Sue Waters Blog

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.

And if you’re enjoying this blog, please consider Subscribing for free!

January 16, 2008
by Sue Waters
17 Comments

A New Journey Begins: Introducing The Edublogger!

theedubloggerFinally I can shared some really cool and exciting news of my latest venture. A few weeks ago James Farmer, founder of Edublogs, approached me to ask if I was willing to be the editor of The Edublogger, a blog set up by Edublogs dedicated to helping educational bloggers with using emerging technologies in education, share their own experiences and promote the blogging medium.

The concept was that I would keep doing the kind of stuff that I already do well, but also do it at a central place within Edublogs. My passion has always been about HELPING OTHERS learn how to use these technologies; so I jumped at the opportunity! Bit of an understatement — but I am extremely excited to be involved with The Edublogger because it increases my potential to interact and connect with a larger community, hopefully helping even more people.

What This Means?

Well I will be continuing to blog, as usual, here at Mobile Technology in TAFE and will be blogging at The Edublogger. To be honest, at the moment, while it is all exciting there is also a sense of fear as you can probably imagine moving to blogging in a more central location.

I would really appreciate your help and support as The Edublogger journey gets underway. Definitely feel that I need to do more tweaking with The Edublogger. Would love some help with an audit of The Edublogger. How does the About page sound? Were there better words I could have used? Does it need more images? Not convinced by the tagline “Tips, tricks, ideas and help with using web 2.0 technologies and edublogs” — what are your thoughts? Can you recommend a better one? Are there any widgets I need to add/remove?

Also if you can tell me what interests you, in terms of what topics you would love to read on the Edublogger, that would also be great!

FINAL THOUGHT

Special thanks to Chris and Kate (quinncd) for letting me use their photos (of me) on The Edublogger site! For those that were wondering about what keeps me going — look closely at the photo!

Thanks to all my readers who take the time to read my posts and for letting me know that what I write makes a difference in your life. Hopefully you will also join me at the Edublogger – here is the link to it’s feed Subscribe in a reader

And if you’re enjoying Mobile Technology in TAFE blog, please consider subscribing for free.

November 10, 2007
by Sue Waters
15 Comments

These Are My Favourite Tools! What Are Yours?

starVicki Davis (Cool Cat Teacher Blog) did an absolutely amazing post titled Best of the Web: My Most Useful Tools where she shares her most useful websites/tools with her readers — READ IT — I found gems in her post that I had not tried [image by marie-ll]

Vicki also encourages us all to take the time to share our most useful tools because we should be welcoming people new to using the Internet by sharing our tools — so here is my post — hopefully it will be of help for other educators wanting to get involved with elearning.

Blog

Yes I am a bit addicted to blogging because it helps me reflect on my thoughts and interaction with others helps this process in amazing ways.

I like both blogger (easy to use) and edublogs for blogging. If I have interpreted what Vicki is saying regarding Google Blog Search and Blogger I disagree — both Technorati and Google Blog Search look for keywords within the text of the post — I subscribed to tag feeds (e.g. mlearning and mobile learning) from Google Blog Search and my posts always appeared with the feeds (and this blog is not hosted by Google).

Here is my information for those new to blogging and for those more advanced bloggers. Towards the bottom of each page there are some tasks that you can work through to improve your blogging skills — let me know if you decide to work through them so I can drop past your blog and give you encouragement.

If you are using blogs with students I strongly recommend that you check out Clay Burell’s (Beyond School) Blogging Parent’s Letter — fantastic work Clay.

Comics

Why? Because for no other reason than it is fun!!!! I like to use ToonDoo because it is really easy to use (as they made it easy for kids to use) and they have lots of great characters, backgrounds and props that you can use. These are my instructions on how to embed ToonDoo comics into an edublog blog.

Other comic tools I use are Comeeko and Picnik which both allow you to create comics from your own photos. Please note that Picnik is an online photo editing tool that allows you to do a lot more than just create comics.

