My new blog

So I finally have my own website!

melcashen.com

I know – not very inventive but it is mine.

For the last few years I have used a free word press blog, and although they were simple enough to allow me to do my own, I am enjoying having the freedom to do what I like with it. Even if it did take me three days to choose a theme!

I will be leaving my old blog where it is for the time being, but if you have it in your RSS, on your blog or subscribe I would appreciate if you changed your link.

Thanks.

Blogging – A Journey

This week’s challenge in the Global2 Challenge is to reflect on blogging in your classroom.  So tonight I took a reflective walk through my class blog and I soon realised the huge journey it has taken since the first post on  27th May 2010;

Welcome to Miss Cashen’s blog.  This site will allow you to have all of the wonderful things we do at school at your fingertips – literally!  All of the websites, activities and examples of our work will appear on here.  So whether you are at home on your netbook or at school in class, you can find all of those wonderful links to work we are doing.


I first began our blog after coming across Kathleen Morris’ class blog and felt that it would be a great tool to bring different links together in one place.   It was to be the perfect place to collate what we were working on in class.  So 15 months ago that is what I did and boy has it grown!

As I had planned I filled the side bars with links we were using in the class, sorting these into different groups and then using the posts to share the work we had been doing.  But the more I used the blog and saw what other’s were doing on theirs, the more I could see the amazing learning opportunities within blogging.

Soon we began to look at how to write a good comment and the power of leaving questions for readers in our posts.  And of course the joy of seeing blogging as a reciprocal community where leaving a comment on another blog can earn you a visit in return.

Then we delved into HTML, something I had no idea about before blogging.  But this opened the world for the plethora of Web 2.0 tools available to assist in learning.

As the excitement of our first global visitor to leave a comment enthused us, we began to focus on how to write a good post and to look at the blogs we were reading in an evaluative way, learning more about writing a quality post.

Our class blog has not only taught us to be better digital citizens but has given us an opportunity to respond to what we are reading and to write for an authentic audience.

If you were to look at our class blog now you may be thinking we hardly post on it but in fact this is because we have been busy setting up student blogs. Our journey is now about writing posts to interest our readers and build readership.  Now we can look even more closely at the community we participate in as bloggers.

I look forward to the next chapter of our blogging journey.

Boost your Blog

As part of the Edublogs Teacher Challenge we were asked to share our 5 tips for creating a blog.  This is something I have done quite a bit of in my classroom and now I have a good reason to share it.

Generally the discussions we have in our classroom tend to be about class or student blogs but interestingly the aspects of a blog children found important, I believe, transfers to professional blogs.

When teaching children about the comprehension strategy of evaulation, blogging is a brilliant genre.  We have used this rubric developed by Clarence Fisher, which has been very helpful.  But this year I hope to make our own rubric for our class.

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After using this rubric we discussed what we liked about the blogs we looked at.  It was quite interesting to see that the kids responses mainly came from the logistic side of the blog, with the navigation being more important than the writing.  I guess we wouldn’t pick up a book that was the size of a table as it would be too difficult to read.  A blog shouldn’t be any different.

Here are the 5 top responses from the children;

1. Easy to read: The blog should be easy to navigate and read.  Pictures are a great way to break up lots of writing and don’t forget to use paragraphs!

2. Links need to open in a new window: When we are working through a blog we like to glance at different links as we go.  But there is nothing worse then having to try and find your way back.  By simply setting your target (found in the link box) to open in a new window when you set a link it makes it a lot easier! And it allows people to come back to your blog.

3. Ask questions: We like to comment on blogs but this is a lot easier when there are questions to respond to.  It is easier to follow a list of questions than to think of writing about them from scratch.

4. Pictures and colours: Over crowded blogs make it really hard to concentrate, especially the blogs with ads on them.  They tend to put the ads in the wrong place.  It is easier to read if the writing is separated by pictures relating to the text.  And make sure you pick a good colour for the text.  Not all of them are easy to read!

5. Threaded comments: When you are reading through a list of comments it can be difficult to follow the conversation.  That is where threaded comments come in.  Thanks to Kathleen Morris who showed us how easy it is to do this (Find it in Plugins).

What are your 5 tips for boosting your blog?

What frustrates you when you read a blog?

Please leave a comment.

My blog as a cloud

Part of the first teacher blogging challenge was to create a Wordle cloud of your blog. As much as I love wordle, I find I use Tagxedo more. Similar to wordle it creates a cloud of words, with the most used words appearing the largest. But what tagxedo adds is the shape. You can choose from the shape menu or uplaod your own clip art/photo or shape. For this one I used the footprint as it is my blogging footprint!

Another great feature s that If you roll the mouse over the cloud it becomes larger. You can save the cloud as a jpeg or use the ‘save in web’ tool to copy the iframe code into a post.

