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14 Jun 2011
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12 Tips for Blogging Success

As I was listening to the Newsworthy Blogging podcast from the Social Geek Radio show on my way to work, I had the desire to take notes (should have launched Dragon Dictation). While the tips from Susan Young were intended for blogging for business purposes, the ideas themselves are truly for a universal audience and apply not only to blogging but education. Below I have compiled the 12 Tips for Blogging Success gleaned from Susan Young’s Social Geek Radio blogtalk and have added some anecdotal insight.

My Six Word Memoir

  1. Purpose – What is the purpose of your blog? This is about content. Find your niche and stick to it. People need to know what to expect. Also make sure you have enough knowledge, resources, and content to generate multiple posts on the topic. (I chose Techchef4u for a few reasons. I wanted to make sure it was general enough to encompass any instructional technology I discussed but clear enough to convey the message that I enjoyed creating technology integration resources for anyone and everyone that choose to dine on them. Much like the Joy Of Cooking. =)
  2. Frequency – How often should you write? Susan likened blog posts to a phone call. If you have something to say, call (post a blog). If you have a valuable message and don’t just post to post, this will build credibility. (I keep a notebook of ideas for blog entries and will prioritize them based on teacher and instructional need. I try to keep it timely… Blog on Demand, if you will.)
  3. Good Headlines – The headline and first few opening lines are crucial to keeping reader interest and letting them know what to expect. Look to magazines with snappy headlines and borrow and adjust accordingly. (Oftentimes, I will have a vision for the entry but will not compose the title till the body is complete.)
  4. Keywords: This gets in to a bit of search engine optimization. She mentioned using Google to determine the percentage of people searching for a phrase (the order and arrangement of the words counts) and that these engines like fresh content (no repeats or old info) and numbers in the headlines.(While I have written a 5 part iPad series, this was more due to the fact that I didn’t want to publish 5,000 word blogs. I don’t think I have truly capitalized on the top 10 lists but want to really try and focus on these bulleted lists to drive some of my posts).

    Questions to Ponder

  5. Word Count: This goes back to adding value. There is no set length for a post. It is more about presenting a clear message… whether it be in 3 sentences or 3 paragraphs. (I tend to have to reel myself in as I want to compile and assemble all available information and research on a topic. I will spend hours searching through other posts that mention or discuss a similar topic (e.g. Flipping the Classroom) and incorporate them as additional information in my post. I need to reconcile with myself that it is okay to have a simple post … not a research analysis of a topic.)
  6. Grammar: Blogs are not reports. They tend to be more conversational. Don’t ramble. Present a clear, concise message that carries your writing style. (I really enjoy this aspect of blogging. Being a Leo and Italian, I naturally like to talk and love this form of media to be conversational and yet still convey my message. So much better than a static handout or info sheet).
  7. Reader-friendly: Readers are bombarded by media. If they see a list of 100 tips or large bodies of text… most will not commit to read your blog. Make sure it is full of white space, easy on the eyes, and something that your reader can gleen the gist by scanning. (I will typically write all of the text first and then break it up into smaller sections to make reading and searching for information a more user-friendly experience)
  8. Photos: include relevant images and photos that connect to the written message, break up the text, and highlight some of your personality. My goal for each post is to try to highlight Web 2.0 tool(s) (Google Squared, Big Huge Labs, Flikr PoetQuiki, etc..) using screenshots or embed code. My intent is to ensure that everyone leaves my blog with something they can use…whether it be an idea or a tool).Big Huge Labs Billboard
    1. (If I just need a cool photo, I will use Morgue File
    2. If I have photos that I would like to add some pizazz too, I use PhotoFunia.
  9. Videos: To reach all learners and communicators, incorporate a video or vodcast from time to time to highlight multiple modes of communication. It is also a great way to attract and build rapport with your readers as this will highlight your manners and personality. Consider transcribing it for those who would prefer a text version. (I love including videos but many of them are project-based in nature, like Sock Puppet Shakespeare or Signs of Math. I am looking forward to starting to sprinkle my blog entries with personal vodcasts. For now, these are still scripted. I am too much of a perfectionist to get these in one take.)
  10. Humor & Creativity: You have the podium. Are readers engaged enough to read on? Drop the jargon and be yourself. Weave in your personality and style. Ask open-ended questions to engage your reader and promote discussion. (I tend to like to play with words and be conversational so the media of blogging has been a great outlet for me to test new recipes and ideas.)
  11. Comments: Respond to and acknowledge comments. No one wants to be ignored. We want our message to be well-received. Just because you didn’t receive any comments, doesn’t mean that nobody read it. (Just because someone didn’t fill out a comment card doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy their meal or experience. It was just a few weeks ago that I learned about “pingbacks” and started seeing other blogs hyperlink to mine as I had done to theirs. I am hoping I get the opportunity to have a more personal level of communication, but for now I am just enthused that people are visiting the kitchen and sampling the dishes… hoping I will soon receive a few comment cards.)
  12. Reposting & Repackaging: If you are going to repost a blog entry, it can’t be dated. Freshen it up a bit. Consider repackaging your top 10 blog entries or a series as an ebook or PDF document as a resource for teachers. (I will typically repost an entry if I have revised or added to it (e.g. added Bloom’s Taxonomy of Apps to Hot Apps for HOTS post). Yet I had never considered creating ebooks for various topics. I love the idea as well as the accessibility of repurposing it. Hoping to have a Joy of Cooking: the iPad edition released towards the end of summer.)

