10 Tips to develop or enhance your blog

Public domain image from Pixabay

Public domain image from Pixabay

This post aims to highlight some simple but valuable tips you can use to develop or indeed enhance your blog.

1. Start from the blog itself

Choose a nice template and make use of the header to visually display what your blog is about. Be careful with colour – you may like dark grunge or psychedelic bright but will these colours be off putting to potential readers of your blog? Add a tagline to convey the theme of your blog posts. Create an About page and tell people about yourself and the purpose of your blog.

2. Be social

Consider your voice and tone and try to aim somewhere between informal and formal. Develop a social body language that comes over as friendly. When a post is inspired by others include their name and a link to their work which could be an article or book they have written, their blog or website; or a video they have created or are recorded in. Add links to the social spaces you use and invite readers to connect with you.

3. Encourage readers’ comments

To develop interaction with readers a call to action can be useful. Encourage readers to share their thoughts and experience. Add a simple question at the end of the post to encourage discussion. However do be sure to listen out for comments and respond where appropriate. You can choose to screen readers’ comments before publishing (therefore diminishing the risk of the odd spam that may come your way – simply delete unsavory comments).

4. Have a clear purpose

Having a specific niche area will help you to build loyal readers who share an interest in the area you are writing about. Think about your audience and write posts that will engage them. Posts don’t have to be long – consider quality over quantity. Create additional pages to share further information.

5. Offer tutorials and how to posts

What may seem simple to one person is a stumbling block for others. Write step by step guides, integrating screenshots where appropriate. Where it is more complex consider creating a screencast video and adding this to the post. Respond to questions raised by your community.

6. Promote your blog

People won’t read your posts unless they know about them. Add the option to get email updates on your blog. Use a variety of social media to share your posts and reach potential readers. On WordPress it is easy to link your blog to Twitter so that auto tweets are created each time you release a post.

7. Add sharing buttons

When someone reads and enjoys your post, make it east for them to share via social media by adding sharing buttons. People are less likely to take the trouble to copy and past the title of the post, add the link and a summary and then share via their social networks. Make it easy for them!

8. Write findable content

You don’t need to be an SEO (search engine optimisation) expert to increase the chances of your posts being found via Google. Include the keywords people would use to search for that topic in your post and in the title.

9. Ensure your blog is mobile friendly

Check that you have enabled the mobile theme on your blog (In WordPress go to Appearance and Mobile Options). Readers will then see an adjusted screen view to suit the device they are using. Don’t make readers have to stretch the text to be able to read sections of your post!

10. Proofread before posting

Read through what you have written or better still get someone else to read through the post before your release it, It is so easy to miss the odd typo.

What would you add to this list?

This post was inspired by an article written about blogging for business by Social Media Week.

Posted in Blogs | 1 Comment

How can you use Twitter to shape your learning?

Twitter bird

Public domain image via Pixabay


The useful infographic below was created by TeachThought and the University of Southern California (with permission to re-use). Thanks Anne Hole for tweeting this.

The infographic looks at two important ways to use Twitter: a) in the classroom and b) for professional development. Below are both tips from the infographic and suggestions I have added.

Using Twitter in the classroom

Find resources

  • Have students conduct interviews with experts and industry thought leaders during Twitter chats
  • Invite alumni speakers and ask students to tweet key points, then curate using Storify
  • Find creative lesson plans. education websites and classroom resources from educators using Twitter across the globe

Develop students’ thinking

  • Teaching maths? Have students analyse the statistics of a viral tweet using Twitter analystics
  • Have students tweet their thesis statements during the writing process so they can share and improve them in small groups
  • Take tweet notes during a lecture and add their own links to other resources

Engage with your professional learning network (PLN)

  • Connect with like-minded thought leaders in your area. Organise meet-ups and attend conferences
  • Take part in open online webinars or courses and tweet useful information with your network
  • Strive for 25% of your followers to be people who have unique perspectives. Don’t just focus on your own niche area or specialism.


