Embedding videos from Google Photo into posts

Google Photos is my favorite photo and video sharing/storage service but it can be frustrating when I want to embed my Google Photos videos into posts without uploading them to YouTube!

It’s tricky as you can’t embed directly from Google Photos so I’ve written this post to show how you can do it via Google Drive!

Video Embedded via Google Drive

But first let me show you a video that’s been embedded directly from Google Drive!

The following video was created from a series of videos captured during my 7 AM early morning winter walk in Kings Park, Perth, Western Australia.

I created the video to help others learn more about my City.  The videos were combined into one video using VivaVideo on my Android smartphone.

Why Google Drive?  Simple!

I don’t always want to share my videos using YouTube and educators I work with often want an alternative option to YouTube so I need to be able to explain how it is done.

About Google Photos

Why Google Photos if I’m using Google Drive to embed?

Good question!  I use Google Photos for most of the management of photo and video as Google Photos is great for sharing, editing and storing because:

  1. It automatically backs up all my photos and videos taken on my Android smartphone to Google Photos.
  2. Stores the images and videos as full HD and not compressed/low resolution copies like other services.
  3. Automatically organizes my photos based on data, people, locations and is easily searched.
  4. Makes it easily to edit and share photos to social networks.
  5. It includes an Assistant which allows me to easily create Albumns, Shared Albumns, Collages, Animations and simple videos using the app on my phone or via my web browser.

Google Photos makes it quick and easy to do so many different tasks except embed videos directly into posts.

This is where Google Drive or another video hosting solution is needed if you don’t want to use YouTube.

Embed video via Google Drive

Here’s how to embed your Google Photos video via Google Drive:

1. Log into Google Drive in the web browser on your computer using the same gmail account you use for Google Photos.

2.  Click on Google Photos folder in the left sidebar (images and photos are automatically added to Google Drive).

photos61

3.  Click on the video you want to embed and then click on the Pop-Out icon.

Click on pop out

Videos take some time to upload to Google Drive from Google Photos.  If the video has only recently backed up to Google Photos it mightn’t appear for awhile in Google Drive.

4.  Click on the Share icon.

Click on Share

5.  Click on Advanced option in Share window.

Click on Advanced

6.  Click on Change next to Private.

Click on Change

7.  Click on On – Any one with a link or On – Public on the web and then click on Save. 

Link Sharing

8.  Click on Done to close the Share window.

9.  Click on the More icons and then Embed Item link.

Click on More Icon

10.  Copy the embed code.

Copy the Embed code

11.  Paste the embed code into your post using Insert Embed in the Add Media Window and then click Insert into Post.

The method you use will depend on the website or blog platform you use.  This is how you do it on Edublogs and CampusPress networks.

Insert embed code

12.  Once your post is published you’ll see your video embedded.

Your Tips or Questions?

Hope this information helped!

Please leave a comment below to provide tips on how you share your videos or let me know if you have any questions.

What do you want to know about blogging with students?

I’m facilitating a session of blogging with students for ECAWA 2016 State Conference with Brette Lockyer and Michael Graffin on Saturday June 25 and we would love your help!

Background

We will be inviting participants in our session to share what they would like to learn during the session so we can personalize it to their needs.

Before the conference I’m trying to crowd source what you would like to know about student blogging — if you were able to attend a session on student blogging — to help us prepare as many answers as we can!

I’ll be publishing follow-up posts after the conference to provide the information we shared in the session and to answer any questions readers left on this post.

How you can help

Please leave a comment below to answers any of the following questions!

If you are new to blogging with students, or never blogged with students, we would like to know the following:

  1. What you would like to know about blogging with students?
  2. What grade(s)/subjects do you teach?
  3. Your class blog URL (optional).

For those experienced with blogging with students we would like to know:

  1. What are your tips for blogging with students?
  2. Your class blog URL (optional).

Thanks for your help!

Edublogs Plugins? Your Questions Answered

Last weekend at our local WordPress Meetup some members suggested we share the plugins we use.  Plugins can be very personal depending on the type of site you’re developing however I thought others would be interested in the plugins we use on Edublogs and our CampusPress networks.

So here it goes!

Here’s a summary of the plugins we provide for our users on Edublogs and our CampusPress networks as well as insight into the process we use when looking for new plugins.

About Edublogs | CampusPress

Here’s a bit of background on Edublogs and CampusPress to help provide insight into our plugin usage.

