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5 Ways Blogging is Like Running A Cafe

Posted by Jess Mc on April 19, 2008

My husband and I went out for out Sunday afternoon coffee. Well, he had his flat white and I my hot chocolate as I don’t drink coffee. We went to our favourite little cafe which is a glass blowing studio and gallery as well that overlooks a marsh. It’s lovely and so we are really disappointed that it is closing down next week. The family that runs it is going overseas for a year, so I understand. But, I’ll miss going there.

Anyway, as we were driving home I thought about how blogging is like running a cafe. (Yes, blogging is taking over my life a little and is obviously never far from my mind!) I thought of these points to illustrate what I mean:

Customers won’t come back to your cafe if:

* you don’t provide food they like
* your cafe is messy and not appealing to look at
* your service is half-hearted and not friendly
* your coffee is not hot enough
* there are not enough options on your drinks or eats menu

Readers won’t come back to your blog if:

* you don’t provide content they like / are interested in
* your blog is cluttered and confusing to navigate
* your writing shows lack of effort to engage with your readers
* you aren’t writing about interesting things or
* you’re writing about the same thing all the time

Even if we already are aware of these things, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded from time to time and to have a good think about what we are writing about. On my other blog, technoLOTE, I’ve asked readers straight out what they want to get from the blog. I’ve got my own ideas about what I want to do with it, but I’m sure I’ll get some other ideas from my readers. Many heads are better than one.

I’m going to keep these cafe lessons in mind as I do more reflecting on my blogs and blogging. Have you got any tips to add to the list? Have you been somewhere or done something and learned lessons about blogging at the same time?

Posted in blogging, Jess McCulloch | 2 Comments »

Building A Community Around Your Blog

Posted by Jess Mc on April 1, 2008

Writing a blog does not mean being an expert. Writing a blog is about sharing ideas and resources with like-minded people. I learn a lot from other people’s blogs and I hope some people learn something from me.

Starting out in the bloggosphere can be daunting. You’ve got a few things to say but your work will be wasted if no one reads it. The world wide web is exactly that, so there is a huge potential audience for your writing. How do you find them and build up a community around your blog? Here are a few ideas.

Keep in mind though, that building a community is an ongoing process, so it is something that can always be reviewed and improved upon.

1. Find and join some networks and forums that focus on the topics you are writing about. Ning networks are the best place to start. I’m a member of several Ning networks. All you do is find one your are interested in, click on ‘Sign Up’ and then you will have your own profile page on which you can write about yourself and what you’re interested in and leave links to your blog. Also, every Ning network has discussion groups and forums with people asking questions all the time. Jump in and answer a few questions. People will then click back to your Ning profile to see who you are, and might click on the links to your blog.

Some great Ning networks to check out are:

Classroom 2.0

(On Classroom 2.0 you might want to find a group called ‘Digital Languages’ that I started. It hasn’t been very active so far, but we’ll get there!)

The Global Education Collaborative

For those of you in Australia, the EDNA network would be a great place to sign up to.

2. Join Twitter and feed your blogs posts directly to it through Twitterfeed. Twitter is a microblogging tool. You sign up for an account, start following people and basically answer the question ‘What are you doing?’ What actually happens is that you end up ‘tweeting’ (posting) useful links you’ve found and links to your blog and pretty soon you’ll have people that are following what you do. Twitter, although at first it sounds a little strange, has become absolutely huge and a fantastic way to find resources and meet people. There is a lot to write about Twitter, which I will do later. For now, just dive right on in!

3. Make sure Technorati is aware of your blog. Sign up for an account there and ‘claim’ your blog. Technorati is a search engine for blogs. Once you claim your blog you can add tags to it in your account to help Technorati find your blog more easily.

4. Leave comments on other people’s blogs. Bloggers do this a lot. If someone leaves a comment at my blog technoLOTE I usually follow the link to their website to see what they do and I usually email them to say thanks for commenting and to mention something I’ve seen on their blogs. (I said usually…I have a few outstanding comments to acknowledge! All in good time.) Leaving comments is probably one of the most powerful ways to grow your audience and your blog’s community. Not only will the writer of the blog read your comment, other people who are leaving comments will read yours too and might find themselves arriving at your blog!

