Monday, February 28, 2005

Passion and Caring

Kathy Sierra over at Creating Passionate Users has a post entitled Can you teach someone to care? While it is isn't directly related to teaching or to blogging, the advice is applicable.

First of all, she makes the extremeley important statement that, "You usually can't create passionate users unless you deeply care about them." She then states, " Passion is infectious, and so is caring," and goes on to discuss how we can "infect" our colleagues and, I would hope, our institutions with this caring attitude by modeling it and by getting enough people on-board who care that the others start caring without really realizing it. (This is a very loose and quick summary of what she explains quite nicely. Read her post!)

The truth of thatfirst statement is pretty obvious, and yet we often miss it. If we want our students to care about our product (learning - English, in my case) and if we want them to be enthusiastic learners, we have to care about them. You would think that all teachers would care, but they obviously don't.

I also think this applies to getting our students to blog. Our passion for blogging - or for anything else - can be transmitted to our students. We have to share the passion with them, let them see it in our eyes and hear it in our voices. They will want to be involved. I have seen it time and time again with my own students.

Anyway, I recommend that you check out Kathy's post. And even more, I suggest you give her ideas some thought. Caring and passion -- I don't think we can teach without them!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

A good source of ideas

Jim Wenzloff has a document on his site that lists numerous uses of blogs in education over in the left sidebar under "Blog Handouts". Check it out!

The Beginning

We have been asked if we would particpate in weekly and monthly "gatherings" with others in the group. That sounds like someting I would want to do, but I wonder if I really would. Monthly might be OK, but I don't see doing anything weekly. What I think would be more valuable would be us continuing to post and to read and comment on each others' blogs. That is where the real impetus to continue blogging will come from. At least that's how it is for me.

I have to admit that I was shocked and amazed when I read Anne Davis' post the other day on Edublog Insights. I thought the title, Random Thoughts, sounded familiar, but as I began to read, I realized her post was about my blog. Now THAT is something that will keep me blogging.

Another strong impetus for me came from Nathan. In a comment to one of my posts, he said "Please don't stop writing here ... or if you do, let me know where to point my aggregator :D" Another strong motivator for me!

I was tempted to say that we could continue to use the Yahoo group to communicate, too, but I think I won't. What we need to do now is learn to communicate with each other through our blogs. That is, after all, the focus of this session. By continuing to blog, we are saying "Thanks" to Bee and Aaron and Graham for all their effort.

I know that some people need time to really get into anything new, so I am going to keep everyone in my aggregator list for awhile. I want to contiue to read your posts -- and I would like to read posts from some of you who haven't written for awhile.

Trite as it may sound, I think this is the true beginning of our lives as bloggers.

The End

Well, we have reached the end of the EVO course. I can't believe what I have learned! I would never have done this on my own!

The big IF at the moment, of course, is what happens now. I think I will continue to blog. I am quite sure I will, as a matter of fact. I also want to get my students to do the orientation, tips and hints blog that I mentioned previously. I think that is all I can do with my beginning students this late in the semester. And it is a good introduction to blogging that would serve a good purpose. It could be commented on and added to as time goes on.

So while it is the end, I hope it also just the beginning of our true blogging endeavors.

Friday, February 25, 2005

E-Portfolio revisions

Well, I am sure no one really cares, but I made some changes to my portfolio. I solved the problem of only having the Home link in the bottom by putting a link to it in the sidebar. That makes me happier. And I put a little note in the sidebar to explain the need to go to the home page to see the complete list. It isn't elegant, but I think it will work for me.

I have played with the idea of comments, going back and forth several times. I think that I am content with this not being interactive and, therefore, not really a blog. It also isn't chronologically posted -- or rather I have forced the chronological order by changing the dates on things. For the time being, anyway, this is how it will stay. If anyone can convince me that I should have comments on it, I will make the changes.

So that is what I have now. I want to add come content, but I probably won't get that done right away. At any rate, I am not embarrassed by it, and that is a good thing!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Building an online community with my students

We have been asked to consider how we might build an online community from a collection of student blogs. This is perhaps the most important task we have been given in this course. It is the reason we have spent almost 6 weeks learning about podcasts and how to post pictures in our blogs.

The questions given as part of the task are good ones. Let's see if the same can be said of my answers!

- How can I persuade students to post to their blogs regularly?

