3 Ideas For Making Your Blog More Engaging

Blogging isn’t publishing text!

And if your blogging program only involves students publishing posts with text or images — you’re implying to your students blogging is about writing when it isn’t.

It’s about sharing your learning and engaging with readers.

Blogging should include a media rich environment to engage readers, create opportunities for interaction, and should encourage students to express their creativity.

With maybe the occasional cat/dog joke?

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Here’s how you can do it:

Technology Task Challenges For Teachers

Stuck for ideas?  Check out Ron Burke‘s Technology Task Challenges for teachers courtesy of Laura Moore.

I’ve embedded Ron’s Technology Task Challenges for teachers Thinglink below. Each image on the Thinglink links to a different Technology task PDF.

Click on the Image or hover your mouse over the image then click Read More to access the PDF.

I’ve embedded Ron Burke‘s Padlet Challenge below so you can see what his Technology Task Challenges look like.

Web tools For Posts

The Thinglink, the Cat joke and the Padlet PDF are all examples of media from other websites being embedded into a post.

These are just simple examples.  There are a gazillion online tools that you can use to create slides, videos, comic strips, quizzes, polls and more which you can embed into posts and pages.

I’ve listed popular tools used by educators by activity type to help get you started here.    Each tool has been embedded into the post so you can see how the tools works.

I’ve added my section on Padlet from the post below so you can see the type of information shared for each tool.

Padlet

Padlet, originally known as Wallwisher, is an online notice board creator.  Padlet’s popularity is how fast and easy it is to create engaging activities to use with students.

You can read more about using Padlet with students here.

Made with Padlet

Widgets For Your Sidebar

You can also engage readers using Widgets in your sidebar.

I’ve assembled a list of popular and most useful widgets used on class blogs, student blogs and personal educator blogs which you can check out here.

Many of the widgets have been embedded in the post to show how they work.

Below is a small sample of my section on clocks and calendars so you can see the type of information shared for each widget.

Clocks and Calendars

Clocks are great for displaying the time in your location which helps when you are trying to develop connections with classes in other countries.  They also help younger students learn about time and time zones

Clock Link – 100’s of different and unique clocks of all types.

What Else?

Not all online tools are designed to be viewed on mobile devices.  Compare my Cool Tools to Embed post and my 40+ Popular widgets for your blog post in the web browser on your computer with how these posts look on a phone or tablet.

Subscribe to Laura Moore blog!  Laura provides great tips and trick for using technology with students.

Leave a comment below if I’ve missed your favourite tool in my Cool Tools to Embed post.

Digitizing My Family History

A picture isn’t worth a thousand words if you don’t have the context for interpreting the story behind the picture.

And you’re left with 100’s of family photos like I was when my grandfather died aged 98 in 2006.

Many were taken in 1920’s, some from late 1800’s and no one’s left that remembers all their stories.

Fortunately my grandfather was interested in the family ancestry since the 1930’s which left numerous documents and mementos as breadcrumbs!

I’ve embedded a Google photo of the Ockerby ancestry compiled by Rev Thomas Ockerby Hurst (my great-grandfather) in 1939 below so you can zoom in on the information easily.

And Hurst ancestry which I believe was compiled by my grandfather Charles Hurst.

Ockerby letter
Letter by my great-grandfather from 1908 announcing the birth of my grandfather.

The photos

I’ve started digitizing the photos to enable my relatives and others who are interested easy access.

You’ll find the photo’s digitized so far using the following links:

  1. Clarice Hurst’s photos 1920’s People 
  2. Clarice Hurst’s photos 1920’s Places
  3. Charles Hurst’s photos before 1930’s
  4. Charles Hurst’s photos after 1930’s

The Family History

I’ve also been researching and documenting my ancestry to piece together the stories behind the photos — to bring the stories back to life!

You’ll find Hill Family, Day Family and their Bridgetown, Western Australian history documented here.   I’m currently working on my Ockerby and Hurst family history.

I think I may also be luckier than most?

  1. Hill and Day ancestors – notable settlers in Bridgetown and other parts of Western Australia.
  2. Ockerby ancestors – notable settlers in Tasmania and some were prominent people in the early 1900’s in Western Australia.

They’ve featured in numerous historic newspaper articles which I’ve sourced via Trove (thanks to guidance from Sue Wyatt) and books:

  1. Featherstone and Mary Ockerby – Tasmanian Pioneers written by Kathy Wright (2004) – incredible work!
  2. Bridgetown the early years.  Book two, People of the Warren Blackwood District from 1950’s by Fran Taylor (2015) – includes a Chapter on the Hill family.
  3. Bridgetown the early years Book One by Fran Taylor (2014).  Doesn’t include the Hill family but provides invaluable insight into what life was like in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.

