Ways To Use Crowd Sourcing In The Classroom

Can you help?

I’m facilitating a session with Tzvi Pittinsky on using Crowd sourcing in the Classroom at ISTE 2015 and Tzvi decided that the best way to demonstrate the power of crowd sourcing is to crowd source our presentation.

Here is how you can help:

  1. Add a slide to the Google presentation, put up some text, perhaps add a picture, include your name and/or your Twitter handle or blog URL to share your ideas on how crowd sourcing can be used in the classroom.
  2. Share a link to our Google Presentation with your social networks.   The more ideas we receive, the better we demonstrate the power of crowd sourcing and its use in the classroom.
  3. Leave a comment on this post to share links to any recent articles you’ve written on this topic or additional ideas we could include in our presentation.

Presentation Background

Inspiration for our presentation developed from the relationship Tzvi and I formed while crowd sourcing notes from the ISTE 2014 conference.   Tzvi started crowdsourcing notes and resources being shared at ISTE 2014 into a Google spreadsheet when a friend of his asked if he could share his notes from sessions he attended with her as she wasn’t able to attend ISTE 2014.

Tzvi thought rather than just share his own reflections, and notes, with one individual; why not share his notes with everyone while also inviting others to share their own resources.

I wasn’t at ISTE 2014 but had decided to learn how much I could get out of ISTE from afar by being #NOTAtISTE using a range of different strategies — one of which involved curating the best information and content shared during the conference into the ISTE Insights Flipboard magazine with the help of Jeffrey See.  Together Jeffrey and I curated over 936 articles shared during ISTE 2014.

While curating articles into the ISTE Insights Flipboard magazine I started seeing requests to add to Tzvi’s Google Spreadsheet being shared.  It made logical sense for me to add links I saw into his Google spreadsheet while curating my Flipboard magazine since I was at home on a computer which is faster and easier compared to those at the conference.

After the conference Tzvi and I worked together to organize the Google spreadsheet into Categories to make it easier for others to search specific information.

ISTE Insight Magazine

You can read Tzvi’s reflections on this exhilarating experience here and here.

About our Presentation

Our plan is to demonstrate how participants at ISTE 2014 worked with global participants #NOTatISTE while encouraging participants to reflect on all the different ways crowdsourcing can be used in classrooms.

The crowd sourcing the presentation on Crowd sourcing in the Classroom  is based on Tom Barrett’s Interesting Ways series.

Tom Barrett began his series of using Google presentations to crowdsource ideas about the uses of different tools for the classroom in November 2007 — starting with One idea, one slide, one image.  Make sure you check out Tom Barrett’s series if you haven’t seen his Interesting Ways series.

Watch this video to see how crowd sourcing a Google presentation works.

Where’s Sue?

For those wondering if I’ll be at ISTE 2015 — the answer is no.  I’ll be participating again in #NOTatISTE and will be presenting remotely from Australia with Tzvi who will be at ISTE 2015.

I’m hoping that some of my friends at ISTE 2015 will be able to attend our session Crowd sourcing ISTE: A Dynamic Model for Collaboration Inside and Outside the Classroom on Monday June 29 8:30-9:30 to assist Tzvi if needed.

What else?

Thanks again for any help you can provide with our presentation.  Here’s the help again we need:

  1. Add a slide to the Google presentation, put up some text, perhaps add a picture, include your name and/or your Twitter handle or blog URL to share your ideas on how crowd sourcing can be used in the classroom.
  2. Share a link to our Google Presentation with your social networks.   The more ideas we receive, the better we demonstrate the power of crowd sourcing and its use in the classroom.
  3. Leave a comment on this post to share links to any recent articles you’ve written on this topic or additional ideas we could include in our presentation.

Thanks to the #NOTatISTE community (especially Jen Wagner for setting up this amazing community), Jeffrey See for helping with the Flipboard Magazine, those at ISTE 2014 and  Tzvi Pittinsky for the opportunity to present at ISTE 2015.

Learning by blogging: My Gardening Adventures

Blogging is an important part of how I learn.   The process of sharing information in posts helps me reflect deeper, document information I want to refer back to and provide a mechanism for others to provide input into aspects I hadn’t considered.

It’s also important to blog about what you’re passionate about , and what interests you.

The purpose of this post is to reflect on my veggie patch progress.  While the topic mightn’t necessarily be of interest — you might find it helpful to observe how someone like me uses blogging for learning and why it is important to encourage students to not only blog for school but allow them to blog about their passions.   It might also help those the develop school vegetable gardens with students.


Mid last year we decided to help improve our diet, and the variety of what we eat, we would have a new rule for home cooked meals — each meal had to be different.  Isn’t necessarily the easiest of rules  but has been achievable by working through recipe books by well known chiefs.  For those wondering my favorite is Curtis Stone’s What’s for Dinner.

Fresh herbs are an important part of many of these recipe.  Buying weekly fresh herbs isn’t cheap and I was frustrated by the wastage when they weren’t all used.   This inspired me to work on my gardening skills at the same time as improving cooking skills.

I don’t necessarily have the greenest thumb.  Our climate is temperate – warm summers with low humidity and cool winter with average annual lowest temperature of 5 C (41 F) which helps but our soil is sandy which isn’t the best for growing veggies.  It’s been trial and error; and I’ve been experimenting with a range of herbs and vegetables.

Gardening Frustrations

Trial and error is very frustrating.

My local store is always stocked with an extensive range of herb and vegetable seedlings.  I regularly purchase seedlings I hadn’t intended to buy (they call me!) that are either hard to grow, don’t suit our soil conditions or it isn’t the right season for planting in our garden.

Apparently it’s a common problem and the best ways to avoid it is to have a list of what you want to buy before going plant shopping.

To solve the problem I’ve developed my own planting guide for Perth based on recommendations by other local home gardeners and Gardenate.   Belle’s Vegetable Garden shares great insights into their gardening.  Their humor makes me laugh!  SilverbeetGood to grow if you like to eat it. Personally I think it is like eating dirt …

Plant Plant in Garden
Celery Nov, Dec
Coriander Sept, Oct, Nov
Basil Oct, Nov, Dec
Chilli Sept, Oct, Nov
Chives Any month except June, July, August
Curry Plant Oct
Dill Sept, Oct
Oregano Any month except June, July, August
Parsley Any month except June, July, August
Radish All months
Silver Beet Any month except June, July, August
Spring Onions Sept, Oct, Nov
Thyme Oct, Nov
Tomato (Cherry) Oct, Nov, Dec
Zucchini Nov, Dec
Mulching Garden bed Add Straw mulch late spring (November)

I haven’t included lemon tree, lime tree, mint, sage, tarragon in the planting guide as these shouldn’t need regular replanting.  Oregano and thyme don’t need regular replanting but have been included because both herbs have suffered from hubby turning off watering system.

My Herb Garden

Herb gardenMy herb garden is fairly small but includes all the herbs I need for cooking (except not all herbs are available year long).   I occasionally plant some vegetables among my herbs in the hope they may grow.

I also have a separate garden bed with a lemon tree and a lime tree as well as three rectangular small planters with a mixture of herbs and some veggies.

Below is a summary of the different herbs (and some veggies) I grow with links to recipes I enjoy cooking.


Basil is an annual plant that doesn’t like colder weather.  It should be planted once the night time temperature is above 10 C (which could be any time from late August to October in Perth).    It’ll continue to grow through until about mid May (unless your husband turns off the watering system and upsets the plants!).

Basil flowers during summer and the flower spikes should be regularly pruned to encourage bushiness.

Basil is easy to grow with a wide variety of basil to choose from.  I have three varieties of basil: sweet basil; Greek Basil and purple basil.  I confess I haven’t always been the greatest fan of eating basil but it has grown on me.  Haven’t been game enough yet to try my purple or Greek basil and they are on my to do list.

