Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Short Guide to Terms Commonly Used in Blogging

I'm currently in the process of developing new digital handouts for my blogging workshops. One of the items that I'm adding to my handouts is a list of terminology and definitions for terms that I frequently use while talking about building blogs. My preliminary list is posted below. Are there terms that you think should be added to the list?

Theme: WordPress and many other blogging platforms use “themes” to describe the look of a blog. The theme can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing the theme does not change the content of your blog posts.

Template: Blogger and some other blogging platforms use the term “template” to describe the look of a blog. The template can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing your template does not change the content of your blog posts.

Tag: Tags are applied to WordPress (Kidblog, Edublogs) blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. Tags make it easier for people to search and find older posts on your blog. For example, if you write a post about your Revolutionary War lesson, tag it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” tag and jump to the post that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by tag than it is to click through archives by date.

Label: Labels are applied to Blogger blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. For example, if you write a blog post about your Revolutionary War lesson plan, label it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” label and jump to the posts that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by label than it is to click through archives by date.

Tag Cloud and Label Cloud: Tag and Label clouds can be added to your blog’s homepage to make it easy for visitors to see the tags or labels that you use, click on one of them, and jump to a list of all of the posts that have that particular label.

Categories: In WordPress-powered blogs you can use categories for broad descriptions of posts in addition to using tags. For example, on iPadApps4School.com I use the categories “pre-K,” “elementary school,” “middle school,” and “high school.” I assign each post to a category and use tags for describing the academic topic of the post. This way if someone visits my blog looking for math apps appropriate for elementary school he or she can click on the “math” tag then click on the “elementary school” category to find all of my posts meeting that search criteria.

Embed: To display a video, slideshow, audio recording, Google Calendar, Google Map, game, and many other multimedia elements in a blog post you will use an embed code provided by service hosting that media. Embedding media into a blog post does not make you the owner of it and as long as you follow the guidelines set forth by the hosting service you are not violating copyright by embedding something you didn’t create. For example, when you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can embed it into a blog post and ask students to comment on the blog post. If the owner of that video decides to take it offline the video will no longer play through your blog post.

Embed Codes: An embed code is a piece of code, often HTML, that media hosting services like YouTube provide so that you can easily display the media that they host in your own blog posts. On some services like SlideShare.net an embed code will be clearly labeled as such next to the media you’re viewing. On other services the embed code will be one of the options that appears when you click on the “share” option. YouTube, for example, currently requires you to open the “share” menu before you see the embed code option.

Widget: A widget is a small application that you can include in the posts and or pages of your blog. A widget could be a game, a display of Tweets, a display of RSS feeds, a tag cloud, a calendar, or any other application that offers an embed code.

Gadget: Gadget is the term that Blogger uses for a widget. A gadget and a widget do the same things.

Plug-in: A plug-in (sometimes plugin) is a small application that you can add to the software that powers your blog. Unlike widgets and gadgets plug-ins operate in the background and visitors to your blog will not see them working. A plug-in can add functions to your blog such as suggesting related posts to your visitors or detecting the type of device a visitor is using to view your blog then automatically displaying the mobile or desktop version of your blog’s layout.

Post: “Post” can refer to an entry on your blog as in “a blog post.” “Post” can also be used as a verb as in “I am going to post a new entry on my blog.”

Page: A page on a blog is different than a post because a page is designed for static content. Pages are good for posting information that you want visitors to your blog to be able to quickly access. For example, my classroom blog had pages for curriculum outlines and review guides.

Permalink: Each blog post is assigned its own separate URL this is known as a permalink (permanent link). This URL is the one that you would share if you wanted someone to directly access a post rather than going to your blog’s homepage then searching for the post.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

One Week Until EdCamp Maine - And a Big List of Other EdCamps

Next Saturday I'll be attending EdCamp Maine for the second year in a row. It's a great day of informal presentations and conversations around all things education. Last year I gave a short talk about blogging and this year I may do the same or I might just sit back and enjoy what everyone else has to share. It will be a game time decision because that's how things roll at EdCamps.

If you've never attended an EdCamp, I highly recommend finding one in your area. There is a big list of EdCamps available here. That list is regularly updated as new EdCamps are created.

Want to learn more about EdCamp, how it got started, and what makes it great? Watch Dr. Kristen Swanson explain it in the TEDx talk below.

A Simple Yet Powerful Student Blogging Activity

One of the questions that often comes up in my workshops about blogging is, "what should I have the students write about?" There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of possible answers to this question. The suggestion that I often make is to start with a simple reflection activity.

Set aside time in your Friday schedule to have your students sit down and write a short reflection on what they learned during the week. These reflections don’t have to be long, a few sentences will do in elementary school. Simply ask your students to share one thing they learned and one thing they still have questions about. To extend the activity have each student comment on at least one other student’s post. Students’ comments could be the answer to a question or a simple “thanks for reminding me about that.” The point is to get students in the habit of reflecting on what they learned. You should do the same.

The Week In Review - Time To Go Fishing...Almost

Good morning from Greenwood, Maine USA where winter doesn't want to quit. There's some light snow falling this morning as I get ready to head out to a fly fishing conclave. Nothing tells me that it's getting close to spring like spending the day with some friends tying flies and telling lies (actually, fishermen don't lie, but we might stretch the truth about the size of a fish). Before fishing completely dominates my thoughts for the day, I'd like to share an update about the week at Free Technology for Teachers.

This week was the second week for two of my Practical Ed Tech webinars. I've received some really nice feedback about these so I will probably offer more in the future. This week I dove into a search for academic research about the use of iPads in education. I shared some of what I found and I will continue to do so as my research progresses.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 20 Chrome Apps & Extensions for Teachers and Students
2. Ideas for Managing Academic Blogs
3. Soo Meta - A Nice, New Way to Create Multimedia Presentations
4. Street View of Everest Base Camp - And Other Resources for Learning About Mount Everest
5. Picking the Best Platform for Your Classroom Blog
6. 5 Free Tools for Providing Remote Tech Help
7. Studies of iPad Use in Education

Would you like to have me to visit your school this year? 
Click here for information about my professional development services.

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Friday, March 22, 2013

Moonberri - Quickly and Privately Transfer Files

Have a file that you need to send to colleague or to a student, but is too big to attach to an email? If so, give Moonberri a try. Moonberri is a free service for  privately transferring files. To transfer a file upload it to your Moonberri account then set a password for accessing it. Give the link to the file and password to the person that you want to be able to download the file. Moonberri will store your files online for up to 30 days. 

Applications for Education
If you have students creating videos or large audio files often those files are too large to attach to a school-issued email account. In those situations a service like Moonberri could be a good tool for students to use to send their files to you.