Cus·tom·ize or ˈkəstəˌmīz/

Making your blog more personalized

Meditations, musings and methods of how to personalize your blog.

I think the title of this post just about sums up where the construction of my blog stands, as I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce the word on the right hand side but is apparently identical to the left. To someone becoming accustomed to new technology, phonetic transcription can make the settings panel of a blog feel a lot like learning a foreign language.  In reality, as understanding develops and I make connections between the settings and appearance of my blog; I feel I can differentiate between hieroglyphics and mother tongue. The challenge is to customize my blog to it to make more personalized. That’s an ambitious goal when the language I want to communicate in is no longer native.

The old adage of one step forward, two steps back, applies to this journey. My vision is clear in my head and examples of excellent practice are plentiful. I wanted to add a featured image to my latest post, but I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Eventually I realized that you actually had to embed the image in the post in the first place then set it as the featured image. Of course, this allows for more than one image to be placed in the post with the chosen depiction appearing on the homepage and as the article header. I have chosen Monochrome as my theme for my blog because I consider the color schematic and layout to fit my style; however it often presents problems because the theme is not built so that it supports all of the features that I have tried to add. Frustration.

As I continue on my learning journey I find that I am not digging a deep hole but a wide hole. I am expanding my understanding of a number of different platforms, not just WordPress in order to create my blog. This past week, I wanted to create a picture to my post Exploring Fields of Knowledge which showed two contrasting types of farming practices, an analogy which supported my growing understanding of different concepts and learning connections.

There's always light at the end of the tunnel

The light at the end of the tunnel is not always a train

However, to combine the two desired images into one for the header for my blog post, I needed to use Instagram, a program I had an account for, but only basic knowledge of. Once I had found my two  copyright free images on WikiMedia Commons, I went Instagram to meld them together. One step forward, two steps back. In order to merge them, I needed to download the Layout extension. Once downloaded, it took me 20 minutes to learn how to edit my pictures and add the layers of coloring and style that brought my picture to life. This process is kind of like working on my blog; but not really, because I get dragged off task to do something more interesting or to acquire the knowledge in the first place. Now that I have the layout app and the knowledge, I have been able to drastically reduce the time to alter images to just 60 seconds. One step forwards….

Two steps back….Other style points that sidetracked me from writing was trying to add subscribe buttons & search bars to my theme. As I alluded to above, some of the elements that I was trying to include are not applicable for the theme that I had chosen on WordPress. The Monochrome theme simply does not have the same menus within it as other themes do; therefore I could not add the desired item where I wanted to. My RSS feed was an example, I know I have one established already, but can I not add my Digg Reader list of RSS’ to my site? Did I need to select my RSS sources twice, or was there something I was missing? Of course that issue seems straightforward, but it still takes you the time to figure out what the problem is. Troubleshooting is never easy when you’re not sure what the trouble is, where it’s located or how to fix it. Hindsight is always 20/20 once you know how to do it the first time.

One step forward…. an area that I feel like I’m getting a good handle on now, but one that came with its own set of struggles, was using the tags and categories. Tags and categories help to make blogs and websites more searchable, interesting and ultimately relevant to readers . my first mistake was watching the video but not realizing that hashtag # was not needed when creating tag words. I discovered this after my second blog post and needed to go back to eradicate the erroneous entries. Despite my efforts, I still have one hashtag up on the right hand side in that menu. However I am starting to build a database of my own tagged word dictionary.

Two steps back….perhaps the most frustrating of all, was my inability to link my Twitter account to my blog. I have been tweeting pretty steadily since November and prior to starting CoETaIL it had been the focus of my own digital learning, as I wanted to add the world of Twitter to my personal digital portfolio. Like many of the applications, widgets and technological tips above, there is a learning curve but I feel now that I have a good understanding of how to use Twitter in an educational setting. I even ramped up my Twitter use while taking CoETaIL, because I know it is an excellent way connect with my cohort. Nonetheless, I was extremely stumped when I will needed to get a confirmation key and consumer key which link the two. After spending close to an hour trying to figure it out myself, including searching Twitter and WordPress settings, I finally asked for help from our resident digital expert. I am now happy to say that it works….or is at least closer to working. Still tweeting, just not being picked up on my blog. Yet.

One step forward….help menus, video tutorials and online forums. I just can’t get enough. Still, if everyone else was able to do it I am sure I can. Persistence and perseverance will pay off. I just need to stop wanting my blog to look so professional so early. It took me around a year to get my Grade Five and Coaching Google Sites up to snuff. I guess I just need to stop obsessing. Yea right, this is too much fun.

One step forward….

 

 

Citations
Keller, Smith. customize+button+small. 2013. Customized Themes, Colours, And Fonts For Your Restaurant Website. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. <https://www.appetas.com/blog/2013/11/11/customized-themes-colors-and-fonts-for-your-restaurant-website>
Skitterphoto.com, . sky-ditch-eye-hole. 2014. Pexels. Web. 3 Mar. 2016. <https://www.pexels.com/photo/sky-ditch-eye-hole-3828/>.

Communicating Knowledge Through Content & Connections

TBL

Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web

The the guiding principle of the Internet was created on access to information for everyone. The World Wide Web’s communities, content and collaborators contribute regardless of ethnicity, race, creed, sexual orientation, gender, geographical location or educational background. In an interview with BBC News, the founder of the internet Tim Berners-Lee stated that his initial concept of the Web would be “a collaborative medium, a place where we all meet to read and write”. CoETaIL founder Jeff Utecht portends that “ is that it allows users to engage with information and people”.

