Personal Inquiry: Learning to use WordPress.com

This blog was my first blog that was not in the Blogger domain and it has been a huge learning curve.  Blogger is simple, Blogger is point and click, and Blogger links to my Gmail account and syncs instantly to my YouTube and Picasa accounts. So the question 6 months later is why change and the answer is the same – WordPress offers things that intrigue me and look challenging. There is so much I do not know about WordPress and I have thoroughly enjoyed the problem solving that I have had to do in order to make my blog do things that previously were simple.

James Nottingham

James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning

Seeing Widgets and realising that there was some simple code involved has pushed me out of my comfort zone and put me in James Nottingham’s Pit of Learning.

This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget below.

This code along with a few images found on CC Search becomes the Widget opposite.

I have wanted to jump back to blogger, but enjoyed the distance that this blog has given me from my previous one – my Blogger is class/student centered and shared with parents/community, WordPress is not secret from parents/community, but is focused on my professional learning and really only slightly interesting to other educators.

So I have scrambled in the Pit, discovered the difference between WordPress and WordPress.com, felt frustration at .com not offering the same opportunities as  Wordpress, but then learned that many others before me have followed this same journey. I have read forums as need has arisen and even learned some simple HTML coding through the Code Academy, which has given me an insight into how code is formed and the little rules that must be followed in order for it to work. To me it is like a recipe and once you have the base ingredients you are able to create much more interesting dishes.

Todays learning was just a piece of icing on the top of the cake – taking the simple Twitter ‘Follow Me” button that is there for you and changing itScreen Shot 2013-08-01 at 11.54.22 AM to my new “Follow Me on Social Media”. The code was more complex in details and length, but really was quite simple once the recipe was found on a WordPress.com Forum.

Now that I have begun to unlock the secrets of WordPress.com I am pretty sure that I need to take the next step into a straight WordPress site, but that is a piece of learning that will need to wait until another set of holidays. Before then I have a new job to begin, China to explore and there is an Aurasma Studio account in the midst of being processed as I type. I guess that the key to this post really is that I have really enjoyed the process of learning that I have had to go through with this blog with regards to the technical aspects as it has challenged and frustrated, but I have problem solved and reached the outcome that I was trying to achieve.

BYOD Traveling

The Travellers Device
When previously I have travelled it was the guide book, the phrase book, the fantastic Lonely Planet tomb and maybe a travel journal that weighed down my bags, but now the game has changed, as the smart phone now rolls all of these into one and adds features that previously were unfathomable.

20130729-120845.jpg

Google Translate is your own C3P0
Ok, you need Wifi or cellular, but you can pre set a whole lot of useful phrases and they will be available off line. Type your sentence, choose your to and from language and bada-bing you have the translation.
Additionally click one button and you have an audio file that bypasses tricky pronunciations and click another button and the translation goes full screen and is an easily read flash card.

20130729-120548.jpg

Airline Apps – Mine is AirNZ mPass
It gives me up to date access to all my details, air-points, flight schedules, seating plan and even gives me a screen sized QR Code for quick check ins. Too Easy, cloud based and sign in protected.

Contact with the rest of the world
It was the postcard, then the collect call, next came the smoke filled cyber cafe and in my last experience it was the laptop at Starbucks. Now the options for connectivity make conversing globally only limited by time zone and Wifi; Skype, FaceTime, Snap Chat, Viber, WhatsApp and more. Then there is the travel blog that replaces the journal and is shareable with all you choose. If you don’t want to blog in words, just share the experience in a tweet, Facebook post or flick the image out to friends and family with Instagram.

20130729-204005.jpg

Where to go and what to see
I got off the plane in Wellington this past summer, downloaded the bus timetable app using the airport’s wifi and then using my phones GPS and map app I was able to make it to my hotel without the need to ask for directions at a fraction of the price of the Airport Bus.
Ok, this was my home country, but it is the same in all cities in the world and might just take a bit more planning and patience in a place where English is not the mother tongue.
The where to go is so simple with your phones map and if you start walking the wrong way you will see it quickly on the map due to the GPS and when you want to get somewhere it will give you several options as well as time estimates.

