An interview with an award winning blogger and educator

europeana_launchOne of the most exciting things about being part of the Edublogs team is that we get to see all of the excellent uses of class and student blogs around the globe.

We recently learned that one of our users, Donal O’ Mahony from Portmarnock Community School in Ireland, had been nominated for a European eLearning Award at the EMINENT Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In fact, at the conference it was announced that Donal and his history class received the Europe’s Digital Heritage award for their student blogging which can be found here.

You can see all of the 50 shortlisted projects here.

Donal was kind enough to answer a few questions we sent his way in hopes of sharing a bit more about his class blogging experience with others.

Where and what do you teach?

I teach at Portmarnock Community School, Dublin, Ireland (here). I teach mainly history and some religious education. The school is co-educational and has about 825 students.

How long have you been blogging?
I have been blogging about two years, firstly for myself with eLearningIsland (here) and the with my students (here). We moved from a class blog to each student (30 of them) creating their own individual blog (here).

What do you want to accomplish with using blogs with your students?

  • Engagement with history in a way that that is relevant to their world
  • Digital literacy – an understanding of how to work their way around a Web 2 environment
  • Representation of work that is beyond copy and pen
  • Visibility on the WWW encouraging responsibility

What are the benefits you have seen so far?
Interest, wanting to be in the ICT mediated-class, pride in work, ability to be able to articulate about matters digital, an eye for design (they loved playing about with themes, some of them using the custom feature).

What challenges have you faced with blogging in your classroom?

  • Time, I believe is the greatest challenge. EduBlogs helps here in having WordPress configured for the use of the teacher giving time back to him/her to focus on teaching/learning
  • The computer room in schools can be a “variable” environment – Its the simple things that cause problems! Flash may not be updated on all machines, Broadband is down occasionally (we do generally not have paid technical support for ICT in schools in Ireland) – the student however can also work on their blog at home which many did
  • Different levels of digital literacy from the student who is making his her first online steps to the student who is more advanced in their abilities – just like teaching the normal class really!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

My own blog deals with some of the issues around ICT in education. I recommend following it!

We recommend following it too.

Also check out the slides from the presentation below.

One thing in particular to look for in his process is that he started with a simple class blog and then gradually moved into students having their own individual blogs. This approach helps students understand what blogging is all about, sets the tone and blogging rules, and introduces the blogging process.

Thanks Donal for sharing with us and congratulations to you and your students for the honor!

Edublogs Live Events In November

It’s hard to believe that November is already here and before long we will be in the middle of the holiday season!

And this November, we wanted to let you know about several live events and webinars we have planned.

These real-time events are delivered using Elluminate, complete with audio, chat and desktop sharing – and are completely free and open to anyone that wants to join in.

What is Edublogs Campus?

This hour-long webinar will introduce all of the unique tools that make Edublogs Campus packages the perfect blogging solution for schools, districts and universities. Ideal for new Campus Site-Admins or for those interested in learning more about what Campus can do – we’ll make sure that all of your questions get answered.

When: Wednesday, November 10th @ 9:30am PST and Tuesday, November 23rd @ 1:00pm PST

What can I do with my blog?

For all new and experienced bloggers, we will provide an overview of all of the great blogging features available to Edublogs users. A 30-minute presentation period will be followed by a 30-minute question and answer time where participants can get advice from and ask questions directly to Edublogs staff.

When: Wednesday, November 17th @ 9:30am PST

Edublogs Weekly Serendipity & Fine Focus

In these weekly engaging webinars, we range across a variety of topics and include discussion (“Talk Time”), how to use various applications (“Techie How To”), and using technology in the classroom (“Tools and Strategies”). In fact anything “e-” that is of interest to educators. If you have something to share we would love you to guest present a session for us!

When: Every Thursday @ 4pm PST

To join a live event just click on the following link:

https://sas.elluminate.com/d.jnlp?sid=vclass&password=LPCBZLAT4D3Y921591JT

Elluminate is a Community Partner with Edublogs.

To learn more about Elluminate check out:Get a Free v-Room

  1. Introduction to using Elluminate
  2. The Elluminate Quick Reference guide
  3. Join the Configuration Room to test your connection and configure your audio

Get your FREE 3-user Elluminate vRoom HERE!

To stay up to date on the latest webinars and live Edublogs events, bookmark this page and visit it often.

No reservations are needed – simply click on the link above at the time the webinar is to begin. We hope to see you there soon!

New Plugin #2 – A Calendar For Your Blog

As promised, we are releasing THREE new plugins this week!  minical

The first is an easy way of accepting payments or donations right inside your blog.

The second, which has been a highly requested feature, gives you the ability to place a calendar on any post or page in your blog.

This plugin can be used as an event calendar, lesson plan book, or maybe a class birthday calendar.  We would love to hear about other ways that this feature might be used.  Feel free to leave a comment below with your ideas!

So how do you use the plugin?

calendaroptionsIt’s easy.  Pro and Campus users can activate the plugin from their dashboard.  This will create a new Calendar tab near the bottom of the left column in the dashboard where you can configure the calendar.

The most common way to use the calendar is to create a new page and copy and paste {CALENDAR} into the page where you want the calendar to appear.  Make sure to include the brackets and use all upper case letters.  This can be used on any page or post in a blog.

