Category Archives: blogging

100 ways to use a VLE – #14 Writing a blog

I is writing a blog!

Though you may be reading this on my blog, for some practitioners and learners using a blog is an alien idea and they may not even know what a blog is, or what blogging means.

A VLE can be a quick and easy way for practitioners and learners to start blogging and learn the value of blogging.

A blog is an abbreviation of web log (weblog) and to put it simply is a log of commentaries, observations or reflections that is placed on the web.

Maintaining a reflective journal, thoughts about assignments, or writing notes about lessons; these activities can all be done on a blog.

However…

Not everyone has the confidence or the technical ability to start a blog.

Now I know that starting a blog is a piece of cake, however that may be easy, it is not necessarily such an effective practice for a complete class, curriculum area or a whole college.

Some institutions may consider putting a WordPress MU Server for blogging purposes. However this may not be an option for all colleges. If a WordPress MU Server is put in, then you can link to college systems to ensure that every learner can create their own blog.

Though one issue is not just technical confidence, but also confidence in what is being written. It’s one thing to write a reflective journal and be very open, it is a fundamentally different thing to post those reflections on an open blog for all to read. A learner is likely to be less open if they know everyone, their mum and their employer is going to be reading it. So you might want to close it off to just the learner (or learner group) and the tutor. This requires a modicum of technical confidence; can we assume that every learner can do this?

So though blogging systems such as WordPress or Blogger are great tools for individuals, they don’t really scale with groups or whole colleges.

This is where the VLE can come in.

It’s already configured with logins for learners, so that’s one job done, learners and staff who already use it have a familiarity with it as a tool.

You can use included blogging tools, but for some learners even a discussion forum might be a useful starting point. Advantage of built-in blogging functionality will be (hopefully) that it generates an RSS feed.

Blogging has real potential to enhance and enrich the learning experience of many learners; the VLE can be the right tool for some practitioners in introducing the concept to their learners.

Regardless of the above, if learners want to use other tools such as WordPress, Typepad, Blogger, instead of using a provided blogging tool on the VLE, then practitioners need to consider how they are going to incorporate these blogs into the learning activity. An obvious route is to use RSS feeds from these blogs.

The VLE is not an ideal blogging tool, but for many practitioners and learners it can be a useful and scalable blogging tool.

Photo source.

WordPress – iPhone App of the Week

WordPress  iPhone App of the Week


I am hoping that this will be a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will also work on the iPod touch.

This week’s App is WordPress  (iTunes Store link)

I have written before on this blog about the WordPress App for the iPhone.

Back then I said

The interface is not fantastic, though having looked a little more into it, if you had an iPhone (it has a camera) you can add photos quite easily; from the iPod touch you can only (obviously) use images stored on the device.

I am reasonably impressed with the app and if it allows me to blog more easily and more often then that can only make my blog better (or will it).

In the end I have made use of it, as well as writing full blog entries I have also used it for ideas for blog posts which I can then use as drafts once I get behind a full size computer.

WordPress 2 is a revised version which looks and works better than the previous version. It also now supports password protected self-hosted blogs.

WordPress is blogging software, that you can either use free via WordPress.com (which is where this blog is hosted) or you can go to WordPress.org, download and install the software on your own server.

Once installed you can then post blog entries. One of the features of the software is you can either have a fully open blog or one with a password; a closed blog allows for example a learner and a tutor to reflect and communicate without letting the rest of the group (and the world) in on that conversation. A blog is different (better) than e-mail in that the reflections and conversations can be tagged, allowing both the learner and the tutor to collate and look at a group of blog entries. With e-mail they can get lost in amongst the body of e-mails we now get and many places limit how much e-mail you can store!

Since WordPress.com took advantage of the WPTouch theme, it can be much easier to view a WordPress blog on an iPhone (or other mobile device). You can also install WPTouch on your own WordPress installation if you are self-hosted.

The WordPress App on the iPhone allows you to post blog entries to your blog whilst on the move.

You can write entries, add images and then either publish direct, or save as a draft.