Edublogs is the largest education blogging platform on the web and hosts over 3 million blogs since 2005.  CampusPress is our white-labelled WordPress for Education solution for Schools, School Districts and Universities that want us to host the service on their own domain.  We host hundreds of WordPress Multisite networks customized specifically for education on CampusPress.

Edublogs and CampusPress are part of the Incsub which is also behind WPMU DEV. WPMU DEV is the largest premium WordPress site on the web.    Our team has more than 60 WordPress experts.

Plugins Access

Edublogs and WordPress.com are both hosted solutions but have been customized specifically to meet the needs of their users.  WordPress.com includes the more popular plugin functionality within their sites automatically.  Users don’t see a plugin menu item and can’t activate plugins.

We use a different approach to plugins on Edublogs.  Plugins that provide key functionality are automatically activated on all sites.  Examples of these types of plugins are the Classes plugin (powers My Class) and Reader plugin (powers the Reader).  Classes and Reader plugins were developed specifically for Edublogs by our developers and you’ll only find them on Edublogs and CampusPress networks.

We also provide plugins that our users can activate in Plugins > All menu in the dashboard of their sites.  We don’t automatically activate these plugins because not all users want access to all plugins.  There is no need to add extra menu items, features or functionality by activating a plugin if it isn’t needed.

Plugin Review Process

Edublogs and CampusPress is powered by a customized version of WordPress multisite.  Plugins are often designed to work on a single installs of self hosted WordPress and may not work or can cause problems on WordPress Multisite.

All plugins we install are thoroughly tested to ensure they won’t cause issues such as compatibility problems with other plugins and themes or impact server performance.

Plugin selection process is based on:

  • Can the functionality be achieved without installing a plugin?  For example, our users can use embed code in posts, pages and text widgets or the URL.  Sometimes plugin functionality they request can be achieved using embed code.
  • Does the plugin provide a feature or functionality that many of our users would want?
  • Does the plugin have potential to cause compatibility problems with other plugins and themes or impact server performance?
  • Is the plugin user friendly?   The less user friendly the more likely the plugin won’t be used.

New plugins are chosen based on requests for specific plugins or functionality from our users; or functionality we know our users would like.   Where possible we try to provide a plugin that provides the functionality our users want rather than provide several plugins that have similar functionality.

For example, we’re currently looking at adding a Slider plugin as it is a common request.  We start by looking at the specific plugins users have requested and compare them to review articles to see what others have said about the plugin.

Our testing process once we’re identified suitable plugins is:

  • Test on a single install of WordPress (to confirm the plugin is user friendly).
  • Test on Edublogs (Super admin user activated only as sometimes we need to make additional customizations for our server set up or to make it more user friendly).
  • Change to Edublogs Pro so users can use.
  • Upload to CampusPress networks once tested on Edublogs.

Plugins Overview

Below is a summary of the plugins users can activate in Plugins > All on Edublogs and CampusPress networks.  Occasionally we change the plugin name to make it more meaningful for our users so where possible I’ve linked their plugin name to where you can download the original plugin.

The Plugin Help is linked to support documents in our Edublogs User Guide.

You may also find out Edublogs User Guide documentation helpful.  Most of it is applicable to any WordPress powered blog.  We try to provide very detailed instructions with screenshots since our users range from very young students across all educational sectors.

Plugin  Used For Edublogs Help link
3D Rotating Cloud Adds the Wp-Culumus widget to Appearance > Widget which you use to add a beautiful rotating and animated representation of all your tags and categories to your blog sidebar. Plugin Help
AddThis Social Share Adds Social Share button to every post and page, so readers can easily share your content on their social networks.  You can also add the Social Share widget to your blog sidebar. Plugin Help
Calendar Calendar allows you to display a calendar of all your events and appointments as a page on your site, and gives you the ability to add them to your sidebars too.
Calendar+ Create, manage, and share your calendar and upcoming events. Plugin Help

Compfight Safe Images

*Modified to check a banned word list to make safer search.

