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Not so much a learning environment so much as a learning tool kit
FIG.1. Projected onto the sitting room wall
The migration between kit and now the use of multiple devices tells its own story – that and my enhanced levels of digital literacies.
And dependency on my Open University blog???
I am too used to starting there then cutting and pasting the HTML results into WordPress (here). This platform works because it is kept simple. OK, you have to get your head around a few basics (which are good for any blogging platform), but the thing is stable and robust – it hasn’t changed much in three years and it is always there.
Either I’ll wean myself off it or I’ll plugin to another module of course and be here for another decade.
You get used to a thing – especially when it works. Calls to other institutions regarding their VLE have left me cold – some still old school box of books and turn up for an all day Saturday face-to-face once a month as your only tutor and peer group contact.
From a clapped out Mac Book that died and a Psion I moved on to a borrowed PC laptop … and scrounging computer access around the home. Only recently I got a Mac Mini – for the previous 18 months I’ve been fine on an iPad with moments on my wife’s PC to view and print off DOCX.
The Mac Mini gets what ever screen my teenage son leaves me with – he tends to snaffle away any new screen I get, just swaps them over. I may take me days to realise something is afoot.
And then there is the above – projected onto a wall with me working on a wifi keyboard and touchpad. It changes things. Next to this screen there is a large whiteboard. I get up and doodle.
As for the sitting room? Long gone.
Cries for a TV to bring the family together fall on deaf ears. Why would any of us gather to watch ONE version of an event when we can each take or leave our news, or films, or anything else as we please on a bigger or smaller screen in various other rooms and cubby-holes around the house?
An iPad mini will replicate when I had a decade ago with a Psion, something handheld, light and discrete that I can tap on whenever I wish and wherever I am.
‘The Private Life of the Brain’ Susan Greenfield is my current highly recommended read. It is certain to take you off on a tangent from whatever you are studying, but if offers a layperson’s view of the inner workings of the brain.
Blogging breached the guidelines a bunch of us followed in 2002 – now anything comes and goes on e-folded origami paper we call a blog
Fig. 1 Blogging brings like minds together – through their fingertips
I did a search in my own blog knowing that somewhere I cited an academic who described blogging as ‘whatever you can do on electronic paper’.
Chatting about this at dinner my 14 year old son trumped my conversation with his mother as I tried to define a blog and what can go into one with one word ‘anything’.
For me there has been a slow shift from text (the weblog-cum-dairy journal thingey), to adding pictures (which have become photo / image galleries, photostreams of Flickr and concept boards of Pinterest), to adding video … to adding ‘anything’ – apps, interactivity, grabs, mashups, music …
My starting place is here.
This ‘eportofolio, writers journal, aggregating, dumping ground, place for reflection and course work’.
You see, is it a blog at all? This platform, I’m glad, has its design roots in a Bulletin board.
The limitations of our OU Student Blog platform works in its favour.
I can only put in two search terms. In Google I might write a sentence and get a million links, in my wordpress blog it might offer have the contents.
Less is more.
Here I search ‘blog paper’ and get 112 posts that contain both words.
I’ll spin through these an add a unique tag. My starting place.
But to study blogging would be like researching the flotsam and jetsam that floats across our oceans – after a tsunami.
Starting with a book published in 2006 ‘Use of Blogs’ I want to read a paper ‘Bloggers vs. Journalists’ published in 2005. A search finds richer, more up to date content. Do I even bother with this first paper? (ironic that we even call them papers).
I can’t read everything so how do I select?
- Toggle through the abstract, check out the authors, see where else such and such a paper has been cited.
- Use RefWorks rather than my habit to date of downloading papers that MIGHT be of interest.
Whilst storage space is so inexpensive it is virtually free there is no need to clutter my hard drive, Dropbox or Google Docs space.
Which makes me think of one of my other favourite metaphors – kicking autumn leaves into the breeze. That or drowning in info overload, or as the Robert de Nero character in Brazil, Archibald ‘Harry’ Tuttle, who vanishes in a pile of discarded paper … my mind wanders. We do. It does.
I stumble in the OU Library as I find I am offered everything under the sun. I am used to being offered academic papers only. So far all I’m getting are scanned images of articles in newspapers on blogging. All feels very inside out.
