Blogging is About Letting Someone into Your Virtual Home…Just Like the Friendly Giant Created His Ambiance
Finally! Blogging about blogging…how not easy. It's funny I have been blogging all term. Never giving it much thought, perhaps taking it for granted. But no more, Blog…
Where I started?
So I began this journey in the cold days of January. I spent an entire day deciding on a blog platform. The top two choices were Blogger and Wordpress. It came down to compatibility. E-harmony chose Blogger. Blogger and I both liked Google Reader and well, that's what I look for in a blog. I have tried to blog before but I would get three days in, forget to post, and then abandon the project. Why bother? I didn't post everyday…no one cares. Bring on the sad Eeyore.
So What Was the Problem?
I knew I had something to say.
BUT I was afraid no one would read it.
AND I was nervous if someone actually read it.
Confused? Me too!
With my past experience murky at best, there was no where left to go but up.
I'm Baby Steppin'
Creating the Lit Maven
- Name: Creating a name for the blog was a struggle. I tried to find a blog naming rubric and then I experimented with NameThingy, a word generator. Finally I went with my first choice, The Lit Maven, isn't that how it always goes?
- Layout: You would think my life rested in on it. Two columns or three…what's better for resale? I still aspire for three columns like those in Wordpress but so far Blogger is limited to two.
- Widgets: I added a clock, fish, blogroll and some images. Very conservative, you would think they cost money. I wasn't sure what to add. I was thankful that my fellow classmate told me that with the HTML widget you can add miscellaneous things. With the HTML widget I added a tagroll for De.licio.us.
- Posts: I posted sporadically, always on the Monday, with a sprinkle of posts in between. I thought about posting more often. But in all honesty the Monday post took all week to write and I rarely had enough time left.
What I found out?
- During podcasting week I added Feedburner. The feedburner has interesting statistics. Watching subscriptions go up and down has been troubling. I am not sure what is causing that. I ended up erasing a post because it was too literary based. I am beginning to understand the importance of being a consistent poster with a consistent style.
- I added a Clustr Map
because I noticed them on other sites and I wanted to see at a glance where users were viewing from. According to this article, key words are huge with attracting readers. The post where I referred to Shaun White, Olympic Snowboarder, I noticed a blog reader from California. I have no idea if that was a coincidence or that a search of his name brought up my blog. Either way, I find clustr maps very motivating.
- During wikis and social networking weeks, I began to add badges. Kinda like Girl Scouts but without the effort or the creepy brown dress and putrid brown tights. So far I have the three Ning badges. I am starting to see how a personal blog can be your main control panel to access everything else. The confusion at the start of this course was how everything related and how I could find it quickly. I was joining so many things that I felt I needed my own cruise director. Redirecting back to a personal homepage from Twitter and vice versa seems to be the best way to go in terms of building your brand on the net.
- During twitter week I invited Stephen and Chris over to redo my space. My blog was getting to me. I ended up dumping all my widgets. YES…that's the noise you heard a few weeks ago! I reflected on my e-class discussion on blog design. I decided that the blogs that I loved were clean and crisp, right to the point and that is what I wanted my blog to reflect. I also decided to get rid of widgets horizontally along the top because they pushed down my blog posts from view. The color is now blue and the columns have been flipped. I have added a Google search button that works within my blog. In addition I have maintained my Shelfari. All and all, I am very pleased.
When the professor said we had to follow a list of blogs plus the classmates' I had no idea about Google reader. I imagined checking the blogs separately every day. In addition to twitter and e-class, this was almost a deal breaker. Then Google reader came into my life. I become a subscription maniac! Google Reader is an aggregator that is fed by RSS feeds. Honestly, the little orange button has become my best friend.
But guess what? I had no idea that you can view the blog entries in Google Reader, expanded or in list format. I had it expanded for the first two months of the course and the downloading of each post was lengthy. I hit the list button by accident once and I finally cued into the class conversation of the importance of blog titles. Love those light bulb moments, but just wish they happened earlier.
What I Learned?
Celebrations and Challenges
I have learned that blogs are not static. They are evolving and dynamic. The more you blog, the more you can create a look or brand for yourself.
The writing process of a post: 1) Find an Idea 2) Thrash Around 3) Clean 4) Do Laundry 5) Revise 6) Edit 7) Post
Commenting on other blogs is a lot of work. I comment on my classmates but not any of the others. I have noticed that people prefer quick responses such as retweeting or sharing articles but to engage in dialogue seems to be left for Nings or perhaps sites that you are devoted to.
I need more blog traffic. I am still unsure of the current direction for my blog so I am hesitant to string people along.
