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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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A Year Later And Are We Using Different Tools To Connect To Our PLNs?

One year ago I asked my network to complete a survey on Personal Learning Network.

The survey was used in a series of presentations and to build my PLN Yourself website.

Being a year later I’m wondering how much has changes?  Are we using different tools to connect?  Are the tools we would recommend to new people different?

Can you help in the following ways:

  1. Can you please complete my new Personal Learning Networks Survey?
    • There are only 2 questions
  2. Can you promote my Personal Learning Networks Survey to your network using a range of tools?
    • For example blog post, twitter, plurk, Facebook so responses aren’t biased by promotion by one tool or one individual

If you do promote this survey can you please link to this post by creating a pingback and/or leaving a comment?  So I have a record of all the different ways in which this latest survey has been promoted?

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What Are Your Thoughts on Educational Blogging?

I’m doing a presentation next week for Alec Couros‘ s EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education course and as part of it I’ve need to organise some required reading one week prior to the presentation.

I’ve been asked to focus on educational blogging and building personal learning networks so I’m hoping you can help as I want to:

  1. Demonstrate how conversations in blog comments provides greater knowledge gain for all involved, because each individual sees a different perspective of the task – giving everyone greater “food for thought!”
  2. Model personal learning networks in action!

About The course

EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education course is an open access graduate course from the Faculty of Education, University of Regina for both registered and non-registered students.

Participants are all teachers, or principals, and most are new to using social media.

Can you share your thoughts on the following:

  1. What are the benefits of blogging with students and/or yourself?
  2. What are some of the challenge of student blogging and how do you avoid them?
  3. Can you recommend any ‘must read’ articles on student blogging?
  4. What questions would you most like me to answer if you attended a presentation by me on educational blogging and building personal learning networks?

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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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Twitter (and Humans) Don’t Always Get It Correct!

Credit where credit is due is important.

Yes the “Twitter Handbook for Teachers” is an excellent resource.

While it is lovely for people on twitter to regularly thank me for the resources I create (and to get all the retweets of thanks) — I DID NOT write Twitter Handbook for Teachers.  But I can understand why people think I did.

It was written by Tomaz Lasic (@lasic) who used the quote from my PLN Yourself wiki on the front page of his handbook and then made the very human mistake of not adding his own details as author on the front page.   So now everyone sees my name (and website) and automatically assumes I created it.

But it is also important that I give Alan Levine credit also — as he pointed out in the comments I should have attributed him.  I’ve always felt that the following words were inspired by his audio he provided for a podcast I was asked to proved for the Knowledge Tree (here is the PDF version of the podcast).

“Watching from the outside, Twitter like the the dumbest thing you’ve heard of “Why would anyone want to tell others what they are doing in 140 characters.” And yet to dismiss Twitter is a mistake because it’s an incredibly powerful tool for your personal learning and connecting with others”

However they could have come from his Being There presentation that I attended twice in 2007 and wrote about on my other wiki.

Image of Twitter handbook for teachers

Please thank Tomaz Lasic (@lasic) for his great resource – he deserves full credit for his excellent work.  And Alan Levine (@cogdog) deserves full credit for his work.

And if you want to thank me here are the resources I created on twitter for my PLN Yourself wiki:

  1. Set up your own Twitter Account – helpful information for building your PLN using twitter
  2. Step 2: Set Up Twitter Account - designed as a step by step guide for f2f workshops

PS for those that know me I can’t believe you thought the handbook was my work — not one single step-by-step screenshots that is characteristic of my work!

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Can Addictions Scare Readers?

Can be only one response to this tweet! Readers should answer it 8-)

Image of chocolate addict

Personally I find it hard to believe for two main reasons:

a) I’m a chocolate addict – I think we need a clarification of addiction!

b) That it could be very scary!

Your thoughts:

  1. Is Ashley Proud right?
  2. Does it make me scary? And can an addition scare readers?
  3. Perhaps truth – he’s a chocolate hater?

Disclaimer: Sue Waters is a serious blogger

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The Great USA Coca Cola and Chocolate Scandal!

It’s my last day in USA and I’m taking home so many lovely memories of USA…..except for Coca Cola and Cadbury chocolate.

IMHO it is a scandal!

The Taste of American Coca Cola and Chocolate

Being well known for my Coca Cola and chocolate love (it’s what I’m holding in my avatar) I feel a need to expose this scandal. Worse still that I have to confess I’ve been drinking Pepsi and feeling physically sick from the memory of eating Cadbury Carmello chocolate.

While other Aussies rush off planes from USA to grab a true Aussie meat pie all I’m thinking about is drinking my first real drink of Coca Cola in 3 weeks. It may be an extremely long flight home for the Qantas flight attendants if they serve American Coca Cola and not Australian. Off course I’m also now concerned that I will no longer cope with the sweet taste of our Coca Cola and our chocolate :( .