Where’s the ‘turn off the printed stuff’ button?
I fear that just as I have never desired to be a journalist, preferring the free form of your own diary, letters, and of course blogging and forums online, I will struggle to write within the parameters of an academic paper. I’m managing assignment here, so I guess I’m learning to split the two. A useful lesson to have learnt.
Is this a research methodology?
I am looking at a book on blogging, ‘Use of Blogs’ (Bruns & Jacobs, 2006). I have it open on p.31 Notes (i.e. references) for the chapter Journalists and News Bloggers.
As I pick through these articles, papers and reviews written between 2002 and 2005 I find several of the authors, a decade on, are big names in the Journalism/Blogger debate. It’s as if I am looking at a tray of seedlings.
It strikes me as easier to start in 2006 with 27 starting points when the field of debate was narrow, rather than coming in from 2013 and finding myself parachuting into a mature Amazonian jungle of mixed up printed and digital, journalism and blog content.
Courtesy of the OU Library and RefWorks I have nailed this article after a decade of searching:
Druckerman, P (1999) Ellen Levy Has Got The Write Project For the Internet Age — It’s a Year of Scribbling Down Almost Everything; Ah, Yes, It Was a Raisin Bagel, New York, N.Y., United States, New York, N.Y.
Reading this around 23rd /24th September 1999 prompted me to start blogging
Then I’d been reading blogs for a few months but had a mental block with uploading HTML files and then along came the first ‘ready made’ DIY blogging platforms.
The last 12 years makes amusing reading – particularly the battle between journalists and bloggers. And who has won? Is there a difference anymore? Journalists blog and bloggers are journalists and entire newspapers are more blog-like from The Huffington Post to the FT … which within three years will close all its print operations.
To be used in learning and to be a genre to study blogging needs to be part of formative assessment
A blog therefore becomes ‘an active demonstration of learning’ with cumulative feedback. I’ve only received ONE Tutor comment in my OU blog and that was to say why was I blogging and not getting on with my TMA. This person had their head so stuffed inside primary school education of the 1960s it made me feel like tossing my cap in the air.
Why MAODE students blog (Kerawella et al, 2009) depends on their perceptions of, and for:
- an audience
- the utility of and need for comments
- presentational style of the blog content
- overarching factors related to the technological context
- the pedagogical context of the course
‘Bloggers vs. journalist: The next 100 year War?’ 2011, Public Relations Tactics, 18, 4, p. 17, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
Bruns, A. Jacobs, J. (2006) Use of Blogs.
Kerawalla, L, Minocha, S, Kirkup, G, & Conole, G (2009) ‘An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education’, Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 25, 1, pp. 31-42, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
Rosen, J. (2007) ‘Web Users Open the Gates’, Washington Post, The, n.d., UK & Ireland Reference Centre, EBSCOhost, viewed 18 February 2013.
- Driving learning through blogging: Students’ perceptions of a reading journal blog assessment task. (mymindbursts.com)
- The Ultimate Guide to Advanced Guest Blogging (seomoz.org)
- NaBloPoMo Soup: Add Your January Posts (blogher.com)
- The Neverending Debate: Who is a Blogger? (zemanta.com)
- blogging, or look out February, DaBloPoMo is coming! (espressococo.wordpress.com)
Blogging for knowledge management in the workplace
‘As with writing, blogging is not simply formulating in words an idea already developed in one’s mind. It is also about connecting, developing and redefining half-baked ideas. When writing, I often go through the weblog archives to explore connections with what is already there. Reading and rereading what I wrote before shapes and changes what I’m about to write: I often find something unexpected or see patterns only in retrospect’.Efimova (2009. p 70)
Fig. 1. Dr Lilia Efimova – her Phd thesis is on blogging to support knowledge management in the workplace.
- Somewhere to “park” emerging insights until the moment they are needed. Efimova (2009. p 75)
- Doesn’t require much effort
- Somewhere to park ideas
- Reading and engaging with others to become aware of issues and themes
- Topics accumulate and connections grew and things become clearer.
