2013 in review

December 31, 2013

I am so grateful to the long-term and new readers who stopped by my blog this year. I always enjoy reading the year-end report that WordPress sends out to its writers. I thought I’d share this with you and tell you how much I appreciate you being part of this experience. Sometimes I blog for myself, to archive resources or materials, but mostly, I blog to share those resources, ideas and materials with you. This year, the blog had almost a quarter of a million visits. If that isn’t inspiration to keep blogging, then I don’t know what is!

Thank you for being here with me, along this journey of learning, leading and living. Wishing you a fulfilling 2014, full of challenges that make us want to be just a little bit more than we were in 2013, stopping just short of exasperation or frustration… and enough to remind us that every day offers an opportunity.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 230,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 10 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

2012 in review

December 31, 2012

Here’s the 2012 annual report for my blog, prepared by the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys. Thank you to YOU, those who read, like and comment on the posts.  Here’s to another great year of blogging in 2013.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 200,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.


Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

The 50 Top Leadership Blogs to Watch in 2013

October 22, 2012

Top 50 Leadership Blog to Watch in 2013A friend just sent me a message to say, “Did you know you are on this list?” I went to check out Evan Carmichael’s blog and sure enough, there I am, #29 out of 50.

Considering Dale Carnegie, Robin Sharma and Franklin Covey are in the top 10, I’m especially honoured to be in the top 20. I am not sure how Evan chose his Top 50 Leadership Blogs to Watch in 2013, but I can say that it was a real treat to the beginning of the week to find out I was on his list. I am going to check out the other leadership blogs he mentions. No doubt I’ll subscribe to at least a few of them.

Sometimes people say to me, “I don’t get blogging. Why do you do it?” My answer is that I blog for the same reasons I would engage in a hallway conversation or water cooler chat if I worked in a traditional office: to connect, to share ideas and stories. For me, blogging is a way to reach out to others and engage in dialogue about what matters deeply to me.

Thank you, Evan, for this honour. You’ve got me thinking about what leadership topics I’ll be blogging about in 2013!


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

12 Tips to incorporate blogging into your classes

August 2, 2012

In a recent Master’s of Education course I taught at the University of Calgary, blogging was a required assignment for the students. The program coordinator (my boss) urged me to have the students blog as part of their course. She let me know that the students were enrolled in a graduate certificate program and that the course I was teaching was the first course of their certificate. She said that the certificate had been set up so that students would blog throughout their entire learning experience, as part of every course in their certificate.

The course I taught was on incorporating technology into educational practice. As an avid blogger myself, I was excited by the prospect of incorporating blogging into my teaching practice.

Most of the students were teachers themselves and some of them were technology leaders in their schools, but only one had her own blog.

After having incorporated “blogging for learning” into my teaching practice, here is what I learned:

1. Recommend a blogging service.

We (meaning the course coordinator and I) did not restrict what blogging service the students chose, but we recommended a few (including WordPress and Blogger). We recommended free sites and suggested that students not pay to register their own domain (at least, not to start).

 2. Show students the nuts and bolts of how to set up a blog.

I spent approximately 30 minutes in one class, showing students the “behind the scenes” of my own WordPress blog. Using an LCD projector, hooked up to a computer with an Internet connection, I took my students on a virtual tour of my own WordPress dashboard. I showed them how to choose a theme, write a post and then publish that post. They appreciated the demo and it gave them confidence to get started.

3. Give them time to set up their blog.

One student reported that it took her two hours to set up her blog. This included familiarizing herself with the dashboard, selecting a theme and figuring out how to post. Even for those who are into technology, setting up your first blog can seem overwhelming until you get the hang of it. The students needed dedicated time to figure out the practicalities of their blog.Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional development

 4. Link the blogs to the course content.

Emphasize that the topics that students post on need to relate to the cours content. Topics covered in class or questions raised during class were some suggestions. At times, I would encourage students to think about their blog by saying in class, “That is good fodder for a blog post.” This helped them to think about what a learning blog is and what topics make for good blog posts.

