Muddling through the blogosphere

March 11, 2018
by blogwalker

Your Digital Footprint – Lunch with George Couros

K-12 teachers – use four words for every kid every time they write: write, categorize, tag, publish.” George Couros

Last week was my first time to attend the California League of Schools (CLS) Annual Conference – and I’m so glad I did! The highlight of this 3-day conference was joining George Couros’ lunchtime session Your Digital Footprint. Below is the session description:

We all have a digital footprint, as do our schools and organizations. “Googling” ourselves makes this apparent, whether or not we had a say in what shows up about us online. As individuals and as schools, what can we do to actually shape this footprint? With open sharing of our learning, a digital footprint can easily be developed for either an individual, school or organization. This is not about branding as much as it is about modeling for our students that we are learners along with them.”

As a director of my district’s digital citizenship program, I’ve been concerned about our seniors graduating and heading on to career or college pursuits without a digital portfolio. For the past 10 years, Kathleen Watt, my #digcit program co-director, and I have been offering workshops to help teachers support their students in creating and curating K-12 digital portfolios. We recommend blogs as the best venue for students to begin an ongoing process of documenting their learning journeys. So it felt like a pat on the back to hear George make the same recommendation.

There’s a reason @GCouros has 212K followers!

George also pointed out that not only do students need to have portfolios – so do teachers. He then reiterated that the best ePortfolio students and teachers can have is a blog … Oh, wow, why had I never made this personal connection before?!?

A blog is a portfolio.”

This quote was my biggest takeaway from the lunch session and conference.

George’s stance that “teachers need to create portfolios using the same platform they are pushing” was also validating. Years ago, we purchased Edublogs Campus Press for district-wide access. Outside of my district job, Blogwalker has been my personal space for reflecting on new ideas and resources, documenting conferences and workshops attended, and showcasing the work of colleagues and leaders who inspire and add to my teaching toolkit. But until this session with George, I had not thought of this blog as a portfolio.

I left the conference re-energized and committed to adding another round of blogs and blogging back into my workshop offerings, using Google apps (and VoiceThreads, podcasts, video creation, etc.) to create, collaborate on, and curate content that will ultimately be housed on a blog.

Over the years, I have cut back on my blogging workshops because, too often, I see teacher-created blogs used simply as a venue for posting homework. I suggest, instead, using a Google Site rather than underutilizing a blog. So, yes, I will continue to recommend that teachers post homework on a G Site – but with the strong recommendation that they to tap into all that a blog offers for maintaining a personal ePortfolio!

Tomorrow marks the 12th anniversay of my first blog post (in which I thank Edublogs … and reference MySpace). I see I left my first-ever comment:

Hi, this is a comment.
To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.”

Since 2008, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in, learning from, and contributing to a number of amazing communities (Google Teacher Academy, Microsoft Innovative Educators, Rushton Hurley’s MERIT program, CSU Sacramento’s iMET program, UC Santa Barbara’s Center for Teaching for Social Justice, and more). I think I’ve always attributed acceptance into these programs to luck and maybe a good recommendation or two.

I realize now that everytime I apply for a local or national program, I’m asked to include my Twitter handle (@GailDesler) and social media links, such as a blog. I’m wondering how many review committees have visited Blogwalker before sending their “Congratulations! You’ve been accepted” letter. When those committees have to make cuts to their lists of applicants, are educators with personal blogs/ePorfolios given priority over those without?

I would love to hear from fellow bloggers why you blog and what benefits you have experienced. I warmly invite you to leave a comment.

And if you need a little inspiration and motivation to start blogging, subscribe to George’s The Principal of Change blog!

August 6, 2017
by blogwalker

Blogging – A powerful digital literacy/digital citizenship tool

I work in the Technology Services Department for a large public school district. I love my job (technology integration specialist) and truly appreciate my department’s support of programs that promote digital literacy and the potential for students – and teachers – to advance from digital citizens to global citizens.

