Tagged: twitter

Blogging Challenge #8: Building your Personal Learning Network – not just your readership

personal_learning_network

Although I have been blogging for a few years now, it is probably only in the last twelve months that I have been getting significant numbers of visitors from outside my own school. “Technoscience” was originally intended as a class blog, for storing links to resources, lesson planning, reflecting on practise and gaining feedback from students. It has developed a “split personality” now, with some posts directed towards my students and some towards my colleagues and peers. The Teacher’s Blogging Challenge has helped me to recognise this and decide to make the split. I will leave this site as my professional blog, for reflecting on my practise of teaching and for communicating with colleagues and I will start a new blog for my middle years Science students (link to follow!). As we are just starting a new school year, this is the best time to set up a new class blog for my Year 7 and 8 students. Hopefully, I can maintain my exisiting readership and build on my PLN (personal learning network) using the following strategies:

  1. Writing regular, informative and interesting posts, targeted towards teachers using technology, mainly with middle years Maths and Science students. Use these posts to encourage reader interaction with questions, polls, surveys, offers of assistance and requests.
  2. Using Twitter (@brittgow) often, to notify followers of new blog posts, good links and resources and to assist people I follow with answers to questions, requests for help and general feedback.
  3. Attend virtual and face-to-face conferences, as a presenter, moderator, assistant or participant, regularly throughout the year. I already plan to attend the “Toolbox for Environmental Change“(Melbourne), “World Environmental Education Conference“(Brisbane) and “Slide to Learn” (Gold Coast), as well as several online conferences.
  4. Frequently visit other bloggers and leave comments on posts that I  find relevant, well-informed and interesting. Make connections beyond blogging.
  5. Attend Professional Development opportunities via “Elluminate”, an on-line conferencing platform that allows participants to communicate via text chat, audio, video and an interactive whiteboard. The Victorian Education Department (DEECD) has an excellent program of PD at the “Educator’s Guide to Innovation Ning” and the virtual sessions can be booked for class use as well.

Even though I really like my clustrmap with lots of red dots showing visitors to my blog, building a personal learning network is far more important to me. These are the people I have met at meetings and conferences and then kept in contact with online, or the ones I have met online that I have connected with in some way – because we share the same interests, teach the same subjects, have similar opinions or ask the same questions. My personal learning network are the people behind the avatars, who respond when I send out a tweet asking for help, who comment on my photos and posts, share their resources with me and make me feel that I am part of a community. These are the readers and online friends I value. Sue Waters has created an excellent wiki, “PLN Youself”  about gaining the skills to build your PLN.

Many, many posts have been written on the subject of building your blog readership (different to building a PLN), and if that is important to you, here are some of the better ones, in my humble opinion:

Would you rather have lots of readers or a supportive PLN? What do you think is the difference?

P.S. I created the image above by copying and pasting the images and arrows into a Powerpoint slide, saving as a JPEG file (use the drop down box “save as”) then using Irfanview to resize to 450pixels wide.

Blogging Challenge #7: Searching for widgets

widget_comiclife

Image created using Comic Life

Activity #7 in the Teacher’s Blogging Challenge has been very timely for those of us with Globalteacher and Globalstudent blog accounts. When I logged into my blog this morning I found that my URL had changed from “brittgow.globalteacher” to “brittgow.global2.vic.edu.au”, but not only that, my header image had disappeared and so had most of my widgets! This is the part of the change required to consolidate globalteacher and globalstudent campuses, still under the umbrella of edublogs, but facilitated by the DEECD.

  1. So, my first step was to reinstate my header image. This image was created using “Irfanview”, free software that I use everyday to resize, crop, rotate and add effects to images. To create a panorama, like the one I have used, you download “Irfanview” then simply select “Create Panorama image” under “Image” and add the selected images from your pictures folder.
  2. Next I wanted to add a Clustermap – because the URL has changed, I need to start from scratch with a new clustermap. I added the HTML code for the new map and the code for the archived image to a “Text Box”. Why do I like my clustermaps so much? Well, they show me where my visitors come from and even though most people who visit don’t leave a comment, the clustermap shows me that lots of people drop by!
  3. The next widget is “Show Yourself” which provides links to lots of other places where my viewers can find me: Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Skype, Delicious and Gmail. I noticed lots of people have this information in their “About Me” page, but here it is compact and easy to find.
  4. To add the “Twitter” and “Flickr” widgets I had to activate the Edublogs “Widget pack Plugin” – go to “Plugins” and check “Activate”, and the options should appear in your widgets. (Wow – it sounds like I have learnt to speak Geek!) Now you need to add your Twitter username and select how many tweets you would like to appear.
  5. To add “Flickr” photos is a little more tricky. You need to find the RSS feed, which loooks like the picture below, at the bottom of your Flickr page.RSS feed If you click on the icon, it will give you an API adress that you can copy and paste into the Flickr widget. Then select how many photos you would like to display.
  6. The last step was to add my nomination badge for the Edublogs awards – something I am particularly proud of. Sue Waters has a special trick for adding images to the sidebar in your blog. I have copied her method below:

“The easiest method is just open up a new post (Post > Add New). Grab the image URL and insert the image into the post using the Add An Image Icon. For the box that says Link image to you just add the URL of the page you want to link to. Once you’ve added all those details just click Insert into Post – to add the image to your post. Presto! Your visual Editor has just written the HTML code for you. Now just click on HTML tab and copy all of the HMTL code then paste into a text widget.”

I’m loving Anne’s metaphors for different parts of the blog and widgets really do give your blog legs – they link your blog with other blogs in your blogroll and with your visitors in Clustermaps and Revolver maps.  Some people don’t like the distractions of flashing, glittering and revolving widgets in the side bar, but students enjoy personalising their blogs in this way. So whether you choose a minimalist approach to accessories or go the full bling, widgets are a useful tool for linking your site with others and showing a little more about yourself.

What are your favourite widgets? Which do you think are most popular with students?

Periodic table of the elements – videos!

Photo Source

Beth Still from the Nebraska Educators Network follows Will Richardson on Twitter, which had a link to this great site for chemistry teachers: The Periodic Table of Videos – short videos about each of the elements of the periodic table. So I’ve been back to Twitter and found some friends, and now I think I understand better how it works. It seems nothing I try really takes off the first time – I need a few months to let the idea brew – perhaps until I see a purpose for it – and then go back to it. It just seems to reinforce that learning is best done on an ‘as-needs’ basis. Make it relevant, authentic and interesting.