Using A Blog Editor

Using a Blog Editor

This week I’ve been participating in a KnowWeeks course called ‘Browserless Blogging ‘ with Grant Potter.  One of our tasks has been to try out a desk top blog editor.  I think that this just means using something other than your blog’s own editor that can post directly to your blog.  So writing your post in Word and cutting and pasting it to your blog’s editor doesn’t count.  And if you’ve read Sue Waters’ post on this you’ll know that that is a bad idea anyway.

As I was going through the list of options there was one that I had tried; Flock’s blog editor.  I wasn’t crazy about it as it lost all of the formatting when it uploaded to edublogs; though maybe I needed to tweek some settings.

Anyway, as I was going through the list and trying to decide which other blog editor I’d like to try, it occured to me that Google Docs has a ‘post to blog’ feature.  I like writing my posts in Google Docs, because that it where I do most of my writing.  When I went to check out the ‘post to blog’ feature today I realized that when I tried in the past, I hadn’t been able to get the setting right.  When I looked at it today I realized that the blog URL I had put in was in the wrong format.  Another post by Sue Waters helped me to figure it out.  To post from Google Docs to Edublogs you use the following URL: http://YOURBLOGUSERNAME.edublogs.org/path/to/xmlrpc.php

So this is my test of posting from Google Docs.  I know it won’t add tags or categories, but I’m gonna give it a whirl.  Where do you post your blogs from?

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Reflections on Blogging 101

This is cross-posted at Tech Pro-D Tools.

A week ago I facilitated a session called ‘Blogging 101’ for teachers in my school district. The session was aimed at teachers new to blogging. By the end of the session I wanted participants to be able to:

  1. search for blogs of interest
  2. subscribe to blogs in a feed reader
  3. submit comments to a blog
  4. set up their own blog
  5. write their first blog post
  6. be able to add media to their posts (images, videos, etc)

The session was all built around a series of blog posts on my other blog, Tech Pro-D Tools. The posts are all tagged/labeled ‘blogging 101’. The focus on the posts was mainly ‘how-to’, with lots of screen shots and step-by-step instructions. The session ran from 8:30 to 1:30 with two 20 minute breaks.

Reflections

Resources
My goodness it took a long time to put together the 11 posts which make up the bulk of the


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Blogging 101 series! My hope is that it will be useful to anyone who is interested in getting into blogging, especially if they are planning to use Google Reader and Blogger. In addition, if I do another intro to blogging workshop, I’ve got the bulk of my resources ready. For the record, I do not receive kickbacks from Google; I chose these two tools because I am familiar with them, Blogger is easy to set up, and it requires only signing up for services with one company.

I did not provide resources other than what was in my blog posts. I didn’t prepare any handouts. In future I think I would prepare a one page handout with key information on it such as the blog address, how to contact me, and how to get into the Google account once it has been set up.

Time


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I tried to break up the session so that participants were interacting with each other and getting out of their seats. Having said that, I think I needed to have more of this. The participants all seemed very into what we were doing, but 5 hours is a long time to be sitting at the computer. A couple of the participants suggested a two day session would be a good format, then they could go home and try out some of the things we talked about and come back the next day with questions. I suspect two 3 hour sessions might be a good way to do this.

Group Size
Seventeen people were signed up for the session, but only eight actually showed up. I think that 17 would have been way too much for one person (me) to handle effectively. As it was, 8 was perfect. I felt that I was able to move around the room and help people when they needed it.

Knowing Your Audience
I did create a pre-session survey and 7 of the 8 participants completed it. Their experience with web 2.0 tools was all over the map and it was helpful knowing where everyone was at. I erred on the side of making my instructions in the ‘Blogging 101’ posts geared toward the technologically inexperienced and I think this worked well. If you are more experienced you can ignore the step-by-step screen shots and just go with the flow. But if you are uncertain, the step-by-step is there for you. I would have liked to have an exit survey, but I just ran out of time.

