An Audio Interview with my Blog

I am keeping an eye on the Teacher Blogging Challenge now underway with Edublogs and saw this post by Ann, asking advanced bloggers to be reflective on their blogs. One of the options was an interview with your blog, which struck me as fun and odd (something I can’t resist).

So, here I go, and I included an audio version, giving “voice” to my blog with some effects to separate the interview from the interviewee.

Listen to the “interview”

1. Good morning. Are you always up this early? I’m always up. I’m a blog.

2.  True. Well, I hope you don’t mind that I am going to drink my coffee while we chat. Now, your name is Kevin’s Meandering Mind. Can you give me the lowdown on your name? Certainly. When Kevin created me, he didn’t really know what he was going to write about. He knew that teaching would be part of it, and writing. But he figured that music and some other areas that he is interested in would also come into play. That led to the meandering.

3. And meander it does. I’m surprised you have any faithful readers. Do you worry that covering a wide range of topics might be, well, confusing for the reader? It is a potential issue but I think Kevin often writes for himself, as much for an audience, and he has some faith that readers can come along with him. If not, they can make that choice. But I am grateful for readers who come around on a regular basis, particularly those who make comments and leave notes.

4. Do you encourage comments? Of course! I’m a blog! Comments from readers are what we crave. Of course, I have my trusty spam filter, too, so not all comments come to my attention. I really don’t need new shoes or desire to send money to someone on the other side of the world. Not that I have money.

5. So, your blog does not generate revenue with advertisements? No. We don’t do that. In fact, Kevin pays to keep ads off of me. Some of my cousins out there do have advertising tattoos, but I would rather do without them. And Kevin agrees.

6. So, why does Kevin write on you? He writes because he is a writer, and he has found that our partnership — him, the writer, and me, the blog — gives him a chance to explore, compose and connect with others like him in the world. He’s been writing for years, but never quite like this. I think I opened up a door for him that will be difficult to shut. Plus, he often uses me to explore sites and technology that he is considering for his classroom.

7. You’re some sort of techno-guinea pig? That’s a harsh way to put it, pal. But I suppose it’s something like that. I don’t mind. It’s what I do.

8. How long have you been around? More than six years. Can you believe that? Kevin started me up after a week-long technology retreat with the National Writing Project. A friend of his who had been blogging (and still does, I should add) in Washington DC urged him to start a blog. In fact, he had already been doing blogging with his students. But I was his first push into a personal blog. It’s been a nice partnership.

9. What advice do you have for all of those new blogs out there? I’d say find a niche, but you know, I never really have. So, instead, I’d suggest you find a voice. Establish a voice and project your thoughts into the world.

10. It’s been nice chatting with you. Any last thoughts? It’s been a pleasure. Kindly take that coffee cup off the mouse pad, would you? I don’t want you to leave any lasting impressions with the interview.

Peace (in the conversations),

My Edublog Award Nominations

Each year, Edublogs (which I use for personal and school blogs) hosts its annual Edublog Awards. I know some folks frown on an awards idea for bloggers and it can often seem like shouting in an echo chamber (we all nominate the popular bloggers, who get more popular, etc.). But I like that it makes me stop for a stretch and reflect on those folks whom I read and learn from on a regular basis.

So, with a few disclaimers down below, here are my nominations. I did not do every single category. I only did nominations in the categories that I felt strongly about:

Best individual blog: Bud the Teacher

I find Bud’s reflections and passion for learning and technology to be as strong today as it was when I first found him online. Meeting him in person at various functions over the years has only cemented my view of Bud as someone to watch and follow, and think about. Bud often moves beyond the tool and into the learning of technology, and he is not a bandwagon jumper — he sees the technology and possibilities, and pitfalls, with clear eyes.

Best individual tweeter:!/PaulWHankins

I’m fairly new to Paul’s circle of friends, I guess, but reading him on Twitter is like listening into a very interesting conversation. He clearly loves learning, he is passionate about books, and he loves writing (for himself and his students)  — and those three facets of his personality seem to come together in interesting ways with Paul’s tweets.

Best group blog: NWP Walkabout:

A disclaimer: I contribute to this blog every now and then. It’s a home for National Writing Project folks to file reflections about various conferences, events and projects that they are involved in. The collective sharing out of what has been learned, and what is being learned, is always engaging.

Best new blog: Popgun Chaos

This blog is hard to explain, since it is not about teaching; it’s about culture, and particularly the comic book/alternative music culture. The posts are often very funny and engaging, and the topics are (for me) so off-center to what I am used to reading that I look forward to what the topic is when it arrives in my RSS. It may not be a blog for everyone, but I hope it finds an audience. Plus, how can you not love that name?

Best class blog:

Here’s another disclaimer: I work with Gail, the kindergarten teacher behind this blog, and she nominated me for an award this year. So, nominating her seems like payback, but it’s not. I would have tried to give her class the spotlight anyway because her students are wonderful and their work in various modes of composition (skyping, voicethread, photography, and more) is such a rich window into the world of early childhood education.

Best resource sharing blog — Larry Ferlazzo

I feel like I nominate Larry every year and never regret it. If you don’t have Larry Ferlazzo in your sights, you are missing some great resources, particularly around parent involvement and English Language Learners.

Most influential blog post: Still Learning How To Be A Digital Writer (Troy Hicks)

Another disclaimer (darn it): My request to Troy Hicks that he talk about the things that did not go so great when he was leading online discussions of his book (The Digital Writing Workshop) led to this post, which I just loved. He made visible both the possibilities of technology, and the roadblocks that can come. And just as important, for me, he reflected on both of those ideas in his calm, reassuring tone of voice of this blog.

