There’s a whole new world out here on the web and I want to be part of it. Sometimes I get frustrated because I can’t always absorb it all as fast as I would like to. I tend to make it more difficult than it is. Then I get mad and walk away saying,’the hell with that…forget it,’ but the next morning I’m back at it. When I do learn something new, I wonder why I found it so difficult in the first place. The prospect of your visit, Priscilla, really pushed me into acquiring new computer skillsI. I needed that push and I thank you for it.
Blogs have enabled me to be brave enough to share my fun drawings done with a WACOM and to delight in combining story and painting. Other's stories send me to my drawing pad and their pictures to poetry. The feedback through comments is so joyous." — Fran Sbrocchi
It is now an urban myth that a blog is simply an online diary that is used by the self indulgent to pump up their egos.
For those who are unfamiliar with what blog is we need to provide a little background. The emergence of Blogger changed the dynamics of web publishing. Blogger, a word coined by Pyra Labs, is a service that provides Web-based tools used by individuals to publish directly onto the Internet. The word “blog” is a shortened form of “web log”, or web-based journal. Inevitably the word was shortened to just “blog” and the verb “to blog” was born.
For many, web journals or blogs are an alternative to mainstream media while the majority of users perceive maintaining a blog to be a hobby. However, weblogs have become accepted in school, library, information science, and corporate settings. The large number of educational blogging sites on the Internet attest to the growing popularity of this medium among educators.
Visit WordPress, create an account and ask for a blog. Acquiring a blog is the easy part and the good news is that it is all free. Take your time over deciding what your username will be because this username will become a part of your new web address with WordPress. For example, if you choose the username johndoe your new web address will be email@example.com
Global Teacher and Global Student provide an environment for teachers and students. This system is powered by WordPress so anything you learn about WordPress can be applied here.
When you create your first blog you will be sent an email which provides a password. Once you have an account and are logged in, when you visit the WordPress site you will see a screen that lists all your blogsIf you are added to another blog at Soul Food this blog will be listed on your dashboard. You can make as many blogs as you like. Each is listed on this dashboard.
When you click the hyperlink on the dashboard you will be taken directly to another dashboard, which is the nerve centre of your blog. It is this dashboard that you will need to become familiar with.
Each blog has its own dashboard and this is where you post, make alterations and design the appearance of your blog. All blog management happens here.
WordPress provides you with a very basic template. It is up to you to make changes to this, but do not be alarmed because this is half the fun. You do not have to build Rome in a day. During the coming days experienced bloggers will offer some tips about how to make changes to the sidebar, the header and so on.
If you type in your new web address it will take you to your page. You can save it as a favourite. Then you can enter your dashboard from the link under Meta called Site Administration.
Now that you are a member of the WordPress community we can invite you to join a team blog here at Soul Food. All we need is the email address that you used to sign up. Then we add you as a USER by going to that part of the blog dashboard. You will receive a notification that you are a member, the blog address will appear on your dashboard and you will be able to start posting and participating. This is when the real fun begins.
The Magic Garden is a purpose built, collaborative blog. It exists as a container for work teachers and students do in response to activities. Note that the username is New Literacy. This then becomes a part of the blog's address and helps to define the purpose of this container.
At Hawkesdale P -12 they cannot believe how far some students have come in five short months since they were introduced to this project.
Examine Our Backyard and you will also be amazed at what has been achieved and captivated by just what is possible in this setting.
P: Here’s a piece of paper and some pens. I want you to trace your right hand and share the five magical things that you have learned about creativity and the web at the Soul Food Cafe.
L: Okay, sure! This will be fun……….Right, here it is.
by Lori Gloyd
When Priscilla set out from Australia, few of us here at Soul Food realized how this delightful little witch would infuse her host's imagination and propel them to assemble a range of Web 2.0 tools to help publish memories of their time together. This highlights the reality that most people need a purpose in order to engage.
Every day new web tools, designed for people of all ages, keep appearing. Over the coming days we will be looking at and test running many of these. But, before we start talking about Flickr, Writeboard, Photostory, Photoshop, ipods, UTube etc it makes sense to build space to display and show off all the things you make using these toys.
A blog is that space. A blog is like a container. It is a gallery, a shop front window, a place where you can show like minded people what you have achieved. These days tourists don't keep hand written journals. They make blogs and turn everyone green with envy by displaying their latest pics. Families who live apart set up blogs as a means of communicating, artists use blogs to create their own art galleries. Indeed, there is no limit to what you can do with a blog. Action groups can use them to weld a group together, teachers can have class blogs, you can monitor your bad hair days if that amuses you.
Today we will create a blog at WordPress. There are plenty of other groups who offer blogs but Soul Food uses WordPress blogs so if you are considering joining us it it the program to learn. Once you have an account with WordPress we will be able to add you to blogs that have many participants (users) posting on the one blog. Teamblogging is addictive.
photograph by Lori Gloyd
I must say I am having a marvelous time visiting with blog writer Lori Gloyd, author of Into the Blue and Return to the Garden. She has really shown me the town. Since I am on assignment for Web Witchery Weekly, we are taking a few minutes to be serious and discuss issues of technology and creativity. Lori has taken me for supper at a local diner near the beach. I conducted the following interview while waiting for our meal to be served.
Priscilla: I know you may find this hard to believe, Lori, but before I began my journey I didn’t even know how to switch on a computer. A lot of my friends hate computers and resist being web savvy. Are your friends like this?