The most difficult part has been deciding on content. The course has set up a direction. But how will I continue after the course is over?
Little Miss Muffet Sat on a Tuffet Blogging and Posting A Way (Personal and Social Uses of the Tool)
"Don't worry about retracing the path of ten thousand other creators. Make the journey your own with your honest, authentic thoughts and feelings. No one can accurately duplicate that." - Matt Dickman
A Path to Rapid Growth: Find Your Formula suggests that blogging is about finding a formula that works for you. Make it work…as Paula Abdul would say, "Make it Your Own." (Never thought Paula Abdul would make it into my blog posts. I promise this will not happen again.)
So I decided that learning about anything requires a mentor. I chose three of my current favorites.
Why do I love them so and how do they relate to my future blogging?
1.Copyblogger – This is my number one favorite. With unusually lengthy posts it takes some commitment to get through. But the style feels like a daily pep talk or words of wisdom. I appreciate the witty anecdotes and the general content. The design is crisp and clean, easy to navigate with links to the most popular articles. Began in Jan 2006, the first post is found here.
This blog has maintained the same look and feel for four years.
Ÿ "What is the goal of the site?"
"Are we hoping that people will watch or learn?"
and trying to increase blog traffic such as:
Ÿ"Write like it's the first post for everyone everyday"
Ÿ "Why are most people on the net? What do they need to know?"
3. HipWriterMama –This blog is a favorite because I want to write. Write anything, really. Vivian has numerous links to writers' blogs and resources, a one stop shop. I found this interview on why she blogs.
This reflection has taught me:
- These bloggers wanted to write, even if no one ever read their blogs.
- Begin with a passion and keep on going.
- You are never alone in the blog-o-sphere, other like-minded bloggers will find you. This seems to be something I am missing with my writing, a support group. Richardson (2008) states "…Publishing content online not only begins the process of becoming 'Googleable,' it also makes us findable by others who share our passions or interests" (p.18).
My huge issue: what kind of blog will I have after the dust settles? Of the 25 different styles, what fits me best? Do I want it to be one that fills my personal goals, professional goals, or both?
- I have been bouncing an idea for a YA book for some time. The struggle has been the format. I am now considering writing the story in the form of a blog. Perhaps this hybrid format will suit the idea. In addition to this course, the other inspiration has been from this book Skeleton Creek. I read this book in the summer…and it freaked me out!
- Another idea, is to continue my blog but focus more on literacy. In that case I will take the advice of Brogan & Smith (2009) who talks about viewing your blog like a resource. Create it with common questions concerning your topic. Most people returning will have common questions.
- This summer my husband set up a blog to support my dad's car detailing business. I see the value in using blogs to showcase your work. In my other life, when I have more time, I can create a blog of my painting.
- I have tossed around the idea of creating a blog for my daughter's artwork. I think that would be an excellent way to document her artwork overtime. Relatives could see it…and I could…sshhhh….recycle some of them!
Blogs for social use… I am not sure if I would endeavor to that. I think Facebook facilitates that purpose of sharing my life, for me.
If Your Blogging and You Know it, Post A Link (Educational Implications Uses of the Tool)
As educators, we have to make a decision about what we do in our classrooms. There is so much content and not nearly enough time. Where does blogging fit?
There are many forms of writing such as: narrative, report and essay. But what makes blog writing an enticing option?
Ohler (2009) explains that
"…blog writing requires a kind of visual rhetoric I call 'visually differentiated text'. It uses conventions intended to make on-screen reading easier, most notably the four Bs: bullets, boldface type, breaks, and beginnings. That is, students must visually sculpt blog writing" (p.3).
For some students, blog writing speaks to their strengths but for all students it puts emphasis on developing concise writing. Furthermore, Redekopp & Bourbonniere (2009) add that for some students blogging might provide their only voice in the classroom. Students, who otherwise stay silent in class discussions, come alive online.
Lastly, Ducate & Lomicka (2008) add "In addition to the social aspect of blogs, they also serve as a space for micropublishing, where sharing, collaboration, responsibility, and ownership are key features" (p.11).
Once the decision has been made to include blogging in the classroom, what type of blog supports your classroom needs?
Zawilinski (2009) suggests this tidy list of four.
- Classroom News Blog: This type of blog allows teachers to post classroom events, make announcements.
- Mirror Blogs: This type of blog allows the teacher to reflect on events, like conferences, and give an account of her learning.
- Showcase Blogs: Support showing student work, such as art.
- Literature Response Blog: A teacher can post a question about a selection of literature and encourage students to log in and respond.
