And the blog lives on

This is my first post on this blog in several years, and I’m here now because I’m supposed to speak about blogging at a conference soon. Oh, irony of ironies. I’m scheduled to do a little blog evangelizing even though I haven’t been a practicing blogger lately myself.

Luckily, that’s only partly true.

This is my first post back here, but it isn’t my only since 2010. I blog other places. It isn’t blogging itself that I took such a long hiatus from, but more specifically blogging about technology in the classroom. I think that happened for two reasons. One, I was going through some personal overwhelm in my life. Two, I was burned out on learning new technologies for the classroom. I was saturated with technology. I felt like technology was taking over all of my attention, and that I needed to get back to concentrating on writing and the teaching of writing. Also, I felt like I was being glutted with new technologies, but none of them really excited me for classroom use. I just couldn’t get into making up Pinterest assignments. Maybe a better person could have, but I was toast, and not the pretty kind of professional toast found on Pinterest either.

I tell this now because I think it is part of the story of why blogging matters. I think this is a kind of burnout that teachers commonly experience. I think the question of when technology is too much is a valid one that ought to be addressed.

I don’t have the answer to that question. I only have my own story. I can only say I’ve been there too, and I am getting back into the game of talking about technology in the classroom now because I think it matters. I think it is important to my students and my colleagues that we all talk about technology and its place in the classroom.

Thus, for the next few weeks (and who knows from there), I will be blogging about blogging and ebooks and other sundry tech topics.

Welcome back to me, and welcome back to anyone who might come along and read what I have to say. Also, there are rumors that my brother might join me soon as a blogger on this site, but we will see if that is going to happen when it happens.

Cheers, colleagues. Happy blogging.

The Book into Blog Project, Day 2

In my second day of setting up Journally, I made it to 30 prompt postings, and I added some pages. They need a lot more work. I also need to add some external links, and I want to add a WordPress plug-in that will generate a sidebar widget for showing random posts. Somewhere in there I need to go back through and make sure all of my posts are tagged and add a sidebar widget for a tag cloud. I may have to wrap presents and bake cookies first.

I’m in good shape to meet my goal of have 50 prompt postings on there by the time school starts back. I want to get up to about 200 fairly quickly after that. In my mind 200 is a nice hefty number where the blog can be left alone to stand as a product on its own rather than a process.

That’s my thinking. I’ll put a lot of work into this up front and then mostly leave it be for people to use. Maybe a few times a year I’ll add new prompts and do general maintenance updates on the site. During poetry month, for example, I might add new prompts for people trying to do poem-a-days.

This is one example of when a blog doesn’t have to be a blog. Journally is a blog, but it’s also a resource that will not have to be updated as a blog once it reaches a certain level of completion. Categories, tags, pages, parent/child designations for pages and categories all make it so much easier to use a blogging platform to create a digitally navigable book as opposed to the kind of blog that once included “frequently updated” in its definition. I believe I’ve written about this before. Now I’m working on doing it.

On Getting Journally

I’ve devoted a good chunk of the day, when I wasn’t doing laundry or last-minute shopping, to setting up a new blog. Meet Journally. It’s a blog of journal prompts for students in composition and creative writing classes, or for anyone I suppose who wants to keep a personal journal.

I still have quite a bit to do to shape it up, but I hope before the holiday break is over to have a fairly robust collection of prompts built up. Okay, my goal is to have at least 50 prompts posted before I start back to school in January. Judge for yourself whether you’d call that robust. It’s a start anyway.

I hope people will send their students to this blog, not only to find journaling ideas, but also to post pieces of their work in the comments. We’ll see if that ever takes off.

I’ve dreamed for years of putting together a creative writing exercise book, and at one time I had hundreds of those one-liner writing prompts saved. I don’t even know if I still have them. If I do, they are on my office computer. Everything posted to the Journally blog so far, I wrote last night. On a whim.

I’m basically building my book online, or at least the journal prompt part of it. That hit me as the thing to do last night when I was too buzzed to sleep from too much Diet Coke. The thought had barely brushed through my mind before I was setting up a new WordPress installation.

