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12 Tips for Blogging Success

As I was listening to the Newsworthy Blogging podcast from the Social Geek Radio show on my way to work, I had the desire to take notes (should have launched Dragon Dictation). While the tips from Susan Young were intended for blogging for business purposes, the ideas themselves are truly for a universal audience and apply not only to blogging but education. Below I have compiled the 12 Tips for Blogging Success gleaned from Susan Young’s Social Geek Radio blogtalk and have added some anecdotal insight.

My Six Word Memoir

  1. Purpose – What is the purpose of your blog? This is about content. Find your niche and stick to it. People need to know what to expect. Also make sure you have enough knowledge, resources, and content to generate multiple posts on the topic. (I chose Techchef4u for a few reasons. I wanted to make sure it was general enough to encompass any instructional technology I discussed but clear enough to convey the message that I enjoyed creating technology integration resources for anyone and everyone that choose to dine on them. Much like the Joy Of Cooking. =)
  2. Frequency – How often should you write? Susan likened blog posts to a phone call. If you have something to say, call (post a blog). If you have a valuable message and don’t just post to post, this will build credibility. (I keep a notebook of ideas for blog entries and will prioritize them based on teacher and instructional need. I try to keep it timely… Blog on Demand, if you will.)
  3. Good Headlines – The headline and first few opening lines are crucial to keeping reader interest and letting them know what to expect. Look to magazines with snappy headlines and borrow and adjust accordingly. (Oftentimes, I will have a vision for the entry but will not compose the title till the body is complete.)
  4. Keywords: This gets in to a bit of search engine optimization. She mentioned using Google to determine the percentage of people searching for a phrase (the order and arrangement of the words counts) and that these engines like fresh content (no repeats or old info) and numbers in the headlines.(While I have written a 5 part iPad series, this was more due to the fact that I didn’t want to publish 5,000 word blogs. I don’t think I have truly capitalized on the top 10 lists but want to really try and focus on these bulleted lists to drive some of my posts).

    Questions to Ponder

  5. Word Count: This goes back to adding value. There is no set length for a post. It is more about presenting a clear message… whether it be in 3 sentences or 3 paragraphs. (I tend to have to reel myself in as I want to compile and assemble all available information and research on a topic. I will spend hours searching through other posts that mention or discuss a similar topic (e.g. Flipping the Classroom) and incorporate them as additional information in my post. I need to reconcile with myself that it is okay to have a simple post … not a research analysis of a topic.)
  6. Grammar: Blogs are not reports. They tend to be more conversational. Don’t ramble. Present a clear, concise message that carries your writing style. (I really enjoy this aspect of blogging. Being a Leo and Italian, I naturally like to talk and love this form of media to be conversational and yet still convey my message. So much better than a static handout or info sheet).
  7. Reader-friendly: Readers are bombarded by media. If they see a list of 100 tips or large bodies of text… most will not commit to read your blog. Make sure it is full of white space, easy on the eyes, and something that your reader can gleen the gist by scanning. (I will typically write all of the text first and then break it up into smaller sections to make reading and searching for information a more user-friendly experience)
  8. Photos: include relevant images and photos that connect to the written message, break up the text, and highlight some of your personality. My goal for each post is to try to highlight Web 2.0 tool(s) (Google Squared, Big Huge Labs, Flikr PoetQuiki, etc..) using screenshots or embed code. My intent is to ensure that everyone leaves my blog with something they can use…whether it be an idea or a tool).Big Huge Labs Billboard
    1. (If I just need a cool photo, I will use Morgue File
    2. If I have photos that I would like to add some pizazz too, I use PhotoFunia.
  9. Videos: To reach all learners and communicators, incorporate a video or vodcast from time to time to highlight multiple modes of communication. It is also a great way to attract and build rapport with your readers as this will highlight your manners and personality. Consider transcribing it for those who would prefer a text version. (I love including videos but many of them are project-based in nature, like Sock Puppet Shakespeare or Signs of Math. I am looking forward to starting to sprinkle my blog entries with personal vodcasts. For now, these are still scripted. I am too much of a perfectionist to get these in one take.)
  10. Humor & Creativity: You have the podium. Are readers engaged enough to read on? Drop the jargon and be yourself. Weave in your personality and style. Ask open-ended questions to engage your reader and promote discussion. (I tend to like to play with words and be conversational so the media of blogging has been a great outlet for me to test new recipes and ideas.)
  11. Comments: Respond to and acknowledge comments. No one wants to be ignored. We want our message to be well-received. Just because you didn’t receive any comments, doesn’t mean that nobody read it. (Just because someone didn’t fill out a comment card doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy their meal or experience. It was just a few weeks ago that I learned about “pingbacks” and started seeing other blogs hyperlink to mine as I had done to theirs. I am hoping I get the opportunity to have a more personal level of communication, but for now I am just enthused that people are visiting the kitchen and sampling the dishes… hoping I will soon receive a few comment cards.)
  12. Reposting & Repackaging: If you are going to repost a blog entry, it can’t be dated. Freshen it up a bit. Consider repackaging your top 10 blog entries or a series as an ebook or PDF document as a resource for teachers. (I will typically repost an entry if I have revised or added to it (e.g. added Bloom’s Taxonomy of Apps to Hot Apps for HOTS post). Yet I had never considered creating ebooks for various topics. I love the idea as well as the accessibility of repurposing it. Hoping to have a Joy of Cooking: the iPad edition released towards the end of summer.)

