Tag Archives: blogging

Kick Start Activity 2 – Advanced – Posts! The heartbeat of the Blog.

First of all, how important is it for a blog post to be effective?

That may seem like a stupid question but I think that it’s reasonable considering many bloggers would say they’re not out to score points. At the same time, whether we like it or not, we write for an audience (even if we also write for ourselves). Who doesn’t like feedback and discussion? The question is, how to attract readers and consequently a network, however small, so that we can share our thoughts and have them challenged and extended by others.

One of the ways to do this is to think about how to write an effective post.


from my Flickr photostream

1.  Even adults like looking at pictures

Although this has nothing to do with the writing, but a picture always enhances the blog post. After my initial rave, you may have been relieved to receive the visual distraction, and obviously the picture should be relevant to the post. You can be clever with the picture and use it either to illustrate the message using humour, metaphor, surprise, cryptic association or accompanied by a quotation. Either way, it breaks up the mass of text. I like to use more than one picture if I have enough time to find what I need.

2. The heading should not be too boring and preferably interesting

I’m not saying you have to knock people out with the heading but at least have a hook. When I read Joyce Valenza’s award winning post, Things I think teacher librarians should unlearn (20 and counting), I immediately zoomed in on ‘unlearn’. Not sure why, maybe because I get sick of reading about what we should learn, and unlearning seems a little subversive. I was very curious about what Joyce would consider unlearning.

3. Experience

A heading can be catchy but the content of the post is even more important. Going on to read Joyce’s list of what teacher librarians should unlearn, it was clear that Joyce’s experience enabled her to punch out so many excellent points. An blog post is effective when the author writes from experience.  Even though we might feel we are not saying anything new, there is always someone who will appreciate our perspective, for whom our experiences and observations are new and interesting.

4.  Generosity

People jump at a post which shares generously, such as Joyce Seitzinger’s Moodle tool guide for teachers post. In this case, Joyce adapted a social media cheat sheet with a business/marketing focus to one relevant to education. When you do the hard work and share a resource you’ve created in your post, it’s a winner.

5.  Honesty

Jeremy Harmer’s post, Why I walked out – but would you?, was shortlisted in the Edublogs influential blog post category. It’s a good example of an anecdotal post which I always enjoy reading and also writing. Jeremy writes honestly about walking out of Marc Prensky’s conference session – that in itself attracts the reader’s attention. I think the post works because it’s so reflective, and invites the reader to respond to a series of questions.

Which brings me to my last point:

6.  Conversation

An effective blog post invites readers to join the conversation. This is something I strive to do because there’s nothing more satisfying than engaging people in dialogue, and perhaps influencing them to come back to the blog regularly.

from my photostream

I hope that my post has given you enough to savour, something to chew on.

Teacher blogging challenge – Kick start activity 1: Down blog’s memory lane


Learning anything means moving forward one step at a time, although sometimes you leap ahead and skip steps, or other times, slip and have to get up again. The steps are not always smooth but that’s life.

This is the first post for the first teacherchallenge for advanced bloggers in the Kick Start Your Blog.

The advanced teacher blogging challenge is to encourage experienced bloggers to continue to post regularly, improve the quality of their blog, increase readership, allow further networking and importantly, to learn together. It offers a unique showcase reflecting individual knowledge, approaches, experience, wisdom and hindsight of experienced bloggers. When we write reflective and informative posts on similar themes to the beginners and share with each other, we build a rich community and supportive network.

So, memory lane for my blog…

  1. When did you start blogging and what instigated this?

It was May 2008. I decided to take on a Web 2.0 course run by the Yarra Plenty Regional Library.

2.  What did you start out blogging about?

My first post was just an introduction to the blog, and an explanation for the blog title. (My second post was a YouTube video of a shrimp on a treadmill! I think I was trying to be funny in both posts, and the reason was that I felt awkward writing and publishing, and was covering up with humour and hyperbole. By the way, the shrimp video was a metaphor for moving forward with technology. Really.

3. What did you enjoy about your early blogging?

I realised that I missed writing (from my school days), that I loved having a voice, and publishing in the hope that someone would read what I had to say and comment.

