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.

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/

Social Media can help end Cyber-Bullying!

Last week, Rick Mercer, the host of the Rick Mercer Report, a satirical news show here in Canada posted one of his ‘rants’ about bullying against homosexual youth. What sparked this ‘rant’ was that just last month, Jamie Hubley, a 15-year-old Ottawa boy committed suicide because of the incessant bullying that he experienced at his high school. Jamie was the latest example of how devestating and hurtful bullying can lead to absolutely tragic results. Here is a picture of Jamie:

Rick’s rant tells us that every year in Canada 300 kids commit suicide, and they do so because of tragic situations and in the case of Jamie, commit suicide due to bullying based on their sexual orientation or beliefs.  Rick’s call to all of us is to lead the way with serious expectations that bullying MUST stop and that there MUST be consequences for people that bully others.  Rick also calls upon all of us to be not just accepting of others and their differences, but to share our own differences and struggles so that young people can look around and see role-models, supports, and examples that this world can get better for everyone, no matter what their differences, sexual orientation, or challenges might be and that suicide should never be an option.  You can watch Rick’s rant below, but please, share this with others.  Talk about it with your friends, family and colleagues.  Share your own struggles, stick up for those that are struggling and be open, respectful and focused on eradicating all bullies!

http://youtu.be/Wh1jNAZHKIw

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!

Socialnomics – Social Media ain’t a fad!

Below is a Youtube video based on an amazing book that contextualizes a lot of the recent developments in Social Media and how we are all using it. I definitely had to pick my jaw up off my desk with some of these astronomical statistics. This video was made by Erik Qualman who also wrote the book Socialnomics.  This book explores the development of Social Media, its explosive growth, the profound changes it is bringing and how best to leverage these new technologies.

Some of the most amazing statistics from this video that immediately stuck out to me are:

  • 96% of all Millennials have joined a social network
  • If Facebook were a country, it would be the world’s 3rd largest (Behind China and India)
  • 80% of companies use Social Media for recruiting new employees
  • The fastest growing segment on Facebook is 55-65 year old Females.
  • Youtube is now the world’s 2nd largest search engine (after google)

This video is high energy and very enlightening to whats happening all around us.  Sometimes it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, but this video really helps me understand that magnitude of this change and how immense and powerful our new networks, communications and tools are!  I hope that you enjoy this video as well!

I think this video and book really illustrate how important it is for educators to not only acknowledge the important role Social Media plays in our lives and our student’s lives, but how important it is to teach Social Media etiquette, safety and to role model appropriate and balanced Social media behaviours! We all play a role in helping each other navigate these new tools and virtual spaces!

Cyber-Bullying: A Student’s Perspective

As today is “Wear Pink” day in order to bring more awareness to Bullying and Cyber-Bullying, I thought it would be valuable and important to hear about these issues from a Student’s Perspective.  Rebecca Gorgitza, a student with the Vancouver Learning Network wrote this Guest Blog Post for the BUZZ to share her feelings, suggestions, advice and experiences with Bullying.  This powerful piece of writing is straight from the heart and I encourage you to share this far and wide today, to raise awareness about this important issue. LETS ERADICATE BULLYING TOGETHER!

Hello bloggers!

