Spring Break Catch-up on the 31 Day Blogging Challenge

For the last few weeks, the art class blog has been my latest tech obsession, which does take time away from the 31 Day Blogging Challenge. Thanks to a week off school for Spring Break (and it actually finally felt like spring today!), I can do some catching up!

Day 15 – Make Your Most Popular Posts Sticky – I stalled here for a reason – mainly I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do for this task! I finally discovered (after reading other challenge participants’ blogs) that I could add “If you liked this post, you might like to read…” at the bottom of my posts to encourage people to read other posts that connect to the post they just read.

I also realized that a RSS feed link can be added at the end of the post as per the Edublogger but I haven’t done this yet. I just haven’t had the time to play around with it. It’s probably much simpler than I’m guessing, so if you check back in the future, you might see a fancy icon meant to ‘stickify’ my posts!

Day 16 – Create a Heatmap of Where Readers Click on Your Blog – I signed up for the free trial version of CrazyEgg. CrazyEgg is a tool that tracks where people are clicking on your blog – very useful for various reasons. If I was blogging for profit, I might consider paying for an actual subscription, but I’m not, so free is good for me (thanks Problogger!).

Day 17 – Create a StumbleUpon Advertising Campaign for Your Blog – Great idea, if you’re interested in blogging for profit, which I’m not. This means I can skip to Day 18!

Day 18 – Create a Sneeze Page and Proper Readers Deep Within Your Blog – I like this one. Basically the idea is to purposefully send readers back into your archives to read your best posts. Very practical! After only four months of blogging, it’s easy to see that earlier posts can easily be lost. My first Sneeze Page is, fittingly, the 31 Day Blogging Challenge. Check it out for all my posts connected to the daily tasks!

That’s it for now! Four more tasks done, thirteen to go! I have to admit, I’ve learned a great deal from the challenge tasks and I strongly encourage others to go through the activities to learn how to become a better blogger. A little self-directed professional development for those learning-addicted educators out there…!

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Imagery – daffodil by lyricsart on Flickr.com

Week #4 – 31 Day Blogging Challenge

I lost Week #3 thanks to semester changeover, report cards and the Knowschools conference, so, as a result, Day 14 reflections happened in Week #4. Hopefully I’ll get my challenge momentum back soon!

Day 14 – Analyze Your Blog’s Competition – First, I don’t think of other bloggers as competitors, but as colleagues, mentors, fellow educators, and inspiration. Darren Rowse, creator of the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog, does mention that he uses “the word ‘competition’ hesitantly”. The point of Day 14 is to find and read other blogs with a similar purpose to your own and then analyze them to learn what’s good/not so good and apply that learning to improve your blog. Sounds like a crit to me…

My ‘competitors’ make up my Blogroll shown at the right under my tags. I do read more than the fifteen listed there so I plan to list the others on a separate page entitled “Blogs I Read“, which is hidden under the Edublogs ad in the top right corner. This page includes a special list of blogs belonging to those participating in the 31 Day Challenge and I think I’ll be moving a few of those into my Blogroll soon.

After analyzing my ‘competition’, I have a better understanding of why I read them – not really the point of Day 14, but I enjoy digression, especially in learning. I read those bloggers because I like their voice, I value their opinions and I like the way that they make me think about teaching and learning. I respect them as educators.

In terms of using what I learned from Day 14 to find my own niche, I think my blog fits in nicely with those created for professional reflection, professional dialogue and professional growth. Everybody’s different though, and my perspective as a teacher is a little unusual due to a special combination of teaching jobs in my teaching journey thus far, so I hope that my voice adds its own flavour to the cyberspace conversations.

Imagery: look into the past by mattsabo17 on Flickr.com

Week #2 – 31 Day Blogging Challenge

This past week I completed the activities for Day 7 – Day 12. I strongly encourage any blogger to complete the challenge activities; it’s a great learning experience to say the least! I’d also like to say thank you to all the challenge participants for enriching the challenge for me so far. Thanks for all your comments and encouragement!

I’d like to make special mention of Sue Waters. Her blog is an amazing resource for the challenge, and blogging in general, and I know I wouldn’t be learning half as much if it wasn’t for her!

Here’s what I learned in the challenge this week:

Day 7 – Plan Your Next Week’s Posting Schedule – I think this will turn out to be one of the most important tips I’ve learned so far. I used Google Calendar for this last Sunday. I like the email reminder that Google sends the night before a scheduled event. I scheduled two posts this weekend: one related to the 31 Day Blogging Challenge, one unrelated. In terms of productivity and life balance, 1-2 posts a week is realistic. 

Day 8 – Comment on a Blog You’ve Never Commented On Before – Done, thanks to the challenge participants. I commented on Colin’s and Joy’s blogs, both of which I’ll keep reading after the challenge is done. One important realization – I do need to find a way to keep track of comments and co-comments. 