Here is my first vodcast. This was inspired by the idea of truisms & six word memoirs.

I am very excited to have the opportunity to be a guest on Social Geek Radio Thursday June 23rd at 8pm. We will be discussing cool technology for kids (apps and Web 2.0 tools) that they can utilize on these hot summer days.

Check out Miguel Guhlin’s post for more blogging tips. (Thanks, Miguel, for the tips and the feature.)

 
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Posted by on June 14, 2011 in Blogging Tips

 

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Flipping the Classroom

I recently was asked to be part of a Think Tank to promote global education through the use of technology integration in our schools (many times highlighting the power of mobile devices & Web 2.0 tools). I have since then been inspired to share this video and its message with anyone and everyone that will lend me their ears.

As a Math teacher, I am familiar with the direct teach… assign guided/independent work in class… work not finished becomes homework… homework is not completed or completed inaccurately (and oftentimes with misconceptions) due to lack of instructional support at home. This cycle has gone on for much too long and is clearly still a practice as we see multiple interventions occurring to save students from failure on high stakes assessments and grade level promotion.

Though I was aware of the Kahn Academy app and am quite familiar with other Math apps that can be used to build math capacity and strengthen math skills, it was not till last week when the idea of “flipping the classroom” was added to my vernacular. How exquisitely simple the idea for such a powerful change to pedagogy and student results. Ask yourself, “How would our knowledge of Math or Science differ if Einstein & Newton had left detailed videos to explain their theories and concepts?” The entire video is linked below (it only takes 20 minutes to be inspired).

Let’s use video to reinvent education: Salman Khan on TED.com.

While this is not meant to be a one-size-fits-all approach, it does have many benefits for our learners:

  • allows learners who fall behind to not feel ashamed in asking for help as they can access the videos from home (rather than ask a question in front of the class)
  • allows self-directed and self-motivated learners to move ahead at a pace that is right for them
    • One example that was given during our meeting was that of a second grade student who had not qualified for the GT program but was extremely interested in what those students were doing in the program – especially with Math. The GT teacher directed him to her website with all of her teacher videos and assignments for the next few weeks. He quickly returned and wanted to know when she would be posting the next video, as he had not only completed the first video and assignment but all of them. Some times the walls of our classrooms are too small to contain the voracious appetite for learning and discovery that many of our students possess. She has since then began coaching him as a student in Khan Academy.
    • I too had a similar story. I taught a Pre-Algebra Advanced course for 7th grade students. While the students were predominantly GT, the levels and spectrum of GT varied throughout the classroom. One student always stood out to me. He would receive perfect scores on his assessments and he would actually read ahead to the next 2-3 chapters in the Math textbook. I recommended him to move to Algebra that year and he did well being two years ahead of his peers in Math. At the time we did not have access to or knowledge of the wealth of video and online resources available for a student of his caliber. Looking back, this would have been a wonderful gift to empart to all of my Math students.
  • allows students who missed class or have transferred from another campus, district, state to fill in the gaps (lessons & skills) that they may have missed
  • provides copious amounts of data (e.g. time spent on video or activity, problems missed, how many attempts, etc…) to teachers to track students and provide more resources and remediation of needed