Easy tool to quickly find, add Creative Commons images to your posts with attribution.  Once activated it adds a Compfight icon to your visual editor which you use to search and insert images using Compfight. Plugin Help
Contact Form Designed to add a straightforward contact form to your blog which allows visitors to your blog to send you an email. Plugin Help
Custom CSS Enables you to modify the theme’s fonts, colors, border and backgrounds by adding custom stylesheets to your blog. Plugin Help
Dogo Content widget Designed to easily add DOGO widgets to your blog’s sidebar where you can display engaging content from one or more DOGO websites. Plugin Help
Divi Builder Replaces the standard WordPress post editor with a drag and drop WordPress page builder that allows you to build beautiful designs and more diverse layouts quickly. Plugin Help
Duplicate Post Quick way to duplicate a post, or page, including the title, contents, tags and categories so you can re-use an existing post easily with minimal effort. Plugin Help
Easy Tables Quick and easy tool designed to help you add tables to your posts and pages. Plugin Help
Edit Flow Edit flow allows you to collaborate within a team on a group blog.
Embed Any Document Enables you to embed any document into a post or page. Plugin Help
Fancier Author Box Used to add detailed author biography with links to your social media networks to your posts, pages and custom post types. Plugin Help
Feedburner FeedSmith Allows you to redirect all your original Edublogs or CampusPress feed to your FeedBurner Feed. Plugin Help
Footnotes Provides an elegant and easy to add footnotes to posts and pages. Plugin Help
Formidable Forms Allows you to create a wide range of different types of forms. Plugin Help
Forums Adds forums to your blog. Plugin Help
Google Maps Allows you to easily embed, customize, and use Google maps on your blog.  You can also display local images and let your site visitors get directions in seconds. Plugin Help
Image Widget Makes it easy to add images and badges to your sidebar. Plugin Help
JetPack Jetpack is a single plugin that provides a suite of different features including post by email, ability to control which pages widgets are shown on, slideshows, extra image gallery option, auto post to your social media accounts, social share options and more. Plugin Help
JSON Feed Provides feeds in JSON form.
LaTex Maths Symbols Allows you to use LaTeX code in posts and comments.  LaTex is good for formatting mathematical formulas and equations. Plugin Help
Lightbox for images Adds an overlay that goes over the site and shows the larger version of the image when a reader clicks on the image so that readers can view without navigating away from the page. Plugin Help
Live Shortcodes Lets you quickly and easily add cool things to posts and pages such as accordions, toggles, tabs with minimal effort by configuring and inserting shortcode. Plugin Help
Live Stream Displays latest posts and comments in a continuously updating and slick looking widget.
Media Tree Allows you to easily group files into categories and display them in “tree” view in a post or page using shortcode. Plugin Help
PayPal Donations Designed to easily add a PayPal donate button to your blog’s sidebar. Plugin Help
Podcast Allows you to embed video and audio files inside an embedded player so your visitors can view them directly in their web browser.  Enhances WordPress’ existing podcast support by adding multiple iTunes-compatible feeds, media players, and an easy to use interface Plugin Help
Polldaddy Polls & Ratings Create and manage Polldaddy polls and ratings inside your blog.
Post Types Order Allows you to change the order of any posts or custom post types. Plugin Help
Print Friendly and PDF Optimize your posts and pages for printing and lets your readers download or email a PDF version of your posts or pages. Plugin Help
Review Notifications Notifies administrator of posts pending for review by email. Plugin Help
RSS Images Enables featured images in rss feed automatically.
RSS Just Better Allows you to display RSS feeds in your posts or via RSS Just Better widget. Plugin Help
Scheduled Content Allows you to make certain post or page content available only at scheduled periods. Plugin Help
Simply Snow Creates a snowing effect on your site.
Submission form creator Allows you to create and add almost any type of submission form to a post of page.

Supreme Google Webfont

*modified to only load selected fonts with more options in Settings > Writing

Adds Google webfonts into a nice dropdown list in your visual editor which you can use to change your font type and/or font size. Plugin Help
SyntaxHighlighter Evolved Easily post syntax-highlighted code to your site without having to modify the code at all.
Table of Contents Designed to help you add tables of contents to posts, pages and sidebars. Plugin Help
User Widget and profiles Displays blog participant info – number of posts and comments, and links to profile page.
Visual Editor Widget Adds a new ‘Visual Editor’ widget based on the native WordPress TinyMCE editor. Plugin Help
Wiki Adds a wiki to your blog. Plugin Help
WP Accessibility Provides options to improve accessibility in your blogs, including removing title attributes.
WP-CORS Allows you to control which external domains may make.
Zotpress Adds Zotero and scholarly blogging to your blog.

Your thoughts?

Hope this information helped!