With this week’s start of the new school year, I’m getting lots of requests from teachers to setup Edublogs Pro classroom blogs, something I am happy to do … but not until we’ve had a conversation about their vision for their blogs. Because my department pays for our Edublog Campus accounts (worth every penny), I like to know how far up the SAMR ladder they – and their students – might travel via their classroom blog. If they simply want an online location to post homework and announcements, I suggest a free Google Site. If they need a little background on the SAMR model, I might send them a short video, such as John Spensor’s introduction, which makes the connection to the potential power of blogging:

Last week, in response to my blogging vision questions, a teacher sent me a link to the awesome Jeff Bradbury’s TeacherCast session: The Great EdTech Debate: Google Sites vs Google Classroom vs Blogger. I emailed back that Jeff was simply reviewing the suite of Google options; he was not commenting on the power and possibilities of  classroom blogging. (And I agree with Jeff that Blogger is not the best choice for a classroom blog.)

This morning, I came across Silvia Tolisano’s post Blogging Through the Lens of SAMR, I decided it was time to gather resources and rationale on moving a classroom blog from “substitution” (the “S” of SAMR) to “redefinition.” Silvia’s post, with its wonderful infographics, is a great starting point. I’m also including and highly recommending:

As a former classroom teacher, I witnessed many times the bump in literacy skills that happens when students know their work really matters, a change that generally requires an authentic audience. Blogging can provide a 24/7 microphone for students to join in virtual conversations with students and classrooms across the nation and world – and, in the process, cross the line from consumer of information to creator of information – and from digital citizen to global citizen.

I’m ending this post with two things: a blogger’s poem and an invitation.

#1) An if-you-give-a-mouse-a-cookie-style poem from Edublogger Ronnie Burt’s blog post A Rhyme? Why Not! Please note that “website” = “blog”:

If you give a student a website, at first, he isn’t going to be sure what to do.

He will start by wanting to decorate it and personalize it too.

He’ll no doubt choose some interesting colors and flashing widgets – making sure he has the most.

Once you go over expectations, you will assign the student to write his first post.

The student will ask, ‘is this for a grade?’, and he will probably groan.

But once he publishes to his new website, he’ll immediately want to pull out his phone.

He’ll post a link to twitter and facebook, out across the interwebs his post will be sent.

He’ll hit refresh in his browser, over and over, just hoping that a visitor has left a comment.

Before long he’ll see the comment notifications show up in his queue.

And an ongoing dialogue between his family, friends, and classmates will certainly continue.

So the next time he learns something new in your class, there won’t be much of a fight.

Before you even get the chance to finish, the student will ask if he can write another post on his website.


#2 ) An invitation to share classroom and student blogs I could showcase in my next post on blogging best practices. Please leave a comment with links!

Best wishes to everyone for the 2017-2018 school year.

PS Thank you Pixabay for cc licensed blogging image!


September 5, 2011
by blogwalker
1 Comment

7 Reasons Why Students and Teachers Should Know How to Blog

In the digital age, kids need to have an understanding of what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. They need to learn the technical how-to’s, as well as a more global comprehension of how to navigate the online world. ” Tina Barseghian, Mindshift


Reasons 1-6 are from Jenny Luca, Australian teacher/librarian – and one of my favorite Tweeters: Six Reasons Why Kids Should Know How to Blog. Here’s an abbreviated list, but please read Jenny’s post for the rationale behind each reason:

  1. Create positive digital footprints
  2. Communicate with digital tools
  3. Transparency
  4. New ways of thinking about digital tools
  5. Effective digital citizenship
  6. Pride in work


Reason 7 also comes indirectly from Australia, via Ronnie Burt (Edublogger Sue Water’s US counterpart): Improving Parent Communication in 3 Short Steps – Ronnie has summarized a post from Edutopia that reviewed the results of a recent parent survey from the National School Public Relations Association. Despite the efforts of  many school sites and districts to improve school-to-home communication through Facebook and Twitter links, those two social media networks did not make the top of the list at all. They actually ranked below television and attending school board meetings! The results show that:

Luckily for those with blogs, 4 out of the top 5 methods most requested can be taken care of in a flash. In short, parents like information to be on a website (which is really what a blog is) and they like email notification*.”