And my mother, Janne, has been helping me identify as many people as she can while sharing the stories she can remember.

And Yet I Ponder

Will I be able to identify the story behind each picture?  Probably not!  But maybe by sharing them all online others will eventually help?

Maybe someone will see this photo online and one day tell me if these are Day or Hill relatives?

Mid 1920’s

Or someone from South Australia will tell me about Bentley House?

Bentley House, Mt Gambier South Australia 1924

Or someone could tell me if this document is really from 1862 and if I should be doing something more to preserve it?

Old Document

The journey, and questions, continues….

This post was written in response to Photos – #EdublogsClub Prompt 4.

Dealing with Change

I really struggled writing this post. I’m not sure why?  Perhaps because normally during the writing process I’ll do a lot of research?

This post I just wanted to provide a couple of tips that have helped me over the year when implementing change.

Each helped in different ways including:

  • Handle my emotions better when a student expresses their frustrations at changes after spending hours planning sessions.
  • Accept that when delivering professional development that constraints that I have no control will impact — and change takes time.

And if the tips don’t help — I’ve gone with Plan B!

A couple of funny videos (maybe I should have gone with cat videos?).

Response To Change

We each respond differently to change!

While we can’t control how others will respond to being asked to change we can control how we react to their responses.

Whenever we ask someone to do something differently we are asking them to change, to let go of the familiar, to trust you in where you are taking them and what you are doing. The people you are asking to change are used to doing it one way, now you are saying lets try it another way!

GUESS WHAT?

Not everyone wants to change! Familiar is known, comfortable and secure.

Change is uncharted water; many people’s natural and rational response is resistance. Emotionally change can simultaneously bring joy and sorrow, gain and loss, satisfaction and disappointment.

There will always be a small number of people whose automatic response to any form of change will be to complain.

Understanding the impact change can have on others helped me:

  1. Accept that there will always be some that will complain or get upset.
  2. Taught me not to take it personally.
  3. Helped me handle my emotions better.
  4. Manage resistance better.
  5. Appreciate the need to discuss their feelings.

Time Taken To Effect Change

Implementing change takes time; change is not something that happens overnight.

For example, implementing a small change within an organisation can take 3-5 years compared to a large change that can take 5 – 10 year.

Often when we implement change we don’t allow adequate time for the change to occur.  Our focus should be on long term strategies.

What Else?

This post is part of the ongoing #EdublogsClub series. This week’s writing prompt was to write a post that discusses leadership, peer coaching, and/or effecting change

My other tips?  Research information on change management.  It helped me even if I couldn’t express my ideas well.

Feel free to leave your own tips (or links to funnier videos).

A Glimpse into My Work Life!

People I meet in person often find what I do unusual because I’m a remote worker who works very flexible hours. And those who know me online often assume I’m based in their time zone, USA time zone, or I’m a bot!

So I thought sharing a glimpse of my work life would provide an insight into what life is like as a remote worker.

Background

I’m the Support Manager for Edublogs and CampusPress — part of Incsub which is also behind WPMU DEV.

Inscub Is a specialist WordPress company with over 60 employees.  We’re spread across different countries and time zones; most are remote workers like myself.

My Computer

Much of my day is spent testing, supporting people using our blogging platforms, or working with our support team, developers and sysadmins.

I’m a notorious multi-tasker and can be working on several tasks at the same time.

My Computer
My Computer Set Up

I have a reasonably large desk with x3 24″ monitors.  I would have a fourth monitor if it would fit on my desk!

How does anyone get any work done with one monitor?

I run Windows because most of our users are Windows users.  My computer is housed in a noise reducing case — hate excessive computer noise!

Bonus tip:

Photos from my phone automatically upload to Google photos when I connect to wifi.

Search in Google photos is incredible! It’s very accurate. Rather than take a photo I quickly searched my computer to find the latest photos of my set up.

Google photo search
Searching Google photos

Company Communication

We use Slack for most company communications — with different slack channels for different teams or work tasks.

Slack provides real-time messaging, asynchronous messaging, enables us to send direct messages to each other, and lets us search for previous discussions on a topic and supports voice calls.

slack
What Slack looks like

Our slack conversations are generally very work focused.  However, we also use it for the occasional personal chatter, as highlighted above, like you have in an office.

Other Work Tools

Here’s a quick summary of some of the other work tools we use:

Helpscout is used for all email communications. It enables multiple staff to access at the same time and for emails to be assigned to different people with notes.

Helpscout

 

We use Google Docs and Google Spreadsheets because both enable us to work collaboratively and add comments for feedback.

