February 6, 2017

Now that you have blogs, you need to know how to use images properly. If you missed the discussion in class you can find useful information about copyright law on the Student Press Law Center website, splc.org.

Here is another take on describing copyright and fair use, and entertaining one.

With a basic understanding of copyright law and fair use exceptions, it’s time to explore legitimate ways of finding images you CAN use for your blogs and presentations. A way of licensing work that allows the owners to keep some rights, but allow use by others is Creative Commons, and there are several sites where creatives share their images with Creative Commons licensing.

The best sources I have found for Creative Commons images are:

Wikimedia Commons: Wikimedia is an open source of free educational content that is contributed to by others. What I like about Wikimedia Commons is that it encourages participation with monthly challenges.

Flickr:  Flickr is an app in which you can put a topic in the search bar and images will come up. You can filter your search by usage rights in the upper left. Beneath the photo will be the information you need for attribution: the title (if there is one), the author and a link to the type of license. Hang onto this info. If you plan to download one of these and use it, you’ll need the attribution information.

Pixabay: Much like Flickr, Pixabay has a search bar and many images. You don’t have to have an account, and images are free, but they like donations. When you pull up a group of images, you’ll note that the top rows have a Shutterstock watermark on them. These cost money, but all the ones below that I have ever clicked on are in the Public Domain. You can download, note the author, but instead of a license, you note Public Domain.

Photopin: This is a new one I found as I was searching for more possibilities. It seems to work much like Flickr and Pixabay, with a search bar, multiple images, download capability and licensing information. They promote themselves as “free images for bloggers and creatives”, so it seems promising, but I haven’t used this site personally.

Your assignment: Write a post on  your choice of topics: any special interests you have, anything you’ve learned lately (like this), issues you and your peers face, something in the news – whatever – just consider what kind of image would go well with it. Don’t forget to share your draft in the class editing Google folder for feedback, then revise and share with me in the Snider folder for additional feedback. Consider revising again to make it the best it can be for posting.

Then search for the perfect image in one of the above Creative Commons sources. Once you have selected and downloaded your image, save it (desktop is most convenient, but trash it once your post is complete or save it to your Google folder). Add the image to your post. Then you’ll have the option for captioning information. In the captioning box, attribute the photo, following the TASL format: Title, Author, Source and License, providing links to the photo and to the license.

Title: When you click to download your photo, there is usually, but not always, a title for the photo. It may be a simple slug, like “traffic light”.

Author: This is the owner of the image. Sometimes it’s a full name; sometimes it’s a username.

Source: Where did you get the photo? Pixabay? Flickr? I usually follow the owners’ name with “via Flickr”.

License: Depending on the source, the license may be clear on the download page or you may need to click on a link to take you to it. The link might say “some rights reserved”. What you see will be something like CC by NC 2.0 or similar.

After adding category and tagging information and proofreading ONE MORE TIME, you are ready to publish.


WEEK 4.5: Housekeeping

February 3, 2017

I want to clear up a few issues we’re having and questions you may be having.


You are a great assortment of individuals, with a scope of interests and comfort levels with the work I ask of you. Some of you are conscientious workers who know what to do and get it done – and have time left over. Other conscientious workers like to take time to produce exceptional content. Some of you just want to do what’s needed to pass the class, while some of you may be having a hard time even understanding what it is you are supposed to do. Some of you may feel you can do it later, so for now you’d like to play games, watch videos – or nap.

I recommend getting the assignment done well in the time it takes to do it well. Then with time left over,

  • read other blogs, either those of your classmates or others you find online.
  • comment on them
  • write additional blog posts
  • work to improve the appearance of your blog by customizing or adding widgets
  • learn to understand the analytics and improve your following


You get instructions verbally, by demonstration and as written on this website. There’s no excuse for not knowing about an assignment or an aspect of that assignment. Everyone’s work is individual and tough to grade completely objectively, but I look for following instructions and going above and beyond what I suggest, so that you make it your own.

If you want a …

B: Do mostly what the assignment requires, but you might not put a lot of creativity into it. Do the suggested revisions to make your work grammatically correct before posting online, and don’t miss any assignments. Good idea to get them mostly done on time.

C: Do mostly what the assignments require, but you might be late on some or you might miss one or two. You might revise some of them, but not all of them. In short, you’ll do work that doesn’t look like you care a whole lot, but  you do it.

D: You do some work, but you are not consistent and you are very late on most of it. You don’t generally revise well, so consequently, your blog may contain lots of errors.

F: This grade happens when I really don’t have anything to assess. I simply have no evidence you’ve done anything to learn the skills taught in this class.

If you want an A:

Go above and beyond what I show you. A-level students take the information I provide about images, about different apps, about digital citizenship, and they go learn more. They take pride in their blog and its content, always working to improve everything. They do more.


