Edublogs Weekly: Tips for editing blogs and King’s Speech for educators

It is almost too embarrassing to write about – but during a recent Edublogs Campus training session, a user asked for an explanation for what all of those icons do in the visual post editor.

I admit, I hadn’t actually played with them all before, and had to do some quick learning for a couple on the fly. Who knew the custom characters tool was there all this time!?

Thanks to my new found custom character button, I can say happy π day everyone! :)

So, here is a quick and complete list of all of the different tools available to you when editing a post:

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Featured Post of the Week!

king5 Lessons for Educators from “The King’s Speech

Wow. You should check out this post – even if you haven’t seen the movie! From the EFL Classroom 2.0 blog by David Deubelbeiss.

Have a post that you would like us to consider for post of the week? Send out a tweet using the hashtag #ebshare so we’re sure to see it!

Upcoming Webinars & Live Events

Join us for this week’s live events!

Thursday the 17th @ 4pm PST – Edublogs Serendipity – PD Out Of A Blue Sky

Join us in our fortnightly unconference sessions. Bring along the burning issues and hot topics YOU would like to discuss. The topic is chosen by poll at the start of the session.

If you’re interested in suggesting a topic, or even better, being a presenter, leave a comment and let us know!

Learn more about our live events here!

We hope to see you there and have a great week!

How to get the most out of online tools

It is practically impossible to keep up with the ever-changing tools and resources available to educators. Not to mention all of the new vocabulary and jargon that comes along with it.

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The following posts from our own Sue Waters on TheEdublogger.com might be a great place to start:

Know of other great posts to help beginners out with ed tech or online tools? Share below so we can add them to the list!

Edublogs News: Featured blogs and a hero’s interview

For the past few months, we have announced on facebook and twitter our featured blog-o-the-week each Thursday.

We hope that others are able to gain ideas from these blogs while we are able to recognize teachers and students for all of their excellent work.

Featured blog of the week logo

This week, the featured blog is Heroes 2011 from Brebeuf Jesuit College Preparatory School in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Have a quick look at this blog, and you can tell that teacher Jana Haffley has worked hard with her Grade 11 English students on their blogs – complete with a Hero theme as much of the literature students read during the year is related to different heroes.

Jana was nice enough to answer a few questions from us so that we could share more about how she uses blogs in her classroom.

heroes

What do you teach?

I teach English 11. It’s derived from a primarily British Literature course, but it takes Joseph Campbell’s Hero Journey as its central theme and organizing principle. The literature selections are a blend of traditional texts from Great Britain and the world (Oedipus, Hamlet, Animal Farm, The Alchemist) and modern texts from various media (primarily film like The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Amazing Grace).

How long have you been blogging?

This is actually my third year. My pilot year was a mixed result. Last year was awesome, so I’m hopeful this year will be good, too.

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

Wow, there’s several… Let’s start here: My first goal with the blogs was to join my students where they live: online. One of my colleagues introduced me to Edublogs, which looked pretty and cool. Then, as I tend to do, I dived in, researching social media and 21st Century education (you know, all the buzzwords), and I was hooked. I thought: This explains the growing disconnect between my otherwise fabulous course and the students. The realities of new media were becoming so pervasive I thought that if I didn’t jump on, I’d get left behind. So, one of my primary goals with blogging is to re-engage my students in their “schooling.” The kind of learning they do through their tech outside of school is so much more engaging than the 19th century model they are encountering in school, that the disconnect is obvious (and painful when one wants to inspire students). So, I want to convince them that what they learn in school can be as real and engaging and pertinent as the stuff they learn in their “real lives.”

Secondly, the ability to individualize instruction through the blogging model is enormously beneficial to me. I love that students who need extra time and the chance to review materials over and over again to gain mastery can have free access to the class outside the 50 minute window of class. And the visual learners can benefit from the multi-media model so that they don’t have to rely exclusively on the auditory channel through lectures and the like. PowerPoints become movies that they can review as needed online.

What are the benefits you have seen so far?

One of the most effective aspects of blogging is the “REAL AUDIENCE” of their peers that the forum provides. No longer are they attempting to please the teacher with writing drivel; they now write for a real audience, and suddenly they want to sound authentic and witty and smart. They even want their words to be more or less grammatically accurate so that they don’t look dumb to their peers. By writing beyond the audience of one, my students have a genuine motivation to improve their writing, and it is from that internal motivation that all authentic learning comes. So, blogging has made my job easier. They are writers and readers of each other in a medium they enjoy. What could be better?

What challenges have you faced with blogging in your classroom?