*Providing email notification is as easy as dragging and dropping a widget/gadget into your sidebar.

Love it when the research supports practices I have seen first-hand making engaging students in reading and writing –  and at the same time bringing parents (and grandparents) on board:-)

December 28, 2010
by blogwalker

The $2 Interactive Whiteboard – I’ve seen it in action!

One of my favorite things about the Edublogs Awards is the end product: an amazing compilation of links to innovative, super smart educators, many who are new to me, annually assembled in one convenient location.

Given the current economic crisis in California public schools, I was drawn by its title into the winner of The Most Influential Blog PostThe $2 Interactive Whiteboard. High school physics teacher Frank Noschese’s case for the $2 IWB over the $4,000 front-of-the-room IWB will either confirm or make you rethink how to maximize dwindling technology budgets for the sake of student learning.

In my case, I already had a window into the benefits of the $2 IWB while visiting middle school science teacher Kelli Quan’s classroom. From the video below, I think you’ll understand my excitement in watching Kelli’s students – on the first day of the new term – already collaborating, questioning, and learning from each other. Due to some time constraints, I interviewed Kelli prior to her teaching the lesson – and prior to reading Frank Noschese’s post; therefore, I did not ask about the use of IWBs, mainly because her site lacks funding to jump on the IWB bandwagon.

Thanks to the Edublogs Awards, I am now watching the video with new eyes, struck by the fact that 100% of her students had access to a powerful, affordable technology throughout the lesson as an integral part of their introduction to scientific thinking.

Think I’ll head back to the Awards in search of more low cost/no cost gems to share with teachers.

November 18, 2010
by blogwalker

Nominations for the 2010 Edublogs Award

Edublogs Awards – It’s that time of year again. I really appreciate this opportunity to recognize those who have contributed greatly to my PLN:

  • Best Individual BlogEducating Alice – Monica Edinger’s posts will keep you on top of the latest in children’s literature – along with insights on how to team literature and technology.
  • Best Individual TweeterLarry Ferlazzo – I don’t always have time to read through the sheer volume of great resources Larry shares on his Websites of the Day site, but every time he posts a resource to Twitter, I know it will be well worth my time to open the link.
  • Best Group BlogVoices on the Gulf – Once again, my friend, mentor, and NWP colleague Paul Allison makes “keeping it real” part of this timely online community of teachers, students, and community leaders who have joined Paul on a year-long investigation into the impact of our nation’s worst oil spill.
  • Best Class BlogMs. Cheung’s Connection – A 4th grade teacher in my district who always teaches from the heart (despite the pressures of a Title 1 site in its second year of Program Improvement), Teresa Cheung’s projects are always a source of inspiration.
  • Best Resource Sharing BlogThe Edublogger – You don’t even have to be a blogger to benefit from Sue Water’s shared conversations, great resources, and wonderful humor.
  • Best Teacher BlogKevin’s Meandering Mind – When teachers new to blogging ask me where they should start, I recommend following (NWP colleague) Kevin’ Hodgson’s continuing journey with 6th graders into the possibilities and limits of “teaching the new writing.”
  • Most Influential Blog PostMiguel Guhlin’s recent post Nurture Human Talents. If you are looking for the research and the argument for all students’ right to become producers of information (not just drill ‘n kill consumers), you definitely need to read this piece.
  • Best Educational WikiResources for Digital Writing and Digital Teaching – Considering Troy Hicks’ volume of outstanding publications and presentations, his wiki is the next-best-thing to traveling to a conference to attend one of his sessions or heading to Amazon to order one of his books.
  • Best Use of AudioYA! Cast – Looking for a site to amaze teachers about the possibilities of Audacity and podcasting? Robert Rozema’s pre-service teachers can show you!
  • Best Use of VideoThe Power of One – (NWP colleague) Lesley McKillop’s 4th graders take their voices beyond the classroom via video to change their community and to connect with online communities across the nation in creating and sharing information.
  • Best Use of a Social NetworkKnow ELLs – Feeling a  little overwhelmed about how to best meet the needs of your English Language Learners? From the National Writing Project, such a brilliant group of teachers sharing their expertise and resources!
  • Best Use of a PLNEdutopia: What Works in Education – With project-based learning experts such as Suzie Boss leading discussions and amazing workshops (including last summer’s session on studying and teaching the PB oil spill), I think there is something for everyone at this site!
  • Lifetime Achievement AwardGeorge Lucas – In a year when teacher-bashing seems at an all-time high, I really appreciate all George Lucas has done to support teachers and celebrate public education.

