…and that’s a wrap…

Finish Linephoto © 2010 jayneandd | more info (via: Wylio)
My patient readers, I thank you! A month ago I took on the Teacher Challenge through Edublogs called “Kick Start Your Blog” in order to increase my readership and better navigate the inner workings of the anatomy of a blog. I have sprinkled my assignment posts amidst my regular posts on “the nature of the library beast” and you’ve hung in there with me. Bear with me this one last time as I reflect on what I’ve learned and share my next steps. Then, it’ll be back to business as usual for Buchlady!

Working through the Challenge has put me in touch with some wonderful colleagues in both the U.S. and Australia. We have commented on each others’ posts and examined the features of each others’ blogs. I have gotten new ideas for widgets to add, and found new blogs to add to my Google Reader. I’ve been introduced to different tools for working with images and video, and begun to think about creating an avatar for myself. I’ve thought about what makes an effective post and tried to hone my writing. It’s been gratifying and affirming to find so many other people trying to do the same sorts of things that I’m trying to do in my professional life.

Now comes the hard part. The final challenge is for increasing readership and promoting your blog, and (dare I say it?)… that’s going to mean taking the plunge into Twitter. The folks at Edublogs were very clear about that. I must tweet. Tweet I must.  Hmmm….

Thankfully, I’ve been collecting resources (see livebinder below) for a while about Twitter which I will take a close look at during our winter break in a few weeks, and I’ve already watched Russell Stannard’s series of intro-to-Twitter videos here. But I’ll admit it–if I go there, I go reluctantly. Everything I read is pointing me there, but it seems like one more huge tug on my time. (Don’t I spend enough with Google Reader as it is?)

So readers, help me out. If you are a fan of Twitter for professional growth, please share your story (and/or tips) with me by leaving a comment.

Twitter
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Snow Day Ketchup and Mustard

Ketchup and Mustardphoto © 2009 Shane Adams | more info (via: Wylio)
Years ago when I was a classroom teacher we’d occasionally need a day where we suspended the regular schedule in order to tie up loose ends–final edits on pieces of writing  for a publishing circle,  lingering math portfolio problems, etc. We called these days “Ketchup and Mustard” Days, and they were a nice break from the routine. I don’t know if my students had the same feeling of satisfaction as I did when the day was through, but I’m someone who likes to cross things off lists!   So today’s SNOW DAY (our first in a number of years) was a great day for me to “catch up” on some of my to-do items.

A big part of that was stumbling around WordPress trying to learn more about widgets and tags.  Thanks to Sue Waters over at Edublogs I have a better understanding of how to embed some new features in my sidebar.  (Before I read Sue’s tutorial and found out about the Text widget, I thought WordPress was just being stingy with the widget options they supported!)

After some trial-and-error I was able to add a ClustrMap, an email subscription widget, and a tag cloud (though I don’t know if I’ll keep that one).  I went back and added tags and checked categories for about half my posts, and rearranged the order on a number of things.  Not a bad afternoon’s work.  Now if I could just get those dishes done…

Page Addition

Kids books facing out, Mill Park Library, Yarra Plenty Library service<span

Just wanted you all to know that as part of my Teacher Challenge blog spruce-up, I've added another page. Click here to see some of my tried-and-true elementary titles.

Challenge Activity #5: Images

Koi fishphoto © 2007 Cristina | more info (via: Wylio)
There is no question that I enjoy reading blog posts that sport images more than those that just contain text.  Especially if (like me) you read online content in Google Reader.  The plain blue and white format there can get tiring, so images have lots of appeal.  (As much as I love RSS, it does seem a shame not to visit some of the lovely themes that people have chosen for their blogs.  I chose today’s koi fish image to accompany my WordPress koi theme.)

Anyway, early on in my efforts to learn about what good bloggers do, I made a conscious decision to include images for most if not all posts.  If you look at all my posts you’ll see that I’ve stuck to that pretty well.  Luckily, lots of bloggers have shared their favorite copyright-friendly sites for images and I’ve tried a few. (Click on the livebinder below for some suggestions I’ve learned about from others.)