The App also works offline which makes it useful if you have the iPod touch, as you can write offline and then publish once you are in range of a wireless network.

Simple to use for just plain text, you can attach photographs, but can only embed them if you know soem HTML and already have the image somewhere already online! Not the easiest thing to do with an iPhone, though at least now we have copy and paste!

The WordPress App is a free app and WordPress.com can be used for free, so if you like free then this is one way that you can blog without needing to spend any money.

Blogging software is very much a personal thing, some like WordPress, others don’t. If you already and are happy using another service such as Blogger or Typepad then you are probably not going to swap to WordPress. However if you already use WordPress or are new to mobile blogging then the combination of the WordPress blogging software and the WordPress App has made it quick, easy and simple.

The Top Ten Blog Posts of 2009

These are the top ten posts from this blog (according to the stats) in terms of views. In reverse order…

10. Sony eBook Reader – First Impressions

Back in March I got my hands on a Sony eBook Reader and posted my first impressions. Since then I have found the eBook Reader to be a very useful device. So much so that in October I wrote e-Book Readers, are they the future? and in November I wrote So do you like books, or do you like reading? I also gave the Keynote at the JISC Collections AGM in which I discussed the future of e-Books.

9. It’s all about the coffee…

Twitter has been the service of 2009 and this was the blog posting of my presentation on Twitter that I delivered at the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 in October.

Of course really Twitter is all about the coffee. It’s the coffee you drink with colleagues during a break, where you discuss work, but also your commute, TV, films, the weather. It’s the coffee you drink whilst browsing the web and posting links of interesting web site to your blog or in an e-mail. It’s the coffee you drink in a coffee shop, reading the paper or a book. It’s the coffee you drink with fellow delegates during a break or at lunch at a conference. Where you discuss the keynotes, the presentations, the workshops, where you are going next, your hotel, the food, the coffee, what you do, where you’re going, what gadgets you have in your bag.

8. Sanyo CA9 Video Camera

This post from April was a repost of a blog entry that  first appeared on the Shiny Project Blog. The Sanyo CA9 Video Camera was one of the devices we had purchased as part of our MoLeNET project and these were my initial thoughts about this small handheld video camera. The camera proved to be a huge success in the college causing major cultural shifts in the way that practitioners and learners used video. Nice thing about the camera was that it was waterproof.

7. The VLE is Dead

This was the PR post for the VLE is Dead Symposium at ALT-C 2009. Just a trailer…

6. No Flash player on the Google G1

There is no Flash player for the iPhone and at its release there was no Flash player for the Google G1 either.

5. It’s not dead… yet…

This was posted before the ALT-C VLE is Dead debate. This was my response to various posts made by others on the death of VLEs.

4. G2 Google Phone

This posting is this high due to a high Google search ranking I expect… Not a huge amount of content, just some thoughts and a link on the then new G2 Google phone.

3. Ten things people say about using Twitter, but really they shouldn’t

One of two Twitter “ten things” posts I made in 2009. One of the things that does annoy me about Twitter is the way in which people like to dictate to you how it should be used and how you should use it. This is the top ten things you should never say about using Twitter.

2. The VLE is Dead – The Movie

We filmed the VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C 2009 and this was uploaded within 12 hours… I served something like 40GB of video in the first week of this post going live.

1. Ten reasons why Twitter will eventually wither and die…

Though Twitter has been the service of 2009, one day it will die… These were my ten reasons why it will die… one day….

It is a fact known to all that use Web 2.0 tools and services that one day they will no longer be flavour of the month, or will be swamped by spam, cons and hustlers. We have just seen the death of Geocities and services such as Friendster and Friends Reunited are not once what they were. The same will, one day happen to Twitter!

So there are my top ten blog posts of 2009 according to the number of visitors.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #023: To blog, or not to blog, that is the question

Do you blog, do you read blogs, do you use blogging to support learning, are blogs dead?

This is the twenty-third e-Learning Stuff Podcast, To blog, or not to blog, that is the question.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: To blog, or not to blog, that is the question

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Kev Hickey and David Sugden.