To add events, click on Manage Calendar on the calendar tab.  Events can be recurring, scheduled for all day, or given specific times.  You can assign events to different categories and give each category a different color so it can be easily identified on the calendar.  You might find ColorPicker.com useful when assigning colors.

And what about widgets?

Once the plugin is activated, you will find two new widgets to put in your blog’s sidebars.  There is one for “Today’s Events” and one for “Upcoming Events”.

A calendar may just be the perfect addition to a class blog to keep students and parents informed. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s release of plugin number three!

Use your own domain – for free!

About a year ago, we started selling domain names and the ability to use your own domain names on Edublogs blogs.

Well, after we did that for a while, we changed over to the Supporter model and that became tricky… but no longer, because we’ve decided to bundle free domain mapping in with Supporter, so that every single supporter can now use their own domain… at no extra charge!

How does it work? It’s really easy… let’s take Sue as an example:

So, Sue’s old personal blog had the very catchy URL of “aquaculturepda.edublogs.org” which was a bit off, seeing as it started life as ‘Mobile Technology in TAFE’ and then became ‘Sue Waters Blog’ ;)

So, we did the very simple thing of going out and purchasing suewaters.com (for less than $10), and then configured the A record by following our handy Using Your Own Domain guide.

Then we visited Tools > Domain Mapping, and simply entered the new domain there:

domainall

And that’s all there was to it… now you can catch Sue Waters at… suewaters.com!

As mentioned above, this is a new feature for Edublogs Supporters, at no extra cost, which we think is pretty darn cool.

Let us know any bugs / questions / comments / thoughts below :)

Edublogs and Supporter

A few weeks ago, Edublogs passed a pretty big milestone, the 250,000 blog mark.

We were and are absolutely delighted that so many teachers and students have been able to use the service for so many different reasons and we want to continue improving, expanding and developing the site so that we can see in 500K, 750K and so on!

And to do that we’ve been working feverishly to set up, configure, manage, and deploy hardware and a system which will allow this to happen – so that you and your students sites will be quick, reliable, safe and ever improving over the years to come.

But in doing so, of course, we had to revisit our business plan because planning on hosting a million+ blogs is a pretty costly endeavor!

Now, a lot of you may know about Edublogs Campus – our institutional and district-wide blogging platform used by clients ranging from Cornell University to the Department of Education in Victoria, Australia. Well, that’s one means that we support free blogs on Edublogs and that’s carrying on just as normal.

The other method has been via Edublogs Supporter, which has allowed teachers to subscribe to receive extra features and more storage.

Well, today we’re improving that.

As of now, Supporters will not only get the same features that they had before, but also massive amounts more storage (we’re increasing 0.5GB to 5GB… a 10 fold increase!), along with exclusive access to tools like the Blog & User Creator, existing plugins (and new ones to come) and other great features.

Also, occasionally, we have displayed ads on sites to assist with covering hosting costs. This is someting we’re going to have to increase on free blogs, but of course Supporter blogs will not have any third party advertising on them.

And more importantly, what we’re also now allowing supporters to do is *turn off* advertising on up to 30 different sites (a whole class of students) – as well as your own blog being turned off automatically.

There are a couple of catches, first up we’re having to increase the price of supporter to $39.95 per year (that’s still less than $4 per month!).

Also, as I mentioned previously, extra functionality (plugins, blogs & user creator and a few others) will only be available for supporter blogs, and there will be a reduction in storage for free blogs too.

Is this ideal? Well, in a utopian world we’d like to give everyone, everything, entirely for free and without any ads! But that’d be a utopia… so, barring that, we hope to still provide great free blogs alongside an absolutely premium supporter service that is more than worth the price of a large coffee per month.

We welcome your feedback, thoughts and requests for new Supporter features in the comments.

Also, if you are experiencing any issues with your supporter subscription or previous credits that you may have lost, please email us at support (at) edublogs /dot/ org and we’ll fix you up (there are always hiccups in a big move).

You can find a bit of a better write up about what Supporter offers here.

Let the domains begin!

Well, it’s been some time in coming, but we’re absolutely delighted to let you know that you can now map your own domain to your Edublogs blog… and it’s simple as pie!

All you have to do is to visit Upgrades > Domains and follow the information there:

You can choose to do two things – first up you can choose to buy a domain through us and we’ll configure it automatically for you.

Secondly you can choose to map an existing domain to your current blog – so, for example, if you own jamesblog.com – you can point it at your current blog by just changing the nameservers to ns7.edublogs.org and ns8.edublogs.org (you’ll get more information on that as you go through the process too).

And what’s more, you can even map subdomains! So, let’s say you work at Deakin University, you can get your tech people to set the A record on james.deakin.edu.au to 72.34.61.230 – and you’ll be away!

All you need to get started is to buy some credits via the Upgrades > Credits (it’s 25 a year for a domain and mapping or 15 for your own domain) and show off your shiny new blog domain (remember to add it to your email sig!)

The only think worth noting at the moment is that it will take 24 hours for the mapping to get put in place, so do it at a weekend if you want minimum disruption to service :)

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