My other ‘to do’ is to look at preserving fresh basil as I produce more fresh basil in the growing season than we eat.


  1. Pesto glazed chicken breast with spaghetti
  2. Orecchiette with Brown Butter, Broccoli, Pine Nuts, and Basil (I add chicken as well).




Chilli are fairly easy to grow.  My biggest challenge is finding the right chilli varieties to grow!  Chilli’s I grew a few years ago were so hot only my friend could eat them.

Fortunately chilli seedlings now includes a chilli hottest rating to help with selection.

This summer I grew Chilli mild and Chilli Jalapeno.  Both produced chilli that were too mild for what I needed.  Next planting season I’m going to try some slightly hotter chilli varieties.

Chilli heat vary considerably even when they look the same.  A handy tip for working out the chilli heat is to cut the chilli in half, run your finger along the inside of the chilli, then rub it on your bottom lip.  If you feel nothing it is very mild.  Slight tingle means it is mild and you’ll know if it is hot.  Following this technique when using Chilli in a recipe helps ensure you get the desired amount of heat (or mildness).


  1. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo




Chives are perennial and easy to grow.  They die down in winter and return again in spring.

To harvest you should snip close to the ground rather than snipping ends of shoots otherwise stalks become tough.


  1.  Matt Preston’s Potato Salad (this is our favorite potato salad recipe).


Coriander grows best during cooler months. My coriander grew well during winter and spring but went to seed as it warmed up.



Pushing boundaries I planted two new advanced Coriander Slowbolt seedlings in summer. Slowbolt is a fast growing but slow bolting variety of coriander (i.e. bolting = goes to seed). Both plants are growing slowly and so far haven’t gone to seed.

Coriander and flat leaf parsley look very similar; it’s a good idea to keep them separate.


  1. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo




Lemon is the most common ingredient I use weekly and I can use up to 7 lemons per week which can cost about $7 per week.   We had an advanced lemon tree planted last November.

It’s already bearing fruit however I’ve discovered lemons gradually mature and it can take up to 9 months for lemons to change from green to yellow.

Apparently patience is a virtue.  Hopefully both my lemon and lime trees will eventually bear fruit.


  1. Roast Chicken with lemon & shallot asparagus
  2. Matt Preston’s Chicken with oregano, lemon and garlic.




Mint is incredibly easy to grow.  Once planted it keeps propagating and can take over the garden as it is very invasive.  I learnt the hard way years ago that the best option is to plant mint in pots otherwise you end up spending a lot of time pulling it out.

It dies off in winter and comes back in spring.


  1. Vietnamese-style chicken salad 




Oregano is a small perennial shrub that grows to 30 cm and produces white flowers in late summer.

My oregano hasn’t fully forgiven me for that time I didn’t realize the sprinkler wasn’t working. Need to do some more trimming to remove damaged leaves.


  1. Grilled lemon oregano lamb chops with rustic bread salad.
  2. Matt Preston’s Chicken with oregano, lemon and garlic.


Flat leaf parsley

Flat leaf parsley (Italian Parsley)

I have both curley leaf parsley and flat leaf parsley (Italian parsley).   Flat leaf parsley is used more in recipes because it is considered to have a more robust flavor while curley leaf parsley is more associated with decorating.

Parsley is one of the easiest herbs to grow.

My first batch of flat leaf parsley grew well over winter but went to seed early and had to be replaced.   Should have lasted 1 to 2 years.

Curley leaf Parsley

Curley leaf Parsley

I replaced with a range of different sized seedling batches but planted them when it was hot (they survived!).

Parsley doesn’t like being transplanted and are more temperamental if you plant seedlings during periods of warm weather (oops).


  1. Cheesy Garlic and Herb bread




Rosemary is one of the few plants that is Sue proof!  Easiest herb to grow.   Great for flavoring meat and roast veggies.

Perennial herb that produces spikes of lavender blue flowers from early August to October and should be pruned after flowering to maintain a dense shape.

My rosemary is a bit yellow and probably needs fertilizers.  Checking my soil pH is on my to-do list.


  1. Moroccan beef skewers


Sage is a tough perennial that has so far survived me (and the hubby factor).  There are several different varieties of Sage.

I have the common sage which has velvety, grey-green leaves, grows to 75 cm and produces pink flowers in spring.

  1. Homemade Ravioli of Pumpkin and Parmesan with Roasted Pine Nuts

Tarragon French



French tarragon is the most popular variety of tarragon because it has the peppery tarragon taste.  It needs to be propagated from cuttings as it really ever flowers.

It has thin grey green leaves on a sprawling bush that dies down in winter and returns again in spring.


  1. Poached Salmon with Green and Yellow Beans
  2. Easy flatbreads




Thyme is a perennial that grows to about 30 cm and produces pretty flowers in summer.

It is the most flavorsome when in flower.


  1. Fettuccine Bolognese
  2. Turkey meatballs with marina sauce


I’ve had varying success with tomato plants!  Bellie’s veggie garden reports the same issue.  They’ve been successful with cherry tomatoes but struggled with larger tomato varieties.

I’ve accepted defeat and next planting season I’m planting cherry tomatoes.   Proof it is in the best interest of the tomato plants.


  1. Homemade Pizza with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes, and Pesto

Your tips?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!  What else should I consider growing?

Still trying to work out how often I need to fertilize and what to use.  What is your advice?

I’ve also had a look at some of the gardening apps.  Do you use or recommend any?

And always looking for new recipes to try!  Feel free to share links to your favorite recipes.  You can check out my Recipes for Inspiration Flipboard magazine to see what I’m trying to learn or are thinking of trying.

Digital Curation: Putting the Pieces Together

Through digital curation we collect, manage and collate the best, most relevant content, on a specific topic or theme,  for ourselves and share with others.

Using tools like Scoop.it, Pinterest, Diigo and Livebinders educators collect the best resources to put them into context with organisation, annotation and presentation.

This post is a summary of the ideas. tips and resources shared during my presentation for the 2013 Reform Symposium e-Conference on digital curation.

Digital curation in education

It’s no longer just about creating content.  We are living in an era of content abundance.

It’s now about finding and putting content into a context, in a meaningful and organised way, around specific topics.

Using tools like Scoop.it, Pinterest, Diigo and Livebinders educators collect the best resources to put them into context with organisation, annotation and presentation.

The digital curation process

Types of tools needed

There are two types of tools needed for curation (watch Harold Rheingold’s interview with Robin Good on Curation):

Tools needed to curate

News discovery tools select and aggregate the content while the curation tools are used to display your content with context with organisation, annotation and presentation.  News discovery tools are all about saving time by feeding you the most relevant content.


Popular curation toolsThere are a gazilion tools you can use.; and which tools you use, and how you curate, is a personal as the tools you use to build your personal learning network (PLN).

Digital curation is a simple as:

  1. Find the tool(s) that you prefer to use for news discovery and for curation.
  2. Curate the content that helps you, and is helpful for others.
  3. Make it part of your routine to curate and share content.

You can check out examples of the different tools used by educators to curate in our Digital Curation – use in education storify or share information on how you curate by participating in our Digital curation survey.

Check out Curation: The Next Big C by John Pearce.

My Curation tools

My main curation tools are: my blogs ( The EdubloggerEdubogs Teacher ChallengesSue Waters);  FlipboardPinterestStorify; and Twitter.


Flipboard was originally designed as a social network aggregation, magazine-format app for iPad in 2010.  It is now the most popular of the magazine-like content aggrregator apps for iOS, Android, Kindle and Nook.

