I first started blogging back in September of 2014. 100 posts and two and a half years later, a lot has changed from those early days. This post is a brief look behind the scenes of tekhnologic.
Last month, James Taylor wrote this post about 150 ELT blog posts ideas. I had been searching for an idea to commemorate my 100th post and I came across idea number 44 – behind the scenes of your blog.
I was enthused by this idea because a lot goes into the making of my blog. If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that my blog posts are usually centered around a template and its associated tutorials. I have created a lot of material over the last few years, but I have never really shared what goes into developing each blog post.
Image 1: My home computer system where I produced the majority of the material for my blog.
I generally write my blog posts on my home computer system. My primary computer is a tablet-PC hybrid that is connected to up to two additional external monitors. The main reason I work on a three-screen display is because I am usually multi-tasking.
Image of the Spinning Wheel template as projector on a surface.
I also prefer writing in my office because I can connect to my personal projector and test the templates I create. I can project them onto a wall and view the template in a similar size and scale that would be used in a classroom.
So, where to start? Of course, you start with the idea.
Step One: The Idea
Coming up with an idea is probably the hardest part of any blog post and although James has produced 150 ELT blog post ideas, I still spend a lot of my time thinking of ideas.
I rarely work on the first the idea that comes to mind. I think of a few ideas and keep some for future projects for the days when I find it difficult to find inspiration.
Sometimes, I will come across an idea that another educator has blogged about. If that post inspires me, and I try to elaborate or build upon that idea for my own selfish reasons. A good example of this is my Battleships post. Sometimes, I will be approached with an idea from another blogger and it will lead to a guest post or a jointly written article. Sometimes, a colleague will share an idea with me and I will ask permission to write it up as a post and produce a template for it. Sometimes, there are the ideas that come quickly to you on a Sunday afternoon, or the ideas that organically develop from what you are doing. And sometimes there are the ideas that you struggle to find, so you rely on the ideas that you put to the back of your mind for a rainy day; the Spinning Wheel was one of these ideas.
There are also the ideas that don’t seem to fit with the concept of your blog. A zero-preparation and low-tech activity wasn’t really consistent the original theme of my blog. As a result, I ended up creating a section of my website called tekhnologic lite, where I could present these types of activities. However, I still try to link it with my blog by providing a template or a video diagram that explains the activity (Star Interviews).
A few weeks ago, I decided that I would build a Spinning Wheel for PowerPoint. I finally had my idea, so the next step was to develop it.
Step Two: Making the template
Screenshot of working with the shapes and animations panes to create the Spinning Wheel in PowerPoint 2016.
Step two is probably the easiest step for me.
When I am thinking about the pros and cons of an idea or template, I usually consider whether it is possible to create it. So, by the time I get to step two, I have a very clear idea about how to produce the template.
The word that sums up step two for me would be patience.
The templates that are extremely quick to produce are the PDF and Word templates. A recent example of which would be Hearts Bingo. This bingo card only took around 20 minutes to create.
The templates that take the longest to produce are usually the PowerPoint templates.
If I am creating a PowerPoint for use in a class that is primarily text and images, I can produce them extremely quickly. Especially, since I have created my own templates to suit my style of teaching. I also have a library of old material that can be brought together to produce a new PowerPoint. Typically, I would spend 30 or 40 minutes producing a standard PowerPoint.
The templates that I produce for tekhnologic are not standard PowerPoints. They take time to create because they are the ones that are interactive in some form, require original graphics and use a lot of shapes and animations.
To give you some examples, Tic-Tac-Toe was created in around 50 minutes and the Spinning Wheel was created in around 90 minutes. However, there are some templates template take a long time to create, such as Battleships (3 hours and 52 minutes) and Spaceman (4 hours and 31 minutes). And there are the templates that need original graphics, sound, and were more complicated to build. These templates take an extremely long time to create, such as the Football Game (6 hours and 20 minutes) and the Dungeon Quiz (6 hours and 47 minutes).
Although creating the template is the easiest part for me, I have to build them over two or three days because of the time they take.
Step Three: Creating the videos
Screenshot of the Office Mix ribbon as seen in PowerPoint 2016
The next step is to create a video that accompanies the template.
Office Mix was a free add-on for PowerPoint and it was extremely easy to use. The original aim of Office Mix was to create interactive and online content that could be viewed by your chosen audience. However, it also has a screen recording function that can be used offline.
To use it, I drag a selection box around the area of the screen that I want to capture and I press record. Once I have finished performing all the actions for the demonstration or tutorial, I stop recording. My demonstration or tutorial appears as a video file within PowerPoint.
This video then needs to be exported or saved as a file on my local drive before I can start editing it.
The amount of time it takes me to produce a tutorial depends on how many times I make a mistake. Sometimes, I have to write a list of all the actions I want to record so I don’t miss a step or make a error. It never really takes longer than three attempts to produce the video but usually I am able to do everything I need to do in one take.
Step Four: Creating the images
Screenshot of the PowerPoint file used to create the Spinning Wheel’s featured image.
Once the original video has been made, I then need to create some images. Not only for use as the featured image in the post, or to accompany the text, but also as title images to be used in the final tutorial.
How long this stage takes depends on the number of images that need to be used and how many require editing.
If it is just a title image, this is probably the fastest stage. All I need to do is open PowerPoint and insert a box over the template I designed and write the article’s title. I also set the color transparency to 35% so it is possible to see the template’s image in the background.
