Tag: blog (page 1 of 6)

New blog theme

Dai Barnes reminded me on the latest episode of TIDE just how annoying pop-ups are. That led to me thinking more generally about my blog and how I wasn’t happy with the theme I’ve used here for the last six months.

As a result, I searched for a new, clean theme. I think I’ve found it in a lightly customised version of Rams. I ensured the sidebar was the same colour as my consultancy website, and that I used the same fonts.

I think it’s looking pretty good!

A new blog: discours.es

This is just a heads-up that I’ve started (another!) new blog at discours.es. I’m using it for commenting on stuff in the news that I think’s important. At the moment that’s mainly NSA/privacy/security related stuff but will change over time.

You can subscribe to the RSS feed here: http://discours.es/feed*

I reserve the right to Megazord all of the following together at some point, but for now:

While I could have extended my use of the tumblr-powered Thought Shrapnel blog for comments, I don’t like the way tumblr is a silo. And its SEO is terrible. Instead, for discours.es I’m using postach.io, a really neat system that uses your Evernote account as a content store. That means I can easily blog offline – and I’ve always got a copy of what I write locally on my machine.

I did consider Posthaven (aiming to replicate the functionality of the now-defunct Posterous) but decided against it. I like the free-at-point-of-access-and-pay-to-upgrade model. 😉


* If you haven’t found a Google Reader replacement (or don’t currently use a feed reader) may I recommend Feedly?

First Mozilla Web Literacy standard community call recording now available

Update: For the latest information on the Web Literacy standard work, head to http://mzl.la/weblitstd


Today we had our inaugural Web Literacy standard community call. I’ll not be posting the recordings of these here, but rather on a new blog we’ve created specifically for the purpose:

http://weblitstd.tumblr.com

Do join us next week if you can! You’ll always be able to find the latest details of the Web Literacy standard work on the Mozilla wiki. 🙂

Blog redesign: October 2012 edition

(Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through to see the change)

I’ve felt for a while that I should make this blog better suited to mobile interfaces and, in particular, touchscreen devices. This is known as responsive web design and I’ve been particularly impressed with Microsoft’s ‘Metro’ design language leading to a tiled approach on Windows smartphones. To my eyes it seems streets ahead of Apple’s skeuomorphism.

Yesterday, when I was browsing architecture blogs and came across the Contemporist site, it reminded me of that clean, touchscreen-friendly approach:

Contemporist blog

I did something I always do when I see blog themes I like: right-clicked to ‘View Source’ as you can tell which blog theme is being used. Judging by the CSS it’s a custom job, meaning I couldn’t simply download the same theme.

That was a shame, but it spurred me on to look for Metro-inspired blog themes. I was looking for something with a tiled, fairly squarish look but that didn’t scream Microsoft. Beautiful though it is, the Subway WordPress theme (from €39) was out of the question. I’d have looked like a Microsoft fanboi:

Subway Metro theme for WordPress

I also found the MetroStyle theme ($45), which I rejected for having too many boxes at the top:

MetroStyle WordPress theme

I downloaded and installed the WP Metro theme (£FREE), but I had trouble making it look decent with my content:

WP Metro theme for WordPress

In the end, after considering signing up to a course to get the Anaximander theme, I decided to pay $35 for a WordPress theme entitled Metro:

Metro theme for WordPress

Like many premium themes it comes with an extremely easy-to-use configuration dashboard in addition to the usual WordPress options. Nevertheless, old habits die hard and I delved into the CSS to tinker about a bit!

I hope you like what you see, and if you want to see the ‘responsiveness’ in action, either resize your browser window or visit this site on a mobile device. It’s only my first attempt – I’ll be tinkering around making improvements here and there over the next few weeks.

Any feedback is gratefully received!

Notes:

Working for an Academy vs. working for JISC infoNet [visualisation]

Back in 2009 when I was Director of e-Learning of The Northumberland Church of England Academy I started tracking my own activities.

Using a private WordPress-powered blog with the P2 theme, I quickly logged what I was up to, adding tags as I went. Below is the tag cloud after one month of using the system as a Senior Leader in an newly-minted Academy:

Doug's work record - search for 'Google Apps'

As you can see, the following tags were prevalent (I don’t think I included teaching in there for some reason!):

  • Google Apps (I was responsible for deploying it across the 9-site Academy)
  • Elearning (obviously)
  • Meetings (lots and lots of these)
  • Email (a necessary evil)
  • Dan Brooks (an M.Ed. student from an Australian university whom I mentored during extended teaching practice)
  • Training (I led plenty of sessions)

Doug's work blog (2012)

The above screenshot is from yesterday, soon after finishing my two-year stint as Researcher/Analyst at JISC infoNet. Apart from changing my avatar and tweaking the colour scheme, what’s changed?

  • The email tag is much larger in this cloud. I was working in an office rather than a school, after all.
  • JISC, JISC Advance and JISC infoNet unsurprisingly figure a lot.
  • Google Apps remains there as I implemented and supported the system for the 19 JISC Advance services.
  • Mobile Learning infoKit is there as it was a major piece of work for me during my time at JISC infoNet.
  • Digital literacies features due to my work in the area and programme support for the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme.
  • Patrick Bellis was my boss at JISC infoNet and Sarah Knight the JISC programme manager with whom I had the most dealings.
  • Other people’s names feature as well – interestingly Dan Brooks (M.Ed. student at the Academy) is still there three years later. Just goes to show how intense that period was!

