Why and How I Made this Blog….

I am finding that everyday more and more people are using Web 2.0 tools to collaborate.

tweetmeTools like blogs and wikis are used to share knowledge and experiences and more people are using rss feeds to keep on top of everything.  And tools like Twitter to keep up beetween blog posts. So I thought, I’d better give this a go!

So why did I create an online presence for myself?

Use of online tools, like Facebook, Flickr, del.icio.us, Twitter and Lastfm are increasing in people’s day-to-day life. These tools are used to network with others, in order to learn, knowledge share and collaborate with like minded people, to keep in touch with faimly and friends easily, without having to be a web designer or programmer.

The demand for easier, efficient and more flexible ways of teaching and learning is rising and I’m exicted to be part of that. Interest in web-based learning and exploring new technology for more engaging methods for delivery is increasing as the much discussed generation gap becomes more of an issue as Gen Y hit the workplace.

It was time to join them. So, I made this blog to share my journey. Since I started this blog, many friends and family members created their own blogs and wiki’s, colleagues have started Facebook groups, and we’re all uploading images to sites like Flickr!

So where to start?

Sites like pbwiki and blogger are a great place to start, and I recommend having a play around here. I found edublogs had more features and add-ons to play with and suited the educational focus I wanted. There are many teachers successfully using edublogs to record their own journey, to collaborate and with their classes to upload/point to resources and engage students through collaborative discussion, for resource sharing and to monitor and engage with students work.

How I Made this Blog….

I tried setting up with blogger, but I didn’t get the flexibility I was after back then. I wasn’t going to learn enough myself and I wanted that challenge.

So I visited one of my favourite blogs to see how it was made. Veerle’s Blog is Powered by some blogging software called Expression Engine. It looked great, so I downloaded the software and read the instructions. It involved setting up an MySQL Database and configuring some php pages. Although I’ve worked with this type of technology before, I really didn’t have time to make this work.

So I went hunting for a more simple option. I already have a web space (web hosting) and wanted to use my own domain name (flairandsquare.com) . I also wanted to download additional plug-ins and themes to use with my blog (not just because I’m a nerd, but because I wanted to create a presence, a virtual identity).

The solution for me…

wordpressThis is when I found WordPress. You can sign up with WordPress and get your own blog, with many themes and customisation readily available.

WordPress actually offers to install everything directly on your web space for you for freeInstall4Free (very handy – thanks WordPress). I provided them with my hosting details and within a day, it was all ready to go.

Note: once it has been installed, you’ll need to delete your old default page from your web space (index.htm or default.htm)

Web Hosting

bluehostBlueHost is a great service if you want your own space. They’ll also help you with the set-up.

It’s installed, now what?

Once it’s all set-up, you need to log in to your new blog (with the provided details), you are then free to explore the features of your own wordpress blog.

The first thing I did was choose a theme for my site.  The free WordPress Blog has many themes and plug-ins already set-up for you to use. I chose the iTheme initially, which I downloaded after searching for free WordPress themes (here are some good sites for them). It’s very cool (looks like a Mac desktop and you can click and drag the boxes in the sidebar on the right around), it took some configuring, but the simplicity that resulted was worth it I think. I’ve now moved on to a more complex theme as my knowledge of coding, blogging and RSS has increased, I wanted a more ‘magazine style’ site.

WordPress is also the power behind edublogs, which I highly recommend for flexibility, creativity, choice of themes, support for teachers and plug-ins available.

Things I’ve Learnt

  • Make sure you choose a theme and set-up your plug-ins before adding your first bit of serious content.
  • Back your site up regularly while you’re building it (particularly if you are using wordpress on your own server)
  • Create lots of profiles in all the social networking sites (listed below) and list your site in as many places, or on as many sites as you can. Give the link to everyone. This will improve your blog rating and it’s ranking in Google Search, as will visiting other blogs and leaving comments for other bloggers. It’s about developing online communities.
  • Don’t do it all yourself when there are so many excellent free options for educators out there that offer everything you will need.
  • Explore, try, fail. Explore… Try something else.

How do I leave a comment on a blog?

Interesting Fact – Blogging can cut down on emails

A blog can be a great way to communicate with everyone at the same time, thus avoiding the giant email recipient list (as my parents have just found out here). You ‘post’ an update on your blog and your readers can then leave their comments as and when is suitable and the conversation begins.

