The 31 Day Comment Challenge

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The 31 Day Comment Challenge was a project designed to reinforce and introduce some good commenting habits. Through a series of activities presented and explained by the challenge hosts ( Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino), participants not only engaged with other bloggers on a series of conversations, but we cast a critical eye on our blogs.

I thought the challenge was a wonderful experience and a great way for me to move out beyond my own networks.

Last week, I learned that I was one of the “winners” of the prizes being offered by the challenge organizers, who were being supported by Edublogs (my preferred blogging platform) and CoComment, which is a tool that I began using in the Comment Challenge, as per the organizers’ recommendation, and have come to rely upon as a way to keep track of my blogging conversations.

Here is the news announcement from Michelle’s blog, The Bamboo Project Blog:

I’m very pleased to announce the winners of the 31 Day Comment Challenge! They are:

  • For the most high quality comments that thoughtfully reflect on the topicCarla Arena
  • For the comments that provoke and promote the most learning Kevin of Dogtrax.

Each prize winner will receive:

  • From coComment: US$100 to the winner in each of the four categories
  • From Edublogs: $50 in Edublogs credits to the winner in each of the four categories

Thanks to everyone who participated, and to everyone who voted, and most of all: thanks to the organizers for making us think and reflect and connection. I see a nice dinner with my wife in the cards sometime down the road.

Peace (in comments),

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.

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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),

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),

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),

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),

Comment Challenge and the Googlish Rosetta Stone

Today’s task for the 31 Day Comment Challenge was to find a blog in another language, translate it and then post a comment on that blog in the language of the owner. Intriguing. But interesting, and certainly it was something I had not yet ever done before. I keep to the English language, which seems so parochial these days, doesn’t it?

I should have known that Google would come to the rescue, though. I tapped into Google Translater and then translated the key words “elementary education” into spanish, and then used Google Blog Search to find some Spanish blogs. I toggled back and forth with Google Translator, trying to find a blog that interested me. So many were pure political blogs, talking about revolution and insurrection. Perhaps that is a glimpse of the underground world where blogs are the main platform for activism against governments.

Anyway, I found Fermin Tellez, a blogger from Monterrey, Mexico.

This file has been created and published by FireShot

Fermin was writing about a historical figure from his community (Michael Martinez). Martinez was an educator, but also a musician, artist and writer. That is a combination of talents that interests me. So I was curious about the place Martinez has in Fermin’s community. I went into Google Translater and created this comment:


Please forgive my language here, as I am using the Google Translater to go from English to Spanish. I am visiting your blog as part of a project called the 31 Day Comment Challenge, and one of the tasks is to visit a blog from another language than our own.
I teach 11 and 12 year olds in Western Massachusetts, United States. I am their writing teacher.

I was interested in the blog post you created because I am intrigued by music and education, and the place that musicians have in society. It seems clear that Michael F. Martinez was important figure in your community. Senor Martinez clearly had many skills (musician, artist, politician, educator).

Did you create this blog post to remember him?

Thank you

Kevin Hodgson


SaludosPor favor, perdone mi idioma aquí, como estoy utilizando el traductor de Google para ir de Inglés a Español. Estoy visitando su blog como parte de un proyecto denominado el Día 31 Comentario Challenge, y una de las tareas es la de visitar un blog de otra lengua que la nuestra.
Enseño 11 y 12 años de edad en el oeste de Massachusetts, Estados Unidos. Estoy escribiendo su maestro.

Yo estaba interesado en el blog que ha creado porque estoy intrigado por la música y la educación, y el lugar que los músicos tienen en la sociedad. Parece claro que Michael F. Martínez fue figura importante en su comunidad. Señor Martínez claramente había muchas habilidades (músico, artista, político, educador).

¿Te ha crear este blog para recordar él?


Kevin Hodgson

Of course, I wonder if Google Translator did a good job with my words. And I wish that Fermin had an About Me page at his site, so I could have learned more about him. Then, I thought, do I have an About Me here at my site? Need to check. I used to but I think it is gone now.
Have you gone off to any non-native language blogs today?
La Paz (en una gira mundial),

Day in a Sentence in Techno-Color

This week, Anne M. from Australia takes over the Day in a Sentence challenge and she is adding her own little twist (which is what I love about sending the Day out into the world with guest hosts — they have the option of making it their own).