As with almost anything that I ask my students to do - literature circles, journaling, sustained silent reading - I have to participate with them as an equal. If they see me enthusiastically engaged in the activity, they almost always get on board themselves. So my example will be a big motivator.

Of course, students must have real things to blog about. I think that the assignments must be authentic. I haven't quite figured out what that will look like in all my classes, but I am thinking seriously about it. I like the idea of reading and commenting on the readings in a blog, as Anne Davis has her students doing. Then there is Barbara Ganley's writing class blog. She has students posting their writing and responding to each other's posts. I do something like this already with my advanced writing students, so I think this will be an easy transition for us all to make.There is no guarantee, however, that students complete these assigned tasks.

- How can I encourage lurkers to participate?

Lurkers are some of my favorite people. Until recently I was always a lurker, and I still am in many situations. We need specific tasks and lots of encouragment. Success in this area will depend largely on the sense of community established. Of course, blogging could be a requirement, but that doesn't seem like the best way to tackle the problem. And even if it is a requirement and lurkers blog, it may not mean they do anything substantive. So I think the community will have to be appealing and supportive. It may mean that I, as the teacher, have to find out what the reasons for lurking are and address the issue on a case-by-case basis.

- How can I encourage my students to read and post to blogs other than their classmates?

Here again, my first reaction is probably that it would have to be built into the course requirements.

A logical way for me to encourage students to do this would be to have them set up an aggregator and do a search on the theme of the course. An example of this is that in the spring semester, one of the themes we use is the death penalty. A simple search on Bloglines links to all kinds of references to the death penalty. So if students used Bloglines and were exposed to blogs on the topic they were researching, I think they would be likely to read them. Commenting on them would take more effort because I think they would worry about their English. But by the advanced level, maybe not so much. Of course, all this would have to be taught; skill would have to be developed over time. That is why I would like to start long before students reach the advanced level, giving them time to work into all of this.

- How can I encourage people from outside the classroom to post on student blogs?

I guess I would try what Anne Davis did: post a request on my blog. Now, that means that I would have to have a blog that is interesting enough to have readers. So that is good encouragement for me to keep my blog up.

- How can I encourage students to post and respond to comments to their classmates' blogs?

This comes down to the feeling of community in my classroom. If my students care about each other, they will be more likely to want to read each other's posts. What worries me more than getting them to read and comment is getting them to make substantive comments. The tendency would most likely to amke the kind of innane comments we all do from time to time - "Good point!", "I like your ideas", "I agree", etc. I am, not sure yet how I would do this. In part, I think I would assign specific questions for the comments to address. Maybe the comments could be focused one time on explaining why the reader agrees or disgrees with the post and another time on how reliable the source seems to be, for example. Another time it could pose a question about the post. Something like that anyway. I obviously would have to modify the tasks based on the proficiency of the student and the topic under discussion.

- How can I keep the interest going when the novelty has worn off?

There are two things to keep in mind here, I think. One is to establish the habit. That takes time, but not all that much time. I have my students now journal every day. They expect that. They enjoy it, too. I hope that by the end of the semester, they will decide to continue journaling. I would expect the same to be true once I start my students blogging. Habit must be established. I think that would require a lot of blogging in the beginning. And fun blogging, too. But once the value of blogging has become clear to the students and once he has developed the habit of blogging, it will carry him through some of the plateaus and valleys in his interest. Another part of this would be getting students to regularly read blogs because they would provide encouragement and example aswell as fodder for students' blogs.

I also think that you have to be careful not to have students do the same basic blog every week. GIve them some variety. That's what Anne Davis has done with her Teachers & Technology class blog.

Ont thing that I noticed, though, looking at her students' blogs, is that there are very few comments. I don't know if this is by design or my accident. Or is that just what would naturally happen unless commenting were a course requirement.

- How can I design a course that will both build community and encourage continuing participation beyond the limits of the course?

I am afraid I don't have a clue about this one yet. I can see it helping to build community, but that isn't really a problem I have with my classes now. I have very small classes and we establish community fairly early on. But it all seems to disappear once the students leave the ESL program.

It might be nice to set up a blog for the ESL program that could serve as an orientation for new students. Huh! I like that idea! A wiki might actually work better, but I think I am sticking with blogs right now. This is something that I could do now in the middle of the semester. It could help to acquaint the current students to blogging and set up the beginnings of the program orientation blog. I could also ask former students to join and post their comments and reflections on the program as well as their advice for new students. I am going to work on that this weekend!

