Monday, June 07, 2010

Fourth guest post - Shelly Terrell, author of The 30 Goals Challenge

This week's guest blog is from Shelly Terrell, currently one of the top bloggers in ELT. She is a technology teacher trainer, the VP of Educator Outreach for, and an English language teacher based in Germany. She is the co-organizer and co-creator of the award winning educational projects, Edchat and the Virtual Round Table ELT conference. The New York Times learning blog has included her on its list of the top 78 educators to follow. Her language education blog, Teacher Reboot Camp Blog, is ranked as one of the top 50 best blogs for education leaders and as one of the top 10 for English language teachers. I invited her to talk a little bit about her e-book, The 30 Goals Challenge, and her motivation for self-publishing.

The 30 Goals Challenge: Join the Movement

The 30 Goals Challenge did not begin as an e-book. The 30 Goals Challenge began as a blog series. In January 2010, I set-out to complete 30 short-term goals and invited my readers to complete these with me. We accomplished one goal a day. The idea was that at the end of the month we would feel like we accomplished so much and this feeling would help spur us to accomplish more throughout the year. Previously, I had set out to accomplish so many long-term goals and remembered that at the end of every January I was dejected when I had not made any progress.

A Community Movement

The experience was incredible. Each day, I was able to read blog posts from others who reported their experiences accomplishing the goals. I read comments and e-mails where perspectives were changed. I read how teachers stepped out of their comfort zones and how this improved their students' learning. These were 30 social media goals aimed at professional development for teachers new to social media. We accomplished them as a community and helped encouraged each other, because accomplishing a goal a day and blogging about it is not an easy task. We needed the support, therefore, I created a hashtag, #30goals, and we were able to communicate that way as well. We learned from each other and discovered how each of us tackled each goal. We learned from each other and supported each other.

Self-Publishing Challenges

February quickly came and the challenge was over and many others wanted to start the challenge. This is when I decided to offer The 30 Goals Challenge as a free e-book. A blog limits the way readers can interact with materials. Posts are not linear and the reader cannot shuffle back and forth like they can with an e-book. Also, I wanted whoever took the challenge to be able to print the e-book and make notes.

After deciding to create the e-book, I had to decided how to self-publish this e-book. I tried several free services and spent hours trying to accomplish this by February. The 30 Goals Challenge was unique. Each post had links to resources and I wanted to ensure the e-book was clickable. Additionally, I wanted to make sure that people could download the e-book in paper form for free. Also, I wanted to be able to design the e-book and have statistics of how many people viewed the book. After researching several websites, I picked Yudu as the website to publish the book. Yudu is a free service that allows you to easily embed your e-book, allows readers to view the book online, and allows for clickable links. For those just starting to publish an e-book this is an excellent service. You have the option of charging for the book and paying for your book to be read on mobile devices. The website is easy to use and offers a free registration.

PDF Woes

Before adding the book to Yudu, I had to create a PDF of the book with clickable links. I investigated several ways to accomplish this task. This took several hours of research, because each PDF service would not allow me to include clickable links. Finally, I discovered how to do this by using Open Office, the free alternative to Microsoft Word. I created the e-book with Open Office and included the clickable links and images. Then I saved the document as a PDF. This was the only free software I found that made adding clickable links possible. Creating the PDF was simple with Open Office and I would do this again.

How the 30 Goals Challenged Improved My Blogging

Creating this e-book not only helped me accomplish more than I ever accomplished in a month, but the experienced helped me grow and shine in so many ways. First, I learned about community building and support. The e-book increased my blog traffic and helped me build relationships with my readers. For this reason, I strongly believe that bloggers should try self-publishing, especially if they want to sell a book some day. A free e-book helps your readers discover your writing style and thoughts. If they like your e-book, then they are more likely to buy a book from you in the future.

In May I celebrated my blog's one year anniversary. This e-book has helped my blog achieve so much in one year and the blog has won numerous awards in such a short time. I believe this success has been because of the 30 Goals Challenge. In 4 months, The 30 Goals Challenge: Join the Movement has been viewed over 1500 times. Others have been inspired to create their own e-book series due to the 30 Goals Challenge. Some of the educators have shared this with their teachers and others with student teachers. As the summer begins, many have told me they will start the challenge.

You can download The 30 Goals Challenge for free here.