Activity 8…Promote That Blog

Last year I completed a 12 week professional development program for educators. The first activity was to set up this blog as a place to reflect on the course and communicate with other participants. This image shows the tools I used to develop my online Personal Learning Network (PLN).

VicPLN

For my post on “Promote That Blog” I selected words from this Wordle Build Blog Relationships to chat about.

Building a Personal Learning Network started with the 2010 Personal Learning Network for Victorian Schools program. Until then my PLN consisted mainly of colleagues at school, particularly those in the maths and science departments.

Now I think of my PLN as the whole collection of educators that I chat to, learn from and share information with, online and face to face.

The building of relationships started with a blog and grew as comments were exchanged between participants. Commenting built connections which started the process of peer to peer teaching, learning and the sharing of information.

The next stage of building a PLN took us out of the comfort zone of blogging and into the Twitter network of micro bloggers, using the hash tag #VicPLN.

After several attempts over a few months I was tweeting away and sharing links with my PLN. Twitter has become a place of professional development, with educators from around the world, at any time of day or night.

Connecting in real time, via Elluminate, in a webinar with passionate educators, has been a highlight of developing a PLN.

To appreciate my enthusiasm, have a look at Anne Mirtschin’s article “Building a Digital Classroom with Global Educators”, and read about yesterday’s Tech Talk Tuesdays webinar.

Lately Facebook has come to my attention, as a place for networking and continuing the conversation with my PLN.

I’ve created a professional account to chat with educators from around the world and a Group for mentoring participants doing the Teacher Challenge.

It’s early days yet, I need to continue scrutinising the settings and reading everyone’s tips.

I’ve been chatting about how my PLN developed without focusing on how to “Promote That Blog”. Having an online presence where you interact, comment on other’s blogs, tweet new posts, retweet great finds, share links, images, tools and quality information….that’s all good promotion.

It doesn’t have to be the explicit, in your face, shout it out from the rooftops kind of self promotion…for me it’s about staying safe online, feeling comfortable, being professional, making contributions, helping others and sharing information.

Would anyone be interested joining a Facebook Group to continue the conversation about using Facebook in education?

Let me know and I’ll start one up…

Thank you to the creators of Shabby Blogs for allowing me to use their images in this post.

 

Activity 7…A Blog With Legs And Bling

Glitter Words

I’ve enjoyed changing the appearance and content of my blog’s sidebar during this activity. After many face lifts it’s beginning to settle into a more professional space, thanks to the Teacher Challenge.

Believe me, I’m no computer expert and everything I have picked up has been self taught or the result of some basic professional development along the way. Back in the 90’s it was just expected that teachers would go digital with their report writing ordeal. It was a frustrating and steep learning curve for all of us.

I look back on those times and remember, not only feeling the pressure, but the excitement of this new way of processing and storing information. Back then I thought of CODE as being the language of computer gurus only.

Move the clock forward many years and I still have enormous respect for IT experts and their “language”. Last year I picked up some basic tips about HTML CODE from my kids and professional development coursework.

In this post I take a look at how to use HTML code to add bling to your blog, the essential widgets, adding a Creative Commons License and QR codes.

BLING

HTML code has become the source of my bling. I find it, move it, change it and use it to open up holes in my blog sidebar (Widgets) to let information flow in and out. I also use it to add other bits of interest, like images and video’s, to posts. A few symbols and numbers can transform a blog into a great looking, interactive space that connects with the wider web.

Here’s how I put the sparkling HTML bling into my blog:

  • go to Glitterfy and customse your word
  • select Gliterfy Text then copy the Website Code that appears
  • come back to the post you are editing, make sure you change the tab to HTML, paste in the code then publish
  • go and check out your bling
  • I’m predisposed to widget overload, so I took Sue Waters excellent advice “Getting more out of widgets.” and made sure that I’m using the recommended widgets.

    They are:

  • a search widget
  • an RSS widget
  • subscribe by Email
  • a categories widget (which I have called Blog Topics)
  • and a tag cloud widget
  • OTHER WIDGETS

    I’m all for sharing my work and am honored if someone wants to use or change it. Now I’d like some recognition and acknowledgement for what I’ve been up to. It’s not about ego or money, it’s about creating a professional identity as I contribute to the digital resources for educators on the internet. So, with all that said, I thought it time to put a Creative Commons License on my blog.