However, the Internet has quickly moved past the original vision of an data management system to a place where multiple connections are made between information and users. Access to information is no longer merely text based but content is shared on many platforms with almost limitless boundaries. The internet internet knows no age restrictions or opening hours, allowing the world to connect organically and meaningfully. in truth, it is expanding in ways which are increasingly difficult to quantify and understand.

The question posed of whether the Internet is a mass of content or a mass of connections is an interesting one; as it is the combination of the two which make it so powerful. Digital literacy is the ability to take content that is available and to sort, classify, organize it and to effectively apply understanding in a real world context. The power of information has been seized by the hand of the people.

Global connections as mapped out by Facebook's new software

Global connections as mapped out by Facebook’s new software which detects its user’s location.

New digital media has created channels allowing adept individuals to create content for others to use. Accompanied with the rise of this content is the rise of information processing tools which have search engines to help navigate the trillions of connections. In week one of our CoETaIL course, I have spent much of my time making connections to the various outlets which will help me to access information, laying the groundwork for future collaboration. Twitter, Flipboard, Google+, Skype and RSS feeds among others, will enhance my own avenues to share information with my colleagues in the cohort and across the world. The creation of my blog Digging Out of a Digital Hole, is a prime example of connections which are the staple diet feeding the appetite of the Internet. Content will need to be king on my blog; although in reality, no one will listen to my message if I have not established the protocols and routines of interconnectedness. Who I choose to say something to, as well as, who I wish to listen to; will drive my blended learning.

Despite its network of associations, it is only once connections are made, that the real value of the Web becomes clearer. I connected to other CoETaILers at the beginning of this course, not only because it was a requirement, but because we all have something in common to share with each other. During my educational journey, I will listen to colleagues who want to share information that is relevant and interesting to me and hopefully, I will return the favour. My sphere of influence grows as my own digital dominion comes into focus.

 

 

Citations:
CERN, . Tim Berners-Lee at his desk in CERN, 1994. 2016. Tim Berners-Lee on the Web at 25: the past, present and future. Web. 18 Feb. 2016. <https://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2014/03/web-at-25/tim-berners-lee>.
Facebook. 2016. Where is your Face…er….book. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <https://www.northrivergeographic.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/facebook.jpg>.
Alvin Toffler

Digging Out of a Digital Hole

Alvin Toffler

my inspiration for a life in educational technology

Good morning World!

My first post on my new blog. I am excited about having a blog for the first time, but I have many fears. Bad grammar, terrible spelling and poor content, connected with a mind which might have nothing to say. Obviously, I am not alone in those thoughts; so I will forge ahead like digital trailblazers have in times before.

Besides, what’s the worst that could happen?

A name. I have spent hours pondering the significance of a name. It holds my work back, stops me from starting and causes me sheer panic when contemplating taking another digital step.

In his famous tragedy Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare deliberated on the importance of a name. Well, actually Juliet did when she lamented:

‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself.”

Act II, Scene II

I lamented as well. What if its wrong? What if it is uninspiring or lacks imagination? What if my boring old name dooms my entire blog before I even begin. Countless options played across my brain as I discarded one after another. Two of my favourite websites Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com were of no help to me. the dictionary had 28 definitions while the thesaurus had eleven pages! No this would not do. I needed to turn elsewhere. Noodle Doodle jumped into my brain and I paused. Hmm, for the first time, this name had promise. It would allow me to get across the (hopefully) intellectual and creative nature of a yet-to-be-created blog. Alas, a quick search found that a children’s television show would be too close for comfort.

Inwards I turned, searching for an answer. What was my motivation? Why was I here?

It was to have fun. To get smarter. To do cool things in education. To have amazing life experiences.

 

That’s why I am here.

I have practiced the craft of teaching digital literacy for almost 20 years and I have watched the field change radically. Inspired by a book picked up on the beach in Thailand, Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave had been recommended reading in Computer Science 12. I had not read it during my time in Bob Britten’s classes, but now found the opportunity with time to power down. Toffler’s predictions for the future immediately changed my perspective and direction. From my first position as an ICT Coordinator at St. Paul’s CE Primary School, until my Grade Five classroom today; curriculum delivery has never been so closely tied to technology. Human understanding has long been powered by computers; however, this modern age represents the start of true collaboration and integration within society. We live on the cusp of a time when innovation is outpacing adaptation significantly. Education is changing. The recognition that teacher pedagogy and student understanding is increasingly reliant on digital literacy is the wormhole to the future. It is this path I want to follow.

But I need to get back up to speed. I have switched back on to what’s possible and what is going to be possible soon. I have spent the last 2 years listening to new thinking and again feel inspired after a period where the field of my brain lay fallow. I know it makes sense agriculturally, now I am applying it intellectually. The holes in my own understanding are many; because like anything worthwhile this future has depth. Educational technology is like a map that early cartographers create. Every time you learn something new, you realize that there are more uncharted territories just over that ocean. Layers of the onion. Micro and macro choices within the field radiate outwards from within my brain. I’m alive.

This is why Digging Out of a Digital Hole is the perfect name for my first blog post. I am actively working the shovel.

Right now, getting smarter. Being different. Being me. This is going to be fun.

I like learning.