Who we are and what we've done
October 19
Tried claiming blogs with my third group (CM) but we had problems reaching Technorati from our computer lab, similarly as yesterday (I have no idea why this is happening), in the end we managed to claim 3 blogs - none of these appears in Technorati now, a few hours later. :-(
October 18
My new groups are full time college students of Informatics, Mechatronics, and Countryside Management. All together about 70 students. We started blogging this week - opened our blogs in Blogger, kept the default settings and started posting our first posts and tagging them writingmatrix. These posts were ignored by Technorati so we claimed our blogs with two of my new groups (I, M) – not all of my students managed to do it (Technorati seemed to be experiencing some difficulties at the time) but now there are many Slovene posts there on the writingmatrix hitlist. I think the answer to the question: Do we need to claim a blog to make it visible? is YES.
Because only some of the students' blogs appear in Technorati, I also listed their blogs in the side bar of our class blog and in my pageflakes (loved Vance's and Doris's pageflakes so I created mine as well at http://www.pageflakes.com/sasas).
I also aggregated the writingmatrix feed in my pageflakes and found it spammed today (pornographic stuff – it appeared in pageflakes only, didn't see it in Technorati) I deleted the flake and recreated it and now it's ok.
I found today a guy from New Zealand on the writingmatrix list – he does not seem to be part of our project and does not seem to use our tag but is there… funny
The K12 Online is in full swing, our presentation was uploaded on the 16th and Wesley Fryer posted very nice feedback about it. Vance updated the K12online page for us.
My first group - adult Informatics group (spring 2007)
The original Slovene section of the writingmatrix project was represented by a group of 9 informatics part-time students (aged 29+) from vocational college at Tehnični šolski center in Nova Gorica (Suzana, Igor, Matej, Aleš, Dušan, Robert, Bogdan, Aleksander, Robert Č.), and their English teacher Saša Sirk. The report from here on refers to this first group.
September
Few random posts by Dušan and Matej in August and September, Dušan reported about his neighbours' wedding and Matej told a bit about his holidays. Vance created a wonderful trailer for K12 Online, I recorded a PPT summing up my experience within the writingmatrix so far. I used Cam Studio. Had a lot of problems recording my voice but made it eventually using Miha's laptop.
June 27
We are working on our end of term exams and then the big break starts, finally. I guess most of us will be away - spending our vacations here and there. Our blogs reflect this - there have been very few random posts (by Matej and Dušan I think, informing us they are very busy studying) and while having a look at some Venezuelan blogs I also came across Igor's comment. I also mostly just have a look at what's going on and drop a comment every now and then, mostly to Doris's students because they are so numerous and appear in my Technorati feed, unlike Rita's. I also had a YM chat with one of them, Morelba Becera.
I just talked to Rita about Technorati not showing her blogs, she has no idea why, she uses tags in all her posts...
On May 18 I had my first ever 10 min online presentation at Learning Times. Vance presented our project within WIAOC 07 and Rita, Nelba, and me gave short reports on work done up to then. It was a wonderful experience although I was extremely nervous doing this for the first time. Everything went as planned, Rita and Vance's patient coaching helped a lot. I uploaded my slides at SlideShare just in case, they are available at http://tinyurl.com/28gg8a . SlideShare is cool. The recording of the LT presentation is available at http://webheadsinaction.org/wiaoc2007/Presentations. The project has thus been publicly presented twice so far; first on April 21 by Vance and Rita on a workshop in Abu Dhabi; this recording is available available at https://sas.elluminate.com/site/external/launch/play.jnlp?psid=2007-04-21.0050.M.7AE801FFB697DA460D4BF25AA8C21B.vcr and at WIAOC in May.
Vance will talk about it on July 13 at University of the Basque Country in San Sebastian, Spain (http://www.geocities.com/vance_stevens/writing.htm) - I'll try to find a way to join in although this looks like mission impossible right now - because I will be on vacation on a small Croatian island with - as far as I know - one internet caffe - located on the other side of the island. :-(. Vance also turned in a proposal for another joint presentation K12 Online Conference in October 2007 (http://www.k12onlineconference.org/) - I hope the proposal is accepted and we have the opportunity for another great experience.
One useful thing I've learnt is how to subscribe to the RSS feed of a Technorati page. To pull all the writingmatrix posts together, we enter 'writingmatrix' in the search box, Technorati generates a page with a chronological list of blog posts tagged writingmatrix .
