Saturday, January 26, 2008

Blogging <> Browsing

Initially I didn't care much for blogs. It struck me just one more person with an opinion. I've had a change of heart over the last 18 months and it's because I came to realize that blogs are not just another type of web page. Blogs are an extended conversation - a conversation between the reader and the author, between authors of different blogs and between readers. In this post (that's what a blog entry is called) I'd like to share with you why I changed my think and how I think you can get the most of your blog experience (assuming you aren't already an experienced blogger, in which case you are free to leave).

Let's start, however, with a short video 3 minute video called Blogs in Plain English from the Common Craft Show. Click on the big "play" button in the middle of the image below and, assuming your school doesn't block everything useful on the web, you'll see a quick explanation of blogs in the browser window.

So, like I said, I had a change of heart about blogs. In the summer of 2006 my wife Eva was teaching a week-long class in Web2.0 tools for teachers at Bellevue CC. One night she brought home a book called Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom by Will Richardson. She plopped it down in front of me and said "I need to review this by tomorrow, when can you start reading". (Nearly 30 years ago I typed a couple of her term papers for her and I've been paying for it ever since.)

Working through the examples in the book forced me to blog right. I read Will's blog and then followed the links in his blog roll to other related blogs that he reads. I set up a RSS feed reader account so I received notice when new content was available and added several of the most interesting blogs to the feed reader. And while I did not immediately start posting comments to any of the blogs, I did start discussing them with friends and family. Today my feed reader has about 30 news feeds, half that I read regularly and a quarter that I am "trying out". Often I read my blog on my internet-enabled cellphone while I'm killing time. And now I have my own blog and I am introducing you to blogging.

It was a pretty big change in a relatively short time, but I am finding that if you don't fully embrace the new tools of the web and cellphone then you won't really be able to assess their usefulness to you. So if you are ready, I'd like you to try getting into blogging, at least for a month or so. Here's what I'd like you to try:

  1. Comment on a blog. At the bottom of this post you will see my name, the time I posted this entry and the number of comments. Click that link and leave me a comment. Tell me what you thought of the video clip or the color scheme or your previous experiences in blogging. Generally you want to follow a blog for awhile before you start commenting, so this will give you a safe experience for posting a comment. However, your comment will be read by everyone, so don't me about that troublesome rash or give me your home phone number.
  2. Share a blog. Once you're done with your comment, go back to the same area of the post and you will see a little envelope icon. Click it and you can email a link to a friend or co-worker. Add a little comment so they know what you are doing or send it to yourself for practice.
  3. Visit sites in my blog roll. My blog roll is a list of blogs I read, enjoy and respect. It's in the white section of my blog on the right-hand side under my bio. Navigate to a couple of the blogs on my list and then try linking to some on that author's blog roll. Don't forget to read some of the comments too. I would recommend 2 Cents Worth and Dangerously Irrelevant for those thinking about education at more general level. U Tech Tips and Cool Cat Teacher are written by folks in the classroom every day. Marketing and business instructors might want to try Micro Persuasion. Fellow board members in the business world might find Kirkland-based or the Long Tail interesting. If you like the newest toys try Engadget and if you wonder how those cool maps are made try Google Maps Mania. If none of those sound interest you can go to Technorati and search for your favorite topic. You might be surprised how many blog posts there are about chindogu.
  4. Use a RSS Feed Reader. Okay, this one you don't have to do right away, but a RSS feed reader reader improves the experience because you don't have to remember to return to each site and you don't have to figure out what's new. I use Bloglines, but many people like Google Reader. You don't need a gmail email account to use Google Reader, but if you do have gmail you might find it the easier to setup. Liz Davis has created three videos, or screencasts, on using Google Reader which you can find at her professional development YouTube playlist. Once you have the reader setup, come back to Advisory Bored and at least two other blogs to your reader (for now).
That's it - time for you to start reading. I'm going to start posting regularly, weekly I hope, so if you don't have time for item #4 then just navigate back to the Advisory Bored every so often until you have time to work with the RSS feed reader. Please post a comment if you have a question.

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paul said...


Like you I thought Blogs were the personal rants of folks who wanted to hear themselves talk. And lacked a depth of knowledge.

Then I drank the Koolaid and created one of my own as an experiment. You're right when you say it is a conversation. If you listen to the comments, the content will grow and gain a richness that comes with collaboration. It will be as diverse or as narrow as your audience wants. What I found as the most difficult part of having a blog is soliciting and receiving quality comments. Without a diverse set of quality inputs you run the risk of narrowing the discussion to the vocal few. While the technology is simple, the ability to draw your readers into the conversation becomes the challenge.

Since your aim is to provide "Thoughts, resources, research and moral support for instructional staff trying to build relevant and interesting technology programs" I would suggest a discussion on the social side of technology. Not just that Blogs, Face Book and My Space make great self promotion sites for Porn stars. Dive into the why they work. Anyone can sell sex, and apparently everyone does but what is it about the technology that makes it appealing. The psychology of the technology is becoming as important as the bits and bytes of the code. More importantly how will the students and faculty of today contribute to that changing experience?