Class Blogmeister Retires After a 12-Year Run

Class Blogmeister - August 2005
Class Blogmeister - August 2005

I launched Class Blogmeister in 2004, realizing that there were a lot of teachers who needed a blogging platform for their students, one that was designed for the classroom.  I anticipated that the service would live for a couple of years, after which other more skillfully constructed and professionally supported services would be available.  They were available, but teachers wanted to keep using CB and I wanted to keep learning from their inventive ideas and add features as they were requested.

Now, 12 years later, I have mostly retired from speaking and writing, and my wife and I are spending much of our time in the foothills of North Carolina, helping and enjoying our aging parents.

So, sadly, I will be closing Class Blogmeister around the middle of June this year.  It’s seen a pretty good run, serving over 300,000 teachers and students from 90 countries, who have written nearly 1.5 million blog articles – and I have been the real beneficiary, learning from this amazing community.

I want to commend everyone who has used Class Blogmeister for your adventurous nature and your steadfast adherence to the idea that teaching is an art.  Student blogging requires courageous teachers – and I believe that “courage” is one of the central defining qualities of all good teachers.

I thank you for your loyalty and patience, and especially for being a good teacher.  I can think of no better compliment to pay.

The Rise of the “I”

I’ve been working through a major overhaul of Class Blogmeister and as a matter of reference, just pulled up its Google Analytics report.  There were few surprises, such as a decline in its use over the years — which I was actually encouraging for a time.

What did surprise me was a review of the operating systems that were accessing the 10 year old classroom blogging site (see below).  Windows continues to hold a substantial lead with 57.33% of the hits.  But second and third are what caught my eye.  

iOS has overtaken Macintosh OS for the number two spot.

..and then there was a not-to-be-ignored 6% for Android.

I guess what truly strikes me is that CB is essentially a data-entry activity, if I might be forgiven for using such an archaic term.  It’s about typing.  What sorts of subtle biological evolutions are going on, that our children can type so much on an often hand-held glass surface? 😉

Google Analytics for Class Blogmeister, Visits by OS for the past month

Education Blogger Survey

I learned, via Hack Education, about a survey from the Institute of Educational Technology (The Open University). Announced by Alice Bell in her blog, the study is based on work they did last year exploring brain bloggers (early data).

Go here to get and complete the survey, and do it now – because today’s the deadline.

Here are my answers…

Blog URL: http://davidwarlick.com/2cents or http://blog.idave.us

What do you blog about?

Teaching and learning, and how their practice and purpose have evolved as a result of contemporary and emerging information and communication technologies and more specifically the effects of these technologies on the nature of information and literacy.

Are you paid to blog?

No!

What do you do professionally (other than blog)?

I usually describe myself as an author, programmer, public speaker, entrepreneur and 35 year educator. My income comes mostly from book sales, public speaking and ad revenue from one of my web sites.  I am currently in the “slowly retiring” phase of my career.

How long have you been blogging at this site?

Since November of 2004

Do you write in other platforms? (e.g. in a print magazine?)

I have written four books, three of them self-published (Lulu) and one via a traditional publisher. I’ve also written chapters for other books, most recently the foreword for What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media, (2011) by Scott McLeod and Chris Lehmann. I have also written numerous magazine articles, but not in a long time. If asked to write one today, I would probably decline. It makes little sense, today, to carefully write a timely piece, only to have it published 9 months later.

Can you remember why you started blogging?

Initially (2004), I started blogging because it seemed the thing for a progressive and tech-savvy educator to be doing, sharing my knowledge with my readership. However, I very quickly realized that blogging was really a conversation, between the bloggers I read, what I wrote, the commenters who read and wrote on my blog site, and the bloggers who reflected on my ideas. Blogging is a learning experience for me. I blog to learn.

I learn because blogging requires me to organize and refine my own ideas. I also learn from the commenters and response blog posts.

What keeps you blogging?

To continue to learn.

Do you have any idea of the size or character if your audience? How?

I suspect that I have a fairly large audience, but only from the personal contacts I have with educators at conferences and also from the almost daily requests I receive from PR firms asking me to blog about their clients. I do have 15.7K followers on Twitter.