Reason for the taste difference

Before coming to USA I was aware that the chocolate would taste different but assumed that Coca Cola tastes the same World wide (as did most non-USA people in my network).

So why the different taste? Well here they use high-fructose corn syrup instead of sugar. Besides not being as sweet it has a horrible taste.

In USA the price of sugar is considerably higher than the World sugar price due to factors such as sugar quotas on the import of sugar and government subsidies of USA sugar growers (read more here about the history of USA inflated sugar prices). The solution for reducing food production costs has been to replace sugar with high-fructose corn syrup or move production to countries like Canada where sugar is cheap.

Meanwhile Americans who want to drink soft drinks containing sugar go to stores that sell Mexican imported Coca Cola and Pepsi.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’m arriving into Sydney airport Monday 13 July at 6.15 AM. Hopefully no one gets in my way as I run to grab some real Cadbury chocolate!

Sigh with a short time between my flight from Sydney to Perth hopefully in my rush to get some chocolate I don’t miss my flight home :(

PS yes I will tell you more about my USA adventure than just the chocolate and Coca Cola scandal. What else would you like to know?

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Connecting at NECC!

Did I ever imagine that one day I would be sitting at a desk in USA writing a blog post?  NOPE!

Yet, according to Google Maps, I’m currently about 14, 816 miles from my home (Perth, Western Australia).  Fortunately I didn’t follow Google Maps directions and kayak across Pacific Ocean from Australia through Japan to get here!

Purpose of my trip was to attend NECC 2009 (one of the World’s largest conferences for Ed Tech professionals).  This year over 18,000 people attended. Those following The Edublogger’s USA Adventure… to NECC and Beyond! have been asking me what the conference was like so here goes!

The Sessions

Many of my Australian friends would love to know how the NECC sessions compared to Australian conferences.  Unfortunately this is where I go sorry!  I only attended two sessions, both of which were keynotes, neither did anything for me.

There were several reasons why I didn’t attend sessions. I was representing Edublogs at NECC; I knew I could watch recordings of NECC sessions and read blog post reviews later.But most importantly, a fact that people don’t appreciate, is I’m quite isolated living in Perth (costly 5 hour flight to most conferences just in Australia).

I don’t have many opportunities to meet and network with others f2f.  NECC may have been my one opportunity to ever meet a people who I network with online f2f as there is no guarantee I will ever get a chance to visit USA again.  Creating stronger connections with people, by interacting f2f, in my view long term provides greater opportunity for learning than any session you can attend.

Biggest NECC Takeaways by Others

Looking for reflections by others?  Check out survey results of other people’s biggest takeaways from NECC09.  Or if you attended NECC, either in person or virtually, add your own reflections using this form.

Thanks to Alice Barr for creating this document which I will use to guide my viewing of NECC session recordings!

What I did At NECC

Most of my time at NECC was spent at:

  1. Bloggers Cafe (a casual space set up for people to connect with each other)
  2. and NECC unplugged (NECC’s unconference area where any one who wants can present to both f2f and virtual global participants).

I really enjoyed presenting at NECC Unplugged and plan to follow up with a later post on it.

Majority of my time was spent networking with others. Too many people, and too many stories to mention, but the slideshow below contains photos of most those I met.  Definitely existing connections through blogging and twitter enhanced these f2f interactions.

The Edublogger Shirt

For those unaware I has a shirt custom made for me by Paul Morris (CheekyTeez in Perth) with design input from Gary Barber.

The idea of the shirt was to fit with the beginners series I faciliate for Classroom 2.0 and followed the same theme of badges we organised for NECC.

In a crazy Sue moment I decided to use one of the shirts as a sovenior by getting people I meet at NECC to sign the shirt.  I’m hoping now poor Paul (or anyone) can figure out how I might frame it to keep as the souvenior.

Here is a photo of my favorite blogger signing my shirt!

The Slideshow below has a closeup of all the different signatures.

The Exhibitor Hall

WOW!  What can I say about the Exhibitor hall?  It was massive!

Felt like the size of a football oval and had to be seen to believed.

Lots of NECC posts were critical of the exhibitors hall however I think Alfred Thompson’s Sponges and Participants post is a reminder to Edubloggers about the needs of different types of conference participants.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Thanks to everyone that I meet at NECC!  I enjoyed every second (except for all my misadventures on US air planes).  I will follow up later with some USA reflections in later posts.

Extra special thanks to James Farmer for giving me the opportunity to attend NECC!

  1. For those that attended NECC — would love to hear about what aspects you enjoyed the most?
  2. For those who attended NECC unplugged through Elluminate – what was it like?  What was the best aspects? The most challenging aspects?

Feel free to also any questions about what USA is like to an Australian :)

Badge image by Greatnews licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike

Baiting the Digital Hook to Build A Professional Learning Community!