- A set of sense-making practices
- “Everyday grounded theory” Efimova (2009. p. 75)
- Connecting multiple fragments
- Getting into the writing flow
- Strengthened by readers’ feedback
- A channel for distribution
- Publication additional motivation to document emergent ideas
- A legitimate place to share thinking in progress
- -ve when the need is to be extremely selective and focused. Efimova (2009. p. 80)
- To collect in one place the fragmented bits relevant to my thinking Efimova (2009. 3.5.4)
- Clusters of conversations
- Conversations unfolding
- A personal space and a community space simultaneously.
- A personal narrative used to articulate and to organise one’s own thinking. (conversation with self. p 90?) around 4.3
- An example of hypertext conversation. Efimova (2009. p. 129)
- Weblogs provide a space that helps both to develop one’s own point of view and discuss it with others.
- Bloggers present their ideas to the world, readers learn from them. Efimova (2009. p. getting things done. staying in touch)
- low-threshold creation of entries
- a flexible and personally meaningful way to organise and maintain them
- opportunities to retrieve, reuse and analyse blog content
- opportunities to engage with others.
- fitted in while working on something else
- providing a way to keep abreast of others ideas
- capturing ones’ own emergent insights
- clarifying matters for a public
- over time ideas on a topic accumulate and connections between them become clearer.
- feedback from readers turns blogging into a sense-making practice
- eventually an ideas is ‘ripe’ and ready to become part of a specific task.
Efimova (2008. p. 208)
Autoenthnography Or, how to write something of substance.
From Richardson (2000) via Lilia Efimova (2009. p. 39)
I’ve taken the view, with a lifetime of keeping a diary and 14 years blogging that I write whatever comes to mind as I put pen to paper or fingertips to the keyboard. There is a better way:
Does this piece contribute to our understand of social life? Does the writer demonstrate a deeply grounded (if embedded) human world understanding and perspective?
Does this piece succeed aesthetically? Does the use of creative analytical practices open up the text, invite interpretive responses? Is the text artistically shaped, satisfying, complex, and not boring?
How did the author come to write this? How was the information gathered? Ethical issues? How has the author’s subjectivity been both a producer and a product of this text?
Is there an adequate self-awareness and self-exposure for the reader to make judgements about the point of view? Do authors hold themselves accountable to the stands of knowing and telling of the people they have studied?
Does this affect me? Emotionally? Intellectually? Generate new questions? Move me to write? Move me to try new research practices? Move me to actions?
Does this text embody a fleshed out sense of lived-experience? Does it seem “true” – a credible account of a cultural, social, or communal sense of the “real”?
Efimova.L (2009) Passion At Work : Blogging practices of knowledge workers. Novay PhD Research Series, No. 24 (Novay/PRS/024)
Richardson, L. (2000). Evaluating ethnography. Qualitative Inquiry, 6 (2), 253-255
- In what way(s) will I be a knowledge worker in my field of interest in the future (aaronvbblog.wordpress.com)
- Blog Cases from 2005: Jack Vinson on Knowledge Management (billives.typepad.com)
- Mathemagenic blog networking study (billives.typepad.com)
Can I show it to my Grandparents?
This is the first blog I came across in 1998.
A few months later I was up and running. I couldn’t code so had to wait for a generic platform to post to. This was Diaryland. Then along came LiveJournal. And five years or so ago I decamped to WordPress.
Millions of words, and millions of bloggers later and the world of self-publishing (we now call it user generated content) is a profoundly important form of global and universal communication.
I like the line ‘can I show it to my grandparents’ as if in 1998 they would be online and looking.
I re-found these pages courtesy of waybackwhen – type in a defunct web address and discover to your delight or horror that everything that was ever posted online is still out there.
If you thought that locking the pages would save you, you’re mistaken.
One click and it’s there forever.
2012 in review
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.
Click here to see the complete report.
E-Portfolios? Blog, content aggregator or storage in the cloud? Is there more to this for e-learning?
Fig. 1. The two faces of e-portfolios. Barrett (2010).
Think of an e-portfolio in terms of:
- Specific academic fields
- A Learning journey
- Research projects
- Observations by mentors and peers
- Reflective thinking
(Butler 2006, p. 2)
My view is that these tasks, or affordances, are better and well managed by a blog. During 2010 while in my first year of the Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) not only were we encouraged to use the OU Student Blog platform, but we were also encourages to use the OU eportfolio MyStuff.
