Blogging 28

I started this blog several years ago in the fall of 2010. It was all new for me and my junior high students. We gradually learned to blog, thanks to the Kick Start Your Blogging Challenge from Edublogs and the biannual Student Blogging Challenges. It was great and we made lots of connections.

When I came to Bahrain, I blogged less and less. I’m not sure why. Is blogging losing popularity? Am I too busy? Has my blog become too politicized instead of education-based? Did I move too far away from my connections, who are mostly in the US and Canada? I don’t know why.

Anyway, when I saw Simon Justner‘s tweet about a January challenge to get my blog going again, I paid attention:

I think I’ll give it a try. I do want to sow more seeds of kindness, love, learning, and creation in 2019, so blogging can be a place to share about what is going on in my life.

I like this “bite-sized challenge” as Kathleen described it.

Bite-sized is good. I can do it, and I hope some of my friends–old and ones I’ve yet to meet–will join in as well.

First Three to Being a Connected Educator

Today I had the fun of being a guest tweeter. (That was a first!) I was the connected educator of the day at @ConnectedEd thanks to Karen Fasimpaur‘s appeal on Sunday.  It’s weird…I’m usually a little more shy on Twitter, but today I tweeted and RTed like a maniac.

One thing I tweeted was:

I guess I wasn’t surprised to hear what topped the list–Twitter. (The list below is in order by how many times each was mentioned. Twitter and blogging were by far mentioned most often. The others were mentioned 1-3 times each.)

So, if you are a future connected educator, jump in and use one of these tools to join or extend your connections!

If you are already a connected educator, what tools and communities did you use to get connected?

Thanks to @CoughlinLaura, @JoyKirr, @NCarroll24, @KTVee, @Gallit_Z , @HughtheTeacher, @tdallen5, @Desjaras for sharing what helped them become connected.

Top Three Posts of 2011

During 2011 I joined the online conversation. Even though I had blogged for a year before, this is the year I enjoyed meeting new people through blogging, Twitter, and Flickr. As a result I have become a better educator, writer, photographer, and person. Thanks to all my new online friends!

The top three most-viewed posts of 2011 according to my Edublogs stats include these. What I love most about these posts are the comments–great illustrations of the conversation I’ve joined.

The 2011 Edublog Awards – My nominations post.

Twitter Non-Guidebook – My mistakes and learnings as a new tweeter.

Genius Hour – A lifelong way to learn.

The Top Three Most-Viewed Blog Post Linky Party is hosted by Fern Smith at her Classroom Ideas blog.

The 2011 Edublog Awards

The 2011 Edublog Awards nominations are open. I’ve really enjoyed writing this post because I’m sure I don’t tell others often enough how they help me. This is the first year that I knew about the awards, so I am happy to add my nominees, for each one helps me to become a better teacher. It was difficult to choose just one nominee for each category. I hope as you read this blog post, you will meet someone new to add to your PLN!

Best Individual Blog
Color Wheel Symphony By JoAnn Jacobs

My favorite individual blog is a new one by JoAnn Jacobs. I like blogs that do one thing and do it well. Color Wheel Symphony always makes me ooh and ahhh and smile. It is a place where JoAnn shares her beautiful photography from Hawaii and writes captivating prose to go with it. I always look forward to her posts.

Best Individual Tweeter
Tracy Watanabe!/tracywatanabe!/tracywatanabe/

Tracy is a thoughtful blogger, a technology integration specialist, and an encourager through Twitter, where she shares resources and retweets about 21st century learning. More importantly, though, she develops and maintains professional friendships. She thinks of individuals and mentions them by name in a tweet when she knows something is relevant to them. She is warm and friendly, and makes my PLN more human with her sweet tweets and comments.

Best Group Blog
eltpics Take a Photo and…Blog

The international community of English language teachers has an incredible online social network going on. Now they also have a new blog, where teachers share lesson plans to go with their beautiful photography collection. I am not an ELT, but I love reading and learning from these passionate educators. (In fact, their camaraderie has made me more than once think it would be a great field to go into!)

Best New Blog
Love::Teaching by Laura Coughlin

Laura is a new blogger, having just started this past June. She is a passionate educator, clever, creative, and funny. I love reading her posts, for, like me, she is a middle school reading teacher.  Everything she has written so far has been helpful to me or thought-provoking, so I continue to go back.

Best Class Blog
Eagles’ Write

I have a special place in my heart for the Eagles and their teacher Sheri Edwards. This year my students and I have had the privilege of working together with the Eagles. Currently, we are all writing novels together–her class and mine, and Mr. Boylen’s and thousands of other classes. The Eagle writers are geniuses, contributing to the world, and at this blog you can see them in action.