Here is my first vodcast. This was inspired by the idea of truisms & six word memoirs.


I am very excited to have the opportunity to be a guest on Social Geek Radio Thursday June 23rd at 8pm. We will be discussing cool technology for kids (apps and Web 2.0 tools) that they can utilize on these hot summer days.

Check out Miguel Guhlin’s post for more blogging tips. (Thanks, Miguel, for the tips and the feature.)

18 May 2011
Comments: 4

Part 4: iBuild iPad Lesson(s)

Images from The Missing Bite Posters (compiled in Photofunia)

Awake your Appthusiasm for Learning

I am an Instructional Technology Specialist at NEISD that serves 3 Title 1 campuses. We are very fortunate to have an abundance of technology at our disposal to service the students.

With a background in English & Math and a love for all things Apple, I naturally gravitate to the iPad. We have 60 currently on campus with 90+ on the way so I have been working very diligently over the past few months creating lessons for them (as well as training teachers ahead of time) to reduce the turnaround time between when they arrive and when they are actually used for instruction in the classroom.

While these lessons were inspired by apps, I did not want to make the lesson exclusive to the app so I have given suggestions/extensions and projects that can be accomplished with Web 2.0 tools. I have also provided interactive Web 2.0 tools that can serve as an alternative to the app if teachers would still like to use the lesson (and do not have access to an iPad).

Do you have an App-titude for Lesson Development?

After writing a series of iPad lessons, I wanted to share my process in creating the lessons:

  • Theme/Topic/Content Focus: While I try to choose a theme or topic (graphic novels, government, poetry) or locate an inspiring app to build my lesson around to make the lesson general enough that it can be used/adapted by various grade levels, teachers may want to ask themselves some more specific questions as they begin the planning process:
    • What TEK(S) do you plan to cover, focus on, support?
    • What is the purpose of the lesson (pre-activity, review, formative/summative assessment)?
    • How long do I have for the activity?
    • What background information should the students have prior to the lesson?
    • How will I differentiate or provide scaffolding to meet the needs of all learners?
    • How will the lesson be delivered (individual, pairs, small groups, stations, whole class)
    • Should activities within the lesson be completed in a certain order?
    • How will the activities be assessed (questions, lab, oral discussion, project/product, blog/online post)?
  • Supporting Apps & Resources: Find more apps like it or to support it (also consider what materials & resources you already have: websites, PDF’s, movies, podcasts, etc…). If you do not have supporting content already created, consider creating an ePub or interactive PDF.
  • Similar Lessons: Find similar topic/theme lessons online
  • Apps Mirror Interactive Sites: Find similar sites (virtual/interactive/Web 2.0) as apps (for teachers who do not have an iPad to use the same lesson)
  • Projects/Assessment: Compile project ideas/suggestions/products that can be created using Web 2.0 tools, interactive sites, or peripherals (assessment and student products/projects)
  • Resources & Extensions: Gather links to resources used, lessons, extension ideas, etc…

This whole process from start to finish typically takes me 10-15 hours a lesson.