November 16, 2008
by blogwalker

Hey, what’s with the pop-up ads on EB blogs?

This morning I updated the Intro to EB Manual FAQs section with the explanation below – and the hope that my fellow Edubloggers will join me as an EB Supporter:

Last week a colleague asked me about the links to “Content Ads” that popped up when she accessed – for the first time – the Kids Book Blog (an EB site run by 5th and 6th graders at Joseph Sims Elementary School). Since I had never seen ads on any of my EB blogs or in any of my teacher trainings, I contacted Sue Waters, The Edublogger, for an explanation. Thanks to Sue and after doing a little reading in the EB Forum, I now understand that there is a very good reason for the Content Ads, and that, most likely, few of our blog readers will ever see them.

Let’s start with the reasons for Content Ads:
• Remember back in October when James Farmer was upgrading EB servers? As always, the brief disruption in access to our blogs resulted in more “goodies” being added to our EB toolkit. This last upgrade, however, has exceeded James’ budget. And that’s not a good thing. But being able to count on continued membership in the EB community of educators is a very good thing – far outweighing the occasional appearance of Content Ads on our blogs.
• Only first-time visitors to your blog(s), who are not logged into Edublogs, would see the ads. On their second and subsequent visits, no ads would appear. In fact, very few people would see ads at all, but enough search engine visitors might in order to help Edublogs cover the bills and continue to grow and develop.

Let’s look at why I had never seen Content Ads:
• For the last year, I’ve been an EB Supporter, which means that for a mere $25 per year (less than the cost of one Starbucks latte per month), I not only have extra space, a few more widgets, etc., but I also never have ads appearing on my blog.

Let’s look at why you probably do not see Content Ads on your EB blog(s):
• You will not see ads on any blog you are logged in to or have visited more than once.
• No one who has bookmarked your blog(s) or types in your URL will see any ads.
• No one logged into Edublogs will ever see any ads

Let’s look at the best solution for eliminating ads from your blog(s) and supporting the EB community:
• Become an Edublogs Supporter:-)
• Tell your fellow Edubloggers about the benefits of becoming an Edublogs Supporter:-)

October 12, 2008
by blogwalker

Shift Happens

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Edublogger community. As as veteran Edublogger (my first EB post was in March 2006), I’ve have been through a few upgrades and therefore know that when EB returns, it’s even better than before. I’m thinking back to June of 2007, when there was a two-weekwindow of down time during upgrades. I was attending a NECC Conference in Atlanta where a number of “big names,” such as Will Richardson, were attempting to introduce EB as part of the their blogging workshops. Because they’re used to working through technology issues, not having access to EB was not that big a deal.

But here’s what’s changed for me … Over the past two weeks, I’ve received many emails from teachers who’ve been in my EB workshops wondering what was going on. OK, this is a huge shift. Since most of my district, county, and A3WP workshops are free, I’m never really sure if my attendees truly want to learn about blogging, or if they are just looking for free units to apply to their salary schedule.

So about those emails….bring ‘um on !What the flood of questions means to me is that I now have a growing bank of teachers who are incorporating Web 2.0 technologies into their teachers’ toolkit. What felt like just a ripple a year ago is starting for feel a tsunami. Welcome back EB!

May 26, 2008
by blogwalker

Latest Updates to EB Manual

I’ve been working fast and furiously to keep up with all the changes happening at I’m pretty sure James Farmer never sleeps in order to keep up with the updates, enhancements, fixes, and forum discussions. So here’s a link to my latest Intro to Edublogs Manual. It’s pretty complete, but I plan to keep making updates as needed and posting the links here as well as in the sidebar (under Resources).

