I’ve spend the past week doing a lot of blog reading. With 40+ students taking the grad course here at ISB and another 8 that I’m teaching for PSU makes for a lot of blog reading in a week.

I predicted this year would be about building value with these tools and that I personally was going to focus on bringing the conversation to people who are open to hearing it and are ready to hear it.

These courses are just that. Some people never before hearing the word ‘podcast’. While others have wanted to dive in but were waiting for the right opportunity.

This also extends to my approach at up coming conferences. I’ll be leaving next Saturday for Portland, Oregon where I’ll be doing a three hour workshop at the NCCE conference on how teachers and schools can communicate with their communities beyond using e-mail. We’ll talk about blogs, podcasts, and everything Google spending a good hour on each.

With trying to keep up with almost 50 new blogs, I have found myself reading much more of late and want, from time to time, to point out some great thinking that is happening as another wave of educators joins the conversation.

Becoming a Fish:

For those that find an end to their learning (which we all must know as never existing) whether it be acquiring that degree or comfort level in their profession, they have fallen short of their potential. When one stops seeking knowledge or even questioning their current knowledge and understanding, they have failed themselves.

Do Bloggers Care About Copyright Laws?:

So, I’m curious…is there a different standard for information found in blogs? I doubt it, but I have a sense that bloggers don’t care really. They’re all about sharing.

How are My Thoughts Changing?:

I’m not sure how my thinking has changed yet.  I am just sure that it is changing and I am so interested to see how these new ideas play out.  I am excited to be in a profession that has the opportunity to engage directly with these ideas with children and youth.  It is an exciting time to be in the field of education.


So my questions are these:  Knowledge…is it something we construct (constructivism?)…something within us?; something always there, but masked by our own delusions (Buddhism)?; or does learning and knowledge now depend on CONNECTIVISM?  I am still not sure how constructivism and connectivism are entire different. Do we not build knowledge (constructivism) through our interactions with others and our experiences?

A little rain for the 2.0 parade:

Did anyone else read the articles on Connectivism and Messing Around and wonder “What’s the big deal?” I don’t see much novel about those discussions, just technology-specific applications of pre-existing ideas.

Addressing Truth and Bias in the Classroom:

Imagine the individual who cares deeply about a subject is dedicated to finding truth. To avoid bias, it makes sense to work with other passionate individuals with alternative points of view. Compelling arguments may win the day. Reporting the truth involves admitting the biases and reporting the truth from multiple perspectives, pointing out the gray areas and areas where further investigation is needed. Is it possible that truth is relative depending on perspective or truth is “the best information available.”

Connectivism the new constructivism?:

I guess since I entered adulthood in a pre- internet world I would attest that learning can and does take place off line and maybe, I would argue, in a more visceral way. I will never forget the first time that I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. It had to be at least 20 years ago and I remember waiting on line to see it and being surprised at how small it was and being distracted because the painting was under glass and there was glare on the glass.

These are just a couple of the posts that have me thinking this week. I’m really enjoying teaching teachers, and adults in general for that matter. Wonder if there is a way to make a living at it. 😉

A comment left by Dan Christian yesterday on my post about the changing landscape of blogging. Has me back here thinking about my job as an educational technologist.

First I think we need to understand how I view my job and what I think the job of an educational technologist should include.

First and foremost we are educators. Our job is to educate. Our students range in age from 60+ to less than 5 years old. Our mission is to teach them how to use technology to learn, create, be more productive or make a task easier. The only way we can do that is to have a solid understanding of what is out there, that tools exist both as part of the computer’s operating system and on the web that allow us to do our job easier, to learn differently, or connect us to people, thoughts, ideas that we never had access to before.

What? My Technorati Authority rating is down to 188? Wait? How? It was at 198 just hours ago? To make matters worse it was at 251 in June.

What happened? Where did all the links go?

Don’t worry…I have a theory…here me out.

First of all please do not think that I am all hung up on my ranking within the edublog community. No, I just find the whole thing fascinating. So here’s my thought.

The conversation that has been going on around Twitter over at Utechtips.com both here and here has lead to other e-mails and discussions around building networks and specifically how do you get people to comment on your blog?

