Category Archives: Blogging


I think many people don’t understand the nature of blogs. I sometimes see typos on blogs, and I don’t make judgments about intellect. I make the occasional typo. It happens. However, I have received one comment and one e-mail lately that alerted me to a larger issue than whether or not Dana can spell (I can, by the way): it’s rudeness. Here is the text of an e-mail I received today:

This article was passed along to the faculty from the powers that be in our middle school. While I disagree with your homework policy and I hope that you have followed up on your thoughts to revamp your policy, this is not the purpose of my writing. My concern is that in this day and age of technology and spell-checking, that you would post an article that had words that weren’t spelled correctly. These words include “respondant” and ‘commenters”. If we have such high standards for our students, then shouldn’t we set the example?

Here is my response:

Thank you for your concern. Typos sometimes happen, and people make mistakes. When people point out my errors, I correct them, and I am grateful for the assistance. I certainly don’t lay down the hammer for a couple of spelling errors or typos in my students’ writing, even if I do point them out.

I have checked the blog post, and I did indeed make a spelling mistake with “respondents.” “Commenters,” on the other hand, is spelled correctly, though spell check marks it as incorrect, likely because it is a word that has arisen in this new age of blogs and spell check doesn’t know what to do with it. “Commenter,” the singular, yields no red flags from spell check.

I truthfully think the manner in which you pointed out my error (while I appreciate it) was rude, which I find much more problematic in this day and age than the fact that I spelled something incorrectly. Of course, tone can also be difficult to convey online, and I could be mistaken.

I am grateful if people point out an error I made. My husband catches most of mine. Here is an example of a way to handle identifying an error in someone’s spelling without resorting to the rudeness of “in this day and age” (read: you’re a moron for making this mistake):

I noticed a spelling error in your article entitled “Accepting Late Work” and I thought you might like to know about it. The word “respondents” is spelled “respondants” in your article.

I wonder why that’s so hard “in this day and age”?

Oh, wait.

Internet Argument

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Regular Posting: Your Ideas

I have finished the bulk of grad school: I have two semesters left and will be taking just three hours each semester. I also no longer have the additional duties of department chair. I want to resume something more like regular posting.

In the past, this blog has mainly concerned the following:

  • Reflections on professional reading and professional development.
  • Lesson sharing or reflection.
  • Discussion of issues in education.
  • Sharing tools and resources.
  • How-to’s (blogging, wikis, digital audio, notebooks, graphic organizers, etc.)

I think I might do well if I can try to make a regular posting schedule with features. I can’t promise regular posting with regards to professional reading because my reading schedule can be erratic—I tend to be a slow reader. That particular type of posting will probably have to be on an as-I-can-get-it-done basis rather than a regular schedule.

Assuming I commit to posting three days a week (leaving out Sundays when I post Diigo links), what would you most like to see? You are in no way limited to the examples of types of posts I mentioned above. Those were all I could think of.

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Hey, Stranger

Collatz ConjectureOK, so my friends have reached the point of stopping calling and asking me if I want to hang out. I had a stack of essays—ungraded—shuttling back and forth from school to my house for a month. A month! I am teaching five classes, five different preps. And this is the time of year when it gets busy. When you look at the calendar and say, “Oh, hi, March! I’m still in the Renaissance.” Then I have to give myself permission to still be in the Renaissance because of all the instructional days lost for various reasons, and I have to tell myself it’s OK because it’s an introduction to British literature and not meant to be as comprehensive as a graduate school (or even an undergrad) seminar.

Speaking of grad school, I am also behind in that area. My Educational Research class is proving challenging, but I am learning a great deal, even if my quiz scores don’t show it (the quizzes are another issue altogether). My Multimedia Authoring course is beginning to rank up there with my favorites in the grad school program (Instructional Media, Graphic Design for Multimedia Presentations). I like classes that allow me to create; however, I am concerned that I have bitten off more than I can chew. I want to create a flash game that helps students learn phrases and clauses. I would like it to be similar to the Grammar Ninja game, but I know I’m not knowledgeable enough to make it quite that good, especially graphics-wise. The creator of that game is majoring in Computer Science with a minor in 2-D Art for Games, and I surely don’t have that background.

Still, I have not completely checked out, and I can be found bookmarking links on Diigo and tweeting most days of the week. I don’t always bookmark links I check out. This morning, someone (and I admit I can’t remember who) tweeted this link. I don’t know how to feel about this issue. Sad that the parents were so easily satisfied? Confused as to whether I missed some qualification left out of the article? Angry that my profession is reduced to entertainment and stripped of its seriousness of purposes for the sake of TV? I realize the article is now about six months old, and Danza does seem to have some empathy for the life of a teacher and seems to treat the profession with some reverence and respect. If I’m fair, I have to admit I think he “gets” it about teaching, or at least his blog posts reveal he does (and I’ve only begun taking a look, so your mileage may vary).

What do you think of it?

Update, 4/1: The LA Times has a new story about Danza’s first year teaching.

