First Site Guide was able to get in touch with Kelly Schenbeck Riley, who is in her eleventh year of teaching elementary music in central Ohio and is now the Music Specialist and Building Technology Coordinator at Washington Elementary in the Hilliard City Schools. She is currently running her own website, www.klsriley.com, where she is using technology to improve her teaching and her students’ learning. She has agreed to share her story of getting online with our readers and help them realize the importance of being online
How long have you been a music teacher?
I am in my 11th year teaching elementary general music.
How did you decide to create your own website and when?
I decided to create my own website after attending the TI:ME National Conference in 2011 where I saw Andy Zweibel’s presentation, “Music Teacher 2.0: Blogging Your Way to a Better Classroom.” It was phenomenal and eye-opening, and I immediately joined Twitter and started a blog.
Did you do it on your own and how long did it take you to come online?
I did do it on my own and was online in a matter of days.
How did you choose your domain name?
I wanted my email address, Twitter handle, and blog URL to be consistent. My email address was already klsriley (my initials and last name), so I kept it for my other online professional presences.
Did you register your domain name and hosting together or separately?
Initially I used a free domain and hosting. When I decided to go self-hosted after a few months of blogging, my husband, then a music technology graduate student, registered our domains and hosting together.
Which CMS – content management system do you use to run your website?
Which Social Media plugins you use on your website and their importance?
I have links to my Twitter feed and Pinterest boards on my website. I use If This Then That (ifttt.com) to cross post my new blog posts to Twitter with the hashtags #musedchat and #OMEAchat. That drives some traffic to my site, but I get more hits from Pinterest than anywhere else. I never Pin my own blog posts because I feel like that would be arrogant, and enough other music educators frequent my site and pin my ideas on their own boards. (Thanks, Pinners!)
Have you done any redesigns of your website since you started it and if yes,why?
I have only done minor redesigning of the overall look, mainly when I switched from free to self-hosted. My husband recently rewrote the code for my Online Music Games page – by far my most popular page – to make it look nicer and more user friendly.
How much time do you spend blogging?
I’m always thinking of posts and writing draft ideas, but I generally only post about once a month. It takes me a couple of hours to write a post from scratch. I update the For Students pages more regularly because my students use those pages as a resource during my music classes.
What is a best way to bring visitors to your website?
Using specific Twitter hashtags for music educators and participating in Twitter chats is what initially drove traffic to my site. By following other music educators and reading and commenting on their blogs, I built up my PLN and brought visitors to my site early on. Since Pinterest took off, it has been the biggest driver of hits on my site. I’m not even sure how that snowballed the way it has, because I never pin my own blog links.
Is there a way to monetize your website once you have so many visitors and followers and have you ever consider it?
I have been approached by a couple of advertisers, but I am not comfortable putting ads on my site because it is not just a blog – it is primarily my classroom website. I know a lot of bloggers use Teachers Pay Teachers to monetize their work, but that goes against my core philosophy as an educator. I believe teachers should share their ideas freely for the benefit of the students.
Since you created your own website, did it help you connect with your students and did it help in your career promotion?
My students use my website all the time, both in class and at home. I often direct parents to my site for information. I haven’t changed jobs since I started blogging, but I know that I am better known in the music education world because of my website and the connections I have made with my online PLN.
What would you say to a music teacher who is thinking about getting online?
Do it! And the sooner the better, because education is becoming more and more technology driven.
Any advice for a new website owner who wants to spread a word about his website?
Have authentic conversations with other music educators via social media to build your PLN and your audience.
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