Tag Archives: Blogs

Five years in….

On a camping holiday in January, 2008, an idea occupied my thinking. Maybe I could start a blog and write about technology and its impact on education? Two weeks at the beach, with no Internet and plenty of thinking time, cemented the idea. I tossed around what I would call it. I told my husband I wanted to intercept things that were happening in the Web and share them with people. He drove off to work later that morning, but rang soon after and said, “What about Lucacept?” I had the name. I just had to start the thing.

Come January 12th 2008, we returned home from our camping holiday and I sat down and created a blog in WordPress. I called it Lucacept – intercepting the Web, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I knew how to hyperlink, but had no clue how to embed content or what I was going to write about. I was nervous, wondering if it would be read and how it might be received. I worried about whether or not my school would be comfortable with me potentially sharing things that happened in my working day. I wondered if I was starting something that might peter out after a few months.

Five years later I’m still at it. My life has changed as a result of this little bit of Web real estate. I’ve written fairly consistently, sometimes about not much of consequence, but other times about things that matter. I’ve shared my personal life and occasionally felt nervous about pressing the publish button. Opportunities have come my way and I’ve traveled extensively presenting my thinking at conferences here in Australia and overseas. My passion for and commitment to my profession is focused – moreso now than at any other time in my 25 years as a Secondary School educator. This year, I’m taking on a new role at my school as Director of ICT and eLearning – a role I can perform thanks to the learning that began in part with the first time I penned a post in this WordPress editor, five years ago today.

Seth Godin refers to those of us who use the Web to transmit ideas as artists. Here’s some of his thinking from one of his latest posts.

I don’t think the shortage of artists has much to do with the innate ability to create or initiate. I think it has to do with believing that it’s possible and acceptable for you to do it. We’ve only had these particular doors open wide for a decade or so, and most people have been brainwashed into believing that their job is to copyedit the world, not to design it.

That used to be your job. It’s not, not anymore. You go first.

 

I never used to think of myself as a creative person, but I do now. And that’s because I’ve chosen to believe that it is possible to initiate change with words and the resultant action that comes from wanting to make those words reality. I don’t know what the next five years hold, but hopefully this little bit of Web real estate will be holding its own. Heck, it may have even gone up in value – time will tell.

Would I still be writing if I had no readership? Probably not. I’m forever grateful to all of you, whoever you may be, who either purposefully read or maybe stumble over this blog. Knowing that what you’re writing has the potential to be read is a motivating force. I hope my words have added a modicum of value to your life. Your presence has certainly added so much more value to mine.

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School’s out Friday

This animation from Guy Collins made me smile. Do you ever have to hold your tongue as you watch people search the net? I know that I’ve spent time with students explaining how to use quotation marks around phrases and other tips and tricks related to search, and I see them ignore everything I’ve said and do it their way regardless! Doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying. It’s my job to persevere and repeat myself over and over. : ) I just have to keep a smile on my face and not get exasperated like the comic figure above.

I’ve just followed a link in the back of my blog to Jo McLeay‘s ‘The Open Classroom‘. Her post today called, ‘What makes an effective blog post, or how to write so readers want to read‘, describes my blog as”an oldie but a goodie”. It fills me with much joy to have my blog described this way. This week marked the three year anniversary of this blog. I started writing on January the 12th 2008. It actually slipped my notice until today, and Jo’s post prompted me to mention it here. So much has happened in that three year span, and the core of it all has been the sharing that takes place in this small corner of the Web. Writing is important to me; I think I’ve got better at it, and even when I write a post that I think is good, but gets no obvious feedback (take this week’s Our Ephemeral Web as a case in point!), there is satisfaction in knowing I’ve stuck my neck out and said what I thought needed saying. It may sound corny, but writing like this makes you feel stronger somehow, a little more armed to face the world and the critics out there. It does for me anyway.

But, there are bigger and more important things than this blog. Australia, and Queensland in particular, have seen some extreme weather conditions this week and there are people hurting in my country. My heart goes out to them. It goes out for the people in Brazil as well, who are also struggling with heartache due to floods and landslides. Our world certainly presents some of us with challenges that seem unfairly distributed. What has been encouraging today, in Australia at least, is the kindness of strangers. People who reach out to others in need, for no reward other than the satisfaction of helping others who are struggling. We have seen some examples of the best in people and it makes my heart glad.