4. How much time did blogging take for you in the early days.

It actually ate up a lot of my time. The first time you do anything, it takes a while to figure things out. I’m not intuitive about technology, so it takes me longer to figure things out than usual. Just figuring out how to add pictures, videos, widgets, etc. – all these things come easily now, but not then.

5. What frustrated you about your early blogging efforts?

Well, in those days, my computer would crash pretty often, so I’d lose what seemed like hours of thinking and writing. I refused to write on a word doc first, and so I used to curse a lot when things disappeared.

6. What were the highlights of your early blogging?

Receiving a response from people is definitely a highlight. I suppose, in a way, writing a blog is like posting journal reflections, so you do it for yourself, but it’s great to get comments, particularly when these develop into a conversation, and even moreso when you get to know people through this exercise.

7. Is blogging a selfish, lonely, egotistical (you get the picture) exercise?

People would sometimes sneer at me blogging, and tell me to get a life. Writing a blog is actually the opposite of a self-centred exercise because it connects you with other bloggers, with people who share your professional and personal interests, who support you and extend your thinking, who challenge you, and who, most importantly, take you out of the walled garden of schools and teaching.

8. Have you changed your blogging style or subject matter over the years?

Yes and no. I suppose I used to feature new technologies in education more often, but since then I’ve become more reflective about my practice.

9. What would you say to teachers or students about blogging?

I would say, just start blogging! It’s a space that belongs to you, giving you a voice, and documenting your development and learning. You’ll be surprised by the variety and depth of your progress when you look back through you posts.

10. Where do you get your blogging ideas from?

From my classroom experiences, from reading others’ blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Although most of the blogs I read are educational, they focus on different areas, eg art, literature, animation, libraries, museums, psychology, gifted learning, technology, music, science, maths, etc.


Making learning personal and social – Presentation at SLAV conference

Last Friday I had the privilege of sharing some of what I’ve been doing with blogging at my schools at the SLAV conference, Celebrations! An eye for literacy. I believe SLAV hosts the most informative and inspiring conferences, deepening our understandings and broadening our horizons.

Unfortunately we were running late with this session, and at least half of my presentation had to be cut. I wasn’t able to fully develop my presentation of the topic:

Social networking: giving students an online voice. In this session you will explore the initiatives of threeschool libraries and the use of social networking to buildcommunities of readers. What worked – and why it’s worth having a go.

That’s why I’ve embedded my slideshow and accompanying text in case anyone is interested in the complete presentation.

[vodpod id=Video.4904357&w=425&h=350&fv=]

Here is the link to the accompanying text.

The educators in my session were inspiring in their presentations – Tricia Sweeney and Michael Jongen (Our Lady of Mercy College, Heidelberg) talked about Twitter and Facebook to engage students, and Rachel Fidock (Mooroopna Secondary College) talked about Google Lit Trips.

Thanks to SLAV for the opportunity to share some of my work with teachers and students. Like the others, I was incredibly nervous but ended up enjoying the experience. Sharing of ideas and experiences is very satisfying.

My slideshow is also embedded in my wiki.

The yeast to activate learning

Jabiz Raisdana, AKA @intrepidteacher, shared an interesting post a few days ago, which he entitled Singing Hearts, in which he wrote about how a group of eighth graders in Missouri connected with his 3 year old daughter in Qatar.

Like many stories of connections made across time zones, cultures, and age groups this one involved some risk taking, some curiosity, some opened minds, and I hope some learning.

After reading The last child in the woods , which spurred Jabiz to increase his daughter’s contact with nature, he and his daughter went outdoors with their cameras to explore their surroundings,

even if our immediate surroundings was an empty dry desert field covered in garbage and construction refuse. 

The result of this little expedition was a photo essay which Jabiz shared with his twitter network, and which then resulted in @wmchamberlain sharing the blog post with his class and receiving more than 40 comments which you can read on Kaia’s post.


In this little expedition, Kaia not only connected with the outside world in a physical sense, but also the world of people beyond her immediate environment.