Finally, you can see that wiki and Skype are small but significant in the tag cloud. I’ve never worked for an organisation that had better knowledge management and procedures than JISC infoNet. The internal wiki had everything you needed to work effectively and was an active, living repository of information. Skype is used extensively throughout JISC, sometimes for calls, sometimes for ‘backchanneling’.

If you’d done something similar which tags would YOU expect to show up?

The 10 most popular posts of the first half of 2012 are…

36,000 unique visitors* have stopped by this blog since the beginning of 2012. Nice.

What are you all looking at? Not what I would have thought.

Shipping containers

1. This is why teachers leave teaching.

Effectively just a commentary on Mark Clarkson’s stellar post. Almost 4,000 unique visitors to that one.

2. Announcing my new e-book: ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’ (#digilit)

Pleasing, but subscribers have tailed off since the initial flurry. Around 150 now signed up.

3. My TEDx talk on ‘The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies’

To be fair, Iwas expecting this to be popular, as TED-related stuff gets huge amounts of traction. Almost 2,500 people have now watched me pontificate about pictures of cats.

4. Journals, academia and the ivory tower.

I didn’t expect many people to want to engage with the open access journal debate but it seems that the post was timely.

5. Why I’m becoming a MoFo(er).

People seemed genuinely delighted when I announced I was joining the Mozilla Foundation. Which was nice.

6. How to create searchable notes from books using Evernote and your smartphone.

I thought this was obvious, but was asked to write it up. Perhaps it is obvious and people just came to check…

7. Web literacy? (v0.1)

It’s good to see that my work around web literac(ies) is popular – given that I’ll be splitting my time between working on it and evangelising Open Badges from now on!

8. Why the knowledge vs. skills debate in education is wrong-headed.

Wow! I only wrote this last week. I must have touched a nerve.

9. Digital literacy, digital natives, and the continuum of ambiguity (#openpeerreview)

I got many more comments than I expected with my Open Peer Review experiment. Amended article forthcoming.

10. You need us more than we need you.

This was the precursor to Journals, academia and the ivory tower (number 4 on the list)


Of course, posts I’ve written in previous years also remain popular. It would seem, for instance, that I should write more on procedural stuff around Google Apps (yawn!), explore further the links between leadership and emotional intelligence (possible!) and suggest yet more ways to make ‘textbook lessons’ more interesting (unlikely!)

Image CC BY-NC-SA Lightmash

*For some reason (probably user error) Google Analytics wasn’t tracking visits between April 10th and May 6th. So you can probably add another 6,000 to that number.

Surfacing stuff you may not have seen.

Every now and again I look at the Google Analytics profile of this blog. I’m usually pretty surprised by what I find.

Google Analytics

I write predominantly about education, technology and productivity. With a little bit of other random stuff thrown in. So guess which blog posts have been consistently in my top twenty most accessed?

These ones:

Notice that these were all written in 2008 or 2009, a time when I was first E-Learning Staff Tutor at at school in Doncaster, and then Director of E-Learning at an Academy in the North East.

So it turns out that people like practical, research-based stuff they can apply immediately. My inaugural reader survey told a similar story. Perhaps I need to re-focus my efforts. Which is difficult when I’m an office-based researcher…

You need us more than we need you.

I’ve exhorted readers of this blog more than once to subscribe to Dan Meyer’s blog. It’s ostensibly about the teaching of mathematics, but the tangents are just fantastic.

Read the following, taken from a panel session Dan took part in (he’s now a PhD student):

I’m a grad student in my second year and I’ve never shared this with anybody here, least of all my adviser, who’s in attendance, but I don’t understand the incentive structure for what you do and what I may do someday. You write amazing things and you study amazing things and you write them compellingly in journals that are not read by practitioners very often. They affect a lot of policy, which I think is a really good, top-down approach. But then I’m over here and I can post something that’s seen by 10,000 people overnight. That’s the number of subscribers I have to my blog right now. Or any number of these things. So the incentive seems strange to me. Like I don’t understand this brass ring I’m chasing. It seems like a strange prize at the end of a finish line of grad school. So there’s the question and then there’s also the encouragement. You have so many soapboxes available to you. Find a kid like me and ask him how to do a webcast or something. You have so many — and to restrict yourself to peer review, I don’t know. There’s very little upside to me, it seems.

I feel this, and so do many others my age and with similar higher level qualifications.

So what are you (the academy) going to do about it?

Take my inagural reader survey. It’ll take 5 minutes, tops. Promise.

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QHWSDXX

The survey is now closed. Thanks for your interest!

(9 questions + bonus for chance to win hard copy of Best of Belshaw 2011)

2012 Reader Survey

Over the years I’ve added things and taken away things from this blog. I’ve experimented with tone, titles, blog post length and use of images. But really I need to know more about YOU, my audience. So please do take five minutes to fill in this survey so I can write stuff that’s more likely to resonate.

I’ll select three people at random who leave their name and email address in the last (optional) question to receive a paperback copy of Best of Belshaw 2011.

I look forward to sharing the results!

Image CC BY-NC-SA Zoppola

Best of Belshaw 2011 now available!

Best of Belshaw 2011As is now customary, I’ve collated the best blog posts I wrote last year (determined by PostRank and personal choice) and put them into handy book form.

It’s FREE and available to download now.

Download Best of Belshaw 2011

Also available:

I’ve got an idea for a book on The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies as well as an updated version of #uppingyourgame: a practical guide to personal productivity.

Be sure to subscribe to RSS or email updates to keep on top of these developments!

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