Day 9 – Run an Advertising Audit On Your Blog – Although this activity is not listed for the group challenge (probably because I don’t think teachers create blogs for profit), I included it here because I didn’t know that some people blogged for a living. Now that I’m aware of it, it makes sense. I don’t know why I was so surprised to discover that for some people, work means getting up and posting every day. Once again, my mind has been opened just a little more to the new and unexpected ways that technology is changing the way people live, work and interact with one another.

Day 10 – Declutter Your Sidebar – As far as aesthetics are concerned, I like clean, simple design lines in general so my sidebar was not cluttered. After reading other participants reflections, I decided the only thing missing was a prominent RSS feed subscriber. I added Feedburner last night. I hope I added it correctly. I hope even more that I see some subscriptions soon!

Day 11 – Dig into Your Blog’s Statistics – I’m installing Google Analytics to get the data I need to do this properly. In terms of comments, the highest number is found on posts associated with the 31 Day Challenge, my art blog project and my PLN post.

Day 12 – Introduce Yourself to another Blogger – I returned the favour and commented back to Jeanette after she tagged me for this challenge activity. I do believe that this will be an ongoing aspect of blogging and expanding my PLN, although I’ll mainly stick to commenting and co-commenting for now. Digital immigrant at heart, I still do not feel comfortable emailing complete strangers.

Day 14 – Analyze Your Blog’s Competition – After reading this activity, I realize that time will be needed in order to properly analyze and find the answers to the questions posed. I’d rather spend a few days on this and learn from the activity than complete the activity quickly just to get it done. This self-directed learning opportunity affords the luxury of time, so check back next week for the reflections on this activity and those that follow.

Image: “7” by Lincolnian on Flickr.com

Week #1 – 31 Day Blogging Challenge

I’m seven days in on 31 Days to Being a Better Blogger.

One of the best things about self-directed learning is that you don’t have to fit your learning into the larger agenda of outer influence. Life is busy and I was happy to read that others participating in the challenge are more focused on the learning that the 31 day time frame. After all, it is the learning that’s important. Personally, I would rather take more time and maximize the experience. Besides, no one actually specified 31 days in a row

Here are the tasks I’ve completed to date:

Day 1 – Email a New Reader – My ‘new reader’ was someone I already knew, which is more at my comfort level, but I will take the step and email more readers unknown to me for a couple of reasons. First, I think it is a great way to continue conversations. Second, I’d like my readers to know that I appreciate their comments and I value their opinions. And, finally, I was on the receiving end of an email from a blogging conversation myself last summer and it was empowering to have someone take the time to contact me (thanks Jan!).

Day 2 – Run a ‘First Time Reader Audit’ on your Blog – I’m lucky that one of my siblings is very tech savvy and has given me some great feedback. I think I will push one step further after reading other participants reflections and get another first time reader to do an audit.

Day 3 – Search for and Join a Forum – Darren Rowse is right, this is a great way to build one’s PLN. I belong to Classroom 2.0, Learning Unleashed, BC Literacy Forum, Art Education 2.0 and my latest favourite, Images4Education. You do get exposure for your blog, plus your own blogging space within the ning itself, not to mention all the great learning possibilities that can arise from a group of like-minded individuals gathering together in one online space.

Day 4 – Interlink Archived Posts – Now that I’m building up the number of posts I’ve written, I have been able to continue themes that I’d already written on. And, just to be fancy, I interlinked archived posts in this post. Did you find them?

Day 5 – Conduct an ‘About Page Audit’ – I did this today. I’d like to add a photo of some sort, or maybe a different kind of visual (perhaps a Wordle?).  I’m happy with what it says about me for now.

Day 6 – Email an Old Time Reader – I think this is a natural extension of the conversations that get started from commenting and co-commenting. In the past week, I’ve emailed three people to continue conversations that began as a result of a blogging comment exchange.

Day 7 – Plan Your Next Week’s Posting Schedule – Great idea, and I’m a planner, so I tend to do this constantly for all aspects of my life (although not as much as my dad – you should see his planning system – but that’s another post!). I remember Betty, Cindy and Virginia discussing little notebooks and other methods of planning during a KnowSchools week. I followed their advice and carry a little black notebook with me everywhere I go that’s full of post ideas. Running out of ideas will not be a problem; my problem will be finding the time to post!

That’s what I accomplished for the 31 Day Challenge this week. Next week I want to connect more with the other participants and work on that group learning experience. I still feel behind compared to many of my fellow participants (Nic was on Day 11 last Wednesday – go Nic!), but I do think I’m off to a good start! Stay tuned…

Image by Squonk 11 on Flickr.com

31 Days to Being a Better Blogger

To enhance my learning and improve my blogging, I’ve decided to join up with others and explore the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Project by Darren Rowse which is connected to Steve Dembo’s 30 Days to Being a Better Blogger. I had started doing this on my own, but I know that being a part of a group learning experience is much better for me.

I’m determined to figure out as much as possible before starting my classroom blog and that time is rapidly approaching! I decided this after reading Sue Waters’ latest post on the subject. Thanks, Sue for the motivation! I hope I linked back correctly!