Hello from New Zealand.
We really liked looking at the pictures of the backyard and the desert! Amazing stuff, you did a great job with the descriptions. We thought that it must be very hot in the desert, its been raining here in New Zealand today so the desert seems exciting and interesting. (Room 8 Melville Intermediate School, New Zealand)

Those pictures were awesome. You did a great job speaking in your first photo essay. You took ordinary things that everyone passes by and made them look wonderful. I like your blog and I will visit it more often. You can visit my blog at jacob-everybodysbog.blogspot.com Thanks and keep up the good work. (Jacob)

With her father as her guide, Kaia has connected with people in his learning network, people who are interested in learning from others, regardless of location, age or race. A simple photo story has been of interest to others who have contributed their thoughts and a little of themselves.

 Although, at such a tender age, Kaia would not fully understand the meaning of her experience, she has surely felt, to some extent, the power of connecting beyond her home and immediate family.

She is still too young to really grasp the connections that she is making, but in a few years these connections and this type of interaction will be ubiquitous in her life. I hope that her teachers are ready to help her continue on this journey.

Jabiz reflects on his feelings as a father who has shared his young daughter’s experiences with his online network:

… having Kaia exposed like this made me hyper aware of how vulnerable I am making her…

… I started to think about how much trust we ask that parents put in us as teachers. Kaia’s blog started as a way to share photos with family, it has quickly become a way that we are documenting her life. And now, it is becoming a way that she is connecting with people throughout the world. This is scary. Part of me wants to pull back and keep her our little secret. But if we want our students to feel comfortable and be cautious online, we must be able to do the same with our own children.

Jabiz’s blog reflection on the positive and negative potential consequences of his experiences ends in questions he poses directly to his readers:

What do you think? What is the value in this experience? Is the risk of exposing ourselves and our children online worth the connections that will be made and the lessons that will be learned?

I was amongst the commenters following Jabiz’s post, and so was John Strange, Professor of Professional Studies at The University of South Alabama.

John Strange says:

My response was you will not get the yeast to activate a closed system. They must engage the world. It is so important to energize learning through the techniques you, Mr. Chamberlain and others are using. I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives. I think it is absolutely essential if we are to move forward with true learning, for all of us.

If I hesitate  when reading ‘ I am not concerned about the issues of letting people into our lives’, then I only do so momentarily, because the example of Jabiz supporting his little girl’s learning is an excellent model for us as educators and parent. If we hold the hands of our young and vulnerable students and our own children, and then still go outside of our private little worlds, then we learn to navigate the richness of connections with what is beyond our step.

For me, personally, every day spent reading what other people share online, in the form of blogs, Twitter posts or photos on Flickr, opens up a new window to the lives and experiences of others. There’s no way I could go back to what I had before. Could we even go back to pre-Google days?

I like John Strange’s concept of networking being the yeast to activate learning – it surely is.

Just in reading this one post, I’ve learned so much, and connected with so many people. It’s disappointing when someone contributes a comment and doesn’t provide a link. A blog, for example, provides knowledge of the author, and we can ‘know’ each other through our contributions in writing or pictures. We share what we think is appropriate, while preserving our privacy, and I think this is what we need to teach our students. Their digital footprint can be modelled on ours, and this not something we can do theoretically.

Apart from learning about Jabiz and his daughter, Gaia, I’m happy to have discovered John Strange who shares so much of himself online through blogs, points of contact and photos. Take a look at his page to see an excellent example of the richness of digital identity.

The research process is full of twists and turns


Photo courtesy of Hulalulatallulahoo p

My younger son, currently in Year 9, is taking part in an interesting research project outside of the school. His school has made a smart decision to run several programs which take the students out of the classroom and textbooks. This makes a lot of sense at a time when disengagement with normal classroom routine is possibly at its peak. Putting young people in a different learning environment, giving them a bigger-picture problem to solve, and a choice about how they are to present their findings, is a smart move. In his case, my son’s school has joined with La Trobe University and some of its lecturers, tutors and student teachers, in order to support a two-week research project.

What interests me as an educator and teacher librarian, is the affective aspect of the research process. After a week, my son is feeling overwhelmed and insecure; he feels he’s a failure because he hasn’t come very far. As I talk with him about how he’s feeling, I wish that a discussion of these feelings were part of the support given to the students.