Thanks Jo for making my day. Thanks readers for reading. : ) Enjoy what comes your way this weekend.

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Meet Cartoon James

The other week, I received an email from James, the brother of a student from my school. James contacted me because his sister Kate had given him some advice about what he needed to do if he wanted to pursue his passion, cartooning. Kate is a student at my school, and she’d told James he needed to use the Internet to get his ideas out there. (I think she was inspired by my words as she’d just been involved with the Creative Communication camp we’d run at school.)  The upshot of Kate’s advice was that James started a blog. Here was what he wrote in his first post;

This blog started when my big sister said to me, “James, you are an awesome cartoonist, if you want to be big to have to make yourself big and that is to get yourself out there!” I then realised that the internet is now the tool to get the world to know you-who you are and what you can do. So I started this blog show everyone my cartoons and to encourage you to always follow your dreams- I know, big cliche there but it’s true. If you end up having a job that you absolutly hate, then you are going to live life wasting everyday and being unhappy. BUT if you do something you love you will feel good about yourself and that you’ve lived life to the max! So here I am, talking to you about what I love, what I do and what I want to become. Hope this inspires you to go for what you love, to always try your hardest and be your best.

When I received James’ email I took a look at his blog and was impressed with his obvious passion and desire to succeed. He’d created the above YouTube video but it was there as a link and not embedded. I  realised he needed a bit of help understanding the basics of blogging. I offered to help, and spent some time with James the following weekend helping him understand how you hyperlink, how you embed videos and images, how you select a theme that is in keeping with your site’s intentions and how you embed widgets in the sidebar. James’ blog now looks a lot better, and hopefully he has some skills that will hold him in good stead as he pursues his dreams by launching himself into online spaces.

Hopefully, James will continue to be inspired, discover other amateur cartoonists and forge links that help him on the path he wants to follow. What I found really interesting about my interaction with James was that he had to find a teacher outside of his own school to help him. I’m impressed that he found my gmail address and sent the email off, but once again, I’m concerned that there are not enough teachers in our schools with this kind of skill set who can help young people propel their ideas via the Web.

Hopefully you’ll take some time to visit James’ blog and leave a comment to encourage a young man on his way to a future he is helping to create.

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Style Rookie – pure genius

Last week I wrote a post detailing my changing thinking about Blogging with students. Andromeda left a comment on that post pointing me towards a blog called Style Rookie.  She said this;

The author started it two years ago, when she was 12, just to talk about her personal interest in fashion; her parents found out about it when she needed their permission to appear in a New York Times interview. Now she gets invited to Fashion Week, gets asked to style photo shoots, etc. She’s 14.

I took a look and became totally entranced. Tavi writes this blog, she is only 14, and her influence in the fashion world has meant that she is sent clothes to wear, bags to carry and shoes to flaunt. She has recently visited Antwerp in Belgium after being invited to attend a fashion show and was recently at New York fashion week -also invited.

What she is doing seems remarkable, but in fact, she could probably be a kid in plenty of the schools we teach in. What makes her remarkable is the fact that she chose to use a blog as a platform for making her voice heard. There aren’t too many kids seriously thinking about this out there I’d venture to say. Tavi writes exceptionally well and this would be another differentiating factor. You just have to take a look at the post she wrote entitled;

An open letter to Seventeen Magazine, also, WHY ARE YOU UGLY WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU

Her objection was to an article appearing in their magazine entitled, ‘THE PARTY DRUG THAT CAN MAKE YOU FAT AND UGLY’. Here’s a bit of what she had to say;

First of all, “fat” is a descriptive term. It is not a negative thing if it is what is healthiest for a person, and I mean ACTUAL health, not like how your “Health” section is really just code for “Skinny” (“Feel lighter and leaner!”) It’s very disappointing to see your efforts with the body peace treaty and Jess Weiner’s column about body image contradicted with the suggestion that fat=ugly.

By trying to discourage the use of drugs with the threats that it will make someone fat and ugly, you’re saying the worst thing that can happen to your average reader, a teenage girl, as a result of drug use, is not that she will have any damage done to her brain or become  unhappy, but that her appearance will suffer (again, being fat does not mean bad appearance, but that is what you imply.) Notice anything wrong with this picture?

