Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How to Get (and Keep) More Visitors

I received the above comment from a student in Mr. Miller's class. Mr. Miller told his class they would stop getting homework if they reached 2,500 hits on their class blog. Click here for an update. Make sure you stop by and add another hit to the map!

I left a comment on the blog with the below advice. I have expanded some of it. The original comment is in bold.

1) I have been blogging for three years and the hits add up. I have not changed my blog address in three years so it makes it easier for people to find me after a long period of time.

It is difficult to get attention from the education world for your blog because of the lack of teachers using technology and/or the lack of access to technology in the classrooms. There also seems to be a lot of ed tech "experts" that talk about how important it is for students to use tech tools, but they don't spend much time or attention visiting or promoting students' work.

2) I post regularly so that people have a reason to come back often. This is critical. I want to have a new post up at least every day or two. It seems like many times I will go days without posting and then I have two or three entries. With Blogger I can schedule posts to take place at a later time which I use often to help space out my posts. When I look at the blogs I follow on my site, I am much more likely to visit one that has newish content.

3) The title of my posts have words that people search for using search engines like Google. If your titles are not descriptive enough people won't find them in a search. I know for a fact that most of my hits come from Google. People search for specific things and if your titles are specific you will get more hits. I use Feedjit to see where my visitors come from and how they get there. For example, I have a post on the BBC website Dance Mat Typing. If you Google BBC typing I currently come in fifth on the list.

4) I comment on lots of others blogs. When I comment I make sure it is positive and relevant. Don't write something like, "Nice post", write instead, "I really like the way you used descriptive adjectives in your story." or "That is a great science project! When I teach that subject I will do this activity too. I also do __________ when I teach this." I started the comments4kids meme on twitter to encourage leaving comments on students' blogs, a by product of that is the ability to link back to our own blog. We receive a lot of hits and comments from blogs we leave comments on.

I am sure there are lots of other things that help. If you know of any please post it in a comment below.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Teachers Need to Become Social Networking Experts

I tweeted the below message this morning after having a conversation with my junior high math teacher. She had been sick yesterday and looked pretty pale today. She had planned on students working in the lab today testing, but most had finished the day before. Since she was obviously not feeling good, I volunteered to put something on my blog that the students finished with the testing could do. After asking her what she was covering, probability, I did what any 2.0 teacher would do, I went to Twitter for help.

Within a few minutes I started receiving suggestions from my network.

Obviously, covering for another teacher is not an unusual occurrence, we have all done that. What makes this more unique is that the people that helped the math teacher out did not even know her. Several of the wonderful teachers that responded haven't even had a lengthy conversation with me. They just saw a need and filled it.

This is obviously a positive pln story, but it really is much more. This is really a small hint of what we will soon see in education. Teachers need to evolve to being social networking experts. Students will look to us for our ability to link them to what they want (need) to learn. We will no longer be expected to be experts in content or tools. We will need to be experts in creating paths from learners to knowledge.

I have a new job this year. I have three hours a day to help facilitate technology into our school. While I have been teaching teachers (and students) tools, I find that the best learning experiences come from connecting students and teachers to sources they can learn from.

We have had several experiences this year that have made for some great experiences for my students and for others. Dear Kia: Voicethread and Video helps recount a wonderful teachable moment that started with simple question by a student commenting on a child's blog (something I consider to be incredibly transformative for my students). Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Whittier Skype Meeting recounts two classes sharing culture using Skype. Mrs. Whittier's Spanish class wanted to know what school was like in Mexico and we have students that have attended school in Mexico. In How to Speak Chuukese Part 1 we took a problem, a small population of students that spoke only Chuukese, and decided to create some videos to help others that may have the same problem.

What made these experiences possible was the connections I have made through blogging, commenting on blogs, and Twitter. I created no content but simply connected my students to learning opportunities. You better start making connections too if you want your students to have these opportunities.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It Is Imperative We Help Our Students Create a Positive Digital Portfolio

I was sitting at the Donald W. Reynolds football stadium on the campus of the University of Arkansas Saturday afternoon watching the jumbotron "Pig Screen". When I noticed it showing people in the stands. While this is a normal occurrence at the football games, and I have been to plenty to know, this time I was struck by the students and children that were being shown. I like to watch them show people in the crowd because many (especially students) do some funny and sometimes incredibly stupid things. That made me reflect on something I have been contemplating for a while.

What digital artifacts are our students creating? I see on television or the internet stories like the riot that took place in Chicago ending with the murder of Derrion Albert, with that being recorded on a cell phone. I see a bus video of a student in an altercation with a bus driver. I see kids video (cell phone again) the assault of a young lady by several other young ladies. These are artifacts that not only make us sick, but also relay a message that young people are violent, aggressive, and dangerous.

Not only are the students in these videos tainted by their actions (with good reason), but all students have to carry some of that burden as well. There are plenty of education sites that show students in a positive light such as At the Fireplace, Beyond the Rainbow, East Dragon Den, Little Voices, Little Scholars, Room 8 Melville, and Saigon South International School Blog. While these and many, many more showcase positive experiences students are having, they really don't help individual students create that digital portfolio that will follow them throught the next few years. My class blog reflects me much more than my students.

Facebook is a perfect example of how the digital trails students create can come back to haunt them. Here is an article about how roomates are perceived by the parents of college students. Here is an article about the perils of adding stupid content to your Facebook page. While I don't believe we can teach the stupid out of some actions our students will do, perhaps a strong digital portfolio will help others see them as more rounded individuals. Who wants the only information about them on line to be about how much they like to party and get drunk?

How can we help our students create personal spaces that can help them record not only their learning, but also pieces of themeselves on line? Obviously, the answer is we must encourage our students to create and save digital content whether it be audio, video, writing, or a mash up of the three at some centralized spot that can be found later by them, future employers, or even by colleges and universities. What are you doing to help your students create their own positivie on line identity?