Sue Waters Blog

February 11, 2013
by Sue Waters
15 Comments

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.

February 5, 2013
by Sue Waters
45 Comments

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?

January 29, 2013
by Sue Waters
10 Comments

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!).

Warning:

  • 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

January 18, 2013
by Sue Waters
40 Comments

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.

Remember:

  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.

October 9, 2009
by Sue Waters
23 Comments

Here’s What I Said On Educational blogging! What Would You Say?

Commenters on my What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging? post asked if I would share the essence of my presentation from Alec Couros‘ s EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education course — so as promised here it is!

You can watch an Elluminate recording of the session here.

Pre-presentation Preparation

One of the best aspects of Alec’s course is that participants post reflections on their blogs.  Wouldn’t that be nice if you could research and interact with participants before every presentation to be better prepared?

By checking out their Shared Google Reader folder I was able to:

  1. Read their posts and leave some comments.
  2. Get a feel for who they are as individuals and where they are at
  3. Find out what they learnt in previous sessions
  4. Target my presentation based on my perception of their needs

Most of the participants are fairly new to using social media and blogging so I decided to focus on what they really needed to know about educational blogging.

Here’s What I Covered

I created the following diagram to explain how through the process of writing posts and engaging in discussions in comments we are constantly evaluating, reviewing, reflecting and revising information.  And that by this continual process we’re learning.

Unfortunately I don’t feel I adequately emphasized how this learning is very different from how most of us are used to learning.

Nik Peachey provides a great summary in  his comment “With out this final stage of reconstructing information and turning it into knowledge that is useable by others in my professional community, much of the information that I read or see on the web would just pass straight through me”.

bloggingcycle

Community and learning as part of a community (or network) is one of the most important aspects of educational blogging and one of the key areas that most educators fail to appreciate.

The whole process of creating, connecting, communicating and collaborating as part of a community through the interactions of posts and conversations in comments is essential.

Unfortunately educators often fail to adequately encourage the community and commenting aspects in their student blogging programs.

bloggingcommunity

Here are a few examples of good approaches to student blogging:

  1. Jan Smith’s Huzzah class blog – starts her students on the class blog and gradually moves them onto their own student blogs.
  2. Sue Wyatt’s Student blogging challenge

It’s really important to experience how blogging  changes your own learning to appreciate the impact it has and to understand how to use it effectively with students.

Here is the participants brainstorming of their thoughts, challenges and concerns based on where they are currently at with their blogging.

bloggingAlec

A key point I emphasized is their course provides them an excellent opportunity which is ideal for developing their blogging skills; they need to focus on working together as a community while gaining skills they can use with their own students.

My tips were:

Step 1: Change comment moderation settings

Currently they are all using the default comment moderation setting which means all commenters must have had a previously approved comment otherwise the comment is moderated.

Unfortunately in their situation this is negatively impacting in the comment conversations.  New commenters don’t gain from reading older comments.

You change comment moderation settings by going to Settings > Discussion.

discussionset

Step 2: Set up Google Reader

The best way to work as a community is to set up your Google Reader account so that you are subscribed to both posts and comments from all the blogs.

Here’s my instructions on how to Manage Comments and Posts On Blogs Using Google Reader.

Step 3: Engage in Conversations

They need to start focus more on learning off each other and engaging in conversations by:

  1. Reading each other posts – each of them will have different perspective on the topic and working collectively they will gain more than working individually
  2. Commenting on each others posts – take the time to share their thoughts in response to each others posts.  To expand the conversation and really make each other think.
  3. Comment back to comments on their own posts – respond to people who leave comments.  Use it as an opportunity to find out more information from the person who left the comment.
  4. Learn how to pingback on other bloggers posts

Final Thoughts

Alec asked me to frame a question for response by participants at the end of my session.

So I’ve asked them to write a post on “What are 3 questions (and why) you would like answered on educational blogging or building personal learning networks? so that I and the other participants could visit their posts and leave comments to answer their questions.

If you would like to ask me these same questions please feel free to write your own post and:

  1. Pingback my What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging? post so I’m notified of your post
  2. And/or leave a comment with a link to your post on this post

Thanks to everyone who left comments on What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging? — all participants have been asked to read through your comments!

Would also love to hear your thoughts.  What would you have said differently?  What else should I have included?

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September 18, 2009
by Sue Waters
14 Comments

Here’s My Blogging Story! What’s Yours?

Well I’m a bit late  to help John Connell with his session at BBC’s Glasgow HQ!

But I like the blogging questions and think others would be intrigued by my answers.

1.  How did you get into blogging?

I’m sure lots of people that are very glad I’m blogger would be totally surprised by the fact that initially I really struggled with the concept of blogging — Why anyone would blog and why others read their blogs?

It took almost a year from being shown what a blog was to becoming a blogger.

The turning point were a result of:

  1. Subscribing to blogs (which gave me a greater appreciate of blogs)
  2. My strong desire to reflect on what I was learning.

2.  What were (are?) the motivations?

My podcasts and wiki were excellent for sharing information but weren’t great for other aspects.