So far I like flickrCC and morguefile, but my favorite site in terms of ease of use is Wylio.com.  All images are licensed through Creative Commons and the attribution is built right in.  It’s super simple to search for a photo, choose the size you want, and grab the embed code.  I don’t think I’ll go anywhere else unless I absolutely can’t find what I need on Wylio!

 

Copy of Free Stock Images

Spring cleaning? Seriously?

Mops and Brooms - 01photo © 2007 Barry Solow | more info (via: Wylio)
I have to chuckle about the title for today’s post.  There are 14 inches of fresh snow outside my window and spring in Vermont is still a distant dream!  Nevertheless, this week’s blogging challenge has to do with cleaning up your blog and paying some attention to your “About Me” page.

So here’s what I did:  I added new information about myself and a bit about this blog.  Still not sure I want to add a photo or avatar.  I guess I’m still new enough at this to want some anonymity!

I’m also supposed to add a new page to the blog, and so I’ve decided to compile a list of my “faves”– some of the tried-and-true book titles that I return to again and again.  Watch for it soon!

Report Card for Bloggers

FAILphoto © 2009 amboo who? | more info (via: Wylio)
Non-blogging teacher-librarian alert: This post relates to another assignment for the Teacher Challenge for bloggers.  If this isn’t your cup of tea, stop back soon for a post designed especially for you!

What makes an effective post? I read lots of posts each day and often star ones that are especially useful or thought-provoking, so naturally I went to the starred items in my Google Reader first in search of an example.  Not long ago I read this post at the Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness and deemed it “effective” because:

1. The “top 10” aspect of the title grabbed my attention.

2. It’s formatted cleanly.

3. It makes good use of color and graphics.

4. There are lots of links, but not to the point of distraction.

5. There’s no question about where to click, or how to access a previous post for more information.

6. It’s concise.  It gives enough information to enlighten, but avoids clutter by keeping further details as links for those who want to dig deeper.

Since beginning my blog about six months ago I’ve been on the lookout for resources to help me improve.  I’ve begun subscribing to Copyblogger and one of the folks there wrote this post about creating exceptional content, which is food for thought for this assignment.  (Confession:  I’ve not “graded” myself yet with that post’s tips.)

What do effective posts have in common? Darren Rowse aka The Problogger summed it up nicely in this post –you’ve got to share something important with the world.  I read blogs in several categories:  librarianship, ed tech, children’s literature, and blogging.  Those posts that stay with me and those feeds that survive my periodic Google Reader Subscription Purging are the ones that have something important to say.  They are of some benefit to me, so I keep going back.

That’s what I’m striving to do with my blog.  I want to deliver meaningful and useful content for other practicing librarians.

Okay, let me have it–how am I doing? What can I do to make it better?  Librarians out there–what kind of content would you like to see in my corner of cyberspace?  Leave a comment to let me know.

30 Day Challenge: Join me?

Shadow of a Writing Handphoto © 2008 john norton | more info (via: Wylio)
Serendipity sometimes happens!  Shortly after my post about blogging, one of my teachers expressed interest in learning about blogging with her students AND I heard about the Edublogs Teacher Challenge.

Basically the folks at Edublogs want to help more educators to learn to blog and have a voice.  So they’ve put together a series of tasks to help both new and advanced bloggers become more effective.  So yours truly is jumping in!  (This post is actually one of my assignments!)

I joined the challenge because I’m interested in hearing ideas from classroom teachers about how they use blogging with their students.  (I have a passion for the teaching of writing and I suspect there are tremendous possibilities here!)  If I can get enough ideas and exemplars I’d like to approach some of my colleagues about working with them to develop a classroom blog or work on some sort of microblogging in-house.

I also want to learn more specifics about things like pingbacks and trackbacks and how to increase the traffic to my blog, comments etiquette, etc.  I’ve struggled a bit with widgets so I definitely need help there, and I’ve also at times gotten discouraged wondering whether the time I put in is worth it without a huge readership.  (And how DO you get people to actually subscribe via RSS?)

These are some things that have been rambling around in this blogger’s head since I first heard about the challenge.  So how about it?  Any takers?  Let me know if you decide to take the challenge, too, and I’ll visit your blog!