Let’s go over a few actual housekeeping items:

  • At the end of class, log out of any programs you are in: Google, WordPress or other
  • If you are using a laptop, shut it down under the Apple in upper left. Wait for screen to go black, close it. Put it away in the cabinet and plug it in to charge.
  • Do not bring food and drinks in the classroom. I have computers in here, and I have floors in here. Neither like sticky fluids or crumbs.
  • Throw away trash. If there’s no food or drink, there shouldn’t be much trash; nevertheless, make sure any trash goes into the trash can.
  • Take your things with you, including handouts I give you and papers from other classes. And pens and pencils. And headphones. And phone chargers. And keys.
  • Yes, you may go to the restroom, BUT you did just have a 70-minute lunch period. Please take care of this during your lunch. However, if later in the class you need to go, it’s OK. Let me know, sign out and take the pass. And only one at a time.
  • Be on time. Again, you just had a 70-minute lunch.

That’ll do for now. If you have questions about other things I need to address, let me know.




WEEK 4: Let’s get to blogging


CC0 Public Domain

January 30, 2017

This week, we’ll get our blogs started. You’ll pay careful attention to the name of your blog and your name as the blogger. You’ll choose a theme – what your blog looks like – that helps reflect your personality and the purpose of the blog. You can change later on if you want. You’ll write a “Welcome to my blog” post, but make it interesting enough for folks to want to actually read it. Share with someone for feedback to improve.

Your blog is the main component of your work in this class. You’ll want to put lots of thought into the impression you impart, which also counts with your bio.

Most bloggers have an About Me page on which the blogger introduces him or herself to the world. They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so some care and thought should be given to what info you provide and what tone you write in. And, to be taken seriously, you want your writing to be correct – as in all that stuff your English teachers have been trying to tell you for years. You may not want your voice to be formal – and that’s OK – but you still want to capitalize and spell properly and use correct subject verb agreement and so forth. So take advantage of your classroom peers and their editing skills, as well as that of your instructor.

You have had an introduction to what blogging is all about and a crash course in terminology. If you missed it or want to review it, here it is.

To recap:

  • Start a WordPress account
  • Find a good blog name (it will be the URL) and blogger name (this is  you)
  • Search themes for one you like. This is what your blog looks like.
  • Come up with a tagline, a brief line or sentence that tells more about your purpose.
  • Continue individualizing your blog with header titles, header images, widgets and color choices.
  • Draft a Welcome to My Blog post in Google Drive and share with class mates and instructor for feedback to make it interesting and engaging.
  • Draft a bio, a bit about yourself, in Google Drive. This will go on the About Me page of your blog. I’ll give you more specific instructions later in the week.
  • Finally, post your TED reflection as your first real post (after the Welcome post)

If you work fast (and well) and get ahead of your peers:

  • You may write an additional blog post.
  • You may search WordPress to read other blogs. Consider commenting on some.

You will have questions. You will have answers. Help each other out. Ask when you need help, but don’t be afraid to explore WordPress and get to know this Open Source app. If you can’t figure something out, someone else has usually run across the problem, and Google can find the conversation.

Let’s blog.

WEEK 3: Reflecting on Adora’s TEDTalk

January 23

Ruminations on Childishness

Week before last, we watched the video of 12-year-old Adora Svitak addressing an audience of adults for her TEDTalk presentation. She discussed the misuse of the term childish, and offered several examples that illustrated children being adult-like and adults being childish, arguing that adults should be open to learning from children as much as they expect children to learn from adults.

What did you think of what she had to say? Did you form opinions of your own as she was speaking? What did you think of her presentation skills? You presented last week. What did you do well, and what would you like to do better next time? Do you remember the video? If not, view it again because your first blog post will be reviewing and reflecting on that video.

In the folder shared with me, open a Google document. Use a heading with your name and the date, and I prefer that you use double spacing. Consider how to introduce the topic of the video. Remember that your readers – people in cyberspace – do not know you, do not know me, do not know the assignment. You will not be replying to me. You will be writing to them. Think about writing to your idea reader, the one you invented last week. Explain to him or her that in your digital communications class you viewed this video (name it and explain it); you will also embed it when you post it on the blog so they can view it. Then tell them what you though of it and what it made you think about.

To give you a few ideas of what to discuss, I have prepared a list of guiding questions. Do not simply go down the list answering them (your ideal reader would be confused), but consider addressing most of those topics in your article.

Use paragraph breaks when you change subtopics. Online readers hate long blocks of gray text and will click away if it looks like too much work to read.

Make your writing interesting by adding description, little stories, bits of you. Use good sentence structure, changing it up with some short sentences and some long sentences. Capitalize and punctuate properly and proofread before sharing with a class buddy for feedback. Once you have made revisions, share with me for additional feedback.

I dislike providing length requirements, but if it’s too short, there won’t be enough to interest the reader. If it’s too long, you risk losing the reader. Make it juuuuust riiiiight.

WEEK 2: Who is your ideal reader?

January 18, 2017

Today, Wednesday, we will finish up MeTalk presentations that we started last week, based on watching the video of Adora Svitak’s TEDTalk. We lost Friday for inclement weather that turned out not to be so inclement, but better safe than sorry. And Monday was a professional development day for teachers, so we’re a tad behind where I wanted to be. Flexibility is key!

As you know, our main focus in this digital communications class will be online communication in the form of producing written content for blogs. As you are writing your articles, which are more than simply answering a few questions for the teacher, you will do better by imagining your ideal reader.