Del.icio.us

I use del.icio.us to bookmark websites online so that I can refer back to these bookmarked sites from any computer — which for me is a life saver because I use lots of different computers. It also means on any computer I can add bookmarks to my del.icio.us account. Here is my information on how to get more out of using del.ici.ous.

Feed Reader

I use Google reader to subscribe to blogs and RSS feeds. It is really easy to use, and I have a Google Reader gadget on my iGoogle homepage that shows me latest feed. Understanding what is RSS and how to use a feed reader is the most important skill that new people to using online tools need to learn — here is my information on what this is all about if you are not currently using a Feed reader.

Instant Messaging and VOIP

I use Google Talk and Skype for instant messaging (chatting with others) and talking to people (VOIP) using the Internet. If you don’t have a VOIP application, like Google Talk or Skype, on your computer this is a definitely a must – you can talk or chat to anyone, anywhere, using the Internet, at no cost. The benefit of Google Talk is you can search gmail and chat messages for previous conversations — check this out for more explanation.

Ning

Ning is good for those less tech savy, for encouraging discussions, it allows easily embed videos and pictures, and is a place for people to feel comfortable to start out with blogging. etools community is a Ning site I set up for educators to share their etools and tips with each other. Here are my tips for using Ning. Please feel free to join us at etools community.

Online Video

My advice to people on creating videos is it can be time consuming and with so much video content already available on the Internet it may be more effective to use other peoples videos. My favourite sites to search are Google Video, YouTube and VideoJug (VideoJug has lots of great how-to-do videos with written transcripts of each video — thanks Philip Nichols yet again for telling me about this site :) ) Please note even though Google owns YouTube you will get different search results from Google Video and YouTube which is why I search both. Here are my instructions on embedding videos into wikis and into Ning.

Most of my online videos are created using MovieMaker (here is how) and mostly uploaded to Googlevideo. My rule for video is less than 10 minutes whenever possible.

JumpCut is definitely worth using if you need an online video editor – it is like having MovieMaker or iMovie online! You can add titles and effects. Very easy to use (says she who makes movies all the time).

SlideCast and MyPlick are both excellent for syncing audio with powerpoints. Linking audio to the Slidecast from Internet Archives is the hardest aspect — here are my notes on how to do this.

Photos

I use Flickr to share my photos online and to locate photos that I can legally use on my websites (I use flickr creative commons photos which allows me to use the photos provided I acknowledge the original source). fd’s Flickr toys is my favourite tool for doing fun stuff with photos from Flickr — of these toys I use mosaic maker the most because it makes it simple to put together a set of photos.

Podcasting

I host my podcasts at Podomatic but if I need a site for hosting audio that I can link to I use the Internet Archive (I explain here how to link to the audio from the Internet Archive).

My audio podcasts are edited using Audacity (here is how) — I do have a Mac now and Garageband is really good but I still find if you have lots of edits then Audacity is still better.

Most of my video podcasts are edited using MovieMaker (here is how) then converted to .mp4 format using Super C (great for converting from any video format to another video format — here is how) and occasionally use iMovie on my Mac.

Screen capture

I use SnagIt on a daily basis – this is my favourite tool! Yes I know there are free tools like Jing that do similar but SnagIt is definitely better. Don’t care that it costs money – was worth every cent – they let you download and trial this software for a month – give it a go. Thanks Evil Sue for putting me onto this great screen capture software. This is how I create all the great “How-to-do” images for my web sites

Screencasting

A screencast is a digital recording of a computer screen and use these to show how to use online tools. My personal favourite screencast tool is CamStudio — yes I have used Jing but feel Camstudio is better (note I could use SnagIT) — here are my instructions on how to use CamStudio.

Slides

I do use Slideshare to host my powerpoints online but Alan Levine’s use of Slideflickr.com is way more powerful — if you click on the photo in his slide show it displays the notes that he has written under each photo at Flickr and you can read these notes as you watch the slides — if a URL interests you then you can click on the link to open it.

To create slides like Alan has done — instead of saving your powerpoint as a powerpoint you save it as jpeg. Upload the photos to Flickr, add notes to each slide, organise them into a set at Flickr and then use Slideflickr.com to create the slide.