The problem is….you can’t make people comment. What you can do is write compelling blog posts that make people want to leave comments. How do you do that….I’m not sure.

Seth Godin outlines 9 rules of blogging:

  1. Use headlines. I use them all the time now. Not just
    boring ones that announce your purpose (like the one on this post) but
    interesting or puzzling or engaging headlines. Headlines are perfect
    for engaging busy readers.
  2. Realize that people have choices. With 80 million other
    blogs to choose from, I know you could leave at any moment (see, there
    goes someone now). So that makes blog writing shorter and faster and
    more exciting.
  3. Drip, drip, drip. Bloggers don’t have to say everything at once. We can add a new idea every day, piling on a thesis over time.
  4. It’s okay if you leave. Bloggers aren’t afraid to include links or distractions in their writing, because we know you’ll come back if what we had to say was interesting.
  5. Interactivity is a great shortcut. Your readers care about
    someone’s opinion even more than yours… their own. So reading your
    email or your comments or your trackbacks (your choice) makes it easy
    to stay relevant.
  6. Gimmicks aren’t as useful as insight. If you’re going to
    blog successfully for months or years, sooner or later you need to
    actually say something. Same goes for your writing.
  7. Don’t be afraid of lists. People like lists.
  8. Show up. Not writing is not a useful way of expressing your ideas. Waiting for perfect is a lousy strategy.
  9. Say it. Don’t hide, don’t embellish.

These are some great ideas that hopefully have you thinking. But the best idea is

Link, Link, Link, Link

Learn to use the power of linked content. That is what makes the web a….well….web. Understanding how to get your blog linked into the network is important. So here are a couple things I would start with as a new blogger and I hope that others will add their ideas in the comments below.

1)Register your blog with Technorati
Technorati is not only used as a search engine by other bloggers (those most likely to leave comments) but many people use RSS feeds from the different Technorati tags to aggregate information. Being connected into Technorati gives you a wide net as those tags can be and are used for other search sites as well.

2)Learn to use Technorati tags
After you have registered your blog spend some time learning about tagging information. If you are using your own hosted WordPress the Tag to Technorati plugin is an easy way to make sure you are tagging your posts and that Technorati will pick up those tags.

If you are using Blogger. Get use to using what it calls labels (Why blogger doesn’t call them tags like everyone else is beyond me!). If your blog is registered with Technorati and you label your blog posts then Technorati will pick those up as Technorati Tags (Or so is my understanding I don’t use blogger…anyone?).

(Click here to enlarge)

3)Leave comments and leave your URL
The best way to get eyeballs on your site is to leave comments on other blogs and make sure you leave behind your blog address as well. Many times the author of the blog will follow the link to check out who left the comment and to learn more about you (I do) and other commenter’s do the same.

4)Link, Link, Link
Link to other bloggers. Read other bloggers and make sure you link to them. Those links (known in the blogosphere as Pingbacks) show up as comments on most blogs and it’s a way to again link information together.

The amount of content on your blog makes a difference as well. I for one benefit from just the sheer amount of content I now have on my blog (some 660+ posts). That content is picked up by search engines and nearly 40% of my traffic each day comes from search engines (Google specifically). So just know that it takes time. People do not just show up and start commenting on your blog. There is a process that readers go through from lurking to commenting.

Write what you’re thinking, be true to who you are, and find your niche in a niche market. My niche is as an international educator. I have the feeling if I was to move back to the States that I’d be just another educational blogger. But I have a niche as an international technology educator. There are a few of us out here, but it’s still a pretty small niche.

I got my first comment on my 10th post. I didn’t get two comments on the same post until around the 100 post mark. So it takes time, write because you want to, write for you, don’t worry about the comments. What I have found lately is how much I end up searching my own site looking for something that I wrote, a website I know I mentioned, or just to reflect on what I was thinking. I write as a way to store my thoughts, as a way to reflect on my practice and share with the larger community. If you decide to leave a comment great….if not I have my thoughts down to share with others if they ask.