Last week I was invited to present on PLNs (personal learning networks) as part of Getting Connected 09 for The Australian Flexible Learning Frameworks.

As the conference targeted the VET sector I decided to take a different PLN approach and share how social networking tools can create communities of professionals, and students, that help each other.

Skills level of participants

Participants were surveyed near the start of the session to help guide how little/much information on each aspect need to be explained. The results are shown in the table below (Yes= has their own or uses with their students; No = doesn’t have own or use with students; No response = they didn’t respond to the question).

Value of Creating Communities

The message for creating professional learning communities using social networking tools was similar to PLNs. Our daily face-to-face interactions offer limited opportunities for:

  • Asking our work colleagues/students questions
  • Reflecting on ideas with each other
  • Effectively sharing information

Social networking tools provide the ability to easily connect ourselves, our students, with educators in the same/similar fields, and people from industry to form a global community. This greatly increases opportunities to receive assistance and provide assistance.

The main difference to a PLN is technology skills of individuals you may want as part of your professional learning community are often (very) low. This means you need to use a range of tools including ones they are more likely to feel comfortable using.

To stay sane remember:

  • Not everyone will share your excitement (and it is unrealistic to think they will)
  • Let them choose whether or not they join
  • Don’t be offended if you can’t encourage everyone to participate
  • Be grateful for those that do participate
  • It takes time!

During the session I discussed the main tools I use for aquaculture industry to highlight their benefits and how it can be done.

Facebook

In terms of aquaculture Facebook is used mainly with my students (but I do have some work colleagues in my account). My students are given the option to add me to their Facebook account knowing that they can email me, use the chat or leave comments on my wall.

Years ago I used to give students my email address and never get got any emails. With Facebook student regularly contact me to help with both my work and other courses. Many continue to remain in contact when they leave.

Ning

Our AquaEd Ning community to connect educators, industry and my students together (consists of members from within Australia and oversees).

Benefits of Ning are ability to have forums, upload photos, upload/share videos and easily email all members etc.

For me this Ning community meant I was about to source training material and images to use for an aquaculture elearning unit. I couldn’t have sourced this material as well (or as quickly) using traditional methods.

My students, and other community members, are using this Ning to share what they are doing and ask others questions.

Ning challenges are you need to be prepared to facilitate and encourage conversation. The more people you can encourage to help you facilitate the more likely it will grow. As a Ning owner you need to closely monitor all new members (using RSS) due to spammers.

Twitter

Never thought it would happen but have people from aquaculture joining my twitter account. Which has been excellent because they also then join AquaEd Ning.

As these people are already into social networking they add value to your community because they aren’t reluctant users.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This session was recorded and you can watch it here!

My advice for building a community remains the same as for a PLN — your first step is to start using these tools for your own learning then start thinking how you can connect with members from your industry. Check out my PLN Yourself website to get started!

Meanwhile for those that have created professional learning communities — please share your stories. What has worked well? What aspects have caused problems?

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Need WordPress MU Support? Here’s Where You’ll Find it!

In case you’ve been wondering what I’ve been up to for the past few months, and why I’ve had less time than usual, I can now explain.

Although maybe not everyone has noticed this less time?

Working with WordPress MU

Besides all my usual Edublogs responsibilities I’ve also been working for Incsub developing WordPress MU (WordPress Multiuser and also known as WPMU) support material (some is still a work in progress).

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

The reason why people use WordPress MU is once you want to hosts lots of blogs on the same domain then you need to use it. Edublogs is a customized version of WordPress MU designed to include features that specifically assist educators with using blogs with students.

Most themes and plugins used on WordPress can’t be used on WordPress MU, and you also use mu-plugins on WordPress MU (some of these can be challenging to install). The idea of these support material is to help make the process of installing and using WordPress MU easier.

WordPress MU Support Material Locations

For a ‘one-stop shop’ for those that use WordPress MU here is where you will find these support materials:

  1. Site Admin user manuals
  2. WordPress MU manual – for installing WPMU 2.7.1
  3. WPMU.org – where The WPMU Manual is being serialized (here is the RSS feed if you want to subscribe).  Below are the first two posts!

Next step is adding more detailed instructions to the Premium plugins, where required. For example. this is the new instructions for installing the avatars plugin.

FINAL THOUGHTS

And yes, if you were wondering, it does mean I’ve had to install WordPress MU, bbPress, plugins, themes, languages, mu-plugins, use FTP and Text Editors.

I’ve also felt like I’m going crazy (occasionally) remembering the Site admin differences between Edublogs (WPMU 2.6.3/2.6.5 hybrid), Edublogs Campus (WPMU 2.6.5) sites, newer versions of WordPress MU (2.7 & 2.7.1) and site admin (and system admin) in blogs.mu.

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