What’s your attitude to/ relationship with people who comment on your blog?

I deeply appreciate comments and have never deleted a comment (to my knowledge) unless it was obviously spam. I learn from commenters, and that is often especially true from comments that disagree with what I have written. The number of comments has declined, since much of that conversation has moved to Twitter. This disappoints me, since 140 characters is often not enough space to deeply explore any issue about education.

Do you feel as if you fit into any particular community, network or genre of blogging? (e.g. schools, science, education, museums, technology)

Yes, though this was probably more true before so many edubloggers started moving to Twitter as their primary means of engaging the community. But I suspect that I would be part of the edtech blogger community, though I rarely write specifically about technology.

If so, what does that community give you?

What I learn from this community, which spans the blogosphere, twitterverse and F2F connections at conferences.  I learn about new technologies and applications. But more importantly, I learn new stories and new language for talking about retooling classrooms.

What do you think are the advantages of blogging? What are its disadvantages/ limitations?

This is easy. The advantage is the space to more deeply examine issues of contemporary teaching and learning practices. The disadvantage is the space required to deeply examine issues. Busy educators have little time to read. It’s why Twitter and status updates have become so prominant in the education and edtech conversation. The key is learning to link the two together.

But in a broader sense, blogging empowers us to share, engage and build new knowledge.

Do you tell people you know offline that you’re a blogger? (e.g. your grandmother, your boss)

Yes, though people who do not already know that I am a blogger, probably do not know what a blogger is.

Is there anything else you want to tell me about I haven’t asked?

There may not be a direct correlation, but invitations for public speaking engagements dramatically increased when I started blogging – which was good since my children were starting college at that time.

Do We Trust the System Enough


I crave routine.  For the past week and a half, I have started my morning with a bowl of Cream of Wheat (It’s better than grits) followed by a mile walk to the local Starbucks, a bag (above) over my shoulder.  Unpacked, I have my mobile office — Acer Netbook with Ubuntu waiting for login, a wireless mouse, and a mug of Cafè Americano.  I’m writing a new book about network professional development — how learning is like gardening 😉

Tim Holt recently wrote an interesting entry (Do I Trust the System Enough) in his blog, Intended Consequences.  In it, Tim describes his plans to write a book for administrators about a particular type of professional development.  He is planning to follow my example of self-publishing the book, hopeful that “..enough people purchase it so that (he) can put (his) kids through college.”  My experience with self-publishing has been almost entirely positive and fruitful.  I’ll never make a living at it, and I’m still working on my son’s tuition, but writing for yourself is a true pleasure.

His central question, however, is an interesting one — a “test of faith.”

I talk a lot about collaborative work. I talk a lot about sharing. I talk a lot about using professional networks to enhance learning and your professional work. So here is a perfect example of something that I can put “out there” for my PLN to critique, add to, subtract from, tell me I am full of it, or give me a pat on the back. I want folks to work with me through the process, to share, to be part of the product. Everyone would get credit.

There are a number of notable examples of books written publicly on wikis or in similar environments.  I’m not absolutely sure, but it seems that one or more of Lawrence Lessig’s books were written publicly, as was Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, through his blog.

But Tim is concerned.

..I just hesitate putting it out there because I keep thinking that it is going to be ripped-off before it is done and someone will take my idea and run with it.

I’ll say here that I have been working on a short (hopefully) book about networked professional development for a little over a week now, trying to take advantage of an almost three week stint with no traveling.  I explained a little more about the project in my comment on Tim’s blog.

But that asside, I also tell a story where several years ago someone (I do not recall who) sent me a package with a note asking if I was aware of this.  The note indicated the page number, in a paperback book enclosed in the packaging, for a chapter which was, word for word, an article I had written a few years earlier and published through a now defunct online journal.  I was furious and immediately shot off an e-mail to the publishers, who were in India.  There was never a reply to that e-mail. I quickly settled down, realizing that there was nothing I could do that would be worth the expense, and I forgot about the whole episode until now.

Things are different now, aren’t they? India is not nearly so far away.  I would probably have no more success with the publishers.  But today, I have a blog.  And many of the readers of my blog have their own blogs.  And we could fill the edu-blogosphere with our indignation about an instructional technology book that so blatantly plagiarizes the work of another.