Wow! This has been a fruitful post! Writing as Thinking, as my friend Melanie reminds me. She has a blog at Blogger, too, called They Have Their Own Thoughts. It is about her experiences teaching in the New Orleans public schools. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What makes communities successful

The Australian Flexible Learning Community has a great post entitled "Learning in Communities". I like a lot of what I read there. I like the people they quote, like Howard Rheingold.

The section that I would like to mention here is entitled "What makes a community successful?" The authors cite eight attributes .

The first strikes me as being most important: a community has to be about something. That makes the community authentic. If the community has no real focus, it can't be sustained. If the focus is not really of interest to the participants but is imposed from the outside, I don't think it will work, either. This seems like it might be part of the problem when students don't want to blog. We have to find a way to make students take ownership. And we have to really want them to take ownership.

Second, the authors believe that the members must feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. This is facilitated by interaction among the members. I wonder if the type of interaction, the type of messages shared by members matters. In my recent experience with another online course, there was a lot of interaction, many messages shared. But I never felt I was part of it. For me, anyway, the type of message made a big difference. I wanted to discuss the topic differently than the others, it seems. Judging from the reduced number of messages as the course progressed, I don't think I was alone.

The third attribute is that content and communication must be integrated. This means, as I understand it, that the discussion remain focused. I actually think this was the problem with the other course. I don't want to say discussion was hijacked, but it didn't seem to be widely applicable. And it didn't always seem on-topic.

The fourth is that participants' contributions must be appreciated. I think that is one of the many things that made the community created by this course so successful. Our early posts were always acknowledged and commented on. Commenting on the blogs was a group assignment that first week. The facilitators continued commenting throughout the course. Our questions were answered as soon as they were asked. Because of their example and the way the course was designed, I think most of us felt that sense of community.

As a fifth attribute is that a community needs ongoing communications if it is to continue. They say that communication must be a primary objective of the community as opposed to a sideline. Because this course was about blogging, it would have been hard to leave communication out of it. Here again, I have to refer to the other course I was in. The communication was not necessary. It wasn't really required. Communication consisted of answers to assigned questions and reports of activitied undertaken. In other words, there wasn't much real communication.

The authors offer the fact that a successful community empowers its members as the sixth point. The go on to talk about the special value of this in learning communities and explain that it is done by means of organizers giving participants the resources and information they need to "build their own learning". Here again, the organizers of this course deserve high marks. We were given access to the knowledge, to the resources, to the "experts". We made our own learning and, as a result, that learning is real and solid. And ours.

The seventh attribute is that a learning community must have an educational orientation. What happens within a learning community must have a pedagogical purpose. In a classroom community, there must be a gradual progression to more and more complex discussion. This is something we have really seen in this course, I think. The organizers set it up so we could get our basic introductions and such out of the way before the course actually began. Then we becan with just learning to do the basics - and all the questions that came along with that. As we have moved through the weeks, we have learned to so more complicated tasks and we have started looking at the theory, the principles underlying blogging. That is where we find outselves this week -- looking at the core issues involved rather than the surface niceties.

Lastly, the authors state that a community must have a sense of history if it is to be successful. We have to know that this isn't all going to end this coming Sunday. The authors say that as part of this history there should be a class archive. This is what we have been doing with the wiki all along.

Based on the characteristics of a successful community outlined in the article, I would have to say that this is, indeed, a successful one. I am grateful to have been a part of it. The challenge is to take what we have learned here about blogging and about communities and put it into practice in our own situations.

The Blogoshere

Dan Gillmor's blog just had a link to a column by Edward Cone called "A Beginner's Guide to the Blogoshere" that some of you might find interesting. It is designed to give the reader a little taste of what is out there in the world of blogs. He mentions a lot of different kinds of blogs and bloggers, so if you are looking for some blogs to read and don't know where to start, you might want to check this out. It is pretty US focused, though.

One thing that I found particularly interesting was that the Greensboro News & Record publishes their letters to the editor as a blog. So now instead of reading a letter to the editor, getting angry and telling your spouse about it, you can actually comment on it in the blog! Their reporters also have blogs, and you can get to them right from the homepage of the paper. It is so cool!

