A Comments Comment

Anyone who has read my posts about spam knows that I am the spam executioner.  I admit that I am an anti-spam fanatic and my spam controls on this server are Draconian even by Draco's standards.

There are many misconfigured e-mail servers out in the wild that blithely relay spam email to its targeted destination.  The most notorious of these mail relays that daily task me is one of the e-mail relays at yahoo.com.  Another wildly inconsistent e-mail relay is one of the AOL e-mail servers -- my efforts to bring Yahoo and AOL into the legitimate e-mail fold have met with indeterminate success.  Sometimes their e-mail relays behave and deliver real e-mail and sometimes they go round the bend and spit out scads of spam.

I'm committed to overcoming the automatic rejection of reader's comments by the spam filters and, if you have a comment rejected because of a spam block on the s35 server, please send an e-mail to s35@serendipity35.net and I will remove your e-mail address from the automatic spam filters.

The posts that Ken and I write are not one-way valves.  We both value (if not crave) your feedback.

If you have something to say, please say it; if the anti-spam gods object to your post, send along your e-mail address and I'll make sure the gods are appeased. 

Making a Living At The Fifth Estate

From the Wall Street Journal site, comes "America's Newest Profession: Bloggers for Hire." Nothing shocking in the headline. I know that a few people blog for a living. But wait - I read on and discover that they claim "...there are almost as many people making their living as bloggers as there are lawyers. Already more Americans are making their primary income from posting their opinions than Americans working as computer programmers or firefighters."

Really? I can handle that the number of people doing it for at least some income is approaching 1% of American adults. In the studies used by the WSJ, in the U.S. with 20+ million bloggers, with 1.7 million profiting from the work, we have 452,000 of those using blogging as their primary source of income.

The article's author, Mark Penn, says that if journalists were the Fourth Estate, then bloggers are becoming the Fifth Estate, and a real business has arrived. Bloggers not only are used to launch new efforts, but for companies and products that depend upon blogger reviews. He points to a similar trend in "Opinion TV" where those opinions get far more attention than the gathering of facts.

I am not alone in questioning those numbers, and anyone who looks online for the "facts" on blogging and blogger numbers will discover a real lack of agreement. As a non-profiting blogger, I also wonder at a poll done by Technorati saying that those bloggers who had 100,000 or more unique visitors made an average income of $75,000.

Serendipity35 averages about 12,000 unique visitors a month lately, so does that mean that Tim and I could be getting $16,000 to blog? Who is paying? What's the business model? Good questions.

Like almost all online ventures, blogs get most of their revenue from ads and readers clicking on them. Some bloggers get paid by the post ($75-200), and some "spokesbloggers" are paid by a company to blog about their products.

Entry into this field? No tests, degrees, or any real regulations. Though Mark Penn may joke about a future "Columbia School of Bloggerism," it is more likely that many more self-made bloggers will move up the pay scale. Mark Zuckerberg wasn't studying social networking at Harvard when he created Facemash and then dropped out to build it into Facebook. (Okay, he was a computer science major.) So, why should budding bloggers study journalism?

Comparing Job Numbers in America -  Bureau of Labor Statistics
Lawyers = 555,770
Bloggers = 452,000
Computer Programmers 394,710
CEOs 299,160
Firefighters 289,710
75% of bloggers are college graduates.

Most are white males reporting above-average incomes but not necessarily from blogging. Only 2% of those make a living at it. More typically, they are like myself - doing it for about 3 years; making a few hundred bucks or less on ads or referrals.
I don't agree with Penn's prediction that "at some point the value of the Huffington Post will no doubt pass the value of the Washington Post." If these "pro" bloggers are making $45,000 to $90,000 a year for their blogging, I'll take the gig. No offers yet, but I'm open to doing it as a living instead of just doing it.

updated"How Much Do the Top Bloggers Make?"  Take a look at this article if you're still dreaming about making big bucks by blogging.
As of June 2017, Serendipity35 averages 582,000 hits a month - and still is a non-profit. We don't take out own advice very well.