5. Assign a certain number of postings.

In our course, students had to publish a minimum of four posts throughout their course. Their instructions included “keeping up-to-date with postings throughout the course”. About half of the students were able to do this. The other half waited until the end of the course and then published three or four postings at once. Many students admitted to having their blogs in draft form, but did not feel ready to publish them.

6. Assign a minimum number of words for each post.

In our course, students’ blog posts had to be a minimum of 200 words. This meant that writing was part of the assignment. It was not enough to post a graphic or a video without a reflective response.

7. Encourage multimedia.

In addition to the 200 words, I encouraged students to post videos, graphics, Wordles and other multimedia to their blogs. Since our course was about incorporating technology into inquiry-based learning, this was appropriate. Some students were able to incorporate media quite easily, but others struggled with this.

8. Encourage students to include a blogroll.

Students were expected to read and comment on each other’s posts. To help them with this, we had each student post their blog address in our online class Blackboard site. I encouraged each student to include a blog roll on their own blogs, so they could easily access each other’s blogs. Not all the students figured out how to do this, but most of them were able to set up a blog roll. This helped them to keep track of each other’s blogs more easily.

9. Include commenting and interactivity as part of the assignment.

Part of the learning task included students commenting on their classmates’ blog posts at least twice. These comments counted as part of their grade for the assignment. Students were asked to post thoughtful and reflective comments that went beyond “Good post!” or “I liked this”. This proved to be problematic at the beginning, as some students had difficulty figuring out how to approve comments. Until they did, their peers’ comments did not show up on their blogs. Once the students figured out how to approve each other’s comments, this went much more smoothly.

10. Talk about blogging in class.

Not only did I highlight topics or questions that would make good blog posts, we also talked about the process of blogging in class. One student was excited to announce that someone from another country had read her blog post and “liked” it, using the “like” button in WordPress. Until then, she had no idea that anyone outside our class might read her blog posts. Knowing that another educator, whom she did not know, read and liked her post gave her great inspiration to keep writing. Her story also inspired the other students to think about how blogging can help them connect with others on a broader scale.

11. Differentiate between a personal and professional / educational blog.

Not only did I provide written instructions on the course outline, I also supported the written instructions with an in-class demo and ongoing discussions in class about blogging and how to use blogging for learning or professional teaching purposes. A couple of students had trouble figuring out how blogging for class differed from personal blogging. We talked about how a personal blog might include more family photos, recipes or other personal information, while a professional learning blog would include topics more focussed on work and our professional lives.

12. Help students find their blogging voice.

I made it clear that since the students were also professionals and teachers, that their blog was an extension of their professional selves. Some students initially found this a bit diffiult and said that they did not know what tone of voice to use in their blog. We had a conversation about language register and how a learning blog was one step down from a formal research paper and probably one step up from very informal conversations. By the end of the course, most of the students had found a happy medium.

Overall, the process of working with these adult learners (who are also teachers) in helping them learn how to blog was both challenging and rewarding. In the beginning, I had assumed (incorrectly) that since they had high levels of technology literacy and many of them teach tech as part of their professional practice, that they would find it easy to blog. In reality, it took time for them to learn the nuts and bolts of how to blog, to learn what topics made for a good blog post and to learn how to find their voice as a blogger.

In the end, they did extremely well with their blogs and I have subscribed to all of them. I am excited to see how they progress with blogging in thier next course.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

10 Tips to blog like a pro

January 10, 2012

I’ve been blogging since 2005. I started with a personal blog, that turned into a running blog. Eventually, that blog got retired. I started this blog two years ago, with a view to focussing on blogging professionally.

Here are some things I’ve learned about blogging over the past six years.

#1: Pick a topic or a theme

Sarah Eaton - Calgary, Canada - blog imageMy blog is about topics that interest me professionally. Granted, my professional interests are broad, spanning literacy, technology, leadership, second and foreign language teaching, pedagogy, teaching methodology, adult education, and using social media for professional purposes.

