Virtual School Meanderings

July 27, 2010

7 Days to a Better EduBlog – Reflection Questions

While not an official task in her 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course, Stephanie did post some final questions for us to consider at:

7 Days to a Better EduBlog – Reflection Questions

Essentially, she asks us the following questions:

  1. How did I model these best practices in this mini-course?
  2. What strategies did I incorporate to encourage participation and a more social (engaged) learning environment?
  3. How might you incorporate everything you have learned in this mini-course in your own edublog — whether your audience includes students or other educators?

Reflection on each of these questions individually…

Modeling Best Practices

I think that Stephanie did an okay job with this.  I say okay because if you consider her tasks: review web design and layout, write a lists post, write a discussion question post, embed a piece of media into a post, write a current events post, review and update our pages, and create a blogging schedule.  Stephanie did a great job of using the suggestions she made in the review web design and layout task, almost all of her tasks were essentially lists post, and her entry asking us to embed media into a post had media embedded into it.  The remaining four tasks were not apparent on Stephanie’s blog over the past seven days.  Now I realize that was largely because all she was posting was the tasks for each of the seven days, it would have been nice to see her post a discussion question entry and a current events entry on the days that she asked us to post one.  I would have also been interesting to see her blogging schedule.

I mean I totally understand why she didn’t post these items, as it would have drowned out her seven days entries somewhat.  So the question may be a bit of an unfair one to Stephanie in the first place – cause the answer is that she did well on walking the walk for the entries that she was able to.

Strategies to Encourage Participation and Social Learning

I’m not sure if these were that apparent, beyond leaving comments and trackbacks (and enticing folks to do so by offering ballots in draws that she was having).  It wasn’t like what I experienced with ProBlogger Blog Tips‘s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, or even Steve Dembo‘s  30 Days to Being a Better Blogger.  Granted, ProBlogger is a professional blogger and Steve Dembo had access to a much larger community for his efforts.

Incorporating all of this into my Blog

Now this is where the rubber meets the road so to speak.  Reflecting on the tasks, there were some that I generally did on a regular basis anyway: lists posts, discussion question posts, current events posts, and maintaining a blogging schedule – so I suspect that I will continue to do those.

A task like review and update your blog’s pages is a periodic thing, and I’m guessing I’ll do an informal review anytime I consider adding a new page.

The two that I think have the chance to make the most lasting impression are: review web design and layout, and embed a piece of media into a post.  You’ll note the use of lists and headings in this entry, which was a part of the review web design and layout task.  We’ll see if I actually do a better job of embedding media into these entries, and I suppose much of that will depend on whether or not I come across much new media to embed on the topics that I just happen to be focused on that particular day or with that particular entry.

Overall, I’m glad that I participated in this 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course, and will continue to take advantage of these opportunities as they become available in the future.

Note that Stephanie posted her own reflections – see My reflections on the 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course.

July 26, 2010

Day 7 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog

Stephanie didn’t post this until after I retired last night, but this was the final task in her 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course at:

7 Days – Day 7: Setting Up a Blogging Schedule

Essentially, the task for today asks us to “draft a schedule for your blog and publish this schedule to a page on your blog where all of your readers can easily find it.”  I’m going to revise this slightly and simply discuss the schedule I try to maintain with this blog in this entry (as opposed to posting it as a page or anything.

When I consider the schedule that I try to maintain for this blog, there are two things that come to mind: the weekly schedule and the monthly cycle

Weekly Schedule

Each week I try to publish two different weekly entries.  The first is a Friday Funnies feature that uses the comics and humour items from Darren’s Teaching and Developing Online blog (although sometimes this does get moved to a Sunday Comics item).  The other is the Virtual Schooling in the News feature that compiles links to all of the news items related to virtual schooling and cyber schooling that I received in my Google and Yahoo! alerts.

I also try to make sure that I have at least one discussion-focused entry posted each week – although lately that hasn’t been a problem as I have been posting several discussions items each week.

I’ve often wondered if the monthly Blogging About Virtual Schools feature should become a weekly feature – particularly given how many links it contains each month.  What do you think?  Should the Blogging About Virtual Schools change from a monthly feature to a weekly feature due to its size?

Finally, I did used to post the call for participation in the monthly Blog Carnival – prior to discontinuing that feature.