Use that in one of your classes next time you’re discussing body image and the way the media persuades young people in our world. I’m pretty sure your students will be impressed to read the words of a 14 year old, one who is doing a pretty fine job of helping to make magazines like ‘Seventeen’ sit up and take notice. That post received 363 comments; I’m pretty sure ‘Seventeen’ magazine might have got wind of that.

I mentioned Style Rookie to one of my students yesterday afternoon. She spent hours last night pouring over Tavi’s blog. She sent me an email alerting me to this post. In the subject field she had written, ‘Pure Genius’. I can only agree.

Share Style Rookie with your students. Show them what is possible.

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Blogging with students

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called ‘Blogs for Classroom use‘. At the time, I’d recently started blogging and I was in the super enthusiastic stage. Evangelic really, convinced that everyone should be doing what I was doing because it was so exciting and I was learning so much.

At the time of that post, I was presenting a session to my staff, focusing on the connections that could be made for students on a global basis. Here’s a little of what I wrote at the time;

Now, you may ask, how does this relate to blogs for classroom use? Well,  the connections I am making through this blog have made me realise that we do now have the ability to offer our students the experience of connecting with others in different parts of the world. I see the kick my own students are getting out of seeing my cluster map grow and wonder why can’t we offer them the same experience. It’s possible now to have our students act as true global citizens and have a voice in this world. If I can do it in the space of six weeks why can’t they. Many of our students already have an online presence in the form of a myspace or facebook page and  are aware of how to use technology as a social tool. We now need to harness this same technology for educational purposes.

My thinking has never changed about the need to harness this technology for learning purposes. What did change along the way was my experiences with students. In the early days, I set up a class blog with my Year 7’s, with pages for each student, but they really weren’t interested. They liked the home page blog, but they didn’t want to work on their own pages. Over the last two years, I’ve suggested to students who seem to me to be prime candidates as bloggers, the idea that they should be blogging, but they haven’t been interested. Over time, I’ve come to think this is because the lives of teenagers is just jam packed. They have school commitments, family commitments, sport commitments, too many commitments! Expecting them to devote time to a blog, despite the fact that it could potentially be their springboard to something else, is to some extent asking too much of them. I also think that blogging is a bit of an art form of itself; it requires dedication, commitment, drive. Not everyone is a blogger.

So where am I at with my thinking now? Interestingly, contemplating the idea that next year, I just might be suggesting to my students that blogging is something they should seriously think of doing. So why the change?

I’ve been listening to my Year 9 students this year as they grapple with essay writing. I’ve been very impressed with their development of skills over the course of the year, but I think they need more time perfecting their writing skills. If they were writing a blog, and not a blog about random stuff, but a blog focused on something they are interested in and can articulate well, then I’m figuring this is going to prove beneficial for them when it comes to the expectations of the English curriculum. Often, they just need more time to write, to figure out how you structure something that sounds interesting to others, how you write a carefully structured paragraph that’s not too long so that people get bored, how you say it in a word count that isn’t going to tax a reader’s concentration span.

A couple of my current students have been asking me about my blog, and talking of setting up their own so that they can spend time focused on writing. So my current thinking is this. Next school year, I’m going to suggest to my students that writing a blog about a subject matter of interest to them is going to be beneficial for their writing expertise. I’m going to make it optional, not compulsary, and I’m going to help them understand how you write effectively to attract audience. It may well be that I have to run classes outside of regular class to impart these understandings, but that’s fine by me.  It may well be that no-one wants to be involved! We’ll see how it goes.

Over the last term I’ve been running a blogging class for one 60 minute session a week with some Yr 8 students. It’s another factor in my changing mindset. The class only had three students, and two of them have really shown me what can be achieved when young students set their minds to something that means something to them. If you have some time, and feel like sharing some comment love to two aspiring young bloggers, take a look at Liv to Dance and Sing a Song.  Both of these students have demonstrated very quickly an understanding of how blogs work and how you write to gain an audience. They adopted so quickly and I could see their skills growing from week to week. Both of them are writing about what they are passionate about. This is so important. All too often in our school systems we have students who explore their passions outside of school, because school doesn’t cover what interests them in the  curriculum we offer. I’m pleased we were able to offer these students the opportunity to invest time writing about their passion, even if only for a short time. The class has finished, but both tell me they are committed and will keep writing. I will definitely continue to follow their progress.

