Monthly Archives: April 2008


So, you’d like your own blog…

I was recently asked by a colleague about how I help my teachers decide what (if any) type of blog is for them.  Below is my process.  It may be helpful. You may react to it with hives and distain. Either way, take the following with a Tylenol and a grain of salt:

I usually start my conversation with the teacher by asking what they want to accomplish with the blog. How do they want to use it as a tool in their classroom. This gives some immediate insight into the format they will need. Then, I give them my brief tour of how a blog can be used:

  1. An information center (like Blackboard or another content management system)
  2. A teacher-centered blog (where the teacher guides the conversation and students respond in the comments)
  3. A student-centered blog (where the students guide the conversation and respond)
  4. A collaborative project (where students build the content together)

Once I determine the format, I begin to ask questions that help me figure out how the blog needs to be modified (usually with plugins):

  • Will it be used for discussion?
  • How do you plan to manage the discussion?
  • How many classes will be accessing the blog?

Some points I make to the teacher to help them make the decision:

  • Teacher-centered blog: You can intentionally guide the conversation.
  • Student-centered blog: Your students guide the conversation, have more buy-in
  • Single blog for multiple classes: Breaks down the wall of the classroom by bringing students together virtually (in a way that would be difficult physically); makes management a bit more difficult (keeping track of participation, moderating comments)
  • Multiple blogs for multiple classes: Makes managing the blog much easier; will need to replicate content (copy/paste) to the extra blogs

So, now you have your info, you know what the blog needs to look like, and it is time to build something beautiful….

For a teacher-centered blog, I add the following plugins:
Brian’s Threaded Comments (formats comments for threaded discussion)
Anarchy Media Player
WP-Stats (a quick way to track participation by tracking usernames attached to comments)

For a student-centered blog, I add the following plugins:
Brian’s Threaded Comments
Anarchy Media Player
Gaggle email accounts (free, filtered email.  I use a spreadsheet to format class data from our digital grade book to bulk create accounts)
Dagon Design Import Users (this plugin requires a unique email for each student)

You may also consider locking down the blog from the public and making student log in (make sure the student accounts are set as “subscriber” if you don’t want them to be able to create posts/pages):
Angsuman’s Authenticated WordPress Plugin

For keeping track of recent comments and most popular posts (say, on the sidebar), consider:
Get Recent Comments
Most Commented Posts

photo credit:  muckster

Killing People with Bronze Axes

Bronze Age Orientation

The “lessons” in the video are funny because they’re true (I think I’m quoting Homer Simpson)-

  • don’t be a pompous ass (period, but especially not when advocating for a major change)

    positive version – Be humble. You don’t know everything and your way is not the only way.

  • don’t make change a threat or tie it to a threat (the tribes with the bronze axes will kill you, the kids won’t learn etc.)

    positive version – Tie the change to positive outcomes for those involved. Focus on how it will improve their life. Why is it worthwhile for them?

  • don’t put down the old ways (and then they’ll throw away your stone axes because they’re rubbish)

    positive version – Honor the past*. Even if you hate the old way, insulting it will tend to increase resistance to change. In education, the focus should be on adding tools and exploring options rather than in taking them away. The bronze shoes and window are also pretty similar to the “must use twitter based podcasts wikis” in class mentality too often seen in EduBlogosphere Land. Tools are tools and each has its place.

This video shows the hypothetical meeting held to discuss changing from stone age technology to bronze age technology.

You’ve got the reluctance you normally see (funny but done in lots of things) but you also see something of the pomposity and threat possible in the “change agent.” It’s easy to end up seeming/being** pompous when you believe your way is clearly superior and you want others to adopt it.

via Merlin Mann on Mac Break Weekly although not suggested as being in any way educational





*honoring the past does not apply to crazy things like the Nazi party, cult membership etc.


**There is a difference – seeming pompous means you’ll still listen to others despite coming across as a know-it-all, being pompous means you won’t listen because in your heart you do believe you know it all. There’s a fine line between advocating for something and becoming a zealot.