Monthly Cycle

Now the monthly cycle is a little more complicated, largely in part because I miss some of the items in the cycle.  Basically, it is designed to work like this:

Week 1 Monday Poll feature
Top # entry
Meandering Out Loud feature
Week 2 Tuesday/Wednesday SCCS entries
Thursday Clovis entry
15th Blog Carnival (discontinued)
15th Newsletter sent to subscribers
Week 3 Tuesday Blogging About Virtual Schools
Wednesday Blogging About Generational Differences
Week 4 Monday VSM Podcast feature
Last day of the month Statistics for… entry

I say designed to work like this because it doesn’t always work like this.  I regularly neglect to post the Poll, Top #, and VSM Podcast features, I have missed the Meandering Out Loud feature once, and after announcing it in January or February it took me five months to get the first Newsletter sent (and I didn’t get a chance to send out the July edition).

So when you really size it up, the SCCS and Clovis entries in Week 2, the Blogging About… entries in Week 3, and the Statistics for… entry in Week 4 are the only ones I actually get up with any regularly each month.

Concluding the 7 Days Journey

As I get ready to conclude my 7 Days to a Better EduBlog journey, let me ask you – my readers – these questions.

  1. Are there things that I currently do not post about that you would like to see discussed on this blog?
  2. Are there features that you have seen on other blogs that you would like me to try out here?
  3. If you could provide one suggestion for moving forward, what would you like to see me to more of or do differently?

I look forward to any feedback you may have…

July 24, 2010

Day 6 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog

Stephanie posted the sixth task in her 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course at:

7 Days – Day 6: Pages (and a bonus lesson)

So, there are a couple of things to do in today’s task.  The first is to complete the following list of activities related to pages:

  1. Brainstorm a list of all of the possible pages that you might be able to include on your blog.
  2. Review the entire list while reflecting on the question — Does this page support the purpose of my blog and the needs of my audience?
  3. Review the entire list and consider if any of the page ideas could be combined into one page.
  4. After narrowing down your list of pages, begin setting up any that do not already exist on your blog.
  5. Take some time today to add, update, and/or revise content on any of your blog pages.

In addition, there was also a bonus task for those of us expecting to have to do something in relation to posting a blog entry.  Essentially, the bonus task is to “create a ‘Weekly Links’ blog post.”

Bonus Task

Let me deal with the bonus task first, as that is one that I won’t have to wait until tomorrow morning to post as an entry.  The reason I won’t have to wait until tomorrow morning is because this is something I do each Saturday morning.  Each week I post a “Weekly Links” post related to all of the news items that I am able to find related to K-12 online learning.  In fact, it appeared this morning under the title “Virtual Schooling In The News“.  And then of course there is the weekly Friday Funnies feature.

In addition to the “Weekly Lists” post, I also do a series of “Monthly Lists” posts, including:

I often consider what other weekly or monthly features I might add (and regularly assess how the current ones are doing – both in terms of traffic and whether I believe they are still useful).  What about you?  Do you believe any of these weekly or monthly features have outlived their usefulness? What do you think?  Are there any entries that I post irregularly or that you have seen on other blogs that you would suggest I incorporate into weekly or monthly features?

My Blog Pages

Okay, now let’s consider Stephanie’s questions…

1. Brainstorm a list of all of the possible pages that you might be able to include on your blog.

Let me start by adding my current list of pages and then other possibilities will be added to the bottom:

2. Review the entire list while reflecting on the question — Does this page support the purpose of my blog and the needs of my audience?