Best Student Blog
Em’s Canvas

Oh, there are so many to vote for in this category! So many students are stand outs in their classes, and I’m so happy for them to have a worldwide audience. My own students’ blogs are awesome too, but today I nominate Em’s Canvas, which is about the sweetest student blog I’ve seen this year. She’s just five years old, and her mom helps her share her genius with the world.

Best Resource Sharing Blog
Teaching is Elementary by Nancy Carroll

Nancy has a way of identifying a need (or even anticipating a need) and writing a blog post about it. One of the first posts of hers I remember was last January. It was about a snow day her school had (actually it sounded like most of her state). I was reading it on my own Iowa snow day, and I was having so much fun looking at all the resources for snow day activities she had shared. Since then, she has shared resources about hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, and more–many times coinciding with what’s happening in the news. Nancy has vetted all the resources, sharing them just in time for when children start asking questions. As a fourth grade teacher, Nancy also shares many great literacy strategies with her readers. Overall, this is a great resource sharing blog.

Best Twitter Hashtag

I love many Twitter hashtags. In fact, I just counted 21 hashtag columns open on my Tweet Deck. (I wonder how many columns one can have open at a time.) It was not easy choosing the best hashtag, but I wanted to share this one. Last summer I learned about the #eltpics hashtag from Chiew Pang and Sandy Millin. I was involved in a photography challenge for teachers, and they noticed and invited us to participate in #eltpics. (My “thank you” post.) There are over 5,000 Creative Commons licensed photographs for you to use in your classroom, and these aren’t just pictures–they are beautiful artworks from all around the world! You can also contribute your own photos and make it even better. For the last fortnight the theme was parties and celebrations. Starting today, until December 3, folks will be adding pictures to a set called Shadows.

Best Teacher Blog
Drama Teachers Network by Karla O

Karla is a passionate and smart drama teacher who is busy building a program all by herself in her NSW, Australia, school. Although I am not involved with high school drama, I do read her posts and learn so much for my junior highers. I also try to bring some of her posts to the attention of our high school drama person. I’m impressed that Karla initiated this blog to build her connections with other drama teachers. She didn’t bemoan the fact that she was the lone drama teacher. Instead, she became a global leader by creating the Drama Teachers Network.

Best Free Web Tool

Without Twitter and my new PLN, I would not even have known where to start with nominations for the Edublog Awards. In fact, I hadn’t noticed the Edublog Awards nominations going on in both 2009 and 2010, even though I was already blogging, having created my Edublogs account in October, 2009. Perhaps in 2009 and 2010, I may have read about the nomination process in a blog post, but I didn’t stop to listen. Twitter helps me to listen to important happenings in education. In addition, Twitter revolutionized my world when I allowed my blogging to become a conversation and not just my one-sided posts. Twitter has helped me build my PLN. Since it is a wonderful forum for amplifying important resources, Twitter makes it easy to pay attention to the voices of my PLN.

Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast
Kevin’s Meandering Mind

Yep, I’ve seen all of those things on Kevin’s blog. While participating in the Edublogs teacher challenge last January, I met many wonderful teacher bloggers. Kevin is one of those who was light years ahead of me in using cool media on his blog. He is a musician, writer, poet, artist, and he shares his genius and that of his students with the world. He blogs circles around most of us, so I don’t always keep up with reading all his blog posts. However, there is always a treat when I stop in, and I am sure to learn some tool to make my life easier, more collaborative, more beautiful, or just more fun. Visit! You won’t be sorry! Kevin’s class also has an incredible web page at The Electronic Pencil. Don’t miss it!

Best open PD / Unconference / Webinar Series
The Reform Symposium, worldwide e conference

Perhaps I’m partial because last summer I attended my first online conference–Reformed Symposium 3, which is my nomination for the best unconference. Thousands of people came together to learn and grow. This conference was inspiring and transforming for me as an educator. How delightful it was to spend unpaid professional development time with so many passionate people who wanted to be there. What a great experience!

Best Educational Use of a Social Network
#sschat & #sschat Ning

A wonderful community of social studies teachers exists online! (Try #sschat on Monday evenings at 7:00 p.m. ET) When I joined Twitter, Greg Kulowiec and Ron Peck were warm, welcoming, and helpful. I have become just a tiny bit involved in #sschat and the corresponding The #sschat community is much more than just a once a week Twitter chat. Greg, Ron, Susie, Becky and others are connecting, collaborating and contributing, and making others feel welcome. If you are a social studies teacher of any kind, I would highly recommend joining #sschat (or even lurking about, like I still do).

