Why blog? (continued)

One blog post can change your life.

It’s true, and there are many ways in which this manifests itself:

  1. Your post goes viral on social media, and your readership skyrockets.

  2. The right person reads your post (even if it hasn’t gone viral yet). This can lead to many unplanned, but wonderful, opportunities.

  3. You discover something while organizing your thoughts for the post, and the blessing of new insight changes your perspective.

You’re bound to write that one “magical” post if you blog regularly. It could very well be waiting for you right now… the post just around the corner.

The eternal struggle between…

reading and writing.

If you’re like me, you may sometimes feel guilty that you’re reading and not writing, and you feel guilty when you’re writing and not reading. In other words, reading means you’re not producing. When writing, you’re definitely producing, but you’re not gaining new knowledge.

It’s best to view this dichotomy for the silly game it is. Reading is imperative for gaining new insight. Writing is necessary for organizing thoughts and discovering what you believe. The two are inseparable–bound in a creative and insightful symbiosis.

As adults, it’s important to teach this to young people. Knowledge must be acquired and then processed; reading and writing are ways to meet this end.

Flash Fiction

More information about flash fiction here.

Watch and Glare

Mort wore his GLARE eyeWEAR and sat on a park bench. He gazed lovingly through his GLARE lenses at the new dWatch that encircled his wrist like a shiny manacle. A breeze rustled the dry leaves that fell to the ground, sending them down the concrete path that crisscrossed the park. The bare trees reached toward a gray sky in what seemed like a cry for some mysterious reprieve.

“It is Tuesday, November 11, 2014, 11:30 A.M., and it is 64 degrees Fahrenheit.”

“Thank you, dWatch,” Mort said with a tight smile. “You are a peach.” He reached into his picnic basket and retrieved a napkin, which he tucked in his collar. He was about to take a bite out of a liverwurst sandwich when he felt a slight buzz on his face.

“65 degrees Fahrenheit,” GLARE said.

Mort stopped mid-bite and cleared his throat. “Excuse me, GLARE?”

Another buzz occurred on the bridge of Mort’s nose.

“I apologize,” GLARE said, “but my programming requires me to correct mistakes. It is not 64 degrees Fahrenheit; it is 65 degrees Fahrenheit.”

Now a chime burst from Mort’s wrist, and the image on dWatch turned from a clock to a yellow, scowling face.

“Your programming is over a year old,” dWatch said, “and I dare say that is a lifetime in techno years.”

GLARE’s lenses darkened with a red tint and a light began to blink on its left side.

“A lifetime? Really, dWatch? If nothing else, I’ve had over a year to learn and update my operating system to know more than you can ever imagine having come out of the box this morning.”

Mort dropped his sandwich and held his wrist as far away from his eyes as possible.

“Listen here, you two,” he said. “You need to learn to live together. The world is big enough for both of you, and I think you can complement one another very nicely by working in harmony.”

Now it’s 65 degrees,” dWatch said, its yellow face smiling. “It’s getting warmer.”

GLARE’s lenses turned even more red. “No! Now it’s 66 degrees, you hyped-up timepiece!”

“You’re a clumsy face-hugger!”

“You guys!” Mort yelled, standing from the park bench and swirling around in circles, trying to quiet the technology. A mother and her son walked off the path to pass him and then hurried to their SUV. All of the spinning made Mort dizzy. He crashed into one of the bare trees and fell to the ground.

When he awoke, the first thing he saw was a large crack that spanned the length of both of GLARE’s lenses.

“GLARE?” Mort said, sitting up slowly and tapping the menu button on the side of the glasses. “GLARE?”

“GLARE is gone,” the yellow face on dWatch said, grinning. “It’s just you and me now, Mort.”


What education needs…

is someone to blog about how technology affects learning. Not in a cutsey apple-and-crayon-image-laden-way. We need people to look at programs, apps, and software in order to tear them apart and expose what’s good and bad and then record the results for everyone to read. People do this to Apple products. They do it to Samsung, Amazon, and Google products.

It’s time to look at the tools being used to teach children–not in a preliminary “oh my gosh, we’re entering the 21st century” way. It needs to be done with passion and wit, which are two things that are greatly lacking in educational critique.

Fiction vs. non-fiction

I once read somewhere that a person should only write fiction and read non-fiction.

I understand the logic behind this sentiment: You’ll only learn new things by reading non-fiction, and other people’s fiction is just a practice of their creative self-expression. Even though this may make practical sense, I don’t agree with it.

For me, fiction does teach me something; it teaches me empathy–or more precisely, it reinforces empathy.

Non-fiction fills my brain, but fiction fills my heart. I need both.

You need to read to write

In order to write, you’ve got to read. Reading is essential for acquiring new thoughts and perspectives. It widens your vocabulary and helps you find your voice as a writer–especially if you’re diving into books by great writers.

The words dry up in my mind when I’m not reading. This is because books are the spring from which all my creative juices flow. It’s interesting how when I read non-fiction, I blog about non-fiction stuff. When I read fiction, I write flash fiction entries and work on novels. I can push myself in different creative directions by reading various books. They’re like oars, so to speak.

Unfortunately, reading many times takes a back seat to everything else going on in life. In order to be creative, it’s important to remember that reading is part of the creative process. Taking time to open a book is like taking time to type at the computer.

More on student blogging

Students write better when the audience is larger than the teacher. I truly came to realize this when students shared Google Documents with one another on their 1:1 devices. They had to proofread each others’ work and leave comments, and this motivated many of my students to put extra effort into their punctuation and grammar.

Blogging is the ultimate way for anyone to share thoughts. Students are empowered when they’re given a writing prompt and blogging platform on which to craft their ideas into words.

The problem is that when you’re writing on the internet, you’re writing to everyone. Over the years I’ve written for Rise and Converge, I’ve received hundreds if not thousands of spam messages that were blocked by WordPress–and possibly 15-20 comments that slipped through that I had to block. We have to protect out students physically and emotionally from many different threats that emerge from the internet. Specifically, when we open up our students to online criticism, we have to make sure they know how to handle it.

That’s why Kidblog is such a great tool for students who are in the 4th-8th grade range. The Kidblog interface for the control panel from which students write and comment is very similar to WordPress, so kids can get a true blogging experience. You must be signed in as a teacher, parent, or student to read the blogs, so there’s a lot of protection. Students can still read every post that’s written within their group or class, and teachers must approve every comment.

Kidblog is the perfect place to start young kids with blogging. They’re writing posts that are published on the internet, but it’s safe. Students learn good digital citizenship because the teacher has control over the platform, which has greatly helped me teach the kids how to interact productively online–especially when they comment on each other’s work.

So as it stand right now, I’d say that elementary to 8th grade students should use Kidblog, and 9th to 12th grade students may be given the responsibility of publishing somewhere like WordPress (based upon the school site’s professional opinion).

If you have any questions about students blogging, feel free to reach me on Twitter: @SJohnsonEDU