100 ways to use a VLE – #14 Writing a blog

February 26, 2010

I is writing a blog!

Though you may be reading this on my blog, for some practitioners and learners using a blog is an alien idea and they may not even know what a blog is, or what blogging means.

A VLE can be a quick and easy way for practitioners and learners to start blogging and learn the value of blogging.

A blog is an abbreviation of web log (weblog) and to put it simply is a log of commentaries, observations or reflections that is placed on the web.

Maintaining a reflective journal, thoughts about assignments, or writing notes about lessons; these activities can all be done on a blog.

However…

Not everyone has the confidence or the technical ability to start a blog.

Now I know that starting a blog is a piece of cake, however that may be easy, it is not necessarily such an effective practice for a complete class, curriculum area or a whole college.

Some institutions may consider putting a WordPress MU Server for blogging purposes. However this may not be an option for all colleges. If a WordPress MU Server is put in, then you can link to college systems to ensure that every learner can create their own blog.

Though one issue is not just technical confidence, but also confidence in what is being written. It’s one thing to write a reflective journal and be very open, it is a fundamentally different thing to post those reflections on an open blog for all to read. A learner is likely to be less open if they know everyone, their mum and their employer is going to be reading it. So you might want to close it off to just the learner (or learner group) and the tutor. This requires a modicum of technical confidence; can we assume that every learner can do this?

So though blogging systems such as WordPress or Blogger are great tools for individuals, they don’t really scale with groups or whole colleges.

This is where the VLE can come in.

It’s already configured with logins for learners, so that’s one job done, learners and staff who already use it have a familiarity with it as a tool.

You can use included blogging tools, but for some learners even a discussion forum might be a useful starting point. Advantage of built-in blogging functionality will be (hopefully) that it generates an RSS feed.

Blogging has real potential to enhance and enrich the learning experience of many learners; the VLE can be the right tool for some practitioners in introducing the concept to their learners.

Regardless of the above, if learners want to use other tools such as WordPress, Typepad, Blogger, instead of using a provided blogging tool on the VLE, then practitioners need to consider how they are going to incorporate these blogs into the learning activity. An obvious route is to use RSS feeds from these blogs.

The VLE is not an ideal blogging tool, but for many practitioners and learners it can be a useful and scalable blogging tool.

Photo source.

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Wordpress 2 – iPhone App of the Week

January 19, 2010

WordPress 2 iPhone App of the Week


I am hoping that this will be a regular feature of the blog looking at the various iPhone Apps available. Some of the apps will be useful for those involved in learning technologies, others will be useful in improving the way in which you work, whilst a few will be just plain fun! Some will be free, others will cost a little and one or two will be what some will think is quite expensive. Though called iPhone App of the Week, most of these apps will also work on the iPod touch.

This week’s App is WordPress 2 (iTunes Store link)

I have written before on this blog about the WordPress App for the iPhone.

Back then I said

The interface is not fantastic, though having looked a little more into it, if you had an iPhone (it has a camera) you can add photos quite easily; from the iPod touch you can only (obviously) use images stored on the device.

I am reasonably impressed with the app and if it allows me to blog more easily and more often then that can only make my blog better (or will it).

In the end I have made use of it, as well as writing full blog entries I have also used it for ideas for blog posts which I can then use as drafts once I get behind a full size computer.

WordPress 2 is a revised version which looks and works better than the previous version. It also now supports password protected self-hosted blogs.

WordPress is blogging software, that you can either use free via WordPress.com (which is where this blog is hosted) or you can go to WordPress.org, download and install the software on your own server.

Once installed you can then post blog entries. One of the features of the software is you can either have a fully open blog or one with a password; a closed blog allows for example a learner and a tutor to reflect and communicate without letting the rest of the group (and the world) in on that conversation. A blog is different (better) than e-mail in that the reflections and conversations can be tagged, allowing both the learner and the tutor to collate and look at a group of blog entries. With e-mail they can get lost in amongst the body of e-mails we now get and many places limit how much e-mail you can store!

Since WordPress.com took advantage of the WPTouch theme, it can be much easier to view a WordPress blog on an iPhone (or other mobile device). You can also install WPTouch on your own WordPress installation if you are self-hosted.

The WordPress App on the iPhone allows you to post blog entries to your blog whilst on the move.

You can write entries, add images and then either publish direct, or save as a draft.

The App also works offline which makes it useful if you have the iPod touch, as you can write offline and then publish once you are in range of a wireless network.

Simple to use for just plain text, you can attach photographs, but can only embed them if you know soem HTML and already have the image somewhere already online! Not the easiest thing to do with an iPhone, though at least now we have copy and paste!

The WordPress App is a free app and WordPress.com can be used for free, so if you like free then this is one way that you can blog without needing to spend any money.

Blogging software is very much a personal thing, some like WordPress, others don’t. If you already and are happy using another service such as Blogger or Typepad then you are probably not going to swap to WordPress. However if you already use WordPress or are new to mobile blogging then the combination of the WordPress blogging software and the WordPress App has made it quick, easy and simple.


