Thirty-One Days of May

31 Day Comment Challenge Logo2

Wow! With full disclosure (something this month raised for better or worse), I will first admit to shamelessly borrowing the stacked Comment Challenge logo from Ken Allan, as it perfectly denotes how stacked up I got this last week. During the month of May, we at the Center for Teaching Excellence do one Institute early in the month focused on Teaching and Leaning, and starting in two days, we do a second Institute focused on Teaching and Learning with Technology. That is two weeks with 18-20 different faculty in a five week period! So, I have not been real focused on this Challenge, and yet it has certainly enriched me through participation in the process. So, summarizing the last six days of the Challenge in one post:

Day 26: Exploring Other Ways to Comment

Even with the problems Twitter was experiencing this past week, I found it to be an effective tool that supplemented blog comments. Whether it was bloggers announcing their posts (an effective use of Twitter IMHO) or discussion about comments (which the Stephen Downes issue certainly created), Twitter helped jump-start me into specific discussions.

Day 27: What Do You Communicate About Your Personal Brand Through Comments

At the gym, I wear a t-shirt that simply says WYSIWYG. Those who have been around computers for awhile will recognize that as “What You See Is What You Get.” Given that I am a 58-year old, greying, overweight geek, the t-shirt certainly fits! I am not sure I have a “brand” the way CogDog does, but I try never to fake my way in a comment. What you see in my comments is me….pure and simple. If I remain authentic and true to myself, that is brand enough for me. But part of my authentic self is a healthy sense of humor, and I see nothing wrong with that either! 🙂

Day 28: What’s Your Blog Commenting Strategy?

This one is a little tough. I have worked for years helping institutions develop strategic plans, and I have always suggested that thinking strategically involves setting some stakes in the ground to guide your journey. Yet, I have done little strategic planning for my own blogging and commenting. I have, however, seen some excellent models by others in this challenge, and so have set some commenting stakes in the ground for my future journey. These include continuing to routinely blog myself (most bloggers do not last beyond 6 months…and I am 5 and 1/2 months into mine!), using RSS feed to follow the bloggers in education, science, technology and business – as each of these fields have value to share, and finally, commenting routinely to posts in these blogs and providing summary comments in my own blogs to those who comment to me. And as the pirate noted in Pirates of the Caribbean, “these be more guidelines than rules!”

Day 29: Write a Commenting Guide for Students

This one is one I want to spend some more time on after our Institute. I will be teaching a graduate course next Fall and Spring where the “students” are all K-12 teachers. So I see value in having a blog as part of the course. Yet, a commenting guide for students may suggest that students are required to comment, and I am still not sure I want to “mandate” either blogging or commenting for students. After all, I see blogging as an intensely personal endeavor, and I am not sure you will get much if and when it becomes tied to a grade (and I would be interested in others’ views about this). Ken Allan laid out some excellent points in his blog post for this day. My thoughts might be to allow commenting in my blog as an alternative to discussion board – or to alternate weeks between discussion boards and blogging. I just do not feel ready to have 25 teachers all start blogging as part of a course. I could sure use some useful comments from all of you on this!!!

Day 30: How Can You Use What You Have Learned About Commenting to Change Your Teaching?

As I noted above, this is one I need to think on for a while. What I have learned is that I have become a better commenter – more reflective and more willing to scratch below the surface level. Yet, I feel that it has taken me over 20 weeks of blogging and 31 days of commenting to reach that level, and this is not something you command students to do in 15 weeks. Having seen the power, it suggests that one can begin to build the process within a class and model a process within a class. Ken Allan talked about non-participants. I asked my Spring graduate students if any of them routinely read my blog (since I never saw comments from them). It was not a part of the course and they were not graded on reading it or not..but out of 12, only 2 had. The rest said that they thought it was cool that I was blogging but they really did not have time to waste on that. Ouch! The intrinsic values are just not evident to our fellow educators (yet)…so I want to think through ways to help my Fall and Spring students next year appreciate the value of blogging and commenting. This month has impacted me…but as Barbara Sawhill noted last week on Twitter, “impacted” also applies to teeth and is painful! I have not figured out the details yet – and would love your creative ideas!

Day 31: Your Top Five Lessons

It has been a wonderful month in which I have learned more about myself as a blogger/educator and more about the blogosphere.