Image by PDPics via Pixabay CC0 Public Domain

First I will demonstrate for you some highlights of using Google docs, like controlling fonts and spacing, how to share and comment. We’ll discuss how to provide feedback for each other so you can help one another develop your drafts to be top-notch content capable of holding an audience.

Ah – that audience. So to practice using the Google docs and the sharing and providing of feedback, we’re going to start with a fun assignment. When  you write your blog posts, they’ll go live where they can be read online by anyone, anywhere.

The question is, who will be most interested in your content?

Will it be a 20-year-old college student attending a liberal arts school in Pennsylvania? What’s her major? What does she like to do in the spare time she rarely has? Does she have any bad habits she’d like to break? What good habits is she trying to develop?

Or is your ideal reader an high school junior who just moved to a new school and would rather play video games and make friends in the blogging community than the people he’s met so far at his school?

Is your ideal reader one of two or three conservative 15-year-olds in a field of liberals at a California alternative school for gifted students?

Use your imagination. Tell me who your ideal reader is. Describe all kinds of things about him or her and tell me why he or she likes your blog so much. Is it the straightforwardness of your opinions in your posts? Is it the imagery you use in your descriptions? Or maybe you’ve worked really hard on your theme (what your blog looks like), and everything has aesthetic appeal. May you’re really good at providing lots of links to additional information, and your reader likes that he can depend on you to have done good research and provide plenty of additional information.

Remember that even this assignment is being created to engage and entertain. People will be reading it, so make it interesting. Proofread it for flow and correcting any errors before you share with a classmate. Make any revisions you deem necessary, then ask Snider to read and provide feedback.

Enjoy the exercise and have fun with it. Write, share, edit and revise, having it polished by end of class Friday.

WEEK 1: Exploring Google Drive

January 9, 2017

This week, we will explore Google Drive,  but we’ll also practice some communication skills and get to know each other a bit.

Having a Gmail account gives you access to a suite of office apps, including Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Calendar and more. We’ll begin with you creating a folder in your Drive (like your own file cabinet in the cloud). Title it: Last First DC. Then share it with me at lisa.a.snider@gmail.com. You will draft your work in this folder, and since I will have access to it, I will be able to help you with projects easily.

Next, we’ll watch a TEDTalk featuring Adora Svitak, who was 12 at the time she presented at this conference. This video will be used for two of your upcoming assignments. Today, pay attention to

  1. The content of her presentation, that is, what she has to say.
  2. Her style of presenting. What do you think she does well?


Your assignment for this week is to plan a brief presentation about yourself. Think about what Adora did well in her speech. How did she engage her audience? How did she make her content interesting?

In this brief, semi-informal presentation, you may choose from the following topics: a talent or hobby; an amazing or interesting experience you have had; a situation in which you learned something or had a realization. Speeches work better and hold the audience’s attention better when they are on one topic.

Plan a 2-4 minute speech that includes a hook, something to hook your audience from the first moment, making them want to listen; points to be made; examples (story-telling is almost always a good thing); and a close. Include description, imagery, anecdotal stories.

Presentations will begin the latter half of Wednesday, first with volunteers, then I will draw names from a hat. When it is your turn, be prepared.


  • You may use note cards with key words, but avoid reading off of the card.
  • Make eye contact with the audience.
  • Avoid leaning on furniture
  • Practice so that you are less likely to forget what to say
  • Avoid odd vocal mannerisms (um, like, ya’ know, things & stuff)

Try to relax and have fun with it. It gets easier every time.

WEEK .5: Welcome


AJC1 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

January 5, 2017

That’s right: .5. Welcome to the first two days of class – not quite a week, but I want it to count for something.

This will be the home base for all we do in DigiComm. If  you miss a class or forget exactly what the assignment was, just come back here and read about it.

As I explained today, this is a unique class, but one that I try to make relevant. The digital world is here, so why not get more prepared for it?

Your first task is to explore Gmail. Some of you likely have a Gmail, and some of you may not. Those of you who do may or may not realize all the other apps available to you, like Google Calendar or Google Drive. We will use Google Drive a lot.

But for today, we’ll use Gmail. I will demonstrate in class the features of Gmail, and we’ll discuss the parts of a properly formatted semi-formal email.

  • Salutation (Dear Mrs. Jones, er, Snider)
  • The body, written in more than one paragraph if you have multiple topics
  • The close (Sincerely,) that’s with a comma …
  • Your name (on the next line)

After establishing your Gmail, if you don’t already have one, compose an email to me. In it, tell me a little about yourself. Include what you like and/or dislike about school, your best ways to learn, what motivates you and so on. Please include something about your interests, hobbies or work. In fact, since I will have shown you how to include a link, go find a page that relates to something you are interested in, and link to it. However, I want you to write the link into your paragraph. In other words, don’t just past the http://.blahblahblah. That’s not attractive. Highlight the words in your paragraph that you would like to BE the link, to turn blue. Then use the linking process.

In this exercise, I hope to learn a bit about you and note, A. How well you follow directions. B. Your writing skills. Since I’m going to be looking specifically at your writing skills, please proofread to make any corrections needed before sending.

Next week we’ll begin using Google folders and documents.