Although my professional interests are broad, it’s still essentially a blog by an educator, for other educators. I don’t blog about running here, or movies. I don’t post recipes or talk much about my family. If something impacts me in a powerful that is not related to my professional work and I feel compelled to blog about it, I reflect on the idea to see if there is a way to relate it to my work. If there is, I will tie it into my work somehow. That’s what I did in the case of the post, 21 Leadership Tips for Chairing Difficult Meetings. The strategies I blogged about where ones that I used in a meeting that was not work-related. But the techniques could easily be transferred to a professional context. I went through an analytical thinking process about how to relate the topic to my blog readers. Then I crafted the post. If there is no plausible and logical connection, I don’t blog about it.

Your blog topic does not have to be so narrowly focussed that you find it hard to write because you don’t want to post unless it is meets such a strict criteria. But it does help to have a general theme so readers know what to expect.

#2: Generate ideas on what to blog about

If you’re new to blogging you might think “171 articles in a year? How does she do that? I don’t have that much to say…”

I bet you do! If you are passionate about your profession, you can blog. Here are some ways to get ideas:

Conversations with co-workers – My colleagues often inspire me to write about something or share a resource. Regular old conversations with people you like at work can be a great source of inspiration.

Share something interesting resources – When I find a resource that gets me excited, I post about it. I want to share that resource with other people. My blog is generally where I do that . I also use Twitter a lot for that, too. Some people call Twitter a “micro-blogging” site.

Share your best tips – If you love what you do, then you likely try to find the best ways of doing what you do. I have shared tips on simple techniques I have used in my own teaching practice like “How to teach vocabulary with colored file cards”. Tips do not have to be in-depth to be effective.

Op/Eds – These are otherwise known as “Opinion / Editorials” Expressing an informed, well-researched opinion can be a way to engage readers’ minds and hearts. I have even had reporters call me and ask to interview me on the radio based on an Op/Ed post.

#3: Post regularly

In order for your blog to keep your readers’ interest, you must blog regularly. It may be helpful for you to set blogging goals. For example, last year, one of my goals was to post at least once a week.

According to my blog’s 2011 Year in Review (automatically generated by WordPress), I did 171 posts in 2011. That’s way more than I had originally planned. Having a goal kept me accountable to myself and my readers.

#4: Keep it professional

A professional blog is no place to put down your, trash talk your co-workers or use foul language. There have been issues that have made me deeply upset as a professional, like when the Calgary Board of Education decided that French was no longer mandatory in its schools. That decision enraged me as a professional. I wrote an Op/Ed blog post about it. Even though I was fit to be tied, I used professional language in the post.

Ultimately, blogs are public. Your boss may be reading. A prospective new boss who is looking to recruit you for an exciting new job may be reading. Your worst enemy may be reading, just waiting for a reason to call your professional behaviour into question.

If a new reader happens upon your blog or is forwarded a post by someone else, that reader will make a snap decision about you, your credibility and your professionalism within the first thirty seconds of reading. That does not mean that you cannot speak your mind or be controversial. It does mean that you need to understand that your blog is accessible 24/7 by both your friends, your enemies and those who haven’t yet decided which of those they want to be.

#5: Include pictures

Photos, graphs, inforgraphics and other pictures add visual interest to your blog. Sites like Stock Exchange Photography offer photos that you can use for free. My blog includes a combination of stock photos, personal photos and logos.

There are a couple of different ways of posting photos to blogs. One is to upload photos. Another is to link to a photo that has already been published online, then republish that photo on your blog, using their URL. Often (though not always), I post a photo from another site’s web page, using the URL link to post the photo. I do this if what I am writing about promotes their site. Specifically, if my post contains a photo that is a logo, I often use a URL link for the photo.

The Twitter logo to the left is an example of this. If you click on that photo, it should take you to the Twitter website.

Officially, you are supposed to ask organizations if you can use their logos, but if I’m doing a post on Twitter, that encourages my readers to go and use their product, that’s me promoting them in a positive and helpful way. It’s like free advertising for them. In that case, I don’t ask permission to use their logo.