Shownotes

Blowing my own trumpet

This blog post is really just me “blowing my own trumpet”, well can’t one do that now and again?

Why the self trumpeting?

Well the evaluation of the JISC 2008 Online Conference has been published on the JISC website.

One of the questions asked was about the blog I wrote for the conference.

The evaluation said:

Most of the respondents who included their comments thought the blog was excellent. Six people from forty-two did not find it useful or thought it was extra reading in an already busy conference, but most of the comments on the blog were in the following vein:

“It gave a useful overview of the conference that looked at the whole picture instead of the detail.  Also generated new ideas.”

“It was excellent and tied together much of the technology and reasoning behind the usefulness of an online conference.”

“For me it was one of the highlights of the conference – very, very good indeed.”

“Also enjoyed James Clay’s blog entries – amusing yet informative! Hats off…”

Really quite chuffed about the comments.

Finally to bring me down to earth, here is the bloopers tape from the conference, as not everything goes to plan….

Top Ten Web Tools of 2008

This is a list of web tools which I have used extensively over the last twelve months. The reason for the list was partly down to the lists Steve Wheeler has been posting on his blog, and a prompt from him on Twitter. This is not an exact copy of Steve’s format I have also been working on a list of devices as well, which hopefully will be a second post later. I do quite like this format which gives an opportunity to review and share the tools which have made a difference to the way I work and have enhanced what I do.

Here are my top ten web tools in reverse order.

10.    Google Docs

I had kind of forgotten how useful Google Docs is for working on documents (as well as presentations and spreadsheets) and have now started to use it much more than before. The downside is that you need to be connected (though I believe Google Gears will allow offline working). The main way I use Google Docs is to write a document that I know I will be working from on multiple computers. Now I know I could use a USB stick, but it assumes I have the same application on all machines, which is not always the case. For example my work machines have Office 2003, fine, but my Mac has Office 2008 (the newer version), my home Mac only has Pages, my Samsung Q1 only has Open Office as does the Asus EeePC. Sometimes the PC is runing Office 2007. Using Google Docs allows me to have a single copy of a document, share that document and export or print in variety of formats. For example I can download my document as a PDF. In planning for the e-Learning Stuff podcasts we have been using a Google Spreadsheet to plan topics and times. For collaboration and working together, nothing really beats Google Docs, in many ways I think it is better than Sharepoint based on what I have seen on Sharepoint.

9.    Crowdvine

For me a conference is much more than the sum of its parts. It is much more than the keynotes, the presentations and the workshops. It’s the discussion, the coffee breaks, the small group working, the conference dinner and following up afterwards. What I like about Crowdvine is that it allows you to supplement a conference in a similar way to the coffee but doing it online. Though I used Crowdfine at the JISC Conference 2008, it really came of age at the ALT Conference in Leeds.

8    Remember the Milk

If you are like me you have a lot of different tracks happening all at once, college events, projects, conference submissions, workshops to prepare for, training; then keeping on top of all the things you need to do and deadline can be challenging. I had tried Outlook Tasks but the webmail version didn’t work as I needed to, so I tried Remember the Milk. As well as the web based interface (which means I can use any computer) I can also use it on my iPod touch as it is also available as an iPhone app (if you have the pro account). Very easy to add tasks and deadlines and as a result overviews are easy to see. Main result has been, I am meeting more of my deadlines.

7.    Evernote

You could ask what does Evernote have that Google Docs doesn’t? There are some features of Evernote that I really like which for note taking beats Google Docs. It has Tablet PC support and I really like the Tablet PC format and the ability to scribble notes. It also has an iPhone app which means I can make notes on the move. There are apps for both Macs and Windows which along with the web app means it doesn’t matter which computer I am on, I can access, edit and print my notes.

6.    Flickr

This year, having had a Pro account for a year, renewed my subscription for another two years. I have nearly 1500 photographs on Flickr covering a range of topics and events. From an events perspective I think Flickr adds so much more to an event. It can capture the event in ways that can’t be caught in any other way. Flickr is not only a great way of storing photographs, also a great place to find photographs, and many images on this blog are from photos from Flickr which are creative commons licensed to allow me to use them on the blog.

