The Comment Challenge Final Reflection

I saw this and thought of us:

The 31 Day Comment Challenge has been all about peaceful exploration, even as the heroes of one of my favorite sci-fi-spoofing comics — Brewster Rockit — has been engaged in a war of commenting and blogging words with the visiting alien race.
For me, though, the entry into the Comment Challenge has been fruitful on so many levels. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and support that the organizers — Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino — put into the activities. And they spent a lot of time making sure that everyone had some sort of comments and discussion going on. It was always a pleasure to open up my moderation bin (yep, I still have it in place) and see their names there, with an insightful comment.

external image comment_challenge_logo_2.png

So, what have I discovered?
  • I created a Commenting Invitation (which began as a policy) so that people who stumble across my little space in the world will know they can participate in discussions and reflection — I love many voices.
  • I use moderation for comments but many folks do not, and I am remaining where I am on this issue but I keep thinking about it. I guess, in the end, I need some sort of control, which is sometimes looked upon as a bad thing in the blogging world. I may reconsider this. Not yet, though.
  • I explored some new technology — including CoComment, which I like very much, and Seismic Video, which is easy to use and easy to embed for video comments, and some other tools that escape me right now. Thanks to everyone who shared and demonstrated the use of new ideas in the Comment Challenge.
  • I ventured far outside my normal blogging circles and found some wonderful places to explore and people to meet, and some of them have followed me back here to become part of the Day in a Sentence and other activities. I welcome all of you here.
  • I blogged in another language, which was a first for me, and quite a thrill. I had never even considered that before but with all the translation tools available, it seemed to work fine. I don’t think I inadvertently comment-bombed anyone.
  • Perhaps most important: I tried to look at my blog through new eyes as the daily activities were designed not only to empower us as visitors to other sites, but also to view our own site through the lens of a visitor — is it inviting? is it conducive to discussion? do we project some personality/persona/brand/voice? why are we blogging anyway?
I will take these lessons, mull them over and continue to refine who I am as a blogger and commenter, knowing that the two go hand-in-hand together. I have responsibilities on both side of that fence and I hope I can keep them up.
One of the final activities was to think about how we can use what we have learned in the classroom. I already do have a Commenting Guidelines that I use with my students but I think many of us struggle with ways to show students the importance of constructive comments in building a relationship with another writer or nurturing a community of writers. As a teacher, perhaps we need to make sure all of the scaffolding is in place to make the experience of blogging and commenting a supportive and nurturing experience for our students. We need to shake them loose from the “IM” speak and shallow comments, and move them into a richer world of writing and interaction. Blogs are just one platform for this, but comments and reaction expands the sense of audience and publishing considerably.
What did you learn from your Comment Challenge experience or from just dropping by from time to time? (vicarious learning is perfectly acceptable).
Peace (in appreciation),

We The People Virtual Art Museum

Yesterday, the fifth grade classes held their annual Living History Museum (students dressed up as and acted as people from history) and the Virtual Art Museum Project that I helped from a technology angle went on display, too. We had a line of laptops along the wall, with headphones jacked in, and visitors to the event listened to the podcasts that were based on famous American paintings. The project was funded through a grant.

There were some annoying glitches (low batteries on some laptops, etc) but overall, the art teacher and librarian, and the student podcasters, did an outstanding job on this project. It seemed like a lot of the people listening in , including parents, were impressed.

We also just released the website where all of the podcast/videos can be viewed by the public.

Head to the We The People Virtual Art Museum to experience the podcasts.

Peace (in collaboration),

Commenting Guidelines for Students

The folks over at the 31-Day Comment Challenge ask us to consider what kind of commenting policy or suggestions we have for students when they use blogs. This is very important and when we start the year, we spent a bit of time talking as a class about the responsibilities of the person who is going to leave a comment and the respect they need to show to the writer.

Over out our Youth Radio site, Gail developed a nice set of guidelines for students who participate from around the world. We call this the Youth Radio Blog Netiquette (a term used elsewhere) and this is what we provide as guidelines:

Please do:
  1. Remember that the Internet is a public forum. Keep your communication appropriate.
  2. Discuss ideas and issues that concern you and your fellow students, especially as they connect to learning about the Youth Radio community.
  3. Back up your statements with examples, reasons, or other supportive evidence.
  4. Read through all the posts in a discussion thread before you respond to one (so you are not asking a question that has already been asked or repeating something that someone else has already posted).
Please do not:
  1. Post your full name or others’ last names, phone numbers, home addresses, or other personal information.