Flipboard’s strength is you are able to bring your social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn into one location alongside your favorite news sources and anything else you like to read, or watch (like YouTube) – all while making it easily to share your favorite content with your social networks and enabling you to easily curate your favorite content into Flipboard magazine(s)

Flipboard  is one of my key news discovery and curation tools because:

  1. It allows me to easily aggregrate content from a range of different sources.
  2. Quickly curate and share articles I like directly to my own magazine from within Flipboard (or using the Flip It bookmarklet in your web browser) while also sharing the articles with  with social networks at the same time!

Here’s a quick video on how I use Flipboard magazines to find, curate and share content.

You’ll find a complete step by step guide to setting up Flipboard here.


Pinterest is a pinboard-style visual booknarking website that allows users to create and manage visual content.   You can share images or videos you find online, or you can upload images directly to Pinterest.

Here’s some examples of our Pinterest boards:

Here’s a quick video on how to use Pinterest.


Storify allows you to curate your own stories from photos, video, tweets, what people post on social media sites and your own narration.

I use Storify as a way of pulling information shared on a topic in Twitter into one locate where I can refer back to it later.  For example.  I asked my Twitter network to share “Do you curate? What tools do you use? Why you curate? Why you don’t curate? Are you confused by what is digital curation?”  and then pulled their answers into this Digital Curation – use in education storify.

Here’s a quick video on how to use Storify.

What are your tips?

How do you curate?  What advice would you give others on curating content?  Is there anything I’ve included that you want covered in more detail?

Please tell us more about how you curate by participating in our Digital curation survey

Getting More Out of Student Blogging

Through ETMOOC participants like Lorraine Boulos are realizing “I am not just learning HOW to connect but WHY connect” and are now trying to transfer the skills they’re learning into their classrooms.

So I’ve put together tips for getting the most out of blogging with your student (you can watch the recorded ETMOOC student blogging session here).

For more information I recommend you work through our step by step guide to blogging with students.

About my work

But first to help you appreciate why I was asked to facilitate blogging session — I’ve been supporting educational blogs on Edublogs.org, Edublogs Campus and WPMU DEV since 2008.

We host over 2 million Edublogs worldwide in all educational sectors (K!2, Colleges, Universities, Vocational Education and Training, and more).

Pretty much 365 days a year I provide blogging assistance and get to see how blogs are used by different sectors globally.

The following ClustrMaps is from The Edublogger to provide you with an indication of the spread of educational blogging.

About Edublogs

How blogs are used

There is no one way to use a blog; educators use blogs for a wide range of purposes (as shown in the graphic below).

You can read a more detailed explanation of how educators use blogs here.

How blogs are used


The different blogging approaches used

While there is a wide range of reasons why educators use blogs; there are four main blogging approaches taken when educators use blogs with students.

These are:

  1. Class blog only – the educator publishes all the posts on the class blog and the students may respond by leaving comments.
  2. Class blog only – the educator and students both publish posts on the class blog.
  3. Student blogs only – each student has their own individual blog and there is no class blog.
  4. Class blog and student blogs – the educator publishes all the posts on the class blog and each student has their own individual blog.

Scaffold vs Struggle

The question is ‘scaffold vs struggle’.  Can you be too helpful when introducing blogging to students?

Jan Smith‘s advice is:

 The big idea is to go slow to go fast.

If you don’t lay the groundwork by building a community of trust, risk, support with your kids they fail big.

Reading and commenting have to be the core, or else a blog is just a digital bulletin board.

Being an expert at Grand Theft Auto on the X-box doesn’t mean you can jump in a car and drive it without being taught how to drive a car.  We teach our kids to drive because we know they need lessons to scaffold them from needing driving instructions to becoming independent drivers.

By doing so we’re hoping this is less likely to happen:

Photo by UnkowIT licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike.

It’s the same with our students when it comes to using technology in an educational context.  They might have grown up with technology but this doesn’t mean they’ll know how to use it in an educational learning context.

Almost all educators who blog well with their students use scaffolding – regardless of the age of the students.  It’s like teaching someone to drive a car.  They break down the process into key steps from learning to blog to becoming independent connected learners.

Here’s an example:

  • Bianca learnt to blog in Grade 2 in 2010 (in Kathleen Morris’s class) where she progressed from learning how to write quality comments, to writing posts on the class blog to having her own student blog.
  • Bianca has been in non blogging classrooms for the past 2 years and has continued to blog independently on her own student blog.

Below are the key scaffolding steps when using blogs for connected learning:

Scaffolding your student blogging


Digital footprint and your role

Digital Foot Prints

Photo by jjay69 licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike

But before talking more about blogging we need to discuss digital footprint and your role in  your student’s digital footprint.

Digital footprint is becoming an issue for us as students become more aware of their own digital footprint and how to check it.  We’re being contacted by former students, or their parents, regarding posts, comments or photos made of blogs back as far as 2008.

Google cache’s all websites so Google doesn’t need to constantly index webpages.  We can remove comments, posts, images from a blog on our servers and it can take a looooong time for it to disappear from Google Search results.

You can read more about how Google Cache works here.

Google Cache

This is why it is really important to educate students on digital footprint and leave it for them to create their digital footprint when they are older (or if they are University students let them decide if they want the blog to be part of their digital footprint).

Our recommendations are:

  • Never use full names for students.
  • Use only their first name or a pseudo name  and apply this rule to their username, blog URLs, any photos (including file names), documents, comments.
  • Educate their family e.g. encourage family to leave comments such as Matt’s mum or Samantha’s nana.

Developing quality commenting skills

As Kathleen Morris says:

If commenting skills are not taught and constantly reinforced, students will limit their comments to things like “I like your blog!” or “2KM is cool!”. While enthusiasm is high with these sorts of comments, students are not developing their literacy skills or having meaningful interactions with other members of the blogging community. Conversations in the comment section of a blog are such rich and meaningful learning experiences for students. Conversations begin with high quality comments.

Blogging is an authentic avenue for developing student literacy skills.   When you invest the time in teaching, modelling, revising and promoting high quality writing of comments, students can make great gains in their overall literacy development.

Check out improvements in student literacy skills through commenting here.

Set your standards high from the start and reap the rewards!

Tips from participants in the student blogging webinar for developing quality commenting skills included:

  • Provide fast, good, meaningful feedback that models the type of commenting you are targeting.
  • Show Linda Yollis’s ‘How to compose quality comments‘ video.
  • Start with a paper blogging lesson which includes commenting using Post-it notes.  We stress that you comment to keep conversations going (check out Learning to blog using paper).
  • Use an offline snowball activity.  Teacher provides a writing prompt and students write a post.  The paper is crumpled and tossed around the room until about 3 students have responded to their writing.  It is then returned to the original writer and the class debriefs the process.
  • Tour of blog comments may be helpful to showcase how it is done (here are some blogs to check).

Creating Global Connections

Connecting with other classes can have a huge impact on your class blog because:

  1. Your students benefit from having an authentic and global audience
  2. You gain from being supported by other educators — increasing your skills and developing new ideas that benefit your students

An authentic and global audience is important because:

  • When students are writing or publishing for an audience other the teacher, it impacts how they view what they doing and the intrinsic motivation they have.
  • Students love seeing their work on the Internet and adore getting comments from people. It motivates them to write as it gives them an audience that is real.  The blog opens up a whole new world of people who can offer encouragement and feedback.
  •  Blogging provides an authentic educational experience, where what they write is not only seen and commented on by their teacher, but by their peers and the “public.” For most students, it’s a bit of extra motivation knowing their peers will see their work.
  • There is an authentic audience – a global audience – one that is willing to connect, share, challenge, discuss and communicate with classes. This audience can provide further information, opinions, suggest resources, seek answers to questions and so on which pushes blogging further.
  • Provides real world problems and solutions to share.

Summarized from The State of Educational blogging in 2012.

