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.

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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Why do we blog?

I’ve mentioned recently that my friend Nina has started writing a blog focusing on the early years classroom. She’s doing amazingly well, but already the questions have started.

Why are you doing this?

What do you think will come of it?

etc, etc, etc.

Anyone who blogs has heard it all before. The lack of understanding from some and their disbelief when you explain that you willingly do it in your time away from your workplace, is a more common reaction than the ‘good for you’, comment you might be expecting.

Reading Robert Darnton’s article yesterday, I was struck by something he wrote about the changing nature of publishing;

“The eighteenth-century Republic of Letters had been transformed into a professional Republic of Learning, and it is now open to amateurs—amateurs in the best sense of the word, lovers of learning among the general citizenry.”  

This is why we blog.

We are lovers of learning.

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Blog or thesis?

I attended our School’s Yr 12 Valedictory dinner last night. A wonderful celebration of the incredible young women who attend the school I teach at. The guest speaker was a former student who had left the school 10 years ago. She spoke of time at university and post graduate studies completing her Master’s degree. It got me thinking.

I’ve never pursued post graduate study, feeling for many years that effort was beyond me. And yet I look at the body of work that is this blog and I wonder. I wonder about the intrinsic motivation that drives me to share my thoughts with others, I wonder about the hours of effort that have gone into this, I wonder about the remarkable experiences I have been privy to as a result of this space on the web. I wonder all this because no amount of effort on my part in this space is going to give me the piece of paper or credentials at the end of my name that would allow me to pursue a career beyond a secondary school setting or accrue a higher income.

This blog is the place where I am developing my thinking and testing a few theories along the way. I suppose my assessors are the audience of readers. I suppose this could be seen as the evolution of education. Blogs are spaces where self directed learners are writing their own thesis and are allowing readership and interaction to determine success or failure. 

I received an email today about a post graduate course of study in ICT education. At the moment I can’t conceive of any going anywhere near it because I just can’t imagine how I’d be able to fit it in. Some might say that is foolish on my behalf. Why not invest some time in getting qualifications doing something that you are immersed in anyway? At this stage I just don’t want to go to a place where assessment will be driving what it is I am learning. I’m happy to create my own agendas and see where this will take me.

Who knows? Maybe a technorati ranking will hold some weight in years to come.

Dinner with John and Jan

I was really fortunate Tuesday night to catch up with John Connell and his lovely wife Jan who were visiting Australia with Cisco, the company John works for. His job is Education Business Development Manager for the Emerging Markets – covering South America, the Caribbean, Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe and Russia. John has been an encouraging mentor for me as I’ve traversed the edublogosphere. I first met John at the ASLA conference in Adelaide last year where I presented about Digital Storytelling. John was a keynote speaker along with Stephen Abrams. Both spoke about the need to transform education in response to our changing technological landscape and both mentioned that they wrote blogs. I spoke to John in the tea break and told him of my desire to get involved in the transformation and he told me that he could see that I would. An empowering statement from him that helped put the fire in my belly to get involved. I started reading his and Stephen’s blogs (along with Will Richardson’s) and started my exponential learning curve that has led to this blog and all that has come with it.

John has been a reader of my blog and has made the encouraging comment or two along the way. These have certainly inspired me as I hold him in high esteem. John’s blog is insightful and he ponders the difficult questions that arise as we all tread carefully through new territory. When he knew he was visiting Melbourne he emailed to ask if we could meet up. I was thrilled. Those of you who operate in this online world will know that it’s exciting to meet someone face to face who you know only through their words. As it turns out, I crashed a dinner that was already organised – John was obliging enough to ask if I could attend! 

I had a lovely time meeting John and Jan and am very pleased to report that we had a lot to talk about and not all of it was centred around blogging and education. It really is wonderful when you meet someone and you find that they are just like you sensed them to be from their online presence.

Thanks John and Jan. Hope to meet up with you again some day.

Blogging 101 – 6 months in

Today it’s been exactly six months (and one day I’ve just realised!) since I started writing this blog. What have I learnt??

You can reach out and share knowledge with the world. A surprise to me really – I did think this was going to be a resource for my school but it’s become much more than this.

It can be hard work writing a blog and sourcing ideas for posts. I’m going to go back on my initial declaration that I was aiming to write a post a day. There really is no need to post so frequently. If I find something interesting to share I will do so. but I’m not going to work myself into the ground when there is so much to balance in this life.  What has been interesting is that there is such a body of work in this blog that I’m finding it gets hits even on days when I haven’t posted.

There are amazing educators out there willing to encourage and foster the growth of new voices in the edublogosphere. Thank you to everyone who has read my posts, posted a comment or subscribed to this blog. Your readership has renewed my connection to education and made me realise there are enormous possibilities for the future.

 It doesn’t matter if you don’t know everything about how a blog works before you start writing one. When I started I really had no idea what I was doing. I’ve learnt on the job so to speak. You will too.

I’m lousy at widgets. For some reason I struggle to embed the code properly and nothing works like it should. I’ve tried to put some interesting widgets in my sidebar but it never works. I need help!!

We are a connected world now. I’ve been able to have my students get involved in projects that have happened because I am writing this blog. There are so many possibilities for our students to experience a connection with other students and educators around the world if you bother to make the effort to forge these links. All it takes is effort and a desire to make your classroom more interesting for the students you teach. 

Writing in a hypertext environment brings people to you. I can’t believe some of the people and organisations who have noticed me as a result of linking to them. Amazing what is possible really. Makes me want this for my students too. 

Twitter is a natural extension of blogging. If you’re writing a blog (and even if you’re not) you should be interacting with your network via Twitter. It connects you in ways you never thought possible. I’m indebted to Clay Burell who guided me through Twitter and enabled me to form a network overnight by doing a shout out for me.  

You can establish a voice in the edublogosphere and be heard. It comes from posting and from contributing to the conversations by taking the time to comment on other people’s blogs. Comments matter. They do to me anyway. You can see your stats tick over, but the return you get from reading a comment someone has taken the time to write about a post you wrote is very empowering and keeps you going.

It’s all about having a go – a great Australian phrase that I think sums up my effort thus far. I’ve been having a go and will continue to do so. Let’s see what the next six months brings with it.

Thanks for visiting. I appreciate it.