And we come to the end …

December 13, 2016

The term is winding down and so is our time together. This week you are finishing up presentations, both the speech and the slides. In fact, the actual presentations begin Wednesday for your passion projects.

In addition to the presentations, you will write a blog post telling your online audience about your project, its conclusion, and the presentation. Include a link to the presentation. Consider including images in the post to make it more interesting if you have some that will work for that.

You may want to use this time for catching up on missed work as well, since I have to finalize grades at the end of the week.

Outside of that, I’d like for you to allow yourself time for a self-assessment. This Google form asks you to assess your work in several areas. Much of it is multiple choice or select all that apply. However, there are several areas in which I ask you to explain using examples. So before you begin, think about each of the lessons we’ve had, look over your blog to remember what you’ve posted (this indicates finished assignments), and allow yourself a good half hour to complete the form. There isn’t a way to save halfway through, so you’ll want to complete it in one sitting.

I have enjoyed your group immensely. You have been one of the most collaborative, supporting groups I’ve had, and I appreciate you being there for each other like you have. Keep doing that.


WEEK 16: Prep for Passion Project Presentations

December 5, 2016

It’s getting closer.

Besides finishing up your actual projects, the research, the photos or videos, the research, the writing and posting, you need to prepare a speech and a slide presentation. These should work together like a TED Talk. Let’s take a look at a couple examples:


This is the first of several, so you may click on a few in this class to see a variety of examples.

Together we decided on the parameters of your presentations:

  • 4-8 minutes in length
  • 6-12 slides, including cover slide
  • Include a minimum of 4 images, which can be photos, screenshots, graphics, drawings.

Some tips about the slides include:

  • Avoid putting all of your speech text on the slides. You don’t want audience reading slides while trying to listen to you, and you don’t want to turn your back to them only to read slides that they are capable of reading.
  • Use a font size that is readable from across the room.
  • Use images, key words, phrases, quotes on slides.
  • Use good color and contrast choices. Blue fonts on black background won’t work. Use no more than two font choices, and those should work well together. Pinterest can show you what kinds of fonts to pair together.
  • Avoid stretching images on your slides by holding down shift+command while enlarging or shrinking image size. If the image becomes disproportioned, try again.

Some tips about the speech include:

  • Organize your information like an essay. You need a hook, subtopic points and details and you need a close (not “That’s all I’ve got.”)
  • Use imagery. If you can paint a picture in the audience’s mind, you’re doing well. If you can make them smell the baked pie or the motor oil, you’re doing well.
  • PRACTICE. When you’re in the shower or drifting off to sleep at night, envision yourself speaking your speech to your audience. Remember the points you want to make, where you want your voice to go high, where you want to pause for effect.
  • Look at your audience members in the eyes. You don’t have to hold it long, but move around the room. Don’t just present to your teacher.
  • Avoid leaning on anything.
  • Relax. You know these people now and you know your topic because it’s your passion.


WEEK 15: Upscale that prez

November 28, 2016

Everything’s better with good visuals. Meet Canva, a user-friendly graphic design tool with almost unlimited options. You may be wondering what you can use it for or what you will be using it for. Here are some ideas:

  • Presentation opening slide
  • Blog header
  • Information graphic
  • Facebook or Twitter header
  • Book cover or ebook cover
  • Magazine cover (real or pretend)
  • Menus
  • Social media post images
  • What else can you think of?

No one is you

This is one simple idea made by templates fonts and colors available on Canva.

Here’s another I played around with during lunch, 15 minutes ago. It’s a digital poster to promote yearbook sales. Have you bought yours yet? If not, you can do that now, here.


Creations can be made from free images on Canva or images for $1 each. Or you can upload your own. Templates provide a variety of layouts. There are also backgrounds, icons, illustrations, just everything you can think of to create what you need. And, again, you can upload what you need if you have your own.

Once your image is complete, you can download as a jpg for web at a lower resolution or a higher resolution pdf for print. It’s all user-friendly.

Think of how you can use Canva for your Passion Project, as well as other possibilities. Work this week on at least one image for your project, but spend some time playing around with it and see how many different uses you can find and creations you can make.

It is also time to think about finishing up your project and begin thinking about your presentation. You will present your results in an app like Google Slides or Prezi, using images you’ve been gathering as your project has progressed. You will also give a speech you have planned that informs the audience of your project, how it came about, what obstacles you may have had to overcome, what you learned and what the outcome was. Depending on your project, you may also have a tangible end result to show the class, such as a model, sketchbook or other materials. Update your audience this week! And use an image from Canva!


November 6, 2016


Cyberbullying. It’s a word nearly everyone is familiar with, but not everyone really knows exactly what it is. We know it’s online bullying, but where do you draw the line between teasing, criticizing and bullying? How many different things constitute cyberbullying? What are the penalties for what types of behavior?

This week, we’ll discuss different cases as they pertain to civil and criminal law, and you’ll hopefully come out with a better understanding and more sensitivity.

Monday: On a shared document projected on the TV, we will share ideas about what we consider to be cyberbullying behavior. You will then research to find case examples of cyberbullying for use in Wednesday’s class.