#6 Use headers 

Using headers helps to visually break up your text. That makes it easier for readers to read your content.

Keep your headers short and concise. Ten words or fewer is ideal for a blog header. The longer your post, the more headers you want to use. The idea is to draw your reader’s attention to a section of your post, using a header to pique their interest.

Headers also help you to keep your writing organized. They ensure that each section of a post is focussed and relevant. If you have a paragraph that just does not seem to fit because you can not  think of a header that makes sense within a given post, that may be an indication that paragraph is a tangent. Copy it. Paste it into a new document and leave it there while you finish writing your post. Go back to it and look at it again. If it just doesn’t fit, then save it as a draft for a future post on a slightly different topic.

#7: Edit and spell-check your posts

It happens to every blogger that the occasional spelling or grammatical error creeps in. The reality is that most bloggers do not have external editors for their work. So the work of a blogger includes writing, editing, lay-out and publishing.

When I am writing a blog post, I will save drafts as I go. When I am done, I try to remember to spell check it. I read it over to see if it makes sense and has a logical flow. Then, before I hit “publish”, I look over it again to see if it makes sense visually.

For example, for this post, I did a once over to ensure that all the tips were in the right order. I changed the order of a couple of them to give the whole post what I thought was a better flow. This is part of the editing process that takes place after you have actually written your post. WordPress also offers a “Preview” feature that allows you to see how your post will look when it is published. It is helpful to have a look and see what your readers will see.

About 25 to 30% of the time I invest in each post is spent on post-writing work such as editing. Budge time to spell check and read over your blog posts. It does not mean that your blog will be perfect, but will add to the overall quality of your work.

#8: Schedule your posts

Blogging platforms like WordPress offer you the option to schedule the publication of your blog. Sometimes, I am a bit of an insomniac. I can be up at 1:30 a.m. blogging. But I never publish my blog posts at that time of night. I schedule them to go out the next morning. About 70% of my blog posts are published between 07:00 and 08:00 Mountain time.

I do that for two reasons. One is that it means there is some consistency for my readers as to when my posts come out. Secondly, it means that the posts will be published in many time zones during waking hours. It may be a bit early for folks on the West Coast of North America, and late for folks in the middle East and Asia, but in general, I find that scheduling my posts for publication at that time makes them available when they are “hot off the press” for the majority of my readers.

Think about your readers. Where do they live? If you don’t know, look at your own time zone and the time zones directly before and after yours and use that as a starting point.

#9: Understand that consistency matters

One of the central themes of this post is that consistency matters. It matters that you blog on a regular basis. It is important to gather your posts under a theme or topic and make a conscious decision to blog about topics related to your theme. It is helpful that you schedule the majority of you your posts to be published at a certain time of day. The point of doing all these things is to provide a consistent experience for your readers.

If you want to surprise your readers, take a strong stand on a topic related to your overall theme. Be provocative in your writing. But don’t blog about the party your neighbours had on the weekend that was so loud you could not sleep; not unless you can find some way to relate that in a meaningful way to your readers.

Blog readers come to expect a certain level of consistency. When you provide that, you will be rewarded with consistency in return. You’ll get more regular subscribers, more people reading your blog on a consistent basis (even if they do not subscribe) and more comments from people who identify with what you write.

#10 Make readers the reason you blog

There are thousands of bloggers who write only for themselves. For these bloggers, it is about their self-expression, their creativity, their freedom of speech. For the person who feels disempowered and is struggling to find a voice, blogging for these reasons is admirable. It may be a valuable part of the healing process.

But ultimately, if you want to engage readers, your blog has to provide some value to them. It has to be interesting to them. It has to make them want to read more.

Every blog post does not have to hit every reader 100%. In fact, it probably can’t. The old adage of “You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time” is also true for blogging.

Every time I sit down to write I think about who’s on the receiving end of the post. Who will be reading it? What will it mean for them? How can they use this to become better informed, reflect on their own professional practice or learn something new? What’s in it for them?

The more your blog is about your readers, the more likely your readers are to enjoy it.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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