5. Join MyBlogLog. Once you have an account and you have listed your blogs, you can search what blogs other people write and add yourself to their MyBlogLog community. You can see who is in someone else’s community and others can see if you’ve joined their community. This way, they may check out your profile and click through to your blog. My BlogLog and Ning Networks work in a similar idea to Facebook. You join, you have a profile, you read about others they read about you.

These are just a few places to get started. Other sites to look into would be Del.icious, Diigo and StumbleUpon for social bookmarking and the networks that go with it. Really, anywhere that you can join a network is a place where you can find potential readers for your blog.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and if you have other suggestions please leave a comment!

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5 Ways to Get Your Blogging Groove

Posted by Jess Mc on March 25, 2008

plastic letters

1. Read Blogs That Interest You. Use Google’s Blog Search to find a blog that interests you. Or you can use the Technorati search engine for blogs, which is really blog central. Check Blog Pulse to search a particular term and see the blogging trends. Read a few blogs that are in your interest area – get your student to read a blog in their interest area, and blogs of other students. You will see that people write about anything that means anything to them and there is someone out there who is interested in reading it.

If you’d like to know how you can subscribe to blogs and get new posts delivered to you rather than checking several sites for new stuff, watch the RSS in Plain English video from The CommonCraft Show.

2. Decide what type of blog you would like to have. There are NO RULES! There are many different types of blogs. If writing often is not really your thing, you could have a photoblog where each post is a photo rather than text, or a blog of your students’ artwork or completed maths problems with short descriptions. You might want to check out this post on different types of weblogs.

3. Get into the habit. Blog about anything and everything and regularly – whether that be once a week, every couple of days, or every day if you’re really keen. Start thinking about how you can turn opinions, events, conversations, and discoveries into blog posts. Make a time for your blogging (amongst all those other things you have to make time for – I know). There are many benefits to reap from it, one of the greatest being the network and community you can build around your blog. More on that shortly.

4. Plan some blog posts.I often do this – not to say that my posts always work out to plan – but I usually have some idea. Doing a bit of planning helps you to focus your reading a bit more and starting to think of things that you can write about. Just as there are different types of blogs, there are different types of blog posts. Darren Rowse of Problogger wrote a post on 20 different types of blog posts which is definitely worth checking out.

5. Keep it up. Rather than thinking ‘I have a blog, but nothing to write on it really’ or ‘Why would I have a blog? What would I write on it?’ It’s important to realise that YOU DO HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER, and so do your students. It’s so easy to be reluctant to blog about something, or to ask someone a question. It is so easy to just assume that you have nothing to offer because someone else has already written about it or because you don’t feel as though you know enough. Blogging is not about being an expert. It’s about self expression and reflection, and generally just having a go. Again, a great network can be built around your (and your students’) blogs.

I’d love to hear your blogging stories, so please leave them in a comment or email me jess (@) technolote DOT com

(I write my email address like this so that spammers don’t find it!)

Posted in blogging, Jess McCulloch | Leave a Comment »

Blogging Question 4: Where do I start?

Posted by Jess Mc on March 20, 2008

As a follow up to Question 1: A Bl-what?, Question 2: Why would I use blogs with my students? and Question 3: How exactly could I use blogs with my students? here is the post that tells you where you can go to get started.

The first thing you need to do is decide which blogging platform you will use. A blogging platform just refers to the application that is used to build the blog. I suppose you could call it a blogging ‘system’ or ‘interface’ if those terms make more sense. It’s worth checking out this article about choosing a blogging platform to understand about what aspects you might want to consider.

The most popular blogging platform is WordPress, followed by Blogger according to a poll run by Problogger. My main blog, technoLOTE is built using (self-hosted) WordPress. I find WordPress is easy to use and flexible.