Blogging gave me what podcasting and my wiki lacked; the ability to reflect, collaborate, exchange ideas and connect with others.  These aspects plus my strong motivation to help others motivates why I blog.

3.  How does your “private” blogging relate to your work?

Well my ‘private blogging’ developed into my work.

And if you had told me when I first started blogging that within 8 months I would end up employed by a blogging company — I’d have said Get Real!’

Key events that lead to this were Darren Rowse’s 31 Days Project that made me a better blogger and James Farmer who saw potential!

4.  How do you achieve a balance of personal voice and authority

Sorry but I really don’t like words ‘authority’ or ‘expert’

We each have our own personal voices and own opinions — when we share and collaborate together we all gain in knowledge and skills.

5. What can be achieved through blogging that can’t through ordinary news/reporting routes?

Any one, any time, any where can share their thoughts, opinions and beliefs. We can now make the news, report the news and connect in ways we couldn’t previously.

6. How do you follow other blogs and other forms of “public conversation”?

By subscribing to blogs and using twitter.

7.  How does your blog connect to others in a “conversation”?

Wonder how John Connell answered this question?  Boy that’s a hard one.

My blogs help others become bloggers, or hopefully better bloggers.  Working together through engaging in conversations in comments  we connect and help with each other.

8.  Are there other bloggers you follow especially, others you think are exemplars of the practice?

Really hate those types of questions.  Reading  blog to me is like reading a novel.  Some people like romance, or horror, or sci fi or ……  PS don’t make me read a romance 8-)

9. How do you feel about “lighter” practices such as Tweeting, facebook status updates etc…?

I think it’s s a mistake to see them as ‘lighter’ practices… a very bad mistake.  They are both complementary and becoming increasingly important for bloggers.

Many readers now prefer to grab links to posts from twitter.  Others like to read the posts as updates in Facebook.

Blogging is all about making your blog be more easily read by your audience.  Twitter, Facebook, RSS feed and email subscription all make it easier for your readers.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So that is my journey… would love to read  your responses to John Connell questions!

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May 27, 2009
by Sue Waters
24 Comments

Latest Statistics Say My Blogs Are……?

Unfortunately it is very easy to misinterpret and/or mis-use any type of statistics.

People often look at the number while failing to consider how the statistic was calculated or what it truly means.

About Misinterpreting Statistics

Here’s an example:

Statistics show that 45% of the population can’t read the newspaper.

Shocking literacy rates! Or is it? How many included in that statistic were too young to read, didn’t speak English, had some form of disability etc? What percentage of the entire population was sampled, what method was used, did the method bias the result etc?

Using Statistics in Blogging

So where am I going with this? Well bloggers love statistics and they love to know how they rank against other bloggers. Since Technorati authority is no longer reliable bloggers have looked at other options.

So some bloggers are using PostRank. For example, here are the top blogs on education based on their ranking by PostRank. Trouble is bloggers are looking at the statistics and the number 1-10; not considering how it was calculated, how blogs are ranked against each other using PostRank or what these numbers mean.

Effective use of PostRank

Let me be clear! I love PostRank. It is an incredibly valuable tool for quickly analyzing and comparing all of your blog posts in terms of number of:

  1. Comments
  2. Bookmarked (Delicious, diigo etc)
  3. Twittered
  4. Linked to

All of which helps you reflect how the different post types impact how readers engage with the posts. For example, if your aim is a long informative post you would expect few comments but hopefully lots of bookmarking and/or linking. PostRank helps you work out if you achieved this goal.

Misinterpreting PostRank

But if you are using PostRank to compared your blog’s performance against another blog, or identify the best blogs for a topic than you need to look more closely at their statistics.

In particular look at those eye icons that represent views. What do they mean? Well they are the number of your readers that click the post title in the PostRank widget in your sidebar.

Should high clicking on the PostRank widget in a sidebar make a post (and blog) high ranking?

Below is a screenshot from PostRank. The example on the left is a perfect 10 from another blogger (educational) whose rank on that post is entirely based on click on the PostRank widget. While The Edublogger post had high bookmarking, linking and comments.

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May 12, 2009
by Sue Waters
15 Comments

Have your Blogs.mu cake – and eat it too!

People are now asking me about Blogs.mu in terms of school blogging programs so I’ve decided it’s better to clarify because most people won’t appreciate how very different Blogs.mu is from other hosted blogging solutions.

But before I do it is important to point out, to ensure full disclosure, that I work for both Edublogs and Incsub (who own Blogs.mu).

WordPress blog vs WordPress MU blogs

When you sign up for a blog on Edublogs or WordPress.com what happens is these companies host your blog and you can get on with the job of writing your posts and blog design. The highest level of access you have is as an administrator and because it is a hosted solution features like adding extra plugins or uploading themes aren’t possible.

The other option for single blog users, who want to use WordPress but have more control over their blog features such as extra plugins or custom themes, is they will install WordPress from WordPress.org and host their own blog on either their own servers or pay a hosting company.

Once you want to hosts lots of blogs on the same domain then you need to use WordPress MU (WordPress Multiuser and also known as WPMU). Both Edublogs or WordPress.com use WordPress MU but Edublogs has been highly customised by our specialist team WPMU coders to include features that specifically assist educators with using the blogs with students.