    Here’s how I did it:

  • go to the Creative Commons Australia website
  • select License
  • choose how you want to license your work
  • click on Select a License
  • choose which button you would like on your webpage then copy the code
  • go back to your blog, place a Text Widget on your sidebar, past in the code, save
  • go and check out your new license
  • About the others:

  • The Flickr badge makes the most of a photo collection by displaying a different combination of images every time someone logs on.
  • The revolving earth is sitting in the universe of my header and provides a visual connection to visitors. The changing snow patterns around the globe are updated.
  • Another visual representation of visitors is the flags. If no comments are made at least the symbol of where my visitors come from remains.
  • QR CODESWe’re all familiar with the barcodes found on virtually everything in the supermarket. Their one dimensional pattern captures information, which, when scanned, identifies the product.

     

    The barcode from a tin in my pantry.
    The barcode from a tin in my pantry.

    Two dimensional Quick Response (QR) codes arose out of a need to store more information such as URL’s, mobile phone numbers, text and images. This QR code holds information about me, such as my name, email and web address, made in this Address QR Generator.

    I entered my details, produced the code, copied and pasted the image to my desktop then uploaded it to this post. When I scan it with the QR Scanner (a free iphone app) my details appear and can be stored in the phone’s address book.

    A QR code containing some details about me.
    A QR code containing some details about me.

    Apparently, McDonalds in Japan are using QR codes on the burger boxes which, when scanned with an iphone, takes the consumer to a web page to check out nutritional information. I wonder if you can scan it before buying the burger?

    Enough of fast food, I’m more interested in the educational applications of QR codes that can give instant access to a wide range of information. To be honest, I’m not sure yet, but there are many great reads on the subject. Here are a few to have a look at:

  • Hot QR codes in the classroom and library
  • QR Codes In Education
  • QR code success using iPad and iPod touch
  • Activity 6…The Nerves Of The Blog

    CreationsByRichie.com - Banner Ads - Graphical Designs

    Media can can be colorful, entertaining, interesting, informative and educational. Terrific for spicing up the message you want to send to your readers while catering for different learning styles.

    I discussed images in my last post but here is just one more. This image has a mass of nerves, visually relating to the post title.

    Image created by Charis Tsevis and found on Flickr.
    Image created by Charis Tsevis and found on Flickr.

    Now for videos…I embed them into my blog posts because:

  • they can be instructional and used for teaching and learning
  • sometimes a video communicates a story or situation more effectively than text
  • they illustrate a point with humor
  • they can be used to explain difficult concepts to students in a more meaningful way.I have some videos to illustrate what I mean…please click on the link below each video if you have trouble viewing them.I love using this video because it’s so close to home. This challenging yet amusing situation, an adult trying to have a conversation with an adolescent, is one that I have experienced with students and my son. The video says it all!
    Video by Peter Denahy, YouTube link here

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_veIGGP1Uh4&w=560&h=349]
    I embedded this video by:

  • finding the video in YouTube then selecting the Embed button below it.
  • the embed code and size options will drop down, so select the size you want first.
  • copy the embed code
  • go back to your post and select the HTML tab instead of the Visual tab
  • paste the code into your post then updateHave you ever tried to teach the concept of pi during a maths class? This video combines art, history and music to help students understand it’s meaning.
    Video by Mitiaparadox, YouTube link here

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icrjzF3zl5A&w=425&h=349]
    This time lapse photography of the Milky Way is just beautiful. Great for science when chatting about Astronomy.

    [vimeo 8918647 w=400 h=225]

    The White Mountain

    Video by Charles Leung, Vimeo link here

    There are so many other things to embed into posts.
    Here is a slide show about brainstorming tips for teachers using PhotoPeach.

    Take Control Of Your Next Class Brainstorm on PhotoPeach

    Take Control Of Your Next Class Brainstorm on PhotoPeach

    http://photopeach.com/public/swf/story.swf

    Finally…a spiral of famous scientists and their inventions using PhotoPeach.

  • Activity 5…The Eyes Of The Blog

    Images Capture Interest
    womans-eyes
    So much information presented as text can be replaced by visuals. Images grab our attention, set the scene, take us back in time, stimulate interest in the grand scale of the universe all the way down to the arrangement of atoms in matter.

    There are so many ways images can be used in blogs for teaching and learning. Here are just a few suggestions.