Twitter

Twitter is absolutely my favourite tool for personal learning and social networking — check out this podcast on why (thanks to Alan Levine, Simon Brown, Graham Wegner, Michael Coghlan and Kristin Hokanson for helping me create it — apologies for not thanking sooner but it came out while I was away on the busy conference circuit) and watch Chris Betcher’s video on understanding how twitter works.

Web Browser

My favourite web browser is Firefoxhate having to use Internet Explorer (also use it on my Mac as well). Best aspect is there are lots of cool add ons like a del.icio.us add on that makes my life easier.

Wiki

I love using wikis for my personal learning because I find it a great place to pull all the information together concisely and they are also excellent for encouraging collaborative learning between students. Wikipaces is my favourite because their wiki is very easy to use and they provide excellent customer service. Here is my information on getting more out of using wikis.

FINAL NOTE

Long post — sorry! Blame Vicki :) but it is not the type of post that suits being broken up. Also I encourage all my readers to take up Vicki advice and share your tips (remember to tag with bestoftheweb).

October 16, 2007
by Sue Waters
8 Comments

So, yer in Melbourne? Dinner? Want to Join Us?

Well I had wanted to catch up with James Farmer (Edublogs founder) when I came to Melbourne but did not want to bug him as he is SO BUSY. So was incredibly pleased when he found out that I was here and sent me an email asking me if I wanted to catch up.

Knowing James love of him with added speech bubbles I thought it was best to use images to write this post and invite those in Melbourne into edublogging to join us for dinner!

james1.jpg

[Image adapted from photo by Cogdogblog using online photo editor Picnik recommended by Alan Levine]

suecaption1.jpg
join1.jpg

[Image by Claudecf using online photo editor Picnik recommended by Alan Levine]

Please if you are in Melbourne, into edublogging, and you want to chat up with James Farmer and myself, join us for dinner. We are meeting at 6.3pm tomorrow night (Wednesday 17 October) on steps at Flinders Street below clocks….as per picture below [Image by The Beethovan Connection]!!!!!

175246045_a106f75f0a.jpg

PS If you can’t join us…but you want me to ask James questions…let me know and I will ask on your behalf.

August 6, 2007
by Sue Waters
14 Comments

Confused about which site to use for your blog?

646678935_de5c16d967_m.jpgIf you have been struggling to decide which site you should use to host your blog I recommend you check out Edublogs. Edublogs has always been good, but since it turned 2 years old it became great!

How do I know?

Here some of the reasons for why I can say Edublogs is great:

  • I have used other host blog hosts
  • I read lots of blogs (refer to my list of Blogs I read) – so I do get to see the good/bad features of each blog hosts
  • I also have several different types of web sites (e.g. podcast site, wiki site) – so am very experienced with dealing with hosting sites

What is great about Edublogs?

Choosing a host for your blog is hard – been there, done that. The great features of Edublogs definitely outweigh the fact that blogger is easier to use (and Edublogs now has support videos to help you).

Reasons why I think Edublogs is great include:

  • Really good customer support – incredibly responsive to its customers. (If you are looking for a wiki host – this is one of the great features of wikispaces)
  • They host your blog for free – you pay nothing and they place no ads on your site
  • Search my blog feature is really good (use chocolate as a search term on my blog to test it – while you are at it join our Chocolate challenge)
  • Great range of blog templates with many plug-in options – now have over 80 blog themes you can choose from

Best new feature

I really like their “What are the hot topics in the edublogs universe?” This displays the tags their bloggers are using – if you click on a tag it takes you to all the posts that Edubloggers have written using that tag. Tags are important because they are the category(s) that you assign when writing a blog post. Tags makes it easier for your readers to find posts on particular topics.

This feature has dramatically increased the traffic to my blog, podcast site and wiki site.

I will definitely be spending time checking out the popular tags (the larger the word the more posts people are writing about that topic) to make sure I am optimising my tag use (e.g. the tag blogging is more popular than blog or Blogs which means it is better to use the category blogging when writing a post about blogs or blogging).

tag-cloud.jpg

Thanks James for the fantastic make over of your web site!

