Tag Archives: blogs

Happy Birthday, Blog

Birthday (Cup) CakesFive years ago today, June 25, 2005, I started this blog. I had seen a few other education blogs and websites, and I felt inspired to start my own. I found out quite recently that one of the people who inspired me to start my own site had to shut her site down because of an illness. The other site that inspired me to start mine is still around as a blog, but hasn’t been updated since January, and I don’t know if it’s down for the count or on an extended hiatus.

Last year, I shared some statistics about my blog. Over the course of a year, a few things have changed. This post will be my 650th post. This blog has received 2,471 comments. Feedburner reports that I have 885 RSS feed subscribers, though site statistics like that are kind of hard to pin down. Feedblitz says that 104 people subscribe to this blog via e-mail updates. I know my Statcounter isn’t 100% accurate because I haven’t had it for the duration of my site, but it says that huffenglish.com has received 842,044 page views.

I talked about some of my favorite posts last year. Over the course of this year, some new additions include the following:

  • A Hogwarts Education because it was really cool to be on the radio in Ireland, and I was really excited that Sean Moncrieff’s staff sent me an mp3 of my interview.
  • Teachers and Facebook, which generated a lot of really good discussion.
  • Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, which was a great opportunity to showcase my students’ work.
  • Shakespearean Insults, in which the virtues of an iPod Touch for concocting Bard-inspired barbs are extolled.
  • The Perils of Teaching the Books We Love, which describes my trepidation about teaching Wuthering Heights. P.S. It turned out OK. The students enjoyed my sharing that speech I wrote about how much the book means to me, and I converted one of my students! She told me that the book was her “new obsession.” She came by several times to talk about it with me. I also had a student from last year thank me for introducing that book to her; she said it remains a favorite.
  • GCTE Conference 2010, which has a run-down of what I learned at that conference. It was a wonderful conference, not the least because I was awarded the Georgia Secondary Teacher of the Year award.
  • The Journey, which describes my Hero with a Thousand Faces course.
  • I Just Tried It, which discusses how we change our perceptions of learning and doing over time.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Gerry Snaps

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Transparency and Reassurance

Bill Genereux has an interesting post about what he calls “The True Digital Divide.”  He discusses in detail something I touched on in my presentation at GCTE.  If we truly want students to engage with the technology and use the Web 2.0 tools available to them, we have to be leaders.  We have to use the tools ourselves.  If we want students to blog, we should be blogging.  I think educators blogging could be a very positive form of transparency.  In an age when people make a lot of assumptions about what is or is not happening in classrooms, often I think the teachers’ voices are missing, and blogging can be a positive platform to share what we are thinking and learning and doing.  On the other hand, I think it has become for many teachers who blog a platform to complain.  No doubt teaching is hard work, and sometimes it feels good to vent.  I personally think blogging is a terrible platform for complaining.  First, I don’t think most of us like to read it.  Second, it’s just not wise; Regnef High School anyone?  I am very interesting in posts and conversations that make me think.  So yes, we need to be using the tools, for as Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach notes, “Technology will never replace teachers. However, teachers who know how to use technology effectively to help their students connect and collaborate together online will replace those who do not.”  And of course, Alfie Kohn reminds us that sticking techy labels on tired or misguided practices isn’t the answer either.  Still, I think we’re moving into a positive direction when parents and students (as well as other teachers) can gain insight into what teachers are thinking and doing.  I have actually noticed something interesting: students joke about Googling me and finding lots of links.  I admit it’s true that I am in a lot of places online.  But I encourage them to read it and tell me what they think.  And when they do, they share their observations.  It can be a good thing when students, parents, and colleagues get a glimpse into a teacher’s mind and like what they see.  Transparency can foster reassurance.

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Should We All Stop Blogging?

Wired has a new, somewhat controversial article about blogging:

Thinking about launching your own blog? Here’s some friendly advice: Don’t. And if you’ve already got one, pull the plug.

Author Paul Boutin makes some valid points:

  • The blogosphere is dominated by online magazines, corporations, and paid bloggers.
  • Insult comments and trolls wreck personal blogging.
  • Text-based Web sites are sooo 2004; social networking and video/audio/image-heavy content is the thing.

It can be argued that it’s hard to compete with the likes of the Huffington Post, Engadget, Boing Boing, or the like.  This blog — and most likely your blog — will not be in Technorati’s list of the top 100 blogs.  But if that’s why you’re blogging, then no wonder it’s unsatisfying.  The first person you should be blogging for is you, which is what I intend to argue in my presentation at the Georgia Independent School Association conference the week after next.  If you are simply trying to get a big audience, I have to question why.  Sure, it’s nice to have regular readers and commenters, but if your main concern is being the most popular, most read, then I, for one, wish you wouldn’t blog or wouldn’t start a blog because I think you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.