Once that is done, I export the slide as a .png image and it is ready to be uploaded to the website and to be used while I finish editing the demo/tutorial video.
Step Five: Creating the tutorial
Screenshot of Sony’s Movie Studio showing how the demo/tutorial videos are edited.
I currently use Sony’s Movie Studio (Platinum) to create the demo/tutorial videos. This is not a free program and I purchased this copy in Japan, so I have to use the Japanese user-interface.
Before I started using Movie Studio, I used Windows Movie Maker, which was a free program that was part of the Windows Essentials 2012 suite. However, Windows Essentials is no longer available for download from the Microsoft website. Check what programs you have installed on your computer and whether you have a copy of Movie Maker installed.
At this stage, creating the videos don’t take that much time.
Once the title image, original video and credits image have been inserted, the only additional editing that needs to be done is to add the subtitles in the video. This is probably the longest part of the process.
Each subtitle explains part of the video and is placed at a relevant timeframe. The subtitles need to be limited to one short sentence that fits on the screen, so the video is not obscured by too much text. The start point, duration and color of the subtitles also have to be edited to correspond to video.
Once all the subtitles have been included, the video needs to be previewed and checked for the timing of the subtitles and any spelling errors. If there are no mistakes, the video edit can be saved and exported to an .mp4 video file.
The only thing left to do now is to check the size of the video file and whether the file needs compressing before being uploaded to the website.
Step Six: Writing the post
Screenshot of writing an article on WordPress.com.
Writing the article is probably the hardest part for me because this is where all those previous steps are supposed to come together to form a cohesive post. Even writing the introduction can seem like an insurmountable task sometimes, so I always start with what I know – describing the template.
One of the benefits of having multiple screens is that I can watch the tutorial video, see the template and write the article at the same time.
I usually start by writing out the subtitles from the video. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, I feel that it helpful to have the content of the video written in the article as well. Secondly, it gives me an easy starting to point to write the post. I find that once I have started writing, I can continue writing.
The next step is to think about how I would use the template in the classroom. Once I have done that I can begin to write down some suggestions and ideas. This is where the main body of a post gets written and where the ease of writing ends for me because the final step is to write an introduction and a conclusion. These are quite often the hardest parts.
The introduction needs to be clear and simple. It needs to explain what the post is going to be about so the reader can decide whether they want to keep reading. I don’t always succeed with this. The conclusion needs to sum everything up and bring the article to a close without it appearing as if it ends abruptly. Tying all these elements together can be challenging and would probably be easier if I were a better writer.
Once the article is complete, I proof read it and save a copy as word document. I can then publish the post on my website.
The final thing left to do is to share the post.
Step Seven: Sharing the post
Screenshots of recent posts that were shared on Facebook.
The last step is to share the post.
You not only need to be patient when putting a post together, but you need to be patient with sharing your work. You may find that you spend 5 hours putting a post together and it only gets read by a few people. You may be lucky and put a post together and it gets seen by thousands of people and shared by hundreds of people.
But with every post you learn.
That is, more or less, everything that goes into preparing a blog post on my site.
Allow me a moment to explain tekhnologic in numbers as well.
- Each blog post takes anywhere from 5 to 10 hours to produce.
- This is my 100th post.
- I have spent somewhere between 500 to 1000 hours developing the website.
- Tekhnologic has had 509,414 views to date.
- 84,021 templates and files have been downloaded to date.
And this what my blog looks like behind the scenes.
Are you a blogger? What goes on behind the scenes of your blog?
Please leave a comment to share your experiences. Also, if you have any ideas about what you would like to see come up in the next 100 posts, get in contact and let me know.
If you don’t want to leave a comment on this page, you can also send me a message on my Facebook page or on Twitter.
Thanks for reading and take care!
You may also like to go behind the scenes of other ELT blogs:
There is no one correct way to write a blog. Each ELT blogger is unique in their own approach. For a broader view, go behind the scenes of these other ELT bloggers.
I mean, I don’t plan blog posts, I do not schedule, and in general, my blogging is all over the place. That’s something you probably already know if you have been following me for a while.That is why some times I publish a zillion posts some months and others, just 2. You see most of my blog posts are me sharing thoughts. – Joanna Malefaki from My ELT Rambles talks about how she writes and plans her blog posts.
I never use my office to write a post, though. Most of the posts have been written while lying on the sofa, sitting in the garden, or having some quick coffee after a well-deserved siesta (I’m Spanish, you know?). – On the same page ELT is one year old (almost) and talks about writing and planning blog posts.
Some of my posts, then, are more like summaries of published ideas and research, in an attempt to help other teachers understand why I do what I do in my materials. – Clare’s ELT compendium takes us behind the scenes. See what goes into writing Clare’s blog.
You may also like to read:
How Blogging Changed Me was a response to the Blogging and Professional Development webinar led by Sandy Millin on May 21st as part of the British Council webinar series. This was actually the first webinar that I have been able to take part in and I wanted to take some time to reflect on what I learnt.
All images were created in Microsoft PowerPoint 2016. Microsoft® Office® is a copyrighted product of the Microsoft® corporation.
Screenshots of Movie Studio and WordPress.com were taken with Microsoft’s snipping tool.Movie Studio is a copyrighted product of the Sony corporation.
All media that accompanies this blog is for is for educational purposes only.