainer-senior teacher-ICT specialist
  • to get a job as a educational company’s blogger
  • to make side-cash by selling other people’s products or advertising
  • to have the thrill of having thousands of google hits attached to one’s name
  • to join the party: everyone else is blogging, might as well too!

Why are you?
No matter the multiplutide of reasons your fellow bloggers may blog, knowing your own reason(s) will help you, like all of the great edu-bloggers to find the willpower to consistently come back to the page.
And if you’re not blogging yet but you are considering it, why?

2. Great edu-bloggers know who they are writing for.
Although a handful make the following type of statement and get away with it:

“I am going to Blog about whatever I Freakin’ feel like Blogging about!!!!!!! Just read and Enjoy…”

Most do not.
The underlying principle uniting all great edu-bloggers is that they understand that the blog they write is not only about what they feel or what they think – a web log is not a diary – instead they keep their audience’s needs central and in focus.
Those who insist on writing on whatever topic pops into their heads, randomly, spontaneously, generally do not ever generate high readership: educators are very busy, unique individuals themselves and if they find this happening over a long period of time, basically articles of only blog-babble or blogcandy, or worse, topics they have already read thousands of times elsewhere, they stop returning.

The most successful bloggers develop a keen sense of what their audience likes reading and write articles aimed at this specific niche, sub-niche or even to a broader field – following trends in the media, classrooms and staff rooms and they learn how to equate these discussions into their own posts; they focus on stories that they know their fellow teachers will be really interested in, saving personal anecdotes of non-related to educational issues for their personal inner circles on Facebook Notes: they don’t assume that educators, parents and students all want to read the same articles, separating these into different blogs; they provide new, unique voices rather than copy popular blogs; they offer a service which really helps their readers and they take themselves, as much as possible, completely out of the ego-equation.
Do you want to be a great edu-blogger?
Ask yourself often:

  • Who am I writing for?
  • Where are these teachers based?
  • What do they teach?
  • What are their primary concerns?
  • What are they interested in reading more about?
  • How can I serve them better?

image credit
Mike Licht, Notions Young woman blogging, after Marie-Denise Villers
(c) KarenneJoySylvester, 2010
This post is part of a new series: Thoughts on Edu-blogging. For part 2 of this particular article, please visit Janet Bianchini’s blog!
Karenne is an ELT edu-blogger, a ESP:IT teacher, EdTech teacher-trainer and materials writer, originally from Grenada in the Caribbean. She currently lives in Stuttgart, Germany and blogs at Kalinago English and BusinessEnglish~5mins. Find her on Twitter as @kalinagoenglish.
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