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I’m baaack! September 17, 2010

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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I’m back to my blog . . . after a two year hiatus! I’m going to honest to any readers I may have out there. I didn’t just decide it was time to start blogging again. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I’m resurrecting my blog because it’s a requirement of a class. I hope that with the increased readership that I expect this class will generate for my blog, perhaps I will get hooked and begin to blog regularly, but I’m not too sure. Let me tell you a bit of my blogging history and then I will pose some questions that will help me reflect on why I’ve had a difficult relationship with blogging.

I started my first blog with my students. Back in 2005, I was teaching English Language Arts at the American School of Kuwait, and I wanted to help students find an audience for their writing so we started a class blog where they essentially journalled each week, read each others’ writing and commented to each other. While I say this was my first blog, I guess that’s a bit of a misnomer because I just set up the blog and provided a space for my students to write–I was just a member of their audience. In retrospect, I should have been blogging with them to model the practice, but I didn’t.

In 2006, I returned to Saskatchewan from Kuwait to work on my Masters of Education in Educational Psychology. During this time, I had the good fortune to work with the Digital Internship Project and began to learn a great deal about using technology in the classroom. As well, my research for my thesis revolved around teenage girls’ experiences with cyberbullying which helped me understand how social networking and the use of technology affects the lives of girls. At this time, I started this blog to provide a space for me to reflect on what I was learning; however, it didn’t take long for me to abandon this blog.

Then in 2009, I turned 30 and decided that my goal for my 30th year would be to do 30 new things that have never done before. My plan was to document my adventures on my newest blog:  30 Adventures at 30. This time I thought I would blog about my experiences and monetize my blog–perhaps the lure of possibly making money on my blog would motivate me to stick with it. In starting this blog, I also figured that blogging about 30 new things I would do in my 30th year would give me a specific time frame and if I abandoned my blog after that, at least I could say that I stuck it out for a whole year. Unfortunately, as you can see on my “30 for 30” blog, my attempt was short lived and I only ended up blogging about a few of my experiences.

I must say that I am generally a very committed and dedicated person and when I start something it almost always gets finished. So, with all of these failed attempts to blog regularly, it begs the question, what’s the problem? Why haven’t I been able to stick with blogging for either personal and professional purposes? This made me wonder why other people blog and what purpose do they see in their blog that keeps them committed.

Jason Kaneshiro talks about the concept of not “Breaking the Chain”—an idea he borrowed from Jerry Sienfeld. This strategy to stay committed to blogging basically focuses the blogger to write everyday. Yes, it’s that simple. He says that every time you write, mark it on a calendar and you will eventually see a long chain that represents your progress which will be a motivator to continue. I suppose that I can see how this works, and Kanashiro compares this to process to sticking with a diet or exercising. However, my problem is that I would use a method like this to stick to a diet or exercise because it is healthy for me. Blogging, in my mind, does not make me “healthier” and I do not want it to become an onerous chore.

Similarly, on his blog about Blogging Ethics, Martin poses the questions to his readership, “Why did you decide to start a weblog? What did you want your blog to accomplish? Have you achieved that purpose yet?” His readers responded with several reasons to blog that make a lot of sense to me such as “keeping my writing sharp,” keeping a record of my thought process, and learning from others through feedback and critique. However, I am still unsure if any of these reasons would compel me to stick with a blog for the long-term.

So I pose this question: Why do you blog? What makes you want to do it everyday and stick with it? As evidenced by my various attempts, I want to be a blogger, but what am I missing?

February 7, 2008

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools, Training.
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I gave a presentation today for pre-service teachers on Classroom Websites and Blogging.  I have included my favorite software for creating websites and blog, but obviously there are many others that I have not included in the presentation.  I have embedded the presentation below.  In the session, participants had the opportunity to explore the Web 2.0 software of their choice with the following Screencasts to help them along the way:

Setting up a WordPress Account
Changing your Page Template, Writing a Post and Writing a Page
Difference between Writing Posts/Pages & Managing Posts and Pages
Embed a video

Getting help

The creators of wikispaces have created their own screencasts to give you a tour and a “how to” for wikispaces.
Get an ad-free wiki:  Free for educators! 

Class Blogmeister
Setting up an Account
Tour of Ning
Free Ning Accounts for Grades 7-12 Educators


Here’s my PowerPoint presentation.  Note that all links in this presentation are live so you can go look at the examples I supply for classroom websites.

Technology in Post-Secondary Education January 27, 2008

Posted by ashleyquark in Post-Secondary, Tech Tools.

Preparing pre-service teachers to be able to effectively use technology in the teaching and learning process is very important.  Information and communication technologies (ICTs)are becoming increasingly available in schools, but often teachers in schools are not aware of all the possibilities for how it can be used in their classrooms. Therefore, as a university instructor, I am working to incorporate these technologies into my classrooms to help familiarize students with Web 2.0 software that can be used to enhance the learning process.

