Monday, 3 December 2007

Blogs in Plain English

Finally it is here... the long awaited Commoncraft video "Blogs in Plain English".

I have been hanging out, eager to find out how it would be presented and keen to also use it in any presentations or with professional development I do with teachers.

So what's the big deal about blogs???
Watch and enjoy....
(video embedded below)

Cross posted from my edublog.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Learning at School 08

I have been asked to present a workshop at learning at schools to represent our cluster - we are going into our third year. I am working with someone else and we have been throwing round some ideas today. We thought we would give participants a quick look at blogging in the classroom, using wikis and skype and skrbl.. I know this sounds like a lot but we have created a wiki which has links to examples of and instructions for each of these. Would give about half an hour for each... In the submission we have called our workshop "Using Web 2.0 tools to enhance Key Competencies" We thought that throughout our workshop people could be discussing how each of these tools contribute to the development of Key Competencies. Also that participants could be contributing to the wiki throughout it. How does this sound?

Monday, 5 November 2007

Discover Information Literacy / Inquiry Learning

Our school is moving towards an Inquiry Learning model. This video from YouTube is a good illustration of that concept:

Do you use / plan to use the Inquiry Model in your school too?

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

K12Conference Online

The K12 Online Conference starts today. The following presentation might be of interest to the ICTinEnglishNZ community ...

“Motivating student writers by fostering collaboration through tagging and aggregating” view the teaser here

The Conference Schedule is posted here along with a time converter. From here you can scan what is on offer, dates and times. While these are not always great for our time zone all presentations can be accessed when it suits you from the video podcast channel and audio podcast channel.
Please either leave a comment here or create a post if you can recommend any of the sessions.

tags technorati :

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Are you are learner? Do you participate? Do you take risks?

These were some of the questions we were challenged with at uLearn07 last week led by keynote speaker, Ewan McIntosh (see my conference reflection).
It was great to touch base with some of the growing ICTinEnglish community at the conference especially putting some faces to the names. This was one of the objectives for this blog, to not only learn how to blog but also why, by participating..."Anyone can know How, but you can only know Why by being In" (McIntosh, 2007).

Participation as a start can simply mean keeping up-to-date with some favourite blogs. Reading about what other educators are thinking, learning and exploring has been some of the best professional learning for me over the past year. There is so much information available it is impossible to know it all. The aim is to work smarter, not harder, by learning how to access what you want when you need it.
As mentioned in the previous post the easiest way to do this is to link to the RSS Feed in a blog using an aggregator. I have posted a selection of aggregators here.
Speaking with other bloggers, it seems the choice of aggregator is up to the individual. Many use GoogleReader and Bloglines.

I use NetVibes as I can add links to a variety of context quickly. When I mouse over the feed it displays a brief preview of updated content.
What an aggregator does is enable you to quickly view updated content on your favourite sites and only click through to them when needed.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

What is an RSS Feed and why add to my blogpage?

This post is in reply to Alison's question do I add an RSS to my page?

First up what is an RSS Feed?
A Web document that is a shortened version of a Web page that has been created for syndication. Feeds usually end in .xml or .rss. (webopedia)

I have seen the question asked..."Why do readers need an RSS when they have the URL for my blog?" Because rather that visiting all the sites I want to read, individually, I can keep up with current content changes through a feed aggregator.

What is a Feed Aggregator?
In Internet technology it is software or a hosted application that collects feeds from various sources and displays it in a single consolidated view, either in a window on your desktop or in a Web browser. Also called feed aggregator or RSS aggregator. (webopedia)

This is an efficient way to keep track of content I am interested in, also I can access my aggregator from any computer online. Content includes blogs, podcasts, email, images, twitter ...basically anything you want to keep track of.

Why do I want to add a feed tool to my blog page?
To encourage and assist readers to stay up-to -date with your blog?