Wednesday: With printed summaries, we will share the cases we came across. We will also look at what civil law is and what criminal law is and how each applies to cyberbullying. We will apply this knowledge to the individual cases.

Your assignment for the week is to further analyze your case, adding in prior knowledge of your own, if you’d like, according to the law information. What type of bullying does your case fall under? Who is the victim and who is the perpetrator? Are any bystanders guilty? Do any civil laws apply? Could someone sue? Could they win? What about criminal law? Could anyone be arrested? Fined? Does the perpetrator have any defenses?

Thoroughly analyze the case in a blog post for the week. If your case isn’t workable for lack of information or other reasons, you may look for another, but be careful not to use too much time on looking for a case.

Remember to make the post interesting for your reader. You are telling a story and explaining something important.


WEEK 11: Me Manifesto

October 26, 2016


What is a manifesto? A mashup of several definitions gives me what I’m thinking of as I write this lesson plan: A public declaration of intentions, motives or views.

What manifestos do you know from history?

  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The 10 Commandments or even The Bible according to one list, so, yes, a book can be a manifesto
  • I Have a Dream speech by Martin Luther King
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  • Here’s to the Crazy Ones, Apple’s ad after Steve Jobs’s return as CEO

There are many more. One example we’ll look at in several forms is the Holstee Manifesto, which was created by founders of a design company called Holstee. Mike, Fabian and Dave sat outside and focused as they began to form the idea of what they wanted from life and how they wanted their start-up to fit into that. This is what they came up with, and a video was eventually born of it.

Holstee Manifesto poster1

Then someone set the words to music with voice-over and animation.



And THEN, someone put it to actual video in a creative way. Same words, but how might the message be received differently?


What are your intentions? What motivates you? What are your views on life, love, happiness? Or other things? What is your manifesto?

This week, research manifestos to get a broader idea of how the idea has been interpreted by others. Pinterest will pull up a plethora of items when you put “manifesto” in the search bar. Brainstorm to figure out what you stand for, what motivates you, what empowers you. Write your manifesto. Share it and get feedback for what works, what needs work. Revise.

Things to consider:

  • First person? I am creative. I am strong. I will …
  • Second person, like commands? Go ahead and be yourself. Be strong.
  • Third person is less common and is sometimes mixed with the others: People will try to … Courage is … Leaders are built from …
  • If using a bulleted type of manifesto, try to use parallel structure, meaning your sentences should be built similarly. If you use second person commands, each sentence should begin with a verb: Be yourself. Communicate ideas. Open your mind.If you are using first person, begin each sentence basically the same way, with a first person pronoun and a verb: I will begin each day … We will rise above … I am strong …
  • You may choose to write your manifesto in more of a paragraph format like King’s speech.
  • Revise until you have the best parts and it isn’t too long, because …


Part 2: App that Manifesto

After you have written, shared and revised your manifesto, you will be ready to create a presentation for it. You’ll want to consider dividing up parts of your manifesto, whether that’s line-by-line or chunks that go together. These chunks should be able to be represented with images of some sort. You can use your own images, taken with your phone or camera of your family and friends, or you can use images from Creative Commons or you can create drawings and scan them or you can create other images with programs.

You have several options of web-based apps to use, and I’ve provided a few examples below:

Haikudeck has begun charging since I used it, but there is still a free version. Just click on ‘get started’ then ‘continue free’. I do not know how limited it is. At the time, I used either copyright-free images provided by Haikudeck or went through a creative commons site like Flickr, Pixabay or Wikimedia. My manifesto from Nov. 2015 with Haikudeck. Under edit, this is set to public, so it should play without having to sign in.

PhotoPeach is another option, very similar to Haikudeck, but you can also use transitions and music. This is the PhotoPeach version of my manifesto from Feb. 2015.  It is set to public, so it should play without having to sign in.

And for my new try at a new app, there is PowToon, more appropriate for funny things than serious, but its advantage is that it can be uploaded to YouTube. Here is my Manifesto, by way of PowToon.

Other apps to try are Emaze, with presentation templates already made, ready for you to customize; VoiceThread, an app in which you load photos, then record a voiceover of you reading your manifesto, then time the slides to coincide the way you want them to. Feel free to use another if you know of one you’d like to try, but the object is to apply current knowledge to help you learn new technology, to write something original and creative, using processes that include sharing and revising, to use images and, possibly music, while observing copyright laws.

These two big tasks, writing and creating the presentation may take some time to do your best, so the project is due by the end of class next Tuesday. We will present Me Manifestos in class beginning next Wednesday. Volunteers go first, then I draw from a hat, so be ready to go Wednesday. The lab is open to you at lunch or after school.

Below are a couple examples from earlier semesters:

An Athlete’s Manifesto

An Emily Manifesto

Katlyn’s Manifesto

Be original, be sincere, and make people think.

You will share your manifesto in a brief presentation. Just show us what you came up with and tell us a little about why you made the choices you did in app, words, and/or images. Presentations will begin Wednesday.

WEEK 10: New! And Improved!



CC0 Public Domain via Pixabay

October 17, 2016

For weeks now – nine of them – you’ve been learning about blogging and different web-based apps that are used, one way or another, with blogging. You have all learned, developed skills and participated at different levels, which is perfectly normal.