If you have students who want to improve their writing skills and make meaningful connections along the way, encourage them to blog. I suppose what we need in schools are teachers who understand how blogs work, so that they can impart this understanding to the students. Once again, it’s a human capital question. Do our schools today have the human capital to assist our students with new methods of communication?

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Blogs – how to set one up and write a post that gets you noticed (maybe!)

I created this presentation for Students 2.0. Blogging can be a very powerful tool for young people who want to explore their interests and connect to others with similar bent. All too often I come across student blogs that are set up as class assignments and you can feel a lacklustre involvement with many of them. It’s one of the reasons I don’t get my students writing blogs. I think that blogging is an art, something that is best pursued by people who are passionate about what they are doing, people who write because they love their subject matter and want to share it with others.

That’s the best scenario in my opinion, but I do think there is worth in exposing students to ideas about what can be achieved if you choose to push yourself out there and share your thinking with others. Particularly for kids who have specific interests and don’t realise that you can advance your cause by connecting with the right people.

I visited a school a couple of years ago where students were given the task of putting together a ‘pitch’ to a company about something they were interested in. One student was a go kart racer and had real potential to make his way to the higher ranks where you could eventually become a formula one racing driver. I was very impressed with the effort he put into his ‘pitch’ and the dedication he gave to the task. It mattered to him. I watched the teacher thank him for his efforts, but I couldn’t help but think there was an opportunity wasted at that point. If he had a teacher who understood what blogging can do for people, he could have been encouraged him to start his own and create a profile that may get noticed by those who make decisions. He could have created the digital profile he needed.

What we need in our schools are teachers with skill sets that enable our kids to be exposed to social media tools that will help them take their learning outside of school walls and give them an opportunity to connect with others. My fear is that teachers with the necessary skill sets are few and far between. Hopefully a presentation like the one above will help some teachers relay an understanding to their students.

The Elluminate session was recorded. You can follow this link to listen to me expand on the ideas presented in the slides if you so choose to.

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Blogging – two years in

Today, it’s two years since I first began writing this blog. Quite honestly, writing has changed everything about how I conduct my life. To some extent I’m driven; when you start something and then discover you have an audience, you feel the need to feed it. In the early days I posted every day. Six months in I realised this wasn’t necessary and I started posting less frequently. One of the things that has kept me posting regularly is ‘School’s out Friday‘. If I do nothing else, I always do my best to get a post up on a Friday – I like having a constant, something that readers know will be there that adds levity to the usually serious nature of the postings here. I wonder, if not for School’s out Friday, would I be contributing as frequently as I do?

I’ve found it harder to come up with what I consider interesting posts. When I started, a lot of this blog was about finding new tools and talking about them. I think it’s become more philosophical; I feel a need to add to the conversations but I want to be contributing something worthy, not just fluff and nonsense. That brings with it it’s own pressure; once again, it’s the self inflicted kind. If there’s something I know about myself it’s that I am my harshest critic. I rarely begin posts and not publish them; most of the time I can get something together quite quickly, but it’s the thinking about them prior to the writing that eats up time.

But what wonders have befallen me since I took the plunge and exposed my thoughts to the world! I am so enriched by this experience. I’ve been able to interact with readers and share insights. I’ve had opportunities to present at conferences, I’ve travelled to Shanghai and met members of my PLN face to face, I’ve been invited to join a Reference Group informing the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) as they prepare a Digital Research Network, I’ve been the recipient of The John Ward Award from the School Library Association of Victoria, and, in 10 days, I travel to the United States where I’ll get to experience the wonders of New York City and the Educon 2.2 conference in Philadelphia. In April I’ll be presenting at ACEC’s Digital Diversity conference and in June, I will travel to the States again to present at ISTE in Colorado. None of those things would be possible had I not taken a bit of a risk and started to write this blog.

So, thank you, Lucacept. You were a little germ of an idea that I thought might be interesting. You’ve grown into a whole lot more, and now, you are a part of me. You’ve spawned a different life for your creator; I have no cognitive surplus, I’m thinking pretty much 24/7, but I like it. Stick around. : )

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Why blogging matters

I often try to articulate why I think blogging has been such a  transformative action for me. Seth Godin and Tom Peters have articulated it brilliantly in 1 minute and 37 seconds.  They are both marketers, but what they say is relevant to anyone who writes a blog. Watch this.

