Tag Archives: blogs

21st Century Newspapers

rolled up newspapers

A long, long time ago (maybe 6 or 7 years now) I taught an elective ESL class centered around a student newspaper.  We tried various formats including weekly, monthly, and quarterly editions, which ranged from 2 to 32 pages.  We also experimented with various online editions, but at the time that mostly consisted of cutting and pasting the documents into HTML pages.

Fast-forward to 2011 and look how online publishing has changed.  Blogs are ubiquitous, if not approaching passé.  Everyone but my Mom has a Facebook page.  (Don’t worry, my aunts fill her in).  And many people get news, sports scores, Twitter posts, friends’ Facebook updates, and other information of interest pushed directly to their smartphones.

It’s no surprise, then, that a website like paper.li has found its niche.  The slogan for paper.li is Create your newspaper.  Today.  Essentially, paper.li is an RSS aggregator in the form of a newspaper.  RSS aggregators are nothing new (see iGoogle, My Yahoo!, etc.).  As the name implies, the user selects a variety of different feeds from favorite blogs, people on Twitter, Facebook friends, etc. and aggregates the updates onto one page.

The twist with with paper.li is that the aggregated page looks very much like a newspaper — at least a newspaper’s website.  For people not on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr, paper.li might feel much more comfortable.  Also, publicizing one’s pages seems to be built right in to paper.li’s sourcecode.  I say that because I first learned of paper.li when I read a tweet that said a new edition of that person’s paper was out featuring me.  How flattering!  Of course, I had to take a look.

Would paper.li be a good platform to relaunch a student newspaper?  It might.  If students have multiple blogs, paper.li could certainly aggregate the most recent posts into one convenient location.  Other feeds could also be easily incorporated as well.  (Think of this as akin to your local community newspaper printing stories from the Associated Press.)  The most recent news stories about your city or region, updates from your institution’s website, and photos posted to Flickr tagged with your city or school name could each be a column in your paper.li paper right beside the articles crafted by the students themselves.  You could even include updates from other paper.li papers.

To see examples of paper.li papers, visit the paper.li website.  (And note that .li is the website suffix — no need to type .com no matter how automatically your fingers try to do so.)  You can search paper.li for existing papers to see what is possible.  A search for ESL, for example, brought up 5 pages of examples, some with hundreds of followers.  Take a look.  You might just get an idea for your own paper.li.

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2010 in review

automatic transmission

I got this auto-generated post direct from WordPress, which hosts ESL Technology.com, and thought some of it was worth sharing.  Every time I login to my blog, I can check on these numbers and other interesting data.  I can see how many page views I’ve had by day, week, and month as well as which pages were most popular and what sites are referring people to my blog.  More interesting than the numbers themselves are the fact that this data is so easily available that WordPress can automagically pull it together into a blog post for me.  (Incidentally, you can search “2010 in review” on WordPress to find other bloggers who have posted the autogenerated post.)

This kind of data is becoming easier and easier to work with — to mashup.  And all kinds of new software allows us to pull together lots of data in enlightening ways.  Governments that are making this kind of data available are finding citizens stepping forward to develop ways to make it more useful.  See Tim Berners-Lee’s TED Talk for a six-minute rundown of the highlights, below.

I recognize that the numbers generated for me by my blog are not as important as which roads are impassable after an earthquake in Haiti.  But, on almost every scale, this data is becoming easier to find, use, and mashup.  Some of our students may already be doing this.  Surely, many are not.  Developing the ability to work with this kind of data in very dynamic ways is sure to be an asset, if not an expectation, in the near future.

So, without further ado, my numbers.  Thanks for reading.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by these stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2010. That’s about 31 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 119 posts.

The busiest day of the year was August 4th with 95 views. The most popular post that day was OutSMARTed.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were twitter.com, esl.osu.edu, en.wordpress.com, en.bab.la, and google.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for esl technology, esl and technology, technology esl, technology for esl students, and kinesthetic learners.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

OutSMARTed August 2010
4 comments

2

Interactive Whiteboard FAQ (Wii) March 2009
16 comments

3

About Me July 2008
4 comments

4

How do I know my IR LED works? October 2008
1 comment

5

Projects August 2008
1 comment

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Professional Development 2.0

A network is all about making connections.

A network is all about making connections.

I’ve had a presentation called Professional Development 2.0 accepted to Ohio TESOL 2009.