Template for building these lessons: Word_Template (Lesson Outline_Word).  Microsoft also offers thousands of templates for Publisher & Word that can be modified to be used as a lesson template or task card. In Pages, choose a newsletter from the template chooser or a Poster (for a task card).

I have also included sample iPad lessons that I have “cooked up” this year in the next post! is also a great site for iDevice Lessons and a great way to get inspired. Krueger’s KSAT program also has a site with a few example lessons that may give you some direction. Escondido’s iRead site is also a great place to start. This is a fantastic site to understand how to use digital audio tools to improve the reading process.

A wonderful TCEA Workshop left us on this note and so will I, “It’s Not About the Tech. It’s About the Teach.” Be mindful of this when building your iDevice lessons.

Post Your Lesson Ideas to this Canvas!
Appolicious iPad Apptivities


For those of you who may want an agenda for this course, I have gone the nontraditional route and used iBrainstorm to generate a plan!

©2011. Lisa Johnson. All rights reserved. Permission to reproduce for classroom use granted.

18 May 2011
Comments: 2

Part 1: iPad – What it Is/Isn't and What You Can Do with It

If you received an iPad on your campus or are considering purchasing one, you will want to learn about the capabilities of the device and uses for it in the classroom.

Table created with Exploratree. iPad image from Apple.

As technology changes at rapid speed, mobile devices are a standard, and children gather & interact with information in new and exciting ways, we must consider changing our pedagogy and how we deliver instruction to benefit the needs of our digital natives. In this 5 part iPad series, I hope to engage and inspire teachers to do just that. The Mumford & Sons song, Awake My Soul, says it better than I can, “Lend me your eyes, I can change what you see.”

The TCEA “Leading with the iPad” gives some great examples of how the iPad can be used in the classroom.

  • Load iPads with different eBooks (OverdriveGoogleProject Gutenberg, & Magic Catalog of Free Kindle Books are a good place to start) and ePubs and assign them to different groups (there are also lots of children’s and adult books/novels that can be found in the App Store). Check out “Load Your New iPad with E-Books Without Going to the iBookstore“. Check out a Vook (books with video embedded)!
  • Have students watch a preselected video or listen to a podcast and create a written response using a blog, wiki, or other Web 2.0 tool.
  • Use the iPad in conjunction with Google Docs to create a collaborative writing assignment or product.
  • Have students access news & periodicals online to foster research and writing activities.
  • Have students research and review apps and build a classroom list of approved apps (great for critical audiences).
  • Have students use the calendar as a class agenda or the contacts as a database (take or save images for authors, elements, campus officials, characters in a novel or play and add a name & description) and Bump them to build a class database.

How will the iPads change your pedagogy and classroom practices?

Here are some more thoughts on how to integrate the iPad from the kitchen of techchef4u:

Also check out “7 Reasons You Need an iPad in Your Classroom & 10 Ways to Use Them” & “56 Interesting Ways to Use an iPad in the Classroom.

How do/will you use the iPad in your classroom?

17 May 2011
Comments: 1

The Tree Doth Giveth

Hasn’t the tree given us enough? Go paperless on your next project!

It is that time of year when many schools are working on projects. Here are a few ways you can incorporate Web 2.0 tools in conjunction with the study of personification, simile, and metaphor. All of these tools focus on the tree as inspiration.

Big Huge Labs: Upload an image to create a magazine cover. Create a dialogue or poem to overlay on top of the image.

Tagxedo: Compose a poem and choose a color, theme, layout, shape etc… Tagxedo will give emphasis tow words (Tagxedo_instructions)

Pizap: Upload an image and add text and speech bubbles to it.

Images can be captured by students or taken from copyright free image sites like Pics4Learning & Morgue File.