Tips from participants in the student blogging webinar for global connections included:

  • It’s important to have a shared vision of what is blogging and what it can be when engaging in projects with other classes.  Worth taking the time to research the other class (aka spy on them) to see if you have similar shared visions).
  • Joining a community like the Student Blogging Challenge, QuadBlogging and Global Classroom Project helps.
  • Join relevant eLists, connect, liaise and then propose collaboration.

Read more about connecting with other classes here.

Getting Family Involved

Class blogs are an excellent way for parents to find out what is happening in class and what their child is learning.

As Kathleen Morris says:

You can’t leave parent participation to chance. Parents needs to be educated and regularly encouraged and invited to be part of your class blog.”  If you want to get the most out of your class blog you need to help parent and students connect with and easily find your class blog.

But there’s nothing more frustrating trying to find your teacher’s website and not being able to find it — make it too hard and they’ll quickly give up.

It’s quite common for educators new to blogging to assume their class blog is easily found using Google or that students will write the blog URL correctly in their notebook.  These aren’t good approaches and decrease the chances they will be able to find your class blog.

Experienced educators use several different methods to help parents and students:

  1. Understand what is a blog and how they can participate.
  2. Easily find the class blog.

Tips from participants in the student blogging webinar for getting family involved included:

  • Having a family blogging month.
  • Have grandparents write posts (here is an example).
  • Have students teach parents how to comment on posts.
  • Add your blog URL to your email signature, communicate with parents often and choose an obscure name for the blog.
  • Link to the class blog from the school website.

Monitoring Student Blogs

The final key ingredient in student blogging is to make sure you monitor your student blogs.

It’s important to know what is happening on your student blogs and be able to act quickly if necessarily.   Some educators do this by moderating all comments and/or posts so that only those they approve are published while others don’t and monitor student work using Google Reader.

Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Add yourself as an admin user to all student blogs so you can easily log into their dashboard to make changes if necessary.
  2. Monitor student work using Google Reader or some other option so you know what they are doing (you can do this using Users > Reports on Edublogs.org blogs)
  3. Add a link to all student blogs from your sidebar – set up a blog roll or use Class Blog widget if you’ve set up My Class.

If you are using My Class on an Edublogs.org blog this is done automatically for you when you set up My Class.

You can learn more about My Class here or watch the following videos.

For more information I recommend you work through our step by step guide to blogging with students.

Commenting Counts (or does it?)

We’ve worked hard emphasizing that reading other people’s posts and commenting on posts are both a very important part of the learning process as a blogger.

Maybe we’re wrong?  Or maybe we haven’t helped you experience it in action?

But what I do know is some have reflected they feel that commenting feels like a burden or that once you’ve made a comment it often goes no further.

I’m hoping this is where you’ll help out?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment:

  1. Has commenting helped your learning?  Yes or No?  Why?
  2. What advice would you give others on commenting?
  3. What else could we do to improve the process?

Advanced Blogging: You asked for it!

I was asked to facilitate a series of blogging sessions the Massive Open Online Course on Educational Technology (ETMOOC).  You can read more about connectivist MOOC’s and ETMOOC here.

This post is a summary of the ideas. tips and resources shared in the advanced blogging session.

You’ll find the recordings to the session here:

  1. Complete list of archived ETMOOC Blackboard Collaborate Sessions
  2. Introduction to Blogging – Jan 17 incl. Sue Wyatt, Peggy George (see supporting materials here).
  3. Introduction to Blogging (Director Cut) – repeat Jan 23 incl. Sue Wyatt, Alan Levine, Penny Bentley (see supporting materials here).
  4. Advanced Blogging – incl. Alec Couros, Sue Wyatt, Penny Bentley

The Advanced blogging session was a blend of what participants wanted to know mixed with skills they needed to know (Refer my Blogging questions Storify to see how this session was planned and the blogging tips shared by my network — thanks to all who helped plan this session!).


  • This is a long post!  Feel free to scroll down to the sections that interest  you!
  • I’ve kept it in the same sequence as the recording so you can use it to supplement the information covered.
  • I’ve also added some quick videos to demonstrate some ”how to’
  • You can download it as a PDF by clicking on the PrintFriendly icon at the top of the post.

Stop, look, link

Stop look linkFailure to link is a common mistake of all new bloggers!  Linking to articles, websites or other blogger’s post when you write about them is an important part of blogging.

Your readers want to be able to easy check out the information without needing to Google.

Links are the building blocks of the web.

When you link:

  1. You are crediting those who inspired your post.
  2. Making it easy for readers to check out resources and information for themselves.
  3. Building community, continuation of the conversation and reciprocity.

How to Link

Other common reasons why new bloggers fail to link include confusion on which words you link and which URLs you use.

It’s good blogging etiquette to link to:

  1. A person’s blog if you mention a blogger
  2. The post if you are talking about a particular post on a blog
  3. Website or article if mentioned in your post

Here’s how simple it is:

Without linking:

Listened to Sue Waters’s session on Intro to blogging.

With linking:

Listened to Sue Waters’s session on Intro to blogging (here’s her post from the session).

And it looks like this:

How to link

Adding a link is as easy as:

1.  Copy the URL of the website you want to link to.

Copy the URL

2.   In the post that you are writing (1) highlight the text you want linked to the website and click on (2) Insert/Edit Link button.

Highlight the text

3.  Paste the URL into (1) URL box and then click (2) Add Link.

It’s good practice to paste the link; it’s less likely you’ll type the link wrongly.

Paste the link

4.  When you view your blog you should now see the text is now linked in your blog post.

Commenting Etiquette and Tips

Commenting is as important, if not more important, than publishing posts.  Besides all the learning you achieve when commenting — it is important part of being part of a learning community and developing connections with others.

Commenting etiquette and tips include:

  1. Stay on topic.
  2. Contribute new ideas to the conversation
  3. Be polite .
  4. Respond back to comments on your own posts.

Here are tips shared by participants in the session:

Commenting tips

Digital Copyright and Fair Use

You can’t just use any image you like in a blog post.

Why?  Because unless stated otherwise, the law automatically grants full “copyright” over any creative work a person makes.

I’m sure you’re probably thinking it is okay because as educators, we have a few more flexible rules, called “Fair Use”, to play by.  Fair use, in some cases, if an image, text, video, etc. is being used for educational purposes, means you may have more flexible copyright rules.

The trouble is, most of the laws and rules that cover fair use and education were written well before the invention of the web.  They don’t apply to use of copyright material on the Internet.  Using copyright material leaves you open to copyright infringement.

So what does this mean?

You need to:

  1. Learn what images you are and aren’t allowed to use, and why.
  2. Learn how to attribute images you are allowed to use.
  3. Educate your students that you can’t just use any images off the Internet in their blog posts, show them how to source and attribute images they are allowed to use.

Understanding digital copyright is an essential skill we need to understand and teach our students.

Refer to The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons for comprehensive information on the use of images, curriculum docs, text and quotes, music, videos.

The safest way to source images for blog posts is to either use your own photos, images you created or use Creative Commons images (learn more about Creative Commons here).


Here’s a list of websites you can use for sourcing images:

  1. Compfight
  2. Flickr Blue Mountains
  3. Flickr Storm
  4. Simple CC Flickr Search
  5. Creative Commons Search
  6. Wikimedia Commons
  7. Findicon.com
  8. Open Clipart Library
  9. Morguefile
  10. StockVaul.net

Check out Joyce Valenza’s Comprehensive list of Copyright Friendly Image websites.

Using Creative Commons images

It’s a requirement of all Creative Commons Licenses that you attribute the original author.  This means you can’t just use a creative commons image without acknowledging the person who originally created it.

Below the image or at the end your blog post you must:

  1. Attribute the image
  2. Link the photo back to it’s original photo page
  3. Specify and link to the Creative Commons license used.