  • About VSM – this is where I describe the blog and what I want to accomplish with it.
  • CC by NC-SA – my copyright statement (added as a part of my participation in the 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger series that Steve Dembo led).
  • Full Disclosure – my disclosure statement (added as a part of my participation in the 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger series that Steve Dembo led, and based on the one that Miguel created at Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org).
  • Meandering Out Loud – a list of all of the entries that have been posted as a part of this feature.
  • SITE: Virtual Schooling SIG – a description of and link to the only academic organization focused on K-12 online learning (and I happen to be the Chair).
  • Translate This Blog – a way to translate my blog into a variety of different languages  (added as a part of my participation in the 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger series that Steve Dembo led)
  • VSM Newsletter – a description of and way to sign-up for this feature.
  • VSM Podcasts – a list of all of the entries that have been posted as a part of this feature.
  • Contact – while I have my Twitter linked into the right-hand menu and further down there are links to my homepage (which contains links to all of my Web 2.0 participation) and my wiki, there is no easy way to e-mail me on this blog.  Initially that was intentional, and given the number of people that do e-mail me about guest entries and to ask questions I think the lack of e-mail link has worked well.  I suppose this could also be added to the existing About VSM page.
  • Blog Rules – I’m torn on this, as I generally like the idea, but this haven’t not worked thus far so I am unsure if I need it.  Again, I suppose some of this could be incorporated into the existing About VSM page.
  • Resources – this would be an interesting addition, I’m not sure not what kind of resources I would add to it (and I think after a while that might get to be unmanageable).
  • Classes – right now there are only a handful of post-secondary courses that focus on issues related to K-12 online learning and they would be easy enough to list.  I just wonder what happens a year from now or two when they are as common as technology integration courses i universities.
  • Presentations and/or Workshops – simply too many of them for me to list here, but they are all listed on my homepage under the “Research” heading.  Again, I suppose this could also be added to the existing About VSM page.
  • How to Use This Blog – see what I wrote for “Blog Rules” above.
  • My Portfolio – again, simply too much, but it is available on my homepage.  Again, I suppose this could also be added to the existing About VSM page.
  • CV or Resume – I have this posted on my homepage, and wonder if I should link it in here?!?
  • Moodle Central / My Favorite Apps / Free Open Source Software – for me, all three of these represent thematic issues or topics that Miguel posts about regularly on his blog and the pages appear to act as supplemental resources designed to accompany those topical blog posts.  This is something I would like to do at some point, I’m just not sure what topics I would focus on.
  • Consulting – I would like to do more to increase my consulting profile.  I have done some consulting in the past, although much of it has been with individuals or organizations that I have an existing relationship with.  I would like to expand this and increasing my consulting profile through my blog may be an avenue for that.
  • CASTLE – earlier this year I became one of the CASTLE blogs, but beyond the image in the top right-hand corner no one would ever know that (unless you saw the actual announcement). I need something in my right-hand menu – a page or a CASTLE image that links to the main CASTLE website (maybe both) – but something.

3. Review the entire list and consider if any of the page ideas could be combined into one page.

I believe that I did that above, particularly with the things that could be incorporated into the existing About VSM page.

4. After narrowing down your list of pages, begin setting up any that do not already exist on your blog.

After looking at this list above, thinking about what I have the time to do now and what I believe needs to be done, over the next 24 hours I will:

  • update the existing About VSM page;
  • add something to the right-hand menu to increase my affiliation with CASTLE; and
  • update my Full Disclosure page (simply because it needs to be done).

5. Take some time today to add, update, and/or revise content on any of your blog pages.

Check this blog 24 hours from now and tell me how you think I’ve done with these updates.

July 23, 2010

Day 5 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog

Stephanie posted the fifth task in her 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course at:

7 Days – Day 5: Current Events Posts

Essentially, the task is to “create a current events post on a topic relevant to your blog audience.”  As seems to be the pattern with this 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course, I’ll reflect a little on the task and the normal state of affairs here at Virtual School Meanderings and then tomorrow morning I will post the actual entry we’ve been asked to craft.

This will actually be an easy task for me because it is one I do quite frequently.  In fact, I would argue that I have already done it once in the process of completing this mini-course – as my entry yesterday entitled Worst Online Learning Law in America? Really?? (which was in response to the Day 3 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog task) was focused on a issue that has been in the news this week, and I provided a selection of news item links at the bottom of the entry.  In fact, I’d argue that many, if not most, of the entries that are consistent with the “a place for me to play with ideas related to K-12 online learning prior to them being ready to be published in formal academic outlets” purpose of this blog fall under the realm of current events.  Looking back at the past couple of weeks, I would suggest the following entries as examples:

And those are just the items from July.  In her entry, Stephanie asks us to reflect on two questions…

What types of current events are relevant to your blog?

The easy answer is anything related to K-12 distance education – and I use the term distance education instead of online learning as there are parts of the world that have to rely upon distance education mediums other than the Internet, and I like to be able to include those things in this blog.  And I try to pass these current events on to my readers in the weekly Virtual Schooling In The News and the monthly Blogging About Virtual Schools features, along with specific entries to discuss some of those issues (as listed above).