Using Twitter for professional development

Follow education thought leaders

This may need some research as whilst some examples given such as @TeachThought and @Edutopia are useful across many disciplines irrespective of the age of our students or discipline, it is useful to build a network that meets your needs. In UK higher education my recommendations would include @Jisc, @HEAcademy, @SEDA_UK_, @QAAtweets. Then look at who these accounts follow and identify educators who are sharing and discussing information you find interesting.

Use Twitter’s search bar

Type in keywords of things you’re interested in to see what (and who) people are talking about. Find something interesting e.g. search for ‘online learning’, ‘flipped classroom’, ‘digital classroom’.

Know your hashtags

These are a valuable tool to use to follow and participate in conversations on certain topics and themed Twitter chats. Look into #edchat, #phdchat, #lthechat. Take a look at Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Chat‘s website and follow @LTHEchat to get a flavour.

Engage with your colleagues

Retweeting and favouriting useful resources, asking or answering questions, sharing resources you have found that may be of interest to peers. Remember you will get more out of Twitter if you engage in conversations. You will be surprised how much you can learn with others through informal learning in this space.

Made possible by TeachThought and USC Rossier’s online Master of Arts in Teaching degree

Posted in Twitter | 1 Comment

How to save a Periscope (@periscopeco) broadcast to your device

Periscope app

Periscope is a live streaming app that lets you share and experience live video from your mobile phone. When connected to Twitter, Periscope users can allow other users to see links tweeted in order to view the live-stream. Those watching the live stream can send ‘hearts’ to the broadcaster by tapping on the mobile screen as a form of appreciation.

You can read more about how Periscope could be used in this blog post.

The videos can be viewed live or for up to 24 hours on Periscope. They will then disappear. However it is possible to save the broadcasts as videos on your device and then you can upload to your chosen space e.g. YouTube, Vimeo or Dropbox

There are two ways you can save a broadcast.

Manual save

After ending a broadcast, tap ‘Save to Camera Roll’ or ‘Save to Gallery’ on the information panel to download the video stream to your phone. (Android users – depending on your Android device, the broadcast might save in your gallery or your video app.)

Only your video stream is saved — chats and hearts are not.


To automatically save ALL video streams to your camera roll:

  • Navigate to the People Tab.
  • Tap the Profile icon in the top right corner.
  • From your Profile page, tap Settings. (scroll down to find this)
  • Turn on ‘Autosave Broadcasts.’

Once you’re done, your broadcast should be available in your Camera Roll (iOS) or Gallery or Video app (depending on your Android device).

Further help

Periscope Help (Twitter)

Periscope Help website

Posted in Visual Communication | Tagged | Leave a comment

Digital Citizenship: Why both proactive AND experiential knowledge are important

Reinventing Writing bookI came across this book after reading an article on Edutopia by Vicki Davis, an inspirational educator known on Twitter as @coolcatteacher.

Vicki’s article is about Digital Citizenship and she shares her 9Ps for proactive knowledge. Within the book (which I have now purchased) there is a chapter specifically dedicated to reinventing citizenship, but there is also so much more and is certainly a book I would recommend to all educators.

Edutopia created an associated infographic (see below) which captures Vicki’s 9 key Ps of Proactive Knowledge.


Vicki refers to two approaches when delivering digital citizenship curriculum – proactive knowledge and experiential knowledge. (You can read the full Edutopia article here).

The proactive knowledge looks at concrete examples of how educators as role models and our students can proactively take ownership of being a safe and responsible Digital Citizens. Experiential knowledge is linking these good practice tips to real life scenarios and activities. Vicki uses current scams and cons in her classroom as discussion points with her students. For example: Snopes  (a reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation) has a section on frauds and scams e.g. phishing and identity theft. Other examples might be gathered from current news articles. There are many ‘newsworthy’ articles where individuals have not been good digital citizens, and there is much to be learnt from others mistakes.