Image attribution

Check out links below to see how they work: 

Photo by Darwin Bell licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Tools for Sourcing Creative Commons Images

The easiest way to do this is using a Flickr Creative Commons tool such as:

Check out this video on how to add Creative Commons images using the Compfight Plugin:

The faster option!

Check out this video on how to add Creative Commons images using the Compfight:

 Use this option if you don’t have access to the Compfight plugin!

Using your own photos in blog posts

An alternative option to using Creative Commons images is to use your own photos.

However it is important to realise your photos are automatically copyrighted to you unless you state otherwise!  So you let others know how you allow them to use your photos.

This is easy!  Add a Creative Commons licences to your blog.

It’s as simple as:

1.  Go to Creative Commons Licences.

2.  Complete the form to choose the type of license you want to use.

3.  Copy the code.

Copy the code

4.  Log into your blog dashboard.

5.  Go to Appearance > Widgets.

6.  Drag a text widget into your sidebar.

7.  The widget will automatically open — just paste the code for your Creative Commons licence, click Save and then Close.

Paste the code

8.  You should now see your license in your blog sidebar!

Post Sharing Etiquette

We’re far more social now and more likely to use social network sites like Twitter and Facebook as a buffet; consuming whatever we want at our leisure by selecting posts from links shared by our networks.

So whether we feel comfortable or not — we need to be sharing our posts on social networks.  The trouble is how do we balance sharing our posts?  What is the appropriate etiquette?

Larry Ferlazzo provides excellent advice on this:

Use other social media to develop an audience for your blog, but don’t primarily make it about you.

Check out how Larry balances sharing his own posts with sharing other people’s resource’s here!

Here are tips shared by participants in the session:

Post Sharing etiquette

Making posts visually engaging

If you look closely at blogs you’ll notice many of them add cool interactive tools to their blog post.

They do this because things like slides, videos, comic strips, quizzes, polls in blog posts grab attention, engage and create opportunities for interaction in ways not achievable using plain text and images.

How you embed, or if you can embed, depends on what blog platform you’re using.

Here’s where you’ll find more information on embedding on Edublogs.org blogs:

  1. Embedding Flickr, YouTube, Tweets and more with a URL
  2. Embedding media including slides, quizzes, comic, polls
  3. Popular web tools that can be embedded

Check out this video on how to embed media using the URL:

Your Post Workflow

Some bloggers find having a workflow of how they create their blogs helps the process.

Here are the workflows shared by participants in the session:

Post Workflow

Here is my post workflow:

My workflow

Staying Sane: Letting Go To Learn More!

A common challenge with connected learning is you want to learn it all NOW!

But some times it is better to remember:


Adapted from Photo by pareeerica via Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0

I’m keen to see ETMOOC participants celebrating their learning and achievements in March like this:

Jumping Over The 3rd Largest Pyramid In The World

Adapted from photo by Anirudh Koul via Creative Commons ShareAlike

Rather give up feeling overwhelmed like this:

Remember you don’t need to follow every link, think about every conversation.

Thinks about what you want to learn and focus your time on this.  Sometimes quality is better than quantity.

Prioritizing your Learning

Below is a visualization of my work flow to show how I manage and prioritize my learning.

Hopefully it helps you?

Sketching my workflow helps me:

  1. Reflect on what I’m doing and areas I want to improve or make more time effective.
  2. Share with others so they can provide their input in other aspects I might consider.


  • I normally do this as a quick sketch, share it on Twitter and ask my followers for their input by asking them questions about it.
  • I’ve made it prettier using SnagIT so it is easier to see how I prioritize and manage my workload.

You’ll find my tips for working smarter in a learning community here.

My workflow

Thanks for Debs Seed and Sally Wilson for sharing their visualizations that reminded me that this is part of my practice; and Serge for spotlighting the benefits of creating a workflow.

And remember!

ETMOOC is all about your learning and what you want to learn!


Work smarter and stay connected in a learning community

A key skill working online is working out strategies that save you time.

It’s all about:

  • Working smarter not harder.
  • Saving time while maximizing outcome.
  • Learning to focus on what you want to learn – you don’t need to follow every link, think about every conversation.  Learn to let go!

And when you’re participating in a connectivist MOOC like ETMOOC where over 1,500 participants are interacting through their blogs,  Google+ community, through the ETMOOC Twitter hashtag and a wide range of tools working out strategies to work smarter are essential.

Off course developing strategies to work smarter is often easier said than done especially if you are new to this type of learning environment.

That’s where someone like me comes in.  As an experienced user I’m constantly fine tuning my strategies to work smarter.

Here are my strategies for working smarter as part of ETMOOC that will help you!

Take ideas from what I do and then find what works best for you!  

I’ve included tips for those who have an android tablet or iPad as they both are time savers since the apps make reading and interacting faster than using a computer.

Interacting in BlackBoard Collaborate

1.  Saving the Chat and Whiteboard

Trying to focus on the chat, what’s being said and the Whiteboard can be overwhelming.

Don’t stress or worry too much about keeping up.

You can easily save the Chat log and Whiteboard just before you leave the session; and then reflect on the conversations in your own time.

This is as simple as:

1.  Go to File > Save > Chat and save the chat log.

Save chat

2.  Go to File > Save > Whiteboard and save the whiteboard as a PDF.

Save Whiteboard

2.  Trouble shooting Collaborate issues

Some participants have had issues logging into the Collaborate sessions.

The best option is to visit the Blackboard Collaborate’s System Requirements page to ensure your systems meets their requirements and to test it using their configuration room.

All recorded sessions are archived here.

Interacting in the Google+ Community

1.  Turn off Email notifications

First tip that most are aware of is turn off the email notifications :)

The Google+ ETMOOC community has been so active that email overload has been an issue.

Google Plus notifications

Then all I do is twice daily check the Google+ ETMOOC communiity  and quickly review that latest updates.

You can learn more about using Google+ here.

2.  Use the Google+ app 

Next tip is it is faster to interact in the Google+ community using the Google+ app on an Android Tablet or iPad.  Also works quite well on an iPhone.

All I do is twice daily load the Google+ app on my Android tablet and quickly review that latest updates.

Below’s what it looks like reading on my Tablet:

Google Plus on an android tablet

Interacting with blog posts

1.  Subscribe to the ETMOOC blog hub post feed

The fastest way to read and interact with participants’ blogs is to add them to Google Reader using ETMOOC blog hub feed as follows:

1.  Logging into your Google Reader account

Here’s how to set up Google Reader if you’ve never used before.

2.  Click on Subscribe.

3.  Add this URL http://etmooc.org/hub/

For those using other types of RSS readers you will find the RSS feed at http://etmooc.org/hub/feed/

4.  Click Add.

Google Reader

Benefits of using the ETMOOC blog hub RSS are:

  1. It’s faster to quickly read recently updated posts.
  2. The full post is pulled into Google Reader, unless the blogger has used the Read More tag, so you can easily read the entire post inside Google Reader whereas only the post excerpt is display on the ETMOOC blog hub page.
2.  Read posts from Google Reader on a tablet

It’s faster to read posts in Google Reader on a tablet:

  1. Google Reader app – android tablet
  2. Reeder – iPad

Alternatively you can use a magazine style app like FlipBoard (use http://etmooc.org/hub/feed/ to subscribe using Flipboard).   Magazine style apps are personal preference.  I prefer to easily read the full post using the Google Reader app whereas magazine apps show the post excerpt in a magazine style layout.

Below is what a post looks like in the Google Reader app.

Reading in Google Reader app

Below is what the feed looks like in the FlipBoard app.

Reading in FlipBoard


3.  Subscribe to email notification of new comments

When you leave a comment on another participants post select the subscribe to email notification of new comments if they have this option.