    • Students can express their individuality on their “About Me” pages. I’ve used these websites to create a variety of self portraits and presented them as a poster using Glogster.


     

  • Conveying messages by adding text. The same websites were used again to create these images, presented as a collage, made in Photovisi . For example, it would be fun for students to use images in this way to blog about safety rules in the science lab. What about students taking photos of their science experiment? (this puts to good use all of those mobile phones hiding in bags, pockets and pencil cases) Instead of handing in a report see if they can visually represent The Scientific Method.
  • 6404DA63-31C9-713A-A19C-0EC67512EE1Cwallpaper


    • Presenting a research project. I used slideshare to display these images about the story of Titanic.


      [slideshare id=4932803&doc=titanic-100810001009-phpapp02] 

    • Displaying the world in minute detail. This collage was made in Photovisi.


    EB44E358-E1EC-D894-2438-EA4D8F960103wallpaper

    At the beginning of every year, when students take out their science books for the first time, notice how they love to flip through the pages and chat about the glossy images?

    Activity 4…Meet The Blog’s Brain

    Moving into an online presence is a choice that some of us don’t make easily. We have concerns about many issues, the main ones being our privacy and safety.

    Avatars are digital representations of ourselves that we feel comfortable hiding behind on the internet. We make sure that our children cannot be recognised by the avatars they create and use online. It is our duty of care.

    I chose SOUTH PARK Avatar Creator to make my first online persona. After many attempts I settled for one that featured a prominent characteristic of mine….the curly hair.

    A cropped version of this avatar has been “me” during 2010. I uploaded it to Global Teacher, Gravatar, the VicPLN Ning and to other websites where an avatar was appropriate to use. I was attached to it, secure behind it and happy with how it represented me. My online buddies and I started to recognise each other when we popped up on twitter, attached ourselves to posts and comments and left our image on many web pages.

    bwI’m more at home on the internet now, but certainly no less concerned about privacy and safety. Several weeks ago I decided to start 2011 with a slightly modified version of my real image. I still consider it to be an avatar….it’s not 100% me. I used a free photo editing program called FastStone Image Viewer to modify the original photograph.

    pen

    Here I chose Picassohead to make another avatar. Even though this program is limited in choices it is simple, easy to use and quick to produce a finished image. But…it doesn’t look anything like me. Avatars make me look too young…digital images favor the young and beautiful. To this day I haven’t seen one with wrinkles, baggy eyes and grey hair.

     

    images (1)Google reader…it’s a life saver but a headache maker. Once I caught on how to use it, that’s when my problem started. The notion that all of my reading can be redirected to me, all in one place, was way too tempting. I lost track of how many RSS feeds I sent to my Google Reader Account….but the sight of it when I returned from holidays wasn’t pretty. I felt stressed within minutes.

    As well as giving my Home Page a “spring clean”, I tossed many RSS feeds out of my Google Reader. To be able to read less, more thoroughly, rescued me from the stress of information overload.

    When flipping between Google Reader, Twitter and Facebook the same article can appear in all three locations. This sounds weird, but lately I have been using my Facebook News feed and Twitter stream for most of my reading. Google Reader I use mostly for Blog posts and comments. They complement each other in a way that helps me to stay in control of the constant stream on information that finds it’s way to my computer every day.

     

    Activity 3…Before And After The Spring Clean

    Trumpet-02-juneI found this to be a difficult task…to spring clean my About Me page.

    “Blowing my own trumpet”, so to speak, is not my way of doing things….I’d just rather do my best than brag about what, how, why and when I did it.

    So, after 10 months of blogging, building an online presence and growing my Personal Learning Network, I’m glad this Challenge suggested that I clean up my act.

    I’m glad because:

    • I realise that an About Me page isn’t about bragging. For readers keen enough to take a look, it’s a page that may generate interest and result in connections.
    • I no longer feel that putting carefully selected material in the internet is dangerous, it’s just a new way of doing things.
    • This page is part of my electronic portfolio or online journal. I’ve decided that CLOUD9 is my place to record and reflect on any Professional Development that I undertake.
    • Having left the classroom in 2010, but passionate to find employment in the area of Education during 2011, I believe that a professional online presence is necessary for the perusal of future employers.