Experiential Knowledge

In a hyper-connected world it is important we give our students the scaffolded support and knowledge they need to manage their own personal digital identities responsibly. We need to show them how to positively use digital spaces to connect, communicate and collaborate with others confidently, and consider how this might help to build their professional online profiles.

Using social media for example contributes to the digital footprints we leave behind and this can be a positive impression or a negative one. Understanding the impact of these footprints is therefore vital. However whilst talking to students about the benefits and pitfalls of online identities is important, providing activities to critique and develop exemplar profiles can help them to avoid the errors some make.

It is also important to give students activities within digital spaces so they can experience these first hand and learn how this can help to develop skills they will go on to use when they look for and find graduate jobs.

Some activities I have given my students to explore include:

  • LinkedIn
    Creating a LinkedIn profile and joining discussion groups. ‘Listening in’ to how others communicate in this professional networking space is part of the learning experience.
  • Google hangouts and Skype
    Holding a Google hangout or Skype for a group meeting; recording a segment using a screencasting tool and embedding this in a blog post to reflect on and consider their personal contributions.
  • Twitter
    Using Twitter as a search tool to identify companies the students aspire to work for and then consider how those companies are using Twitter as a communication and potential recruitment tool.
  • Good practice artifacts
    Taking the Sheffield Hallam guidance on using social media effectively leaflets and creating digital artifacts e.g. short animated videos and infographic posters


Proactive Knowledge

Vicky captures some really useful points that everyone should consider. It is important to help our students take a proactive approach and realise the importance of each of the 9Ps below.

What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship by Vicki Davis

1. Passwords
Do students know how to create a secure password? Do they know that email and online banking should have a higher level of security and never use the same passwords as other sites? Do they have a system like LastPass for remembering passwords, or a secure app where they store this information? (See 10 Important Password Tips Everyone Should Know.)

2. Privacy
Do students know how to protect their private information like address, email, and phone number? Private information can be used to identify you. (I recommend the Common Sense Media Curriculum on this.)

3. Personal Information
While this information (like the number of brothers and sisters you have or your favorite food) can’t be used to identify you, you need to choose who you will share it with.

4. Photographs
Are students aware that some private things may show up in photographs (license plates or street signs), and that they may not want to post those pictures? Do they know how to turn off a geotagging feature? Do they know that some facial recognition software can find them by inserting their latitude and longitude in the picture — even if they aren’t tagged? (See the Location-Based Safety Guide)

5. Property
Do students understand copyright, Creative Commons, and how to generate a license for their own work? Do they respect property rights of those who create intellectual property? Some students will search Google Images and copy anything they see, assuming they have the rights. Sometimes they’ll even cite “Google Images” as the source. We have to teach them that Google Images compiles content from a variety of sources. Students have to go to the source, see if they have permission to use the graphic, and then cite that source.

6. Permission
Do students know how to get permission for work they use, and do they know how to cite it?

7. Protection
Do students understand what viruses, malware, phishing, ransomware, and identity theft are, and how these things work? (See Experiential Knowledge below for tips on this one.)

8. Professionalism
Do students understand the professionalism of academics versus decisions about how they will interact in their social lives? Do they know about netiquette and online grammar? Are they globally competent? Can they understand cultural taboos and recognize cultural disconnects when they happen, and do they have skills for working out problems?

9. Personal Brand
Have students decided about their voice and how they want to be perceived online? Do they realize they have a “digital tattoo” that is almost impossible to erase? Are they intentional about what they share?


Digital Citizenship


Further resources

Reinventng Writing [Book]

Collaborative Writing in the Cloud [Wiki]

What Your Students Really Need to Know About Digital Citizenship [Edutopia]


Posted in Digital Citizenship | 3 Comments

Using Periscope (a live streamimg app) in Higher Education


Periscope app logo

What is it?

Periscope is a live streaming app that lets you share and experience live video from your mobile phone. When connected to Twitter, Periscope users can allow other users to see links tweeted in order to view the live-stream. Those watching the live stream can send ‘hearts’ to the broadcaster by tapping on the mobile screen as a form of appreciation.