The first lesson is that it is a wonderful world in which the creative minds of Kim Cofino, Michele Martin, Silvia Tolisano and Sue Waters can unleash at no cost (other than our time and efforts) a Challenge that draws educators worldwide together. This truly shows both the power of the web and the interconnectiveness of us all.

My second lesson is one of time. I jumped in to this challenge without weighing the costs of participation versus the real job commitments with the aforementioned two institutes. It caused stress early on, but once I came to terms with the balance required, I actually looked forward to seeing the array of comments that flowed into my Google Reader.

The third lesson is one of companionship. I was already following 40 bloggers before the Challenge. I am now following 52 and really like the additions. I might have found these bloggers on my own but I doubt it! So the Challenge helped me connect to more colleagues.

The fourth lesson is that I might be an island but that I am in an archipelago. We each flower in different ways, and yet we have more in common than we do in differences.

The final lesson is that the human bonds are as important as the virtual ones. Part of what made this Challenge work for me was the offline conversations I had with Jeff Nugent or Bud Deihl in our various offices or in Starbucks as we talked over what we were seeing and how we were reacting. As connected as I feel to a fairly large number of fellow bloggers and twitterers, it is still amazing to see the body language associated with the engagement we were feeling.

To all who read this blog and to all who commented to me, my deep thanks! It has been a fun month and I look for the relationships to continue long after May has faded in time.

[Photo Credit: K R Reinsch]

9 thoughts on “Thirty-One Days of May

  1. I really need to get some geek shirts 🙂 . I like the idea of a WYSIWYG but would also like a Twitter shirt. One can but dream but it is embarrassing going to the blogger meet ups and being the only person not wearing a geeky shirt.

    I can totally understand why you don’t want to make blogging part of your course for teacher training because it is a personal endeavour and does take time to realise how powerful blogging is for personal learning. However if our goals are to help teachers realise the potential for these tools we do need to model their use and the students need to use them as part of the course for their own learning. Can I suggest you check out how Alec Couros has used them with his teachers.

    Thanks for being part of the Challenge — forgot to mention the table looked really nice and waiting for mine to be delivered 🙂

  2. Kia Ora Britt

    Another brilliant and compressed summary of how you view it so far. Sue Waters will be pleased with this one too I’ve no doubt! (got here first Sue:-) )

    Some good lessons on this post I see too. It’s amazing what you learn just by doing (famous pedagogical quote!) 🙂

    I’m runing out of smileys. Thanks for using the stacked logo. Sharing’as what it’s (supposed to be) all about.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

  3. Hi Britt,
    I understand you can’t have all your 25 “students” starting blogs during your 15 weeks course; and I surely agree that authentic blogging must be a free activity.
    Than, as Sue says, these young teachers need to use this powerful tool for their own learning.
    So, I wonder if it would be possible to have those “students” starting just one or a very small number of blogs, where they would write posts and comment each other posts, during 10 of these 15 weeks, as an exercise, being part of the course, about subjects related to the course, in order to get minimally acquainted with blogging and commenting.
    I would like to add that after our Challenge, I will continue to visit and read your great posts.

  4. To be a great teacher, you need to know how students think. See the new book on “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better”.

  5. I want to piggy-back on what Ines said. While I agree that a required blog is not an authentic experience, I feel that students can’t be expected to see blogging as anything other than a “waste” of their time until they are introduced to valuable blogs and bloggers. You might want to consider creating a class blog. In this blog, you could create short posts that ask students to reflect on high-quality blog posts (links included, of course). You could have students start as commenters and then begin inviting students as co-authors on the blog. The experience might help at least some students become more comfortable with the technology and/or see a greater value in blogging.

  6. Britt, there’s a couple of things I like about this post that I haven’t seen elsewhere and would like to respond to them.

    They are the idea that we can look forward to the interactions we have via our blogging/commenting activity. There’s nothing like that sense of anticipation [hmmm, Rocky Horror 😉 ] waiting to see what people will think/have to say about our posts.

    And then there is what happens when we all collaborate (the islands making up the archipelago) and and value we create in that the community through our input, can be larger than the sum of its parts!

    So, to me it’s a lot about participation and like you say finding the balance were the investment provides some return. I’m looking forward to more interactions and wondering where they might take me.

  7. In fairness to Sue and Ken, I had moderation turned on and Sue had changed her email, so her FIRST comment was sitting in the moderation bin when KEN posted FIRST on this site… that’s howjoodoothat!

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