Blogging As Reflective Practice

Today, I am presenting at the 10th Annual NJ Best Practices Showcase on using blogging as a reflective process for my students. You can view the presentation on my Slideshare page. NJEDge.Net and the host school, the College of St. Elizabeth, are also recording the presentations and hoping to post them to the new NJVid site. In this post, I want to go into a bit more detail than I can do in my presentation about reflective practice itself.

Though I reference the book The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action by Donald Schön, what I am discussing does not appear in his book since blogging did not even exist in 1995 when the book was published. He was an MIT social scientist and consultant, and in that book he examines five professions (engineering, architecture, management, psychotherapy, town planning). The book is very much about how professionals go about solving problems.

He introduced reflective practice as a continuous process that involves the learner considering critical incidents in his or her life's experiences. The concept immediately gained traction in teacher education, and also health professions and architectural design. For a teacher-in-training and active in the field, the process of studying his or her own teaching methods and determining what works best for the students is essential. I think it is important that all students (practitioners-in-training) also consider their own experiences in applying knowledge to practice, especially while being "coached" by professionals (instructors,mentors) in their discipline.

Education is my focus here, but all three disciplines also make use of portfolios of a kind. If you use portfolios (paper, electronic or objects), you are probably already using reflection as a part of that practice.

Late in his life (he died in 1997), Donald Schön took an interest in the use of computers in design and the uses of design games to expand designing capabilities. That also appealed to me because I teach a graduate course in the elements of visual design at NJIT, and computer design has become a large part of the course.

Schön's exploration of the nature of learning systems and the significance of learning in changing societies, for me, has applications not only to what is called the "learning society" but also to the movement of that society online. The importance of networks and feedback online changes our ways of knowing.

Schön looks to what some people have called a more "existentially-oriented approach" to studying social change, as opposed to the rational/experimental model that is generally used.

The progression in the past decade of blogs from personal web journals to a platform for established professionals, corporations and writers has created opportunities for education. In my presentation, I was talking about my use of blogs with graduate students at NJIT over the past two years as a method for regular student reflection on their learning. I have them use the free Blogger service Though there are other free and paid services available).

Blogs offer the easiest method for students to publish online to a large audience without sophisticated web design skills. This allows them to focus on specific topics and on their own knowledge construction. The built-in feedback tools allow teacher-to-student and peer-to-peer and, perhaps most powerfully, outsider commentary.

Though blogs can serve as e-portfolios and some teachers use them as such, I am more focused on reflection. I don't ignore using the blog to address writing concepts, publishing practices, intellectual property and using the blog's digital design as a learning portfolio, it is just not my primary concern. Is that what I tell students? Not immediately. The "assignments" that they blog about initially are reflective in nature without having to make that the "learning outcome."

My use of blogs at NJIT is easily incorporated into the MS in Professional and Technical Communication program which already has program competencies for students and an established e-portfolio program.

In education, reflective practice is a part of teacher research, but the journaling and discussion of your own teaching practices is not the same as doing traditional research. That is, students do not hypothesize and test ideas in that rational/experimental manner. What practitioners do in "the real world" is more likely to be testing their ideas against multiple forms of evidence, against multiple perspectives from their community of practice AND the research literature.

There's an old saying that if you want to know what you think, write it down. Writing about your practice is part of the process as it requires you to organize ideas into a framework.

No More Educational Blogger News

February 2009    As Mike noted in his comment to us, EdBloggerNews is now salesforce.com. That's not a good sign.

POSTED July 2006    EdBloggerNews is a news site where users submit "bookmarklets" to articles about education, and the readers choose which stories make the headlines. It's similar to the site digg.com but it focuses on education news. Think of it as a news aggregator that is peer-reviewed.You can also look at sub-topics like technology and blogging in education. Looking at it today I discovered articles on MySpace and Adults, banning cell phones in schools, a review of blogging tools and using games in education.