Fig. 2 Müllschlucker
I dutifully ‘dumped’ and labelled content, even sorted it in an effort to write assignment using this system. I would liken it to a Müllschlucker – a rubbish shoot in a tall appartment block (Isn’t the German for it such a great word?) – it made grabbing and dumping stuff easy.
What was far harder was to sift through this content and create meaning from it a a later date. It didn’t have enough of me about it most of the time to trigger recollections. We got a warning that MyStuff would be killed off – I made a stab at sorting through what I’d put there, but like boxes of papers in a lock-up garage I was more relieved when it was over. I also tried a couple of external e-portfolio services: Peppblepad and Mahara for example. I tripped up quickly as the learning curve was too steep for me – and why duplicate what I was enjoying with WordPress?
I’m about to cook a lasagna, so why give me a pick-axe? Or, I want to make a toasted sandwich so why give me a MagiMix? All tools need to be carefully promoted, demonstrated then used in a sandpit with careful instruction and support. Basic scaffolding in other words.
“The overarching purpose of portfolios is to create a sense of personal ownership over one’s accomplishments, because ownership engenders feelings of pride, responsibility, and dedication.” (Paris and Ayres, 1994,p.10).
“The e-portfolio is the central _and common point for the student experience. It is a reflection of the student as a person undergoing continuous personal development, _not just a store of evidence.” (Rebbeck, 2008)
Process (a series of activities)
Product (the end result of the process)
Blogging and keeping an e-portfolio are synonymous
A web log, or blog, is an online journal that encourages communication of ideas, and individual entries are usually displayed in reverse-chronological order. Barrett (2010, p6)
Blogs provide an ideal tool to construct learning journals, as discussed by Crichton and Kopp (2008) from the University of Calgary, ‘… that eJournals help to make ePortfolios more authentic and relevant to the students’ lives.’
Workspace or Working Portfolio. Washington Stage University.
- Or (digital) shoebox.
- Presentation Portfolios, showcase or ‘showtime.’
John Dewey (1933) discusses both retrospective (for analysis of data) and prospective modes of reflection (for planning).
Beck and Bear (2009) studied reflection in the teaching cycle, comparing how pre-service teachers rated the development of their reflection skills in both formative and summative e-folios.
Fig. 3. JISC (2008) Effective Practice with E-portfolios. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of JISC. (Page 11)
Reflection is the “heart and soul” of a portfolio, and is essential to brain-based learning (Kolb, 1984; Zull, 2002).
Once we have looked back over our body of work, then we have an opportunity to look forward, setting a direction for future learning through goals… reflection in the future tense. Barrett (2010, p3)
Blogs are organized in reverse chronological order; most showcase portfolios are organized thematically, around a set of learning goals, outcomes or standards. Both levels of reflection and organization are important, and require different strategies for supporting different levels of reflection.
Barrett, H. (2010). Balancing the Two Faces of ePortfolios. Educação, Formação & Tecnologias, 3(1), 6-14. [Online], Available online: http://eft.educom.pt (Accessed 29 SEPT 2010) http://electronicportfolios.org/balance/ (Accessed 4 NOV 2012) Updated version http://electronicportfolios.org/balance/Balancing2.htm (Accessed 4 NOV 2012)
Beck, R. & Bear, S. (2009) “Teacher’s Self-Assessment of Reflection Skills as an Outcome of E-Folios” in Adamy & Milman (2009) Evaluating Electronic Portfolios in Teacher Education. Charlotte: Information Age Publishers.
Beetham, H. (2005) e-Portfolios in post-16 learning in the UK: Developments, issues and opportunities http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/ documents/themes/elearning/eportfolioped.pdf
Bruce, L (1994) Self-Assessment (Last accessed 4Nov2012) http://ozpk.tripod.com/000000selfassess
Butler, P (2006) Review of the Literature on Portfolios and Eportfolios. eCDF ePortfolio Project. Massey University College of Education. Palmerston North, New Zealand
Crichton, S. and Kopp, G. (2008) “The Value of eJournals to Support ePortfolio Development for Assessment in Teacher Education.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York City, March 24–28, 2008. An updated version of this paper was published by the British Columbia Ministry of Education, Innovations in Education, 2nd Edition, April 2011. Available online (PDF of book); Printable version of revised article: balancingarticle2.pdf
Dewey,J. (1933) How we think. How we think: A restatement of the relation of reflective thinking to the educative process. (1971 ed.). Chicago: Regnery
JISC (2008) Effective Practice with E-portfolios. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of JISC.