It is amazing to me how much kowledge and information there is out there. But even more amazing is how we can access that information and now, largely thanks to blogs, comment on it. We have the opportunity to become more knowledgeable, more aware, and more involved than ever before.

Community of Practice

The slides on Community of Practice we were asked to look at this week brought up a couple key points, as far as I am concerned. The first of these is the idea of passion. The first quote from Wenger talked about "groups informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise." I think that we have been developing a community of practice here because of our passion. At the beginning there was not much shared expertise, but our interest turned into passion and that passion allowed us to each develop some expertise that we could share with others. But I think passion was the key.

Next was the quote from Brown that described communities of practice as "peers in the exectution of real work". This is another very important aspect of what we have done. From the beginning of the course, we have had very real tasks to perform, the results of which were out there for everyone to see. In our struggle to perform those tasks, we had "a real need to know what each other knows". As I compare this experience to the one I have had with another course like this, I see the value in the real work to help us develop this community of practice. The tasks we had with the other course weren't real ones. And the passion with which I started the course soon faded.

So I must say that I am exptremely grateful to Bee and Aaron and Graham for designing the course they way they did. And I am equally grateful to everyone in the course for the time and effort each person put in on it. I have learned a lot from so many people!

Sunday, February 20, 2005

When is a blog not a blog? When it's a portfolio!

In a comment to my previous post, Aaron raised the issue of my teaching portfolio not being a blog anymore. And I guess I should be ashamed to admit it, but I don't think that matters to me. I wouldn't necesarily want anyone to comment on my portfolio in my portfolio.

But I think his suggestion that each document have a separate blogger account might be a good one. I guess I feel bad about opening so many accounts, but that is probably foolinsh. Blogger probably doesn't care and might actually be happy to be able to boast of five more blogs. But it seems inefficient somehow.

What I was looking to do was set up something like Julie Lindsay has without my own website. I don't know that I need such a thing, but I wanted to try to develop one. If nothing else, it gives me access to my CV, for instance, anywhere in the world at any time. It is conveivable to me that I might someday be glad for that. I move around a lot, and I probably won't have the same ISP three months from now, so I can't just upload files there and expect to access them next year. I need something extremely portable. A website of my own or a blog-turned-portfolio would allow me to have that stuff out there no matter where I am.

I also think that if I keep this portfolio basically the way it is, it needs to have another post on that main page that gives some instructions or I need to include them in the post that's there. And I need to include some kind of contact information. I am, not done with this portfolio yet. Not by a long shot!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

My Teaching E-Portfolio

I decided the other day to set up an e-portfolio for myself. I am not exactly sure why, but it seemed like a good idea. What I have so far can be seen here. I am not totally happy with it, but I was surprised by how easy it was to make the changes that I wanted to the template - no comments, no dates, no "posted by", etc. There are still some things I would like to change, though, and I am not sure how to do them.

First of all, the way it is set up now, when you click on Professional Writing, for instance, the sidebar only shows the previous posts, not the whole list. Can someone tell me if there is a way around that? I would like for all the entries to always be there.

Second, the nice little "home" link at the bottom of the posts. Can I put it at the top as well? I didn't see the code, but maybe I gave up to easily.

So if anyone could help me out with these things or if you have any suggestions for the blog/portfolio itself, please let me know. I need all the help I can get!

New York Times on Podcasting

The New York Times ran an article today on podcasting. It introduces you to some podcasters and talks about podcasting a little. If you don't know much about it, you might want to look at the article. If you are an old pro, it won't have much to tell you. But it was interesting to see the article there.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Block Quotes

If you are reading my blog, you may have noticed that my last post had a block quote. I am so impressed! All I had to do was go to webmokey and look at the html cheatsheet. Now, I know a lot of you have been doing this for a long time, but it was a first for me. I have never taken the time before to figure it out, but now that I have, I'll be using it a lot. Which is good, because the first few times I do any of these things, I have to look up how to do it again because I don't remember. I need to do it a lot before it becomes automatic. A sign either of advancing age or of not having grown up with computers - or both! But little by little I am learning.

Cell Phone Education

The New York Times has an article today talking about cell phone education. Seems Random House has gotten involved. That makes it way more mainstream than I would have thought! Richard Sarnoff of Random House is quoted as saying
"Mobile phones have already integrated themselves into people's lives as an everyday appliance. You're also going to see them become an everyday information appliance. As the world's largest consumer publisher, we want to get out in front of this."
It will be interesting to watch it grow.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Class Projects

I have looked at some of the projects undertaken by the speakers and moderators, and I find myself extremely grateful because they have opened my eyes to some real possibilities.