This semester, I am teaching two undergraduate classes in the Faculty of Education and am trying to infuse technology into my classes.   One of the classes is a Writing Methodology class for English majors in the Secondary Education program.  We spent a significant amount of time discussing the idea of multiliteracies.  We discussed the various ways people may be literate (cultural literacy, functional literacy, technological literacy, critical literacy), who is privileged in the ways we teach in schools, and what implications this has for our professional practice.  In discussing multiliteracies, we also talked about the various ways people can represent their knowledge and how “new literacies” sparked by technology may impact our classrooms.  My students seemed to enthusiastically embrace these ideas, but were apprehensive about the technological skill base they will need to incorporate technologies into their classrooms.  To help my students become more comfortable with ICTs, I have developed a social network through Ning where we discuss the readings and extend our class discussion.  I chose Ning because I believe it is important to model the use of technologies that students could actually use in their classrooms.  Ning offers a free ad-free social network for the use in Grades 7-12 classrooms.  As well, my class is sharing their writing and lesson plans on a wiki through wikispaces, another Web 2.0 that offers free wikis for use in K-12 education.

In the other class I am teaching, I am using technology in a very basic way–to post homework and class announcements.  However, as a firm believer in the use of multiliteracies in the classroom, I am trying to provide homework assignments that allow students to do things beyond reading journal articles and chapters from books.  With the website, I have been able to link podcasts and videos to our site and have students “read” these forms of media for homework as well.  While a class website is nothing complex, having a place to link these forms of media makes it easy to give such assignments. If I were to teach this class again, I would likely try to design the course so students are not simply consumers of media, but also producers of media, using various applications available through Web 2.0. 

I hope that with the use of ICTs modelled in their univeristy classes, my students will have some ideas of how they might use such technologies in their classrooms once they start teaching.

Blogging: 21classes.com December 6, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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A huge barrier that I have seen among teachers trying to start their classes blogging is gathering and then entering student email addresses.  For example, when I taught grade 8 language arts at the American Schools of Kuwait, I had about 120 students blogging using Blogger.com.  In order to have them join my blog, I had to gather all 120 students email addresses, type them all into Blogger, and then invite all my students to join.  This was a pain. At least I had my students blogging all year so the work I did at the beginning of the year paid off. However, one of my friends recently told me about a site that does not require teachers to know students’ email addresses for them to join the blog, but the teacher can still make the blog a closed community.  This site is www.21classes.com. It is possible that Class Blogmeister or others allow teachers to do this as well, but my friend, Brenda, who is using this site with her high school students found it to be very easy to set up. Check it out.

Create Screencasts with the Jing Project December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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This is an exciting new program online that allows people to capture images or video on your screen and add a voiceover through simply speaking into your microphone.  This is useful in the K-12 classroom because it could allow you to quickly give instructions to students.  Watch this Jing video (which took approximately 5 minutes to create) to find out more:
Watch Jing Project video now!


Flixn.com: Making video fast and easy! December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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Check out this video tool at www.flixn.com.  Here is a demonstration where I explain how it could be used in the classroom.  Click here to see my flixn video.  As well, here is an example of a grade 1/2 class’s flixn video on Thankfulness.

The Word on Wikis December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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I gave a presentation on Wikis to a group of pre-service teachers placed in K-12 classrooms.  My favorite wiki site is www.wikispaces.com because they are currently giving out free ad-free wikis for K-12 classrooms.

In the presentation below, I provide links to some great examples of how wikis are being used in classrooms–from grade 1 classrooms to high school physics classrooms.  Enjoy!

Blogging Tools December 4, 2007

Posted by ashleyquark in Tech Tools.
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Blogging can be a very useful tool in the classroom and has a wide array of uses.  It could be used as a classroom website to post daily homework or document daily classroom happenings. As well, blogging is an easy way for students to take an active role as producers and consumers of media online. Here are some of the most popular blogging sites used in schools:

Class Blogmeister – Check out Mrs. Cassidy’s Blogmeister site as an examples.  Her grade 1/2 students’ blogs are listed along the right side.
Pros: When you create an account with Class Blogmeister, you get a main classroom blog page as well as individual blog pages for each of your students.  You can adjust the settings so that you can moderate every post your students make which allows teachers to check for appropriate content before the blog post is on the internet for everyone in the world to see!
Cons: You can’t simply create a Class Blogmeister site right now and start browsing the site to figure out all its inner workings.  To create a Class Blogmeister account, you must first email the site creator, David Warlick, and he will send you a School Pass Code. From what I’ve heard, David returns emails very quickly and it might be only a day until your Class Blogmeister page is up and running!

Pros: As you may have noticed, this site is a blog throught WordPress.com.  There are numerous fun and professional looking designs to choose from. When you set up a WordPress blog, you get 1 blog page you can regularly write posts (see my Musings page) and then you can make several pages with “fixed content” such as this one. This would really work well for a classroom website as the teacher could post the daily homework or activities on the blog page and then have other information such as a Class Profile, School Schedule, or handouts on the other pages for students and parents to refer to.
Cons: Students do not have their own pages attached to the teacher’s wordpress account.  If you want students to have their own blogs, they will have to create their own account and therefore the teacher is not able to moderate their posts.

Pros and Cons: From my experience, there isn’t anything particularly good or bad about blogger.  It doesn’t create student pages under the teacher’s account like Class Blogmeister and it doesn’t allow you to have multiple pages like WordPress.  It works fine and I have used it in my classroom to have students blog, but I probably wouldn’t use it again.

I haven’t use EduBlogs before so I don’t really have any review of this. I’ll try it out soon and let you know.