5.    Shozu

This was nearly my number one web tool. What Shozu does for me is when I ever take a photograph using my Nokia N95 I can immediately upload the image to Flickr. With a little preparation I can add relevant tags (or edit tags on the fly) and it will also add the geo-data using the GPS on the N95. What this means is that when I am at an event I can take lots of photographs and people who want to see what is going on can easily see from my photographs. It also allows me to capture my day in a kind of lifestream giving me a record of what I have done, who I have met and where I have been. I also Shozu to upload photographs to Facebook, video to Seesmic, and I have also used it to upload content to my blog.

4.    Wordpress

Though a blog is seen as a one to many form of communication, I do enjoy writing mine and over 50,000 views later, I get the feeling quite a few people enjoy reading it as well. I use a WordPress.com blog for many reasons, the main is convenience. As it is web based all I need is a browser to write a blog entry, though there are other tools such as Shozu and the WordPress app on the iPod touch which also allow me to write. I paid $20 for the space upgrade which as well as letting me upload audio and video files, also does a very good job of converting my films into Flash Video. The quality is certainly much better than YouTube, and I can embed the video on other sites as well. The stats are useful in finding out how people are finding the blog, likewise comments allow feedback.

3.    Qik

“This is James Clay, live on the internet” those were the immortal words uttered by me at the MoLeNET Dissemination Conference and broadcast live over the internet using Qik. At the time of writing nearly five hundred people have viewed that video which when you know only three hundred were at the conference, shows the power and potential of tools such as Qik. Basically Qik is a service which allows you to stream live video from your phone to the internet.

2.    Twitter

Though I joined Twitter nearly two years ago, this year (with lots of other people joining) it has really come of age to me. I use Twitter in various ways, as well as informing my community that I am drinking a coffee, I also let them know about various (what I think are) interesting things I am doing.  I tweet about blog posts I have made. I also use Twitter as a back channel at events and conferences, finding out what is going on and what I find interesting. However telling people is only half the story, maybe even as  little as 20% of the  story. The other key thing about Twitter is about communication, responding to other tweets, having a conversation. Responding to what others have written, or acting on what others have written.

1.    Jaiku

Though I like Twitter, I still much prefer Jaiku for functionality and the conversation. Jaiku is everything that Twitter is but with threaded conversations. Want to respond to a message of mine you can as a comment and all comments for that one message can be found in one place. You can also add RSS feeds to Jaiku which allows for responses to your blog posts, flickr photographs, news feeds, music, whatever RSS feeds you have. Jaiku also has channels which work like hashtags on Twitter, but channels are separate to your main feeds, so a conference backchannel won’t clutter up your Jaiku feed. I also think you need to “do” Jaiku for a fair amount of time (and commitment) to get some real value from it. There is value from incidental chat, what is incidental for me, may be new and innovative for you and vice versa.

So Jaiku is my number one web tool of 2008, what’s yours?

Top Ten Web Tools of 2008

It’s all about the coffee

So what is it about Twitter?

Is it micro-blogging?

Is it about presence?

Is it about tweeting?

What about the irrelevance of what people are writing?

Recently some blogs have been posting about various e-learning and information professionals to follow on Twitter. I was on one list so this is not about sour grapes over not being on a certain list. I am not entirely sure of the value of these lists. It’s nice to be recognised as an information professional or an e-learning professional, but I have to ask why would I want to follow them? I would guess if they are on twitter then they have blogs which I can read what they are working on and what they think.

Some people have “complained” about irrelevant tweets and I am aware of some who have stopped following others because of their so called shallow and lightweight tweets. These people in my opinion are missing the point about the real value of Twitter. I am sure that they get something from Twitter, but you have to ask the question is Twitter about following people and reading informative Tweets or is it about communication and community?

I use Twitter in various ways, as well as informing my community that I am drinking a coffee, I also let them know about various (what I think are) interesting things I am doing.  I tweet about blog posts I have made. I also use Twitter as a backchannel at events and conferences, finding out what is going on and what I find interesting.

