Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘blogging

Last month two of my think-out-loud reflections resonated with my readers.

These entries were responsible for lots of tweets and retweets as well as spikes in views.

That said, it is a good thing that I do not write a blog for views. I cannot anticipate what entries might appeal to readers.

It is a good thing I do not blog for a living. I do not rely on strategies that some bloggers use to bring eyeballs to their blogs.

If I was a professional blogger, I might try to figure out what made the two entries tick and write more like that. But I do not think this is sustainable for daily blogging.

If I was a professional blogger, I might be concerned that people would rather comment on my blog entries by email, in Twitter, or Google+… almost anywhere else except in WordPress. But I am not.

I think my approach stems from what I believe in about creating change.

I think that it is possible to rely on formulaic structure, KPIs, and rules to bring about systemic change. However, while this brings bodies to a destination, it does not guarantee that the minds and hearts follow.

There is the alternative of going with the flow and doing what you think is right. Like-minded folk (and even those who oppose you) see that and decide to follow suit, hearts and minds included.

Then there is wanting people to communicate in a certain way and in a certain place. But if they are more comfortable and effective where they are at, I think we should take the trouble to find out why and make that journey outward.

Several times last year, various agencies asked me to embed infographics in my blog. I declined almost all partly because they reached me via the email account I created to catch spam.

Most agencies also did not do their homework in trying to figure out a good fit or they did not respond to my queries or my blog posts. If they could not bother to reply or to read this blog, then I wondered why they even bothered to ask.

Recently someone asked me to guest blog for an event. I hesitated. When I reflected on why I paused for thought, I realized that I had unconsciously created some guidelines to follow.

I stick by my principle of reflecting on what I think is important. I am not going to share something only because someone asks me to.

I will not share something that creates a conflict of interest. This could be endorsements that I do not believe in or causes I do not support.

I do not blog to market, engage an audience, or even provoke thought. I blog to reflect albeit in a more public space. Like I say in the tagline of this blog:

I am an edu-explorer. I promise to walk on the edge of reason and let you know what I see. I use this blog to think out loud. If this promotes informal sharing and learning on technology integration issues, thank serendipity!

I wonder how many people see my blog description given that it is more obvious in the mobile version of WordPress but not the desktop version…


Yesterday I shared what I discovered about Dunno. I made a disclaimer that I have no ties with Dunno nor was I approached to highlight that app.

Over the last few months, I have been approached over email to highlight infographics, services, or other resources. I have not agreed and am not sure if I should.

The email requests end up in my Hotmail account. This is the same account I set up to catch spam and junk. This blog is linked to my Gmail address, so I do not know how those marketers got my Hotmail address.

I think the temptation is to feel flattered that someone wants me to help bring eyeballs to something. But I am not under the illusion that I am the only one they approached.

I do not think that my blog has such a wide viewership either. I did not set it up this way nor do I blog with that intent.

I blog to externalize at least one thing I learn or think about every day. Writing more publicly puts pressure on me to think more carefully and completely (but nowhere perfectly).

I say this in my About Me page: I do not blog for views. I blog my views. I do this to learn and to shape my thoughts on educational technologies and technology-mediated pedagogies.

In the WordPress settings, I describe my blog as such: I am an edu-explorer. I promise to walk on the edge of reason and let you know what I see. I use this blog to think out loud. If this promotes informal sharing and learning on technology integration issues, thank serendipity!

I wonder how many marketers actually read the blogs they “follow”.

The type of homework that my son enjoys the most (or maybe hates the least) is being told to write in his exercise book journal. This is also the type of homework that I like reviewing the most.

Why does my son not mind journalling? Even though he has to write about a topic typically of the teacher’s choosing, he can operate more freely in that writing space.

Why do I like the idea of journalling? I think that it is one of the more powerful and relevant language development tools in a teacher’s arsenal. It can bring together all the component knowledge and skills in reading and writing.

But that is where I stop liking journals as practiced in schools. I would like journals more if they became more relevant.

There is journalling for school and journalling for real life. Both adults and kids can tell the difference.

There would not be a difference if journalling for school mirrored real life by adopting what already happens in real life, e.g., tweeting, blogging, tumblr-ing, Facebook-ing. The big difference is not in the platform but in the agency.

I would also like to see more importance placed in journals. They come across as afterthoughts as journal writing only happens once in a blue moon. That blue moon rises only when the teacher says so. That is not how it should be.

You should be able to write, draw, paint, perform, or record when you need to, not just when you are told to. Being told to journal develops dependence (when to write, what to write, how long to write); being free to journal can develop discipline and ownership.

School-type journals are also written for a small audience. Often, that audience comprises of only one member (the teacher) if the parents do not read the journal.

Journals, like diaries, can be private. But journalling in public simultaneously provides an outlet for creativity and a measure of critical thinking. It is like the way some people dress when they are at home versus being out in public.

The canteen food blog of Veg, aka Martha Payne, is a perfect example of how passion can drive learning and change.

Only 9-years-old, Veg decided to photograph her school meals and critique their health, taste, and appearance value. She not only gained an authentic audience of her peers around the world, she also brought about change when the powers-that-be felt the heat.

The school now has healthier meals (more vegetables and less hair). Kids in other countries have also taken to sharing their photos, food ratings, and stories.

I hope Martha continues on her journal journey, and in doing so, keep learning how to write, bring about change, grow in her awareness of other cultures, and more.

I also hope that proponents of traditional school journals try keep up with the times. Journal writing can be a way to infuse values into content as kids learn to write for a more critical audience, deal with different perspectives, and develop the discipline to reflect.

Video source

A blogger, Tyler Cowen, (Professor of Economics at George Mason University) explains why and how he blogs.