Readers, check out Edublogs new features.

June 5, 2007
by Sue Waters
11 Comments

Tools of the Trade

tool2.jpgDarren at Drape’s Take did an excellent post today on Why Every Teacher Should Have A Google Account. This is a list of basic tools that I recommend to lecturers:

Bookmarking

Definitely a bookmarking site is a must. It is so great to be able to bookmark a website online that you can then view from any computer. I just love the fact that where ever I am I can go yes I remember reading an article on a particular topic and pull up my del.icio.us site and locate the articles I want to read without having to relocate the article again (and normally I fail to locate the original article). You can also set up del.icio.us sites with students so that they can collaboratively bookmark sites to select the top sites for information on topics.

However if you are going to bookmark using del.icio.us I suggest you:

  1. Use tags that have meaning e.g podcasting, PodcastingEquipment (if you put a space between Podcasting and Equipment you will have two separate tags and Equipment to me may also mean aquaculture equipment. Alternatively you could separate with an underscore Podcasting_Equipment)
  2. Sort your tags by setting up bundles and put your tags into the correct bundles – this way you can located the articles you want to read easier)
  3. If you are using Firefox as your browser there is a new cool Add-on for del.icio.us. If you are not using Firefox then think about installing it because it is a great Browser, I now use it more than Internet Explorer.

If you want to know more about using del.icio.us check out my information on getting more out of del.ici.ous.

Wiki

I like using wikis as a quick and easy web site to share information with others. They are also excellent for encouraging collaborative learning between students. Personally I like using Wikipaces because their wiki is very easy to use and they have excellent customer service. If you want to know more about using wikis check out my information on getting more out of wiki.

Blog

I like both blogger (easy to use) and edublogs for blogging. I strongly recommend that you download and use Microsoft Livewriter which makes writing blog posts so much easier; and what a fanastic program. I had a hard time getting into blogging until I watched the following videos on blogging: Video: Blog History – shorten version and Long Video : Blogumentary – (1 hour) Thanks to Kate from Waxlyrical blog for recommending these videos. Check out Vicki Davis’s at Cool Cat Teacher’s blog tips on how to be an incredible blogger. While I agree with Darren about the value of teacher’s blogging I do think that Derek’s thoughts on online participation that for new people starting by commenting on blogs may be a good starting point.

Podcasting

I use Podomatic for podcasting however occasionally use Odeo. I prefer podomatic because it gives me a great podcast page which Odeo doesn’t. There are things about podomatic that I don’t like. For ideas for setting up a podcast page check out my podcast site aquaculturepda.podomatic.com

Comics

I have used two different free comic makers ToonDoo and Comeeko. No reason other than it is fun!!!!

ToonDoo is really easy to use (as they made it easy for kids to use) and they have lots of great characters, backgrounds and props that you can use. Basically anyone can easily create nice comics using ToonDoo – great fun for all ages – my 8 year old really enjoyed using ToonDoo as do I. The only issue I have had with ToonDoo is embedding my comics into my blog posts, these are my instructions on how to embed ToonDoo comics into an edublog blog.

The difference between ToonDoo and Comeeko is that with Comeeko you can use your own photos to make the comic. Comeeko is considerably harder to use than ToonDoo however a lot of fun because you use your own photos (which is very appealing).

Photosharing

Finally started to appreciate the value of photosharing and now am using Flickr.

Google

I am definitely a Google addict. Here is my list of Google MUSTS:

1. Personalized google homepage

I have set up my own personalized google homepage. If you haven’t give it a try. All you need to do is set up a Google account and then click on “Personalize this page” at the top of Google. You can add lots of little cool gadgets to the page (e.g. “to do list”, news feeds, Weather information, world clock, Google video) and whatever computer you are on you can sign into your personalized Google and access the items on the page (if you become too addicted you can add extra tabs – yes I know I need a life).