Blogging as Pedagogic Practice Across the Curriculum

Blogging by teachers and students is something I have been thinking about more the past month. Today I am doing a presentation at nearby Bloomfield College's Annual Faculty Technology Showcase entitled "Blogging as Pedagogic Practice Across the Curriculum."

Most discussion and research on blogs and teaching and learning in higher education focuses on them as another technological tool. In this session, I'm looking at blogging primarily as a way to address traditional writing practices. take a look at Blogging As Pedagogic Practice Across the Curriculum

Using college-wide blogging tools or free blogging services, instructors are addressing e-portfolios, audience, publishing, copyright and plagiarism, authentic writing, and writing in a digital age in varied disciplines.

Here are 2 quotes that I will use in my introduction.

"If print culture shaped the environment in which the Enlightenment blossomed and set the scene for the Industrial Revolution, participatory media might similarly shape the cognitive and social environments in which twenty-first century life will take place (a shift in the way our culture operates). For this reason, participatory media literacy is not another subject to be shoehorned into the curriculum as job training for knowledge workers."  - Howard Rheingold, Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies  

"Those of us striving to integrate participatory media literacy practices into our classes often face resistance.  Other faculty might argue that we are turning away from the foundations of print literacy, or worse, pandering to our tech-obsessed students. Meanwhile, students might resist too, wondering why they have to learn to use a wiki in an anthropology class. The surprising-to-most-people-fact is that students would prefer less technology in the classroom - especially participatory technologies that force them to do something other than sit back and memorize material for a regurgitation exercise. We use social media in the classroom not because our students use it, but because we are afraid that social media might be using them - that they are using social media blindly, without recognition of the new challenges and opportunities they might create.   - Michael Wesch, Participatory Media Literacy: Why it matters

Teachers are using college-wide blogging tools or free blogging services for different disciplines as a way to address  e-portfolios, audience, publishing practices, copyright and plagiarism, authentic writing and writing in a digital age with hypertext.

It was only a few years ago that when I did a presentation on blogging I would have to explain that blog = Web + Log. In the early days, most blogs were in the personal “diary” genre, so educators did not take them very seriously. I think there are more public forum style blogs on a particular topic (politics, hobbies, disciplines...). And there are definitely more corporate and commercial blogs out there. The pros are taking over. Take a look at Technorati's top blogs and it is completely dominated by pros.

I saw this matrix back in 2003 on a blog post by Scott Leslie and it first set me thinking about blogs in education. He wrote: "To help facilitate this discussion and my own thinking on it, I’ve worked up this matrix of some of the possible uses of blogs in education. A big caveat here - this matrix very much approaches the topic in the context of ‘formal’ education, and only really considers students, instructors and ‘the rest of the net’ as actors. Obviously one could add much to this - librarians, institutional RSS feeds … That’s why I titled it ‘Some’ uses of blogs in education. Even just considering this limited set of actors, I have definitely left much off."

I'll be curious how many in my audience are bloggers or blog readers. [Post-Presentation Update: Everyone had read a blog at least once. Two people write regularly on a blog. No one used a blog reader.] In the 2006 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 39% of Internet users (57 million American adults) said they read blogs which was an increase of 27% from 2004. Then a study by Universal McCann (March 2008) determined that there are 184 million blogs worldwide and 26.4 million are in the United States. There are 346 million readers worldwide with 60.3 million being Americans and 77% of active Internet users reported that they read blogs.

So what do blogs offer teachers and students?

- online discussion through time-stamped comments

- a video and podcasting platform

- posting via email & cell phone

- free web space for class materials, portfolios, projects

- minimal web design skills required

What types of blogs are being created?

- Journalism (politics) & convergence journalism (NY Times)

- Promotional tool – corporate, product blogs

- Community of interest – poets, software (non-corporate)

- Personal writing

- Media delivery– Vlog (Video), Photolog, linklog, sketchlog (artist portfolio), podcasting

Where are blogs headed?