Find your niche, find your purpose, and then just blog!

https://www.thethinkingstick.com/ondeck/podcasts/ondeck300.jpg Well I guess it is time to officially launch my podcasting site. I’ve been working on it for a couple weeks now off and on and tonight played around with it enough to give it a beta launch. I’m still playing with the theme and waiting for iTunes to accept the new site. But all and all I think it’s looking pretty good.

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with the 5th grade team and talk blogging for a whole day. We had some great conversations, learned some new tricks, and bounced ideas off of each other. One thing I talked about with the group is blogs being a conversation (I know I’ve been saying this a lot lately) and how if we want to get away from blogs just being a place to post assignments, then we as teachers have to start using the space differently, we need to open up our thinking to our students and allow them to think along with us. In a conversation, there is no teacher and there is no learner…there are just people in conversations. Everyone is equal, everyone can comment and every comment is weighed equally. One of the teachers had a great post this week where he asks his students for some help on taking their blogs to the next level. Those have to be 13 of the most thought out comments I’ve seen in a long time. I can’t get my 6th and 7th graders to comment like this (although we’re working on it).

On Deck is the name of my podcasting site. Sticking with the baseball theme I have going here. I went through a few names, but settled for On Deck because I think it best represents where I’m at in my thinking. I’m getting closer to being at bat, but I’m still missing some pieces, which is great because it means I still get to learn. Not sure if I’ll ever be ready to step in the batters box, but I’m sure having a great time taking practice swings On Deck.

[tags]blogs, ondeck, podcast[/tags]

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This week at techlearning I’ve continued the conversation I started last week about the Problem with Blogs. After reading and reflecting on the comments left by others…I’ve updated my thinking on the subject and give further thought to some of the comments.

Here’s a taste of the new image:

Read the rest here.

[tags]conversations, blogs, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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I posted awhile back about moving our learning site to a dedicated server. Well the paper work should be in later this week and next week I should be able to start migrating the site…depending on how fast I can learn how to mange a Linux server..which I’ve never done before. I feel a steep unlearn relearn curve ahead.

I’ve just finished posting my post for this week over at techlearning.com. I always find it interesting blogging on that site. Each week I start to panic as I feel like I have nothing to write about and then one day something hits me. This week was really weird on. Sunday I was enjoying a lovely day with my wife…came home and was doing the dishes when this post worked it’s way from the back of my brain into a something I could write about. By the time I finished the dishes I had the post pretty much written, grabbed the computer and just started typing….I find it strange every time that happens.

Anyway the title of the post is “A Problem with Blogs” and includes this image:

For the rest of my dish pan hand post you’ll have to head to techlearning.com and let me know what you think. Knowing me I’m probably completely missing the point. But it did help me work through some ideas running around in my head.

[tags]blogs, techlearning[/tags]

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86…the number of blogs now at Shanghai American School. Most of them are just getting started while others are really starting to get some good content, and there will be more to come!

It’s funny how a good thing, when given support, just takes off. It happened with Moodle in our High School primarily where everyday somewhere in the ballpark of 130 students log on to the site to do work. I started the Moodle site at our school last year, a couple teachers took it stated using it and like most things good, it spread by word of mouth. At the start of this year and up until about November we were adding a class a day to the site. With 1109 users (some from other countries in collaberative classes) Moodle has quickly become a foundation of our online existents at the school.

Blogging has been the next big thing. From 5th grade to High School we’ve been adding blogs set up in a number of ways. Some teachers have class blogs where students all have accounts on the same blog. Others, like the 5th grade team on the Pudong Campus have given each student a blog of their own.

In the first 3 hours of school today I’ve received two e-mails for more blogs One from the 4th grade team who is interested and the other from another 7th grade science teacher. On top of that I have 3 tech classes that will all have blogs soon and as word spreads I’m sure more will come.

Not every teacher ‘gets’ the power of these tools, how they really can be used to change the way we teach and the way students learn. Right now, I’d say we are building School 1.5. Using the technology because it’s there, not really looking at how it impacts learning. But, for now, I’m OK with this. We have to use the tool before we understand what it can do for us. When I started blogging I had no idea where it was going to lead, 16 months later I get it!

