Zenification of a Presentation

zen_snail

In September of this year I was invited to present at the AppsEvents European Summit regarding Google Sites. In fact, I had two presentations: The Basics of Google Sites which I presented with my colleague Jags Myanger and Advanced Google Sites which I presented individually. It was a great honour to be accepted to the conference as a presenter and I was looking forward to the opportunity. I had quite an extensive array of websites on the Google Sites platform which I used to extend the learning from my Grade Five classroom or to support the various sports teams, clubs and activities I coordinate at my my school.

As I was creating all of this content for my students and parents; I felt starved for best practice examples of how to use Sites in an educational context. I wanted to know how to best plan and organize my information so that it would be the most helpful to those trying to access it. I worked and reworked these pages and content leading colleagues from my school who also had curriculum websites. With upwards of 40 pages created on Google Sites I felt confident that I would be the expert that many other could turn to when in need of advice or guidance in this medium. I had embedded my Twitter feed in my site as well as calendars, YouTube playlists galleries and had really focused on turning over the creation of content to the students. That was the big feather in the cap, that students were driving their own learning. I was ready.

Then everything changed. Prior to the summer, I had made two proposals to present at the conference which were approved by my school. My co-presenter and I worked hard to have everything ready before we split for our summer break. Over the summer, Google released a new version of Google Sites rendering most of the work we did useless. Back to the drawing board we went. A silver lining? Time to apply Zen presentation principles to our work. Embedded in this blog post you will find the initial Basics of Google Sites and Advanced Google Sites pitches we made to the Administration of our school and a video which highlights the changes we made to our presentation and how those design features are setup to enhance usability, style and communication of our message. These principles now permeate my work and have become second nature to me when planning information to be shared.

Pitch for Basics of Google Sites

Pitch for Advanced Google Sites

A video highlighting Presentation Zen principles applied to my Google Sites presentations I made at the European Summit:

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/>.