I think that Tim has a valid concern.  He is talking about investing a lot of work into a project — A LOT OF WORK, and he has a right to be concerned about the property that will result.  But our community is so much more transparent today that if I were considering writing my book publicly, fear of theft probably wouldn’t stop me.

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Odysseies of Learning

http://2009-odyssey.blogspot.com/

My friend, Janice Friesen, recently spent five weeks traveling throughout the Mediterranean.  Her husband is a religious studies scholar, and I assume this had something to do with the trip.  As part of the experience, Janice (an instructional technologist in Austin, Tx.) kept a blog describing what they were seeing and learning.  Before leaving, she invited social studies classes to monitor and discuss what she was writing.

I’ve read through parts of it, post excursion, and it’s fascinating.  The Mediterranean an area of the world that I have only glanced at (Barcelona, 1997), but would love to tour. 

What’s more, I see this sort of thing as a potentially motivating way to get students to talk about and challenge themselves to learn more about a region — by reading travel blogs.  When covering Roman life, the class might read those entries and then generate some questions from what Janice has seen and been motivated to write about.  Then, through discussion, the questions can be refined into research tasks and then, perhaps, personal blog writing, about digital tours.

You can read Janice’s blog at: http://2009-odyssey.blogspot.com/

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Gathering the Conversation at NECC

Human Aggregator
Is NECC a Human Aggregator

Flick Photo by Kevin Jarrett

I wrote yesterday that if blogging…

…was, then blogging would be little more than a bunch of web pages posted on the Web — thousands per minute.  There is some sophistication behind the simplicity of blogging that kicks up its value, especially when blogging around a common topic or experience.

No truer statement have I made, ’cause thar be magic in them thar hills.  First, it should be no surprise that the blogosphere (where blogs live) can be searched.  Google has an excellent and fairly thorough blog search engine, Google Blog Search.  Or you can just go to Google, do your search for web sites, then click down the [more] menu and select [blog].

A search for necc09 reveals 3,701 blog posts that mention term, at the moment of this writing, sorted by relevance.  I can click [Sort by date] in the upper right corner and get a list from the most recent – backward — topped by an entry posted nine minutes ago.  A few minutes ago, I posted a tweet (more about tweeting in my next BloggingNECC post):

I wonder what it would be like to follow the “swarm” at NECC. Just go where others are going & not look at the program.

In a sense, this is what we can do, during and after the event — we can follow the swarm around by reading their notes, and even engaging the swarm through comments.  Dave Sifry, the CEO of Technorati, says that “…the blogosphere is the exhaust of our attention streams.” We have never been able to do this before, take what you and I are paying attention to and lay it down onto the record.  Sifry continues, “…they are a tangible reflection on what we are spending our time and attention on.” ((Sifry, David. “Oct 2004 State of the blogosphere: Big Media vs. Blogs.” [Weblog Sifry’s Alerts] 14 Oct 2004. Technorati, Inc. 23 Sep 2008 <http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000247.html>. )) ..and it is recorded, accessible, and measurable — in some pretty astounding and revealing ways.  But more on that later.

What we get from Google is blog postings that included necc09, which in this case is pretty useful.  But if I go to Technorati and type the same thing, I get the 66 most recent blog posts.  If I drop down the second menu in the search line, and select [tags only], I get the latest 26 blog posts where the blogger tagged or labeled their blog with necc09.  If I drop down the third menu and select [some authority], we get, at this writing, the 22 most recent blog posts that mention necc09, written by bloggers who are respected by other bloggers.  Your authority is measured by Technorati through the number of other bloggers who have linked to your blog.  This is a bit of a slippery thing as there are lots of reasons why a blog may link to your blog.  However, this appears to be reasonably reliable way of measuring a bloggers creds.

