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!

My PLN – The Open Window after the Door Closed

Steve Dembo is the motivation behind this post (thanks Steve!). His last post asked if personal learning networks, or PLNs, are bad for morale. That post inspired me and when I’m inspired I sometimes go on with a little too much detail. You might want to grab some coffee or tea and then settle in to read this one.

Last April I completed a graduate diploma on educational uses of technology. I live in a rural area and drove a considerable distance for sessions at the university. I always drove home motivated and rejuvenated, ready and excited to implement what I’d learned.

The last drive home, however, was bittersweet. I was thankful to be finished, happy to have a life back (no more homework!!!), and proud of my accomplishment, but I was very sad to be leaving an inspiring group of people. My cohort had motivated me and helped me grow and learn for over two years. I wondered what I would do without that formal learning atmosphere, without that regular injection of professional motivation, without my newfound, albeit formally organized, PLN.Window

What’s that saying, ‘when one door closes, a window opens’? Very true in this case…

Before leaving on that last day of coursework, I asked my faculty associate, Julia, how I could stay connected from a distance. She didn’t hesitate with her one word answer – ‘blog’ was all she said. I admit, at the time, I was dissatisfied with her answer. I wanted to maintain the momentum I had experienced with my personal and professional development. I wanted to continue my learning on how to include transformative uses of technology in my teaching. I wanted to have that motivation and inspiration that came from my cohort. Her answer seemed too simple and it didn’t seem to be the answer I was looking for.

Regardless, due to my immense respect for her, I took Julia’s advice. I had been reading blogs recommended throughout the coursework (Weblogg-ed, 2 cents Worth, Alan November) so I started working on my blogroll and trying to comment once a week. By the time summer rolled around, I was spending a part of Saturday morning, tea in hand, reading blogs. My RSS feed list was growing, as was my list of bookmarks on Del.icio.us. I was beginning to think that I could at least continue self-directed learning via blogging in this way. At Julia’s suggestion, I was at the beginning stages of developing my PLN online and I didn’t even know it.

During the summer I started planning on how to use blogs in an art classroom. In TLITE, I’d learned to try out new technologies before using them in the classroom. The logical first step was to start my own blog, but I was scared, and a little leery, to do so for the usual reasons.

It was about this time that I received an email from KnowSchools about an online conference on blogging. I decided to sign up, and that was the catalyst I needed to get started on my own blog.

Was Julia right? Was blogging the answer to my question on how to maintain that professional growth and stay connected after moving back to my rural home? Absolutely, yes!

In less than a year, my PLN is expanding in ways I never anticipated. I’m working on collaborative blogging projects within my district. I have little blogging conversations with people around the world. And, most importantly, I’m ready to transform the learning in my classroom using blogging as the tool. So far, the positives far outweigh the negatives and I’m only getting started.

In his post, Steve Dembo asked if being hyper-connected was bad for morale. It could be, if you’re a glass half empty type of person. But then, most things are perceived in a negative way with those types of people. At this point, for me, being hyper-connected is great! It’s exactly the type of motivation and inspiration that I need. I love my small town and my small school. Both have been incredibly supportive of any projects I’ve undertaken related to integrating technology into my teaching. However, for continued professional growth, I also love the idea of a PLN that is wide-open with limitless possibilities. But then again, I am a glass half full type of person…

Image – Window by Jezzebelle from Flickr.com

Six Things Learned in My First Two Weeks

Reflection time. Here are six things I’ve learned about blogging in my first two weeks:

  1. Maintaining a blog takes time. I’ve spent 3-4 hours per week designing and writing posts. I realize that it’s a work in progress and I like the continuous improvements as my blog evolves.
  2. Visual appeal is important. I created a Flickr account and added the link to my page. One thing I want to learn next is how to include photos in my posts, especially copyright free images off the net.
  3. I want to use my blog to help build my PLN. Blogging is a good way to build a personal learning network. Check out Sue Waters’s recent posts on the subject – if you hurry, there’s a survey you can fill out.
  4. Activate your Widgets – I waited (impatiently!) for little red dots to appear after I added a ClustrMap (a widget suggested by Jan Smith – thanks Jan!). I knew people were visiting my blog, but no red dots! Turns out that an email from ClustrMap that I misread was really the way to activate the widget…oops!
  5. I’m enjoying myself. Writing relaxes me, it always has. It doesn’t matter if I write with a pen or with a keyboard. There is, however, something extra special about a beautiful, handmade journal and a really fabulous pen…
  6. Bloggers can be compared to rock stars. Steve Dembo at Teach 42 wrote a great post full of encouraging words for beginning bloggers:

“When you get right down to it, the best way to be a successful blogger… is to be one. To put yourself out there, to be bold and promote yourself, to be confident in your worth and quite simply to be the Rock Star you truly are.”