In other words, this is absolutely a whim. To justify deciding on the spot to blog instead of putting together a book, I’ll just say this:

(1) Books are too expensive for students. They can’t afford to buy a supplementary exercise book. They need to spend their money on the books about craft and the anthologies of writers worth emulating.
(2) I’m too inconsistent (Haphazard as it were) on writing projects to actually finish a book in a timely fashion. I start projects all the time, but reality always sets in before I can finish, and I remember I’m teaching seven sections of students who want their papers graded and returned.

I could go on and on, though thank goodness I do have enough impulse control left to spare you that. Essentially, I’m thinking that more and more “textbooks” are going to show up online in open formats. Why not make mine one of them? At least this way I’ll find out whether I’m writing anything people can use.

**Cross-posted to Writerly Haphazardry.

My Life in the Blogs: Part III, Project Blogs

Project blogs are perhaps the most useful concept for the classroom because they are devoted to a specific purpose that often has a defined beginning and end. When I first started blogging I read a lot of advice that all had to do with building a long-term audience for a blog. Update frequently and consistently for an extended period of time, the bloggers always said.

That’s good advice if that’s the kind of blog you’re after. But you don’t have to be a blogger for the long haul to make good use of the blog as a project space.

My first project blog lasted for 24 hours. Those were the terms decided beforehand. It was called Blogathon for Pearlington, and I did it with Joanna Howard to commemorate and raise money for victims of Katrina. We posted updates every thirty minutes for 24 hours. We sent links to all of our friends, and we asked them to support the hurricane recovery efforts. By the time we blogged for 24 hours and followed up for a couple of weeks, we had 81 posts, all telling the story of the small town of Pearlington and the devastation along the Gulf Coast.

We hear a lot of talk about service learning these days. Blogging for charity or to raise awareness of a cause is a great student service learning project.

Other project blogs I’ve done are A Welty a Day and Media Memoir.

I did the Welty blog to celebrate Eudora Welty’s centennial. I started out to post a new entry every day as I blogged my way through Eudora Welty’s Collected Stories. That sort of worked out. I didn’t always post every day, and I got busy and quit before I’d made it through the last section of the collection. But that’s okay. It’s still there, and I can go back to it whenever I want. I probably will at some point. Regardless, I got a lot out of doing it, and I think this kind of reading response blog is a great exercise for students. I wouldn’t require students to post every day, though. That’s tough. I’d suggest twice a week.

I set Media Memoir up as a sample electronic literacy project for the South Mississippi Writing Project. It’s a compilation of media memories just as it sounds, with links and YouTube videos and such embedded in the posts. It was lots of fun to create, and I would very much encourage similar projects with students. This kind of project is so enjoyable that you don’t notice how much you are learning from doing it.

My Life in the Blogs: Part II, Creative Writing Blogs

I’ve set up a little house of blogs at Writerly Haphazardry. Unfortunately, the reason I chose the title continues to hold true. My blogging there is haphazard at best. I’m a very busy person. For most of the year, I’m more likely the have teaching issues on my mind than anything else. Thus, there’s more to say on Teacherly Tech right now than on Writerly Haphazardry, but it’s all me, and it’s all writing I love.

The main page there is for general writing–creative non-fiction, thoughts on life and the world, or whatever. Then there are the poetry and fiction blogs in their own separate spaces: Poetry Haphazardry and Haphazard Fiction.

Most people don’t compartmentalize their blogs like this. Most bloggers probably just have one blog. I have three registered domain names just for myself, and that’s not counting the places I’ve set up on free sites like Blogger and I compartmentalize because I write a lot, and I write in many directions. I don’t assume people who read my teaching articles want to read my poetry or people who read my poetry want to read my creative non-fiction. I have separate blogs for separate audiences, but there’s actually even more to my reasoning for three domain names than that.

I’m building collections of work. My poetry blog is a book of poetry, or it will be when I put enough poems there. My fiction blog is a novel-in-progress. This is just one way books are compiled in the digital age.

