Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Blogging class at the Redwood City Library

I just taught a community education class at the Redwood City Public Library, "Start Your Own Blog". Ten people pre-registered and showed up to the small computer lab in the Teen Homework Center. None had ever started a blog, but everyone had basic computer literacy and a personal email address. The blog-starters were all ages -- from middle school student to senior citizen. Roz, a librarian, and Michele, who does IT stuff for the library, helped out. I believe Roz also started a blog, "Gardening by Flashlight," as she followed along with the steps of blog creation.

Before the class began the librarians showed me their page for The Big Read, a community reading series happening in March, co-sponsored by Villa Montalvo. You can get a free copy of Farenheit 451 from the library. Some students from Mission College set up a very fancy web page with forums and a way to participate: load the page and click on "Confess" to answer their amazing questions about self-censorship. How many times today did you stop yourself from saying something? Did you pause before sending an email, or leave one unsent or unwritten? Good questions like that, and space to answer in. (I'm going to ask my English Composition students at Evergreen Valley College to participate for class credit.) You too should go and confess your moments of self-censorship to the Redwood City Library. Give them some love!

I began the class by explaining what a blog was: a web page you can update very easily, using web forms. We used Blogger. Two students had difficulty signing in, though they were using valid email addresses. The librarians helped them sign up for new gmail accounts, but that was pretty distracting for the other students!

As with any hands-on computer class, I sometimes had to pause, walk around the room, and get everyone back on the same page again. I also had to remember to say, at times, "Everyone please look up here at the screen..." to get people to look at my demonstration, rather than what they were doing.

What I didn't expect was for people to be so excited that they wanted to write lots of long blog posts! That was cool! I thought people would write "First post" and "Um I don't know what to write" and things like that. But no! I stood at the head of the room hearing the soul-warming sound of clickety click click of industrious typing, seeing the beautiful deep concentration on people's faces. It did help to ask people at some point to stop, hit publish, and remember that they could go back and edit later. I busted loose with a speech about how you could edit stuff, disinhibited, empowered and freed by the control you had over your own words. Yay, that was fun! I saw some lightbulbs go off in people's heads at that thought.

At the point where we logged out and in again, people were confused by the choice between "New Blogger" and "Old Blogger". They thought they were now Old Bloggers because they weren't New anymore - they'd already gone through the process! That made sense, but I hadn't expected it. So if anyone from Blogger/Blogspot is reading this, free user feedback for you, though you've probably already heard it.

Here's what I would do differently for the class:

- Emphasize the step during creation of the blog of writing down on paper:
-- Your login name (which is the gmail account that's being created!)
-- The URL of your blog
-- The address you will go to in order to edit your blog in future (http://blogger.com)

- add a step for telling the instructor the blog name and your login name!

- Making a link. I'd write out instructions on how to do that with the "link" button rather than typing a href etc. etc. etc.

- Log out, quit the browser completely, and start from scratch to log in again, find your blog in one window, and open a new editing window.

- I'd consider making it a 2-part class, perhaps over 2 weeks, but better yet, Monday/Wednesday or Tues/Thurs.
-- The instructor will have the list of everyone's URLs and login names, in case someone forgot on the 2nd night.
-- It could also work well as a 3 hour class with a coffee break in the middle, on a Saturday.
-- It really does need a followup to help people have continuity and a little extra practice. It's a lot of information to absorb all at once.

- An added note at the end to suggest that people go home and teach someone else, a family member, friend, or co-worker.
-- That spreads whatever cool empowerment people can get from blogging
-- Trying to teach someone else is a really good way to learn something in depth

- I forgot to mention other blogging services, some free and some not: Vox, Wordpress, LiveJournal, Typepad, and for Spanish speakers Blogalia or Blogalaxia. With a longer class or 2 classes, I would do a quick tour of those sites. Blogger is lovely, but there are other options!

Maybe the students from the class will come and leave me a comment, so I can link to them. The ones I remember are:

Philip, who wrote a mystery novel, and who used to work in TV news, and who I think I know from past meetings of the Redwood City Not Yet Dead Poets: Philip's Code.

Richard, who looked like he was in maybe 7th or 8th grade (but I could be wrong) and who came with his mom, and who is a huge star wars fan: Star Wars Freak.

A very lovely person whose name I have forgotten but who is a technical recruiter... I can't remember her blog name

A dad and his high school or college-age son, and the son was super good at it all already, and the dad was starting a blog on his personal finance business for long-term care

Esperanzamj, who started a blog about hope and creativity

Gina, who was blogging in Spanish, ¡espero que me di su blog url aquí en los comments!

The woman who has a craft business and teaches classes and makes soap and beauty care products

And everyone else. That was really a lot of fun.







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4 comments:

Robin said...

What a great project! Thanks for reviewing the "lessons learned" too. I might want to do something similar this spring in Houston.

Lori Stoia said...

It has been almost a year and my blog is still going strong.

It would be great if you could go over how to teach how to add pictures to our blogs!

Check my blog out at homemadebathproducts.blogspot.com.

Lori
(I teach the bath products classes)

Lori Stoia said...

This was a great class! After a year I am still blogging. You may check out my blog at homemadebathproducts.blogspot.com.

I am still behind the times, I do not have a digital camera to add pictures.

Linda Pettit said...

1A) I found this article when I was looking in your tag cloud for post to comment on. It caught my eye because it was under “Public Speaking”, my biggest fear. My goal is overcome my fear of speaking in public some day.

I commend you for teaching the class about blogging at the Redwood City Library. Your article is written very well and it really keeps your attention, as do your other articles. You have a gift for writing!

I like the part where you talked about what you would do differently. When I was working we always had meetings when a project finally finished to discuss what we could have done differently. The meetings were called “Post Mortems.” No, I’m not a Medical Examiner, I was a Mechanical Engineer. I always giggled when I got the meeting notice to go a Post Mortem!

1B) I plan to give the Pavilion dv4 and the Mini 1000 to two people who use the computers at our local library; http://oakhill.lib.wv.us/ I talked to Paula, the librarian, to ask her who she recommends and she has two people in mind that can’t afford a computer but could really use one. The TouchSmart will replace our Dell Dimesion Desktop, the HDX 18 will be used for our 4 person plumbing and heating business, the MediaSmart Connect will be hooked up to our TV to entertain the whole family and the PhotoSmart will print all the pictures saved up in my camera. The DVD will go to Toys-for-Tots.

2C) I recommend checking out the PalmAddict website because they introduce people to different types of hardware and software that helps them be more productive and have fun: http://palmaddict.typepad.com/palmaddicts/ Most of the posts are written by his associate writers, there are 292 and more being added all the time.

By the way, thank you for this chance to win the awesome HP Computers!

Linda