Although really, if you are just starting out, it doesn’t really matter what you use. Get into something, play with it and give it a go. You will learn more as you go. I would even suggest having a couple of blogs with a couple of different platforms so you can decide what you like most. Feel free to ask other bloggers what they use and why.

Here is a list of some popular sites where you can get a free blog:

* Global Teacher – Global Teacher is run by Heather Blakey. It is a secure environment that uses the WordPress system/platform. You can have as many blogs as you like under one username. You can also attach student blogs to your blog, keeping an eye out and making sure they are doing the right thing! Most staff and students at my school who have blogs are using Global Teacher and Global Student blogs and we have been very impressed with how the system works so far. Any blog that is part of the Global Teacher or Global Student community has this sort of blog address: http://jessmc.globalteacher.org.au or http://tawney.globalstudent.org.au

* Edublogs – Edublogs is run by James Farmer. It is also run on a WordPress platform/system. This means that no matter whether you have an Edublogs or Global Teacher blog, it will look the same ‘behind the scenes’ when you are editing things and writing new posts. Many ‘edubloggers’ (those who blog about anything to do with education) use Edublogs. My other blog, The Rise of Reflection is an Edublogs blog. You can tell by looking at the blog address: http://jessmc.edublogs.org

Global Teacher and Edublogs are designed and built specifically for the education community and they each understand the need for creating a secure environment for students. It is important when blogging with students that they are reminded never to use their full names (first names or initials only), and to avoid too many personal details about themselves – like the name of their school, names of sports teams, exact addresses of places where they hang out etc. When blogging with students it is important that the teacher has some degree of control over the blogs. Global Teacher has excellent facilities for allowing you to be a added as an administrator of your students blogs.

* WordPress – WordPress is what Edublogs and Global Teacher are built on (which means they all look the same ‘behind the scenes’ when you are writing or editing. Any blog created from the WordPress.com site has this sort of blog address: http://web2telegraph.wordpress.com

* Blogger – Blogger is very easy to use and if you already have a gmail (Google mail) account you can use that to sign up for a Blogger blog. If you don’t have a gmail account, no worries at all, you can still sign up. If you have a blog with blogger, your blog address will look something like this: http://theopenclassroom.blogspot.com

Go to any of these sites and just follow the prompts to signing up. Make sure you read each step carefully, as all of them will tell you that when you get to the stage where you have to create your blog address (your blog ‘url’) you can’t change it, so choose carefully. But do remember, you can always delete your blog and start again if things don’t work out.

Before I forget – HAPPY EASTER everyone! I hope you all find some time to relax during your break.

Posted in blogging, Jess McCulloch | 1 Comment »

Blogging Question 3: How exactly could I use blogs with my students?

Posted by Jess Mc on March 19, 2008

As part of a few posts focussing on blogging, here is a list of ways you could use blogs with your students. Please add to it in the comments section!

Individual Student blogs:

* post reflections on their learning
* post work for peer assessment
* post work for teacher assessment
* online reflective digital portfolio of any work they have done
* online diary of their school year
* posting their opinions on a current issue and getting feedback from around the world

Here are some students’ blogs that are worth checking out:

Students from my school (who are just getting started):

Hannah – check out Hannah’s photography page for some stunning images!

Sheridan

Alice

Other students:

Larissa

Tyrone Kidd – Technology From the Eyes of a Student

Tuna’s Aquarium

Classroom Blogs:

* display students work from class activities
* encourage parents to view and comment on classwork
* post assignments for your students – they can always access it at home, so there is no excuse for losing that homework sheet and not doing it!
* post videos and articles for your students to comment on
* add files from class that your students can access at home for reviewing
* use your blog as a starting point for learning activities, encouraging students to be more independent with their learning

Some Class Blogs to check out to get some ideas:

technoChinese – my class blog

Global Bloggers – students in Wisconsin and Australia blogging together

Year 7 English – one of Jo McLeay’s class blog. Lots of links to her students blogs as well.

If you know of some other great classroom blogs or individual student blogs, please leave a comment as I’d love to check them out!

Look out for Blogging Question 4: Where do I start?

Other useful posts on this blog about blogging:

Blogging Question 1: A Bl-what?