For broadcasters, Periscope lets you share an experience with others. Press a button, and instantly notify your followers that you’re live. Whether you’re witnessing your daughter’s first steps or a newsworthy event, Periscope offers an audience and the power of a shared experience. Most mobile broadcasting tools feel far from live. Broadcasters on Periscope are directly connected to their audience, able to feel their presence and interact. Going live on Periscope means more than a blinking red dot.

For viewers, Periscope gives you a new set of eyes and ears. Travel the world and step into someone else’s shoes. See what they see, hear what they hear, and hopefully feel what they feel. Watching a broadcast isn’t a passive experience like television. On Periscope, viewers influence the broadcaster by sending messages, and expressing their love by tapping the screen to send hearts.


By default your broadcasts can be viewed by anyone, but you can set your broadcasts to be viewable only by those you approve.  Your followers will be notified when you start broadcasting. The live videos are called ‘scopes’ and can be replayed for 24 hours. You have the option of auto saving broadcasts to your camera roll as a video. This gives you the option to then upload to YouTube as a means of archiving. If you forget to save the recording, the alternative is to use a screen capture application such as Screencast-o-matic from your desktop to capture directly from Persicope, but this needs to be done within 24 hours of the broadcasting.

How do you use it?

Tony Vincent created this useful infographic which explains how Periscope works and some suggestions for using Periscope. These include:

  • Interviews with educators and students
  • Reflections and ideas after presentations
  • Demonstrations of websites and apps
  • Tips for using technology
  • Recaps of education conferences and events
  • Review of items recently bookmarked
  • Chats about photos taken

Other ideas I have added include:

  • Virtual campus tours on Open Days
  • Live practicals or demonstrations in the classroom, lab or workshop
  • Icebreaker activities where small groups of students interview each other, and share with the class
  • ‘About me’ clips situated in your favourite place which could be on holiday, hiking, sport or simply a place you resonate with – Thanks Prof Liz Barnes for this idea
  • Read your blog post or give a summary of a Slideshare presentation
  • Create a virtual library induction
  • Narrate a poem you have written summarising a research article read (Dr Sam Illingworth leads the way with this)

The fact that you can use this tool with your mobile device means that you can get out and about, and experiment. The scopes are only live for 24 hours and you can choose whether or not save.

Persiscope infographic by Tony Vincent

Created by Tony Vincent

Further reading

Periscope: top tips for using Twitter’s latest app Sharon Cook at Jisc

How Three Innovative Physicians Use Periscope

Cybraryman on Persiscope

The beginners to using Periscope for Education

@PeriscopeEDU  – not associated with the official Periscope but useful tweets

I’d love to hear about your ideas. Leave your suggestions in the comments or send me a tweet to @suebecks


Posted in Twitter, Visual Communication | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Understanding the concept of thick and thin Tweets (inspired by @BonnieZink)


The slide deck above was created by Bonnie Zink a fellow social media enthusiast and Hootsuite Ambassador. I first connected with Bonnie about 3 years ago when participating in the weekly #HSUchat (a tweetchat exploring the use of social media in business and personal development).

I was taken with Bonnie’s definition of thick and thin Tweets. With her permission I have embedded her presentation above and then taking each slide I have italcised Bonnie’s bullet points and responded to these below each section with my own thoughts.

Bonnie begins by asking a series of questions:

What is Twitter all about?

  • Share what you know
    ○ How will your expertise help others?
  • Learn from others
    ○ What do you need to know?
  • Make the connections that matter
    ○ Who will help you reach your goals?

My mantra about Twitter is that “Twitter is only as good as the people you follow”. The Tweets you see in your timeline are predominantly from the people you follow (plus any retweets they have posted). Choosing connections is a personal thing, however once you have a collection of people or organisations to follow, it is worth looking at who they follow as this may provide new contacts with shared interests that you would like to follow too.

When I first started using Twitter, I did a lot of ‘listening’ and found that I was learning so much from my growing personal learning network (PLN). Twitter is a social networking tool and as such is perfect for engaging in dialogues. Do reach out and ask questions.