Vance discovered it is also possible to subscribe to the RSS feed of this Technorati page. Following writingmatrix posts 'globally' is much simpler and more effective this way because everything tagged 'writingmatrix' is simply pooled to our Bloglines account and regularly updated. I shared this discovery in Roštilj with my students - they haven't posted any comments on this post but have posted some on another , so I know they are still around. I also decided to share the most recent writingmatrix posts from this feed in the side bar of our Roštilj. I like this Blogger option for sharing feeds. I just don't like the fact, that Technorati leaves out Rita's blogs - no idea why, she's been tagging everything (I can't see the tags though). Or maybe the problem is that Technorati does not cover Podomatic. Which would be strange. I'll check the Technorati help files.
Also I added Vance's Frapper Map to our Roštilj and asked my students to add themselves (informed them by e-mail because I'm not sure how many of them are still around) - most of them have done it already.
I've been thinking lately how to use what I've learnt so far with my students next year. I think student's shouldn't be pushed into blogging.. The level of many of my students is usually quite low so they have problems expressing themselves and they resort to copying texts from the Internet... It would make sense to put more stress on the copyright issue and how to cite sources properly. Also I've been thinking, it would make sense to maybe just teach this weaker students how to search for blogs of interest and subscribe to them - maybe they could then turn in weekly reports of the most interesting things they've read about in these blogs or something like this. There's no point in making all students open and keep their blogs. Some don't like the idea of their work being publicly displayed - esp. if they do it just because it is a requirement... Have to think about this further. Maybe I could set something like this as a group project: finding relavant online feeds and creating our own esp newspaper...
May 7
We met at Blostream Saloon with Vance, Rita, Nelba, Bee, and others and talked a bit about Technorati - we found out that it doesn't show some of the writingmatrix blogs despite tagging - we wondered whether the reason for this could be that the missing blogs aren't configured to sending pings (under settings/publishing). I asked my students to check this out. 5 of my students are on the Technorati writingmatrix (in tags) search list (Suzana, Igor, Robert, Dušan, Aleš) and 4 of them are left out (Matej, Bogdan, Aleksander, Robert Č - Robert hasn't really posted anything yet, Matej has misspelt the tag (so he can be found under 'writtingmatrix', with double t, his pin configuration is set at yes), Aleksander and Bogdan tagged their posts correctly but are not included - I'm still waiting for them to tell me about their pin configurations).
I finally met Doris in YM :-) and had a look at Elluminate room where our presentation is taking place. I tried moderating for a while - but wasn't very successful at it - I tried application sharing - wanted to share my writingmatrix wiki which I had opened in a separate window in IE, but found it quite confusing because if I wanted to show it to other participants, the IE writingmatrix window had to be active and covered up the Elluminate window. So I practically had no contact with the people in the room - could not really see whether they see my application and could not follow what they write in the chat area... This was a bit frustrating. Maybe I should make my IE window smaller, so that I could also see the Elluminate window under it, I don't know - it was a lot for the first time, hopefully next time it will be easier. Maybe I'll try uploading and showing ppt slides - I hope that is easier to do. I'm not good at multitasking - I'm not sure I can navigate the wiki, talk at the same time and follow participants comments....
Suzana and I have trouble posting comments to Rita's student blog (we tried in vain to comment Paula A.'s) - our comments are not accepted. I don't know what's the problem. Is something wrong with Podomatic?
May 5
Although I thought my students pretty much stopped blogging to study for exams (since our course is over) I was pleasantly surprised by another student opening his second blog (others have done this before to experiment more freely) and by several students posting new posts.
Here's our latest blogging news:
Dušan informed us of his second birthday (a third member of my group living a second life) and posted some nice photos at http://dusanpregelj.blogspot.com/2007/05/first-of-may-my-second-birth-date.html. Igor explained the project he plans to do for his database course; i.e. creating a database for collecting diving statistics at http://diverssi.blogspot.com/2007/05/back-to-work-so-lets-talk-about-dive.html. Matej informed us he's back from holidays and ready for more action and posted a nice 3D stereogram at http://catmanworld.blogspot.com/ - I can't see the alien in it, can you ;-).
I hope my other students too will stay with us some more time and I hope they will find the time to post some reflections on our blogging experience. Whatever way this turns, I definitely think it's been a most rewarding experience for me as a teacher and also for themselves – they said they appreciated a lot the opportunity to get to know each other better through blogs...
