Sunday, July 12, 2015

Advice for New Bloggers - Numbers Aren't Always What They Seem

Like a lot of the conferences that I attend, at the ISTE conference I had conversations with a bunch of people who were seeking advice about blogging. At some point almost of those people would say something like, "my blog is small, I only have a few hundred followers." Or they would say, "I'm on Twitter, but I only have one thousand followers." My response to both statements is, "that's awesome!" After that statement I follow up with some context to explain why 1,000 people is a lot of followers.

New bloggers and podcasters often get obsessed with how many followers they have. When you have a few hundred or one thousand followers that can seem like a small amount when you compare it to the more established blogs in a niche. But don't compare your follower/ subscriber count to that of more established bloggers. Instead compare your current subscriber/ follower count against the previous month's. Look to grow month by month not to become the world's most popular blogger in one month.

Let's put 1,000 followers into context. I live in a town of roughly 1,000 people. If I sent a letter to every person in town, I might get positive responses from 20 people. But if I send an email, publish a blog post, or produce a podcast episode for 1,000 people who have in someway said, "yes, I want to get more information from Richard" then I am going to get a far higher rate of response and engagement. Put another way, picture getting all of your followers together in one place and then you'll realize that 1,000 followers is a lot of people.

338,000 people like my Facebook page, but I get more responses from the 6,000 people who subscribe to the weekly newsletter. Creating a successful blog or podcast isn't about having the most followers, it's about having engaged followers.

Web Browsers and Cookies Explained

On Saturday morning I published a short post explaining the terms Google Apps for Education, Google Drive, and Google Documents. In that post I mentioned that Google Documents can be used offline if you use the Chrome web browser and enable the offline setting for Google Drive (click here for video directions). This morning I awoke to a few emails from folks seeking clarification on the requirement to use the Chrome web browser.

You can use Google Drive and Google Documents in any recently modern web browser including Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Chrome. You can find out if you are using the most up to date version of a web browser by going to Simply visit and you will be shown which web browser you're using and if it is the most updated version of that browser. Chrome is the web browser produced by Google. Learn more about web browsers in the video embedded below.

Cookies are small pieces of information that reside in your browser as a result of visiting a website and the activities that you do on that website. They can be helpful in loading a website more quickly in your browser and remembering information for you. They're also used in tracking browsing habits and placing targeted advertising on the websites you visit. In the video embedded below Common Craft provides a good explanation of cookies.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Week in Review - Preparing for Camp

Good morning from Maine where I am spending the weekend putting together all of the finishing touches for next week's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp in Portland, Maine (one seat became available at the last minute). This is the third year in a row that I've organized this event and this year's event should be the best one yet.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. How to Use a Semicolon - A TED-Ed Lesson for Almost Everyone
2. Habitats - An Educational Game from the Smithsonian
3. EdTech Start-ups - Stop Talking Down to Teachers
4. How to Manage Classroom Digital Portfolios by Using Page-level Permissions in Google Sites
5. How to Create a Moderated Classroom Backchannel
6. A Nice Tool for Creating Animated Maps
7. How to Create a Multimedia Timeline

Summer PD Opportunities With Me.
Teaching History With Technology begins on July 16th.

Would you like to have me visit your school? Click here to learn about my PD services.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.

3 Helpful Google Drive Settings You Should Know

To get the most out of your Google Drive experience there are some basic settings that you should know how to enable or disable if you don't want to use them. Those settings are using Google Docs offline, file conversion, and photo folder creation. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to enable and disable those settings.

One Strategy for Keeping Track of Students' Google Sites

This morning I answered an email from a reader who was looking for a little advice on keeping track of more than 150 Google Sites maintained by students as their digital portfolios. Here's the scenario that was described to me,
I have more than 150 students using e.Portfolios and I struggle with finding different students' work. I ask students to name their GoogleSites specifically so I can sort them. I have created a form for student to complete to keep a record of the links. Maybe you have a better way?
This was my suggestion for attempting to keep track of all the sites. (I used this method myself with about 100 students a few years ago).
To make it easier to sort submissions I create student groups (not for collaboration, just for sorting) and make a different form for each group. Students have to submit their updates to the form that is assigned to their group. That way instead of having 150 students making submissions to one form I have 25 students making submissions to each of six forms. It's a little easier to sort through 25 students making submissions than 150 students making submissions to one form. I make it the responsibility of the students to enter their submissions on the correct form. 

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