Assessment. The key issue I’ve found so far is how to give feedback effectively. I want to do it right on the blogs, but the public aspect of such feedback feels “wrong,” for lack of a better explanation. I don’t want to mortify students by revealing to all what kind of “grade” they got, but, at the same time, there’s no paper to mark to give them private feedback. I’m working on email feedback, but that’s not very streamline or efficient. Plus, we have an electronic gradebook system that is primarily numerical (not a lot of room for comments, etc.), so systematically, finding a way to give feedback efficiently would be my major, current challenge.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’m a fan of Edublogs. I’ve looked around at other systems, and yours is by far the most adaptable. I have a lot of room to play, and so do my students, and that makes all the difference.

Thank you Jana for sharing with us!

Please feel free to leave comments below – especially with any ideas on assessing student work on blogs.

New Plugin #3 – Add a Facebook “like” button

Our third new plugin released this week is an easy way to integrate Facebook with your blog.

fblikehand

The Facebook Like plugin gives you the ability to quickly add a ‘like’ button at the beginning or end of posts or pages.

To give it a try, don’t be afraid to click on “like” at the bottom of this post! :)

Plugin Features

  • Easy to setup – all you need to do is activate, and the plugin automatically does the rest!
  • Change location – you can choose to have the “like” button at the beginning or end of each post, and rather or not to display it on your front page or not.
  • Customization – other settings include changing the colors to match your blog and making the button bar bigger or smaller.

How to Customize

After activating the plugin, you can click on Facebook-Like under the Settings tab of your blog’s dashboard.  From here, you will find all of the options with explanations provided.

More New Stuff!

This makes THREE new plugins made live this week – including the new PayPal and Calendar plugins.

The next few months are going to bring even more new plugins and features to Edublogs!

Be sure to follow us at twitter.com/edublogs and facebook.com/edublogs so that you can be the first to know as we roll out the coming changes!

Welcome to Edublogs 3.0

We’ve had a pretty busy weekend at the Edublogs ranch upgrading Edublogs to the new all singing, all dancing version of WordPress MultiUser and – while there are still a few tweaks in process – we’re more than delighted to confirm a complete upgrade and introduce you to our new admin look and some rather great new features!

New Colours! New Design!

Yep, the admin area has been redesigned from the ground up to make it easier to use, more pleasing to the eye and generally just better. You can even change the colors (just click on your username in teh top Right or on Users > Your Profile).

Finally a customizable dashboard

Simply rearrange your dashboard (what you see when our first log in) by clicking on the ‘Dashboard Widgets’ sub menu… you can add RSS feeds, blogs linking to your and we’ll be adding more as we go.

Oh my what a beautiful uploader

The new uploader is a thing of beauty, now you can simply upload multiple files, and create beautoful and simple galleries on the fly, check out this video for more:

Upgraded avatars

Scroll down to the bottom of Settings > Discussion and you’ll see a whole host of new avatar options for your comments. You can set users without avatar to look like mystery people, beautiful fractals or even monsters :) And what’s more, you now have the option to turn avatars off!

And that’s by no means all, but it’s all we’re going to put in this post for the moment.

For further explanation and exploration check out Sue Waters quick tour at The Edublogger and our brand new Video Tutorials.

So please, take time out to surf around your admin area for a bit and enjoy the new features and let us know what you think below.

And FYI, we’ll be upgrading Edublogs Campus sites during the summer break to cause as little disturbance as possible.

As ever, please post any support questions / unrelated stuff in the forums as it’ll just get deleted as a comment.

We’re soooo sorry!

face125125.jpgWe just can’t tell you how sorry we are for the slow loading times, errors and downtime over the last week.

Essentially what happened was that the growth of edublogs meant that we were getting drive errors on our servers, so we had to upgrade to SSCI disks (which allow for far more accesses) and purchase more servers to cope with the load… this was far more complex than we initially imagined and thus the difficulties over the week.

That’s just an explanation though as there aren’t really any excuses – you are entrusting us to look after your blogs and we should be able to provide you with fast and functional service. We can’t apologise enough for the inconvenience.

To make sure this doesn’t happen again we are investing in the highest specification servers available and hiring the best data technicians we can get to make sure every future maintenance goes as smoothly as is humanly possible.

We are always backing up all your data but we want to bring you far better speeds, we’re also going to be ramping up our upgrade schedule and providing you with a great deal of new features, themes, plugins and widgets over the coming weeks and months.

Can I personally thank everyone for the enormous amount of patience they have shown during this time, and assure you that we will do absolutely everything that we can to make up for the last week and repay your trust in us.

If you do have any continuing issues please don’t hesitate to post them in the forums (you need to register separately there) or email us directly at support /at/ edublogs dot/ org.

James

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