The goal of my presentation is going to be highlight Web 2.0 technologies that can expose teachers to new resources and other people in the field.  I’ve posted before about the networked student, so why not the networked professional?

I’m going to focus on Twitter, because following the right people can set you up with a constant stream of great ideas and resources, blogs, which do the same but in long form, and RSS feed readers and other applications that can help organize all of these streams.  I’d also like to include Facebook, Linked In, Nings, and other social media, but I don’t have as much experience using them in the same way.

Among my own favorites are @LarryFerlazzo (and his blog), @TeachPaperless, @McLeod (and his blog), as well as blogs such as Six Things, Abject Learning, DigitaLang, and the others I have listed in my Blog Roll at right.

The purpose of this post, however, is to solicit other suggestions from you, the reader.  Is there someone you find especially useful to follow on Twitter?  Do you read any blogs that always inspire you?  Do you have a Facebook group that other ESL professionals should join?  Leave a comment below and share it with the world.

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Students Are Writing More

Our students are writing everywhere.

Our students are writing everywhere.

I recently came across an interesting article in Wired magazine about student writing: “The New Literacy” by Clive Thompson. The beginning posits that the new school year brings the usual fretting about how students’ writing is getting worse and worse. But Thompson then presents the most convincing counter argument I’ve seen yet.

Research conducted at Stanford University suggests that students (and people in general) are writing more than ever. All those text messages, Facebook updates, blog posts, and even classroom essays really add up. In fact, professor Andrea Lunsford is quoted as saying, “I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization.” A generation ago, after leaving high school or college, how many people wrote more than a paragraph? Sure, there were some who were letter-writers, but we’re all emailers now.

The study also found that students are acutely aware of their audience and, in particular, adapting their writing to get their point across. Interestingly, students judge writing to be good if it has an effect on the world — if there is debate and interaction.  Essays are given less attention because the only audience for whom students are writing is the professor.

I don’t agree with all of the findings reported in the article (you may not either if you’ve ever received an email from a student that was startlingly informal — where is the audience awareness there?) but it does point us down an interesting path.

How much more attention do students pay to their assignments when their writing can be viewed by the whole class?  Or the whole world?  Collaborating on a blog or wiki for writing assignments makes this process relatively easy and straightforward.  What kind of feedback can they provide each other?  If the teacher adjusts her role to coach and helps guide this process, some feedback can be crowdsourced, giving students more responses.  Of course, student feedback would not be the same as teacher feedback, but both could be valuable.

Having students use new technology to share their writing is not a cutting edge idea, but this shift in perspective gives some insight into how blogs, wikis, and the like can increase production and, possibly, motivation.  Instead of lamenting students’ sloppy penmanship, maybe we should be embracing this revolution in writing and getting our students to write even more.

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How Simple Is Really Simple Syndication?

Really simple syndication is simple.  Really!

Really Simple Syndication is simple. Really!

In a word, really.  Really Simple Syndication (or RSS) is a way of publishing online information that is frequently updated.  Think Podcasts and BBC News.  Or, more recently, Twitter and Facebook.

I’ve been experimenting with RSS on my blog recently, as you can see in the sidebar at right.  (Though if you’re reading this post in archived form far in the future, I may have moved, deleted, or in some other way changed them.)

Currently, I have my Twitter feed, my Facebook status, and my Del.icio.us links.  In addition to my tweets, my Twitter feed is updated every time I add a blog post.  So, in some ways, my blog feeds Twitter, which feeds my blog.

This process has me thinking a lot about my personal and professional presence online.  How much is too much?  How much do my students expect?  How narcissistic is it to post your Facebook status to your blog?  In general, I only use technologies like Facebook for professional purposes, but it can be hard to draw the line.

Perhaps the biggest question is, how can we, and why should we, use these technologies for language teaching?  In the business world, I think it is easy to see applications.  I read about a Silicon Valley tech firm that has a flatscreen next to the elevator door that lists employees’ Twitter feeds.  Seeing who’s doing what, can promote interaction in new ways.

Within the context of education, using these technologies is a way of meeting students in the digital world that they already inhabit.  I interact with more students via Facebook than email.  Being able to tie all of these resources together via RSS feeds can give students one place to look for everything (listening homework .mp3s, links to supplemental reading articles, information about extracurricular activities, etc.), which eliminates the excuse of having looked for an assignment in email, when it was posted to the Moodle, or vice versa.

Will these technologies change the way we teach our students?  Not all at once, but the process has already begun.

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