Interesting problem – Where do I leave my comment?

Some bloggers tell me they don’t allow any commenting on their blog because it changes the way they write, or it takes too much time to monitor. However, so many people ask me “how do I leave a comment on a blog?”

Whenever I visit a blog and wish to comment, I always have to go hunting for the comments link. I watch others go hunting as well. People that blog and visit blogs may know what to look for, but what about the people that don’t?

Admittedly, as bloggers we can make it easier for them by inviting them to comment within our blog post. As I have done at the bottom of this post (but I don’t do it enough!), this tip came via the 31 day blog challenge I participated in last year (thanks to Problogger) and is a great tip.

So, for those of you wanting to leave a comment, here’s how;

How to comment on a blog

*please note, this will not be the same on every blog. The link will often be a different colour, to match the blog theme/ style.

If you have any comments on this, please leave a comment here.

 

Happy 1st Birthday to my blog!

Happy 1st Birthday to my blog!

1st Birthday to my Blog

Today is my blog’s 1st birthday.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I started this blog. It’s really quite amazing when I look back through all the entries, I realise what a collection of resources I’ve built up. It certainly has been an interesting journey, the collaborative aspects of blogging are certainly greater than I expected.

Oh and happy birthday also to my good friend Micah who is currently in Perth! I hope your day is completely fantastic!!

Other blog birthday wishes.

Happy birthday to these top bloggers!

Feeling Slack because my Dad’s got a blog!

Dad on holidays

It not just Dad’s blog that has re-engaged me, it’s the fact that he’s getting more comments than me… and not only does he fancy becoming a professional blogger in his retirement, but his latest blog post indicates that my mother is soon to join him on the blogging bandwagon!

Is nothing sacred?

I am left wondering what exactly I have done do deserve this. Is this the evolution of parental/sibling humillation?

And why do his posts get so many comments? Is it because of his grumpy old man pictures? Is it the colloquial way he writes? Is it because he has more friends that are interested in his trip?

Do I now need to consider what I blog about? Should I make it more personal? Enough is enough. I MUST keep up. Shame on me for being slack.

Tomorrow is my blog’s first birthday for God’s sake!

LTT: Weekly Blog Challenge – Task 4

The challenge continues

I know it’s been a while since the gauntlet was thrown (like October ’07) and back then I set some weekly blog challenges for the Learning Technology Team. At the commencement of the challenge, the team mostly engaged. Towards Task 3, the team were not so engaged, or more to the point, had no time to put into this series of challenges and wanted some time to reflect and revise on their learning.

Inspiring colleagues

Regan Harding Guest BloggerA couple of things have made me decide to finish this series of challenges. The first being regular gig for Regan Harding as guest blogger on the engageme.net/blog, Regan is one of our team members and her posts have been very inspiring and I would like you all to go visit them… and the second, a link to a very interesting blog that I received by email today;

Using Blogs to Promote Authentic Learning in the Classroom

What a great list of resources! In particular, check out the Student Safety and Responsible Blogging section

So let me recap on the challenge. The Tasks so far;

  • Task 1 – created a blog.
  • Task 2 – your “About me” page.
  • Task 3 – comment on someone else’s blog.

Now for Task 4 – Email a Reader

This challenge is about thanking readers that commented on your blog and contributors from way back if you’ve been blogging for a while now. My suggestions would be to do it via a personal email.

Yahoo Kids thank you e-card

This is something to adhere to in the future if you really want to get the most out of the relationships you have created through your blog. Responding to someone via email to thank them for their resources, comments, links or conversation is a great way to strengthen a relationship and encourage that person to continue reading and contributing to your blog and your blogging network.

I have really enjoyed my (Blog & Twitter) community that grew as a consequence of the 31 Day Blog Challenge I took part in last year. These connections are still there (although I have been quite absent so far this year) and these contacts support us in our daily roles and with our own personalised learning.

LTT: Weekly Blog Challenge – Where are you?

Hello LTT team!

Before I post Task 4, I’d like to know where you are all up to in this blog challenge? I have looked at all your blogs and noticed that many of you have not completed Task 3. I seem to have lost you in this challenge.

Why?

What do you think about blogging in education? Why doesn’t it work for you? Does it work for you? Is it just another thing you need to do? Can you see any benefits yet? I’d like to invite you to comment on this post and start a conversation about it. What are the issues?

What can I do to engage you in this challenge?