The coolest part of all of this is a little symbol just above and to the right of the search results (see right).  The symbol stands for RSS, which is usually translated into Really Simple SyndicationThe original meaning is so esoterically technical that no one remembers what it is. As you move your mouse over the symbol, it turns into a button-clicking finger, meaning that it is a hyperlink to something.  The address of the hyperlink is important.  It is the RSS feed, and in this case, it looks like this:

http://feeds.technorati.com/search/necc09?type=search&authority=a4&language=n

This box lists the most recent blog posts that mention NECC09 from bloggers with some authority (click the image to enlarge it)

With this URL, you can do some pretty magical things.  For instance, I can go to a web site called Netvibes, set up an account (click [signup]), create a new tab, called NECC 2009 (click [New Tab] and type NECC 2009), and then click [Add content] in red in the top left corner of the page.  Click our RSS symbol, and paste the URL (above) into the appearing textbox.  After a moment a small “FEED” box appears.  We click [add], or drag the box into our window space, and presto (see left).

A single web page to catch the latest blogs about this year’s NECC (click the image to enlarge it.)

We might go through the same process to list bloggers with any degree of authority and add a second box listing the latest blog entries.  We could even drop back to Googles Blog Search, search again for NECC09, and get a reference to RSS in the left panel.  Add that one in (see right).

The result is a single web page that we can visit to catch the latest that is being written about this year’s National Education Computing Conference, starting in three days in Washington.

If we are also interested in the happenings at the third annual EduBloggerCon, held on Saturday at the conference site, we can do a Google Blog Search for EduBloggerCon, move that RSS feed over to Netvibes, and we have added yet another box, the latest being written about the bloggers’ gathering (see below).

There are many tools similar to Netvibes, which are generically called aggregators or RSS readers.  Here is a very limited list of free readers to choose from:

Tool URL Instructions
Google Reader http://google.com/reader Here is a three part YouTube video series: part 1, part 2, (by Liz Davis) part 3 (GR in Plain English)
Bloglines http://bloglines.com/ YouTube video about setting up and using Bloglines from
Pageflakes http://pageflakes.com/ Another YouTube Video about setting up and using PageFlakes.
Netvibes http://netvibes.com/ A YouTube Video about setting up and using Netvibes.

Most Browsers can also incorporate RSS feeds.

You can even geek this out and display RSS feeds on your web page or blog.  Using Feed2JS, a tool, brilliantly coded by Alan Levine, we can generate a Java script, plug it into our web page (or blog entry) to generate a list of the 10 latest blog posts that mention edubloggercon.  He has made his tool distributable, so here is the version on Landmarks for Schools.

This is magical, in my opinion.  We are able to not only access flows of information, be actually redirect it, re-combine it, further working the information to make it more valuable and to improve our own capabilities.  It turns an event, such as an education conference, into an explosion of knowledge and experiences.  It’s how we learn in the 21st century.

It’s a huge part of how teachers teach!

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NECC09 Blogs

NECC bloggers, Posted on Flickr by Craig Nansen

A common feature of some of the most successful Web 2.0 applications is their simplicity, and nothing has demonstrated this more than blogging.  Blogger.com, a free blogging platform from Pyra Labs, was launched on August 23, 1999. (( Yassar, Isaac. “The History of Blogger (www.blogger.com).” [Weblog Isaac Yassar’s Blog] 6 Mar 2009. Web.24 Jun 2009. <http://isaacyassar.blogspot.com/2009/03/history-of-blogger.html>. ))  Suddenly, anyone with access to a computer and the Internet, and the slightest typing skills, could publish to the world — for free.  Type the title of your article into a textbox, type your article, click [Publish], and your words are available to a global readership.  The simplicity is its power and its impact has been profound.

Many people at NECC will be blogging.  129 people have already registered with the NECC web site as conference bloggers.  Many more will be blogging more casually, simply as a way of recording their experience and notes about what they are learning, for their own record or to share with colleagues at home. 

If you already have a blog, you can register it on the NECC site by filling in a form.  In fact, there are usually a handful of people who blog the conference without being there at all — but writing about the blog articles posted by people who are there — filtering in the best.

If you do not yet have a blog, it is surprisingly easy to set one up.  Here is a list of the blogging platforms I usually recommend in my presentations and workshops.  They are all easy to set up, easy to use (though they offer many sophisticated features), and they are reliable services.  There is also a link to instructions and/or a video on how to set up an account.