So there you have it. I could go on and on, but I’m going to stop there.

These are my nominations for the 2011 Edublog Awards.

Thanks to all those who have made this past year one of my best teaching years ever!

You Are a #Rockstar

Tracy Watanabe has tagged me in the #Rockstar meme for bloggers. Originally started by Miguel Guhlin, the meme has been traveling around the globe for about three weeks now. Thanks for including me, Tracy!

5 Ways Blogging Has Rocked My World

  1. Like-minded colleagues – Like Tracy, I too am energized by those who are passionate about education. In her Rockstar post, Tracy said, “I thrive when I’m having fun learning, creating things, connecting, and making a difference in the lives of students and teachers. My batteries recharge when I’m around others who have the same passion.” Yes, indeed. Me too! I have been energized and more engaged in teaching since I began blogging.
  2. Writing – I’ve always written and wanted to be a writer. Now I am, in my own bloggy sort of way.
  3. Contributing – Sometime during the past year, I dared to contribute, as Miguel suggested. I began to participate in the online conversation. It was actually quite simple. Instead of just randomly wandering to an occasional blog post, I became deliberate. I signed up for free online services and began making an online presence for myself. I joined the conversation by logging in, leaving comments, and sharing my own writing.
  4. Connecting –  As a result of daring to contribute, I have made connections. I have new friends and collaboration partners through my experiences blogging.
  5. Inspiring – My students are bloggers too. We inspire each other. They have seen me make connections over the past year, and several of them are stretching beyond the limits of what I’ve asked them to do on their blogs. They are making connections and contributing to the world. I would like to think that I inspired some of that, and that rocks my world!

Blogs I Follow

I have dozens of blogs I follow, and on any given day, hundreds of blog posts wait patiently in my Google Reader. To be honest, most of them I just glance at the titles.  Many I scan. Few I read. The ones I read most faithfully are by those that I have connections with. When I see that these folks have posted, I read their posts from top to bottom. These people have become my friends, and I want to see what they are saying. Tracy Watanabe, Sheri Edwards and the fine bloggers below are some of those who have made blogging special for me.

One of these is a local friend who has been blogging longer than I, one is a brand new blogger sharing her beautiful photographs, one is a young teacher fairly new to blogging, and three are friends I met in the teacher blogging challenge in January of 2011.

Nancy CarrollTeaching is Elementary


JoAnn JacobsColor Wheel Symphony

Theresa AllenCSRN Technology

Lyn HowlinCosy Corner

Laura CoughlinLove::Teaching

How Has Blogging Rocked Your World?

I am tagging these six to join us in the #Rockstar meme. Should you choose to accept this challenge, you can write a blog post telling how blogging has rocked your world. Link back to the original post by Miguel and then tag five (or six, as Sheri and I did) more participants.

Thanks for rocking my world with your beautiful blogging and the connections you have made with my students and me. You are all ROCKSTARS!

Welcome to New Bloggers


Welcome to the blogging world! Some of my blogging teacher friends have been creating resources for new bloggers, so I thought I would contribute my ideas. My simple advice is to get in there and start blogging, find your own way, and enjoy the journey.

Although I’ve been blogging for about 18 months, it’s just been in the last six months that my journey has become more engaging and rewarding.

First, I became involved in Edublogs teacher challenges. It started with the Kick Start Your Blogging last January. Next it was 30 Days to Get Your Students Blogging, next, with my students, the Student Blogging Challenge in late March through May. Then I even became a guest blogger in the Free Tools Challenge. Currently I am lurking about the PLN Challenge. I’m hoping to begin participating, but, yikes!! There are too many opportunities to take advantage of all of them. However, as a result of the blogging challenges I have tried, I’ve discovered a whole world of educators out there connecting and collaborating. I’ve met some incredible friends like Nancy Carroll, Sheri Edwards, Lyn Howlin, Theresa Allen, Joanne Selig, and Kathryn Trask—educators from all over the world.

The second thing that happened on my blogging journey is I realized I was unclear on the purpose of my blog. Was it for personal or professional reflection? Was it to give assignments and write model blog posts for my students? Yes, it was all of those things, and it was a little bit crazy. Along the way it became clear to me that I needed two blogs: one for professional entries and the other for classroom work. You are reading my professional blog, and you can find my student blogs at

So, my advice is to get started and find your way. Maybe you’ll choose to join a blogging challenge and define your purpose earlier than I did. You are unique and your blogging journey will be too, so have fun with it and good luck!

