Sep 27, 2006

blogging workshop a success

At least, I think it was a success. It was a blitz of information, sometimes overwhelming, but many of the attending teachers went away interested in trying blogging for themselves. (If they disagree, at least they know where to find me, and how to leave a comment.)

In a while, when I'm done with some schoolwork, I'll post the outline of the presentations and activities.

What is a blog? Can I get one?
First, I gave a brief overview--defining "blog," listing some of the advantages of blogging in class, and the various uses of a blog. This took about three minutes.

How to set up and maintain a blog.
No overviews here. Instead, we launched right into blogging, as I introduced the teachers to Blogger Beta (which, as it turns out, is a bit dodgy on older versions of Firefox.) After some wrangling over usernames, passwords, and blog addresses, everyone chose a template and completed their first post. We then explored some of Blogger's functions, including comment moderation, permissions, and RSS feeds.

Up next: our school's in-house blog program, with its quirky formatting and slightly less-user-friendly interface. Its simplicity, though, is a benefit on the first day of class, since posting and commenting involve the same basic links. After they joined a sample class, the teachers visited popular blogs, examined their content and style, and searched for local bloggers. Not surprisingly, some of them found me here.

Using blogging as a teaching and learning tool.
Here we looked at the various uses and purposes of a blog, going into depth.
  • Discussions / Debates
  • Instant publishing
  • Internet research
  • Assignment records
  • Parental contact
  • Project tracking
I showed them some assignments from my classes--and gave them direct experience with the assignments I had them complete. Most teachers seemed interested in the blog-as-assignment-record and blog-as-debate features.

Assessing work on the blog.
Here we discussed clear standards (word counts, mandatory links, block quotes, conventions) and the basic distinction between an academic environment and the drama-for-all known as MySpace. I tried to emphasize the importance of clear objectives, clearer directions, and clearer-than-clear rules for appropriate conduct.

Appropriate blog etiquette and style.
  • Conventions really matter.
  • Words lack emotional context, so think before posting.
  • A blog is the whole blog. A post is a single entry. Don't confuse them.
  • Linking is good.
  • Reciprocal linking is better. It's how discussions turn into communities.
  • Changes should be publicly mentioned as a matter of good blogging ethics.
  • Hotlinking is dangerous.
  • Be wary of violating copyrights. Avoid copying entire articles.
Blogging outside of class—do’s and don'ts.
If you blog about students...
Don't gripe, especially if you mention names.
Remember they can probably find your blog. So can their parents.
Respect their privacy.

If you blog on the job...
Be careful to follow your workplace policies about internet time while "on the clock."

If you blog about your job...
Remember that your administrators, community members, and future employers are all watching.

We covered much, much more than this summary lets on, and most of the novices came away feeling a bit overwhelmed by the information, so there may be a follow-up later in the year. No matter what they tell you, teachers make great students.

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