Much of the Criticism I have seen against the Flipped Classroom highlights the lack of technology available to access the videos, inability and delay to ask questions, the idea that videos should not be the primary delivery method for all students, the necessity of additional resources to accompany lectures. While I do agree with many of the criticisms highlighted in this article, I believe there are ways to work around them:

  • It is true that not all students have internet access at home. However, many of them have mobile devices that will solve this issue. This may lead to a BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) classroom concept as well. For those that do not, perhaps teachers and schools can agree to some sort of check out process for mobile devices.
  • It is true that while watching a video, you can not ask questions and have them answered. Even if students do write down their questions for the next day, they may be overwhelmed with how many questions that have. This is where social media and peer collaboration is key. First, most teachers will have a good idea where students will encounter an issue and they could supply additional resources to scaffold and supplement these topics and ideas. Also, peers are an excellent (and oftentimes underused) resource – especially if the teacher creates some form of online learning community (e.g. Edmodo, Moodle) for students to collaborate and support each other.
  • It is true that this should not be a one-size-fits-all approach nor the only instructional resource in the classroom. It is more the idea than the resource itself and it could be used as much or as often as an instructor sees fit. It is not intended to completely replace the role of the teacher or of good current instructional practices.
    • Some schools may call upon teachers who are strong orators and have a way with teaching a particular concepts to create videos of their lectures and disseminate them for other classes. Others may want to record student explanations as well. Both of these ideas can be easily accomplished using a document camera (the actual person delivering instruction would not even need to appear in the video – just the action of explaining the instruction or problem/examples).
    • Teachers should work together to create and supply resources to accompany videos. Resources could range from PPT’s, to interactive websites, to SMART lessons, to podcasts, to videocasts, to apps, to Khan Academy activities, to math-themed children’s books, to ePubs, to online learning communities. A veritable scmorgasbord of resources and support to meet the needs of any and all learners.
Though the focus on this blog is Math, the idea of reversing your classroom could be applied across the curriculum. How will you FLIP YOUR CLASSROOM?
 
 

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The Tree Doth Giveth

Hasn’t the tree given us enough? Go paperless on your next project!

It is that time of year when many schools are working on projects. Here are a few ways you can incorporate Web 2.0 tools in conjunction with the study of personification, simile, and metaphor. All of these tools focus on the tree as inspiration.

Big Huge Labs: Upload an image to create a magazine cover. Create a dialogue or poem to overlay on top of the image.

Tagxedo: Compose a poem and choose a color, theme, layout, shape etc… Tagxedo will give emphasis tow words (Tagxedo_instructions)

Pizap: Upload an image and add text and speech bubbles to it.

Images can be captured by students or taken from copyright free image sites like Pics4Learning & Morgue File.

While most of these sites do not require copyright attribution, it is always a good practice to do so. Since all of these sites do not auto-save or edit text, it is a good idea to write text in another program (Word, Pages, Text File) and copy & paste into tool.

All 3 sites have no required login and have the ability to easily save images as a jpeg for later use in another work.

Have students compose their poem on a word processor, create an accompanying image using one of the 3 Web 2.0 tools listed, and save it as a PDF. Compile the PDF’s to create a class poetry book using Flip Snack (see iPad Lesson section for example & instructions).

Ethemes offers a list of sites that provide lessons and interactives for writing similes & metaphorspersonification.

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2011 in ELAR, Interactive, Web 2.0

 

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Web 2.0 Resource Sites

Planning a project and want to spruce it up? Want to learn about all of the new Web 2.0 resources available? Check out some of these sites! Most of them will categorize the tool and give a description, provide samples/examples of the tool, and even suggestions for how it can be used in the classroom.

Here are some other great resources for interactive learning and projects:
If products do not print or give the option to save as an image, consider taking screenshots to record student work.
As a way to model technology integration, I try to incorporate
a relevant Web 2.0 tool in each of my blog entries.
 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Interactive, Web 2.0

 

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