The first time a poet was offered a piece of paper to write on that poet would have said, “Oooo, let me see how that works.” Not, “No thanks, I’m too busy etching on this clay tablet.” I think of myself as a poet first, and poets are naturally curious people.

Consider that when assigning student blogs. Consider how students can build beautiful and creative collections that they can feel proud of. Consider giving them some room to experiment, to fulfill their natural urges to find out how things work. Help them think of what they are doing as making a work of art rather than simply finishing an assignment.

My Life in Blogs: Part I, This Blog

I love blogs, and I can’t think of an easier way to explain to others what they might get out of blogging than to talk about my own experiences. I’ll start with where we are: Teacherly Tech. I set up this blog last spring while I was in the middle of an arts integration project on my campus. I took a few months off for summer vacation and other indulgences. Now I’m back and just really getting warmed up.

I started this blog on a whim, which is the way all of my blogs have been born, but I think I’m going to really like it because it gives me a dedicated place to think about, write about, explore, and share with others one of my favorite topics. Teaching with technology is something of a necessary interest considering all of my classes are online at the moment. It’s more than that, though. I love tinkering with new technologies. This is a perfect place to do that and explain the technologies to myself and others along the way.

The blog is run by WordPress and hosted at Siteground, where I have a paid account. It isn’t a beginner blog, but it isn’t really an expert blog either. I’m using the blog to learn more about blogging, even though I have been blogging for several years, and I’ve used multiple platforms. There’s still much to learn.

That’s one of the beautiful things about blogging. You can start out knowing nothing at all and still produce a great looking blog with great content. You can also work at blogging for years and still find plenty of challenges in it. Like the varying levels of yoga, from beginner to advanced, you can operate a blog at many levels.

It’s taken me some time to get to this one, and I want to talk about what I’ve done that I had to teach myself as I went along.

(1) This is an installed blog on a hosted site, not one generated by a free online service. Admittedly, I installed WordPress using Fantastico, which makes it all fairly simple, but still I installed it myself.
(2) The theme (or the basic design) on Teacherly Tech is called Panorama. I found it by going to Appearance and Themes and Add New to search for new themes. WordPress makes this all very simple with search and click options for installing new themes. You just have to know where to look for them. That took me some time. On the first blogs where I installed new themes, I had to do it from the host site’s control panel rather than from the administrative dashboard in WordPress. This was much more complicated. People new to hosted WordPress sites can set up really slick custom sites without ever having to understand what’s happening on the server, though.
(3) After I installed the theme, I customized it by adding my own banner image and logo image. This was easy to do in this particular theme because it allows custom changes without having to edit any css. In fact, when I looked for a theme, I searched “customizable banner.”
(4) The banner image, by the way, is just a cropped version of the logo image. I purchased this photo at
(5) I copied a script from Google Analytics into the footer of my theme so that Google would track my site visitors, and I could find out whether anyone was reading what I wrote.
(6) I added plugins to provide features like the links to share on social media sites and the link of the top of the blog to go to my Twitter account.
(7) I set up an Akismet spam filter by activating a plugin that came packaged with my WordPress installation.

That’s basically it. I may have tweaked a little more here and there, but but by going through these steps I satisfied my own desire to have a blog with what I considered to be a custom, professional appearance.

There are more steps yet to take. I want to add gravatars, and I want to add something like Feedburner for podcasting. That’s just a matter of finding the plugins that work for me (and the time to tinker with them).

I share this information to say that you don’t have to have coding-level skills to create your own custom site. I’m just clicking around and copying and pasting a little script here and there to make this site do what I want it to do. I’ve gone this route, not because I was an expert, but because I had an insatiable curiosity to find out how it is done. That’s all you need.

If all you want to do is type in your thoughts, there’s no reason to go to a custom hosted site. You can just use a free blogging service like Blogger or I wanted more creative control, and I wanted a place that gave me more chances to learn new skills. That’s why I chose a WordPress installation on a paid site. This version of WordPress does offer much more customization than the version at That customization requires more steps in the setup process, but none of them are difficult steps. Thus, you don’t have to be a techie expert to have a blog site like this one, but it helps if you are a techie enthusiast.