This notifies you of any further comments on that post and makes it easier for you to continue the conversation in the comments — if you choose.

Subscribing to comments

If you’re using an Edublogs.org blog you need to:

  1. Go to Plugins
  2. Activate Subscribe to Comments plugin

Interacting with the #etmooc Hashtag on Twitter

1.  Set up a Twitter client and monitor the #etmooc hashtag 

A twitter client is a MUST as they provide instant notification of the latest updates and easy response to the tweets.  Which Twitter client you use is personal.

If you are new to Twitter start by first checking out this Twitter Guide.

Here is what I use:

  1. TweetDeck – on my computer.
  2. FlipBoard – my tablets

2.  Monitoring hashtags using TweetDeck

Here’s where you’ll find information on setting up TweetDeck.

Monitoring hashtags using TweetDeck is as simple as:

1.  Add your hashtag term to the search box in TweetDeck and press Enter.

2.  When the search window loads click on Add Column.

3.  Your search column will load in TweetDeck and all tweets using that hashtag will be updated as they’re tweeted.

2.  Monitoring hashtags using FlipBoard

There’s a range of different apps you could use to monitor the ETMOOC hashtag on Twitter however personally I think FlipBoard is one of the better options as it pulls in the post excerpt, videos and images if someone shares links in their tweet.

Below is what the #ETMOOC hashtag looks like in FlipBoard:

Hashtag in FlipBoard

Here’s where you’ll find information on setting up FlipBoard.

Monitoring hashtags using FlipBoard is as simple as:

1.  Tap on Search

Tap on search

2.  Add your hashtag ( #etmooc) to the search field and tap on search.

Add your hashtag

3.  Tap on the + sign next to Tweets mentioning your hashtag to add it to your FlipBoard.

Tap on add

Automating the sharing and collating process

IFTTT is a service that allows you to automate tasks.   It is pronounced like ‘gift’ without the ‘g’ and stands for “If this then that’.

What you do is set up different IFTTT recipes for the task you want to automate and each recipe is a combination of a trigger and an action.

For example, I can easily share posts I star in Google Reader with my Twitter followers automatically using IFTTT.

It sounds more confusing that it is!



Here’s how to automate sharing posts from Google reader using IFTTT:

1.  Sign up for IFTTT account.

2.  Go to Browse Recipes and find the recipe you want to use.

Find the recipe

4.  Click on the Arrow next to the recipe you want to use.

Click on Arrow

5. Click on Activate under each channel first.

Follow the instructions to authorize IFTTT to access the channels. In my example. I have to allow it to access Google reader and Twitter.  It’ll ask you to log into your account and then Authorize access.

Authorize the channels

6.  Scroll down and review what the Recipe does then click Use Recipe (if you want to use).

Click on Use Recipe

You can customise the recipe to suit your needs.  For example, I changed the order to tweet Item title and then Item URL.

Changing a recipe

Some followers assume I’m sharing a post I’ve read.  I could add this customisation:

Customising a recipe

7.  Now when I star a post in Google Reader it is shared automatically by my Twitter account.

Click on Star

Here’s an example of a tweet shared this way:

8.  IFTTT doesn’t process your actions immediately.

  • It’ll tweet links to starred Google Reader posts several minutes after I’ve starred them.
  • If you want to check if your recipe is working properly just click Check Now and it’ll immediately trigger the action.

Check now

9.  You can disable a recipe at any time by clicking on Turn off.

How you can use IFTTT

You can use IFTTT to automate a wide range of processes.   Check out IFTTT recipes others use for ideas and think about the tools you use regularly to see if there are recipes that will speed up the process.

These are the IFTTT recipes I use are:

  1. Tweet starred Google Reader post recipe – good for sharing posts you recommend to others on Twitter.
  2. Send Favorite Tweets to Evernote (workaround to Twitter trigger ending) recipe – great for collation links from Twitter to Evernote to refer to later.
  3. Tweet my blog post – good for automating the tweet of blog posts.

Learn to let go

When you’re new you think you need to know everything and keep up with it all right now!  You don’t!

Learn how to interact more time effectively reading blog posts. using Google+, Twitter hashtags and then focus on learning what you want to learn.  You don’t need to follow every link, think about every conversation.  You can always come back or ask others to help fill in the information you missed.

What are your tips?

These are my tips and what speeds up the process for me.   There are lots of different ways you can work smarter rather than harder.

What has helped you?  What advice would you give others?  Is there anything I’ve included that you want covered in more detail?

Learning through blogging as part of a connectivist MOOC

I was asked to facilitate sessions on blogging for the Massive Open Online Course on Educational Technology (#ETMOOC).  You can read more about connectivist MOOC’s and #ETMOOC here.

I’ve written this post to help participants better understand the ideas I discussed in my session and to make it easier to access the resources I recommend.

You’ll find the recordings to the session here:

  1. Complete list of archived ETMOOC Blackboard Collaborate Sessions
  2. Introduction to Blogging – Jan 17 incl. Sue Wyatt, Peggy George
  3. Introduction to Blogging (Director Cut) – repeat Jan 23 incl. Sue Wyatt, Alan Levine, Penny Bentley
Introduction to blogging session was repeated and there are differences between the two versions.

Purpose of this session

My session was meant to be an Introduction to blogging.

I’ve spent the week interacting with #ETMOOC participants through their blogs,  Google+ community and through the ETMOOC Twitter hashtag to identify what they really needed to know.

All participants have been ask to participate through their own blogs.  Quite a few participants are new to blogging and it’s really hard to appreciate how you might learn through blogging as part of a connectivist MOOC if you’ve never blogged before.

So I’ve decided to focus my session on what they really need to know to get the most out of their blogging as part of #ETMOOC;  as opposed to a more traditional introduction to blogging session.

More of an intro to the pedagogical aspects of blogging as opposed to the technical.

Hopefully I’ve got the balance right –since I’m writing this post before the session –but if not this post should help them work through the concepts I covered (or wanted to cover).

And for those that haven’t interacted with me before —

My waking hours are mostly spent helping others use their blogs effectively with students or for themselves;  in all educational sectors around the World.

Getting started blogging info

Here’s where you’ll find our step-by-step series to help you get started if you are new to blogging:

  1. Kick Start your personal blogging
  2. Kick Start your blogging with students

Strongly recommend you take the time to work through our kick start your personal blogging.  It takes you through the mechanics of what new edubloggers often want to know, and need to know.

You’ll find a comprehensive review on how educators use blogs with students and the blog platforms they use (and why) here.

How you learn through blogging

It’s an easy trap to focus too much on publishing posts while failing to appreciate that reading other people’s posts and commenting on posts are a very important part of the learning process as a blogger.

Blogging is a constant cycle of:

  1. Evaluate
  2. Review
  3. Reflect
  4. Revise

The idea of reflective blogging is you’re evaluating, reviewing, reflecting, revising while reading other people’s posts, commenting on their posts, writing  your own posts and commenting back on comments made by others on your own blog.

By following this process you’re learning at a deeper level and differently from how you’ve learnt previously; and you’re doing it as part of a community.

How to quickly read participant’s posts

With a connectivist MOOC like #ETMOOC there are so many participants having so many conversations on their blogs,  Google+ community and through the ETMOOC Twitter hashtag that it can be both overloading and overwhelming.

Key is to find effective strategies that make reading time efficient.  

Making reading time efficient is really easy once you know how!

All you need to do is  use the ETMOOC blog hub feed in Google Reader as follows:

1.  Logging into your Google Reader account

Here’s my introduction to RSS and Google Reader if you’ve never used before.