20130729-211935.jpg

Lonely Planet… Maybe not.
My Lonely Planet China is the most read and annotated book that I own, but although I will pack it when we move to China again it will be used as a trip planner, not as the travel bible that is was always at the top of my bag. Through reading travel blogs and using Apps like TripAdvisor I am able to find the travel tips and best places to visit at the click of a button. Additionally, they are updated daily, so recommendations tend to be more up to date than a 12 year old guide book – that restaurant it recommends could have changed hands 20 times since publication.

20130729-213004.jpg

Keeping up with the news.
My last stint overseas was in a place where English was not spoken and there was not an English Newspaper to be found. Now I can keep up with the news at the click of an app.

Need a book to read?
I prefer the feel of an actual book in my hands, love the tatty travel paperback and there are expat book exchanges that spring up around the world. But it is handy that I have a score of books stored on my phone, many more in the cloud and I can buy and download any book I desire with a quick contact to amazon or the iBook store.

20130730-072449.jpg

I could go on with more examples of how a well planned device pre trip will benefit you and my opinion after a good pair of shoes and a sturdy bag the smart phone is now the travellers most important item. I guess the only two things to remember is to pack your charger and turn of data roaming unless you want a surprise when you return home.

All good things come to an end – When a Blog Retires

On the 26th of March 2009 I began my blogging journey and this week that first blog retires.

It began as a chore, it was a requirement as part of an ICT contractblog archive and I struggled to see the worth of blogging. Parents didn’t comment, I didn’t post. The blog floundered and only 12 posts happened that year.  Then I tried a bit harder and a bit more happened, but not really a lot. By June of 2011, two years after inception we had only reached the milestone of 3,500 pageviews.
What was the problem? There was inconsistency of posting, little interactivity with the blog and people not having a reason to visit the blog.
2012 began and we blogged it all… and it worked. We entered the Interface Awards and became finalists. We reached 10,000 views in September and have not looked back. With the introduction of the iPad and my iPhone we could blog and post on the go gorilla style anywhere and we have.
Like my first car, I will miss this blog and have fond memories, but I will have new blogs as I head to new classes. Success and mistakes that I have had and learned will be applied or considered in the future. Although the url is ‘MrDyerHFS’ the author was not me alone, it was the 140 students that I have taught over the past 4 years and 3 months that it has been active.

My Highlights include…

Blogging the Triathlon as it happened.

My first real gorilla blogging experience with images, comments and video.

A City in a Day
When our class swarmed from 20 to 30 overnight with refugees from the Christchurch Earthquake we built a city as a way to look at what a city might need and what makes a city other than the people.


Connecting with parents and grandparents

We have had comments in German and we have had comments in Italian and comments from aunties in America

Skype

Our one Skype chat with a year 1 class in Hamilton. THey were fascinated at our snow (They had never seen snow), we were fascinated with their bus (it had their schools name on it).

skype_logo-580x367

Interface Awards Finalist 2012

This is where I became inspired by, connected to and friends with…
@traintheteacher
@nickitempero
@AnnaGerrit
@PalmyTeacher

30,000 views celebration cake

The title says it all…

A Cake for the Class from Dukelyer on Vimeo.

And then there has been awesomeness such as

Quadblogging

The Travelling Rhino Project

#KidsEdChatNZ

Blogging on the go with just one App – BlogPress

IMG_4782With the accessibility of the mobile device and the amount of public access Wifi and cellular coverage the blog is now no longer the evening reflection that it once was.  We no need to wait to blog and in the world of education it opens so many doors.  I like to think of it as ‘Guerrilla Blogging’, where an experience is shared as it happens – school trips can be shared with parents while they are happening and you can interview the winning sports team as they walk off the field, capture their emotions after a big win and then blog it before they have even left the field.

Now there are many different platforms out there for blogging and each and every one of the big blog options have their own App for either Andriod on iOS and they are free, but there is also the option of spending a few dollars and getting the BlogPress App ($4.99 in Andriod or $4.19 in iOS).