The Top Ten Blog Posts of 2009

January 1, 2010

These are the top ten posts from this blog (according to the stats) in terms of views. In reverse order…

10. Sony eBook Reader – First Impressions

Back in March I got my hands on a Sony eBook Reader and posted my first impressions. Since then I have found the eBook Reader to be a very useful device. So much so that in October I wrote e-Book Readers, are they the future? and in November I wrote So do you like books, or do you like reading? I also gave the Keynote at the JISC Collections AGM in which I discussed the future of e-Books.

9. It’s all about the coffee…

Twitter has been the service of 2009 and this was the blog posting of my presentation on Twitter that I delivered at the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 in October.

Of course really Twitter is all about the coffee. It’s the coffee you drink with colleagues during a break, where you discuss work, but also your commute, TV, films, the weather. It’s the coffee you drink whilst browsing the web and posting links of interesting web site to your blog or in an e-mail. It’s the coffee you drink in a coffee shop, reading the paper or a book. It’s the coffee you drink with fellow delegates during a break or at lunch at a conference. Where you discuss the keynotes, the presentations, the workshops, where you are going next, your hotel, the food, the coffee, what you do, where you’re going, what gadgets you have in your bag.

8. Sanyo CA9 Video Camera

This post from April was a repost of a blog entry that  first appeared on the Shiny Project Blog. The Sanyo CA9 Video Camera was one of the devices we had purchased as part of our MoLeNET project and these were my initial thoughts about this small handheld video camera. The camera proved to be a huge success in the college causing major cultural shifts in the way that practitioners and learners used video. Nice thing about the camera was that it was waterproof.

7. The VLE is Dead

This was the PR post for the VLE is Dead Symposium at ALT-C 2009. Just a trailer…

6. No Flash player on the Google G1

There is no Flash player for the iPhone and at its release there was no Flash player for the Google G1 either.

5. It’s not dead… yet…

This was posted before the ALT-C VLE is Dead debate. This was my response to various posts made by others on the death of VLEs.

4. G2 Google Phone

This posting is this high due to a high Google search ranking I expect… Not a huge amount of content, just some thoughts and a link on the then new G2 Google phone.

3. Ten things people say about using Twitter, but really they shouldn’t

One of two Twitter “ten things” posts I made in 2009. One of the things that does annoy me about Twitter is the way in which people like to dictate to you how it should be used and how you should use it. This is the top ten things you should never say about using Twitter.

2. The VLE is Dead – The Movie

We filmed the VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C 2009 and this was uploaded within 12 hours… I served something like 40GB of video in the first week of this post going live.

1. Ten reasons why Twitter will eventually wither and die…

Though Twitter has been the service of 2009, one day it will die… These were my ten reasons why it will die… one day….

It is a fact known to all that use Web 2.0 tools and services that one day they will no longer be flavour of the month, or will be swamped by spam, cons and hustlers. We have just seen the death of Geocities and services such as Friendster and Friends Reunited are not once what they were. The same will, one day happen to Twitter!

So there are my top ten blog posts of 2009 according to the number of visitors.


e-Learning Stuff Podcast #023: To blog, or not to blog, that is the question

June 7, 2009

Do you blog, do you read blogs, do you use blogging to support learning, are blogs dead?

This is the twenty-third e-Learning Stuff Podcast, To blog, or not to blog, that is the question.

Download the podcast in mp3 format: To blog, or not to blog, that is the question

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

James is joined by Kev Hickey and David Sugden.

Shownotes


How and why use blogging with students?

May 29, 2009

Lindsay Jordan from the University of Bath has published a really nice video on how why blogging can be used by learners to enhance the learning experience.

Find out more about the video on Lindsay’s blog.


I am having a coffee…

February 28, 2009

Yesterday I gave a few online presentations (conferences) for the MoLeNET programme.

One was on microblogging, entitled I am having a coffee…

The presentation covered blogging, RSS, Twitter, Jaiku, Moblog and even Flickr.


Blowing my own trumpet

January 14, 2009

This blog post is really just me “blowing my own trumpet”, well can’t one do that now and again?

Why the self trumpeting?

Well the evaluation of the JISC 2008 Online Conference has been published on the JISC website.

One of the questions asked was about the blog I wrote for the conference.

The evaluation said:

Most of the respondents who included their comments thought the blog was excellent. Six people from forty-two did not find it useful or thought it was extra reading in an already busy conference, but most of the comments on the blog were in the following vein:

“It gave a useful overview of the conference that looked at the whole picture instead of the detail.  Also generated new ideas.”

“It was excellent and tied together much of the technology and reasoning behind the usefulness of an online conference.”

“For me it was one of the highlights of the conference – very, very good indeed.”

“Also enjoyed James Clay’s blog entries – amusing yet informative! Hats off…”

Really quite chuffed about the comments.

Finally to bring me down to earth, here is the bloopers tape from the conference, as not everything goes to plan….