In Task 1, you created a blog. You refined your profile, in Task 2 – your About page. In Task 3 you were asked to comment on someone else’s blog. Blogging is about conversation and connections and to start this off, you need to comment on a blog.

Where are the blogs?

You do not have to comment on a team members blog, so let me know if you’ve gone outside the team so I can join you.

There are other NCI staff with blog’s that are worth discovering, let’s find them and engage with them. There’s a plethoras of resources out there on blogs. These people can be really beneficial, helpful to you in your daily role and have resources you can share.

I mentioned Kaz Madigan in the last task. If you haven’t had a look at her colourful and wonderful blog, have a look now.

NSW Outreach Exchange blog

Have you been to the NSW Outreach blog?

Are there any more blogs you know of?

I’d also like to invite the wider community to comment on some of these blogs. It would be great if you could help us find the value in connecting with other educators.

Team Blogs (ready for comments and conversations;

I look forward to the conversation and collaboration.

LTT: Weekly Blog Challenge – Task 3

So you have a blog!

What now? What can you do with it? How could it be useful in Teaching and Learning?

I’d like to invite any teachers reading this blog to comment on how they use there blog, why is a blog classed as a Social Networking tool? How can it be used with a class?

I use my blog to share my e-Learning/ New Technology learning and development with colleagues and family. It’s both a personal and professional space.

So how can a blog be useful for networking?

Here’s an example;

Kaz Madigan, curiousweaverYesterday a teacher within North Coast Institute contacted me and happened to mention that she read my blog and I was really thrilled.

Kaz Madigan has her own blog, which I hadn’t seen before and it’s wonderful. Now I have seen it, and we have talked about our blogs and have made a connection and are looking forward to meeting each other.

But that’s just the start…

I have since sent her blog to a couple of other teachers that have similar interests, work in the same area or a similar interest in web tools. I am hoping they might post a comment on her blog, or contact her and connect.

For me, the power of blogging is making connections. Connecting with like minded people in this way, you are able to develop a strong collaborative relationship virtually, an element of trust follows.

If you haven’t already met face to face, one day you might and the relationship strengthens further, as resources, learning, and experiences are shared. Through these people and their online spaces, you meet others and a strong network of ‘trusted’ friends blooms.

In Task 1, you created a blog. You refined your profile, in Task 2 – your About page. Now you are ready to experience the power of blogging. But, as always, to get something out of it, you need to put something in, so here it is, Task 3.

Task 3: Comment on someone else’s BlogChat Bubble

This challenge is about going on a blog hunt to find like minded people with a blog. Add a comment on to their blog and start a conversation.

There is a list of your team/colleague blogs already in the comments section of Task 1. You could also search for a blog relative to your faculty or area of interest. It’s up to you, but please take the time to make a comment, you’d be amazed by how much it’s appreciated and you’ll probably get a response back fairly quickly.

I know this challenge might seem pretty basic, but many successful blogs have been built on the back of these types of conversations and the task is worth getting your teeth into.

RSS - Subscribe to this Blog

Tip: RSS Aggregator…

I can’t really imagine life before netvibes; managing all those blogs and wiki’s through an RSS Aggregator makes life so much easier. You can subscribe to the RSS feed on a blog to automatically keep following the conversation and posts.

Next week, in our Technology sessions, we’ll revisit RSS and their use to save you time!

Good luck and happy commenting!

LTT: Weekly Blog Challenge – Task 2

Welcome to Task 2.

In Phase one of the Technolog-e sessions, we looked at Educational uses of Blogs. Now, in these five short tasks (should take no more than 15 minutes each), we’ll be exploring some of the techniques you can use to embed blogging into your work, engage your colleagues and your students.

Looking back at Task 1

In task 1 (getting started), you set up your first blog and wrote your first post. What a great achievement!

Here are some of your new blogs;

Well done… that’s a great start.

In some of these blogs, I can see real potential to engage and connect not only with your colleagues, but students, industry and community.

Task 2 – Spend some time on your About Me/ Profile page

The About Page of your blog is a VERY important part of your blog. It gives you a chance to connect with your readers on a more personal level. Here’s mine.

This page gets checked out to see who you are before they decide whether they want to read your blog or how much they are likely to engage with you. Rework it regularly. I have run some audits on my blog and this page does get as many visits as the front page.

Your task is to develop your About/Profile page, and here are some tips on how to get your readers interested;

  • Try to avoid acronym’s and ‘techie’ words and phrases – like “new and emerging technologies”, “personalised learning environments” and “pedagogy”, unless you are writing to explain what they are
  • Include your picture or a personal image, include some personal things that allow people to see what they have in common with you
  • List any other online spaces that you have that your readers might like (e.g. myspace, lastfm, twitter, wiki’s, del.icio.us, etc)
  • Spell out subscription options – RSS… so readers can be notified when you post something new (need some help?)
  • Provide a way for your readers to contact you. Some free blogs have Contact Forms as part of the deal, check your blog settings and options.

* Remember not to put too much personal information here, it’s open web. Check our Team security & privacy page from our session with Sue Shelly.

LTT: Weekly Blog Challenge – Task 1

Embedding Blogging into your Educational Spaces

In Phase one of the Technolog-e sessions, we looked at Educational uses of Blogs.

As part of this challenge, we will explore some of the techniques you can use to embed blogging into your work, whether that’s engaging colleagues, student, family or all of them (you get out of this as much as you put in) in the one space.

Your Challenge

It’s time to strengthen our network, collaborate more with our team, and email less.

So let’s start with our own Blog Challenge.

Note: One task a day (even a quick one) might be a bit much to ask of you, but you have some paid time for your role once a week. So I am asking you to take 10 – 15 mins to complete one task per week for five weeks.

To learn about the power of blogs, we need to start using them. There’s not much point me listing the blog challenges on our team wiki, so I’ll do it through my blog….

Task 1 – Write A Post

If you haven’t already

  1. Set up a blog with Blogger and Edublogs .
  2. Watch this video on how to set up an edublogs blog.
  3. Your blog title and URL address is important, it sticks, consider carefully.
  4. Choose a design/ template/ style – don’t spend too much time on this yet, it’s a later task.
  5. Get started by writing your first post. Watch this video on how to write posts for Edublog blogs. This could be a welcome, an introduction to you and why you have a blog, it could invite other to comment on your first post.

For some tips withnumber 5, read Sue’s tips.

Blogging

* image from here

Some useful Blog Challenge resources

Blog Themes… can you claim one?

Creating and maintaining an online identity.

Blog themes are usually free and as such we can’t possibly expect others not to use the same ones. You have to pay for that!

Blog themes

But what if that person is someone you know? What if someone who has a fairly strong virtual identity and is in the same professional field, and is someone who visits your blog?

What if someone that you knew changed their blog theme to something almost identical to yours?

Would you be surprised when you visited their space? Would you be annoyed or flattered?

What if you had carried that theme through to other spaces?

Would you change your theme?

What do you think?

How do you feel about your online identity?

Youth and Social Networking

Y does Howard Use YouTube?On Friday September 28th, North Coast Institute of TAFE hosted Regional Event #4, for LearnScope NSW. (See the LearnScope Blog for some pic’s)

The focus was Youth and Social Networking in Education.

For the first part of the day, the presenters (and many attendees) came to us virtually via Adobe Connect. For the later part, the presenters were present at the event, it was intended that virtual attendees could watch and interact online.

This resulted in some interesting discussion at lunch time about both the content and the delivery method. Physical participants commented that they felt it was difficult to engage with the virtual presenters, and felt frustrated by being unable to log into the Connect room due to the wireless connection. These participants were able to engage with the presenters in the same room during the afternoon sessions, looking at the comments in the chat pod, the virtual participants seemed to feel some what cut-off.

Was this lack of preparation and time on my part?

Being my first attempt to coordinate such an event, I have learnt a lot about format (although international time zones dictate presentations to some extent), not to mention over committing myself.

On reflection, loading the afternoon presentations and hand-outs into the Adobe Connect Room would have enhanced the experience of the virtual attendees in the afternoon, but would the focus on the technology, the Adobe Connect room, have detracted from the event for the physical attendees? How can we make these event’s run smoother in the future? Are we ready? Technically, I would say we have a long way to go, but the learning from these experiences are good ones. How did the guest speakers feel, did it seem smooth to them? I wonder…

Guest Speakers

Guest Speaker #1 – Sue Waters

Our first Guest Speaker was Sue Waters, who invited her wonderful, international Social Network along. See her blog post. This was a very interactive and fun session. Dare I say chaotic?

Virtually, using Adobe Connect , Sue intended to lure physical participants to contribute to the discussion by using chocolate (what is it with Sue and Chocolate?). Sue led the discussion around the positives and negatives of Social Networking quite successfully at first, but after a while the participants became wild with sugar racing through their bodies and it became difficult for them to focus.

It was an interesting session and lots to be learnt from both the content and the delivery. As usual, Sue’s happy and bright personality made the session fun and engaging.

My questions are;

  • Was it too much to be Social Networking at the same time, sending our questions out via our Twitter networks?
  • Is there only a small percentage of us that actually mutli-task like this? Or is this what it’s really like out there for our students?
  • Do we need to learn and teach this skill?

I am looking forward to Sue’s comments on the session. Until then, a big thanks to Sue for her time and chocolate, I have since put on 5 kilo’s!! :)

Guest Speakers #2 - Alex Hayes and Jacinta Gascoigne

A discussion into the use (and abuse) of social networking technology in education not restricted to VET, inclusive of all community based settings, flexible and home schooling. Jacinta presented to people attending both virtually and physically via Adobe Connect while Alex Hayes manned the chat pod, asking and answering some interesting questions.

Thanks to you both for sharing your thoughts.

Afternoon Sessions

Kate Jones presented some excellent information on interactive, engaging resources that are readily available to engage younger learners. No need to create engaging material from scratch, check out some of these sites;

Thanks Kate for your generosity.
Regan Harding inspired us with her Gen X & Y ‘treasures within’ presentation, provoking discussion about the exploration of personal identity and learning and how electronic mediums can provide young people with chances to be seen and be heard.

Regan graciously shared her journey and Youth at Risk projects with us. She shared what has worked for her and what might work……

I am hoping that Regan will grace this blog with a guest post on this topic very soon.

Kristin Teece from New England joined us at the end of the day to discuss Social Networking, engaging the Disengaged… flexible and real learning… literacy and numeracy skills, IT skills, self development and creativity… Building positive educational experiences and relationships on the social networks (specifically myspace) and what to be aware of in a professional educational settings.

Discussions over a beer…

One of the most interesting conversations of the day was about the communication methods, language and perceptions of youth (Gen X & Y). How do they communicate with peers, bosses and teachers? What they expect, what they ‘don’t get’, what their elders ‘don’t get’. Mark Keevers, our official Gen X person had some great points to share and it was over a beer, at the Nautilus bar, at the end of the day, that this discussion got really interesting. The discussion was recorded by Padmini Sampathkumar on an mp3 player. I am hoping to get some clips of this discussion to share with you here. So thanks Padmini for recording that one.

Thank you

Thanks to all our guest speakers and attendees for their hard work and contributions for the day. A special thanks to Luke Hodges from the AFLF who was our technical expert and support guru for the day. You are a legend!

Elsewhere on that day…

Speaking of Social Networking, blogging fits into this category. Interestingly, in Brisbane on the same day, there was an Australian Blogging Conference at QUT’s Creative Industries Precinct.

Tama Leaver writes some great notes on the conference on his blog – “Reflections on the Australian Blogging Conference and Blogging in Education“. This is really worth a read, there are some great examples as well.

Kate Davis, a Gold Coast Librarian, also took some notes on “Building a Better Blog” at the event.

Dear Readers… who are you?

As you know, I have been participating in the 31 Day Blogging Challenge. The task for day 21 (yes, I’m ten days behind) included a great suggestion;

ask your readers to do some self promotion.

So… “I’d like to get to know you well…” (sing it)

As well as giving you the opportunity to promote yourself on this blog, I’d like to take the opportunity to get to know you, on a more… personal level. Yes, I’m going to ask you to share something personal with me.

If you’re not comfortable with that, then share something that you use to strengthen your networks, encourage collaboration and, or resource sharing. I’d love you to post a comment, include a link to your Flickr/Facebook or other social networking site…

Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/flairandsquare

If you use Flickr, I’d like to know more about how.

  • Do you really utilise all the tools that this site offers?
  • Do you use it for teaching and learning?
  • How can we get the most out of this tool?

Thanks to JoKay, I recently discovered MOO. Moo loves to print beautifully designed products with the photos in your Flickr stream. For just $25 I got 100 funky little business cards printed using the images of my choice. I used five images of my avatar, Spinner Mills. Click below to see them on my Flickr space.

www.flickr.com

millerspin's photos tagged with closeup More of millerspin’s photos tagged with closeup