Then start blogging.

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The Robert Pattinson effect

An interesting thing happened on the way to building readership of our school library blog.

One of our staff wrote a post about Robert Pattinson. (You know him, he plays Edward in this film that’s done pretty well at the box office of late. Twilight, that’s the one. If you work in a library you’d know all about it. It’s the series of books by Stephanie Meyer that haven’t sat on the shelves in months; they’ve been from one schoolbag to the next  and are lucky to be still in one piece after the countless times their pages have been thumbed.) 

And our stats went through the roof.

We now have this cluster map showing big red dots from all over the world and blog stats showing 4,524  hits.  The biggest day registered 357 hits on the blog, and we’ve been averaging 230 hits or so a day since it was posted. Already today the 2rak info 4 u blog has had 50 hits while I’ve registered a paltry nine!

So, what does it mean. Not a lot in terms of the meaningful readership of our blog that we are aiming for. We are trying to have our school community access the blog and use it to learn about events we are promoting and new ideas they may find helpful. I’d say maybe 800 or so (quite possibly less) of the 4,254  hits we’ve had are from our school community. We’ve still got a lot of work to do in shifting the mindset of our staff and students in terms of having them access this resource as a natural course of action. We, too, need to try very hard to get posts up; invariably we get caught up in the reactive nature of school library operations and find time is against us. At this early stage we still have to send out emails alerting staff to posts we’ve written.

What does it mean? It means that Robert Pattinson is very hot property and can probably pretty much name his price for his appearance in the next movie I’d expect.  

It also means I’m about to conduct my own market research into the effect of writing a post about a popular movie icon and what this does to your blog stats. I’m well aware that this may cause inflated stats that do not reflect the quality of posts appearing on this blog that deserve readership. It will reflect the number of (predominantly) teenage girls who are accessing the web to find information about the much desired Robert.

It’s going to be interesting. Keep an eye on those stats.

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Theory into practice – making it meaningful in the school library.

A tag cloud with terms related to Web 2.
Image via Wikipedia

This year, we’re trying to make Web 2.0 more meaningful in our School Library. Last year we moved most of our pathfinders over to wiki format to encourage collaboration and input into the development of  resources to support subject areas and projects. The take up was pretty good and most people know what a wiki is now, but you run the risk of getting ‘wikiied out’. Sometimes you could hear the collective groan of ‘not another wiki’ and that is something you want to avoid at all costs.

We’re not giving up on Wikis, but we are trying something new. We used to put out a monthly newsletter with interesting websites, news and book reviews, but it went to staff only. It was very good, but not frequent enough and got lost in the barrage of emails that hits the computers at my school. We wanted to do something that delivers information, but more frequently and something that encourages the two way exchange of ideas that Web.2.0 typifies. So we’ve started a Library blog that’s open, not one that’s operating within our Sharepoint Scholaris platform.

Last year when I attended Learning 2.008, I had the pleasure of meeting Ann Krembs.  She talked of her Dear Librarian blog that she runs at the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India. I’ve been inspired by Ann’s efforts and have set up 2rak info 4 u to serve our school’s information needs, and perhaps the information needs of others.  

tc_lib_blog

We launched it just over a week ago and although it hasn’t set the world on fire, it has had quite a few hits. We need to find ways to have it become part of the culture of the school and something that staff and students use as a ‘go to’ place for information.  We are trying to set up an RSS feed to it within our Scholaris platform so that posts will be visible, updated and in the face of  our staff and students. This have proven to be problematic but we’re working on it.  

All of the library staff have been set up as authors and all of them have been uploading posts. This is learning curve stuff for most of them but they are rising to the challenge and are pretty chuffed when they see their efforts. It’s proving to be excellent professional development; they are ‘doing’, not just reading about what can be done. The clustr map has certainly generated some interest; it really does have an impact when you realise that people from far and wide are viewing your work.

Hopefully we’ll see it become part of the fabric of our school. Take a visit and see what you think. I’d appreciate your feedback if you feel so inclined to offer your thoughts.   

       

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