Sue Waters Blog

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 29, 2009
by Sue Waters
45 Comments

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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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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September 26, 2008
by Sue Waters
10 Comments

Learning Together By HELPING The Student blogging competition!

Image of help buttonYou’d think I’d know better after the 31 Days To Build A Better Blog and Comment Challenge but NO! Why? Because I know how much everyone benefits from these Challenges.

So when Miss Wyatt told me she had adapted the concept of these challenges to organised Blogging Competition specifically for student and class blogs I knew I had to MAKE TIME to be involved.

About The Student Blogging Competition

The Student Blogging Competition runs for 10 weeks and commenced 22 September. Miss Wyatt is posting weekly tasks on her blog. So far we have students participating from Australia, Canada, Thailand, India, New Zealand, Portugal, United Kingdom and United States.

I’ve been helping by organising student details to aid students ability to connect with each other and leaving comment on student blogs to encourage them.

Understandably it’s been busy but I’ve solved by cloning myself — shame that clones don’t always look like the original (check out the photos of my clones here!)

Getting Involved

There is still time to join the Competition If you are a student or a teacher with a class blog — just drop past Miss Wyatt’s blog and register your details! PLEASE NOTE: Any students who are on holidays can start when they get back to school!

We’d also love some helpers! The more assistance we receive the better we can support and encourage the students. What ever help you can provide would be GREAT.

Here are areas where we would love help:

  1. Can you check the Competition info page – how does it sound? Have we missed anything?
  2. Here are this participants list – is there any improvements we could make?
  3. If you are a teacher whose students are doing the challenge – Can you encourage your students to visit the participants list and get them to visit student blogs from different schools?
  4. If you are a student – please visit the participants list, make sure the link to your blog is there and when clicked it takes you to your blog.
  5. Educators – please take the time to visit some student blogs and leave comments for encouragement. You can keep an eye on the posts at this URL or you can subscribe to the feed.

Why Get Involved?

If you’re an educator wondering how to use blogs with students this is an excellent opportunity for you:

  • Kick start blogging with your students
  • Observe how different educators are using blogs with students
  • Increase your own skills

I’ve gained a lot this week interacting with the students such as:

  1. Worked hard trying to solve riddles – this one’s still stumping me!
  2. Passed a Noun quiz made by the student using MyStudiyo – almost failed :(
  3. Realised students are more imaginative than me. I struggled answering simple questions like If I was an animal, which animal would I be?, What 3 things would you bring if marooned on an isolated island? But surprise, surprise didn’t struggle with White Chocolate or Milk Chocolate :)
  4. Stressed whether the baby doll would be okay and if the science teacher would survive daycare.
  5. Who I am when they did a review of my blog’s “About page’ versus Miss Wyatt’s ‘About page’ – I’m eccentric, charming in a relaxed way and people worry when I sneeze.

It’s really exciting to see the students enjoying the pleasures of blogging to such an extent they are writing posts outside of school hours – check out C.J’s routine! Many of the students have similar routines.

My only wish? Would Paul Bogush please end the suspense and tell us the answer to the riddle!

FINAL THOUGHTS

Hope you take the time to check out the student blogging competition and gain from it as much as we are!

Please feel free to share your own riddles, tricky questions and activities that the students may enjoy by either writing your own post (and link to this post) or leaving a comment. Likewise students – please feel free to do the same and see if you can stump the other students and educators.

In the words of Sarah “The greatest feeling is when you make a difference for the better” — so join us to inspire others.

Thanks to Miss Wyatt for organising this competition!

Image by Siobhan Curran licensed under Creative Commons ShareAlike 2.0.

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March 20, 2008
by Sue Waters
20 Comments

Conversation On Al Upton Situation With Alec Couros’s EC&I 831 Class

open.jpgToday I was invited into Alec Couros’s EC&I 831 course to have a conversation on the Al Upton Situation. Cindy Seibel, one of his participants, contacted Alec to ask if they could discuss the Al Upton and the miniLegend blog Order for Closure and fallout in class this week, and suggested my Parental Consent, Use of Student Images and The MiniLegends Closure post is a great summary; providing almost an agenda for discussion.

Alec’s EC&I 831 is a graduate course on Computers in the Classroom: Appropriate Curriculum and Instruction Related to Computer Technology for the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina in Canada. His course participants have a wide array of backgrounds including educators, technology specialists, Principals and school administrators.

Accessing the Ustream Recording

The conversation was beamed out via Ustream with global participants joining the ustream chat and Skype conference call. And I’ve decided, it’s official, I’m not the best at maintaining my thoughts while also following chats (easily distracted) but fortunately there was lots of other great conversation happening via Skype and Ustream Chat.

You can access the Ustream recording from the session here and Alec will be posting it as a podcast on his blog later. The Ustream chat is 13 pages long in Word, which is too much for this post so I’ve taken the liberty of summarizing snippets below.