It was a relief to me when I read Carol Kuhlthau’s research into the affective stages of research. I’ve written about this in a previous post. I discovered it was normal to feel confused and overwhelmed at the start of your research because you hadn’t defined what the question was. It was normal to feel the same way before you had found relevant information to support your research. It was normal to feel happier and more confident having found those resources, but also to plummet again when you faced the task of synthesizing this information into some sort of argument or presentation. And so, as each new stage of the process is faced, it would be so good to acknowledge that the way you’re feeling is to be expected.

Reflection is a good thing, and leads to self-awareness. The more you understand how you’re feeling, the less frustrated you’ll feel. Instead, you’ll be able to navigate these different stages of information seeking and synthesis, or any other learning process.

I wonder how we deal with this as educators. How can we identify how students feel and empathise with them, or provide context, if we don’t understand our own internal processes? I’m not sure that teachers’ busy schedules, with the ongoing face-to-face teaching of classes, interspersed with constant correction and preparation, allow them the time to stop and reflect. And that’s a great shame.

Blogs are an excellent way to routinely reflect on teaching practices, and document highs and lows, problems and celebrations. On the one hand, blogging has been embraced by so many people that there seems to be a hundred blogs for every topic imaginable. Blog writing is often made fun of, in the same way as superficial twittering. On the other hand, there are few educators in my school who blog, who see the point of blogging, or who regularly read blogs.

Recently, as I’ve mentioned before, I started a blog to record the progress of my collaborative teaching of a year 7 English class with Maria. It’s called English@wfc and it’s a space for me to write down what we do in class, how the students responded, how Maria and I felt, what worked and what didn’t, and what we learned from this. For me, this is a valuable exercise; it doesn’t take long, but it’s useful both for me and, I hope, for teachers if they would read it.

This blog also has a list of links to English-related blogs – all fantastic. Some of them are

As a teacher, I’m so much more comfortable and happier to function as a learner, continuing my own education and understanding, learning as I go, learning from others, with students – instead of just being the provider of information or the so-called expert. I appreciate looking into others’ teaching experiences, just as I enjoy writing out my own.

I hope that, as a parent, I’m able to support my son in his research agony through discussion, broadening his understanding and developing self-awareness. I hope that, as a teacher, I can provide the empathy and wisdom to go with the provision of information.



What blogging means to Iran

Further to my last post, I’m adding a video posted by @Zadi on Twitter,


The video tells us that Iran is the third largest nation of bloggers. For Iranians, a blog provides a safe place to write about forbidden topics and speak out with eloquence and anger against repression of the current regime and the need for change. The narrator of the video defines the blog as the true voice of the next generation.

A powerful example of the changing face of communication using Web 2.0 technologies.

You may also want to have a look at these images of recent happenings in Iran.

I believe this about learning…

‘map of Romania’ photo by ggrosseck on flickr


…students do not come in one-size-fits-all packages and should be treated as individuals who deserve to be stretched

…no matter what their level of learning, a student’s work is enhanced when their parents are involved in the learning process

…the experiences of students are important aspects of learning and should be incorporated in the classroom as possible

…students live up to the expectations given them by their parents, school and their community; if a student is expected to succeed he or she will

…every student has the capacity to reshape the world; they must be guided to making their impression a positive one

…students should learn by investigating the world and issues that surround them in fun and creative ways

…learning should be an  interesting and useful process

…what happens to students beyond the classroom is as important as what is contained in it

…every student deserves an opportunity to succeed

…the highest goal of education is to teach students to reason and think for themselves

...students should be taught and engaged in such a way that they fall in love with learning


Tonia Johnson posted her beliefs for learning on her wiki for Adams City High School. They gave me the opportunity to reflect on what initially may seem obvious and unoriginal, but at second glance are actually deep and essential aspects of learning. I started to think about how much of the teaching and learning at our school corresponds to these beliefs; how much my own practices support these beliefs.

Is there one introductory belief that forms a basis for further good teaching practices, or are they intertwined and shoot off each other?

I would really like some feedback from you about which of these beliefs you consider most important and why, and if you can add to this list.