Random Thoughts
I was a little surprised at how many participants wanted to keep their blogs private. I had forgotten how apprehensive I was about privacy and security when I started blogging–so this was a good reminder. The session focussed mainly on the mechanics of blogging. Given more time it would be great to discuss how to write good posts, be a good commenter, track blog stats etc.

The Wrap Up and Heartfelt Thanks

I was happy with how the workshop went, and as I’ve mentioned above there are some things that I


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would change. It took me a tremendous amount of time to write all the posts, so that’s another reason I hope to do another workshop on this again to get more mileage out of all the work! Lastly, I would to thank Sarah Stewart and Sue Waters for their comments on a post I did soliciting ideas for this workshop. Sue has been a fantastic blogging mentor for hundreds (thousands?!) of new edubloggers and I am so grateful for all the support she has given me this year. Sarah Stewart was generous enough to share the outline and resources she used for her recent blogging workshop. We also had some good discussions via Twitter on how to run a successful workshop on blogging. You can read Sarah’s reflections on the three sessions she and her colleague ran here.

If you have any suggestions on how to run a successful blogging workshop, please let me know. Any comments on the Blogging 101 series I ran would also be welcome!

Blogging 101

Some Background
I started blogging in November of 2007 and I am amazed at how much I’ve learned and grown as a result of blogging.  My network is expanding all the time; now it’s time for me to work on local connections, with the folks in my district. In August I am doing a professional development session in my district on blogging.  I’ve billed it as ‘Blogging 101; Blogs as Professional Development Tools’.  If the session fills up I’ll have 20 people in a computer lab for the day (5 hours).  Ideally I’d like to have the participants sign up for Google Reader, read and start commenting on blogs, and finally set up their own blogs in Blogger (for ease of use).  If I can I’d like to have some folks Skype in on the session to help illustrate the power of the network.  My goal is to introduce teachers to blogging as a way to enhance their professional practice. This is not a session on how to get students blogging. 


I’d Like To Pick Your Brain
If this was your session how would you run with it?  Do you have an “aha!” moment to share or a golden resource?  What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned in your blogging journey?  My plan is to do a follow up post with everyone’s suggestions (she says optimistically 🙂 ), hopefully to act as a resource for others who might be considering running a similar session.  

Share and Share Alike
Tech Pro-D Tools is a blog I set up to support professional development sessions that I am involved in.  I’ll be running the ‘Blogging 101’ session from that blog–posting links, resources, how-tos, and tasks there.  I hope that it will be helpful not just to the session participants, but to others too. 

Closer
Again, if you have any suggestions, ideas, links etc, I’d love to hear from you, no matter if you’ve been blogging since before it was called that, or if you just started yesterday 🙂

Image: Cyan Brain by bebop717

It’s Day 1 Baby!

So here we are with Day 1 of the 31 Day Comment Challenge and today’s task is to do a commenting self-audit. We’ve been asked to answer the following questions:

  1. How often do you comment on other blogs during a typical week?
  2. Do you track your blog comments? How? What do you do with your tracking?
  3. Do you tend to comment at the same blogs or do you try to comment on at least one new blog per week?
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My Typical Week
I probably leave about 5 comments per week on average. I have about 38 blogs in my feed reader (see the blogs I read in the left sidebar), plus I subscribe to Stephen Downes’ OLDaily where he gives brief summaries and commentary on blog posts that have caught his eye in the field of educational technology. Then, of course, there are all the posts I find out about from my Twitter network :-). I think the reason that I don’t leave more comments in a week is three-fold:

  1. I often just don’t have the time. Writing does not come easily to me, so even a four or five sentence comment is pretty time consuming. Hopefully as I blog and comment more, the writing will start to flow a little easier.
  2. Many of the blogs I subscribe to are pretty popular and by the time I read the post there are already 20 plus comments–by then I either don’t have time to read all the comments (and as Gina Trapani says in her guide to blog comments, if you can’t read the whole thread, then don’t comment!) or I have nothing new to add.
  3. Some of the blogs I subscribe to don’t necessarily invite comments. By that I mean that they are primarily a place to disseminate information. An example would be David Warlick’s 2¢ Worth. He does a lot of conferences and live blogs many of the keynotes that he attends. I love reading his stuff, but he generally does not write posts that provoke comments.

