#Print2Pixel Unconference: Being a Better Blogger

Last Saturday I attended the 2nd annual Print to Pixel unconference. I helped found and organize the original unconference but had to take on a smaller role this year as a presenter. I love this conference because we draw so many K-12 students. In fact this year more sessions were student run than teacher lead.

I had two roles this spin around: help with our Hangouts on Air sessions and to present and attend the sessions.All of the sessions presented  revolved around being a better blogger.

Many of the students and teachers wanted guidance in how to effectively use blogging in their personal and professional learning. Thus I scrapped my idea of focusing on stop motion animation and pulled together two ideas: Flipping SSR into RSS and Exploring New Mediums for Publishing (I also did an impromptu lunch session on using Pixlr when students asked if anyone could teach Photoshop).

Flipping SSR into RSS

I have a rule for unconferences: no slide decks (unless explicitly required such as an ignite session) so I cannot share my slides. I did try to stream my RSS session live on Hangouts on Air (I did not have a webcam so you are often looking into space)

In this session I detailed how I used Feedly to track student blogs and use Feedly for students to create interest driven text focused on personalized learning.

 Tracking Student Blogs

I use my RSS feed, specifically Feedly, to create a classroom list of student blogs. Many teachers who use blogs in the classroom not connected to an LMS system (like Edublogs or kidsblogs) need a method to track and connect with their young writers. I demonstrated in this session how I create class lists, link to the websites in order to comment, and add tags of common themes I find.

What I love most about using RSS feeds with student writers is the ability to access their texts anytime. I have Feedly on my laptop, desktop, tablets, and my phone. I am always just a click away from student writing.

Creating Personalized Learning

In terms of flipping SSR into RSS I have encouraged my students to use Feedly to make individualized texts. Throughout the semester I ask them to document their learning about something not related to class. They have to build an RSS Feed, follow their topic, respond to posts, and blog about their learning.

I went through and helped the audience build their first roll in Feedly. They all wanted to know how to add Feedly to the RSS button in Chrome. Here are some easy to follow steps (like most of my tech tips from Martin Hawksey).

There was some great audience ideas around using curating tools such as Storify in combination with RSS to support learning. In the past I had students reflect on their learning in their blog posts. The audience felt a tool like Feedly would allow them to bring in resources from sites that do not have Feeds. I agree. It will be an avenue I explore.

Exploring a New Medium for Publishing

The next session I presented (though no HoA as I saw how poorly the last one turned out) focused on the use of Medium. The session was attended by some of the most prominent educational bloggers in the state and a few K-12 students. Those of us who blog regularly agreed that something about Medium drove us to try and be better writers.

We could not nail it down. We thought it might be the mix of paid and amateur writers. The beautiful typography might draw us in. The rethinking of social commenting versus stackable comments is also attractive. All of these elements draw us to Medium.

For those who do not know Medium is a blogging platform where articles, posts, and essays are curated into collections. You can follow specific authors but the real learning occurs by following collections.

What I found most rewarding  was introducing the site to a middle school student. He said he had a love for physics. Not your textbook variety physics, but the find God in the particle or in one of the eleven dimensions types of physics. We spent time searching the collections. We quickly found essays that immediately peaked his interest.

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