This week, I am providing a chance for you to improve on your blog. I did a mashup of the most relevant posts I found but also linked some additional reading material for those of you who want to learn more.

By the end of the week, you will write a new blog post reflecting what you learned, how you took that learning and applied it to your blog, what improvements you made, how you feel about it. Your effort, your drive, your accomplishments and end product will be reflected in Infinite Campus.

Improvements will be broken down into three areas:

  • Appearance
  • Content
  • Readability

Appearances count

The appearance of your site, before most of the words are even read, will affect whether your audience stays or goes. If it looks thrown together by an amateur, they’ll close the page.

  • Choose a relevant theme. A theme with lots of picture isn’t relevant if you don’t use lots of pictures. If images provided by WordPress don’t relate to your posts, the disconnect will drive readers away.
  • Learn how to use your blog. If stand-in posts (This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it …) are left because you don’t know how to make them go away, use them to post your posts or figure out how to make them go away.
  • The same goes for stand-in widgets. Figure out how to use real widgets. Explore WordPress; ask classmates; Google it.
  • Use good typography. Be aware that you can manipulate the type to a degree and use it to your advantage: Italicize words for emphasis instead of using quote marks; bold subheadings to break up long text.
  • Use white space to your advantage. Use a line of space (not two) between paragraphs instead of indenting. And these should be short paragraphs for blogging, much like newswriting. Most paragraphs are 2-4 sentences long, but use logic. Where you change subtopic, make a new paragraph.
  • Use images to draw attention and connect to readers. Find copyright-free images in such places as Pixabay, Flickr and Wikimedia Commons, but consider the idea of using your own skills as a photographer or graphic illustrator. We can scan images in the classroom, too.
  • For more on appearance, check out this blog post on creating a stunning reading experience.

Content is key

The content you are writing is where many of you are struggling. I am providing you with a focus for the week (digital footprint, Pinterest, passion projects), but it is your job to make it relevant to you and connect that with your target audience. Here are some tips gathered from a few other bloggers:

  • Know your purpose. Yes, it’s an assignment. BUT – you are you. What insight do you have to offer? Take the focus I am presenting (digital footprint, Pinterest, passion projects) and combine it with what you have to offer (knowledge of gaming, music, art, technology), and turn that into something relevant for your audience.
  • Know who your target audience is. Who do you imagine you are writing for? (No, not your teacher.) Is it teens like you? Is it adults who are in the business of relating to teens? Is it musicians? Artists? Then, listen to that audience. What do they want to know? What questions do they have?

When you know your purpose + know your audience, blogging is easier.
– Elle Drouin

Understand your own personality and what you want to bring to the blog. Are you a casual, down-to-earth, honest blogger? Your posts might be like conversations on the patio. Do you want to teach your audience how to draw, play, create? Your blog might have more of an instructional tone, but it can still be friendly. Are you a well-researched debater who is tired of the misinformation floating about? Be careful that you don’t take a condescending tone. One site suggested taking a personality inventory, so you can know yourself and what you wish to present to your audience.

  • Be specific. For some reason, this is really hard for some writers, but there is a huge difference between:
    “My high school sucks.”
    “At my high school, students suffer from too much or not enough attention. Too much attention paid to being on time and turning in work. Not enough attention paid to whether we understand what is being thrown at us or whether we have a place to go home to.”
    Which carries more impact? Which would you rather read?
  • Tell stories. Personal stories are an element that cannot be found anywhere else. Personal stories connect people.
  • Use emotion. Your posts don’t have to be drama-filled, but emotion is another way to connect to readers. Did an earlier traffic encounter make you angry? Would readers be able to connect to it? Have you had a recent scare that you could write about to inform readers so they don’t make the same mistake? Could you lighten a reader’s day with something funny?
  • Close with a call to action. If you’re not trying to involve your readers somehow, it’s too easy for them to click away. You can ask them to try the recipe and let you know how it turned out. You can ask them to share similar stories. You can ask them how they would have handled the same situation. You can ask them to share more ideas on the topic. You can ask them to write their congressman. What do you want them to DO?

By the time you determine your purpose and identify your audience, inject your own personality and get specific about your topic and sub-points, by the time you tell a story or two and draw on some emotion, by the time you call your audience to DO something, the three-sentence blog post will be a thing of the past.

Readability, as in, can I read it? Does it make sense?

Lastly, you must address readability issues. This comes down to all that stuff your English teachers have been teaching for years. If your post is full of mistakes – or even if there are only two or three rookie mistakes, readers won’t take you seriously. REALLY, if you cannot write following basic Standard American English rules, you won’t be taken seriously, whether that’s on a job application, a letter of complaint, a memo for your boss, or a classified ad. It’s time to learn the basics, if you haven’t already.