IMG_4783On my class iPad I have the Blogger app and the kids use this to add to the class blog. On my iPhone I have the WordPress App for this blog and I also have the Blogger App for my class and family blog. Now, while the free apps tie into each blog and do a great job BlogPress goes that extra step and this is what makes it worth the money.

With BlogPress I am able to use the one App for all the blogs that I have author rights on.

Images that I use come directly from front or back camera or my camera roll and are instantly saved to my Picasa or Flickr Web Albums and my Videos are saved directly to my YouTube.

Each Blog Post can be added to one, several or all blogs that are registered by the click of the screen.

I can add code to the post to embed in my post and this is really important of you want to add features like someone else’s YouTube videos or AudioBoo recordings.

If you are into blogging or thinking of blogging spend the $4 and get the BlogPress App as it is well worth the purchase.

 

A Year in Retrospect – Beginning a New Tradition.

It seems strange to me to be reflecting on my year, as it only half over, but as I am heading to an International School in China next term it kind of is the end of a school year for me. So here is a retrospective look at the highs of my past year and I hope that as this blog progresses and ages with me I will add a reflection of the year each year.  I suppose that I will follow this up soon with some direction and goals that I want for myself for the 2013/14 school year.

Classroom Blog

interface awardIn the middle of last year I put my class blog (www.mrdyerhfs.blogspot.com) forward for the Interface Awards and made the Top five for Best Class blog – Not a bad accomplishment for a little school in rural New Zealand.  At this time we also connected with other classes within New Zealand and globaly, which showed me the true power of the classroom blog.

Blogging as a Professional

I began this blog, and it has been a fantastic journal, sounding board, reflective outlet and place to connect and share. I implore each of you to try it, public or private and you will see the wealth that the professional blog offers.

Twitter

I connected, I followed, I dived in, I was inspired. Twitter has kept me going this past year with connections and inspiration. It has connected with…

  1. Projects like the Travelling Rhinos of Karen Stadler (@ICT_Intergrator).
  2. I gave creating something a go and hooked in some friends to create the #NZSchoolTimeLapse. I have not been able to cary on with it since through a school production and trying to finish this term to hand over my class, but other awesome teachers have taken it over, part two has already been created and part three is in the creation at the moment!
  3. Global PLN – too many to add here and I would hate to miss one out.
  4. NZTweeps – You all are a daily inspiration!

iDevices

A year ago I got hold of a iPhone 3, then received an iPad for the class and then at Christmas got the iPhone 4 (Still behind the game, but love it).  Apple_gray_logoThese iDevices have changed the game, I know that other devices like Andriod can as well, but it has been an Apple learning curve for me. As long as I keep SAMR in the back of my head I know that only good can come from their use. Additionally with the rise in Augmented Reality and Code Apps like Cargobot there is so many amazing possibilities from these devices that are yet to be discovered. If you want to know about Augmented Reality and Cargobot you have to check out the website of Brad Waid and Drew Minock –  Two Guys and Some iPads – as they are Grade 3 teachers who are sharing their practice with the world and it is truly inspirational!
(@TechBradWaid & @TechMinock)

PC out – MAC in

I have slowly weened myself of the PC and jumped to Mac with the purchase of a sexy MacBook Air.  I’m in love! That is all there is to say about that!

Central Otago Teachers visit to Auckland Schools

Wow… nothing is more inspirational than seeing experts in action and clever designs for both curriculum and buildings in real life.  Two days of whirlwind touring to Stonefields, Summerlands, Albany Senior College & Point England where we got to hear from inspirational educators like Andrew Churches (Read his blog Educational Origami) and quiz Mark Osborne about the awesomeness of Albany Senior College (Google it) then see Manaiakalani in action with Point England and hear from the amazing Dorothy Burt about their journey – their senior students presentation inspired me to do better and look at education in a different way.

EduCamp

I have been lucky to make it to three EduCamps in the past year and have made lasting friendships along the way and been inspired beyond measure. If have not been to one yet then you need to, they are everywhere, just google and you will have a great morning of connection and inspiration!