As you build confidence you realise that you can also initiate conversations and share useful and relevant information with your connections and beyond. When your posts are retweeted a ripple effect occurs as others will also see these Tweets.


Bonnie’s next slide considers who we are on Twitter

Who are you on Twitter?

  • Content Curator
    ○ Share your unique perspective about what’s important in the world through sharing the content that matters to you.
  • Content Creator
    ○ Share infographics, blog posts, photos, podcasts, web pages, publications, events, and other content that you’ve created.
  • Content Supporter
    ○ Share content (reTweet) and engage (reply and comment) with the content shared by those in your network.

It is likely that as a new user of Twitter you will begin as a Content Supporter sharing and interacting with posts made by others. In time you will go on to gather or curate information on topics of interest to you and as a Content Curator share this with your connections. The next step as a Content Creator is where you promote content you have created yourself. Using Twitter is an ideal way to disseminate a wide range of content as not only will your followers see this, potentially they will retweet your posts and share with their followers.

I am now at the stage where I have been and continue to be a Content Supporter, Content Curator and Content Creator. I’m not sure I can separate myself as having just one of these roles. This I think is a good thing, as whilst being a Content Creator I can promote blog posts such as this, I think it is very important to support others in the work they create. Here I adopt the role of Content Curator or Content Supporter where I comment upon and share content others have produced.


Bonnie goes on to give examples of thin and thick Tweets

Tweeting: the thick and the thin of it 

Thin Tweets

  • Content lacks depth or context
  • Tweet about what’s happening now
  • Share links without comments
  • Text only tweets
  • Twitter feed is all about you – lacks reTweets, replies, and engagement
  • Twitter feed should be all about your audience, network, and connections

Thick Tweets

  • Tweet about what’s happening now, tag colleagues, and use hashtags
  • Include personal comments about why content interests you
  • Add good quality graphics
  • Actively reply to tweets
  • Engage your network by asking questions

When tweeting it is important to get a balance. A mix of thin and thick Tweets is fine. The brevity of Twitter and accessibility through mobile devices, means that we can quickly share succinct messages. Thick Tweets are clearly richer where a dialogue ensues, but this can be initiated from a thin Tweet. Adding images does enhance a Tweet as it stands out in the timeline, so has the potential to catch people’s attention as they skim through the Tweets they can see. Retweeting and acknowledging contributions made by others is not only good practice, it is also good etiquette.

Bonnie goes on to provides a number of screenshot examples of both thick and thin Tweets, so do look through her slide deck at the top of this post. Looking at Tweets through this lens has certainly got me thinking and I hope it has for you too. Thank you Bonnie!


Posted in Twitter | 2 Comments

Nettiquette and appropriate use of Web 2.0


Definitions of netiquette

  • The informal code of behaviour on the internet
  • Rules about the proper and polite way to communicate with other people when you are using the Internet
  • The etiquette of the Internet; polite online behavior
  • A breach of netiquette might include writing an e-mail message in all capital letters because it looks like you are shouting
  • Netiquette or good etiquette on the net now includes a wide variety of online spaces such as email, discussion boards, social networks, chat and texts

Advice: Think before you post

Rules of netiquette

The infographic below was created by Touro College’s Online Education Department and provides a useful list of 15 rules relating to netiquette for online discussion boards. The rules can also be applied to any social networking site or other online communication forum.

Netiquette in Online Discussion Boards infographic

Please include this attribution to the Online Education Blog of Touro College with this graphic.