  • Reading aloud will help you catch awkward sentence structure, missing or repeated words and more.
  • Follow rules of capitalization: first words in sentences, names of people, places (America, Baltimore, Six Flags), businesses (Disney, Twitter, Walmart), mascots (Demons, Bulldogs, Orioles), I (you are important enough to capitalize, and there is no autocorrect).
  • Put periods at the ends of sentences. A sentence is a complete thought that has a subject and a verb. If you put two of these together, as in a compound sentence …

John has a dog     +     Mary has a cat

… you must have a comma AND a coordinating conjunction between them (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), resulting in something like this:

John has a dog, and Mary has a cat.


John has a dog, but Mary has a cat.

If you only use a comma (John has a dog, Mary has a cat), you have created a run-on, because John is a subject and Mary is a subject and they each have a verb (has). It’s simply two sentences.

  • Watch verb tense. It’s not usually correct to start out in past tense, then suddenly switch to present tense or vice versa. It can be jarring for the reader unless you have a story-telling reason.
  • Likewise, avoid switching person, from first person to second person to third person.
  • Re-examine word choice. If you often use vague words like stuff and things and do and fix, find more specific words to replace them with. Explain better.
  • Organize your content so that it makes sense and doesn’t just jump from one thought to the next.

Your mission this week …

Your assignment this week is to improve your blog.

  • Improve the appearance. Change themes if you need to. Remove unnecessary stand-in content. Add widgets, taglines or header images.
  • Improve earlier posts. Expand if necessary, adding your personality, telling stories that help make your points, adding a call to action. Correct mechanics, punctuation, spacing issues. Make better word choices.
  • Then write a post about the improvements you made. Was it hard? What did you learn about that maybe you didn’t know? Did you get help from classmates? What are you proudest of? What would you advise other student bloggers to do?
  • Try to build followers, another way to improve your blog. Tweet out a link to your post. Read other blogs, like their posts and invite them to read yours. Can you pin a blog post to one of your boards and get others to follow that way? Try setting a goal to get more followers, then make a plan to do it.

Many bloggers started small, as just a hobby, but they learned, they tried and failed and researched and now they make money with their blogs. That may not be what you want to do, but create the best class-based blog you can, something you can be proud of. What is your goal for your blog? (You see what I did there?) Comment below.

WEEK 9: Scoop info you want to keep


October 10, 2016

You’ve searched with Pinterest and you’ve networked with Twitter. Both social media sites enable you to find information and people with information. When you decide to keep that information for your own use by pinning or favoriting, you’re collecting, or archiving it. If you decide to put it in a form to share, you’ve taken archiving to the next level: you’re curating.

There are many ways to curate the content you collect, but the one we’ll use this week is a digital newspaper called Scoop.it. With Scoop.it, you’ll “scoop” up the articles you want to keep and post them in a very visual product that you can then share through Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.

Here is an example of my Scoop.it.

Your mission this week is to “scoop” some articles for curation, hopefully articles that pertain to your passion project, or at least an interest of yours and archive them in the form of your own Scoop.it.

Yes, you have to make an account and remember another password.

Yes, you need a minimum number of articles to show me you’ve made good use of it – 4?

Yes, you’ll write a blog post sharing about your experience of using Scoop.it, finding and archiving articles of relevance to you. Of course, if you make it relevant to your passion project, you’ve taken care of both for the week.

Yes, you’ll link your Scoop.it in your blog post.

Happy scooping!

WEEK 8: Your Twitterverse


October 3, 2016

Last week I introduced you to Pinterest, a social media app that can be lots of fun and can steal lots of your time before you know it. But Pinterest can be useful for research – I use it all the time for work and for fun.

This week, I want to teach you another social media app, one you may be more familiar with, but one you may not realize the power of. Twitter. It can also steal your time if you’re not careful.

You may have a Twitter account or you may not. You may have seen Twitter misused. So have I. I’ve seen students post random thoughts about being hungry, about feeling or not feeling cute at that particular moment, about who is hanging out with whom, and, unfortunately, I’ve seen accusations, threats and bullying, too. You don’t have to participate in these things. There are good uses for Twitter.

Twitter is a tool to help you develop your own PLN – Personal Learning Network. What would you like to learn? Who would you like to learn from? Who provides information you’d like to have?

First, let’s go over the basics of Twitter.

Your assignment for the week is to begin building your PLN, perhaps with a nod toward your passion project, but don’t limit yourself to that topic only. Is it time to start looking for good post-secondary schools? Check some out and follow some of their accounts. They’ll likely have several: athletics, news, student information and more. Your assignment is to find at least five useful accounts to follow.

By Friday,

  1. Before Friday write a blog post describing your Twitterventure and the accounts you found to follow. Write a little about each of the five accounts you followed, about who they are, their purpose and why you followed them. If you want to do double duty and take care of the Passion Project update too, find a way to tie them together!
  2. Tweet a #FF (Follow Friday) post with the five most interesting accounts you’ve found, tagging those accounts. It will look something like: #FF learning from new friends: @Geniushour @TIME @WSJ @OKContemporary @TheSkimm

WEEK 7: Pinteresting your Passion


September 27, 2016

Pinterest. You may have heard of it. You may already have an account and 30 boards. In case you haven’t heard of it, it works like this: Pinterest is like a virtual bulletin board or bulletin boards. The app allows you to create “boards” based on topics you are interested in and then “pin” things you either discover in your feed or things you purposely search for.