How do I add an RSS to my page?
In blogger there is a Feed link at the bottom of the looks like this.
If a reader clicks on the link, a subscription will be created through their aggregator.
Also you might want to use FeedBurner a web-based tool that helps promote content from your blog. I have added a FeedBurner link to the sidebar of this blog as an example, and posted a PDF of instructions on the ICTinEnglish wiki.

If you want to subscribe to feeds from your favourite sites you will need to set up an aggregator first. My next post will cover this. I strongly recommend you do this as it make keeping up with new content, faster and alerts you to what is really of interest to you. In the meantime here are some aggregators, my favourite is NetVibes.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Adding files to your blog.

Have been asked about uploading document files to blogger. Here are some suggestions, would welcome tips from you too please.

I typically load files to my wiki rather than the blog and just include links to the wiki page. For example, see Teacher Resources on this wiki page, includes Slideshare files and PDFs that can be downloaded allows you to upload files and create code that places a widget on your blog from which you can share files. See an example of this on Rocky's blog.

I have a preference for Slideshare. Upload a PDF to your free slideshare account. There are options for a url link to your file or copy the code and paste into your blog or wiki. You are also able to upload PowerPoints.
If you are using Keynote on the Mac just save as a PDF first.

Also recommend you save PowerPoints as PDFs too before uploading as it reduces the file size. For example, here is a link to one of my posts where I have included a PDF that has been uploaded to Slideshare. The file can be viewed from the blog or click through to Slideshare to download.

More suggestions from Allanah's Bling4yrBlog Allowing a pdf type download from the Blog

Then you could always forget about creating files on your computer and go straight to online documents. Have tagged a selection of options in My

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

The Rise of Web 2.0

TeacherTube can be a great resource as well to introduce students to Web 2.0. (blogging, widgets, publishing,etc...)
Here is a video by a NZ teacher:

Library Blogs Part 2

Alison asked about library blogs last month.

Have a look at The Girvan Library Blog. As well as featuring books the blog links to a wiki with reading lists and also includes a categories list in the side bar. This is a useful tool for highlighting groups of posts in a blog eg: book categories, posts by a student, topics. In this bog it would make it easy for readers to link to books posted by categories or genre. To set this feature up if you are using blogger click here for instructions.

Readers are also invited to leave comments...again raises the question of strategies for encouraging participation through commenting. Any suggestions or activities that you have tried in this area?

Friday, 7 September 2007

"To blog or not blog...?"

Dave Corimer shares his recent presentation Blogging - Not ‘IF’ but When and Where. UPEI presentation. He provides an overview of blogging with a focus on tertiary education and links to examples challenging readers with the question...
In short, the presentation will try to explain that we need to move beyond the question about whether blogging is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘useful’ that is not ’should I use blogs in my classroom?’ and move on to the question ‘what is the most effective use of the blog in my classroom?’ (Dave Cormier)"

Recommend reading through the comments in response to this post...see specifically Comment 2 from Sharon Peters an English High School Teacher.

Thanks to George Siemens for linking to this post.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Wikis and podcasting

English will never be the same.

I am inspired by the great ideas on this blog, and can't wait to try a few out.

In the meantime I thought I will share with you a very successful experience.

I took a group of reluctant writers aged 12-13, and talked to them about wikis and collaborative writing. They got quite excited by and so formed themselves into 3 groups and proceded to write a collaborative story.
They met physically about 2 times a week to discuss plot, characters, etc., but most of the discussions took place on the wiki in out of school hours.
These writers got absolutely involved in their story and are so, so proud of their efforts.
In the words of one '...the only thing I have ever succeeded in at school', and she is now Y8!
They didn't want to stop with just writing a story, so now they are in the process of recording each story chapter and podcasting them.