Essential to good teaching practice, in my experience, is taking the time to reflect and critically evaluate what you are doing as an educator. Now that the new school year is starting, I can see how easy it will be to fall into the busy and relentless schedule of weeks and terms without taking time out to breathe or blink. I think we need to make a time to reflect, just as we deliberately schedule appointments to the dentist. Yes, it is sometimes an appointment we don’t feel like keeping.

Blogging (for those of you who continue to argue with me against it) is always a discipline that provides a regular time for reflection and evaluation. Amidst defensive cries of ‘haven’t got the time, too busy’, I stubbornly insist that time must be made. It’s worth it.



Blogs are NOT airy-fairy, soul-searching, self-indulgent

You know how you can’t let some things go?

Well, the back of my mind is often processing ways to demonstrate to people the value of reading and writing blogs. Recently I read an educator’s comments about introducing teachers to Web 2.0 practices, where he says he wouldn’t start with blogging, but provide teachers with examples of great blogs to read. Often people considering blogging will say that they don’t know what to blog about. It’s a bit like a student getting an open essay topic; it’s difficult because it’s undefined. That’s why reading blogs of people who share your interests is a good starting point for new bloggers or even sceptics. What I’m actually saying is – you don’t know what you’re missing – there are people out there who are really worth knowing, in all parts of the world and in many spheres of life and occupation.

John Connell linked to a series of blog networking interviews by Lilia Efimova in his post about passionate bloggers. People whose blogs centred around knowledge management topics were interviewed by Lilia about how they used blogs for networking. What’s particularly interesting is the variety of backgrounds represented. Lilia’s interviews covered the following:

  • professional background of a participant and characteristics of her network in KM field prior to blogging
  • changes in the network or networking practices because of blogging
  • uses of weblogs for developing, maintaining and activating relations as a starting point for articulating stages of the process at more granular level
  • place of the weblog in the ecosystem of networking tools (mainly focusing on what weblogs are good for and when they do not work).
  • important networking-related issues that haven’t been discussed

Here are some examples:

Brett Miller, a system engineer, says

 “I know more people in different areas of KM when I knew before.” Blogging helped him to reach people he wouldn’t be able to reach otherwise.

Dave Snowden is a founder and a Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, a consulting company focusing on complexity, sense-making and narratives. He was formerly a director of IBM Institute of Knowledge Management and founder of the Cynefin Centre for organisational complexity. He has about 50 science bloggers in his RSS reader.

“They scan journals for me, so I don’t have myself … I’ve learnt to trust them over the years … it’s much better than summarisation surface”.

Euan Semple is an independent advisor for social computing for business (www.euansemple.com). He started blogging with his personal weblog The Obvious. He says:

“Previously I was subject to geographical constraints or social constraints or organisational constraints as of who I was likely to meet and suddenly with online networks I’ve been able to connect to […] the whole bunch of interesting and interested people whom I suddenly had an access to in a way in a normal life I would never ever had that chance. I could then establish relationships and (and again something I get very hot about) is that these are not pretend or unreal or virtual relationship, the real relationship, where you build up trust and affect and those powerful things that make people work together. Online.”

And also:

[Blogging] is “a collective pointing that helps to find stuff, once you have an established group of bloggers you read and trust. And their ability to find a good stuff to point to it, increases your signal to noise ratio on the web … Blogs do that better than other tools because of the context – you have to say why that is important, why are you pointing to something”.

Luis Suarez works at IBM as social software evangelist. He is located in Spain, but travels frequently for his work. He says:

Weblogs allow you to get beyond what people publish and to get as sense of what a person is like – to build a profile of a person as a person, not a business entity. Not how long you have been married, but how people write articles. When you write a blogpost you are giving yourself out as a person. The line between life and work is going to disappear.

The question of blogs developing trust is an interesting one. Luis says that trust is developed through a ‘willingness to expose what you don’t know’, and ‘a willingness to learn not yet finished thinking’ or ‘taking a radical position that invites criticism’, ‘being brave and bold’. He added that ‘there is something special about somebody coming to your place to leave their words there’.