The best part is, this blog explosion could not be happening at a better time. In February the school is having the first ever Tech Fest. A day and a half conference focused on Technology. If that’s not cool enough, the school is flying David Warlick in for the whole week to work with teachers and administrators as we start looking at the vision of where we want our school to be.

So here I have arguably one of the best Educational Technology presenters coming to spend a week where blogging as a tool is just taking off. My hope is that David will be able to help teachers wrap their heads around the educational power that lies within these tools. Have you ever heard of the 75 mile rule? That is that you have to bring someone from 75 miles away that says things a little different for people to ‘get it’ and to buy into a plan. In David’s case it’s more like 6,000 miles…I think that’s far enough. 🙂

I encourage you take a look at some of the blogs. Again some have nothing on them yet, others only a post or two. The site is ran by WordPressMU. I’ve also added the list-all plug-in which lists all the blogs on the front page of the site, it also prioritizes the list, so that the latest updated blog shows up first.

One thing I would like to try and do (if someone could help me) is to also on the front page have say 150 words from the latest post from the latest updated blogs. Giving students a reason to click on someone else’s blog and comment or just read. Plus I think it would be fascinating to see the different topics that are written about from 4th grade on up.

I wish we could just use edublogs.org and learnerblogs.org but it’s a connection thing here in China, and so we end up running our own install of these tools to ensure they are not blocked by the filter or earthquakes. Besides, it is a great way to keep track of multiple blogs, have them branded with our school name and easy for parents and the community to find.

My hope is that this is just the beginning, that after the Tech Fest those that have the blogs already will ‘get it’ and those who are motivated to start blogging will. I have to say the future is looking bright!

[tags]SAS, blogs[/tags]

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I came home tonight looking forward to going through my aggregator and getting some other stuff online done. But I made the mistake of stopping by some of the online projects going on around the school. Needless to say my learning tonight came from a bunch of middle school students. I’ve spent the last two hours shaking my head. Why don’t more teachers see the power in these tools.

First a great project got started today called the International Environmental Symposium. It’s a Moodle course that we are hosting that involves some 153 7th grade students from Brazil, California, Saudi Arabia, and China. I’ve been working with the teachers the past couple of weeks getting the class ready to go and student accounts created. Tonight students had their first two assignments, and I’ve been sucked in. First up was a simple introduction forum but read some of these:

My mom is Swedish but my dad is Indian. My nationality is Swedish and I have lived there for 12 years. I came to Riyadh last year.

My name is [Student Name] and I come from the United States. However, I currently attend the Shanghai American School in Shanghai. I am twelve years old, in seventh grade, and was born in California, near Los Angeles, but my family moved to Shanghai when I was four. Because of this, I identify with a blend of American and Chinese cultures.

Hey Everyone! I’m [Student Name]. I was born in North Carolina, USA, and movd around a lot in america to pennsylvania, virginia, and iowa. After finishing 4th grade, i moved here to Shanghai, China, and i have lived here for around 2 and a half years. I am 12 years old. My dad grew up in india, but went to college in america . My mom grew up in minnesota, USA, so i’m half american and half indian. China is my first foregin country that i have lived in.

These are the third culture kids that we teach internationally. All 153 tell a similar story, How easy will it be for these students to adjust to this new world. They are already flexible. Most of them have lived in may different places.

I then headed over to check in on Courtney’s Blog. Some of you might remember Courtney, she was at all four of my LAN parties for the K12online conference. She has started a blog with her students called Science Geeks. We’re still working out the bugs, but it’s looking great so far. She is having them read and report on science articles they are finding on the Internet. So far I’ve learned about Space Umbrellas and a new basketball made of plastic. If you get a minute stop on by and leave a comment, or just learn some cool and unusual facts about science.

These are two great projects that have just gotten underway. It will be fun to watch them grow and to learn from the new information. The power of sharing and collaborating, all made possible because of the tools we now have available on the Internet. Don’t try and tell me that the Internet doesn’t change everything…I’ve got proof it does!

[tags]SAS, 21st Century Learning, Moodle, Blogs[/tags]

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