Bestiary Images & Copyright

medieval image of witch and animal

I’m going to be doing a presentation before too long where I look at blogging and web 2.0 through the lens of a Medieval bestiary. I thought this was a solid concept in part because I figured none of the images would be under copyright since they’d have long since passed into public domain.

crazy bat looking thing

What I found on a number of different sites did not reflect that. Many of the .edu sites that had quality bestiary images also had pretty restrictive copyright claims as well.

This didn’t make sense to me and so I started digging around and found a number of well referenced claims that said, essentially, that scans of public domain works are not derivatives and so are not under separate copyright. The case repeatedly cited was Bridgeman v. Corel. I’m not a lawyer and am not giving you legal advice but you can read one lawyer’s take on all this at the Library Law Blog (Mary Minow, J.D., A.M.L.S.). She’s got a lot more nuance in her post so if you’re nervous I’d read it and make your own decision but I feel good about what I’m doing.

I’m cleaning up the images and posting them to Flickr if you think they’d be of use to you. The majority are pngs with transparent backgrounds (some of which still need some work).

bestiary image

old networks

The Pirate’s Dilemma Meets Felton Design

I wandered into the The Pirate’s Dilemma keynote video the other day and found it pretty interesting. It’s worth watching if you’ve got some time. There’s also an accompanying book and blog.

I subscribed to the blog and got an interesting bonus recently. Nicholas Felton ( of dy/dan fame) worked with Matt Mason (Pirate’s Dilemma author) as part of the We Tell Stories series.

My brief was to come up with something based Hard Times, the Dickens classic which illustrates the growing pains of the industrial revolution. My story was to be about the growing pains of the information revolution, the subject covered in The Pirate’s Dilemma. If that wasn’t an intimidating enough way to enter the world of fiction for the first time, the story also had to be told as an ‘info-graphic novel’, using mostly statistics and numbers, mirroring Mr Thomas Gradgrind’s (the main character in Hard Times) obsession with cold hard facts.

He didn’t quite follow those directions but I like what he came up with. It takes some focus to really appreciate it (or understand it in some cases) but I think that’s a good thing.

We Tell Stories is an interesting project with 6 authors telling 6 stories in interesting ways. There’s a lot of variety and some interesting things to think about in terms of projects and story telling. I like that someone “legitimate” has finally done a story using Google Maps. I still think it’d make for an amazing choose-your-own-adventure medium.

Shakespeare Writes For Tarantino

Darthparadox on Live Journal translated some chunks of Pulp Fiction into Shakespearian prose.

This would be a very interesting way to get students really delving into the language of Shakespeare and a great way to make them interested in understanding it.

Let them choose what they want to “Shakespeare-rize.” You might have to add some propriety restrictions for high school but it’d be a lot of fun.

J: And know’st thou what the French name cottage pie?
V: Say they not cottage pie, in their own tongue?
J: But nay, their tongues, for speech and taste alike
Are strange to ours, with their own history:
Gaul knoweth not a cottage from a house.
V: What say they then, pray?
J: Hachis Parmentier.
V: Hachis Parmentier! What name they cream?
J: Cream is but cream, only they say le crème.
V: What do they name black pudding?
J: I know not;
I visited no inn it could be bought.

The original, in case you’ve forgotten it.

Vincent Vega: You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in Paris?
Jules Winnfield: They don’t call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Vincent Vega: No, man, they got the metric system, they don’t know what the fu** a Quarter Pounder is.
Jules Winnfield: What do they call it?
Vincent Vega: They call it a Royal with Cheese.
Jules Winnfield: Royal with Cheese.
Vincent Vega: That’s right.
Jules Winnfield: What do they call a Big Mac?
Vincent Vega: Big Mac’s a Big Mac, but they call it Le Big Mac.
Jules Winnfield: Le Big Mac. What do they call a Whopper?
Vincent Vega: I don’t know. I didn’t go into Burger King.

I know I possibly overdo the idea of remixing things. I think it’s because of a poetry class I took in college. We were allowed to select a poem and had to re-write it with a paper explaining our process along the way . I chose “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” I switched blackbirds for ice cream and had a lot of fun. It was the most enjoyable paper I ever wrote and I certainly worked on it far harder than any other. Although I’m not sure how it could have been more enjoyable than my final history thesis on “The Negative Impact of the Communist Internationale on Indo-Chinese Communism.”

Found via Boing Boing