Thursday, January 21, 2010

Anticipating Educon

The Educon 2.2 conference is only 6 days away. Educon is one of my favorite conferences of the year. It brings together the top thinkers in education and provides an environment perfect for learning from others. This will be my third Educon and knowing how fast it goes by, I'm trying to savor every minute that leads up to it.

Lisa Thumann is my conference buddy. We met three years ago at Educon and hit it off immediately. We both have two kids at home, so a trip away is both exciting and difficult for both of us. We try to make the most of our freedom, but feel the pull of home in the background. Sadly, we only see each other twice a year, at Educon and at BLC. So we tend to be a bit attached at the hip when we are together.

This year I am flying down to Educon with Danja Mahoney (also a mother of two little ones), who I met last year at Educon 2.1. Lisa is picking us up at the airport and then the fun/learning begins. Hopefully we will have time for something to eat before heading over to the panel discussion at the Franklin Institute. Last year I met a bunch of my PLN at TGI Fridays before the panel. I hope we have time to do that again.

The panel topic this year is "What is Smart?" A topic near to my heart if you follow this blog and know how much I'm into Carol Dweck and her "You're not born smart, you get smart" philosophy. I'm interested to see what the panelists have to say and if Dweck comes up in their conversation. I hope she does.

After the panel there is a reception which always feels like a whirlwind of seeing people that I know Online, but haven't met or see only rarely. There is also a meetup of Independent School educators planned by Jim Heynderickx. This will be the beginning of being pulled in many directions. So much to do, so little time.

This year I am only presenting one session on Sunday, so that leaves Saturday pretty stress free for me, except for deciding which of all the amazing sessions to attend. I'll be Tweeting a lot from the conference. You can follow my experience through Twitter. I also have put togehter a Twitter list of Educon Attendees. If you follow the list you should be able to get a taste of what is going on (let me know if you aren't on the list and I'll add you). All of the sessions at Educon are streamed live. So even if you can't attend live, you can always attend virtually.

The Sunday morning panel features former Watertown, MA resident Michael Horn. I met Michael and interviewed him a while back, but haven't seen him since he moved to sunny California. I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to say and saying hello.

Lisa and I are facilitating a session on Sunday on Managing Filter Failure, Getting to the Good Stuff. We are going to use a modified Ping Pong protocol to help participants get to the heart of the problem. And then we are going to brainstorm some solutions. This will be a true conversation, no slideshows or presentation planned. I'm looking forward to seeing what we all can come up with when we put such great minds together. Although, we are up against a lot of big names during our session - hopfully we will get a few people to come brainstorm with us.

Shortly after our session it will be time to head out. I know how fast it all goes by. I'm savoring every moment leading up to it and will try to stay Zen about making the most of the experience. I'm sure I'll be blogging about it when I return. Looking forward to seeing some of you there! Be sure to say hello!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

10 Tips for Beginning Bloggers

My brother has recently started blogging and asked me for some tips. I thought I would share them here. I started blogging in 2006 and it has been some of the best professional development for me that I have ever done. Blogging forces me to think, reflect and write about my experiences. Blogging helps me retain my learning and connects me to others who help and support me in my endeavors. If you don't yet have a blog, I recommend giving it a try. You don't have to blog every day or every week. Just establish a place Online to share your thoughts. If you give it a chance, I think you will find it a rewarding experience.

Here are few tips to get you started.

1. Writing: You don't have to write long posts, just a few paragraphs work best. People don't want to read much more than that. You don't have to be perfect, just get your thoughts out there and press publish. Don't obsess too much about your word choice and grammar. It is your ideas that matter. Include an image and break up your thoughts. Lists work really well, so do bullets.

2. Platforms: Choose a blogging platform that works for you. If you are more technically inclined, you will probably want to use Wordpress and host your own blog. You can also use something like which will host a wordpress blog for you. If you are less technical, Blogger works really well. Plus, since blogger is owned by Google it does help get you higher up in Google search results. Many teachers also use Edublogs which is run by Sue Waters who is a great support to educational bloggers.

3. Authority: Claim your blog on Technorati. I'm not sure how much your Technorati authority matters anymore, but many people search for blogs to read on Technorati. You want yours to be there to find.

4. Statistics: Keep track of your readership. I use StatCounter to track visits to my blog. There are many other options including Google Analytics which will tell you who has visited, where they came from and where they live. It is really fun to track your stats when you first start blogging. It is nice to know that there are some people out there actually reading what you have to say.

5. Blogrolls: Include a blogroll. When you link to other bloggers they appreciate it and will check back to see what you have written and are likely to include a link back to you on their blogs. It also helps your readers find other bloggers to read on the same subject.

6. Searching: Subscribe to a Google blog search of your name, the name of your blog and the URL of your blog. You want to know when other people refer to you and/or your blog so you can see what they have to say about you, respond with a blog post or at least leave a comment thanking them for the reference. Add your blog to Google blog search if it isn't there already.

7. Twitter: Get a Twitter account and Tweet when you have a new blog post. Twitter is the source for most of my blog traffic. But make sure that isn't all you do on Twitter. You also should tweet other people's blog posts and other links of interest. Check out this post if you are new to Twitter.

8. Subscriptions: Provide a way for your readers to subscribe to your blog via email. I use Feedburner for this. There are many readers who want to get updated when you post a new blog, but who don't use a feed reader. Giving them an email option expands your regular readership.

9. Contact: Include a way for your readers to contact you. I use Retaggr for this. Not only does Retaggr provide a contact form, it also provides links to other places you can find me on the web and includes some information about who I am.

10. SEO: Tag or label your posts. Including a tag helps your readers find posts on the topics they are interested in. It also helps with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) which pushes your blog to the top of search engine results.

Bonus: Include numbers in your post titles. O.K. I have no idea why this works, but my most popular posts all have numbers in the title. Hopefully it will work with this one ;-) Go figure...

Do you have a blog? Do you have a suggestion for new bloggers or for me? I would love to hear them. Please post a comment and share with us. Are you a new blogger? Share a link to your blog so we can check it out!

image source: Blogging Research Wordle from
Kristina B's photostream on Flickr.