Blogs are a tool. Blogs themselves do not create the magic of learning. Teachers should expect to provide a lot of additional scaffolding and support. Zawilinski (2009) suggests these steps to support reading comprehension.
1. Bolster background: Building background knowledge before reading.
2. Prime the pump: Stopping after an initial reading to clarify confusions, make statements.
3. Continue the conversation: Summarizing and synthesizing information.
4. Make multiplicity explicit: Students responding to each others' posts and final thoughts on the reading.
Blogs can also be used to gather research. Valenza (2008) suggests ways to incorporate blogs as a research platform. Here is a Research Log Template blog. Valenza (2008) adds "We've found that many of our students who resist writing don't mind recording their progress in a blog that they own, a space that they decorate and populate. The fact that they have audience validates their efforts and engages them in deeper analysis and synthesis of their research." (p.11). This form of report writing is a convincing alternative to the standard report writing assignment.
Research can further be enhanced through the use of RSS feeds. Glotzbach, Mohler & Radwan (2009) explain "The use of RSS feeds in a classroom also allows for a more collaborative learning environment and enhances communication between educators and students, creating new networks of knowledge" (p.2). RSS feeds bring outside information into the classroom in a manageable way, providing up to date late breaking news.
Bigenho (2009) suggests a teacher can use an RSS aggregator to subscribe to student blogs. Bloglines provides a notification feature when a student adds a new post. Students can also subscribe to class bookmarks that you create in delicious.
One important ramification of blogging in education, Richardson (2008) states "…the things we create are searchable to an extent never before imagined and will be viewed by all sorts of audiences, both intended and unintended" (p.19). Students need to be aware that what goes on the net, stays on the net.
Helping Educators Get Started with Professional Blogging
Blogs provide a forum for professionals to exchange ideas about education. Many of the blogs on my blogroll are dedicated to issues surrounding education reform. There are a plethora of sites that detail how to get started. All blogging platforms have tutorials. But the difficulty seems to be 'What am I going to write about?' Rempel & Gronemyer (2008) suggests choosing blog content that is broad enough to appeal to a large group of people. This is what I discovered too. The blogs that appealed to me were the ones that had a general appeal. I can use the same information to suit so many different purposes.
Part of my job is to introduce teachers to literature. I am by no means the book whisperer but I do feel I have a way with books. I have a school district blog, that has many links to books but it requires a log on/password. I enjoy adding the newest and latest information but it is difficult to locate on our portal. Not sure what to do about that. But I think that is where my strength lies. Books and writing. What to do with a book?
Bird (2009) discusses whether specialized blogs, such as Kid-lit themed ones, have influence outside their community. Bird (2009) suggests that the existence of these blogs, rather than the hard to find journals, bring book discussions and reviews to eager audiences. Librarians, educators and parents no longer have to rely on book awards.
At the core, blogging is about writing. It is about a conversation. Globally or locally it's about making connections. Pull up a chair, would you like a cup of cyber tea?
"My blog gave me a new identity, new skills, a new set of colleagues, and a way to connect with people who shared my interest. I'd expanded my vision of the kind of writer I could be. I had become a blogger."
Bigenho, C. (2009). Mining for gold. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(6), 18-20. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Bird, E. (2009). This blog's for you: Ten of the best blogs for folks who take kids' lit seriously (but not too seriously). School Library Journal, 55(11), 26-29. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Brogan, C. & Smith, J. (2009). Trust agents: Using the web to build influence, improve reputation, and earn trust. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Ducate, L., & Lomicka, L. (2008). Adventures in the blogosphere: From blog readers to blog writers. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 21(1), 9-28. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Glotzbach, R., Mohler, J., & Radwan, J. (2009). Really simple syndication (RSS): An educational approach. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, Retrieved from ERIC database.
Ohler, J. (2009). New-media literacies. Academe, 95(3), 30-33. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Redekopp, R., & Bourbonniere, E. (2009). Giving reluctant students a voice. Learning & Leading with Technology, 36(7), 34-35. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Rempel, H., & Gronemyer, K. (2008). Infodoodads--building a new blog community. Computers in Libraries, 28(4), 16-21. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Richardson, K. (2008). Don't feed the trolls: Using blogs to teach civil discourse. Learning & Leading with Technology, 35(7), 12-15. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Richardson, W. (2008). Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership, 66(3), 16-19. Retrieved from ERIC database.
Valenza, J. (2008). A few new things. Library Media Connection, 26(7), 10-13. Retrieved from ERIC database. (print this out)
Zawilinski, L. (2009). HOT blogging: A framework for blogging to promote higher order thinking. Reading Teacher, 62(8), 650-661. Retrieved from ERIC database.