Lori: (LOL!) You’re kidding me? The Queen of Cyberspace couldn’t switch on a computer? Well, there’s hope for all of us, I think. To answer your question, most people I know use their computers for practical purposes- e-mail correspondence, keeping their financial or personal records– or for light recreation-surfing the web, playing music or watching movies, that sort of thing. I am the only one in my circle who uses computer technology for creative self-expression.
P.: Why do you suppose some writers and artists don’t use these tools?
L.: Well, I think most people have a natural reluctance to reveal their creative works to the world for fear of ridicule. Truth be told, that is possible, but the alternative is never having your work seen or enjoyed by those who WOULD appreciate it. Web-publishing has been a most amazing and wonderful gift for creative people for this reason, but unfortunately, it is not highly regarded by some.
P.: Why do you think some people do not treat web publishing seriously?
L: I think one of the reasons is that many people assume that if any person, regardless of education or credentials, can be an instant author, then their work cannot possibly be “good.” Similarly, some might assume that if a creative product is any “good”, then it would be appear in a hard-copy publication. For some reason, the perception of being in print on paper is more “real”. For many, the free and instantaneous nature of web-publishing devalues the worth of the creative product.
P: But obviously you don’t think that.
L.: Of course not. I think web-publishing offers to the world new ways of thinking and exposure for writers and artists who would never have the opportunity otherwise. Like me! (LOL!) Also, there is more creative liberty in web-publishing.
P: How so?
L.: Since I don’t have to worry about creating a product that is going to be considered by a publisher as economically viable, I am totally free to write or create whatever I wish. Furthermore, none of us need to be enslaved to the personal tastes of literary and art critics who decide what is “good” or “bad.”
P: What has become the most rewarding aspect of working online?
L.: Finding other people who think just like this. I get a certain amount of support from some of my friends and family, but it wasn’t until I got involved with team-blogging that I found the understanding and support that comes from connecting with like-minded artists and writers-the ones who really “get it”- that is, people who truly understand the innovative and evolving realm of Web 2.0.
P.: That’s wonderful. Whenever I look at or visit the Soul Food Café, it seems like an inexplicable maze. What do you think I should do to become more actively involved? What do I really have to learn to do before engaging?
L.: First, you need to get over the fear of putting your work out there. So what if it’s not “perfect”? Every time you write or make something and expose it to an audience, you learn something about yourself and your craft. You find your “voice”. Things like proper grammar or spelling, or in the case of art-making, technical skill, will improve as you continue.
BUT, let me give you a cautionary note here: I am talking about putting your creative and intellectual work out there. I am not talking about putting personal information out there about yourself or your family and friends. Cyberspace is truly a wild and wooly frontier and there are a few unscrupulous people out there. If you are not sure, ask a teacher or other mentor before you post. Be expressive but be cautious.
P.: I couldn’t agree with you more, Lori.
L.: That being said, the second thing every writer and artist needs is a bit of discipline and commitment. At best, you should write or make art daily, but at least on a regular, frequent basis. There’s no secret for accomplishing this-you just have to make up you mind to do it.
Third, take action and get a blog. Simple blogs are free. I am familiar with Wordpress and Blogger. There are others. Find any that you like and set up a blog. The blog is your blank canvas. Once you get started, and this I guarantee, you will amaze yourself with the words and images that spring forth.
Fourth, you need to find a virtual community of supportive, like-minded people. It might be your classmates or it might be a group like the Soul Food Café. And, don’t sit back and be quiet in these groups. Even if you don’t create or write something every day, you can comment and offer supportive words to the other members of your creative community.
P.: Technology clearly encourages people to become agile and adaptive. I guess, like me, they are accustomed to keeping upright on a broom. Have you found you have had to be resilient? Does this Web 2.0 stuff keep you on your toes?
L.: That leads me to my final point. You must be willing to learn about and experiment with new things. For example, a year and a half ago, I knew nothing about blogging and online communities. Now I am fairly competent with Wordpress, Yahoo Groups, and Flickr, plus programs like Photoshop and Illustrator which I learned as my own art-making evolved. You’re going to laugh at me, but I only recently learned that all this has a name: Web 2.0. Who knew? (LOL!)
P: Your blogs are just amazing Lori. Obviously you now have a virtual toolbox at your disposal. What web tools have become indispensable to you?
L.: Thank you, Priscilla. I appreciate that. Well, besides the tools I just mentioned, I am learning how do better research online for my projects. I don’t know what I would do without Google. But, let me add that not everything on the web is accurate so you have to be discerning about your sources. Your teachers or other experts in a given field can guide you in using web-based sources. Oh, yeah, (LOL!), you may be surprised to know that just recently I discovered YouTube!
P.: Really? That IS funny. What have you found most challenging about working on an interactive, Web 2.0 site like Soul Food? How has technology changed your creative life?
L.: To answer your first question, the fact that the technology does change so rapidly, I find keeping up is a bit of a challenge. If you don’t keep up, you’ll get left behind. So when I encounter a new application or tool, I give it a try. I may not incorporate it into my toolbox, but at least I try to familiar with it.
In answer to your second question, technology has changed my creative life by giving me a creative life. Because I have these tools and access to a world-wide audience, I have been prompted to write and create more often and to explore new areas. My evolution as a creative person has been extraordinary. I’m not kidding you.
P.: Lori, that is absolutely spot-on. Well, I think our dinner is coming…I want to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions.
L.: My pleasure, Priscilla.