Anne would like you to incorporate some aspect of “color” into your sentence. So, close your eyes and imagine your world in color and please head on over to Anne’s blog for this week’s writing adventure.

(If you want to guest host this feature, please please please let me know. The more people involved, the better, and it is quite simple to do.)

Peace (in rainbows),

Playing Comment Challenge Catch-up

I realized that I am a bit behind with the 31 Day Comment Challenge and like many others, I am going to consolidate and condense some of the daily activities here into one single post as a way to bring myself a bit closer into the project.

Five in Five: The other day, I did the Five in Five task, which involved speeding through at least five blogs and leaving comments on those five blogs. I went back to the Comment Challenge participant list and tried to move into new blogs. It took longer than five minutes, of course, and I did not really like the feeling of rushing. I know the attempt here is to generate writing but it seems as if I short-changed not only the bloggers but also myself. I can’t even remember now which blogs I visited (although I am sure they are popping up in my CoComment page). I was not a big fan of the Five in Five.

Analyze Comments: We are asked to look at our posts from the last few weeks and think about what kind of posts generate the most comments and the most traffic. It seems to me that our Day in a Sentence (you are invited!) is a great activity for pulling people into a blog, and then, when I took all of those submissions and recast them into a video found poem, that generated even more comments. I think it comes down to being creative with what we are doing, and people will be inspired to join in, if you give them the option. I guess we need to make sure we are going out of our way to be inclusive and welcoming, and make people feel as if they belong here and not just some interloper into the conversation. I know controversy drives comments, too, but that is not the only impetus for interaction, it seems to me.

Responding to a Commenter: We are asked to bring a commenter from behind the scenes (the comment bin) to the front page. In this particular case, I was thinking about the comments from my post yesterday on my virtual mentoring program. My friend, Blink, reminded me that sharing out what we are learning is so important.

She wrote: “Your “virtual mentoring” experience could be a very interesting concept for a future professional article.”

Now, I have a lot going on right now (including the co-editing of a collection on technology and writing and assessment, and some work for Pearson on claymation) but it is clear that we really do want to learn from each other. I’ll keep that topic in the back of my mind (and it makes me think of Al Upton and his mini-legend issues, too)

Three Links Out: It is suggested that we not only explore new blogs, but like the old Will Smith-inspired Six-Degrees-of-Separation, we follow at least two links from the blogs in a sort of daisy-chain maneuver. I began with Carla’s blog. Her post about the meme (that I did last week) was very cool, as it showed a world view. Since Carla’s friend, Mary, tagged her for that meme, I figured I would follow the trail to Mary’s place. From Mary, I ventured into the terrain of Cris and lo and behold, I find a familiar name in one the post there (my friend in six words, Illya). I left a video message for Cris and then posted a comment for Illya, too. I found it interesting that as you move outward, some familiar names can still be found. It’s both a large place and a small place, isn’t it?

Make a Recommendation: We are asked to recommend some resource that might be beneficial to our visitors. Can I just point folks over to Ruth and Stacy at Two Writing Teachers? This is a place where writing is at the center of so much — from classroom practice to personal exploration. Another resource is at the National Writing Project’s page for its technology work. There are many articles and links about using writing and technology, and other areas on the NWP site connect writing in many ways.

Well, that is it for me for today.  I invite you to reflect on what you have been doing, too.

Peace (in comments),

Six Words Can Say a Lot: Days in a Sentence

This week’s Day in a Sentence was narrowed down to Day in Six Words, and the words came from all over the blogosphere this week. There were many new voices (partly as a result of the 31 Day Comment Challenge), plenty of veteran writers, and an incredible collection of tales told in minimalistic creativity.

I am going to keep my own narrative intrusions in check this week and allow your voices to come through on their own (because, well, they don’t need any help from me). But I did do something a bit different with your comments/words this week as yet another way to bring us all together in once “voice” and you can find that experiment at the end of the post.