Early on in this weblogging session I had come to the realization that I could do literature circles this way, and I was happy to discover that Anne Davis has already tried it. Her site gave me lots of ideas about what I might want to do and how I could maybe do it. I learned a lot from the student reflections. I can definitely see using blogs in my classes this way. I love literature circles!

I also really appreciated the opportunity to look at Anne's Teachers and Technology blog. Becuase she set it up so nicely to guide her students through the process of doing her assignments, it serves as an excellent tutorial for anyone reading it. I especially liked the way she set up having the students respond to professional readings. In my experience, the time we take to set tasks like this up and the more we guide students through them the first time, the better the results and the faster everyone gets on the same page.

I have been using Nicenet to publish my students' work to members of the class, but I can see that a blog or an e-portfolio would give them the ownership that they don't have with Nicenet. Also, it gives them a larger audience. This semester I only have beginning students and we have started with Nicenet, so I think I will wait until the fall to try this, but I definitely want to do it.

I am anxious to start setting up a class project but really don't know if I can right now. I have plenty iof ideas on how to do it with my advanced students, but I don't have any. I have started gathering the links and stuff for an advanced writing class on a new blog I have entitled Level 3 Writing. It is just an experiment right now. I want to get it set up as I would for the class. Since I am not in a rush, it will probably be slow to develop, but maybe I will get inspired and work on it a lot here one of these days!

So I am thinking about class projects, but I am not actually ready to start one yet. Soon, though... I hope!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Success may be in the eye of the blogger

Well, for those of you with nothing better to do than look at my blog, I was successful in getting the mp3 button inserted into my earlier audio post. It was so easy! (Thanks, Nathan, for continuing to challenge us - and for supplying us with the information we need to do it!)

But all this has led me to wonder why I am so excited by this button. Does it really matter if I know how to go to Cool Archive and make a button? Every time I learn how to do something, I realize that there are ten more things I don't know anything about yet. In some ways, I seem to be getting further and further behind. And since we are all using aggregaors to read each other's blogs, you may not even see the image, the fruit of my labors!

So I may be the only one who appreciates my discovery. My success will go unnoticed by the world. But to my eyes, every little trick I learn is one less thing I don't know. And that, to me, is success.

mp3 button

mp3 button
Originally uploaded by mckeand.
Here's the mp3 button I made. I want to insert it in my audio post, but I wanted to let you see it here - in case I never get it in the post.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Various comments on audio

First of all, I have to give credit to Sarolta for helping me to see tht I might, indeed, want to do audio blogging. Her T/F quiz on the audio post let me see a whole range of possibilities I hadn't really thought of before. I don't usually teach listening and speaking, but I like to hvae ideas like this to pass on to others or to use myself when I need. I will definitely remember this one! (Can you tell I wasn't able to attend the chats this past week? Is my ignorance showing? I'm quite sure it must be!)

Now, to address comments and questions made to my last post about how I inserted the audio both the first and second times. I actually owe it all to Bettina and the people who helped her figure it out. Yes, I recorded the audio and then finally understood that I could save it to some web space provided by my ISP. Then, I looked at Mike Coughlan's instructions for embedding audio. It involved looking at the code for his page, copying the code, inserting it in my blog post, changing the URL to the URL where my audio was saved, and then posting.

Because Nathan reported being unable to open embedded audio, I redid it by inserting the link into my blog, just like I did to direct you to Sarolta's and Bettina's and Mike's and Nathan's blogs. That was easier, of course, because I didn't have to personally insert the code. It maybe doesn't look as spiffy, but I am not really concerned about that. What I would want is to be sure people could listen to it, regardless of their operating system or other software issues.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

My apologies to Nathan

In his blog Nathan just raised the issue of some people not being able to listen to embedded audio. So I thought it would be a good idea to try doing it the other way. So here is my attempt to post my audio another way. (It's the same blurb as the first one. No need to listen a second time if you have already heard it!)

Week 4

Well, it has been a fun week - lots of new things to try. I tried them all but I have to admit that I don't see me doing audioblogs or even inserting a lot of images in my blog. I am a writer, and this is the format I am most comfortable with.