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12 simple tips to get started on Twitter

Twitter logo

1 – Your Username

  • Choose a name that is easy for others to remember and use
  • Don’t make it too long as this will eat into the 140 characters if others retweet your posts

2 – Your Avatar

  • Don’t be an egghead….
    add a photo

3 – Your Bio

  • This your opportunity to create a first impression, make it a good one
  • Include a link to your blog or website within your bio

4 – Tweet regularly

By all means listen and learn, but then join in and contribute:

  • Post useful links
  • Add comments to other people’s posts
  • Ask questions

5 – Respond

  • Don’t just focus on your own tweets, read and respond to others questions and comments
  • Twitter is social so check and reply to your direct messages (DMs) and mentions from others
  • Thank others for retweeting your own posts

6 – Retweet

  • Retweet useful posts to share with your followers
  • Show your appreciation to the people you follow and acknowledge you have found it useful – they will reciprocate

7 – Consider the length

  • Don’t always use all of the 140 characters – allow space so that others can retweet your full post (which will include your username) and add a comment

8- Consider the content

  • Share tweets and information that show your expertise in your chosen field and of value to your followers
  • Engage in a dialogue: ask questions, share associated resources

9- Consider the tone

  • Be professional
  • Don’t use Twitter as a forum to vent and resist negative or sarcastic remarks
  • Have empathy and sensitivity

10 – Keep personal, personal

  • Use a DM (direct message) for personal messages meant for just one person or a selected group

11 – Getting organised

12 – Analyse link click-throughs


Is there anything you would add?

Twitter logo

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Call for papers: Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference #SocMedHe15

The inaugural Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference is to be held on 18th December 2015 at Sheffield Hallam University.  The call for papers has just gone out and closes Midday 3rd September 2015.

Full details can be found on the conference website

Do follow @SocMedHe on Twitter and updates via the conference hashtag #SocMedHE15

Below captures a snapshot from the conference page.

We are delighted to announce the inaugural Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference #SocMedHE15, a one day conference, with pre-conference dinner to be held at Sheffield Hallam University. #SocMedHE15 is about the use of social media for learning in Higher Education; it has been designed to create a forum for academics, their students, developers and strategic managers to consider the opportunities, challenges and the disruptive influence of social media for learning. The conference will be structured around three themes allowing us to explore the pedagogic possibilities of social media, as well as the strategic and operational challenges institutions face in supporting it.

The title of this year’s conference is:

“Finding Our Social Identity”

Conference aim
#SocMedHE15 will debate and examine our use of social media and its impact on the higher education learning landscape. Together, we will develop our understanding of good, sustainable practice by sharing accounts of emerging innovation in the pedagogic use of social media.

Teaching and learning in higher education is responding to the opportunities presented by social media, as its promise of increasing access and flexibility becomes clearer (HEA: ‘Conditions of flexibility’ 2014). Social media enables us to learn collectively by creating powerful, responsive Personal Learning Networks and social open learning environments (Dabbagh et al., 2012). It challenges us to understand and value the importance of openness and community in learning as we explore the rapidly developing phenomenon of MOOCs (Jisc, 2013). Social media is beginning to change the identity of higher education.

Although this newly forming landscape can be fascinating and rewarding, the challenge of developing digital capability (JISC) and confidence confronts us as institutions, teachers and students. Our understandings of employability and social and professional responsibility continuously change, making it difficult to put sustainable support and development strategies in place (Digital Skills Select Committee, 2015). The conference themes allow us to investigate the disruptive nature of social media; share our practice in the use of social media for networked, social and active learning, and to consider some of the challenges of being responsive, supportive and open for change. The conference keynote from Eric Stoller, will challenge and inspire us to review social media in our context, explore the opportunities of extending our networks for learning, and understand how we as universities need to respond to the Social Age.

Key dates for your diary:

  • Call for participation closes Midday 3rd September 2015
  • Early bird registration will open in early September 2015
  • Standard registration will open 2nd November 2015

Visit the conference website for more information https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/socmedhe/


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Curating tweets using Storify #SHULT15

Storify logoStorify is a great way to bring together tweets at an event where participants have included a dedicated hashtag. These can be searched for within Storify and embedded into the story you create.

Here is an example from a previous Learning and Teaching Conference. The event hashtag assigned was #ACES2012. Delegates who chose to tweet about the event included this hashtag in their tweets. Continue reading

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