  2. Attack others. Agree or disagree with others’ ideas using reasons and examples to support your view.

  3. Use language that may be offensive to other users.

  4. Initiate divisive discussion topics (e.g., regional sports teams)

  5. Change font sizes and/or colors unless you are trying to emphasize a point. It’s the content of your message that counts, not the style.


Here are some suggestions on for creating good comments for each other. The richer the comments, the more likely it is that someone will answer you back. You can begin your comment by writing and explaining:

  • This made me think about…….
  • I wonder why…….
  • Your writing made me form an opinion about…….
  • This post is relevant because…….
  • Your writing made me think that we should…….
  • I wish I understood why…….
  • This is important because…….
  • Another thing to consider is…….
  • I can relate to this…….
  • This makes me think of…….
  • I discovered…….
  • I don’t understand…….
  • I was reminded that…….
  • I found myself wondering…….

(Much of this was adapted from Excellence and Imagination)

My friend, Paul Allison, and his colleagues in a social networking site called Youth Voices have also explored in great detail how to help students see comments in a productive light. You can view Paul’s guide to blogging at his Hypertextopia space, where he created a hyperlinked document for students.

Basically, they suggest a model for students and although they admit that some of the comments may come across initially as a cookie cutter, the template allows students to get a feel for commenting and then expand beyond that mode.

Dear Writer’s Name:

I <past tense verb showing emotion> your message, “<Exact Title>,” because… <add 2 or 3 sentences>

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “<Quote from message.>” I think this is <adjective> because… <add 1 or 2 sentences>

Another sentence that I <past tense verb> was: “<Quote from message>.” This stood out for me because…

I do/don’t <adverb> agree with you that… One reason I say this is… Another reason I agree/disagree with you is…

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because… add 2 or 3 sentences explaining what will bring you back to see more about this person’s thoughts.

Peace (in comments),

Capturing Claymation Activity

We spent a lot of time working on Claymation Movies yesterday and, with a couple of exceptions, the students were really focused. Much of the work was just capturing the raw video, which requires patience and teamwork and a vision of how the stories might unfold. The theme this year is Climate Change, and I am going about the movie making process a little different than in years past (I will reflect later).

But as I was helping the groups, I took a couple of pictures of them at work, and made this collage.

I love their little creatures!
Peace (in multicolored clay),

Branding Thyself and Other Comment Challenge Ideas

(Playing catch-up today)

1. The other day, the task before folks in the 31 Day Comment Challenge was to consider how to best brand ourselves as part of our blog. I mulled this over, ignored it, then mulled it again, and then realized that I was having reservations about this topic. I wrote a comment over at Michele’s blog, where the tasks are being released each day, about my thoughts.

Here is what I wrote:

Hi there, Michele,
You know, I saw this task and ignored it, and then I went back and tried to figure out why I did not want to write about “branding.” I think it has to do with the perception that a brand is a commercial endeavor — the selling of self and ideas for some sort of profit (maybe not money, but recognition?).
And that rubs me the wrong way, although I know that some folks are making their blogging into their business. And a brand makes that easier.
I did read the post by Dauwd, which did explain the topic but I felt unconvinced by it all.
This issue of branding must touch some strain in me, so I am opting to pass on the branding questions for now.
Thanks, however, for giving me a platform here to express some thoughts. I expect others will disagree with me on this one, which if fine.

take care

What do you think? Was I misreading the whole “branding” idea? I would love to know if folks see the idea of a brand as important to you as a blogger and visitor to other sites. For me, I am looking for reflection, insight and personality — but maybe that is the “brand” that Michele is writing about.

The one thing that Dauwd wrote in the article reference in this task is that he realized at one point that he had multiple user names and nicknames floating all around the blogosphere and he made an effort to bring all of those personas under one “roof,” to speak. He hopes that people who see his name in comments and in article and on blogs will connect with him, and him alone.

2. I may just be cranky, but the next task was to consider how you use commenting to keep building the brand of your blog. Michele pointed us to an article that was interesting but the one fact that kept point out to me: the blogger uses the concept of comments in order to bring people back to her own blog. That seems disingenuous to me. I know it is a common reason for many to blog. But not me. I comment because I want to have a voice, and I want to engage in conversation, and not that I want people to follow me back home to my blog. The blogger did have some other interesting points — mostly from a business standpoint, it seemed to me — and it occurred to me that there is some sort of invisible line here among those who blog just for the sake of writing and sharing, and those who do the same but then use blogs as a way to create a professional presence for business interests (such as consulting, workshops, etc.) Interesting insight for me, anyway.

Let me know if you have thoughts on this topic.