With further ado, here you go:

  • Seniors graduated Friday. A bittersweet celebration. — Cynthia
  • Field trip – 8 chaperones – hell yeah! Sara P.
  • Learned lots from Will Richardson seminarAnne M.
  • Not getting out produces distorted viewpoints. Christine
  • Wet weepy spongy soggy rainbow day — Mary
  • With friends and sunshine, then rain.Illya (who has been experimenting with six day memoirs on Twitter for the past few days, and I have been trying to keep up, too)
  • Did that Simon says no comment.Ken (who originally let me know: Oil C wot oil do.)
  • Sydney Wednesday. Melbourne Saturday. Perth Tuesday.Kathryn
  • Two-on-two, full-court — DUMB! Larry (who admits that the full court game was a bit too much for him)
  • A whirlwind of activities encompasses me!Amy
  • “Wolf-children on crack” describes my class. — Liza
  • Need to learn to let go.Dani
  • Festival’s coming. Kids crazy. Teachers crazier. — Karen M.
  • Mud-covered frog hunters are wildly happy.Connie
  • Kind of mellow week. Almost summer! — Andrea
  • Sent staff survey. Received zero responses. — Andrea (she was inspired to keep going)
  • One soul who wears many hats. — Eric
  • The Quilt binding encircles us all.Jane S.
  • It’s that time…awards, honors, accolades.Delaine
  • Telling students they’ve failed is excruciating. Nina
  • Graduation ends K12; creates new beginnings!Tonya
  • Last Wednesday class today!! Time for ….!?!?!!!!Illya
  • Wondering if any “boilers” could hear me all the way from California hooting and hollering Wednesday night as many of the teachers and students in my filmmaking project headed onto to the stage at our regional SEVAs to receive awards and recognition?!? Gail (more than six words but Gail also has leeway on my blog)
  • Mulling on the importance of simplicity.Kate
  • Digitalstory dreams as new mac arrivesBonnie

And listen to Bonnie (if it works):

powered by ODEO
Meanwhile, at a Technology Across the Curriculum Conference on Saturday, I had participants in a podcasting workshop record their own Days in a Sentence. I did not limit them to six words, but you can listen to their voices (and I added a second sentence for this week, too).

Peace (in words, short words)


PS — So, friends, I took your six words, mashed them all together, and created this found poem of your thoughts. It was an interesting endeavor and I believe all of you are represented in some fashion or another. What does the poem mean? The poet remains silent. 🙂

Six Words As Collective Thought
A Day in Sentence Found Poem

In bittersweet simplicity:
the quilt of students we once received
now graduate
but just one soul creates celebration/importance;
Just one soul produces sunshine;
to dream a whirlwind of mud-covered
friends who encompass a “response” in these Days
and arrive wildly happy with honor,
then (in digitalstory festivals) I project rainbows of wolf-children wearing hats, two by two —
hooting and hollering like the spongy virtual frogs of Will Richardson
as these viewpoints arrive through the recognition that
learning always honors teachers (even with crazy kids encircled in whirlwinds).
I’m mulling this:
Does this stage of summer create new beginnings?
Or end the time of today?
Let go. Let go.
Hell yeah!

Recognizing Some Friends: The Fantastic Commenters

As part of the 31 Day Comment Challenge, we were asked to consider a visitor to our site who exemplifies the concept of a “good commenter.”

I have so many wonderful visitors and so many great contributors, that this is difficult, so I will have to narrow it down to two folks.

First up: Matt Needleman, who always has a constructive thought or words of praise or a link to some great resource. He has been a bit quiet lately due, which I attribute to a combination of factors. But I always look forward to Matt and his comments. Thanks for being a visitor here, Matt.

Second: Bonnie Kaplan (who, I should admit out in the open, kindly gave me this very award at her blog, so it feels a bit strange). Bonnie and I have been on a few tech adventures together through our friendship with the National Writing Project. We push each other, and we help each other, and we are regular visitors and contributors to each other’s blogs. I always know she is at least one reader out there. Thanks, Bonnie: you get a badge, too.

Here is your badge (created by Scott McCloud). Wear it with pride!

Peace (in recognizing the network),