Where can you locate news items or media on these current events?

I’m not sure there is an easy answer to this one (or maybe the answer is easy and the doing it was more difficult).  I have Google and Yahoo alerts created for both virtual school and cyber school (and these form the basis of the weekly Virtual Schooling In The News feature).  As evidenced by this feature, I’m also subscribed to other news services and newsletters (e.g., eSchool News, ASCD SmartBrief, T.H.E. Journal’s Collaboration 2.0, Converge K-12 Round-Up, etc.).

I’m also subscribed to newsletters from many of the K-12 online learning programs (as evidenced by the newsletter tag).  Beyond being able to post these newsletters in a complete fashion, it also alerts me to things like the FLVS Elementary PE Demo Video.

I have subscribed to relevant blogs. For example, there are some 59 in my “virtual school” folder, another 54 in my “instructional technology” folder, and 12 in a “distance education” folder.  And I follow relevant people on Twitter and Plurk (e.g., many of the K-12 online learning programs now have their own Twitter accounts, as do many of the leaders in the field).

And I’ll be honest, this network of information wasn’t set-up overnight.  It has been something I have been working on for much of the last seven years.  But that’s basically how I locate news items and media on K-12 online learning current events.

July 22, 2010

Day 4 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog

Stephanie posted the fourth task in her 7 Days to a Better EduBlog mini-course at:

7 Days – Day 4: Enhancing, Extending, and Engaging with Embedded Media

Essentially, the task is to “create and publish a post that includes one embedded piece of media… [and] try to engage your audience by including a discussion question after you have embedded the media.”

This is an easy one for me to discuss in general terms because I’m not sure if I have ever done this.  I believe part of the reason is because most of the videos that I have come across related to K-12 online learning fall into one of three categories: news clips about K-12 online learning, videos posted by K-12 online learning programs for explanatory or promotional purposes, and videos from researchers.  Now I have posted entries in the past that highlight videos from all of these categories, but I don’t think I’ve ever asked folks to comment on them.

News Clips about K-12 Online Learning

In all honesty, I would have expected that I would have been able to find more examples from this category.  One of the reasons for this is because a year or so ago when I was looking for more videos to incorporate into this course I teach that focused on K-12 online learning, most of the videos I was able to find on YouTube were news clips from television stations (granted, often posted by various K-12 online learning programs).  However, when I search on this blog there are very few that fall into this category.

Recent examples I can find from this category include:

Videos Posted by K-12 Online Learning Programs for Explanatory or Promotional Purposes

This one seems to be the most common one – by far.  I believe that is largely due to the efforts of Darren at Teaching and Developing Online (who is responsible for two out of every three entries that have the word video in it, or so it seems).  But there are a selection of entries from other, usually US-based, programs.

Recent examples I can find from this category include:

Videos from Researchers

I would have expected this one to come closer to rivaling the previous category for the most posted, given my background in K-12 online learning research means that these are the circles I interact in the most. However, that is not the case – as it appears beyond Cathy Cavanaugh and Elizabeth Murphy, not many academics post videos.

Recent examples I can find from this category include:

Finally, I thought I should mention one example of a video that didn’t really fit into one of the three categories above:

Other Media

You know it is kind of funny because I have come to a little realization as I have been typing this entry.  Stephanie’s task simply mentioned media, but I immediately jumped to videos.  And there are other media – Stephanie specifically names “ideo, slideshow, voicethread, prezi”, among others.  Interestingly enough, a search of my blog on the terms slideshow, voicethread and prezi reveal no entries that have embedded any of those forms of media.  Using the terms presentation, I was able to find some examples.

Recent examples I can find from this category include:

Where to Go from Here???

Well, looking at this quick examination I see two things I need to do more of:

  1. When I do post videos or other media content, provide some personal reflections and invite others to do the same.
  2. Try to post more video and, particularly, more non-video media content.

Someone may want to remind me about this a month or two from now to see how I am doing.  In the meantime, the second entry tomorrow (i.e., after the regular “Friday Funnies”) will be a video that provides some opinion/reflection on my part and then invites others to comment.

Notice the use of bolding, headings and bullets – all trying to do the things Stephanie suggested in the Day 1 – 7 Days To A Better EduBlog task. :)

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