Tek Rush 2012

Taking a half dozen students to this kids conference was so inspirational and sadly I will not see the second as I will have already left the country.Screen Shot 2013-06-30 at 12.16.11 PM  Click the link if you want to find out more, but think about some of the coolest conferences that you have been to with interactive workshops, keynote speakers and cool prizes and goodie bags then aim it at IT passionate kids who are Year 5 or Year 7 and you have TekRush.  The kids that I took last year still wear the T-shirts as badge of honor and I was stopped in the street last week by a kid who was in my trick photography workshop, she thanked me and introduced me to her parents – i.e. it made a lasting memory!

ICOT 2013

newlogoTo name a few highlights would be -Edward DeBono, Lane Clark, Ewan McIntosh, Simon Breakspear and Guy Claxton, but then you have to add in all of the long lost and new found friends and colleagues that I got to spend time with and learn with face to face.

Snow Day doesn’t stop the connection.

As the snow came down the schools closed sign came up and it was Snow Day so what to do?

  1. Text parents… “School is Closed”.
  2. Set up iPad and take Time Lapse of making a Snow Man with the girls.
  3. Upload to Class blog with photos of school with lots of snow to show the disbeliever (Yes it really is snowing at school).
  4. Text parents again “New Homework bonus challenge – make a snowman and email the entries in to me”.
  5. Wait and see what happens, but will add al entries to this post tomorrow.

My entry and students motivator is…

Snow Day Snow Man from Dukelyer on Vimeo.

The Teacher Blog: a Powerful Reflective Tool

If you have a professional Blog then I hope that you have had the same experience as me.  If you do not then I think you should give it a go even if you are going to keep it to yourself like a diary or journal. Just by writing down your thoughts you will look at you actions in a different way and reflect on them and I believe that the act of reflection is one of the keys to being a learner.

Only 4 months ago I published my first post on this blog with the only person I was intending to read it being me or my principal when it came time for my appraisal.  I did not really have a goal or vision, but just wanted a place to record the successes and fails and moments of clarity.  After a few posts I realised that it was missing the connection of others so shared with a few members of staff and then Tweeted it to my PLN.

Made with GIF Shop on the iPhone. First attempt and might be a bit annoying?

Once that first share through twitter was out in cyber space the blog became a true reflective tool.  I had those people who I think of as friends and respect as educators commenting and reacting to my posts in a positive way or in a feed forward way that gave me links to further learning or ideas from others – success as there was an audience.  Then came the next point that I had not thought through – if make a post public it can bounce around the world many times and the people that you get feedback from you have never met before and often are not educators, who was my initial target audience. Posts have been pinned and re-pinned or pinged back or tweeted or posted on FaceBook and scooped then re-scooped; a whole new language of online literacy.

I reflected on a Fighting Fantasy book that I read to my class.  A few teachers commented, but scores of gamers sent me messages commenting on the photo (26)concept.  Their comments ranged from how their teacher read a similar book to them and it was a highlight of their education or a teacher hassled them about gaming (Dungeons & Dragons etc…) and it was the beginning of the end to their respect of teachers and education.  Then I received a comment from the man who authored the book and WOW, what a Fan Boy moment that was.  I wrote a post on my classroom design. I was sent links to others who were on the same wavelength and had Swedish designers ask me questions about why and how I had done certain things and what the effect on the students was from the choices that I had made.

But, taking aside the fact that people actually read my reflections I asked myself why I actually do this and discovered that it is therapeutic.  By recording down 2-3 posts a week I am looking at my teaching practice in greater detail and am a better teacher for it.  Each post takes me 10-30 minutes to write, but that 30 minutes is time I am thinking only about my teaching and classroom practice.

My blog is..

  • …therapeutic.
  • …makes me ask the hard questions.
  • …it lets me celebrate the successes.
  • …models the writing process and although my students do not read my blog they know that I write it. Like them I am a writer.
  • …a record of my learning journey.
  • …a portal for feedback