Sheri Edwards recently wrote a post called “Five Tips for New Bloggers
She also started a Diigo group you can join intended for folks to share information that will help bloggers. It’s called ebchallenge

Finally, here is a Voicethread started by Nancy Carroll to gather blogging advice from others:

Joining the Conversation…

Over the past few months I have delighted in meeting so many excellent educators through their tweets and blogs. So many people contributing their genius out in the digital world! A few are amazing writers, but many of us are not. But you know what? I’ve found it doesn’t matter!

Is writing the most important contribution people make in their lives? No, of course not. Does it have to be the most important mark you leave on the Internet? No, it doesn’t. You don’t have to be a great writer to be effective.

Your contribution is not a polished five-paragraph essay or creative writing assignment. Your job when you join the digital conversation, should you choose to accept it, is to create, contribute, connect, collaborate and curate.

All those things can be done without Pulitzer prize-winning prose! Let me tell you about an example that happened in my class recently. Nicole, along with Leah and Kim, created a silly video as they tried out a new tool called Animoto. She wrote a quick paragraph explaining a contest related to the video.  (And they painstakingly checked it for proper English conventions, I might add.) Here is her blog post.

Next,  she sent it out to the world using Twitter and the hashtag #comments4kids. Fourteen seventh graders, Mrs. Sigler’s first graders, and a sophomore Spanish class accepted her challenge to write a story about the video she created. You can read the stories here. Look at the number of lives Nicole touched. Look at the people who practiced literacy as a result of Nicole’s 21st century contributions.

Finally, we created a digital prize on Xtranormal. You can watch it here and at the beginning of this post.

Was Nicole’s greatest contribution her writing? No. She wrote, but she also did much more. Look at all the things she accomplished…

  • created–the initial video and digital prize
  • contributed–added her blog post and made it a contest for the world
  • connected–sent out the link to the world
  • collaborated–worked with Leah and Kim in the classroom, worked with me on Xtranormal
  • curated–this is an elusive one. Nicole and all of us need to not become overwhelmed with the wealth available to us online. Nicole didn’t just launch a random monkey blog post and leave it. She organized her online world. Even though she was busy, she approved the comments, read the stories, determined the winner, and followed-up to complete the task.

I am so proud of her and my other student bloggers. They are becoming 21st century learners and using technology to create, contribute, connect, collaborate, and curate.

Is there a benefit in doing those things online, as opposed to doing them in the regular classroom? Yes, there are many reasons that I am just learning about. One thing I have become convinced about is the fact that we have the chance to be accepted in a new way. The bullies and the bullied, the straight-As and the strugglers, the cool and the nerdy, the introverted and extroverted, the acne-ed and the brace-faced, the too thin and the too round. It doesn’t matter what we look like or how we are perceived on our campuses. Online we can all be on a level playing field. We can all make valuable contributions. Even the weakest writers can do the work of the 21st century when they share their own genius.

Be anonymous

Don’t get me wrong. I know we need great literacy skills; we should not be lazy about literacy development in ourselves or our students. More than ever, in this digital age, we need to be strategic readers and effective writers. (At the least, everyone can proofread their own writing or ask a friend or teacher to help.) However, I believe blogging, joining the conversation, 21st century teaching and learning–whatever you want to call it–is about doing those five C’s: Create! Contribute! Connect! Collaborate! Curate!

So, whether student or teacher, you can join the conversation. In fact, as Angela Maiers says, “You are a genius, and the world demands your contribution!” Please join in the conversation. We need you.

Will you please leave a comment telling how you were inspired to join the conversation?

Cartoons and Puffins, the Magical Media

Embedding Media

OK, here I go again, spending way too much time having fun with all the new webapps available! ToonDoo and Blabberize were both very entertaining!

My post will be a short one today because I have been writing other posts about my blogging addiction, my genius students and former genius student.

I love teaching and learning! So much to learn, so little time. I could stay up all night again learning new things in Activity 6 of the Kick Start Your Blogging Teacher Challenge, but I must go to bed. That way I can start dreaming about Activity 7 and widgets, which just came out.

Photo: By the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region. They have made it available with an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license. That means I was free to share and remix, which I certainly did. The puffin in the original photo was very stately and handsome, and he wasn’t blabbering at all.

I’ve also included a couple previously-created embedded media. I use SchoolTube to upload my videos. I like it best because all the videos are uploaded to a school site, with teacher moderators.

Prezi is an awesome webapp. I’m still trying to figure it out. That non-linear feature has so much potential! Here is one attempt.