Please leave a comment below if you have any questions or wanted to know more.

 

 

Join Me for Fitbit Goal Day 2016

May 21 is Fitbit’s #GoalDay2016 which encourages Fitbit community members to reach their personal step goal tomorrow.

Every day is a goal day for me while #GoalDay2016 as a great way to encourage us all to focus about our need to move more.

My Step Goal

Last year I decided I had to work harder on living a healthier life. Over the years my work changed from being very physically demanding to sedentary. Which hasn’t been good for my health. Besides eating a healthier diet, I set a goal of walking 10,000 steps every day. I’ve tried other forms of exercise and found unless it is an activity I do every day I eventually stop.

10,000 steps per day works for me. It’s been part of my life since August 31. During this time there has only be a few days where I haven’t reached my goal. It ensures I move more than I did and I’m healthier than I was. It also models to my children the importance of setting goals and focusing on living a healthier life style.

My routine varies slightly with the season and day of the week.  But most days I achieve my steps by doing a 6 KM (3.73 M) morning walk and a 4 KM (2.5 M) afternoon/evening walk.  My weekend walks are longer as I use them to catch up and socialize with friends on longer walks.

I use a Fitbit, even though I hate wearing anything on my wrist, because having the stats easily accessible on my wrist pushes me each day.  I’ve used a Fitbit Flex, Charge and now have a Fitbit Surge.  I like the Surge because it has built in GPS (which I like for mapping my longer walks) and it automatically detects/tracks any exercise.

You can also use Health apps on phones.  I avoided this option because I try not to take my phone when walking — it is my Internet free time.

Join me?

Any one want to join me for #GoalDay2016?  You can connect with me on Fitbit or leave a comment if you don’t use a Fitbit and are using a different device to track your steps.

Achieving my personal goal on May 21 will be challenging — you might beat me!  We’re expecting 10 to 20 mm of rain with possible thunderstorms.  But that mightn’t deter me.  One of my favorite walks (on my own) was 11 KM where I completed the second half the walk in the rain.

Enjoy walk along ocean in rain
Enjoying walk along ocean in rain

PS This weekend I’m participating in my first event with my husband.  A 12 KM (7.45 M) walk in the HBF Run for a Reason.  We’re both looking forward to it.

 

 

My Favorite Cookbooks in 2015

Mid 2014 we decided to help improve our diet, and the variety of food we eat, that we would have a new rule for home cooked meals — each dinner meal had to be different.

It wasn’t necessarily the easiest of rules but was achievable using weekly meal plans combined with a good selection of cookbooks.

Most content I prefer to read online but when it comes to cooking I prefer to grab a cookbook from my bookshelf.

Considering cookbooks are always in the Weekly top 10 best sellers at my local bookstores — I’m obviously not the only cookbook lover!  So I thought I would share my current favorite cookbooks in 2015 that have helped make me a better cook!

What’s for Dinner and Good Food. Good Life‘ by Curtis Stone
whatfor dinnerCurtis Stone’s ‘What’s for Dinner‘ and ‘Good Food. Good Life‘ are my favorite cookbooks.

When we implemented the new rule of every dinner meal had to be different Curtis’s ‘What’s for Dinner‘ was the first cookbook I started with.  I’ve cooked more recipes from his cookbooks than any other cookbook as his recipes always work out well.

Good Food. Good Life‘ is Curtis’s latest book published in March, 2015.

goodfoodWhat’s for Dinner‘ and ‘Good Food. Good Life‘ take a slightly different approach to the recipes.  ‘Good Food. Good Life‘ is packed with hidden gems that I didn’t initially appreciate because I’m a visual learner and not all recipes include photos.  ‘What’s for Dinner‘ was an excellent starting place for improving meals and ‘Good Food. Good Life‘ has been great for expanding cooking techniques.

I track recipes cooked using a Google Sheet.  You can check out the Curtis recipes I’ve cooked in the embedded Google Sheets below (color coding means Red = loved, Orange = liked, Blue – Did not like).

You can check out Curtis’s recipes on his website, Coles Recipes and cooking or watch his recipe videos on YouTube.

Everyday Super Food by Jamie Oliver

I brought Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food to work on eating healthier breakfasts.  Breakfast should make up 1/4 to 1/3 of our daily calorie intake — but most adults eat less than 265 calories and don’t eat a balanced breakfast.  My breakfasts were unbalanced and too low in calories.

Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food is packed full of great healthy, balanced and delicious recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks while providing good tips on health and nutrition.

I’ve learnt from our rule that every dinner meal had to be different that palate is very individual and you don’t know what you do or don’t like until you’ve tried it.  My husband and oldest son’s dislike of pumpkin and sweet potato is a classic example of this (how can any one really hate pumpkin and sweet potato?).  So my approach with Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food breakfasts has been to work through the recipes to work out what I do like and then adapt the recipes if I don’t like the taste but like the recipe concept.

Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food is the cookbook I’ve written the most notes in!  I’ve enjoyed working out how to adapt the recipes I like the concept of as much as cooking the recipes I liked.  My favorites are Awesome Granola Dust, Pretty Fruit Posts and I love Earl Grey Banana Bread (I freeze the Banana Bread in slices and eat it as a snack).  I haven’t found any recipe of Bircher muesli I like but have found some great baked oatmeal recipes.

I enjoy watching Jamie’s Everyday Super Food TV series because the show provides extra information or tips that you don’t necessarily appreciate in the book.   You can check out recipes from the book here.

Of the other Jamie Oliver books I own my next favorite one is Cook with Jamie.

Eggy Bread
Notes on Eggy Bread recipe for a healthier version of French Toast

The Food Lab:  Better Home Cooking through Science by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

The Food LabJ. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab is my cookbook for reading!  It’s the cookbook I read to learn more about the science that underpins cooking (which appeals to me with my science background).  I love how he explains that apprentice chefs in restaurants learn from the chef but don’t question what they learn while at home we learn from our family and cookbooks but never challenge the fundamentals. As you read through The Food Lab you realize how many of these fundamentals aren’t logical and don’t improve your cooking.

In terms of the recipes – they are more American style cooking which I enjoy being an Australian.  American style cooking is less common here in Australia. My only wish is I would have liked a metric version of the book.

The Food Lab also helped me organize my kitchen better.  Simple things like placing commonly used utensils in utensil holders close to the areas where I use them, using a Amco 2-in-1 Lemon & Lime Squeezer (for quickly squeezing lemon juice) and buying a good mandoline (I went with a Borner Mandoline because I’m accident prone) have made a difference.

And I’m now able to cook the perfect poach egg thanks to being introduced to Heston Blumenthal’s method of poaching eggs.

Matt Preston’s 100 Best Recipes

Matt PrestonMatt Preston’s books are my cookbooks I use for reading and for cooking.  Matt is a well known Australian food writer and MasterChef Australia Judge.  I love how he shares information on the history of different well known recipes and the inspirations behind his recipes.

Of the Matt Preston books I own 100 Best Recipes is my favorite.   Favorite recipes include ‘Lasagne that’s well worth the work’ and ‘That ex-girlfriend’s potato salad’.  My lasagne is based on Matt’s recipe using techniques I’ve learnt from Jamie Oliver’s Foodtube ‘How to cook classic lasagne’ video.  I cook half the quantity suggested in Matt’s recipe which is enough to feed us for two nights (family of four).

What Else?

My choices aren’t necessarily classic cookbooks.  But as a home cook, with discerning critics, my choices need to be based on cookbooks that provide recipes that are practical, work well and taste nice.

I’m always searching for new recipes or techniques to try.  Let me know in the comments below if you have any recipes or cookbooks I should check out.

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.

Background

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

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.

Recipes:

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

Chilli

Chilli
Chilli

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).

Recipes:

  1. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo

Chives

Chives
Chives

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.

Recipes:

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

Coriander

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

Coriander
Coriander

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.

Recipes:

  1. Grilled Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo

Lemon

Lemon
Lemon

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.

Recipes:

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

Mint

Mint
Mint

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.

Recipes:

  1. Vietnamese-style chicken salad 

Oregano

oregano
Oregano

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.

Recipes:

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

Parsley

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).

Recipes:

  1. Cheesy Garlic and Herb bread

Rosemary

Rosemary
Rosemary

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.

Recipes:

  1. Moroccan beef skewers

Sage

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

Tarragon
Tarragon

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.

Recipes:

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

Thyme

Thyme
Thyme

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

It is the most flavorsome when in flower.

Recipes:

  1. Fettuccine Bolognese
  2. Turkey meatballs with marina sauce

Tomato

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.

Recipes:

  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.

CurationTools

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

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

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

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?