People, People, People

Saturday was my third #EduCampAKL and well worth the caffeine fuelled  drive up from Hamilton to Epsom Girls Grammar School. There were lots of new faces, plenty of familiar ones and a few online friends that it was great to meet face to face for the first time.

Full House at Epsom Girls Grammar School

It was a full house, populated by eager teachers/learners who saw the value in giving up their free time to connect with like minded colleagues from across the education sectors.  It was a day to further our understandings of third millenium pedagogy and the new tools that might be used to engage students and promote effective learning.

PD is often seen as something that is done to teachers (not always the case IMHO) but EduCamps/Barcamps are different. There are no reluctant participants; everyone who is there wants to be there. Twitter once again proved itself the WD40 of social oils and made it ridiculously easy to slip into conversations with strangers previously met online.

Ultimately though, the day was about people*. People sharing and discussing their thoughts, their successes, their pitfalls and reflections. A group of likeminded educators all willing to join with others to connect and collaborate. I wondered again what it would be like to work in a learning environment surrounded by these people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

Next… EduCampBOP …see you there!

 

*and I got a choccy fish :-)

 

Using Windows Live Writer for Blogging

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Whichever blogging platform you decide to use, Windows Live Writer can be used to publish to it.

Installing is easy enough, just go to Windows Live and download the latest version.  Make sure you only select Live Writer for download, unless you want the other Live programs offered.  When installing uncheck the boxes that ask if you want to install the Microsoft toolbar or reset your homepage (of course this is up to you).

Once installed Live Writer offers a familiar interface for users, this was important in my selection of it as the blogging tool for children in class. Menus and icons are mostly self-explanatory, but if you’re not sure- hover over the item and a tooltip will identify it for you.  A sidebar contains other functions you will need, like insert, plugins, draft posts and settings.

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To set up your blog go to Tools>>Accounts… .>>Add…>>Other Blog Service…and enter your blog details, user name and password. Pick “remember my password” so you don’t have to enter it every time.
Live Writer add blog

To use Live Writer at school you will need to add the proxy details here. Once you’ve done all this you’re ready to post!

New >> New Post >> . . . add a title and away you go

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What Do I Use to Blog?

There are many free and paid tools available to publish and share children’s work on the internet. They can be used to engage and motivate children and can provide an authentic audience for their work.

Blogging
Blogging (from web log) is simply publishing writing on a personal website, like an online diary. I started off in 2004 using blogger but later changed to wordpress.

Blogger, now owned by google, is an easy way to set up a first blog. It is highly customizable and allows you to easily upload photos, movies and other multimedia elements. it has a selection of themes to choose from to alter the page design. It does have an annoying navigation bar at the top of the page and a “next blog” link that can take the reader to some places that are less suitable for children. With a bit of tweaking and coding this can be removed.

WordPress became my blog engine of choice because there was no “next blog” link. It has many page templates to choose from, but is a bit more choosy in what it allows its users to upload. Images are fine and if you have somewhere to host your files you can also add a free audio player. Videos can only be uploaded after upgrading your account with an annual payment of US$20.

Both sites are very easy to join, needing only a valid email address (though I think Blogger may ask you to set up a google account). Click on the email you receive as confirmation and that’s it – you’re ready to go.

Sometimes the login pages of WordPress and Blogger can present children with accidental access to unsuitable material. To eliminate this I use Windows Live Writer, a free Mocrosoft download. There are other options – you can blog from Word with this blogger plugin or you can use Word 2007 which has a built in publish to blog option.

Our class WordPress blog
Our new, experimental voicethread Blogger blog.

Michael

Hovering

Hoverfly2
A Hoverfly*

So, enough hovering.  Here’s where I’ll set up a portal for other teachers at school.

I’ll post links to software, sites and other items of interest and reflect on some of the things that have worked well for me in class and others that haven’t been so successful.

There are heaps of teacher/class blogs and wiki out there that I’ll add as links, but I’d like to think that colleagues at school will be more likely to try new things ICT if they know that this is my space and that they can discuss things with me if they want to.

I could introduce them to Twitter instead. I’ve been making class web sites and blogs since 2001, but always in isolation, an island entire.  Now, via Twitter, I’m learning from others again!  For years I’ve been the guru that people have come to for ICT help, but today I’m getting help myself from ethereal colleagues.  It feels good.

*Hoverfly “painted” in Artrage 2.5 – some post work (copy and flip the wing) in Paint.net

Next Year

I need to think about how I’m going to set things up for next year…

  • Adding Live Writer to all the class computers for children to post to glenview9
  • Rearranging the physical layout of the classroom
  • Introducing PBWiki in term one or even during meet the teacher at the end of term four
  • Publicizing the blog and wiki to parents (and the school community) and encouraging comments and participation
  • Integrating it all into the classroom and replacing some of the bookwork children do
  • and…???

Where to start? I’ve hovered around the fringes of Web 2.0 for the past few years dipping my toes in the water here and there – time to jump in.