Insult comments suck.  Trolls suck.  They’re part of the Web, and they’re one reason why despite how much I love Web 2.0, I don’t have my students establish their own blogs.  Maybe I will some day, but I know how furious it would make me if my student received a trollish comment I wasn’t able to delete first.  There are always folks who feel it’s OK to be rude jerks, and for some reason, the anonymity possible with the Web brings out the worst behavior in people in that regard.  However, what Boutin doesn’t mention is that all the blogging systems I can think of have comment moderation, and no one is beholden to publish comments at all.  A comments policy should cover anyone interested in allowing comments.

Many changes made to blogging allow for all kinds of media to be incorporated into blogs, and indeed, a lot of the posts I see (and some of my own, at that) incorporate this media effectively.  I don’t know why they should be considered mutually exclusive at all.

I have become a much more reflective person as a result of blogging, and I don’t think it’s an inherently bad idea to blog, provided one is doing so for the right reasons and has given some thought to direction, purpose, and policies with regard to blogging.  I like Twitter, but 140 characters will never be able to replace what I do with my blogs, and I enjoy Facebook, but I don’t use it for the same purposes of self-expression that I do here.  Maybe it’s because I don’t take many pictures, but even though I have a Flickr account, I am just not into it (aside from finding good Creative Commons licensed photos to use on my blog).

I guess my response to Boutin’s claims is that they’re legitimate, but that blogging doesn’t have to be defined in such narrow terms and for such narrow purposes as he proposes.  What are your thoughts?

[via Roger Darlington]

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Edublogs Offering Domains

In wonderful news for education bloggers, Edublogs is now offering domains to its users.  If you already own a domain (or even a subdomain — for example, my classroom blog, Mrs. Huff’s English Classes is on a subdomain of huffenglish.com), you can map it to Edublogs for just $15 a year.  If you don’t own a domain, you can let Edublogs take care of that for you for just $25 a year.  In either case, it’s much cheaper than running a WordPress install on your own host.  Learn more at Edublogs, and make sure that if you have questions about having your own domain with Edublogs that you leave comments on their site or contact Edublogs, as I am not affiliated with Edublogs and might not be much help.

Last year when I did a quick run-down of various blogging services for educators, I recommened Edublogs most highly.  I’m happy to have even more reasons to recommend them now.

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Thinking Out Loud

At my school, I am often sought out for technology ideas. For instance, my school is really good about publicizing the things I do with blogs and wikis. When The Atlanta Jewish Times called the school looking to speak with educators about their use of technology, my colleagues made sure the reporter, Suzi Brozman, talked to me. They are really supportive of what I do with technology, and they seem really interested in the applications available. My colleagues, in short, see me as a leader in integrating technology into the classroom. But I’m not nearly doing enough. So much more could be done! A cursory glance at the things Lisa Huff (no relation — I don’t think!) is doing with her students was enough to tell me that. I was quite humbled by what I saw — saving and sharing her posts in Google Reader left and right. Here is what I want to do next year:

  • More wikis. Some ideas: wikis for portfolios, wikis for collaborative learning, wikis for teaching.
  • Blogging. I would like my students to have individual blogs for reflective writing. I think having a student blog where I publish their work is not really accomplishing all that I want to accomplish.
  • Podcasting. You really should hear my students talk. I tried to talk them into letting me record their Socratic seminar on the deaths of Romeo and Juliet, but they knew I’d post it here, and they weren’t ready for that. It’s a shame because it was a great discussion. They debated the issue for well over an hour! I like what Lisa Huff is doing with VoiceThread, a tool I was introduced to at a conference in November and still haven’t experimented with.

I find myself feeling so excited about these potential ideas that I want to sit down and plan it all out, which is crazy because I’m not really sure what I’ll be teaching yet (for one thing), and I still have seven weeks this year. I know what you’re thinking. Go ahead and try some things. Better late than never, right? Well, I just might. My ninth graders will be studying poetry and short stories soon (May), and I see some potential there. I think the student blogs will need to wait for next year, but perhaps I can do a poetry project using wikis and VoiceThread and/or SlideShare.

It didn’t occur to me until I saw Lisa discussing it in her blog that the fact that students could display their finished work through these types of online portfolios might be the “something extra” that makes them attractive to colleges and employers — a pretty persuasive argument for, as we say down here, getting off the stick and making it happen.

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