Blogging Question 2: Why would I use blogs with my students?

20 Reasons Why Students Should Blog

Posted in blogging, Jess McCulloch | 1 Comment »

Blogging Question 2: Why would I use blogs with my students?

Posted by Jess Mc on March 17, 2008

It was my intention to have this and the following blog posts about blogging out much sooner! I’m afraid that long weekend visitors, Year 7 camp and a weekend away in Melbourne got in the way of that…but here we go!

This post really is a follow on from the 20 reasons for blogging that Anne Mirtschin posted a few days ago.

The best thing about blogs is that it gives your students an authentic audience for their work and reflections. Rather than doing a piece of writing and only having the teacher read it, posting it on a blog allows people all over the world to read it and comment on it – and they do! Clustr Maps and other statistics sites show you where people are reading your blog from and how many people have visited your site. What better reason for kids to make sure their work is correct and understandable – they can see that (possibly) hundreds of people have seen it.

A great thing about having an authentic audience is that it creates authentic conversations. A blog is definitely not supposed to be a one-way authority on anything. The idea of the comment functions on blogs is to continue the conversation above and beyond what a writer has written in a post. Comments add to posts and allow for many people to voice their opinions about what you have written. It’s a great way for students to post work and then get feedback on that work – no matter what language it is in, there will be an audience. The potential for interaction on a blogsite is incredible.

Here’s a great video made by Frieda Foxworth which gives the top ten reasons to blog with your students.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.teachertube.com posted with vodpod

Rachel Boyd from New Zealand has also put together this video on why we should let our students blog. It’s worth checking out:

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.teachertube.com posted with vodpod

Those of you who already blog, reasons have you got for why you blog with students? Leave a comment to show how the conversation can grow! Thanks 🙂

Posted in blogging, Jess McCulloch | 1 Comment »

Blogging Question 1: A bl-what?

Posted by Jess Mc on March 6, 2008

Hello Telegraph readers! My name is Jess McCulloch and I teach LOTE Chinese at Hawkesdale P12 College in South West Victoria. I work with Anne Mirtschin who has written a few posts for this blog recently. Heather asked me to write some posts as well, so I’m going to start off with a series about blogging. This is the first of 6 posts. I’ll post one every couple of days.

This post just explains what a blog is, which most of your probably know already. Scroll down for the link to the Common Craft Show though as they have a great collection of videos that explain lots of Web 2.0 tools in plain English.

Fireworks in July
There has been a blogging explosion at my school! Woo hoo! It’s great. We’ve got kids blogging and some staff have jumped right in the blogging deep end too. It’s not all to do with LOTE. The kids are blogging about anything and everything for any subjects. Most of the students set up their blogs with our fabulous ICT teacher, Anne Mirtschin. She got them to use Global Student. I must commend Heather Blakey for the fantastic blogging community she has created for both students and teachers with Global Teacher/Global Student.

Blogging Question 1. What is a blog?

A blog (which is short for ‘weblog’) is a website that you can edit very easily. Each new entry that you write appears on the front page, above the previous entry. A blog is on the internet and available for anyone to read. A blog can be about anything, and there are blogs about everything! technoLOTE is a blog and I write about technology in the LOTE classroom. One of my other blogs, The Rise of Reflection, is more general reflections on lots of different things really.

Click here to let Lee Lefever of the Commoncraft Show explain exactly what a blog is in his video ‘Blogs in Plain English.’ Lee has also done videos on Social Networking, Wikis, RSS, and Social Bookmarking that are really easy to follow and definitely worth checking out.

If anyone has some better definitions of a blog than what I have written, please leave a comment!

Stay tuned for the answer to
Blogging Question 2: Why would I use blogs with my students?
Blogging Question 3: How exactly could I use blogs?
Blogging Question 4: Where do I start?
Blogging video Tutorials and support for blogging with students
5 Ways to Get into the Blogging Groove

Image is ‘Fireworks in July’ from stock.xchng

Posted in blogging, Jess McCulloch | 3 Comments »