blogs, Learning Technologies, Reflections

I Tumblr For You… To Reflect.

The Fall semester has been kicked into full swing. I like the smell of a fresh class schedule, used textbooks and new beginnings in the air. This semester I am making a transition to a new job with the Office of Exploring Majors in the Undergraduate Studies department at UNT. This is a new(ish) office on campus that was formed to help support undecided and undeclared majors at the University of North Texas. My new gig (that officially starts tomorrow) is working with these “undecided” students to help support effective academic/life transition into university and explore major/career options.

With this new role, I am instructing a section of the UCRS 1000 – First Year Seminar for Major/Career Exploration. I have been fortunate to teach similar course curriculum at Niagara University and Miami University, so I thought I would take a different spin on student reflections and processing of the various course themes.

I am a fan of blogging as a form of reflection, ideas sharing and document of experiences. I have been blogging with WordPress and Blogger for quite some time. I think that blogs are great spaces for learners to share and archive their transition and exploration in the first semester. For this course, I have decided to explore Tumblr as a blogging platform.

Since Tumblr has been ranked higher than my fav WP blogging engine, I thought it would be best for me to test out this favored space for blogging. I thought the UCRS 1000 course would be a great opportunity to learn (for myself and many of my students) how to use Tumblr and share reflections. In previous posts, I have shared with my thoughts on how digital literacy is lacking among our undergraduate students — so why not model & use an online tool with purpose to learn?

Start Tumblin’

Here are a few resources I have used to set the students and instructors up for success when implementing Tumblr into an learning curriculum: 

1. Create your OWN Tumblr account. Play and explore with the blogging platform FIRST. Make it your own. Learn how to use it before you decide you want to use it for a class. Post videos, images, texts, and follow others online.

2. Set up a “go to” class Tumblr Blog. This will be a space for general class announcements, information, resources and model your blogging expectation for your learners. Here is the blog I created for my class this Fall semester: 

3. Outline and post a step-by-step approach that is simple & easy to follow both online on the class  Tumblr blog AND in your course syllabus, for example: HOW TO: Create A Tumblr Blog for UCRS 1000 (Thanks to the folks at MakeUseOf for their “how to” ideas for Tumblr

4. Provide students with insider tips for Tumblr that will be RELEVANT for the class objectives:

  • Follow a blog or two: Encourage the class to “follow” the primary class blog; ask students their preference for sharing and following other Tumblr blogs with their peers
  • Uploading a photo: need to find an online JPG or other photos form website sources
  • Privacy: create a primary Tumblr and then a 2nd Tumblr blog for the class if they want to keep it private (but give the instructor a password so they can read posts)
  • Tumblr suggestions:  there are many that are suggested, but let learners know they are NOT required to do this
  • Dashboard: When logged into Tumblr you will always return you to the Dashboard view; which is good since this is where text, photos, videos, quotes, etc will be posted and where you can read other blogs that are being followed

5. Academic Expectations: Detail your expectations and purpose for the Tumblr blog posts. Learners need to understand the WHY they are blogging and what you hope they will get out of it for the class. Also detail the specifics of what you require for your each blog post. For example, I told students that images, videos or quotes are welcome since it is a blog; however they are required to include a minimum of 600 words that address each assigned  blog topic. Suggest that students draft blog posts in Word document or a text editor before posting online to check for spelling, grammar & proper sentence structure. 

6. Follow and/or Bundle: It is easy to “follow” your student back on Tumblr in order to read and learn what they are reflecting about over the semester; however I have found it easier to group the Tumblr blog URLs into a single Google Bundle on my Google Reader (since that’s where I read blogs, news and other updates on a regular basis). These bundles are easy to share with other instructors, TA’s or students in the class as well. 

I will keep Tumblin’ along this semester, and keep you posted on how this learning experience goes. Do you use Tumblr for learning or teaching? If so, please share your tips, thoughts & experiences.
AcAdv, blogs, Micro-Blogs, Photo Sharing, Social Media, web 2.0

Engaging & Communicating with Students Online – Advising 2.0

To be an effective Academic Advisor and Student Affair professional, it is important to engage with your students. Social media and web 2.0 are just a couple of ways to start to share, collaborate and connect with learners. Online communication with our college & university students is one of the first few ways they learn about our resources and services. What does YOUR digital identity (office, department or personal) say about YOU?