Blogging Service Setup Page

Instructions

 Blogger.com You can start your account here.  This will create a Google account for you as well.  If you already have a Google account, then go here first to sign in. YouTube video instructions
WordPress.com WordPress.comword is a free blog hosting service using the WordPress blogging software, an open source software package that you can download and install on your own server if you have one. You can start your own free WordPress.com account here. YouTube video tutorial
Edublogs.org Edublogs is another free blog hosting site using WordPress. It was created by James Farmer and is intended for educators only. A video tutorial from the EduBlogs site

I have also been playing around with Blogsome, a free WordPress hosting site out of Ireland, and enjoying it. There are other opportunities, including blogging with Ning. Ning is a service that allows users to establish facebook-style social networks, and NECC has one that can be joined by joining Ning. All NECC Ning members automatically get a blog, but there may be a disadvantage here. NING blogs may not show up on blog searches, which may suit you fine, but would not serve the broader expanding conference experience.

Tagging your Blogs

If this was all there was, then blogging would be little more than a bunch of web pages posted on the Web — thousands per minute.  There is some sophistication behind the simplicity of blogging that kicks up its value, especially when blogging around a common topic or experience. 

Tagging is the key and it involves applying tags or labels to your blog (or other published media).  Many conferences have established tags, though NECC does not seem to have established one this year.  That is not a problem as it is usually pretty simple.  NECC is a good tag, though it will include all NECCs, not just the 2009 event.  So NECC09 or NECC2009 are also good tags.  The safe bet is to use all three.  It is also a pretty good idea to tag the session you are blogging.  I usually use the last name of the main presenter.  But tags should be a single word that you believe others might search for if they were interested in the event or presentation.

Much of the time, simply including the tag in the body of your blog is enough.  But there is a syntax to blogging that some information gathering services on the Internet prefer.  Most blogging services include a feature for entering your tags and it will create the syntax for you.  But there are online tools and a variety of widgets that will do the same for you.  I have a tool, that is part of Landmarks for schools, called Blog Tag Generator

There are three steps for using Blog Tag Generator:

  1. Click the image to enlarge

    Type the tags (necc, necc09, necc2009) into the first text box.  If you are using phrases (21st century skills), then enclose it with quotes.

  2. Click [submit].  This will generate the code syntax for your blog, which will appear in the larger textbox.  Highlight and copy this code.  Got to your blog, click to see the source or html (you may to look for this button) and then past the code at the bottom of your blog.
  3. Type the URL of your blog into the third textbox and click [ping].  this will cause Technorati, a major blog indexing service, to capture and record your blog.
Click image to enlarge

This last part has gotten a little technical, and it is certainly optional.  But I will explain its value in the next post of this series.

One more note: You are not required to wait until you reach NECC in Washington to start blogging it.  Technorati has already indexed 33 posts with necc09 and 18 with necc2009.  Google has indexted more than 3,000.

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Bloggers Who Help You Teach

The Main Point:
(copied from bottom of this blog post) A while back I called on readers to help compile a list of educator bloggers who helped us do their jobs.  Today, I’d like to ask that we populate another wiki page with the blogs who consistently talk about what Classroom 2.0 looks like.  I’d like to have a list of bloggers who share practical techniques for using emerging tools with young children, to help students learn to read, and learn the language of numbers, to learn science, social studies, and health, and to think like artists, composers, and poets.  This is not for the big picture folks, like David Warlick.  This is for the nitty gritty educators who talking about their classrooms and their dreams for their classrooms.

Here’s the link.  There is no password required.  Please bullet you list and add in as many as you like.  I’ll probably make a video of the growth of this wiki, and it should have more than three frames 😉

Thanks in advance!

I’ve gotten several comments over the past week that have suggested topics deserving more conversation — and today, it’s about professional development.

Kim S., after talking about how mixing text with video and sound livens up a lesson, said:

…I have to say though that I too feel that schools should include more training because (if) you are not sure how to create lessons using the technology you have it makes, it’s scary and a lot more work. Anyone have suggestions on how to learn more (cost effectively) if schools do not provide the training? Any useful web sites or organizations? thanks.