From a marketing point of view, he recommends providing something fresh, controversial, or stimulating each day. This brings eyeballs to the blog. This is a strategy that could apply to other types of blogs.

But edublogging has its own purposes. A blog might be an e-portfolio (or part of one). It might be journal to document a learning journey. It might also be a critical mirror which aids in reflection. It does not matter if an edublog has an audience of one, few, or many as long as the learner learns.

Persistence by 1Sock, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License  by  1Sock 

Not a week goes by when I ask myself if I should stop trying to blog everyday. Then I remind myself that I need to write down at least one thing I pick up from processing hundreds of RSS feeds and tweets each day.

Wading constantly in the information stream is great for staying current, but it does not promote deep reflection or even retention. So I do two things: 1) I bookmark the really good stuff on Delicious (for myself) or Diigo (for CeL), and 2) I write about what I read.

Then I ask myself why I do this in the public sphere.

Putting my bookmarks online allows me to share them. Every now and then someone will ask me if I have a resource on game-based learning or mobile augmented reality or iPads in education. I point them to my social bookmarks. Practically everyday I need a reference or resource and I return to these curated repositories.

I write publicly even if my thoughts are incomplete because there is a pressure that is absent when writing in private. You cannot just say anything in any way you wish. The educator in me wants to share and to teach. So while I write for myself, I reveal this process to interested others.

Most importantly, I think that blogging can be thought of as a discipline, just like exercising or meditating. You have to set aside time to do it and make yourself do it even if you don’t feel like it. Then it becomes a habit that grows on you.


Is this blog starting to go mainstream? Not if I can help it…

Click for larger version. Information accurate as of 13 July 2011.

When I checked the usage statistics yesterday, one of my most tweeted blog entries (90 so far) also had the most on-site views (1,200+) and the most syndicated reads (111,000+).

While most bloggers would be happy with such stats, I had mixed feelings.

I did not start blogging for hits. I started blogging (and continue to blog) as a reflective process. But I have also discovered that blogging is not only a great platform for exchanging ideas, it is also one where I can inform and educate others.

There are two entries that I wrote that got wide readership: my thoughts on Google+ and a Twitter infographic. The Google+ one was current and calling it Facebook minus might have been catchy. The Twitter infographic was informative but flawed and that probably generated readership, comments and tweets.

If blogging was my livelihood, I’d change tactics to keep my readers coming back. The exceptional five-figure per day readership is tempting compared to the three-figure per day I might normally get.

But I do not blog about technologies for their own sake. I blog mostly about educational technologies and technology-mediated pedagogies. This has a lower readership but I think the content is more meaningful to me and those who choose to read over my shoulder.

As a dad, I can relate to this Google ad…

Video source

I maintain more than one blog and have been blogging on behalf of my son since before he was born in 2004.

We started our blog at LiveJournal, moved on to EduBlogs and now we are at Posterous. We lost a several months of blog entries when we moved from EduBlogs to Posterous and that is the fault of the former’s bad exporting tool.

My son won’t just have a digital footprint, he will have a digital legacy to maintain! I am going to do my best to educate him on this in spite of a schooling system that largely refuses to embrace his tools, meet his needs and prepare him for his world.

Yesterday I read two online articles that seemed separate enough, but I realized they were pointing to the same thing.

The first was Why All Educators Support Standardized Testing (Even if They Don’t Realize It). The second was Digital Tools Expand Options for Personalized Learning.

[image source, used under CC licence]

The first was provocatively titled and its premise was that historical and political baggage influenced the perception of standardized testing. The blogger then reasoned that if the baggage was removed and the form of testing was given a different purpose, specifically “to care more about child development and cognition rather than efficiency and saving money”, more teachers would jump on board.

I think that the word “standardized” is the more basic obstacle. It implies a fixed time, place and medium, as well as a one-size-fits-all manner of measurement. While these are good for the quality control of factory-produced goods, they are not neccessarily suitable for people.

On the other hand, consider how institutions like the School of One or Pershing Middle School, mentioned in the second article, approach learning and testing. The child does not adapt to the curriculum. Instead the curriculum is moulded to the child and it also moulds the child. Here’s a snippet of the report:

After introducing content, teachers can immediately test students using remote devices attached to their netbooks. Students are then assigned to appropriate practice activities or more in-depth lessons. “The wait time for getting feedback to children is sliced significantly. This is about the speed of learning and the depth of learning,” says Sarah Sullivan, the principal of San Diego’s Pershing Middle School.

How might we begin to individualize testing? The same article offers this approach:

Although the Burst program suggests only face-to-face lessons for students, its underlying assessment relies on sophisticated digital tools for gathering and analyzing data from individual students. “It’s this model of deeply analyzing the data in a way that no human teacher would have time to do, and mapping lessons to kids’ abilities, that’s fundamental to what education is going to look like in the future,” predicts Wireless Generation’s chief executive officer, Larry Berger.

Good stuff, but it sounds like something out of reach of most schools and teachers. Something that teachers can do now is what Shelly Blake-Plock does:

For several years, Shelly Blake-Plock has asked students in his Latin, English, and art history classes to summarize what they’ve learned from class and document their progress on assignments in daily blog entries… If he observes a lack of basic understanding or language skill in some students’ work, he says, he can suggest online resources and activities to get them on track.

I can vouch for this simple strategy because I do this myself when I facilitate my ICT course. Blogs give me deep insights into my teacher trainees’ thoughts, problems and interests. I look back at the RSS feeds of their blogs that I have archived since July 2007. Despite the course being long over, occasionally I will see entries of updates in their lives as teachers.

Monitoring these feeds and responding to them does not add very much more time to what I already do, which is to monitor the almost constant stream of other RSS feeds, tweets and email. It’s a digital world and we have to live, teach and learn that way to stay relevant!


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