I can see, though, that a student might want to post a photo and write about it. He might "turn in" a short speaking assignment as an audioblog. He might videotape an interview with someone and post part of it. So even though I may not do it much, I think my students might. At least they might if they knew how. So there might have to be assigned practice of the various types of blog entries before students could be expected to decide what format appeals to them most. That would have to be built into the course.

And that will be a problem for some people. How do we "make time" to add blogging to our courses and to teach students what they need to know? A colleague who is learning to edit video for classroom use told me the other day that she didn't think it was appropriate to take students' ESL class time to teach them how to edit videos when we had so much else to "teach" them. I agree with her on one level, but I also realize that language learning takes place when students are engaged in meaningful activities that require use of the language.

Anne Davis recently commented on this lack of time and ended by saying,
So I am going to start saying to those educators who say they don't have the time that they need to seize the time! Seize the time to use blogs to write about what you are learning. Let your students do the same. Think about using blogs in meaningful ways to let students write about what they are learning and thinking. Writing let's us know what our students know and it let's us know them. What could be a better use of our time?

I could never have said it as well!

Friday, February 11, 2005


I can totally relate to what Bettina said about jumping and singing when I was able to hear my audio in my blog. I am in my office right now, so I tried to hold the actual jumping and singing down, but inside I was definitely dancing around the room!

One of the best things for me personally with this course has been discovering all the things that I can do. I have experienced the joy of success over and over and over again. It is a feeling I need to try to remember and I need to try to make sure my students feel on a regular basis. Knowing how good it makes me feel, how could I not want that for them?

Audio in my blog

Well, after reading Bettina's posts and Aaron's comments and Mike Coughlan's instructions, I am ready to try this. Let's see how it goes!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Tables on the wiki

So Bettina and I made these tables last week to compare the different aggregators and trackers. They were cool, but we didn't have a clue how to get them into the wiki. As usual, Bee came to our rescue and got them set up. She didn't have time to get the charts all filled in, so I volunteered to finish the second one. It was easy -- as long as you paid attention to the code.

But I had one problem: the technorati entries didn't want to move to the next cell. All the others worked fine, but I had several problems with technorati. Was it because it was the first one I was doing so I was maybe doing something wrong? I thought it might be, but even after I did all the others without a hitch, I still couldn't get the last technorati entry to go where it belonged. I left it alone for awhile and just went back to it, and I had the same probelm again. I don't know what I am doing wrong, but it must be somehting little -- so little I can't find it!

At any rate, this was an interesting experience. I learned more about code and about the wiki. I also learned about the aggregators and trackers. I am very glad they had us use Bloglines. It is so easy!

Check out the wiki under "Blog Add-ons" if you want to see the tables we made!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Opening the Podcasting video

Well, nothing is as easy as it seems. But once we have done it, it is so easy that we forget the problems we had initially. That's what happened to me. When I first went to Dan Gillmor's blog and then to the blog with the video, I thought the black "screen" was where I would watch the video. Finally, though, I realized that there was a link and that was what I needed to click on. But, when I posted, I forgot to share my experience with readers of my blog. So here goes: Underneath the black "screen" with the title is the link that says "Four minutes about podcasting". Click on that and it will open in another window.

Sorry for not making that clear the first time. I think it was the "screen" that confused some of us!


Well, thanks to my Bloglines account and to my husband, who turned me on to Dan Gillmor, I found this great intro to podcasting. It is a video that takes you through the steps. It was really easy to download and to set up. At the moment I am listening to "On the Media" from NPR.

I would never have believed I would get this far into all of this. But it is amazingly easy. And there is so much out there!

Monday, February 07, 2005

Link to the study about teaching writing

Here is the link to the original study that Philip Pullman referenced. You can read it for yourself.


I was so proud of myself today! I figured out how to use Furl. But now people are asking me about it -- like I might actually know! Well, I probably don't know, but I will try to respond to the questions I have been asked.

First of all, Lesley asked why the furl link in the sidebar went to the page I wanted you to read rather than to my furl archive. I guess it's because that's the way I wanted it to work. I have looked at some other blogs and see that I am not alone in doing it this way. When I posted that article, I didn't have anything else in my furl archives. It never really occurred to me to do it any differently. But now, I don't know. When I looked at Aaron's blog, I noticed that he has individual sites as well as his archive listed. Maybe that is what I will do. I have to play around with this a little more. Thanks for asking, Lesley. I don't have an answer, but at least I have the question now!

