So you’re thinking of blogging?

Blogging 101

So, have you ever thought about starting up a blog?  Wondered where to start?  What type of blog to use?  What would you blog about?  This introductory post is aimed at helping you understand how blogs work, what types of blog systems are out there, and see some examples of how people are already blogging!  Since blogging first got started in the early 2000s, there are many different reasons why you might want to start a blog.  Some blogs are personal, some are professional, some represent schools, districts, libraries, or even organizations.  Blogs have been used by english, humanties, art,  and science teachers to extend their classrooms, and they have been used to reflect on their practice.  Blogs have been used by students to share their thoughts, to practice their writing and to reflect upon their lives.  Blogs are used by Superintendents (and other Superintendents, and even Associate Superintendents), Principals, Teacher-Librarians, Teacher LeadersPeer to Peer ConsultantsDistrict Resource Trainers, and by student support personalParents can Blog! Blogs can be fun, blogs can be political, and blogs can be a call to arms.  Blogs can be used to organize groups, create conversations, and to distribute information.  The power of blogs is that they become personalized and focused on the author and their audience.  What your blog is about is entirely up to you!

What Blogging systems can I use? (and how easy are they?)

Tumblr is a very simple and very easy to use blogging platform.  It started off as a simple way to share images, but has grown to allow you to publish text, imagery, videos, documents and anything else you might want. Tumblr is a system that allows your subcribers to easily see if you’ve published new posts and is very simple in its design and features.  Most users will not have any difficulty creating and maintaining a tumblr blog. (example of a tumblr blog I created – http://mrmuellervln.tumblr.com/)

Blogger is a Google based blogging platform that connects your google email address with a google blogger account. Once you create your blogger account it is very simple and easy to post new blog posts.  It has a lot more features than tumblr and allows you to customize your look and feel of your blog a lot. Visitors can subscribe to your blog, there are many extra “widgets” you can add to your blog, and one of the best features is the intergration with the rest of your google account, allowing you to embed your google calendar as part of your blog. (example of blogger blog I created – http://mrmuellervln.blogspot.com/)

 EduBlogs is an education specific version of a WordPress blog (see below).  Edublogs  are education specific and allow you, the teacher, to publish and monitor classroom blogs and student blogs from within their ‘systems’.  Teachers can even lock down access so that students blogs are not public, and only available to the teacher and other students in the class.  There are many features that are removed in the free version, limiting the usefulness of this service.  (example of a EduBlogs blog I created – http://mrmuellervln.edublogs.org)

 Wordpress is the most featured, customized and useful blogging platform out there,  but it can also be very intimidating and a little complicated.  WordPress.org offers free hosting of a simple blog, but if you have your own hosting and domain name, you can download and install your own WordPress server!  This allows complete customization and individual personalization.  WordPress allows any number of “plugins” and “widgets” to extend the functionality of your blog.  WordPress can also be used in a multi-blog environment, hosting dozens of individual blogs and can be a very useful tool for an entire school-wide blogging initative. The BUZZ, this blog you are reading is an example of a WordPress.org blog.  I have made a couple of tutorial videos to help you get started with wordpress and to also see ‘behind the scenes’ what a wordpress blog looks like.

How do you keep track of all these blogs?

That is the million dollar question!  Keeping a ton of bookmarks on your computer can work for a little while, but eventually, you won’t be able to keep track of them and might end up missing some really good blog posts!  So, there are a couple of good strategies for you to keep on top of what everyone is blogging about.  The first way, is to follow these bloggers on twitter.  Almost all bloggers, especially education based blogging, are also active on twitter.  They include a link to their blog in the bio, and they regularly use twitter to “tweet” about their latest blog post!  This can be a great strategy for finding new blogs to read and follow!