What I find, as I get to attend conferences and see presentations from classroom teachers who are doing innovative and captivating activities, is that they did not learn to do these things in workshops.  They learned by being creative and by engaging in conversations with other educators through the growing (and sometimes bewildering) array of online meeting places.  Blogs and some wikis can serve as avenues.  Ning networks (ex: http://www.classroom20.com/) can be especially helpful.  Some consider Twitter and other microblogging services to be at the center of their professional development or Personal Learning Network, and others do their professional learning through conversations in Second Life.  But, of course, it isn’t as simple as spending a couple of hours a night driving your avatar around ISTE Island.

J.D. Wilson, continues the conversation by citing the lack of time and current administrative priorities as a barrier.

I use wikis, podcasts, Moodle, web pages, blogs, flikr, and VoiceThread in my class room (maybe a few others). But for all I know I am like the teachers Mr. Stager speaks of because there is not a lot of feedback one gets and most of what I do is self directed because there is so little training and support. The time I spend on these things is mostly my own time because it is not a priority right now with administration.

Time is certainly a critical issue, as are administrative priorities. We are hopeful that priorities will be changing in the coming months, pointing us toward instructional and learning practices that seem more relevant to our world, today’s children, and a new information environment.

..And there should be more training.  But training alone is not the answer, nor should it be.  Retooling our classrooms into rich and dynamic learning environments will not be something that you can learn how to do in a workshop.  It’s something that will happen through continued creativity, conversations, sharing, experimenting, reporting, and more conversations.

Certainly, there is much that can be learned in workshops.  Just like youngsters have to be taught the basics of literacy, teachers need to be taught the basics of using today’s networked, digital, abundant, and hyper-connective information landscape.   You can’t shape your own personal learning networks or build, maintain, and control digital learning envrionments without understanding the basics of that landscape.

As I said in a previous blog post (More on What Matters..), the time has come for us to start painting clearer and more concrete pictures of what learning 2.0 actually looks like.  When you look at classroom 2.0, what are you seeing?  What are the teachers doing?  What are the students doing?  How are the facilities being arranged, shaped, and reshaped and who’s doing the shaping?

A while back I called on readers to help compile a list of educator bloggers who help us do our jobs.  Today, I’d like to ask that we populate another wiki page with the blogs who consistently talk about what Classroom 2.0 looks like.  I’d like to have a list of bloggers who share practical techniques for using emerging tools with young children, to help students learn to read, and learn the language of numbers, to learn science, social studies, and health, and to think like artists, composers, and poets.  This is not for the big picture folks, like David Warlick.  This is for the nitty-gritty educators who talking about their classrooms and their dreams for their classrooms.

Here’s the link.  There is no password required.  Please bullet you list and add in as many as you like.  I’ll probably make a video of the growth of this wiki, and it should have more than three frames 😉

Thanks in advance!

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This is Why I Built Class Blogmeister

As some of you know, I’ve been tweaking CB for the past few days. It’s my way of relaxing. We are coming up on Christmas time, where my mind, now into its sixth decade, still goes to play. When I was a child, it was Legos and a wild array of other building toys.

Today, it’s PHP code. Its the same experience, except that the bricks I have to build with are numberless — limited only by my imagination.

Testing things out has given me even more enjoyment, as I have taken some time to look at some of the things that Class Blogmeister teachers are doing. One, in particular, impressed me this morning — because it would never have occurred to me to do this. Carolyn Knight, in rural New Zealand, posted a Merry Christmas blog article at 3:42 AM Texas time. But about twenty minutes before that she posted an article entitled, Room With a View. Here she informed her students (who are now on summer break) that,

..We have moved next door to to a classroom with a different view. The first picture is now on the Room With A View part of our blog. It’s a picture of something else that is changing at our school at present.

Room With A View is a student blog that Knight set up so that she could write to (or for) her students from a different voice. In Room With A View, she posts pictures from around the school, most recently (3:32 AM) a picture of work that is being done outside the new classroom window, to enlarge the schools parking lot — what they so quaintly call the carpark. (You’ve got to love these global conversations.)

What impresses me is that I typically think of Class Blogmeister as a set of blogs. My imagination, with regard to its instructional function, has not strayed beyond the individual teacher or student blog. Yet Carolyn Knight has extended the function, extended her voice, and extended the potentials for learning experiences for her third and fourth graders.

This is why I build Class Blogmeister.

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