Now, you all know its Anti-Bully day (I know you know because I can see all the pink shirts through my computer!), and I hope you realize what it means.  Think about it, if you will.  To me, Anti-bully day isn’t just a day for everyone to be nice to each other; it’s a step towards a total change for the better.  It’s just a taste of just how nice being nice can be, if that makes sense.  Getting along with each other is a lot easier than you’d think.  The thing is bullying isn’t just the stereotypical mean kid making rude comments when you pass in the halls.  It’s a lot more than that- it’s even on the web…. And it can be much worse when you’re being cyber-bullied rather than bullied in real life. (Key word, can) Cyber-bullying is like bullying in person, except it can be taken too far, too fast, and without much notice from anyone except for the kid being bullied.  It’s little things like harsh comments on statuses, or nasty chat messages on facebook or big things like constant outright rude comments on pieces of art on deviantart.  I honestly don’t know what goes through cyberbullies heads’ when they do such things, but I wish I could understand.  I do know, however, the effects of it.  It takes away confidence, tears away self-esteem, makes you feel worthless.  Makes you ask yourself “am I so unlovable and worthless that they have to attack me over the internet!?” (The answer to that question is always no, you are not unlovable or worthless) It makes you want to fight back, but when you do, you realize you can’t win, so you give up.  It puts you in a Slump (yes, just the like one Dr. Seuss talks about in Oh The Places You’ll Go).  Now, my recommendation for you to get out of that Slump is to have an epiphany.  Unfortunately, not even Walmart sells those, so maybe you should tell someone about the trouble you’re having.  Now, if you’re like me, you’ll have a few teachers who don’t seem to care too much.  Avoid them.  Go to your counselor (they became counselors because they wanted to help!  They’ll definitely care.), or that really nice, motherly teacher.  Or tell your parents, though that can be a bit harder to do since most parents are totally over protective, and you, being a teenager, don’t want to make a big deal about it.  Maybe you’re really shy about it…. In that case you can start by saying something like:
“So, hypothetically, if someone was getting cyber-bullied,
what should they do?”
Or
“I have this ‘friend’… he/she’s getting cyber-bullied.  What should this ‘friend’ do?”
Then, progress to talking about yourself. The most important things you, a student, need to know are that a) the bully will probably not stop “just ‘cause.” Remember, there are “Report Abuse”, “Flag” and “Block” buttons which may start to solve your problem! And b) The only way you are guaranteed to get help is by telling someone who cares.   Oh, and if you have a friend who is being cyber-bullied/bullied and they tell you about it…. Don’t just say “oh”.  Please, please don’t.  Stand up for them.  Tell them they’re amazing.  Help them- it’s your responsibility as a friend.
Now, to the edumacators and ‘rents:
NEVER IGNORE A KID WHEN THEY ASK FOR HELP, AND NEVER BRUSH IT OFF.
It happens too often, and it’s sad.  I don’t care whether it’s cyber-bullying, bullying, or issues that don’t have a single cause.  Help the kid.  You may not know exactly when a kid is being cyber-bullied/bullied, and you may not be able to stand up for them… but thinking about it from their point of view, helping them, talking to them, giving them ideas and positive escapes from the stress and hurt is a lot better than doing nothing.
If you would like to learn more about “Pink Shirt Day” please check out this CBC news article about the two young men from Nova Scotia who stood up to bullies and created this North American movement!  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2007/09/18/pink-tshirts-students.html

Also, be sure to check out our own “Cyber-Bullying” Page here @ THE BUZZ as we have many tips, resources and places for help if you or anyone you know is suffering from Bullying or Cyber-Bullying.  If you are an educator looking for a powerpoint presentation to use with your class, be sure to check this one out from our Planning 1o Teacher Brenda Kvist! Anti-Bullying
Happy Pink Shirt Day!

Social Media: A Presentation for Educators

Tomorrow, Friday, Feb 18th is a District Professional Development Day here in Vancouver, BC.  The District team has put together a great day titled “Supporting Learning Through Technology“.  There are workshops on all kinds of interesting tools, strategies, support groups and ways to innovate and utilize technology in your classroom.

I will be giving a workshop tomorrow afternoon titled: “Social Media: How to get Started” and will be in the ‘Barn’ @ John Oliver Secondary, Room 209 from 12pm to 1.15pm.  In this workshop, I hope to really show why using Social Media as a part of your classroom and learning environment can be a simple and easy way to extend your classroom, while teaching and demonstrating appropriate usage of Social Media tools.

The presentation I will be using is available here:

This presentation will cover the basics of Why use Social Media?  Why Now?  How can I safely use these tools with my students?  I will also be covering best practices when using tools like Facebook, Twitter and WordPress.  I hope that this presentation will also be ‘hands-on’ and will allow educators to try some of these tools out where they can ask questions, explore without fear, and share possible ideas about how to implement.

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