2.  Click on Subscribe.

3.  Add this URL http://etmooc.org/hub/

For those using other types of RSS readers you will find the RSS feed at http://etmooc.org/hub/feed/

4.  Click Add.

Subscribe to the blog hub

Benefits of using the ETMOOC blog hub RSS are:

  1. It’s faster to quickly read recently updated posts.
  2. The full post is pulled into Google Reader, unless the blogger has used the Read More tag, so you can easily read the entire post inside Google Reader whereas only the post excerpt is display on the ETMOOC blog hub page.

The ETMOOC blog hub is amazing work and even better than chocolate – if that is possible.   Thanks Alan for making it happen!

You can submit your blog to the ETMOOC blog hub here.

PS personal rant!  

  • If you’re using the Read More tag or set your RSS feed to Summary and not full text — DON’T.
  • Reader like me hate excerpts because it slows our reading down and means we’re less likely to bother reading your post.

Bonus tip!

TabletsIt is faster to read the posts using a tablet than using Google Reader on your computer.

If you don’t have an iPad or an Android tablet it is worth having one.  Feel free to tell your partner that Sue Waters said I needed one — if that helps!  On my android tablet I use the Google Reader app and on my iPad I use Reeder.  I prefer reading on my android using the Google Reader app.

How to quickly comment on participant’s posts

Now you’re able to time effectively read other participant’s posts adding a comment to their post is as simple as just click on the post’s title to visit a post to add a comment.


  1. Commenting is as important, if not more important, than publishing posts.
  2. Besides all the learning you achieve when commenting — it is important part of being part of a learning community and developing connections with others.
  3. Goal is to make time to comment on other participants posts; and ensure you respond back to comments by other participants on post on your blog.

Reading posts

Make sure you’ve select the subscribe to email notification of new comments if they have this option.

And finally writing posts

Notice I put posts last?  Deliberate :)

The idea of blogging as part of a constructivist MOOC is that you’re reflecting and sharing your learning.   Ideally what you’re looking for is to learn from others while building on, and adding to what you’ve learnt.  That’s why I’ve put writing posts last.

Sure they’ll probably give you some tasks to blog about — like they did for the orientation week activity but the idea is it is all about what you want to learn so you should also write posts about whatever else you’re learning or want to share.

The more you read, participate by leaving comments on other participant’s posts, engage in discussions and conversations — the more you’ll learn and want to share — and this is when you REFLECT on it by writing a post!

I strongly recommend you also read these tips for writing better blog posts — it should help!

Check out Alan Levine’s Blogging as pointless, incessant barking post – packed full of excellent tips!

Where now?

The challenge with longer posts like these are you can feel like the blogger has said everything.   Which I haven’t.

Now’s your opportunity to ask the questions about the:

  1. Stuff I didn’t have time to cover.
  2. The technical aspects on blogging I choose not to cover.
  3. Share your ideas on how you’re learning through blogging as part of a MOOC.

So leave a comment or write a post to reflect on what you’ve learnt.

An Aussie’s adventure in USA Part II: New York and Niagara Falls

As promised here’s the summary of our adventures in New York and Niagara Falls for those who have been following our Journey on Twitter and Instagram.

As mentioned in my previous post:

  1. Connecting with other educators on Twitter has enhanced the experience.  My twitter network have helped recommend places to check out and it has been invaluable for connecting face-to-face with other educators in the different cities we’ve visited.  You’ll find my guide to using Twitter here.
  2. Instagram has been a great way to quickly share photos from our trip.  Here’s how to use Instagram.

Here is where you will find all our photos:

  1. Photos from New York!
  2. Photos from Niagara Falls!
  3. Our photos on Instagram
  4. My video of Niagara Falls
Apologies but it is another long post.   Feel free to jump to the sections that interest you!

Day 1:

  • Rockefeller Center
  • Empire State Building
  • Grand Central Terminal
  • Times Square
  • 4th July Fireworks on Hudson River

Rockefeller Center

We started off the day with a visit to the Rockefeller Center where we saw the Today Show being filmed outside as part of the 4th July celebrations.  It was great walking through the crowd seeing all the people wearing 4th July clothes.

Today Show being filmed live outdoors at the Rockefeller Center for 4th July

Empire State Building

Visiting the Empire State Building was a prefect way to start off our visit to New York.  You can now purchase an audio-visual tour, which uses an iPod Touch.  As you view sights from the Building the tour provides an excellent introduction to New York and the Empire State Building.  Well worth paying the extra for the audio-visual tour.

We also visited the Empire State Building 102nd floor which is something I didn’t do last time I was in  New York.  My Mr13 hadn’t been keen to go up to the 102nd floor but was really glad when we did and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Being less crowded made viewing the sights better.

Empire State Building

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal is an important New York landmark and is located 5 minutes walk from our hotel.  Well worth the visit to check out the beautiful architecture, Grand Central Market and the Apple Store (a must visit for all Apple lovers).

We had wanted to do the audio tour of Grand Central Terminal but ran out of time.

1. View of Grand Central Station from a balcony 2. Grand Central Station 3. Apple Store in Grand Central Station 4. Grand Central Market

The Apple Store is located on a Grand Central balcony overlooking the Station and is one of the most impressive Apple stores I’ve visited.

Apple Store in Grand Central Station

Times Square

Times Square is one of the World’s most visited attractions.  The zoning ordinances in Times Square requires building owners to display illuminated signs which gives it a very distinctive feel.

It is also where you’ll find most of the Broadway shows.  And before any one asks — No!  We did not go to a Broadway show.  We were time challenged!

Times Square at night on the 4th July

4th July Fireworks

We finished off our day watching the 4th July fireworks near the USS Intrepid Museum on the Hudson River with our Aussie friends Ann MirtschinKathleen Morris and Nate Morris.   The best part of this was spending time with our Aussie friends.

I didn’t enjoy the fireworks but am glad we went to see what it was like.  I really had expected it to be much bigger, and better, than Perth’s Australia Day Sky Show when in reality it was the opposite.  It made me appreciate how special our Sky Show is and the work involved in making it happen.  But I also appreciate now why they couldn’t do the same as our Sky Show in NYC.

Our sky show has a crowd ranging in size from 200,000 to 400,000 supervised by a strong police presence.  It is a full on event with scheduled activities happening all around the Swan River during the day and into the night.  The fireworks are coordinated to Australian music which is simulcasted through a local radio station; and everywhere you can hear music while watching the fireworks.  The fireworks stream off tall buildings and are on barges on the Swan River.

They also start our fireworks with an Australian flag being flown around the Swan River under a helicopter with our National anthem playing.

NYC has millions watch the fireworks and it would be impossible to supervise that number of people if they tried to hold an event similar to ours.

4th July Fireworks in NYC

Day 2

  • Central Park
  • Museum of Natural History

Central Park

I really love Central Park.  You could spend days in Central Park and still never see  everything Central Park has to offer.

Central Park, NYC

Museum of Natural History

There is a trick to not getting lost in the Museum of Natural History and I still haven’t learnt it!

This time I downloaded their Museum of Natural History Explorer app (you can check out all their apps here).  The Explorer app is packed full of lots of great Museum adventures including Dino Tour and Night at the Museum Tour.  Even with the built in directions and GPS I managed to get lost.  Fortunately Mr13 is good at reading maps!

We really enjoyed the Museum of Natural History.  We would have loved to spend a lot longer there.  Our favorite exhibit was the Ocean Life Hall.

Museum of Natural History

Day 3

  • Manhattan Experience (8 hr)
  • Top of the Rock

Manhattan Experience

Each city we organised an all day tour so we make sure we see the city highlights.  In NYC we did the Grayline’s Manhattan Experience.    The tour was okay but I preferred the See it All NY tour we did last time I visited NYC.

With the See it All NY Tour you get off the bus with the tour guide at each stop.  The tour guide walks you to the location so you get a really good view of the sight and an excellent overview of what you are seeing.