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Blogging Tools: Beyond Content Management

ToolboxIf you have a blog and have already chosen a platform (if need help with this, click here or here), this post might just make some aspects of your blog richer for you and your readers.

  1. Apture
    Apture works with any publishing platform, and it’s easy to install. It allows you to make your site more interactive. For instance, you can embed popup links to Wikipedia articles and Amazon merchandise. This site uses Apture. What do you think?
  2. Delicious or Diigo
    You can share your links with readers by programming your Delicious or Diigo account to post links to your blog. Although I have my Diigo links in the sidebar, many readers who only read my posts via RSS might not see them, so I decided to start posting them to the blog. I hope the links will prove helpful and interesting. You can find instructions for posting links via Diigo here and for Delicious here (you’ll need to be logged in to your Diigo or Delicious account).
  3. Share What You’re Reading
    Many reading social networks have widgets you can embed in your website. For instance, I am a fan of Goodreads and have a widget on the left that displays the last few books I’ve read along with my starred rating of that book. However, other networks like Shelfari have similar widgets. I also have a plugin called Now Reading, which only works with WordPress, that displays what I’m currently reading in the sidebar.
  4. coComment
    It’s easy to leave a comment and forget to check back to see if you have a response, but coComment can help you keep track of the comments you leave and the responses you receive. If you use Firefox, you can download a browser extension that will make using coComment even easier.
  5. Photo Dropper
    If you use WordPress, Photo Dropper is a plugin that allows you to easily find Flickr photos with Creative Commons licenses to share in your posts.
  6. Twitter
    Many ways of integrating Twitter with your blog exist. I use a WordPress plugin called Twitter Tools that is flexible. It allows users create blog posts from my tweets (I choose not to), display tweets in my sidebar (which I do), and notify via Twitter when I update my blog (which I also do). Twitter also has instructions for badges and widgets. TwiTip has gathered together some resources for other Twitter badges.
  7. iPhone Apps
    If you like to blog about iPhone apps or make recommendations for the same, you might find AppsFire‘s widget fun. It enables you to create a javascript widget to display the apps of your choice.
  8. Feedburner
    Google’s Feedburner gives you more control over and information about your RSS feeds. You can find out how many subscribers you have, what RSS reader they use, and the Feedburner Feedsmith plugin for WordPress will help you integrate your Feedburner feed seamlessly.

If you have a favorite blog tool, please share it in the comments.

Creative Commons License photo credit: StevenBrisson

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THE PUSH Needs Your Help

Scott McLeod has posted the details on Dangerously Irrelevant. Since I know most this blog’s readers are English teachers, I urge you to help out and post links to your blogs and your favorite English/Language Arts blogs on the Moving Forward wiki. Thank you to whoever it was who added my own blog, too!

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I Have a Blog Problem

I definitely have a problem. Do you know I have been telling myself for about a week now that I do not need to start a blog about apps and products for Apple’s Mac and iPhone? I mean, first of all, The Unofficial Apple Weblog and other sites do a much better, more thorough job than I would. Second, I already have several blogs, and I don’t update any of them with any regularity. And yet, I find that I do occasionally want to discuss some of the apps I’m using, even if they’re not education-related. To that end, I have decided that I will occasionally use this space to discuss education-related apps or products, but I will not, and I repeat will not respond to requests to review products unless I am interested. I have received quite a few requests from companies to review books or Web sites, and even been asked if I would link to products or allow advertising on this site. I want complete control over the content, and I want you to know that if I am discussing something here, it’s because I wanted to—because I either really liked it or because I didn’t—and not because I was paid to do so.

Because you perhaps are not as interested (if you’re reading this blog) in apps not related in some way to education, you understandably might not want to read posts about those apps. Therefore, I won’t subject you to them here. However, if you would like to read them, you might want to check out my book blog. I do allow myself to go off topic over there. In the sidebar to the right, you’ll see an RSS feed for that blog.

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New Features

When I remembered today that WordPress 2.7 enabled threaded comments, I decided to try to implement them here on this blog. While enabled threaded comments within the content management system involved only checking a box, I realized my theme didn’t support threaded comments. I tried to follow instructions for modifying my theme that I found online, but I messed it up somehow, so I checked out Cutline’s Web site (that’s the name of the theme I use), and lo and behold, they had created an updated version with support for threaded comments. I updated the theme. Now you can reply to commenters as well as to me, and it will be perhaps a little more clear who is being addressed in comments.

I also added some sharing and saving capability. On the bottom of each post, you’ll see a new button with a few familiar icons: the share icon (or at least it’s used by Shareaholic, the Firefox add-on), Delicious, and Facebook. If you mouse over that button, you’ll discover lots of ways to share and/or save the post. Just about every kind of social bookmarking, networking, and note-taking service is included. You can also e-mail the post or bookmark it directly in your browser. I removed the Feedburner FeedFlare, which enabled sharing by e-mail, Delicious, and Facebook, from each post. Essentially the new sharing/saving feature does much more in the way of allowing for users to save and share content that I decided it wasn’t needed. If you care, the plugin I used to create this button is called Add to Any.