I’ve included directions on adding media, using the new visual editor icons, but so far those images, PowerPoints, etc. have not been uploading. Everything else seems to be working well:-)

A huge virtual hug to James for all his efforts – and Sue Waters too! Check out Sue’s video tour.

May 24, 2008
by blogwalker

Huge Updates to EB Dashboard

Amazing what can change with Edublogs in the course of a week! I considered deleting my previous post with its link to my “updated” EB Manual, which as of today is is already very much outdated, but decided to leave it just as proof of what a dynamic application and community the is.

Hope to have to have a revised manual available by the end of the week.

For an update at a glance, check out The Edublogger’s Quick Tour, created by and updated regularly by Sue Waters.

January 27, 2008
by blogwalker

Three Favorites from CTAP3 Conference

I am very glad that I traveled down Highway 50 yesterday to join 300 other educators for the CTAP3 Ed Tech Conference held at Granite Bay High School. CTAP3 Director and conference organizer Ben Anderson opened the day with the statement that we would “have a great day and find this conference a valuable learning experience for your own professional development.” Here are my top three reasons for enjoying the event:

1. Learning about Granite Bay High School‘s “World Class Tech Support” – Three impressive, engaging seniors kicked off the conference with an introduction to their highly successful GBiT program. This program (and class) provides students with the opportunity to engage in real-world technology support, web development, and management. GBit students maintain all technology on campus, including updates and upgrades, build and maintain the school’s web site and websites for outside customers, and provide faculty with technical training. GBit faculty coordinator Mike Fisher has built the program around a strong college-to-career path. (Note to self: Get the word out to high schools in my district about the GBit program and model!)

2. Listening to Hall Davidson‘s “Revenge of the Digital Immigrant: Teaching wit Media Technology” presentation – Hall reminded us of the brain-based research that supports media in the classroom. What I took away from this session was the power of short – 10-second, maybe 20-second, no more than 30-second – videos in the classroom. By projecting an image of Warren G. Harding and then flashing several times the phrase “29th president, ” followed by “handsome” flashed a few times, followed by “worst president ever,” I am pretty sure it will be a long time before I forget the gist of Hall’s mini lesson on the president who was elected more on looks than on ability to lead. (Note to self: contact Hall or Discovery folks to find link to Hall’s PowerPoint.)aliceandgail2.jpg

3. Meeting and co-presenting with Alice Mercer – I met Alice about a year ago in the chat room of a Teachers Teaching Teachers Skypecast. From there I started connecting with her in the blogosphere, first through her classroom blog, which was often the model that made visible to teachers in my Web 2.0 workshops the power and possibilities of blogging with students. As a regular reader of the Blog of Mz. Mercer, I feel that I know Alice pretty well…yet…(and here comes the blogosphere connection)…Alice I had had never met face-to-face until walking into the auditorium at Granite Bay High School yesterday morning. Thanks to Skype, Edublogs, and Wikispaces, we did our pre-planning online and were ready to jump in and – together – lead two workshops: Blogging for Absolute Beginners and Going Live with Edublogs. If I do say so myself, I think we did a great job:-) .

One of the favorite things I learned from teaming with Alice was a nifty trick for commenting back to students in Edublogs. Since Edublogs does not have an option for threaded discussions, Alice’s tip will come in handy for teachers wanting to respond directly to a student’s comment (or a fellow blogger’s comment):

  • From your Dashboard, click on the Comment tab, locate the comment you want to respond to and click on the Edit link.


  • When your code view opens, select italic and/or bold so that your comment will be noticeably different from your student’s comment, and add your comment. When you’ve finished, select italic and/or bold to close your comment, and click on the Edit Comment button.


For an overview of our workshop, checkout our workshop blog: Bringing Educators to Edublogs. (Note to self: update Edublogs Manual to include commenting on comments tutorial.)

I’m already looking forward to next year’s CTAP3 conference – but immediately to next week’s Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco!

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