Most influential tweet / series of tweets / tweet based discussion: #speakloudly!/search/%23SpeakLoudly

Remember Paul from my Twitter recommendation? He kept this hashtag alive and well during Banned Book Month, inviting people to really ponder our views towards suppressing literature that don’t meet the guidelines of so-called society.

Best teacher blog: Two Writing Teachers

Ruth and Stacey are so great as reflective teachers, offering a nice balance between suggestions for writing activities and thoughtful analysis of classroom practice, complete with student samples.

Best librarian / library blog: A Year of Reading —

Franki and Mary Lee co-write this blog, really focusing in on literacy in the library at the elementary level. I loved the series of posts this summer about the ecology and physical lay-out of the library, and what that kind of thoughtful decision does to the learning environment.

Best school administrator blog – Practical Theory: Chris Lehamann —

If you are in education, you should be paying attention to Chris. Enough said, I think.

Best educational tech support blog – Scott Sibberson –

Scott is husband to Franki, of A Year of Reading, and his views from the technical support room, and his ideas of supporting classroom instruction, are a great resource to turn to.

Best educational podcast: Teachers Teaching Teachers –

Yet another disclaimer: I’ve been a guest on TTT, which is a weekly webcast turned podcast that focuses on so many topics, including student writing in social spaces, but this past year’s involvement in the oil spill has been a great motivator for me to ramp up my work around environmental education with my students.

Lifetime achievement: Bud the Teacher –

Sorry, Bud. You’re not old. You’ve just been around for a few years longer than most of us and I appreciate the time you have spent sharing with us readers.

Peace (in the sharing),

My roster of Edublog Award Nominations

It’s time for nominating some folks for the Edublog Awards of 2009. Here are some sites and folks that I consider worthwhile:

Best individual blog: Moving at the Speed of Creativity
Best Educational Use of Audio: Teachers Teaching Teachers
Best teacher blog:
Larry Ferlazzo
Best Classroom Blog: Watch out!
Best individual tweeter: Bud the Teacher
Best educational wiki: Teaching with Thinking and Technology
Best Resource Sharing Blog: Free Tech for Teachers
Best Group Blog: In Practice
Best Educational Use of Video: Longfellow Ten

That’s all I could think of.

Peace (in the nominations),


The Advertising Shift in Edublogs

I have long been a big fan of Edublogs for many reasons:

  • it provided me with my first free blogging platform,
  • the forums have been a great way to get help and resources,
  • James Farmer, who runs the network, has been incredibly responsive to any of my queries,
  • and the network of educators using blogs has continued to grow (the number hovers around 250,000 blogs on Edublogs).

Those facts continue to be the case, but I knew the idea of a cost-free, ad-free network could not last forever. After all, we can’t expect James to keep investing his own money just to keep our blogs alive and free. There was bound to be a time when change was to come.

So, the inevitable happened.

Edublogs is still “free” but now it comes with advertisements — keyword links in posts that bring the viewer to an advertisement. In the Edublog forums and through various networks, this has been met with a lot of criticism and complaints, and I can understand both sides of the issue here. Teachers don’t want to expose students to advertisements … period. I know I avoid it at all costs. Our kids are bombarded with commercial messages everywhere they go — embedded in movies, in games, on television, on the Net — and I don’t want to be part of that.

But James admits that he can’t afford to keep this blogging network afloat under the “free” model. It just doesn’t make sense. And he does offer a solution that costs a little bit of money.

First, the linked advertisements only show up the first time a person visits a blog. If you bookmark a blog, the second time you go there, the ads will not appear in your browser. This is designed to minimize the impact of the ads.

Second, if you become an Edublog Supporter (which I have been since it was first offered, as a token way to support the network), there are no ads in your blog at all, ever. The cost is $40 per year, up from the initial $25 per year. And, James has added the feature of allowing Supporters to create up to 30 blogs (say, for students) under one Supporter umbrella and you can turn off the ads on all of those blogs. (There is also the option of Edublog Campus, which allows you to create and run your own larger blogging network. We currently use this for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project).

James explains the moves in a recent post:

Is this ideal? Well, in a utopian world we’d like to give everyone, everything, entirely for free and without any ads! But that’d be a utopia… so, barring that, we hope to still provide great free blogs alongside an absolutely premium supporter service that is more than worth the price of a large coffee per month.

To coax people to become a Supporter, James has also curtailed some of the things he used to provide for free, including plug-ins, more upload space, Twitter tools, etc, and expanded them for Supporters.

Although I will continue with Edublogs, I think this change in the model for Edublogs will make me re-think how I do workshops with teachers who are trying to understand what blogging is all about. I have often used Edublog in sessions precisely because I could tell folks: this is free, this is ad-free, and it is simple to use. I can’t do that anymore, and that saddens me, to be honest. If you are a teacher looking to blog, you can become a Supporter with Edublogs, or you can explore other options, including running your own WordPress package on server space.  But, truly, how many teachers have that time and expertise to set up and host their own blogging network? There is also Blogger, also with ads, and other possibilities, too — many with limitations and drawbacks.

I don’t plan to pack up and move from this place, and I will continue to run this blog, the Electronic Pencil and a homework site that my teaching team uses for parents and students to access information and assignments. I am a supporter, even though I wish that Edublogs had not had to turn the corner into advertising. Isn’t there someone with a boatload of cash who can support a network of teachers exploring the wired world? (if so, please leave name and number where you can be reached).

Peace (brought to you by the makers of dogtrax),

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),