I love using word clouds as a reflection tool. Recently I took my Selection Criteria (Job Application) and entered it into Tagxedo. It was very interesting to see the words I used most and it made it clear what I am passionate about.

Tagxedo

My Life as a Blogger – the challenge

I have only been blogging now for about 12 months.  Actually now I think about it I have been blogging for the last few years.  My first experience of blogging came when I moved to England to teach about 6 years ago.  As I was sitting in the library to check my emails I was peering over my shoulder at a fellow traveller uploading pictures and writing an online diary of their trip.  Now this was in the pre facebook days and was exactly what I needed to share my pictures and what I had been up to with my family back home.  Over the 4 years I was away it proved as a great tool to share with family and friends and I still love looking back and reflecting using Mel’s European Adventure Blog.

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For some reason, until now, I have never linked this blogging with the blogging I do now.

Last year I was searching Google for some reason and happened upon Kathleen McGeady’s class blog.  I instantly fell in love with what she was able to achieve in her blog and was very quick to get on board with my own class blog.  It was such an invaluable way to add links for my class to use, share what we had been doing in the classroom and give the kids real opportunities for writing.

It didn’t take long for us to see the wonderful benefits of our blog in the classroom.  With a few comments left on other blogs we soon grew a network of people who we now collaborate with around the world.

The next step in my blogging life was to find the plethera of teacher blogs out there.  Kathleen McGeady’s ‘Integrating Technology in the Primary lassroom,’ gave me a lot of help in using web 2.0 tools in my classroom and also reminded me about my twitter account!

Through Twitter I was able to find some wonderful blogs such as What Ed Said,  Edte.ch, and many others, which you will find filling my Google reader at the moment! I soon  realised the potential of using these for inspiration in my teaching and reflection.

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That was when I began my own blog! And why you now find me doing the Edublog Teacher Challenge!  So why am I doing the challenge?  As someone quite new to the idea of blogging, especially professional teacher blogs, I often have the feeling that I am not qualified enough or I struggle to think of interesting posts and  because of this I tend not to post as often as I would like.

Therefore the Teacher blogging challenge is perfect for me.  I look forward to publishing many posts over the next month.

Edublog Awards

As a new blogger this year, this is the first time I have participated in the awards.  It was definitely a difficult job and I have spent far too long (especially during the report writing period) deciding from my long list.

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Don’t forget you can nominate your own blogs here at Edublog Awards.

Best Individual Blog: Integrating Technology in the Classroom

Kathleen McGeady has many inspirational ideas and discussions on her blog.  I have it in my favourites bar as I am always going to it to find websites, web 2.0 tools or ideas to use in my classroom. It was her blog that started me blogging in the first place.

Best Teacher Blog: What Ed Said

Edna has some wonderful thoughts about education. She inspires me to think about and reflect on my own teaching.  She also has a wonderful humour.  Check out her post on ‘How to write reports….not’

Best Class BlogMiddle Learning Unit BPS

I love their Pic of the Day and Mystery Pic!  The children in this class take great pride in writing posts and I love to watch the variety of videos they have.  You should check out ‘How to make a Pumpkin Lantern’

Most Influential Blog Post: Teachers thinking about learning….

This post looks at how we can step back and allow students to be responsible for their own learning.  This is something I have been looking at closely in my classroom therefore this post was very informative and gave me some great ideas for reflection.

Best Education Webinar Series: Tech Talk Tuesday

I can’t say enough of this series.  If you have not had the opprtunity to join this elluminate session on a Tuesday, to listen to educators sharing terrific practises and ideas in the area of technology, you are certainly missing out!  I just wish it was Tech Talk Thursday so it wouldn’t clash with my staff meeting every fortnight! Luckily it is recorded.

Best Educational Podcast: Edtech Crew

These guys are with me in my car, when I go to bed and when I am doing the ironing! On my iPod that is!  Every fortnight, after listening to these guys, I jump straight on my computer to check out all the great things they talk about or to find our more about what their special guests have shared.

Best Individual Tweeter: Tom Barrett

Tom does a wonderful job using his PLN to share class and teacher blogs.  He uses Twitter to build collaborative tools we can all use in our classrooms such as the ‘Ways to’ series. From Tom, I have found many great class and student blogs all over the world.

Best new blog: Ms Woodward’s Class Blog

Ms Woodward’s class only started blogging in August for the first time and already they have built a fantastic blog full of great posts and interesting web 2.0 tools.

Best Student Blog: Aysha’s No 1 Blog

Aysha does a wonderful job sharing her learning and ideas in well written posts.  This is a great example to any student blogger.

Lifetime Achievement: Linda Yollis

I know Linda has not been blogging all of her life but what she has done for class blogging could fill a life time.  She has set the bar for writing comments and her ideas are used all around the world.  She is always searching for new blogs and loves to share comments with all that she visits, collaborating with classes everywhere. I have learnt so much from her blogging and can’t think of anyone else who deserves this award more!