Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blog Assignment 12: Create Your Own Blog Post Assignment

Making it on my Own
     For this assignment, Dr. Strange has instructed we do two things. First, create a blog post assignment we think he should have assigned to us. Second, complete the assignment we just created. I took this to mean we are to find a blog, article, or other website that is of interest to us and pertinent to EMD310. This still left a long list of potential sites for me to choose from in the short week I had to complete the assignment. My Diigo account has some 80+ articles, blogs and sites I have bookmarked, and the majority of my tweets are recommending great links. After reviewing several sites, and even thinking I had found "the one," I settled on a post from my Google Reader RSS feed by Mr. Larry Ferlazzo, a Sacramento high school English Language Learner teacher. (If you are interested, here is "the one" I thought I would be using. It was post in by Meg Ormiston.)

Proposed EDM310 Blog Post Assignment

     Larry Ferlazzo compiles some of the best sites for educators on every topic imaginable. You would be wise to add his RSS feed to your PLN as a vast resource site. Check out his compilation "How to be a Better Blogger." There are several great links, and you should explore all of them for your own benefit. However, for this blog assignment, make sure you view Sue Water's (The Edublogger) 1.) "Here’s My Top Five Mistakes Made by New Bloggers — What Are Yours?" and 2.) Here’s My First Five Tips for Writing Better Blog Posts — What Are Yours? At the end of each post she asks three questions. Answer them in your blog assignment and either leave her a comment with your response or a link to your blog where you answer her questions. Be sure to let her know you are part of this class and that the link will take her to your response. These are only two of over 30 sites he recommends. Choose at least one more and answer: 
  • What sparked your interest in it over the others 
  • What you learned 
  • Leave a comment on that blog.

My Response to My Assignment

     Mrs. Waters' posts are excellent for beginners like me. Although someone (Jamie Lynn or Allie) commented once telling me to use headers to separate my response to multiple sites on the same blog, it is not something I have been good at doing. I am and always have been long winded and my blog posts are no different. I really should spend more time making my blog visually appealing. I wrote most of my posts in the "Edit HTML" tab as I was trying to force myself to learn basic HTML code, but had I used the "Compose" tab a little more, perhaps this would not have been as big an issue. She mentions not copying and pasting from Word into your blog. This is hard for me not to do. I tend to use Word as my grammar checker since my computer and Blogger both have spell checker. Copying and pasting into "Edit HTML" cuts down on the amount of code I have to correct though. 
     One thing I would add to her "mistakes" list is not proofreading. I know it is easy to miss a homonym or two on occasion, or a typo, but if you are supposed to be an educator then you should be able to write a blog mostly free of basic grammatical mistakes. This does not have to be stressful to the point that you do not blog, but please, give your blogs and comments at least a once over before you post and do not, I repeat, DO NOT use texting or Twitter short hand on a blog. As much as I try to stay up on these shortcuts, not everyone knows what SMH or #edchat mean.
Mrs. Water's poses the following questions:

  1. What are your 3 most important tips for writing better blog posts? 
  2. What blog post recently has made you want to comment and what was it about this post that engaged you? 
  3. Has a post recently inspired you to write your own post? What was it about the post that made you take action?

     My three tips are: proofread, learn basic HTML code, and make your blog visually appealing.
     Yes, it is a pet peeve of mine, but I cannot stand to read a blog riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. I understand the occasional typo or commonly misused word, and am guilty of making my own mistakes. However, if you are going to take the time to write something for public viewing, take the few extra minutes and run it through a spelling and grammar checker. Please!
     Learning basic HTML code can enhance your blogging experience. Perhaps this is because Dr. Strange required us to learn it, but knowing just a few commands really enhances a bloggers ability to write a good blog, good comments, and not be dependent on "compose" tabs.
     Lastly, one I have learned over my brief four months of blogging, make your blog visually appealing. Dr. Strange has required us to add at least one picture with alt and title codes to all of our blogs, but this is not the only way to improve the look of your blog. Mrs. Waters list many of these in her "better blogger" post. I am guilty of many of those listed by her, but I am trying to remember to make shorter paragraphs and use headers. Just because a blogger is an educator, it does not limit them to Times New Roman 12 pt black. I would recommend using colors and fonts that are easily read however.

     There are so many wonderful blog posts I have read over the last four months. Since I cannot remember the last post I commented on before Mrs. Waters, I will say hers is the last I wanted comment on. Even though I used her blog for this assignment, it was my choice as to which blog I chose for the assignment, so I think it counts. I chose her blog because it was pertinent to my blogging level. I am very much still a beginner blogger and I see myself using blogging for a long time, so I want to become skilled in it. Her tips were valid and helpful to me. 
     Ira David Socol's SpeEdChange "Writing without the Blocks" post not only inspired me to write my own post, but introduced me to a program I did not even know existed on my own computer and encouraged me to think of yet another way to help my future students engage and learn. I believe I first read a link to it via Twitter, but after reading it I had to try it. I have long struggled with spelling. One of the things I miss most about my iPhone is having a dictionary at my constant disposal. Besides, anything I already have free access to and can make learning easier for someone deserves a look.