Here are a the slides & resources from today’s Innovative Educators webinar – Advising 2.0: Engaging & Communicating with Students Online. I was fortunate to be able to present with @oakvich from the UNLV Academic Success Center, who has some excellent expertise in social media & student success initiatives.

This is the first of 3 webinars for IE’s Advising Technology series. If you are interested in this, stay tuned for more resources for the following upcoming sessions:

blogs, EC&I831, Learning Community

Blogging for Learning & Learning to Blog

I sat back to ponder why I blog, and why I take the time to read other blogs. Here are a few reasons I thought of off, the top of my head:

  • reflection
  • to share knowledge and resources
  • news & information acquisition
  • a research starting point
  • connection to peers in my field of study/work
  • a sounding board for ideas/questions/thoughts
  • to be part of a community

In thinking about education and reviewing the above list, I can see why blogging is an effective means for contextualizing and mentoring learners. Sue Waters mentors educators on effective blogging and web 2.0 resources on EduBlogs. She delved into the topic of blogging for learning and connection during last week’s #eci831 weekly session on Elluminate.  The concept of blogging in the classroom, leads to a transparent educational process for students. Learners are able to share ideas and be empowered in their digital learning community. Blogging can deeper understanding of knowledge and course content, while challenging students to participate in an open, expressive forum.


Image from the Algebra Learning Networking website 

It was interesting to learn how other students in the class viewed blogging for learning. Some are unsure about how to include blogs, while others want to ensure engagement and purpose in their learning environments. Here’s the #eci831 class brainstorm for our Thoughts, Challenges or Concerns about blogging:

    • how do educators best define learning outcomes to give purpose?
    • spam
    • how to get students to buy in
    • how to engage students; keep them interested and on task
    • most important aspect in my class
    • assigned topics or more creative original ideas
    • what to write
    • learning in a public forum – putting yourself out there
    • loosing the meaning for the learning objective
    • long term use
    • safety of students and liability
    • privacy concerns for parents
    • how to move teachers towards these ideas
    • non-standard views of students
    • open or closed environments for students?
    • teachers blogging as PD, nervous about putting their ideas out there
    • do all students feel confident in their posts
    • what to have the students blog about
    • how to move teachers away from seeing blogging as a tech ‘add

Final thoughts from Sue, was actually in the question form:

What are 3 questions (and why) you would like answered on educational blogging or building personal learning networks?

So here are my 3:

  1. What are some of the key privacy concerns for educational blogging? And how educators best address these issues? Resources for either Canada or US would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Are there any examples of peer mentor blogging initiatives in education, that you know of, in K-12 or Higher Education learning environments? It would be interesting to learn more about how modelling and mentoring can help learners engage in blogging.
  3. How has your blogging practice altered (or has it?) now that microblogging (Twitter, etc) has been introduced into the blogasphere? Do you engage much in microblogging? How do you see value in it for learning?

blogs, Social Media

Characteristics of Blog Design

Today I found a great article on how to pretty up your blog, especially if you are blogging for professional reasons.  I think I will do a bit of blog design review & updates as well.


The 13 Characteristics of Outstanding Blog Design include:

1. Readability

2. Useful Sidebars

3. Unique

4. Comment Design

5. Integration of Ads (for professional blogs)

6. Effective, Usable Navigation

7. Images in Posts

8. Footer Design

9. Color Scheme

10. Icons

12. Subscription Areas

13. Social Media Integration


For those of you who are just starting out, be sure to check out these tips from PROBLOGGER that shares Blog Design for Beginners.

blogs, Collaboration, Higher Education, Photo Sharing, Social Media

Happy Birthday ACE!

For those of you thinking about implementing a new online, web 2.0 project for student learning… I say: GO FOR IT!

This is the 1 year anniversary of the ACE pilot project that was initiated at The Academic Advising & Career Centre, University of Toronto Scarborough.  Happy Birthday, ACE!


ACE (Academic & Career Explorer) is an online, peer buddy who connects with students at UTSC to share information & resources about job search, academic questions, career options and study skills support.  You can connect to ACE various ways online:

The ACE project was a fun project to work on with staff and students.  Kudos must go out to E-Lin, Suzanne, Esther & the great team of student staff at the Centre for all their creative work and on-going support.

Here’s a shot of E-Lin celebrating ACE’s birthday today with some cake (office tradition), of course: