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Posts Tagged ‘Blogging’

Whether participating as a reader or a writer of blogs, engagement with the Blogoshphere provides an opportunity to learn, explore and discover the knowledge, opinions and thoughts of others.  It is an exciting and vibrant world which invites readers and writers to freely express and explore an enormous range of topics.

Having the opportunity to tease out the various aspects of blogging – how to blog and what can be gained from blogging – is an opportunity that was extended to me by the Australian publication Education Technology Solutions and is the fifth and final article in a series about lifelong learning which I have written for this magazine over the last twelve months.

Aiming to provide concrete suggestions for the novice blogger to help get started as well as providing thoughts and ideas of the benefits to be gained by engaging in the Blogosphere. Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!  has just been published in Education Technology Solutions – Issue 69, December/January 2016.

ABSTRACT: Blogging is a powerful way to determine our own growth and development. By pursuing topics of personal interest, by considering the words and thoughts of others, by writing reflective and informative posts, a rich, supportive network is built. Engagement with the Blogosphere enables educators to enhance their own skills, knowledge and experience and in the process define their own path of lifelong learning.

Also published on the Educational Technology Solutions website, I’m pleased to also be able to share my article here:

Blogging: Powerful And Addictive!

pic-1By Bev Novak.

Blogging is a powerful way to learn, explore and discover.

Replete with an infinite source of information on a limitless number of topics, the blogosphere is a perfect location for educators to create and direct their own learning path. That which is learned from either reading or writing blog posts expands both their knowledge and their thinking. By posting comments on blog posts, it is possible to engage in a form of social networking that is distinct and different from other social networking platforms. Connecting with those who write blogs or with those who read their blogs is exciting, stimulating and inspirational.

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I feel both frustrated and saddened.

Frustrated because I don’t know how to change the situation I’m faced with and saddened because I know that unless change happens, others are not only missing out but those they teach are missing out too.

What happened?

Yet another professional colleague gave me that irksome, fixated, glazed stare as I rattled on about the joy of learning and all that I have learned by talking, reading, writing, listening and sharing along with the immense pleasure I constantly gain by acquiring new knowledge and knowing that I am part of an amazing never ending chain of knowledge.

Why doesn’t everyone get it?!   Why doesn’t everyone understand that all educators – young and old, experienced and less experienced – need to continuously learn?!

If you’re reading this blog, you’re already hooked.  You already know how important it is to constantly reach out for new thoughts, ideas, pedagogy and technology.  It’s something you do on a regular basis.  It’s something that feeds your joy of being.  It’s something that helps you grow and perform as a better teacher.

Unfortunately though, not everyone feels the need for ongoing professional learning.

How can we change this mentality?   How can we excite our colleagues who haven’t yet discovered not just the need to continuously learn, but the inherent joy derived from learning?

What processes are we putting in place to bring others on board, to make them recognize how important it is to stay fresh and to maintain their relevancy in the eyes of their students and their work colleagues?

A shift toward centralized teacher registration in Australia is attempting to formalize this.  VIT registration renewal now requires each of us to complete 20 hours of professional learning each year.   But, it can be argued, forcing people to learn doesn’t necessarily translate to learning and growth actually occurring.

It’s the learning culture we need to change!  

Just as we aim to instill a love of learning in our students, so too we need to instill a love of learning in educators.   Just as we grow weary of the many students in our classes who complete the bare minimum to prove competency has been gained, I grow weary when I see professional colleagues just step through the ropes to earn that ‘Certificate of Completion’.

Just recently I was telling my son about an awesome online program I had recently ‘attended’.  In between sharing details of the course, I mentioned that while I enjoyed the weekly readings and took the opportunity to play a little with some of the tools to which we were being exposed,  the weekly assignments were not to my liking, so I didn’t complete them.   In saying this out loud, I realized that this is the first time I haven’t actually completed all those ‘required tasks’ which I knew would disqualify me from receiving my ‘Certificate of Completion’.  And, furthermore, I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt!  The many hours I had spent poring over readings of websites and the comments and thoughts exchanged by all of us participating in the program was sufficient for me.  As this realization popped into my mind, I realized that gaining the certificate was not the reason I had even enrolled in the course!   And then, I was blown away when my son’s response came swift and clear:

We learn what we want to learn, not what we have to learn.”

Funnily enough, just last week,  a senior member of our teaching staff popped into our workroom confessing that he had never been interested in learning details shared in one of the mandatory sessions conducted by our eLearning teachers, never, that is, until now – because now he needs to know how to apply that learning!   A brief exchange between us deduced an eerily similar comment to that of my son:

Successful learning most often occurs on a need to know basis.   

So, could it be that herein lies an unexplored path to ignite a love of learning among the teachers in our schools?  Could we perhaps create instances in which needs are manufactured, needs which would compel teachers to step into that glorious world of learning so that they could reap the rewards and experience first hand the joy of learning?

As I said earlier, my learning is constantly propelled by

  • talking: predominantly on Twitter and face-to-face with work colleagues
  • reading: thoughts, comments and links found on social media and the blog posts of others
  • writing:  reflecting as I write posts for my two blogs
  • listening: when attending conferences, workshops or meet-ups with other professionals
  • sharing: by presenting at conferences which encompasses much thinking and planning

So, is it possible to bottle some of the experiences and dividends I’ve described as being inherent in my style of learning to create situations from which our work colleagues could gain much.

So …..

  • what if teachers had to create a Twitter account so they could regularly receive shared information from the Principal?
  • what if teachers were then required to follow 10 thought leaders and share those they follow with their followers?
  • what if teachers had to tweet their response to at least 10 links found and read on Twitter?
  • what if teachers had to RT good tweets read?
  • what if teachers had to send an agreed minimum number of tweets a week?
  • what if teachers had to read at least six recommended blogs a week?
  • what if teachers had to view at least six videos (TED, Youtube) a week?
  • what if teachers had to create a blog on which they share reflections of their own learning journey?
  • what if teachers had to write at least one blog post a week?
  • what if teachers had to leave comments on the blogs of at least three other colleagues a week?
  • what if teachers were required to attend a school based TeachMeet where they had to present for 7 minutes?
  • what if teachers were required to attend one online learning program a year?
  • what if the above cycle was a professional learning requirement for a set number of weeks each year?
  • what if each teacher’s participation in this program was monitored by an experienced mentor?
  • what if learning time – at least three hours a week – was scheduled into each teacher’s weekly timetable?
  • what if schools underwent some rethinking and redesigning to overcome the kinds of situations illustrated here which saps the time and energy of the time poor teachers in our schools?!
The Point: Independent Education Union Vol. 4 No 6 November 2014

The Point: Independent Education Union Vol. 4 No 6 November 2014

Is it possible that by implementing these practices into our staff professional learning programs that we could, at last, instill a love of learning into the hearts and minds of all our teachers?

 

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If you missed yesterday’s announcement, you can’t miss it when you next log onto your Google Reader!

Google Reader

Launched in 2005 to make it easy for people to discover and keep track of their favourite websites, declining usage since has led to a decision to axe the service.  Reporting on the closure, an article on Pocket-link says that this brings “the total number of features or services closed since 2011 to 70.”  An astounding figure in most books, but in the big “Google” picture this is perhaps just a drop in the ocean.

So what to next?  With the offer to current users to utilize Google Takeout to export data as well as subscriptions over the next four months, I guess we are not being completely left high and dry.   But for those of us who started our online journey with the aid of Google Reader, this sure is going to be a wrench.  Not sure how to use Google Takeout?  Check out the video or follow the instructions recently posted on Mashable: How to export your RSS feeds from Google Reader.

There’s certainly no shortage of online readers.  Lists that I’ve come across make mention of Feedly, Netvibes and Flipboard as just some of the many readers that are out there.  The lists are sprouting up fairly quickly.  If you’re lost, here’s a starting point:

The ultimate Google Reader alternatives list
12 Google Reader alternatives
Google Reader is dead: Here are five alternatives
Google Reader is dead.  Here’s what you need to replace it

Finding the one that is a comfortable fit is a task that will need to move to the top of my ‘to do’ list.  Let me know if you have any suggestions!

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Yes indeed ….. the content of a blog is analogous to a heart beat!

While all kinds of bells and whistles can make a blog post look attractive, we would be hard pressed to find a good blog that did not have appealing content.  Selecting, considering and thinking about what and how the blog post is composed is essential.

I guess, in a way, it is a bit like a book.  The cover, the paper the novel is printed, the kind of font selected are all extraneous to the content of the story.  So before I go look at the links suggested, or blogs that have been shortlisted in this second activity of the Teacher Challenge, I offer the following as my own thoughts on what makes a good blog.  Some of these thoughts have evolved from the thoughts that are reflected back to me by some of my own readers.

  1. Purpose: A blog post should have a purpose, not just be an empty ramble on a given topic.  The purpose may be to inform about a new development, to share an experience had, or to reflect on how the blogger got to the point they are presently at.
  2. Title: I always think that the title of a blog is like the headlines we read in newspapers.  The headline should be something short and sharp that makes the reader stop and think ‘Yes, I’d really like to read about that!’  There’s so much out there to read.  Aim to make  your blog “stand out” by taking the time to consider its title.   Each blog written must endeavour to be the most appealing, the most interesting, the most captivating carrot in the bunch.
  3. Voice: Establish a blog that has its own “voice” one that resounds loud and clear and is repeated in each blog post.  This will ensure that your blog has its own unique character which on its own will entice readers to return again and again to ‘hear’ a little more from you!
  4. Writing style: Establishing a writing style and repeating this style in each blog post will ensure that your blog develops a character of its own.  Its a bit like reading a book by the same author: the plot, the characters, the style of content are warm and familiar, something that we like to return to again and again.  A great way to maintain readership.
  5. Content: Aim for authenticity.   No one wants to read a blog that has farfetched, unreal statements.   As readers we like to be able to recognize those ‘ah ha’ moments that translate to ‘Hey, I think that too’ or ‘Hey, that happened to me when I did …..”  Sharing experiences or lessons learned.  They ring true!
  6. Appearance: Be sure your blog post looks good.  Lengthy slabs of text are unappealing.  Break the blog post up with headings, images, indentations, videos …..  Above all, don’t make the post too long.  With so much out there to read, people want to be able to take a dip and savour the message you have to share.

Wow!  I sound like an expert sprouting out these tips!!  I’m constantly in awe of how much I seem to have picked up about a topic I knew next to nothing about just a short while ago.   Having just read Nine Signs of an Effective Blog Post I feel that at least I’m on the right path.   Always curious to meet the author, I spotted Darren Rowse‘s latest blog entry: 29 Ways to Keep Me Coming Back to Your Blog Again and Again.  Short sharp and succinct, Darren offers some great tips.  Thanks Darren!

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I applaud those of you behind the creation of the Edublogs Teacher Challenge.   It is an amazing effort to reach out to those of us who are new and not so new in the blogosphere and provides us with an opportunity to hone our skills individually and collectively.

Since commencing my blog as part of the VicPLN course back in April of 2010, I made the decision at the conclusion of the course to continue blogging.   NovaNews seems to have now developed a life of its own.  Most of my blog posts are reflections about my own learning journey but along the way, as readers have left comments, this path has taken unexpected twists and turns.   That, I realize is what it is all about.

I know I’ve still got lots to learn about blogging, but at the same time, I realize that I have already learned much.  Sharing some of my knowledge with you is part and parcel of the blogging process. So, along with other participants, this is my first post in the Teacher Challenge: Kick Start Activity 1 – Advanced – Down Blog’s Memory Lane! Consider the following list of things that I think are important about blogging.

Blogging 14

  1. First and foremost blogging is fun!  You choose the topic, the style and the format of your blog.  You direct, others follow.
  2. Blogging is a way of expanding your PLN. The exchange of comments is an invaluable way of building up a core readership.  Don’t forget to comment on the blog posts of others too!
  3. Be sure to make your blog post title a short, sharp statement: one that is both reflective of the blog post’s content as well as appealing.  This will entice increased and continued readership.
  4. Don’t make your post too long.  Readers don’t want to wade through a really lengthy post.
  5. Vary the presentation of your blog and aim to make it attractive: use numbering or blockquotes to indent and break up the look of your post; insert pictures, videos, graphics, links, audio files, images.
  6. When inserting a link, be sure to select in the ‘Target’ field the tab that says ‘Open link in a new window’.  This will ensure that when a reader follows a link you’ve included, your original blog post will remain open.
  7. Always acknowledge sources.  Firstly, this is a courtesy.  Secondly, it ensures that the original author’s work is valued.
  8. Blogging is a way of sharing knowledge.  Aim to make your blog post informative.  Include original thoughts or corroborate the thoughts expressed in the posts of others.
  9. Establish a theme or a style.  This will attract and inspire repeat visits to your blog as your readers will develop an expectation of what they might ‘see’ if they come visit your blog again.  This will in turn help to build up your ‘audience’.
  10. Be sure to publicize your blog so as to expand your readership.  If no one knows you’re blogging, no one will read it. Twitter is a great forum to publicize new blog posts.