Talking about changes in professional network as a result of blogging, Monica Andre, who worked in a research lab in Lisbon focusing on information behaviour and information management, says:

“I didn’t realise that linking and giving credits to someone’s work would extend my professional network extended very quickly.” She then told a story of being contacted by a municipality government from Spain who wanted her to speak at an event. “I didn’t know I was followed by them. If [people] leave comments, you have a clue, a footprint. It turns out that guy who was reading my blog suggested the government that I would be a good person to talk as a keynote speaker”. When she received an email she thought it was a joke, but they called to confirm.

These are only a few examples of what people had to say about blogging in Lilia’s interviews, just to whet your appetite. You can read all interview summaries on Lilia Efimova’s blog Mathemagenic.

It’s difficult to ‘convert’ people to reading and writing blogs and to online networking in general for a variety of reasons I’ve spoken about many times in previous posts. It may be as difficult as religious or political conversion. To those of you reading this post, I’m preaching to the converted, I know. So please tell me, have you had successful experiences in converting those resistant to blogging that you would like to share?

Bring Show and Tell into the 21st century


Does Show and Tell sound old fashioned to you?  Think again…

Remember Show and Tell in primary school? In my primary years (a long time ago), Show and Tell was possibly the only time that the teacher stepped aside and encouraged students to take centre stage to share sundry news items and paraphernalia. Think about what’s happening – a variety show led by students themselves. You can say or show almost anything – news (world news, local news, trivial or important news, news about your dog or about your uncle), opinions, and the freedom to bring in ANYTHING you like – stick insect in a jar, your dad’s gallstones, the latest in technology (for me, that was my talking Bugs Bunny), strange money, photos of a trip to exotic lands, a special book, something you have made, a science experiment (remember growing your own crystals) – wonderful, wonderful things. I imagine Show and Tell still happens in primary schools.

But why stop at primary school? How often does a student get free reign and the attention of the whole class? When else does the student audience get to see such a great show. By secondary school – correct me if I’m wrong – everything fits into neat little curricular boxes. Very full boxes. No room for randomness, for the unexpected, for student-directed sharing; no procession of ever-changing wonders, no exchange of opinions on student-directed topics.

And another thing. The time limits for each Show and Tell slot allow for a quick succession of small, tasty morsels. If you’re not interested in one thing, the next offering could be more to your liking.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Doesn’t this remind you a little of Twitter? The short, quick exchange of goodies just discovered, great links, photos worth sharing, questions offered to the group? Is blogging or microblogging our new version of Show and Tell? A reclaiming of our natural desire to share and learn with each other? Our instinctive knowledge that learning happens from and with others, and not just from the teacher?

What do you think?

What are your best Show and Tell memories?

Blogs, Twitter and the read/write evolution

I recently (five minutes ago) discovered this blog and read an analogy I liked between blogging and music formats. The author was discussing a possible reason for the recent slowing down of blogging:

I probably see blogging now as the album format with something like Rejaw or Tumblr as the EP format (macro-blogging?) together with Twitter and others (status updates) being analogous to the single in digital download format. Dubious though my analogy may well be I hope it illustrates that I see this dissipation as all being part of the same offering.

Well, I’ve come to blogging late and it seems, according to some, I’ve almost missed the boat. Should I stop embarrassing myself with the long blog posts which are apparently so passe? Or should I continue to indulge myself, knowing that my novice posts are a necessary part of my early stages of evolution, a purging perhaps, an outpouring of the silenced thoughts of previous decades?

Twitter I’ve only recently added to my online life (told you I was a latecomer), and I still feel like an outsider there, posting the odd tweet in the hope of being heard, of being accepted into a conversation. Mobile computing is not part of my diet yet, and that may change in the future if I reinvent my commitment to the latest technology. I agree with the abovementioned author that the initial overwhelming addiction to regular blogging is slowly receding –

I don’t have that mania for a daily post as perhaps I did in the past. I’ve allowed various social networking and micro-blogging outlets to soak up a range of smaller spontaneous thoughts.

The blog is still, for me, the place that I call my own, where I can take the time to express ideas and share interesting finds, whereas the microblogging is a little like fast food – it’s quick and it fills the spot, but you wouldn’t savour it.  As said author has stated so well –

My point is that it’s all just platforms, formats, vehicles or just another tool. It’s either the evolution of blogging or the slow dilution of a once powerful creative outlet into a series of side alleys and cul-de-sacs.