You can read their stories on their collaborative tales wiki and listen to their podcasts.
The Last Resort - Lost at War - The Hynotiser
These are still in progress so come back and visit in a few weeks for the next update.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Blogging at Katikati College

Hello, my name is Natalie Cowie and I am the English HOF at Katikati College.
I have had very limited experience with ICT until recently. My first attempts have involved moodle, blogs and wikis. Near the end of May I created two blogs for the English students at Katikati College. The first one is at and it is aimed at Year 13 students and the other one is at and that is for Year 9-13 students. When I started out I had not even read a blog so I wasn't actually sure what I was going to do with them. As time has progressed they have become noticeboards and display areas for the faculty. I do get lots of informal feedback from the students but I would prefer them to use the comment feature on the blogs more.

To get more student interaction we have created 5 wikis at PB wiki and 1 wiki on moodle and we are finding them all worthwhile. We are also using Classblogmeister with several classes and this is also proving interesting.

Our blogs have been added to the ICT in English blogroll and we would love any feedback and suggestions.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Library Blogs

Has anyone got a library community set up around a blog? I've come across a few articles that suggest this is a way to get kids interest in libraries re-kindled...I'm not sure..?

I've started a fairly basic one for my school library -
Mrs C's Library Blog - and will wait to see how it goes.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007


So I added a Twitter to my VirtualNorth blog to help me think about the potential value of this widget... do people really need to know what others are doing every second of the day? Maybe a reflective tool... or to 'vocalise' questions on my mind...or what about a collaborative tool that a team could use while working on a combined project?

Discovered the TwitterLit which I have added to the sidebar. Posted by Yvonne Andres...
" - Twittering the first lines of books so you don't have to! If you are a writer or a book lover, or if you are trying to inspire students to become writers and book lovers - you will certainly enjoy" What is TwitterLit? - Realising that the opening sentences of books are often an intriguing attention getters, twice a day, TwitterLit creator Debra Hamel, posts the first line of a book, without the author's name or book title. Why? Well, according to Hamel, "Because it's fun and quick daily literary teaser?"

If you are interested in exploring the potential benefits of emerging learning technologies also discovered a series of articles online including...7 Things You Should Know About Twitter..."focuses on a single technology and describes what it is, where it is going, and why it matters to teaching and learning. Use these briefs for a no-jargon, quick overview of a topic and share them with time-pressed colleagues."

Rather than using Debra Hamel's TwitterLit you could set up your own using Twitter. Be interested to read your thoughts or experiences using Twitter or any other technologies with your students.

More about twitter use in education here.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007


This is the first time I have written on someone else's blog and the whole experience is 'interesting'. I have been lurking for some time but have now come out in the open.

Fiona asked me to share my blog...

I wrote it to support a presentation I did at the TUANZ conference in Nelson earlier this year. I had been blogging for a couple of years and put it together to archive some of the best finds I had come across to add a few extras to my class blog to make it a bit flasher to engage my students. I am intending to use it as a basis of my presentation at ULearn in Auckland in October.

In it I give a heap of 'how to' posts. Hope you find it useful....
The thing I would most encourage you to do is to change the blogger navigation bar at the top of the page so that children cannot link out of your blog and randomly come across content which is undesirable.

Allanah K

Monday, 30 July 2007

Sharing Student Blogs

Wanted to highlight Alison Cleary's comment sharing examples of student blogging. You can access Alison's Blog here as well as view some of her student blogs.

I can add links to your students' blogs in the blog roll in the sidebar if you like. This is a handy blog element as readers can access other blogs and links quickly rather than having to find them in an archived post...let me know Alison and thanks for sharing.

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Texts that may be of Interest

As part of my own research I have recently come across three new publications which are very relevant to all that we have been discussing here.

Penrod, D. (2007). Using Blogs to Enhamce Literacy. USA: Rowan & Littlefield

Braun, L. (2007). Teens, Technology and Literacy; or why bad grammar isn't always bad grammar. USA: Greenwood Publishing

Richardson, W. (2006) Blogs, Wikis, POdcasts and other powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. USA: Corwin Press

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Blogging Tips

A big thanks to Lenva and Rachel for sharing examples of how they are using blogging with their students. I would recommend investing some time exploring the experiences of others and encourage you to ask them questions through this blog as it will assist us all in our thinking. This is a new way of teaching for many of us and it is invaluable to have the support of each other as we develop our understandings of these new pedagogies.

