Archive for November, 2013

Today I had the pleasure and honour to present at a great event organised by the really lovely guys at @WordpressWales, Just WordPress Workshops AKA #jww. In my blogging journey I have made many mistakes, which means I have learnt a lot along the way, especially because I have met and networked with some really inspiring people, so when you have the opportunity to be in the same room for a day with a whole bunch of inspiring and cool guys you aught to make the most of it. So, this post is really a reflection about what I learnt today and I will try to write one thing from each presentation. By the way, these tips are not in order of awesomeness, but follow the order of the presentations, and before you ask, yes all presentations were awesome. Obviously I cannot comment on mine, so leave some love in the comments if you happened to be at the event and you like it 😉

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1. Be and invite guest bloggers – via @rightmoveaddict

Andrea Morgan gave an inspiring presentation on how she grew her following massively in a really short time. Her Blog is really cool and if you are an interiors kind of person you should certainly check it out. The main point I learnt from Andrea was to engage other bloggers in your field and get them to write for your blog and try to get invited to write for theirs. Andrea recommends, and rightly so, to retain editing rights to guest blogs on your site, so that your Voice is never lost!

2. Format your Blog writing – via @Whatsthepont and @Helreynolds

Helen Reynolds and Chris Bolton joined forces today to convince us that formatting our Blog writing can be a useful strategy to effective blogging. Chris had the “good fortune” (according to him) to get pneumonia and get off work for quite a while in March (I think) and that got him thinking about how to format his blog writing. Having thought about the format of your blog can help you focus on the important content of your posts and cut the unnecessary stuff that is likely to drive readers away. Helen then gave some examples of effective formats, so if you are thinking why I am writing a list of good tips, that is because I learnt a new blogging word today, “Listables” (or at least I think that’s what Helen called them). Apparently, lists of top tips are a really effective way to attract readers, so I have set a target to give more posts like this one a go.

3. Everyone has a book inside them – via @mindhiver

When Pippa Davies takes the stage you certainly cannot ignore her. She has the energy of a lion and the cheekiness of a monkey. It’s always a pleasure to listen to her speak and today she took us through her journey to turn her blogging into an eBook. Pippa is no stranger to publishing, so she gave a few great tips and tools for publishing eBooks online. A great tool that I want to try and see if I can apply to the classroom (hopefully in connection to the Literacy and Numeracy Framework) is Pressbooks.com and that is one of the things I took from Pippa’s session.

4. Put the crayons down and find your identity first – via @brandnatter

Russell Britton gave some really useful tips about what brand means and why it is so important to find the identity of your business, or whatever else you want to build, before you start creating content. Russell also encouraged us all to forget about Stock Photo like images and take our own. The point he was making is actually very useful, because using your own images will definitely make you look different from the rest! Half way through his presentation I noticed one of the pictures he showed as an example not to use featured in my presentation and my heart sank – yes, I was just after him 😦 but I think that taught me a lesson 😉

5. Engage the best in your field – via @Collaborat_Ed

Next it was me and I talked about our journey to try and climb the search engine results ladder. From the tweets I noticed about my presentation I could see that people seemed to find useful what I said about engaging the best in your field. These people are likely to be where they are because they have networked and shared a lot in their work, so they will respond to good stuff you do in their field.

6. Get approval from your boss – via @Tanwen_Haf and @DyfrigWilliams

This was another double act and focused on the barriers to blogging and social media the public sector hits. One of the biggest hurdles seems to be that anything that gets published on public sector websites needs to go through a long process of approvals and if you want to blog about current issues you know you’ve lost the race even before you even start. I suppose that is a problem that is true of big brands too. Brand image is really important and CEOs can often get really anxious about potential negative feedback they get on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. My answer to that is – Would you rather be talked about without knowing it, or having the opportunity to promote good stuff being said about you and defend your choices when not so nice things are said about your brand? Social media is not just a good way to promote yourself, but also a tool to gather information about what your audience thinks about you, so use it to your advantage and do not be afraid, or paranoid about it.

7. .com might just be all you really need – via @Joel_Hughes

Joel showed how much stuff can be done and achieved through a blog built on WordPress.com and that for a lot of purposes you don’t really need to host your own website using WordPress.org. I think the coolest and geekiest thing Joel showed was his “call to action” buttons made in wordpress.com. I never knew you could do that and I will have to check out his website to see how to do it, because it looks pretty awesome.

So, this are the 7 tips I took with me today and I hope you will find them useful too. If you haven’t attended one of the @WordpressWales events yet I strongly suggest you come to the next one. Keep an eye on their Twitter feeds and their website, so you will not miss out next time.

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Anyone who insists technology is disempowering has probably not come across really young learners interacting with it. Today I was reminded about how intuitive, engaging and formative technologies like the iPad really are.

I want to call Nonna!

My 2 year old boy, Martino, felt like talking to Nonna (grandma in Italian). I say talking, but, although he can say quite a few words, he hasn’t learnt to say many sentences yet. What he has learnt to do, and very quickly, is to use an iPad. In fact, he’s so good at it that today he ran in the kitchen, took the iPad Mini and came back to the sofa looking pleased with himself. Then, he turned it on, swiped to access the apps, found FaceTime inside a folder and called my mum from the recent calls. When Matteo (my eldest) heard the ringing sound of FaceTime he asked Martino, if he was calling Nonna. “Sí, Sí!” answered Martino.

IMG_1666Needless to say that this unexpected call made my mum’s day, but what I’ve witnessed today, and many other times since Martino was one and a half, is something that made me think deeply about the power of technology.

Our learners are deeply engaged with technology, they grow surrounded by it and naturally embrace it as part of their learning. I believe it is essential we engage our students with technology to harness this enthusiasm our young people show for it. I heard of many primary and secondary schools that began to use iPads when they noticed their youngest learners kept touching the screen of PCs and laptops the first time they used them. iPads, smartphones and tablets are engaging and an integral part of many learners’ every day routines. They are drawn to them and naturally interact with such devices with great interest and proficiency, so using them in the classroom seems to me to be a logical way to engage children in their learning. This will make schooling more fun, but that should never be the driver for integrating technology in the classroom! iPads and other technologies open ways to redefine pedagogy and learning experiences. They empower learners and teachers, so that students become more independent and creators of knowledge, rather than simply consumers of knowledge. Let’s embrace technology for the right reasons and not thinking that the kit will solve all the teaching and learning challenges in our schools.

There are many ways to use technology creatively and innovatively to enrich our learning environments and much can be learnt from educational blogs such the CollaboratEd.org.uk Blog (@Collaborat_Ed), Neil Atkin’s Blog (@natkin), maybe this Blog you are reading and, one of my favourite, Gavin Smart’s Blog (@GavinSmart).