2. Google Reader

I use Google reader to subscribe to blogs and podcasts feeds. It is really easy to use, and I can put a gadget for it on my Personalized google homepage that shows me the latest 9 blogs and podcasts. Also I love how people are embedding Google Reader in their blogs and sharing their items that they like from their reader. I was totally unable to get into blogging until I started appreciating the value of blogs by subscribing to blogs using Google Reader

3. Google Talk

I use Google Talk for chatting with others but prefer Skype for VOIP. OOPS occassionally with Google Talk I have sent the wrong chat to the wrong person. If you don’t have a VOIP application on your computer. Definitely a must – you can talk or chat to anyone, anywhere, using the Internet, at no cost.

4. Google Video

I prefer to upload videos to google video if I want to embed them in wikis or blogs.

BTW I keep failing Vicki Davis’s 3 Rule of 10 habits of bloggers that winRULE 3 Write and then cut in half! :) There is no hope for me? :D

May 19, 2007
by Sue Waters
3 Comments

Tips for blogging with Edublogs

It has been a great week of tips and “how tos” for blogging with Edublogs.

First John Pearce showed me how to make my posts more colourful by showing me how to access the advanced wysiwyg editor by clicking on the visual editor and pressing Alt+Shift+V (if you are using FireFox). Thanks John and yes I did copy your use of pretty colours. Check out his detailed instructions on his Colourful post.

I also came across the great videos that Edublogs have created – for their new support structure they are in the process of organising? Check out their new videos here! Currently they have 4 “how to” videos. The quality and streaming speed (i.e. they play without the stop/starting that you get with some videos) of these videos are excellent – definitely worth watching.

It has been a full on week of networking (in person) with friends and I was lucky enough to spend the week with my girlfriend Frances. Although I did leave her to talk with our other friend Daniel, in my kitchen, because I am definitely not a geek and had absolutely no idea what they were talking about (this is to be expected when two expert PDA programmers meet f2f). Note my husband also retreated to watch sport in the other room.

Getting back to the point, Frances had been nagging me for weeks to try out Microsoft Livewriter. So to make sure that I did she installed it onto my computer when I was not looking. Livewriter is a program that is a desktop application that lets you write your blog post on the computer and then lets you publish it to your blog. I must admit that with all her nagging I was not sure why I need to be able to write it on the desktop of my computer when I post it directly from within my account.

However it is always important when a friend gives you a present to actually use it (or they might not give you anything again); especially if they are staying at your house and can see what you get up to. I must admit that I was very pleasantly surprised how excellent Livewriter is, and how much easier it is writing the posts using it rather than writing from within my blogging account. I have to say though, what is the point of having friends who are programmers, who are sitting next to you, when they will not answer my questions about how to use the program and tell me to google the questions (all my programming friends are like this!!!). As a result I came across this great Review of Windows Livewriter which has some great tips for using this program.

I am amazed by all the things that you can do with Livewriter especially how you can insert pictures into the post inside the program and you can do lots of fancy things to your picture. When you publish your post it uploads the picture at the same time.

And LiveWriter lets you insert lots of great things like maps from directly within the program. If you click on the map and follow the link you can click on my pushpin and read my message.

And it grabs your categories from Edublogs so you can select the categories directly from within LiveWriter.

However was a bit annoyed when I could not work out how to embed a SlideShare presentation in my post using either LiveWriter or Edublogs. Back to Google I went. Unbelievable thought I had tried everything. But must have been tired the other night. You just copy and paste the code for WordPress from Slideshare. Switch to HTML code in either LiveWriter or in your edublogs post and then paste the code from SlideShare. This is the PowerPoint presentation from Michael Coghlan’s great presentation on using your voice online.

Final point I did find that if you use LiveWriter it is best to edit the post using LiveWriter because when I edited my post in Edublogs it caused problems to my image layouts (mostly likely I am tired and it is user error – because Edublogs rocks!!) And I have to admit it LiveWriter also rocks (you can even change view to Web Preview to see how your post will look when published).

[slideshare id=49308&doc=beyond-text-2-11359&w=425]