I think it's unfortunate for educators that Tumblelogs (like tumblr.com), microblogging (short posts using Twitter) and Moblogs (via mobile phones) are coming on strong. Some observers claim that students are writing more than ever (though the writing is not what we would call "academic") and others feel this is not a trend that will encourage more writing by our students.

A good topic to discus with student bloggers is the conventions of the blogosphere.

- the need for regular posting

- using hyperlinks to additional materials & sources

- referencing other blogs via links

- the blogger writing style (Is it all less formal?)

- allowing/encouraging comments, interaction and the sharing of contentNG STARTED 

For blog hosting, I use and have my students use the free blogger.com (from Google) but others use livejournal.com, wordpress.com. A education specialty is edublogs.org where you can create your own ad-free fully featured WordPress blog including free assessment tool from the Chalkface Project and an ad-free wikispace. 

Your students might be familiar with sites such as MySpace.com, Vox.com which offer blogging, but I stay away from them for coursework. I also don't use any of the paid services such as typepad.com. All these sites offer free templates for blog designs and you can customize if you know something about HTML & CSS.

Some early lessons you might approach with students:

- Your blog should have a basic “mission statement” or “about” that shows the intent of the blog

- Who is your audience? think about both an ideal reader & your emerging audience needs

- Developing a voice

- Conventions, formality

- Citation, copyright

Blog writers need to be blog readers, so it's worth saying something about subscribing to blogs using RSS and services that aggregate your subscriptions in one place. Bloglines.com or Google Reader will allow you to pull blog posts that you have subscribed to and show you unread entries all in one place. You can browse their directories in different categories and see what is popular. All it takes to add a site is a click.

As examples of some student blogs, I can point you to a few of my students from last semester who were using blogs as a type of supplement to their design portfolio with the posts being reflections on course modules, and they were using their blogs as a tool for web design.




Another class blogging project that I can reference is one that I saw at a conference. It was called "Blogging for Dollars" and was done by Jonathan Goodman, a business professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He had students do blogs as a way of examining firsthand the growth of online advertising dollars. His students built individual blogs, chose subjects from horticulture to who is hotter, installed Google's AdSense advertising application and analytics program and trying to earn some ad dollars! Then, they analyzed who visited, when, and how they spent their time on the blog. It's not really a writing activity as much as a business lesson, but perhaps they learned that well-written posts drive traffic.

Some Colleges Blogging As Marketing using students as bloggers



Ball State University http://www.bsu.edu/reallife

St. Thomas (Minnesota) www.stthomas.edu/admis/undergraduate/blogs/

University of Vermont Admissons http://adms.blog.uvm.edu

University of Sydney http://blogs.usyd.edu.au/sydneylife/

http://archinect.com  collects blogs by architecture students at schools all over the world.

I like having students look at Corporate Blogging too to get a sense of what "pros" are doing with blogs. Google has a number of blogs   http://googleblog.blogspot.com/ and Sun Microsystem's offers blogs to "any Sun employee to write about anything"  http://blogs.sun.com.  Like other tech companies, Microsoft has several public product blogs, like this one for its Internet Explorer browser  http://blogs.msdn.com/ie/

It's also interesting to see the "convergence journalism" happening at "old media" sites like the New York Times which has a number of bloggers. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/topnews/blog-index.html  Back in the early days of blogging (5 years ago), many of those Times blogs would have carried versions of print materials, but most print publications have significant amounts of original material running on blogs as "web exclusives."

Finally, I would point students to some media blogs that use video, images, or audio either exclusively or as the major content of the blog. Ian Shive is a nature photographer who has a photoblog that supplements his website and is a great marketing tool. There are lots of photo blogs at Reuters too.

I'll end with a funny and clever blog that I've been reading for a few years called INDEXED that is a daily index card with a hand drawn chart, graph, diagram. This is one hat started as a little Blogger project and became a book.


Learning through Blogging: Graduate Student Experiences By Robert Davison, City University of Hong Kong

One last Call For Paper Proposals for my NJCEA panel on teachers blogging.   Details and contact info