June 05, 2006

We're all learners, especially when it comes to blogging

I started a comment to continue the conversation on my previous post about the new podcast started on an MFLE Typepad blog, but felt it was becoming a post. There were only the two comments and both bring me the closest I've been to writing about my current job and the constant strains it brings with trying to keep people happy. I've got to clear some things up.

Recommending tools - don't do it ;-)
When suggesting or recommending tools we all tend to go with what we know has worked well for us. For me, it has been Typepad, which for over three years has helped me blog, podcast and video podcast. I've never had any trouble and when I accidentally deleted my blog Loic was the first to help out. Loic is a busy man being the CEO of the European mother company, SixApart. That's service I'm happy to pay for. I also have loved the way that, from the start, it's coped with all my huge audio and video files without so much as a groan. I figured other teachers would appreciate the same thing.

So using tax payers' money we at the MFLE bought a subscription to Typepad for Modern Languages teachers which, for all the good it could bring, represents only about 0.0013% of the annual ICT budget. We gave blogs away to teachers wanting to dabble after having given them an introduction to podcasting at the Communicate.06 seminar. We gave them a place to play, experiment and maybe make a difference in their kids' lives. We have done so for many schools and students, including some of the best modern foreign language student podcasts I've ever heard.

Why Typepad? Because it seemed the easiest way to offer space for audio files and allow one-click podcasting and so on. We also didn't know who wanted what before the conference - to be honest, neither did they.

In the end it's taken many people about two months to digest things and now take it on with their classes, using whatever tools they find most accessible, without the need for someone else to set things up for them. It's a process that's working really well, as the scotedublogs wiki shows.

Thanks come with strings
On the other hand I have had some complaints from teachers who have been unable to get to grips with this software and others. I have helped out and had no word back. A bit like helping out a kid who doesn't show for the exams. I've also had two teachers say they contacted me to ask for a blog and didn't get one. Well, we're all learners and I do my best to help out those I can. With about 2500 emails a month, most of them asking for help, I answer every one. Of course, the people who leave comments on my blog always get their help first ;-)

To WordPress or not to WordPress - does it matter?
Recently - very recently - I have been coming around to the WordPress platform in a big way, through the edublogs.org crowd. It started when I saw it in action, demo-ed to me by demo-God Peter and then further explained by John, who himself uses the Pivot platform which scares me a bit in its apparent technical complexity. Today I am thinking about trying to use the multi-user version of WordPress to set up a Local Authority blogging model, giving access and providing a localised community to thousands of students and teachers within the same geographical area.

I have to admit that I don't know about the podpress plugin which Peter mentions - I'm off to find out more about that right now because it could make the final point which I have felt was missing from WordPress. I've been learning from others in this regard and this is just another block in the process.

And if I get stuck I'll ask him. Yes, I am the Development Officer of a national teacher support website. Yes, I do know a lot about stuff, and a lot less about other stuff. But I am also a learner, and expect most teachers to be like me.

That is, if I don't know, I find out and if I still don't know I ask.

'Nuff said.

UPDATE: Is the students' work not more important than the politics behind their blogging platform? Why were there no comments about that. Why not get back there now and leave a more supportive comment?


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I am so sorry - my comment was not meant to be a dig at all - just a tongue in cheek bit of banter to counter Eva's comment that wound me up a bit. My point about TypePad was that I don't touch it because I don't know it. For me, as with you - the software is unimportant - the sphere of influence that one exerts is important and based around what software you happened to fall into. With me it was Manila and then WordPress - with you it was Typepad. All is good - it is what you do with it that counts.

Just for clarity's sake as well - I was in no way casting aspertions upon you in terms of paying for the MFLE software. You made a perfectly wise choice in my view.

Now I remember why I don't comment much on people's blogs :-)

UPDATE: Is the students' work not more important than the politics behind their blogging platform? Why were there no comments about that. Why not get back there now and leave a more supportive comment? Yes it is, but it is a bit easier to talk about platforms;-)
The Airfare guys seem to be getting quite a few comments due I imagine to the Ewan effect.
Software choice is important especially as you might have the same setup for years. You blog is very popular and influential, so it is a good thing it is blog with comments rather than a web 1.0 site.
Peter had a smile on his face with the bargepole comment, some folk missed it, it is hard to communicate with out a face some times.
Finally Pivot is not complex if you just use it as a single blog, posting is pretty much like any other system. I usually have wysiwyg turned off so it just looks complex;-)

Never has a smiley been so important ;-)

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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