We use Asana for managing tasks and projects.

And off course Twitter!  I have TweetDeck set up on my computer set up logged in @suewaters and @edublogs so I can quickly provide assistance by Twitter as needed.

Any time Any Where

I don’t work standard hours.  My work hours are flexible to fit in with when I need to work with other team members and to support our users.  And my phone is my portable work office for when I need to deal with something quickly if I’m away from my computer.

After all the articles written on why we shouldn’t take our mobile devices to bed, you would have thought that I would have learned by now?

I haven’t!

The After Midnight Google Hangout

Even after accidentally answering Google Hangout after midnight when I turned over the device.

Nothing like a live webinar from bed at 1 AM answering questions when you can barely think (and not dressed for the occasion).

Blogging session
Late night webinar

FYI William Chamberlain in the above photo isn’t the person who rang me!  He was one of the participants and probably wondered why I was making no sense.

Waking Up To Snakes

Or waking up to snake photos from my South African work colleague who was excited to share his latest photos; knowing I’m scared of snakes and I would be seeing the images as I wake up once he was asleep.

Google Hangout
Thoughtful work colleague 🙂

What Else?

This post is part of the ongoing #EdublogsClub series. Check it out and learn more here.

Hope you enjoyed the quick tour?  Was there any thing else you would like to know about what I do?

My Blogging Story: Part II

Blogging has been both transformational and life-changing for me.  As a result of blogging, I’ve changed how I learn, I’ve helped others make a difference in their life and changed my career.

So here’s my blogging story (Part II) which I’ve written as part of the weekly #EdublogsClubYou can join me and sign up for the #EdublogsClub here. 

Evolution of a Blogger

2017 is my 10th Anniversary as blogger!

It took a year to understand why I should blog after being shown a blog (2006) to starting my own blog (2007). Prior to starting my own blog, I shared my learning via podcasts and wikis; it wasn’t until I reached the point where I wanted to reflect on my learning that I started blogging.

For me it was a combination of not understanding, 1) what is a blog, and 2) the importance of reflection, sharing, connected learning and learning as part of a community.

I’m passionate about blogging because it:

  1. Helped me become a better writer — I passionately believe that if blogging can help someone like me who continues to struggle with language it can help others that are like myself.
  2. Gave me a voice and mechanism to share my thoughts and help others.
  3. Changed my life — blogging resulted in changing my career from an aquaculture lecturer to employment as the Support Manager for Edublogs and CampusPress.  Many of my fellow edubloggers have had similar life changes as a result of their blogging.

Seth Godin and Tom Peters video summarizes the essence of what blogging is for me.

PS My Blogging Story (Part I) shows how my blogging has evolved 🙂

Blogging: Becoming a better writer

What’s even more incredible with my blogging journey is I’ve battled writing and processing language my entire life.  While my English teacher and I would agree that my expression continues to be rather odd at times — blogging helped me become a better writer.

It’s not perfect — and continues to be a work in progress — but I can’t imagine any of my English teachers or I would ever thought that one day I would be paid to write.

English Report
My Actual English Report

Blogging Turning Point

Looking back on my blogging journey one of the key events that made me a better blogger was participating in Darren Rowse’s 31 Days Project in 2007.

It was a month long series of posts on ProBlogger designed to walk bloggers through 31 tasks that you can do to make your blog better.

We formed our own community and worked through Darren Rowse’s 31 Days Project as a group. It was an intense month — where we read each others posts and learnt together — and collectively improved our blogging skills.  Commenting and reading each others posts was as important as writing our own posts.

Some Blogging Tips

Below is a few blogging tips.  You’ll find more detailed tips on Why I blog (and how you can too).

My advice to those participating in the weekly #EdublogsClub is make it a goal to read and comment on as many of the posts as possible.  You learn as much, if not more, by reading/commenting as writing your posts and it helps generate ideas for things to blog about.

Remember blogging isn’t about writing.  It’s about connecting, reflecting and sharing.  Mix it up with video, audio and embed cool tools into your posts.

Steve Wheeler says it better than me in 3 Things you should know about blogging!

And don’t forget — what is Obvious to you is amazing to others.  Don’t assume others know what you know.  There is always someone who will be grateful of what you shared — even if they don’t necessarily tell you.

What is your blogging story?

I would love to hear about your blogging story!

Join me by participating in the #EdublogsClub and writing a post on  your own blog!  You’ll find the blogging prompts for Week 1: My Blog story from the #EdublogsClub here!

Alternatively, leave a comment to share your story, provide advice for new bloggers, or tell me what you would like to know more about.