Then Claudia asked how I "managed the Powered by Furl" part. I have to admit that it was by trial and error. But it was actually pretty simple. I cheated! Well, not really, but I got a little help from Furl itself. After you have set up your furl account, you can go to the "My Tools" tab and click on "Add Furl to My Site". That will give you some code to insert in your blogger template. I put mine just ahead of the "End of Sidebar" code. It really isn't hard. If you click on that page in Furl, they explain it pretty well.

So maybe I know more than I think I do about Furl. Now if I could just figure out how to get audio into my blog...

Posting photos

Well, I had posted my photo to my profile two or three weeks ago with Flickr, but I wasn't sure if I remembered how to do it or not. So I posted those pictures of my friends from the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project. It was really easy, once I looked at the FAQs again! Will I remember how to do it next time? Who knows? But eventually it will get easier. At least I hope so!

SLWP Friends

Originally uploaded by mckeand.
More Writing Project friends. This was taken at the October 2004 Showcase of Best Practices held in Hammond, LA.


Originally uploaded by mckeand.
This is my colleague, fellow Writing Project teacher-mentor and friend, Gabe. This photo was taken during the writing mini-marathon he hosted at St. Joseph Abbey in November, 2004. He lives in Tucson now.

Audio, video, and everything else

As part of the assignment for this week, I have looked at (and furled) several moblogs, videoblogs, photoblogs and audioblogs. It was an interesting experience.

First of all, I have to say that the audioblogs I looked at were garbage - mostly people just being stupid. Like the woman who recorded a two-year-old child while she took the pacifier out of his mouth and put it back in. I hope that there are some decent ones out there, but I didn't find them.

Where I found some great stuff was in videoblogging and photoblogging. Moblogging, too, I guess. There were some really excellent sites. In one videoblog, Jay Dedman shot a video of where he works, the Manhattan Neighborhood Network. It was interesting and informative and well done. I also liked the EastSouthWestNorth photoblog. There was substance. The moblogs were also interesting. One I looked at was done by Rasa.

I can see potential with these. I could see using the photoblogs of others as writing prompts for my students. I could see having my students learn to do their own videoblogs or photblogs as a way of letting their friends and family back home see what their lives are like now. I will look at more of these and undoubtedly come up with more ideas of how I might use them. The possibilities are endless, aren't they?

Teaching Writing

Since a lot of what I do is teaching writing, I subscribed to a search on the topic. I have been interested to see what I discover this way.

Probably the most interesting so far has been a reference to this article by Philip Pullman on the "basics" of teaching writing. He says, among other things, that we should should allow children to play with language rather than beating them up with the rules. Now, he isn't talking about ESL or EFL students, but I think it would hold true for them as well. Pullman also states that teachers must be "confident about writing - about play, about delight. Too many are not, because they haven't had to be..." If you are interested in teaching writing, I highly recommend the article.

I think that Pullman's thoughts lend credence to the idea of blogging. If students are captivated by technology or if they have trouble putting pen to paper for some reason, blogging could be considered "play". It is less threatening, I think than traditional writing activities. Also, the study he talks about found that "giving them formal instruction in grammar turns out not to be of any use; getting them actually writing seems to help a great deal more." So maybe assigning a certain number of blog posts a week runs contrary to the freedom of the Internet or something, but it would not seem to run contrary to good pedagogic practice.

Read the article. See what you think!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Week 3 group 5 task

This has been an interesting week for me. The addition of aggregators to my life has, indeed, made a world of difference. I am reading more and thinking more. Unfortunately, it seems I am writing less. But maybe that's OK for now.

Bettina and I were involved in Group 5 this week. I was interested to see how differently we approached the task. Bettina is definitely more industrious than I am! And I think she understands all this better than I do, too. She made a wonderful chart looking at all the features of the different services. I only looked at them to see what I could do with them. I found that Bloglines was much easier to figure out than the others. Of course, I had step-by-step instructions on what to do with Bloglines, so maybe that gave it an unfair advantage! But at any rate, I didn't find anything that I think I would really want to use the others for. Maybe I am just not into this enough yet, though!