While most of these sites do not require copyright attribution, it is always a good practice to do so. Since all of these sites do not auto-save or edit text, it is a good idea to write text in another program (Word, Pages, Text File) and copy & paste into tool.

All 3 sites have no required login and have the ability to easily save images as a jpeg for later use in another work.

Have students compose their poem on a word processor, create an accompanying image using one of the 3 Web 2.0 tools listed, and save it as a PDF. Compile the PDF’s to create a class poetry book using Flip Snack (see iPad Lesson section for example & instructions).

Ethemes offers a list of sites that provide lessons and interactives for writing similes & metaphorspersonification.

17 May 2011
Comments: 2

Podcasts 4 Math

Our Web 2.0 Part 2 Moodle course provided some wonderful discussion on useful Math podcasts. Why reinvent the wheel? Here are some of the resources (with descriptions) that were provided from teachers enrolled in the course. Use these as mini lessons, reviews, independent study pieces, or to clear up common misconceptions.

  • The Video Math Tutor–  Even during summer kids can access podcasts to see how some of the math they will be doing in summer is done, it serves as a good review and resource. Tips on how to solve algebra problems, gives graphing calculator tips, brian teasers, and other tips for both students and teacher.
  • Edutopia (Math)– I like this feed because it is a good resource for teachers when they need new ideas or a new insight to approaches or thoughts on teaching. “Teaching Elementary Students the Magic of Math” really shows how math can and should be integrated fully into all subjects of learning.
  • The Wizard of Oz- From Fractions to Formulas – I love to show that math is not scary.  When information is presented to the students in a familiar or entertaining method it grabs the kids attention and diminishes fear of a subject.
  • Math Guy podcast – Fun math games and trick. Gets kids excited about math and using numbers
  • Mathtrain.TV – Review over middle school concepts, interest, percent of a number, unit cost.
  • Khan Academy – Geometry: Khan Academy has podcasts in all of the subject areas in mathematics. It gives very detailed and drawn out explanations of various mathematics topics, including geometry. It is an excellent podcast for students who struggle with their work or for those who would like to see more examples outside of class.
  • Mr. A’s Geometry Podcast: This podcast is similar to the Khan Academy podcast. Detailed explanations of various geometry topics are shown, but more closely resembles what a student would
  • Math Mutation: This podcast provides weekly topics in mathematics that are described as “fun, interesting and weird corners of math.” It can be used to show students than math can be fun and interesting.
  • Math by Design: “These videos and support materials will give you another weapon in your answer arsenal. In the videos, students meet people whose everyday, real life includes just the kind of mathematics they explore in Math by Design. Use the Discussion Questions and Related Practice resources to extend and enrich your students’ video watching experience!”
  • Media 4 Math: Videos range from algebra applications in the mortgage crisis to exploring 3D Geometry. Also has a great section on Math in the News with PPT presentations to accompany.
  • Is All About Math: Math is a subject area that is ever changing. Even though the concepts remain consistent, the strategies and techniques for presenting those concepts are anything but consistent. Using this video podcast as a resource to stay current and on trend is vital in giving my students the advantage they need to be successful beyond my classroom. I am using this in Google reader.
  • The Math Dude (Algebra 1): This is a wonderful tool for my geometry students who need to brush up on algebra and to fill in any gaps that they may experience from their previous year. This was found in iTunes as a video podcast. I like that my students can access this when they need reinforcement on a concept or just another way to look at an area that may be particularly problematic for them. This could also be used as a mini lesson to fill in weak areas in important concepts.
  • Precalculus – Fenton: I found this video podcast in iTunes. This would be a great tool for students who are absent from class. It would also give me ideas when I am looking for ways to present particular lessons. Students can use it as a review or to obtain a different perspective. One drawback is that it took a long time to download.

Also Check out:,, Math Snacks& MathtrainTV.

Some of these podcasts can be subscribed to which will feed into iTunes, others can be saved as an audio or movie file and imported into iTunes, and some are even bundled as an app. Please post others you find in the comments section along with a description and/or how they can be used.