Say you have a board for recipes (or if you’re hardcore, you might have one each for main courses, sides, breakfasts and desserts). You can “follow” people who “pin” items of interest to you. Those pins of your followers show up in your feed and you can re-pin items to your own boards. If you like the items a particular person pins, go see who they follow and follow some of their followers. This way you build your feed with more selections. But don’t stop at recipes. Interested in reading? Follow book lovers. Health? There are topics on that.

You can also use Pinterest to search for key words. Want recipes for chocolate chip cookies? Put it in the search bar. Photography? Search it. Pin what interests you to the board where you want to collect it. Need a new board? Make one.

The items that come across  your feed are usually from blogs, sometimes articles, or just web pages, depending on the topic. One can pin something from any web page – works best if there is an image there – if you have a Pinterest app on your Chrome browser.

How can you search for info about your passion project? Begin by setting up an account. Remember your password. Pinterest will probably start by having you follow a few interests, but after your account is going, you can follow or unfollow any account you want. Set up a board or two that will help you with your passion project and start researching and pinning. You should probably go check out the item before pinning it to make sure it’s legit and useful. Sometimes it’s a bad link no one’s taken down.

By Friday, draft, seek feedback, revise and post to your blog a piece about what your passion project is and how you have used Pinterest in your research. You can make these separate posts, one laying out the plan for the project and another about how you used Pinterest or you can combine them. That’s up to you. You may choose to add a link to your Pinterest account if  you’d like followers.

WEEK 6: Passion Projects

September 19, 2016

I’ve been alluding to something called Passion Projects. Some call it Genius Hour, while some prefer 20% Time, but it’s all the same type of thing. The main premise is you deciding on a subject you are passionate about, something you’d like to learn about, developing a project around it and devoting 20% of your classroom time each week on that project, that learning.

First, let’s get the idea down of what we mean by passion.

OK, that gives an idea of what passion is, but how is that a project?

As Kesler points out in his video, you should start with a driving question. What do you want to know more about? What would you like to learn to do? Or what wrongs would you like to right in your community? One way to put that question is, “What breaks your heart?” The question must be one that will involve research and end in a product or service or learning that can be shown or demonstrated. What kind of question can we start with?


1. We will use “backward planning,” deciding on what we want as an end product, then planning how to get there. Will there be a product, like a video, a book, a website, pieces of jewelry? Will there be an event like a benefit fundraiser, a trip, a portfolio, a show? Will there be a model of a building, a campus, a robot? Then, how do you get to that point?

2. One component that will help you is having a mentor. Depending on what your subject area is, you’ll need to decide on and contact someone to be your mentor. A mentor would be someone who is a professional or expert in the field you are seeking to learn about. This person will be a contact for you, someone to give you ideas, help you consider ideas you may not have thought of, make contact with other people you may not have thought of, someone to check in with. In short, this person will help you to reach your goal and motivate you.

Your mentor does not have to live locally. In this day and age, you can communicate through social media or by phone or even by Facetime or Skype. For instance, if you wanted to explore some area of medicine, find a doctor who might mentor you. Interested in interior design? Perhaps a professional designer or an instructor from a university could help you out. Many adults would welcome the opportunity to mentor a student interested in their own career choice.

3. You’ll keep your learning transparent by posting your progress to your blog weekly. It’s helpful to post photos or videos to show folks where you are in the process. Tell your audience about obstacles and how you surmounted them. That’s part of the learning process.

4. Start brainstorming. If you feel compelled to say, “I don’t know what I’m interested in.” STIFLE IT. Brainstorm anyway. So many students say they hate being told what to do, what they have to learn. They wonder, “when am I ever going to need this?” Well, this is your chance to explore something YOU want to learn, something relevant to you. Use it.

Need some ideas? Here are lots from York School:

Where will you find your passion?


Sept. 12, 2016

Challenge yourself with a couple of questions:

  1. How are you preparing for life after high school, whether you go to college, technical school or straight into the workforce? Make a list.
  2. What do the words “digital footprint” or “digital tattoo” mean to you? Make a list.

Now, what does one have to do with the other? After defining what a digital footprint is – the positives and the negatives of a digital footprint – you should see that decreasing the negative aspects and increasing the positive aspects should be a part of the first list.

To help you understand some of what composes your digital footprint/tattoo, watch the following video:


Some of what goes into your digital footprint is unavoidable, but much can be controlled by you and should be:


Ever think about what your own digital footprint looks like? What might others find if they searched for your profiles and other pieces of your profile?


Your assignment for the week is to do a search on yourself. Do the search without logging into anything from the computer you are on. Look for information as well as images. What can you find through Google or other search engines? Is there more than one person with your name? Look at the information on this infographic about Google Yourself searches and try some of the tips provided.

Once you find information about yourself, determine if it is information you’d like to have found about you by potential employers, college admissions counselors or scholarship grantors.

Write a blog post about your findings and about what you can do to create a positive digital footprint to move your schooling and career forward. Also reflect on your privacy settings and discuss what changes you may make to your habits and to your social media privacy settings and what you hope that will accomplish.

As usual, draft in Google docs, share with a peer for feedback, then share with me.