WordPress MU blogs vs Edublogs Campus Site

Often schools and universities want higher level of control and access than achievable with Edublogs so they will look at solutions like hosting their own WordPress MU site or Edublogs Campus.

While installing and managing your own WordPress blog is relatively easy, but can cause problems, WordPress MU is considerably more specialized and requires a certain level of expertise.

This is why educational organisations choose Edublogs Campus because it provides all the powerful features of a WordPress MU site without having to worry about the stress of hosting, maintenance and upgrading the software.

The main feature which provides the higher level of control that educational organisations want is access to site admin. On a WordPress MU the next level of access of access above an Administrator is the site admin user.

As site admin user you can:

  1. Manage the access and level of responsibility of all users
  2. Manage blog features including access to plugins, themes and blog privacy settings
  3. Create new users and new blogs
  4. Edit posts, pages, comments on any blog
  5. Reset passwords
  6. Edit and delete any blog

In really simple terms, if you have problems with a student, as site admin user, you can immediately log into the dashboard of their blog, without being attached as a user to that blog, then edit/delete a post/comment plus change whether that student can access their blog.

WordPress MU blogs vs Blogs.mu Community

Blogs.mu is quite a bit different from the hosted Edublogs and WordPress.com. When you sign up with either of these services you are provided with a blog.

On Blogs.mu you can sign up for WordPress MU site of your own and then set up your own blogs, or blog community under it. For example you might like to set up a community on writing called writerspot.blogs.mu and then if the writer John Smith signs up in your community his blog is writerspot.blogs.mu/johnsmith.

Similar to Edublogs with Blogs.mu you can choose to be a free user or a supporter.

With Blogs.mu just like Edublogs Campus you are getting your own WordPress MU site with the high level of control minus the stress of hosting the site and specialist expertise required to maintain or upgrade WordPress MU.

The features of these two sites are quite different because Blogs.mu is designed for anyone who wants to set up a community using their WordPress MU while Edublogs Campus has been customised specifically to meets the needs of the educational community.

For a comparison check out:

  1. Blogs.mu Site Admin Guide
  2. Edublogs Campus Site Admin Guide and log into the University of Blogs Sandpit site

If you’re interested in the technical aspects of how blogs.mu was created check out Barry’s On Muing MU – A technical introduction post.

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April 16, 2009
by Sue Waters
92 Comments

Comments Count!

Much of the learning from blogging happens as a result of commenting and interaction between commenters.   Comments that challenge views, ideas and thoughts or provide alternative solutions all expand your (and your readers) thinking.

Trouble is most readers are relucant commenters, not because of lack of time, but because they feel uncomfortable leaving comments. 

So here is your chance to help me demonstrate the power of comments to participants at Digital Fair.  Can you please leave a comment to share your thoughts on:

  1. Reasons why readers mightn’t leave comments on blog posts
  2. What makes a good comment?
  3. What are some of your tips for encouraging readers to comment?

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March 22, 2009
by Sue Waters
10 Comments

The Enjoyable Aspects Of Decluttering Sidebars!

Image of cluttered videosFirst impressions count!

Combine poor theme choice with a cluttered sidebar and you have a recipe for convincing first time visitors NOT to subscribe to your blog.  They’re too busy being turned off to notice your great posts!

Unfortunately sidebar clutter creeps up on most bloggers.  So I thought it would be helpful to share the process I regularly use to declutter my sidebar.

Prioritizing SideBar Decluttering

What I do is take a critical look at my design in the following order of priority (which also reflects their location in my sidebars):

  1. How obvious is it for readers on how to subscribe to my blog?
  2. How easy is it to find information on my blog?
    • Search widget – Is it prominent & near top of blog sidebar? (I prefer a search that only search my blog)
    • Categories and tags – Are they helping readers easily find relevant information?
  3. What other widgets do I have in my sidebar?  Which ones can I live without? — if you compare this blog with The Edublogger you will notice a difference in number of widgets in the sidebars.

Image of drop down menuTip: If you want to display Archives on your blog sidebar it is better to use a drop down menu as it takes up less room.

Editing Categories

Unfortunately my categories failed this latest audit in terms of “Are they helping readers easily find relevant information?” – so I changed too many messy categories (21 categories on this blog) to fewer, more relevant categories (10 categories).

Off course editing each post on this blog (300 posts) and The Edublogger (100 posts) to fix categories was thoroughly excruciating enjoyable.

NOTE: Refer to this post to learn about the difference between categories and tags.

My tip for speeding up the process is to hold the Ctrl key when you left mouse click on the title on the post in your blog dashboard — this opens up the post so you can edit it in a new tab (for FireFox, Flock and Internet Explorer 7).  This open up 15 posts in 15 separate tabs and work through the task faster!

Image of opening up posts

FINAL THOUGHTS

Would love to hear your priorities in using widgets on your sidebar especially in terms of what are your ‘must have’ widgets and why?

This was part of the Day 8 Task for Building a Better Blog.

Image adapted from John Pannell licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike.

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