However telling people is only half the story, maybe even as  little as 20% of the  story. The other key thing about Twitter is about communication, responding to other tweets, having a conversation. Responding to what others have written, or acting on what others have written.

For me Twitter is about the irrelevance, it is about the non-useful stuff. If all you ever post is what blog entries you have written, why would I follow you on Twitter, I might as well subscribe to your blog’s  RSS feed.

I want to find out what you’re doing, but I also want to find out the mundane things as well. This makes for a more rounded conversation and community.

For some reason I have a reputation for just tweeting about coffee, which to be honest is not entirely unwarranted.

It’s all about the coffee

However for me Twitter is all about the coffee.

It’s the coffee you drink with colleagues during a break from work, where you discuss work stuff, but also discuss your commute into work, what you saw on TV last night, what bizarre thing you just saw, the weather.

It’s the coffee you drink whilst browsing the web and when you find an interesting web  site and you post the link to your blog, in an e-mail, on your VLE.

It’s the coffee you drink in a coffee shop, where you’re reading the paper, reading a book, chatting.

It’s the coffee you drink in the Library reading a journal, a book, writing stuff.

It’s the coffee you drink with fellow delegates during a break or at lunch at a conference. Where you discuss the keynotes, the presentations, the workshops, where you are going next, your hotel, the food, the coffee, what you do, where you’re going, what gadgets you have in your gadget bag.

Twitter is about these moments, but without the physical and geographical limitations. Twitter also allows people from different institutions, different sectors, different organisations, different departments to share these moments.

When you decide to follow someone, ask yourself could you drink coffee with this person, would they drink coffee with you?

At the end of the day Twitter is all about the coffee.

It’s all about the coffee

Photo source.

EduBlogs Nominations

Last day to nominate for the Edublog awards, here are my nominations:

1. Best individual blog – Learning with ‘e’, Steve Wheeler – I always enjoy reading Steve’s blog postings and more often then not will inspire me to write a response. Other blogs that were in the running include Josie Fraser’s SocialTech blog and Brian Kelly’s UK Web Focus. The key here was which blog did I read on a regular basis and which inspired me the most.

2. Best group blog – Pontydysgu – Lots of interesting stuff.

3. Best new blog – Dave Foord’s Weblog – Dave has a passion for using technology to support and enhance learning, he is always coming up with new ideas. A close second was Joss Winn’s Learning Lab my third choice was City College Norwich’s …from the elab…

4. Best resource sharing blog – Dave Foord’s Weblog – Dave has a passion for using technology to support and enhance learning, he is always coming up with new ideas.

5. Most influential blog post – Monkey Business – has inspired me and others to write responses, we have even recorded a podcast. F-ALT was a close second.

6. Best teacher blog – OllieBray.com – I enjoy reading Ollie Bray’s blog.

7. Best librarian / library blog – Paul Walk’s Weblog – I met Paul Walk through Twitter, met him in person on a train to the JISC Conference. I always enjoy reading his blog entries and they make me reflect on my practice and how we run our Library service.

8. Best educational tech support blog – eFoundations – this was difficult, I was torn between Andy Powell and Pete Johnston’s eFoundations blog and Brian Kelly’s UK Web Focus

9. Best elearning / corporate education blog – Andy’s Black Hole – Andy Black of Becta’s blog is always interesting. Geoff Stead’s moblearn: the mobile generation is learning … was a close second.

10. Best educational use of audio – Pontydysgu – Nominated for their use of live internet radio.

11. Best educational use of video / visual – Mark Kramer on Qik

12. Best educational wiki – F-ALT Wetpaint – this was an amazing part of ALT-C this year and has to be commended to bringing the Fringe to an educational conference and inspiring others to do the same at conferences across the world.

13. Best educational use of a social networking service – Jaiku, it’s the whole community – Though Twitter may be popular, the community of practice I have on Jaiku make me nominate Jaiku over Twitter. Flickr came close,  but it lacked the educational use for me.

16. Lifetime Achievement – Josie Fraser – what can be said about Josie, she has inspired others including me to rethink the way we use the web and the services we use.