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I know I’m repeating myself here, but Twitter really is wonderful! The little bits and pieces of valuable information shared is just invaluable.

It was a while ago that I freaked out about ‘what if I lost all the info I’ve put into my blog’ and found out how to take a back up. That was nearly three months ago.   A Tweet from Free Technology for Teachers reminded me of the importance of regularly taking a back up.  With just three easy steps that take less than a minute, I can relax again! Thanks guys!

Blog Backup 1Blog Backup 2Blog Backup 3

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It took me a while to catch up with the kids, but I finally did!   The mobile phone is now part of my persona.

I remember though, seemingly not all that long ago, thinking deeply about the impact of the mobile phone.  I’m not sure about you, but for me it was a worry.   I saw society changing – and that worried me.   Firm and established social mores were buckling and changing.  Why did it worry me so?  Well… it was different. Phone calls were suddenly intruding on the peace and serenity of the minute.   People could interrupt each other whenever and wherever they felt like it.   A conversation over a coffee or lunch was interrupted by a mobile phone.  Work conversations with colleagues would become disjointed as a phone call cut into the train of thought.  I remember sitting back regarding the idiocy of a group of us chatting around a coffee table with four of the six people at our gathering responding to calls on their mobiles.   Was this sheer craziness?   What happened to the importance of the social interchanges we had been so conditioned to having?  Why was it so urgent all of a sudden to be available any time and any place?

For a very long time, I felt I had no need of a mobile phone.   Even if family and friends were equipped with the latest technology, why on earth did I suddenly need to join the crowd?  If someone wanted to speak to me they could wait.  Why not?   They had in the past and all was fine.  If there was an urgent need for me to make a phone call, there was always a way.   Payphones in communal areas were always on hand and if I was en route somewhere, there were always plenty of phone boxes on the streets that would allow me the convenience of making a call.

The fact that a mobile phone could interrupt the face-to-face conversations I had with family, friends and work colleagues disturbed me.  It was out of the ordinary, different, not a ‘normal’ communication.   For a very long time I felt very strongly about the whole issue.   I often quipped that a study of the impact of the mobile phone on society would make a great research project.   It’s heartening that others acted and have completed such research!

So what changed for me?  Why did I join the crowd?  I must admit ….. there was no lightbulb moment for me.  I kind of drifted into it.  My first point of interaction was with immediate family.   I’d get into it for them, I told myself.   Ah ….. then along crept the convenience.  And in so doing, I caught up with the fact that societal values do shift and change and that we, members of society, need to adapt and accept change as a part of life.

So why on earth am I rambling on about mobile phones  you may ask?  What relevance does this have to my new found digital world?  It’s simple.  The two are analogous.   Just as I tried to dig my heels in and see no use for mobile phones in my life, so too did I dig my heels in and see no relevance of exploring the digital world.  Stubborn?  …..  perhaps.  Naive? …..  most certainly!

I’ve discovered so much in such a short time.  The depth and breadth of the Internet is only just dawning on me.  The immensity of the Blogosphere and the Twitterverse overwhelm me.  The benefits of Social Networking astound me.   Sometimes, as I while away time into the wee hours of the morning at my PC, I feel like I’ve only tapped a fraction of the vastness that is out there for me to explore.

Once, I’d have thought that I was doing this on my own, isolating myself at my PC.   But that’s not the case.  Being able to link with others, be it my PLN or strangers I befriend via Ning, Twitter, Diigo, VodPod or indeed other bloggers I meet through my RSS Feeder, continually astound me.

To be able to link across oceans with others and tease out my own thoughts is an opportunity too good to miss.  I’m so glad to have thrown off the yolk of ignorance.  I look forward to a continued journey of exploration.

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