    Here’s what I did:

    • Converted some of my information into a visual format. My introduction is now in the form of a letter and descriptive words about me are located in a word cloud.
    • I listed my professional interests, current activities and the professional development that I completed while on leave during 2010.
    • Added a link to my profile on Linkedin
    • To avoid text overkill I converted paragraphs into dot points

    So with visuals, links and dot points I have conveyed more information with less text.

    That’s enough…don’t want to sound too loud on that trumpet.

    Please leave a comment if you have any other suggestions. Thanks.

    Extension Activity

    A mind map showing the pages of this blog.

    Created in the program bubbl.us

    mindmap

    Activity 2…The Heartbeat Of The Blog

    hearts-afire

    My heart was touched by this effective post “It’s who I am…” found on Edna Sackson’s fabulous Blog…What Ed Said.

    In her post Edna encouraged me to read the reflections of her students Max and Emmit. These 12 year old boys have personal reasons to choose Autism for their social inequities unit. One is Autistic and the other is a supportive friend.

    This post is effective for me because:

    • The layout is is uncluttered, the post is not too long and the font is easy to read.
    • The content relates perfectly to and expands on the headline “It’s who I am…”
    • It is relevant to me as an educator who has experience working with Autistic students.
    • Edna’s post is persuasive because it is written for educators, she has shared the personal reflections of two students and I had an emotional response while reading it.
    • It is interesting, engaging and moving to read….Max has Autism and he is a good friend of his research partner, Emmit.
    • It’s unique….Edna has shared with me a rare opportunity to read the reflections of an Autistic student and his supportive friend.
    • This post is also promoting action…Max and Emmit wish to raise awareness about Autism in the community.

    blog_post
    Made with My Cool Signs.Net

    After reading the post on Darren Rowe’s blog, Nine Signs of and Effective Blog Post, here are some of the characteristics that make a blog post effective for me:

    1. The post layout is clear and easy to follow.
    2. The font is of a good size and there are not too many flashing and moving distractions.
    3. It’s not too long.
    4. It leaves me with an emotional response, something practical to try or some good links to follow up.
    5. When necessary, credible evidence is given for claims that are made.
    6. The writer is passionate and respectful of the intended audience.
    7. The post encourages the reader to reflect on, comment about or act on what is written.

    Thank you so much to Max and Emmit for sharing your reflections with us and to Edna Sackson for blogging about her amazing students.

     

    Activity 1….Down Blog’s Memory Lane

    TEACHER CHALLENGE BEGINS

    How good is this offer?

    Start 2011 with the Teacher Challenge, free professional learning supported by Edublogs.

    The first challenge is called “30 Days To Kick Start Your Blogging” with tasks for beginners and more established bloggers.

    Thank you to Sue Wyatt, Anne Mirtschin, Sue Waters and Ronnie Burt for providing this wonderful opportunity for educators to learn new skills and to share experiences along the way.

    Well, I’m going to have a crack at the first advanced activity: Down Blog’s Memory Lane

    I’m certainly no expert, but having blogged for 8 months here are my “10 things you should know about blogging” :

    1. It’s more meaningful to blog when you have a purpose….such as the Teacher Challenge. Last year I started this blog as part of a professional development program. I had a reason to post rather than just writing about random things that didn’t connect.
    2. You can find some great ideas and inspiration for your blog by reading other blogs. The Edublogger has many educational blogs look at.
    3. The Edublogs User Guide and The Edublogger are excellent resources when you need help.
    4. Don’t stress too much over what you are writing. If every post takes hours of writing, rewriting, stress, anxiety, self doubt etc…it will become a chore and a burden rather than an enjoyable opportunity to express yourself.
    5. Sometimes a message can be delivered more effectively by using an image or video rather than a page of text. Easier for you and more interesting for your readers.
    6. It is important to acknowledge the source of images, videos, links and quotes that you use in posts.
    7. Your readers will not always leave a comment. Don’t be too disappointed with the lack of feedback, get yourself a hit counter or flag counter and watch your visitors add up. It’s interesting to see readers dropping in from around the world.
    8. Comments on your posts can be encouraged by involving your readers. Maybe you could end a post with a question such as ….What do you think? Have you tried this? Does anyone want to add to this? etc.
    9. It’s best to make regular posts. (I need to work on this one.)
    10. You can promote yourself by making a “tweet” on Twitter whenever you publish a new post.
    A word cloud of this post.
    A word cloud of this post.