But how do you know if there is a new blog post to go read?  Well, thats where the power of RSS comes into play.  RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and it is a set of technologies that allow anyone to “subscribe” to a blog, by adding their RSS ‘feed’ into a RSS Reader!  A RSS Reader is a program that collects all your blogs in one spot and then alerts you when you have new blog posts to read at their blog!  So, it takes all the guess work and bookmarking away from you.  The best and easiest Reader is Google Reader and it can track and inform you about new blog posts to read!  It lives in your browser and it is always up to date!  See this screenshot below for what the Google Reader looks like:  I only warn you not to get discouraged with how many blog posts you should read sometime!  Don’t feel guilty about not being able to keep up.  No one can.

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Who does “Google” think you are?

We have all been warned that our Social Media profiles and online activities through sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus keep track of where we go, what we look at, what we click on, and who we interact with, but its easy to dismiss this “profiling” when it is not very apparent or visible.  Ever wondered why that advertising on your Google search was targeted at exactly the things you like and buy?

Have you ever wondered what kind of “profile” google has created about you?  Well you can  see your advertising “Catagories” and your assumed “Demographics” by clicking on this link:

http://t.co/hSxzJaPf

Its a very insightful experience to say the least.  Now, in order to deconstruct what these “Categories” and “Demographics” are saying, let me share my “profile” for you to see:

Click on image to “embiggen”

As you can see from this image, Google has correctly identified me as a “Male” and although I won’t turn 35 until later this year, they were pretty close to my current age.  Google definitely figured out exactly where I live in the world, and is thus able to target advertising directly at me from local companies in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The “Categories” that Google has identified as my “key interests” are very insightful!  I think that they have created an accurate ‘picture’ of what I am most interested in, and what topics I am most likely to engage in online.  You can see that I like Movies, Online Video, K-12 Education, Technology, People and Society, and Libraries!  If you knew me in person, you would most definitely agree with this online google “profile”.

What is helpful to note, is that by accessing your own Google Profile, you can “Remove or Edit” any of these categories or demographics at anytime, if you knew about it!  So, please, get informed about your online Google Profile!  If you want to learn more about maintaining your online privacy, there are many other tools and strategies that you can employ to keep yourself from being “targeted” through strategies like google page.    Please see this page to learn how to “Opt out of Everything Online” to remove any profiles or targeted advertising!

Stay informed, and stay in control of your online identity!

How to Search Google More Effectively!

Hello Cyber Visitors!

Sometimes its important to get back to basics and to revisit how we find information among this vast sea of info we call “the internet”.  Today I wanted to share with a FANTASTIC infographic that visually illustrates how you can search google faster, more efficiently and with greater success.  If you are the type of google searcher who types in a couple of keywords and clicks on the first couple of results, then this is DEFINITELY for you!

This infographic, masterly done by http://mashable.com ( A great source of tons of guides, info and helpful advice) is specifically focused on helping students do better research online.  It guides you through the many different ‘types’ of resources you might be looking for and how to narrow your search to find only the most valuable stuff!  It also has a lot of great keyboard shortcuts, as well as sound advice on how to properly reference what you’ve found and decided to use.  So, to see the infographic and start becoming a better GOOGLE searcher, just click on the logo below!

Google Searching
http://mashable.com/2011/11/24/google-search-infographic/

An introduction to Google Plus!

Have you heard about Google Plus?

Google Plus is a new Social Networking tool that the engineers at Google have put together!  It was designed from the ground up to be more secure, private, and easy to use and share your stuff through!  While it has been in “Invite-Only” mode for the last 2 months, they just opened it up for anyone and everyone to sign up. (http://plus.google.com to sign up)

Why should you check out a new social network?  Whats wrong with the ones you use now? (Facebook / Twitter) Well, Google Plus (or G+) is meant to keep your private info, well, private!  You have to actively choose to share your information or posts.  You can connect with lots and lots of people *(like on twitter), but they don’t automatically get access to your private posts or photos that you share only with friends and family.  It is also easily intergrated into other google services, like Gmail, or Gdocs, or Gcalendar.  So, if you are already a Google user, than Google Plus will fit right in.  If you are interested, I highly recommend you check out this short video introduction I made to see how it basically works and how you can start building your circles!

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