Saturday, April 08, 2017

Using Blog Tools Since 2006

Recently I asked my graduate students to share their experience with digital portfolios. I would have to say that my experience started in the late 90's when we first learned how to publish on the web using HTML and FTP, but in 2006 when I discovered blogging tools I quickly knew that a new digital portfolio platform had been born.
My  love for blogging tools as a digital platform started back in 1999 when my students started exploring digital tools to keep track of their learning using tools like Live Journal and Xanga.  We (my students and I) loved exploring  new tools.  We had been using web design tools to document our learning and create web sites about our community for a few years.  I remember one student claiming that she could FTP in her sleep!  

With the introduction of blog platform tools like Live Journal and Xanga came an ease of use for adding chronological entries and publishing them on line   that lent itself to journaling. While my students were finding ways to use these tools for their personal journals using LIVEJOURNAL.  I immediately thought of the various ways this could support learning.   
We used Xanga to document our progress on group projects and set goals for each day.  I must admit that I had to ‘nag’ a bit to get them to  close up shop 5 minutes before the end of the class to update their progress on our project blog.  It was more of a project management tool at first.  

Then in 2001, I took on a teaching assignment that took me off campus for a year to work on professional development as a lead teacher.  The teacher who took over my job was new to teaching and a little unsure how to handle the independent study classes that my advanced students were scheduled for.  I offered to mentor their independent projects from the road.  The blog platform and the routines we had for using them made this possible.  The relationship we had built over the years also helped!  We also scheduled some synchronous chat times.  

CC Wikipedia
It was during one of those early morning chat times (around 9 a.m.) that the phone rang. I answered the phone to learn that the a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. I turned to my computer and entered  the following into the open chat window .. “Turn on the classroom TV”.  
(Each classroom had a TV with Cable News available).  While someone turned on the TV in the classroom, others were looking for news online.  One website after another stopped responding from overload. Eventually some web masters figured out that if they shut off pictures they could better serve the demands on their sites and keep providing updates. My students and I would update each other via chat as we discovered updates on those sites… soon the chat window went quiet.  I looked at the time and realized the bell had rung and they were off to their next class.

That night each of their blogs contained so much more than progress reports. They contained reflections!  It was  early in the school year and I had not taught them how to add images yet (which actually required some technical skills back then) -- that day ONE young lady’s blog was filled with pictures she found online  and one line  “Words Cannot Describe”.  She was not one of my most tech savvy students,  but that day she was motivated to figure out how to reflect in a way that was important to her.

I really do believe that blog platforms create new ways of doing things that were previously not possible.  Ruben Putendera would call that TRANSFORMATIVE on the SAMR Scale.

As more and more people started using BLOGS to express opinions,  I started to think of a Blog Platform as much more than a rant or opinion easily published online.  In 2005, I did my first Inquiry Action Project taking a look at the roles of blogging in education.   That year I presented  a session on blogging at VermontFest - our state ed tech conference.  I didn’t use PowerPoint as my platform-- I used a blog, of course.

In January 2006,  I decided it was time to transition my portfolio/web site to a blog format.

I remember noticing the blog tool - TYPEPAD after I saw Guy Kawaski pick TypePad to enter the world of blogging.

So instead of picking the free options available, I shelled out a few bucks and decided to get serious when transitioning my portfolio to a blog format.  

 I’ve been shelling out 4.95 a month for over 10 years to Typepad for my Learning With Lucie space and it feels like I can’t just stop with fear of losing years worth of reflection and documentation.

That same year I was even invited to join some amazing educators to contribute to a group blog called The Infinite Thinking Machine sponsored by Google and West-Ed.  
That experience transitioned me from using a blog platform for various educational purposed to actually writing regularly as a BLOGGER using BLOGGER!  It was a dream come true -- really it was.   Blogging made it possible for me to express myself to an authentic audience (the way I had dreamed about in high school when I wanted to write magazine articles for a living.)  

Fast forward over 10 years..  I still think that blogs are one of the most versatile tools around...  

and currently I’ve used Blogger as a  free tool for over 100 projects ranging from my own professional reflections to student mock portfolios. This post is the beginning of a short series that will share a few of my favorite tips for using Blogger as a digital portfolio. In the next post, I'll share how to use tags effectively to categorize post and to create additional pages on your blogs. In a few post we'll even learn how to change the landing page for blogger and to automatically sort all your post so they appear on individual pages on your digital portfolio. Stay tuned.