     Ed Yong's Discover Not Exactly Rocket Science blog post, "Are science blogs stuck in an echo chamber? Chamber? Chamber?" sparked my interest simply because I hold a biology degree and hope to teach science someday. As I read it, I realized it had little to do with educational blogging for students, but plenty of valid ideas for my personal blog. It was basically things I already knew, such as the best way to get views is to post links to your blog through social media such as Twitter and Facebook. I recently enjoyed an increase in viewers because a tweet with a link to my blog was re-tweeted by several people. It made my little geek heart happy! The heart of this blog however dealt with how to get the general population to visit (scientific) websites and blogs. Yong's main point is know your audience and the audience you want to reach. Basic writing concern, but in a digital age where you have tons of competition and only seconds to capture and retain some one's attention. I think his best advice for any type of writer is to avoid jargon with which non-degree holders might not be familiar.
    I understand that I can not write a scientific blog with a ton of jargon and expect non-degree holding readers to understand everything I am saying, if they even read beyond the first few sentences. However, I do not see how one can write a scientific blog without any jargon. I think the best thing would be to use as little jargon as possible and explain it as necessary. For instance, I did not know what IWB was when I began EDM310. Dr. Strange did not give us a list of acronyms so I had to learn on my own that IWB means interactive white boards. Now, I do not expect a reader who stumbles upon my blog to pull up a dictionary or Google to understand by blog. That is a little absurd. However, just like every paper I have ever written if the first time I introduce a new specialized words I give a quick definition and if it has an acronym then I put the acronym in parenthesis and then I can use it as needed with the understanding that reader will now know what I am writing about. I can understand how this can be frustrating to the writer and unnecessary for a novice or expert reader, so perhaps there is a happy medium. Ultimately, it depends on how many readers you want to reach. Personally, I will be happy with as many fellow geeks as I can reach, but readership will not dictate everything I blog.

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  1. Bravo. Glad you have learned so much form the experience in this course. Your class/professor/school is apparently very progressive and forward minded. Oh, and even after blogging now for going on five years, I STILL make typos. If I had to say my biggest weakness, it would have to be proofreading. When I write a post I get so into it or so passionate about my thinking, I just cannot see mistakes. I usually revisit them later and make corrections, but ooohhh how embarrassing to know the post has already hit a reader by then. Apologies upfront if there are typos here. :)

  2. Cathy,
    Thank you so much for your comment! I understand (and quite frequently make) typos, especially when writing with passion. If it wasn't for the fact my computer automatically underlines misspelled words I would make a LOT more typos. Some blogs I've visited however aren't making "flying finger" typos, but blatant misspellings. May I ask, how did you find my blog? May I have a link to your blog?

  3. Today I got in my reader a comment on Sue Waters a comment left by you inviting her over to see this post. It was her old post about tips for new bloggers. I love her blog, and subscribe not only to her posts but also her comments. I don't know what you said to make me click on through, but I did and then I liked what I read enough to comment. I'm a 25 year veteran educator, the last 14 in a school library. I'm a nerd, but not necessarily a library nerd, but rather a nerd about technology and engaged learning. Passionate about my job--guess it shows a little. :) And this, DESPITE the current media trend to nay say why we teach.

  4. Thanks Lisianna, for basing your assignment around my posts.

    Definitely agree about proofreading and I spend a lot of time previewing my posts. However, much of my time is spent adjusting the balance of how the images look and tidying up sentences/paragraphs to make them visually easier to read while saying what needs to be said.

    Surprisingly I'm not convinced with HTML as I've seen experienced people use it in bad ways. Having a basic understanding of it is definitely helpful and you say pasting into the HTML mode removes the code from Word. But I would always recommend using the Visual editor as it helps you see visually how your post is coming together.

    The other aspect your post reminds me of is that my post was written in the early days of The Edublogger. It still gets a lot of traffic even though I've got an updated post on The Teacher Challenge blog. I think I'll break all blogging rules (which there aren't really as we make our own to some extent) and update the post.

    Best of luck with your course.

  5. @Cathy
    Well, thank you for clicking to my blog. You were my first non-EDM commenter. It is nice meeting so many truly passionate educators. Especially since I have not always found such passion in the schools here. Granted, most of the teachers are jaded from good intentioned but ill-thought out government plans. Thanks again.


    Thanks for commenting on my post. I did spend almost all of my time in the compose versus HTML edit tab this time. I think it looks better than previous posts, but I have a long way to go yet. I don't see myself ever learning more than the basic HTML so I can fix what Word messes up! :) How can someone miss use HTML code? I'm curious and I guess I should know in case it's something I need to look out for with my students. I look forward to seeing your updated post as you are now part of my Google reader.

  6. My advice is never to write in Word. It is always better to write directly in your Write post area. You're less likely to have problems and less likely to be driven crazy trying to apply formatting you have used in Word to a blog post.

    It also gets you used to the fact that writing online is very different than writing in MS Word and reading a Word Document.

    Online we need to focus a lot more at how visual the post is looking and making sure we're saying what we need to say with the minimium amount of words (hehe and since I'm the World record holder for the longest posts --- oh well :) )

    Misuse. Use formatting you wouldn't normally see in a blog post or add tables which generally aren't something you do with a blog post.

  7. Ah, I see. I am learning to not write in Word. It has been hard since it is my grammar checker. :) My freshman English teacher wrote on one of my papers once, "Who do you think you are, Faulkner?" :) I am very long winded, and I will keep your advice in mind for future posts. Thanks.

  8. Amazing as usual. I like how in depth and detailed you are, that way we know what you are talking about.