The new theme handles a few tiny details differently. For instance, there is now a frame around images inside posts. I kind of like it, so I left it there. If there is some element of functionality you miss that I’ve forgotten to implement again after the upgrade, please let me know.

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Happy Birthday, Blog

Fourth BirthdayToday is the fourth anniversary of my blog. In light of that fact, here are a few facts and statistics:

The first post on this blog was a review of Constance Weaver’s Teaching Grammar in Context. Since that post, I’ve made 564 posts (including this one).

The first commenter was Ms. Ris, who commented on my post about The Teacher’s Daybook by Jim Burke. Since that time, this blog has received 2,004 comments. Some were lost when I had a problem with a Web host.

Although readership is kind of hard to track, and I tend not to get caught up in readership stats for that reason, Feedburner reports that I have 683 subscribers to my RSS feed. Feedblitz reports that 57 people subscribe to posts by e-mail. If you want to subscribe, click here. I don’t check site statistics that often, so I was interested to learn that since I installed Statcounter (and I confess, I can’t remember at all when that was, so this next bit is fairly useless), my site has received 809,143 page views. Now, many of those are for subdomains that serve other areas of interest and many are for Google searchers who landed here and probably were not looking for my site. That number has nothing to do with readership. That much is evidenced by the fact that 68.9% of the last 500 visitors only stayed for 5 seconds or less. Then again, I haven’t updated in a few days, and some of those visits may in fact be regular readers who are checking to see if I’ve updated. (You can save yourself the trouble if you subcribe!)

I began this blog using Movable Type. Here’s a peek at what my blog looked like back in those days. Some time after I started this blog, I had a major problem with my Web host at that time (see a page I put up in the interim until I could fix it). Some time later, I came back with WordPress, and older readers might recognize this design. I have not changed the look of this place many times. My blog has only had those two looks and this current one with the exception of some slight experimentation that never lasted long.

If you are a newer reader, you may not have seen some of my older posts. Here are some of my favorite posts over the past four years:

In this time when some folks are saying blogging is dead, I have to say that nothing I have done for myself as an educator has helped me learn more and be a more effective teacher than starting this blog. Nothing else has contributed as much to my reflection and enabled me to connect with other teachers and learn from them like this blog has. Starting it was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I am glad and humbled by those who visit and find it useful for their own learning as well.

Happy birthday, blog!

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No Blogging = No Reflection

My full schedule has not been conducive to blogging. I haven’t dropped off the face of the earth, but I’m not blogging as much as I have in the past for two main reasons 1) grad school, and 2) department chair. Well, I’m not taking any classes this summer for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with money, and I will no longer be the English department chair at my school. I think it’s a good thing for my family that I will no longer have this role. I am hoping that giving up this leadership role will enable me more time to be reflective here at my blog.

Like my students, I can feel the end of the year. We really have just three more weeks before final exams. I am noticing that I’m working hard to try to keep my students engaged. In the past, I’ve given in to spring fever, but I’ve learned that I have to work extra hard at the end of the year on planning engaging lessons. I am not going to flatter myself that my students always respond the way I wish they would, but I had a great class today (at the very end of the day, no less) in which we read and discussed Robert Browning’s poem “Porphyria’s Lover.” I created the lesson plan I used today about 10 years ago as part of a model lesson for a job I really wanted (and got). I also published it in an old edition of Ideas Plus (I think it was No. 16, but I’m not sure). I’ve described it in a previous post. Because this is only my second year teaching British literature (my passion), I have only had the chance to teach this lesson three times, but each time, I have had the same success with students. It’s so exciting to see them debating about a poem, each side pulling out lines to back up their claims. It’s a great little close reading exercise that can be done in a class period. It’s important for me to have time to reflect—to celebrate the successes and dissect the flops.

When it works and a class is really clicking, and all the students are into it, there’s nothing quite like teaching.

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I created a Diigo group for my students some time ago, but it wasn’t until Monday, when we had a snow day (weird that we’ve had 70° weather in the same week as a snowstorm) that I invited all my students to join.  The lack of response has been deafening.  I understand to a degree.  It’s one more tool, one more crazy thing Ms. Huff wants us to do, blah, blah, blah, don’t see the point.  One the one hand, I hate that I have to make use of these tools a requirement to convince students to use them.  I am not going to make the Diigo group a requirement the way I did commenting on my blog.  However, I have noticed something.  Those students who do engage with the tools I provide — whether it’s watching videos I share on the classroom blog, using Diigo, commenting on the blog, listening to recommended podcasts, or even reading suggested links — tend to do better in class.  Why?  Simple.  The tools help.  Reading, viewing, listening, engaging — all these tools help my students learn the material in more depth or in more ways.  Learning more leads to better understanding.  Better understanding leads to higher grades.  I prefer to leave it for my students to come to this realization, but when/if they do, I wonder what will happen when I have full engagement.

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