Tracking My Comments
About a month or so ago I signed up with co.mments after reading a post about it by Sue Waters. It is easy to use, I just click on my ‘Track co.mments’ bookmark when I want to follow a comment thread. New comments are automatically sent to my Google Reader account via RSS. I use co.mments when I comment on a post and want to hear new comments. I also find it useful if I get to a post when it is brand spanking new and has not comments yet. I may not have anything to say yet, but I want to find out what others think about the post.

To participate in this challenge, I signed up for coComment. Today is my first day using it and I’m intrigued by the groups feature. I’m interested to see what else coComment has in store for me.

What do I do with my tracking? Not much. I mean I read the new comments, but that’s about it. I’m curious as to what others do with their tracking. With coComment you can post your most recent comments on your blog. For the purposes of this challenge I think I’ll try adding that feature. Hopefully it will help draw other people into conversations they might not have otherwise found.

Do I Get Around?!
I definitely do not comment on a new blog every week. This is not out of any sort of exclusiveness; I just am not a prolific commenter to begin with. There are a few blogs that I comment on regularly; here they are and the reasons I have for commenting on them.

– Sue Waters (Mobile Technology in TAFE and The Edublogger ): Sue’s TAFE blog was one of the first blogs that I came across that I found to be really useful as I was starting out in blogging. Sue writes a lot of ‘how to’ kind of posts and the way she writes invites comments. She is also so generous in responding to comments and to questions. She subscribes to my blog and I know that there’s a 50/50 chance that she will comment on each of my new posts. She is a wonderful mentor and is always encouraging other edubloggers to welcome new bloggers on the scene. It is not surprising that she is one of the co-conspirators in the 31 Day Comment Challenge!

– Michele Martin (The Bamboo Project Blog): I think the first post I read of Michele’s was Six Reasons People Aren’t Commenting On Your Blog. This was early in my blogging career (4.5 months ago, ha!) and I was worried about the lack of comments on my blog. Michele hands out great advice and poses thought provoking questions. She is also extremely generous in responding to comments, both in the comment section of her blog and in e-mails. Again, it is not surprising that she is another of the co-conspirators in the 31 Day Comment Challenge!

– Sarah Stewart (Sarah’s Musings ): I don’t know how I found Sarah’s blog–I suspect that I read a comment of hers on Sue Waters’ blog and decided to check her out. Sarah is a mid-wife doing her PhD in New Zealand. Her PhD involves researching the use of e-mentoring (mentoring provided by email) as experienced by aged care nurses and allied health professionals. Though I am not a mid-wife, I am an avid reader of Sarah’s blog. She is constantly trying out and reporting on her experiences with web 2.0 tools. I’ll often read one of her posts and decide that it’s high time that I tried out tool X, Y, or Z too. It was after I wrote this post that Sarah and I both took the Twitter plunge (after being kindly mocked by Sue Waters).

– Clay Burell (Beyond School): Clay is an eloquent writer, he writes a lot of posts, he’s passionate about what he writes, and his posts can be very provocative. He writes about what matters in education and sometimes I read and I am just compelled to comment. Clay is also is very active in the comment section; replying and adding to others’ comments.

Because I know what a rush it is to get comments on my blog, I always check out brand new blogs that I hear about and leave a comment. Unfortunately a lot of folks who start up a blog get discouraged and the first post I comment on ends up being the only post (gosh I hope I’m not cursed 😉 )

So, if I look my commenting behaviour I think the following things become evident:

  • – I comment when I am thankful for a great tip.
  • – I comment when I know that I have something new to offer to the conversation.
  • – I comment when I know that my comment will be responded to–that I will be part of a conversation.
  • – I comment when my thinking is challenged.
  • – I comment when I want to encourage new bloggers.

If you are new to blogging, get out there–read some blogs and start commenting. You do have something to add to the conversation. If people are intrigued by your comments they’ll check out your blog, and maybe leave a comment of their own 🙂