Peace (in words),

Your Day in a Comic

(click on picture to get bigger image)
Yes, in a comic. But not if you don’t want to. In recent workshops with teachers, and with my own students, we have used this very easy-to-use site called Make Beliefs Comics. It has limits, but ease of use is key.
So, for this week’s Day in a Sentence, I ask you to consider creating a Day in a Comic. You can use any format you want. If you do use Make Beliefs Comics, however, be sure to email your comic to me (dogtrax-at-gmail-dot-com) so I can collect them.
As a matter of fact, you can email me any of your comics, whatever the format. Or post a link to them here, if you can upload them yourself. I hope to collect and post them all together, in some format (any ideas?)
And if the idea of creating a comic is not quite your thing, feel free to just submit your day as a sentence in the traditional way via the comment feature on this post.
Peace (in days),

Gail Updates Her Edublogs Manual

Whenever I have given a workshop on Edublogs for teachers interested in blogging for themselves or their classrooms, I have always turned to the manual put together by my friend, Gail Desler, who is part of the Area 3 Writing Project and who is the “blogwalker” (I love that name). Her clear and concise steps and explanations, and her willingness to share, are greatly appreciated. So when Edublogs did a major make-over this past week (and it looks fantastic to me), Gail was just about to finish up a revision to her old manual. She quickly went back to work and came up with a revised, revised Edublogs Manual.

Thanks, Gail, for sharing your work with us.

Head to Gail’s Introductory Manual to Edublogs 3.0

Peace (in sharing),

The Comment Challenge as Sketchcast

The 31 Day Comment Challenge is nearing its end, and the task before us today (or was it yesterday?) was to explore some different kind of medium. I turned to Sketchcast, which is a neat little platform that allows you to sketch and embed as a video file into blogs. It’s a bit difficult to talk and draw (for me anyway) but I thought I would reflect quickly on how the Comment Challenge is bringing me outside of my traditional blogging circles in interesting ways. I then tried to capture that in my crude drawing.

Sketchcast is probably not the best for commenting, but it does offer the chance to reflect in a different way other than just writing. And for the artistically talented among us (not me), it might give an inroad to a different slant of creative expression. There is a place for people to comment right at the sketch itself at Sketchcast, however.

Why not give the sketching of your brain a try and provide me with a link? I will check it out and comment for you. (If you want to see the original sketchcast, here is the link)

Peace (in sketches),

Slice of Life, Weekly Challenge: Chapter 9

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Remember Spy Vs. Spy?

In Mad Magazine, the two nutty spies would try to outdo each other each episode, but you always got the sense they were just two sides of the same character.

This week, I have been thinking of Bella Vs. Bella. As some of my regular readers know, we had to put our old dog, Bella, down at the end of last year. She was my very first dog, and good dog for the most part, and that is her picture that you see as my avatar (in case you ever wondered why I have a dog head for my avatar — plus, my nickname is Dog before ‘Dawg’ was slang). I figured the use of her image would be a nice way for me to remember her.

Bella has been on my brain because we have been dog-sitting a friend’s dog this long Memorial Dat weekend whose name, get ready, is … Bella. And so, I take this Slice to compare and contrast the two Bellas in a fun exercise of reflection and rememberance.

Here is my old Bella:

Bella headshot

Here is the visiting Bella:

As part of Slice of Life, I give you Bella Vs. Bella (the breakdown)

  • Fur Color: Our Bella (white) and Visiting Bella (black, with some white and brown markings)
  • Breed: Our Bella (German Shepard/Husky mix) and Visiting Bella (Bernese Mountain)
  • Size: Our Bella (medium) and Visiting Bella (large and growing)
  • Demeanor: Our Bella (energetic) and Visiting Bella (goofy)
  • Intelligence: Our Bella (extremely smart) and Visiting Bella (kind of dimwitted)
  • Child-friendliness: Our Bella (protective) and Visiting Bella (loving)
  • Guarding the House: Our Bella (always vigilant) and Visiting Bella (a welcome wag for anyone – friend or foe)
  • Other dogs: Our Bella (mortal enemies) and Visiting Bella (potential friend)
  • Cuddle Factor: Our Bella (great) and Visiting Bella (great)

There are no winners in this game, except for us. We loved having the visiting Bella here, although her large size and goofiness put her right in our path wherever we went. We could barely get in the house when we came back home as her big body just filled the doorway.

Peace (in dogs),

The Rainbow Hue of Our Days in a Sentence

Anne M. creatively decided to use PowerPoint as the coloured backdrop (notice I used the non-American spelling there) of PowerPoint to cast our words against the colours of our days. I took that powerpoint and made them into pictures so I could share here. (you can also view it as a Flickr slideshow here)

Come on back later this week and join us for another round of Day in a Sentence!
Peace (in words),