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Paris, S., & Ayres, L. (1994). Becoming reflective students and teachers. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Rebbeck, G (2008) e-Learning Coordinator, Thanet College, quoted in JISC, 2008).
Zull, J. (2002). The Art of Changing the Brain. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing
- Teachers Guide on The Use of ePortfolios in Education (educatorstechnology.com)
- ePortfolios: More than a tool? (imagincation.com)
- Fwd: Manchester Workshop – How can e-Portfolios Support 21st Century Learning? (academic-practice.blogspot.com)
- 2012 Eportfolio Forum to be live-streamed (eportfoliosaustralia.wordpress.com)
- Facebook-folio? (imagincation.com)
- Mobile devices, mobile learners and Web 2.0 (mymindbursts.com)
- Enhanced learning as a mind-map, mind dump, composting exercise from where ideas brew (mymindbursts.com)
24 reasons to blog – which are yours?
Sources of inspiration and getting it down.
Get this for a start: Use of Blogs (2006) Axel Bruns and Joanna Jacobs.
It persuades you why to blog. Each chapter is written like an academic paper – an essay at least. Chapter 5 I found I was copying out verbatim (which I can’t do here). Go see ‘Can Blogging Unspin PR’ Trevor Cook.
Your starting off point can be anything at all, once you start (for me at least) it is like opening a vein.
Who cares if it is a note to yourself. If it’s work or course work remember that you can compose then recraft as often as you like; what is more, you can turn access on or off as you please too – even allow comments as you please – with other blog platforms the list of linking choices is as broad as the destination board at Heathrow – you can ‘blog’ to a person, a group, people in different groups and so on (though this is a level of complication may turn the novice off).
If you are at all stuck for content ideas then my suggestions are:
- 1) Write about the deep past (everything you write is of course in the past) – what this might means is thinking of your earliest experiences of whatever your blog may be about – if it is about education then try these:
- 2) Your best friend at nursery school
- 3) Your first day at school
- 4) The funniest thing that your witnessed or did at school
- 5) The first thing you learnt and how
- 6) Add a caption to an old photograph then expand these thoughts into the era.
- 7) A birthday party
- 8) A Christmas
- 9) A first book
All of these are possible jumping off points; once you’re in flight you’ll be surprised how easy it is to steer back to where you had planned to be – who cares about the journey you took to get there – you can leave it in or edit out the first paragraph / chapter.
If you kept a diary at any time in your life – milk it! Put it up, selectively, verbatim and / or relived – you can even retrofit the date.
Getting it down
There is a beauty and simplicity to pen/pencil onto paper. Personally I find typing it up afterwards tedious and will find myself inevitably expanding beyond the way the thing was initially written. The mistake here is that you can/do with ease turn a natural, conversational flow of thoughts into something else – verbose at best, disjoined at worst. You then get into editing and saving sections/chunks for future entries.
Ideally, whether you have notes, an essay plan or mind map to guide you, I’d recommend typing directly into the Blank Box. The QWERTY keyboard is a piano keyboard and you’re playing a ditty or having a jam.
Most blog platforms have ample editing tools, the only warning is to save regularly in some if you are prone to distraction.
Even back up onto a clipboard or Word, though personally I’m not a fan of overworking a piece in Word first.
Have a notepad, record a thought on paper or into a digital recorder, have a device that you can readily use on the go – my most fruitful blogging years were when I had a Psion – I could type this spec-case sized device and draw it into my Mac to upload.
I’ll discover in due course an iPad can offer this facility – I believe it will (and some).
A final thought for now – if you can touch-type and write stream of consciousness then how many words can you get down in so many minutes?
Let’s say you think at FIVE words a second, talk at THREE words a second and type at 40-60 words a minute. In theory in five minutes you can blog between 200 and 300 words. Perfect length. Have a plan, three or so points to make and fire away.