But we have these two charts now, and we are waiting for Bee to help us figure out how to post them to the wiki. And where. She promises to help next week, so you will have to wait until then to see the results of our (mostly Bettina's) hard work!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Going Public

m2h comments on an article by Lowe and Williams about helping our students move into the public arena. The article gives a rationale for blogs based on research, supported by comments from their own students. I have to spend more time with this article - at least in part because it adds to my thinking on the issue L-der Bob raised about requiring students to blog.

It's funny how , once you hear about something, it pops up everywhere -- especially if you use an aggregator!

Are we boring them?

L-derBob makes some interesting points in his blog about whether or not we might be a little too overzealous right now in our efforts to have our students blog. Are we running th risk of makig it just another one of those boring assignments that teachers hand out?

I have thought about this some already and will continue to think about it for a long time probably. I haven't started blogging with my students, and I can take this time to try to understand both my motivation and the technology a little better. What I have figured out already is that I enjoy blogging. I opened a blog before this EVO course began, but I never did anything with it. By the exposure I have gotten to it through this course, I have become comfortable with it, have learned how to do some basic things with it, and I have begun to see how I might use it with my classes. I know that I would never have gotten to this point on my own. I wasn't that excited about taking the weblogging course; I just wanted to take a course, and it seemed like it would be easy and, I hoped, interesting. I certainly never thought I would get into it as much as I have. So I am grateful for this opportunity.

A lot of what I do with my students has a similar purpose. I expose them to computers and the Internet as much as I can because most of them come with very limited knowledge in this area and I feel that everyone should at least have an idea of what's out there available to them . That is one reason I think I might have students blog. It is something going on that they probably don't know anything about, so I want to expose them to it.

Also, we write every day in class. They quickly become comfortable with that practice. Blogging is a natural extension of that. I allow my students to journal on the subject of their choice usually, and I would expect to "assign" blogging the same way. But why would I want them to make that switch? I can't totally answer that one yet.

I understand Bob's point about not limiting student expression to blogging, to the written word. It is a valuable point to keep in mind. My colleague is taking the EVO video course right now so we can think about incorporating video into what we do, too. To me that is the real bounty of the EVO - it lets us experiment with technology to see if it works for us before we commit to using it in the classroom.

So as I said, I have to think about all this more. I need to think about why I would have my students blog and how it is going to help them. I shouldn't do it until I have answers to those questions.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Bloglines, comments and feeds

Well, I see that I am commenting from Bloglines in the only way that I can. (Thanks, Aaron!) I like going to the actual post to comment, really. That's the one thing I don't like about Bloglines: I don't see the comments others have made. But I guess I can always go look if I am really interested.

As for getting my journalspace blog up and running through Bloglines, I cannot get it to work. According to journalspace, I have chosen to syndicate my blog at the personalized version of the address Aaron suggested. But when I try clicking on the "Subscribe with Bloglines" button on my toolbar it doesn't work. It also doesn't work if I go to Bloglines and manually put in the address.

I went to the almost non-existent journalspace help, only to find that it is done by volunteers when they get around to it. Someone had asked the same question in December and still had not received a reply. There was another post questioning the time and date stamp in journalspace because the poster's blog never showed up in his feed list as being updated even though it was. If that is the case, my journal may not appear for years!

I don't think that I would worry about teaching my students to use an aggregator in the beginning, so I guess I am not going to be overly concerned about it right now. Maybe they will get it fixed by the time I really might care.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Using Bloglines

Well, I have had my Bloglines account up and running for two days. I have found some wonderful blogs to add to my list. I find, though, that I am still not sure about using it. Well, let me say, I am not sure about one aspect of using it: commenting on posts.

When I look at Aaron's blog using bloglines, I find a place to comment. When I look at my blog, I don't find that. I also don't find it on most of the other blogs I look at. So, what am I missing? Do I just not worry about it and click on the posting title and comment that way? I wish I knew.

Also, I cannot seem to get an RSS feed on my Journal Space blog. I have tried to change every variable that I could find that should have affected it, but to no avail. I have made my blog available to anyone on the planet, have allowed comments from non-members, have clicked on the button that should syndicate it. I have tried adding it to Bloglines automatically (by clicking the subscribe button on my bookmark toolbar) and manually (by pasting the URL into the appropriate place in Bloglines). Supposedly this should work. But it doesn't. I just took a minute to try it with someone else's blog on journalspace and couldn't, so I guess it is a journalspace issue. Does this affect my idea to use journalspace with my students? I will have to think about that one!