Private/Public Blogs & Guidelines For Educators

Colette Cassinelli highlighted her thoughts that we don’t want private blogs because that defeats the purpose of a global community.

Ryan Flood directed us to Clarence Fisher’s Is Blogging Dangerous? post to highlight the reality that Al’s situation isn’t an isolated incident and has happened to other educators in the past few years.

Laurie Gatzke said she had heard some time ago that the consent forms are a distractor. They would have a hard time standing up in a court of law.

Laurie Gatzke agreed that many of us are moving ahead faster than our districts can keep up. However, in our district I think it is a small percentage. There are not guidelines for this. As a parent I can understand that. We want to protect our kids.

Risks/Reality of Online Stalkers

Rob Wall asked “How much of a risk are online stalkers? More or less of a risk than taking a field trip on a bus, for example? Any answers? What are the actual, documented risks that students are exposed to by having their name, picture, blog, etc. online? And how many of the face to face predators find kids online? Jim Ellis agreed that Rob’s questions are very important and that no one can answer them properly because he didn’t there were real figures.

Derrall Garrison thinks that reports such as the PEW report in Oct had lessened some of the fear. Colette Cassinelli said check out APA Press Release – Internet Offenders Target Teens, not Young Children—Rarely Use Force, Abduction or Deception; we need to speak up and share how we teach digital citizenship to aleve any fears out there. She also says we need to keep the educating, educating, educating — not denying. Rob Wall suggested we check out Dean Shareski’s I’m telling you for the last time post which discusses key sections from the APA Press Release.

Doug Symington said it’s important to address these issues to avoid “chill” re:web in education.

Images, Avatars & Pseudos

Colette Cassinelli suggests that kids less than 13 can draw photos of themselves instead of posting photos; a lot of primary teachers using scanned drawings for avatars for VoiceThread. Doug Symington thinks that hand-drawn avatars, as an example, might be better than actual photos of youngsters. Laurie Gatzke said students in her class just made videos without any faces appearing on them. All of their props etc were either hand drawn or done in some other creative way.

Lisa Durff recommended Portrait Illustrator as a good way for students to create their own avatars. Her belief is all minors should use pseudos and says the parents think she’s too severe with this online identity thing however she feels online safety of the child is above all. bircherd-1 said I make my student use nicknames in the class blog.

Owning The Tool & Need To Educate

Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach said:

The risk is with teachers do not own the tools first. Teachers should use the tools first personally and professionally BEFORE they use them with kid. Kids that learn to use the tools within the safety net of a tech using teacher’s classroom are safer than a kid who gets online outside that safety net at home.

Bottom line this whole issue should serve a signal to all of us that we need to be able to advocate for the tools we use and why. Yes, but if a parent had complained about something he said in class or a book he used.. would the reaction have been the same? Part of the advocacy piece needs to be with us helping to educate parents as to the changes. I want to teach my students discernment so they know how to make right choices. I explain the choices I make and why.

By doing these kinds of things we can teach and model digital citizenship. As educators we need to help teach the kids the responsible ways to use the tools. Lincoln said.. the philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next generation. Part of our job is to indoctrinate in this case — responsible use of the new technologies.

We teach them not to talk to strangers and not to answer the phone when parents aren’t home. Educators traditionally have had the responsibility of helping the next generation understand how to use the tools safely.

As Dennis Richards said kids are using the internet without guidance. If we don’t give them guidance, they will never develop it.

Where Now?

We need to continue to debate these issues, find the research and develop our thoughts. Plus, as Alec Couros pointed out, we need to move this discussion, and what we learn, from the blogosphere to educating parents, other educators and decision makers. Any suggestions on the HOW?

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March 14, 2008
by Sue Waters
32 Comments

Al Upton & The MiniLegend’s Blog Given Order for Closure

aluptonmin.jpgLast year I was incredibly fortunate to be able to work closely with the Al Upton and the miniLegends, a class of Year 3 students, aged 8 and 9, during the 31 Days to Build A Better Blog — which involved completing daily tasks to improve our blogs — with an added incentive of Chocolate for the Most Improved blogger and Best Commenter.

Al’s been blogging with his students for the past five years and this year Al Upton decided to take student blogging, with his new group of miniLegends, to the next level and invited the educational blogging community to mentor a mini.

Unfortunately Al and his miniLegends have had problems this week; the end result being that today he was given an Order of Closure by Risk and management/Special Investigations Unit from the South Australian Education Department to remove his Al Upton’s MiniLegend class blog.

What happened was a few parents became concerned over the use of student images on blogs and potential for cyberstalking because global adult mentors were interacting students. Al had followed all the right procedures and obtained parental consent.

Al would like us to use this opportunity to inform/educate parents and Education Departments of the value of blogging for learners and to discuss the true realities of cyberstalking /bullying. Please take the time to leave your comments, thoughts and links either here or on Al’s blog.

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