Also thanks to Alan for adding the article "Blogging Tips When Writing Content for your Blog Readers" to the list serv. I have also posted a copy of the article on the support wiki so it can be downloaded at anytime. This can be a useful strategy for sharing resources as not everyone may have picked up the article on the list.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Lenva Shearing

Hello all, my name is Lenva, and I am the facilitator of the Bucklands Beach ICTPD Cluster in Auckland and I am delighted and privileged to be added as an author to this blog.
I have been experimenting with using Web2.0 tools in the classroom to support teaching and learning for some time now, with mixed results.
I tried to find examples of excellence in the use of these tools, but it proved more difficult than I had first thought. Many blogs I have found on the net seemed to deteriorate into a gossip or chat session. I have to say that some of the best examples that are available are from New Zealand.
I have found that it is absolutely essential to identify a purpose and intended audience for a blog. Once the purpose or topic has finished, then new posts to the blog should cease. In the case below the purpose was a literature circle with about 10 students, studying the Diary of Anne Frank.
I started with classblogmeister. This provided a very safe environment for the children to write their blogs, as everything is behind passwords, and all the blog articles the children write are forwarded to me by email for approval before posting. This way I could keep a watch on the quality of the work, and ensure that the comments were appropriate.
However, the blogs in this environment are hard for other people to find, and this defeated the purpose we wanted for our blog. The children wanted an authentic audience and wanted feedback from a wide range of readers.
I then took the posts from blogmeister and put them into a blog in Blogger. This blog was completely controlled by me. Although I did all the postings, they were written by the students and credited as such. Once the children finished their work, they ensured it was correctly edited and available in digital form, ready for me to post.
You can view the blog at
This blog has almost finished. They are completing their last posts now, and will finish with some reflections of the whole exercise.
Now that this has been a successful experience, the students and the teacher are feeling more confident now to branch out with less control from the teachers. We will probably set it up similar to this blog and give the students authorship. However in saying that, no student has asked for this to happen, and they are very very proud of their blog (and rightly so). They are absolutely empowered by it, and have taken the skills learnt and are using them in a range of other situations.
If you are interested take a look at the work of a student (Cheyenne) who was part of the literature circle and then went on to use blogging to record her progress and processes during the current science fair.
It really is exciting stuff and I can't wait to see what comes of all this.

Monday, 18 June 2007

What's a blog & Why blog?

Hi guys!

Just a quick intro: I am Rachel Boyd from Nelson!
I teach a great class of year 2/3 students and am also a Lead Teacher in our ICT cluster. I've been blogging with junior students for 2 years now and we are loving every minute of it. I'm constantly amazed at the way that our kids take everything in their stride and think nothing of using and adding another web2.0 tool to their learning kit!

I thought that these two presentations from Teacher Tube that I made this year might be useful/interesting for some of you. The first video is my 6 & 7 year old's candid, unscripted take on what a blog is and why they love them; the second video is a presentation I made on the benefits students can gain from blogging.

Enjoy and let me know your thoughts/questions etc.

Cheers, Rachel

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Blog Comments

Thanks everyone for your contributions and comments this week. I have included an element in the sidebar of the wiki which displays the most recent comments left on the blog. Instructions for adding this element to your blog are here.

In the examples from Leanne and Rachel (see previous post) and Alisons blog, readers are able to leave comments. Also the comment moderation has been enabled.  The comments will be emailed to the blog author first and can either be accepted or rejected. There is also the option to allow anonymous comments, as Alison has used with her students.

Both of these options have the teacher as author only. The primary teachers have set up a class blog, however students can only post once the teacher has logged in. From your comments could I suggest we explore 'students as authors' especially in a secondary setting. Are there any examples teachers can share with us?