On the Manhattan Experience you drive past most the sights on the bus, which I struggled to see, and only stopped at four locations to get off the bus.  One of the stops included 40 minutes at a souvenir shop.  I would have rather spent longer at General Grant’s tomb so we could have gone into the tomb or gone to China Town and walk through it than spend time at a souvenir shop.  The tour included a stop at Little Italy and people could have brought their souvenirs there.

1. General Grant’s Tomb 2. Little Italy 3. Charging Bull 4. Statue of Liberty

Top of the Rock

The Top of the Rock was included in the Manhattan Tour but you could use the entry ticket at any time so we decided to visit it at night because we had already done the Empire State Building during the day.

The Top of the Rock and the Empire State Building both give you views of NYC.   Personally we liked the Empire State Building more because the audio-visual tour enhanced the experience.  I also preferred the view during the day rather than the NYC lights at night.

Day 4

  • Rest day

Day 5

  • Subway
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Wall Street
  • Charging Bull
  • Trinity Church
  • St Paul’s
  • The High line

Subway Adventure

The NYC subway is one of the oldest and most extensive subway systems in the world and we decided we wanted to learn how to use the subway.  We did feel a bit intimidated initially because it is big subway system and we rarely use public transport at home.

The main things to be aware of are:

  1. Use with caution during rush hour as you may get trampled – almost happened to me).
  2. Don’t use at night – use taxis.
  3. Watch out for pick pockets – pretty sure a woman tried to pick pocket me on my first subway trip.
  4. Learn which direction is Uptown and which is Downtown – or in my case use the HotStop app (see below).

The subway is definitely the cheapest way of getting around NYC and all you need to do is buy a Metrocard.  You just swipe the metrocard as you enter into the subway.  We purchased 7 day unlimited metrocards but we would have probably been better sharing a Pay-Per-Ride Metrocard.

Easiest option for finding your way on the Subway is to download the HotStop app which you use to work out which subway station and subway you need to take.

Only other point I would make is last time we used a 3 Day Hop on Hop off bus pass.   This was good for the first day but wasn’t time efficient for other days because you are restricted to waiting while the bus stopped at every stop to get to the location you want to go.

Brooklyn Bridge

I’ve always wanted to walk the Brooklyn Bridge because it is one of the oldest suspension bridges in USA with an interesting history.  So we were both very excited to walk across the bridge!

I really wish I had read Jo Hawke’s post on Brooklyn Bridge before doing it as she has so many cool tips of extra things we could have done!

The Brooklyn Bridge

Around Wall Street

Wall Street is the financial District of NYC and is what makes NYC one of the World’s principal Center’s.

Wall Street is a key tourist location as people come here to see sights including the NYC Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve, Federal Hall National Memorial, The Trinity Church, St Paul’s Chapel, the Charging Bull, the Bowling Green, the World Trade center and it is close walking distance to all major ferry piers (such as Statue of Liberty tours, Staten Island, Governor’s Island).

Since 9/11 there is a very strong police and security presence in this area.  The biggest change since last time I visited NYC is they now have 24/7 police guards on the Charging Bull.

The Charging Bull is located in the Bowling Green near Wall Street and represents the aggressive financial optimism and prosperity.  It is one of NYC’s most photographed artworks and a popular tourist destination.

The aspect that had the biggest impact on us was visiting St Paul’s Chapel and learning more about their work during 9/11.  St Paul’s churchyard is opposite the World Trade Center.

1. Wall Street 2. The Federal Hall National Memorial 3. NYC Stock Exchange 4. The Charging Bull

The High Line

The High Line is 1.6 km linear park built on a section of the former elevated rail road which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan.

The High Line park was a sight that my Twitter network recommended that we visit and I’m really glad we did.  It is very spectacular; they’ve done an amazing job building this park along the elevated rail road.   It is an extremely popular tourist destination.

Day 7:

  • Statue of Liberty
  • Ellis Island

Statue of Liberty

I was undecided if we would go to visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island because it was very busy at this time of the year and the Statue of Liberty is currently undergoing 12 months restoration.

But I’m very glad we did.   The queue to visit Statue of Liberty wasn’t bad and nothing beats standing on Liberty Island looking up at the  Statue of Liberty.

Audio tours for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are now included in the cost of the visit which makes it one of the most economical NYC full day activity.

We started off our visit to Liberty Island in the Information Center watching  the Story of the Statue of Liberty.  This provided us with a very good introduction to the history of the Statue and then we followed it up by checking out the sights while listening to the audio tour.

Rather than being put off by the restoration work I found it fascinating.  I enjoyed watching them transporting the concrete trucks on the barge.

1. Looking up at Statue of Liberty 2. Close up of Statue of Liberty 3. Statue of Liberty Restoration work 4. Transporting equipment for restoration work

Ellis Island

Ellis Island was America’s largest and most active immigration station. From 1892 to 1924 over 12 million immigrants were processed on Ellis Island.

Last time I visited Ellis Island I struggled to get a lot out of the visit.  This time I was determined to get a better understanding of it’s role in immigration.

This time we started our visit off by watching the “Island of Hope, Island of Tears” Movie.  This really helped me understand it’s history so when we walked around listening to the audio tour we could visualize what it might have been like for the immigrants. Our afternoon on Ellis Island made me reflect on why my ancestors decided to migrant and why they chose Australia.

An interesting fact I hadn’t appreciated before was steerage and third class passengers were processed through Ellis Island where they underwent medical and legal inspection.   Whereas first and second class passengers normally weren’t subjected to this process, unless they were obviously sick, and were free to enter USA because it was believed if they could afford the cost of the ticket on the ship then they were financial enough to support themselves.

1. Ellis Island 2. Registry Room 3. Registry Room ceiling 4. Board of Special Inquiry Hearing Room

Niagara Falls

While staying in NYC we organize a 2 day trip from NYC to Niagara Falls.  It’s probably really good that I never checked how far Niagara Falls is by bus from NYC or we might not have gone :)

We covered over 1400 km (over 800 miles), and over 8 hours per day traveling on the bus, to visit the USA and Canadian side of Niagara Falls.  It was worth every minute!

You really need to see Niagara Falls to appreciate how incredible it is!

Hopefully my video of Niagara Falls gives some sense of how impressive it is?

You can check out all our photos from Niagara Falls here!

We hadn’t appreciated the amount of mist Niagara Falls produces.  The volume and speed of the water flowing over Niagara Falls creates an incredible mist plume which you see from miles away as you’re approaching the falls.

Mist rising from Niagara Falls

When we stopped next to Horseshoe Falls the mist was being blown at us and it was like standing outside in the rain (which is why Mr13  looks so wet).

The amount of mist and height of the mist plume is directly related to the temperature difference.   The greater the difference between air temperature and water temperature the more mist produced and the higher the plume.

Mr13 getting wet from mist falling from the Horseshoe Falls (Canadian Falls) at Niagara Falls, Canada.

Probably like most people I hadn’t realised that Niagara Falls is made up of three falls.   American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls are located in USA.

View of American Falls from the Maid of the Mist viewing platform on USA side.

The Horseshoe Falls (also known as Canadian Falls) is located mostly in Canada and 90% of the water flow from the Niagara Rivers flows over the Horseshoe Falls.

The Maid of the Mist going under the Horseshoe Falls.

Viewing Niagara Falls from both sides is definitely the way to go.  A visit to Goat Island in USA allows you to get scarily tooooo close to all the falls.

American Falls from Goat Island.

And yet again Twitter was invaluable!  We had an excellent time exploring Goat Island with Heidi Chaves.

Visiting Goat Island with Heidi Chaves.

Final thoughts

Hope you’ve enjoyed the highlights of our travel so far. Our next destination is Los Angles which I’ll cover in my next post.

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