Today I also had a nice chat with Nelba, Vance and Rita. We talked a bit about our upcoming presentation, about the need to practice and decided to meet at TI tomorrow at 21 GMT to explore technorati. We also thought a bit how to get our students interact. I said I'll write an email to my students asking them to post a comment or two to other writingmatrix student blogs from Argentina and Venezuela (preferably to those with few or no comments). I hope my students will respond - I remember how they themselves silently hoped to get some comments from other people when they opened their blogs and had the feeling that they were then a bit disappointed because they almost didn't get any (except from our group). They have dropped some comments here and there because I already asked them to do so some time ago (not only to writingmatrix blogs, also to some Dekita blogs) and told me they mostly received no response. But maybe that's partly also because my students were among the first to start their own blogs... The Argentinians are doing this now. Anyway, when we started blogging, I reminded them in class and will do so again in my mail (I unfortunately no longer meet them F2F), that it is nice to return a comment if you get one - I think all writingmatrix students should do so if we want them to interact. I think it would therefore be great if all students provided their blog adresses in their comments to other people's blogs. It will make it easier for the receiver of the comment to find them. I'll send the mail today and see what happens in a week.
Nelba liked Suzana's blog very much - it's very creative and reflects Suzana's explorative spirit. She also posted a comment to it. :-)
In the future - in the autumn, I plan to start blogging at the beginning of my next course, so students will have more time to develop their blogs. Hopefully I will know more about tagging and technorati and sharing feeds and items then and will be able to include these more efficiently. I hope that together with my autumn students I will be able to find, explore and aggregate blogs of interest to their professional fields (informatics, mechatronics) – and thus create our own ESP newspaper, which would help us keep up with the developments in these fields... I will maybe also ask them to post weekly assignments to their personal blogs commenting or elaborating on aggregated blog posts or other articles they have read and found of interest. We might start something together with Jane, a webhead from Canada who teaches students of similar age and similar professional orientation.
April
Our English course is over. It lasted 2 months; from February 26 to to April 26. In the first part of it we used a Moodle forum for class-related discussions. The interaction there was lively. After awhile, half way through our course, we therefore decided to move our discussions in the open cyberspace and switch to blogs. We first opened our now a bit neglected class blog at http://rostilj.blogspot.com and named it Roštilj. Roštilj is a grill typical of the Balkan area, as our fellow webhead Hala from Sudan kindly explained in one of her comments to our blog. We picked this name because our group frequently joked about organizing a roštilj picnic in a nearby picnic area… Again, I was pleasantly surprised by my students’ active involvment , so much so that I when I read about Rita’s call for partners on the webhead mailing list, I decided to respond. This then lead to our involvement in the writingmatrix project initiated by Vance.
My students blog in their own free time and out of their own interest. They first opened their blogs in mid April and started posting on topics of their interest and tagging their posts ‘writinmatrix’, ‘rostilj’ and other. I added links to their blogs to our class blog. Some students have also opened their bloglines and del.icio.us accounts and two of them – Igor and Suzana – only two weeks later already shared their bloglines feeds and delicious items on their blogs. I yet have to do this although they demonstrated it to me when we last met :-).
Our little group still mostly interacts between itself since we know each other quite well and share a lot of interests. Additional comments from outside are a thrill lighting up sparks in our eyes and hearts.
This short blogging experience has been most enriching. We developed a sense of community, a place where we share our interests, thoughts, opinions, happiness, compassion. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. And these blogs truly are reflections of the students themselves and as such a wonderful way to get to know them better.

Here’s some news from our Roštilj group:

I know that this initial enthusiasm isn’t very likely to continue, esp. with all the exams looming ahead and the summer holidays approaching. But while it lasts, it’s beautiful.
THANK YOU VANCE, RITA, NELBA, DORIS - if it weren’t for this project, we’d still stick to our class blog and miss out most of the fun.
THANK YOU MY DEAR STUDENTS for this special experience. I’m not sure how many of you will continue blogging but the voyage so far has been most enjoyable. Learning with you and from you has been great.
Thank you also Kay and Tim and my dear webhead friends, Nina Liakos, Hala Fawzi, Nina Lyulkun, Dennis Oliver and Susan Burg - your warm comments have been appreciated very much.