Some questions to consider:
How do you see this being administered in an education setting?
What are the potential benefits/challenges?
Also Alan's comment that these online areas can become a 'passive acceptance point by students' is, I believe, not uncommon in many online areas. So what is it that keeps these areas active, relative and has contributors coming back for more?

So... we have another place to learn...should we assume that because it's through this online medium that it is going to be any better or engaging than more traditional or familiar learning environments?

From "Today’s Cartoon by Randy Glasbergen", displayed with special permission. For many more cartoons, please visit Randy's site @

Monday, 11 June 2007

Students Blogging

I would like to invite any teachers who are blogging with their students to share how they have set their blog up and include recommendations on how to approach this.

I would like to start with examples by teachers who have set up a class blog. In the examples below the teacher is the actual registered author. For the students to contribute the teacher logs in and the student posts. In the 'create post' area there is a field where you can include labels so you can view all posts by labels, in the blog. Each time a student posts they include their name in the 'labels for this post' field. This creates a list of student names which can be clicked on individually to view their posts - easy for parents and teachers to locate and comment on posts by individual students.

I have included the same feature in this blog but have used topics as labels rather than student names. Labels can be added as a page element by clicking the template tab. This strategy is easy to set up and monitor by the teacher as students are not registered as individual authors. I believe this strategy can be a useful for teachers who are starting to explore blogging with their students.

This option has been used by teachers in the following blogs. See the element 'View Posts By Students' in the side bars of the blogs. Thanks to Leanne and Rachel for these examples.
Room 9 Centrals Blog
Room 9's Writing Spot
Room 14 Sunnybrae Normal School

What is a wiki

Hi Jeremy,
I use a wiki to supplement my blog. For example I will create my post keeping it short and to the point. If there is more, I add links through to the wiki where I include detailed information, post documents and slideshows etc that can be read or downloaded. A wiki is also a great area for groups of people to collaborate on a project, explained nicely here by the authors of 'Wikis in Plain English'.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Their spaces!!

One of the reasons I have become so interested in Web 2.0 and its applications is that fact that it really is the world that the students are growing up in.

I am currently carrying out some research on the use of blogs and skrbl boards as brainstorming and 'silent debate' tools, to see how the students are engaged and whether they are more comfortable discussing texts and issues 'on screen'.

I am looking forward to hearing/seeing what everone else is doing in their programmes.

Alison Cleary
Tuakau College

Engaging students

Hi all
I am sure this can be a very effective tool to draw students in and get them to reflect on ideas. I have also started looking at wikis, but have not made much progress - that old bugbear of time!!

Jeremy Skerman
Waiopehu College, Levin

Trying to catch the coat tails!

Hello everyone,

I'm not so much 'joining the revolution' as 'trying to hang onto the coat tails as it rushes by!' I don't really know anything about blogging but am very interested in learning and being able to apply to the classroom as another tool in aiding learning. Thanks Fiona for putting this together. I look forward to everyone's contributions.

Vanessa Lamont
Southland Boys' High School

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Joining the revolution

I have just enrolled in the ICT in English NZ group blog. I already have a blog for my classes. It's not very active, I'm afraid, so I'm joining this scheme to get ideas. Ideally I would like my students to each have a blog and keep a record of their learning and so on. But I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to instigate this.

Maureen Jansen
Rotorua Lakes High School

Creating a Blog

We are currently exploring how to create and set up a blog. This is a team blog. If you send me your email address you will be sent instructions to register for blogger and be able to contribute to this blog. I will also post support notes online at each stage if you need them.

Once you are registered for blogger save this link in your favourites and don't forget your password!

This link will take you to your blogger dashboard where you can post, view or edit your blog. It is also handy if you have more than one blog as you can view editiing tools and access all your blogs from a single page.

Here is a picture of my dashboard, click to enlarge.