Passionate to Participate (a.k.a. Rock, er, Blog Your World!)

Description of Session

In this enchantingly mundane preso, veteran blogger Miguel Guhlin shares his meteoric rise to rock star status as a blogger, confesses his blogging addiction, time spent in rehab and offers a retrospective look at blogging as therapeutic nonsense worth tracking and sharing. You will come away with 6 technical tips for tweaking your digital footprint as you build a worldwide following of peers passionate to participate in YOUR professional learning network (PLN).

View more presentations from Miguel Guhlin.
Relevant Links
  1. The blog entry this preso is based off of -- WHY BLOG
  2. Mix Google Reader and these "RSS bundles" to get an instant PLN (be sure to login to Google Reader first before clicking on links below):
  3. A great post to read about 5 Ways You Can Occupy Your Classroom (Jose Vilson). I really like all the points shared here because these restore power to you.
  4. Podcast resources - PodcastPizzazz -
  5. Tele-gathering Tools:
    1. Evernote -
    2. Diigo -
    3. LiveBinder -
  6. Blogging Platforms:
    1. (my favorite)
  7. Social Networking/Media Tools:
    4. Google +
  8. Managing RSS Flow:
    1. Google Reader RSS Aggregator
  9. Tracking "Hits" and Statistics
Passion to Participate Yields Rewards
Check out these perspectives on the rewards of blogging and PLN.
What I did not imagine when I started is that it also would connect me to such great people. Although we may never have met in person, I feel the kinship of spirit and perspective with any number of folks anywhere in the world.
Source: Dan Ostreich

It amazes me that so many people care about what I write, that I am generating debate and discussion among people much smarter than me, and that I am inspiring others to try new things with their students and themselves. It is my great joy to be able to impact the lives of others..
.I never expected blogging would open up a network as vast as mine.
Source: Matthew Ray

Joan Young's //Gift of Blogging// video response
external image Selection_001.png

Build Your Professional Learning Network (PLN):
Expand Your BRAIN**

  • This group of educators I engage with every day are a living, organic, knowledge base. They are real people with real experiences, and a wealth of knowledge. When I reference my network of educators I call them my "brain trust."

  • BRAIN = Brilliant Resources At Instant Notice

by Miguel Guhlin (Find me on Plurk/Twitter at "mguhlin")

As a educator, probably one of the tougher challenges you face isn’t just keeping up with the technology, but rather understanding how to leverage it in your teaching and learning situation. While in the past, we were limited by the occasions that served as “learning experiences,” in the 21st century, learning isn’t restricted to a special event bound by time and place. We don’t learn just when sitting in a meeting, or at a conference or from 8:00 to 3:30 PM when school is in session. Today, we have the potential to tap into a flow of conversation, a web-based learning ecology, that we can learn from 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While some call this a Professional/Personal Learning Network, a Professional Learning Community, Dan Rezac (quoted above) calls it a BRAIN.
Whatever you call it, you have instant access to a community of educators dying to share fantastic ways to help you transform teaching, learning and leading. All you have to ask yourself is, am I willing?

As someone who awoke to that fact just a few years ago, I am continually astonished at the rapidity of change. In fact, I had my first — and so far, only — panic attack in July 2005, when driving down the highway to work, I realized that the world is changing faster than I can keep up.

The only way for me to respond to that panic attack was to seize control, to realize that I do have some measure of control over how I react to rapid, tectonic paradigm-shifts that inflict terror because they transform the world around me. Not feeling it, huh? Well, that means you haven’t looked over the edge and seen it looking back at you.

The only way for all of us to deal with the current challenge to our particular approach to learning — aside from ignoring it completely, which is about as effective as ignoring an oncoming truck — is to seize the wheel and create our own learning network. As technology directors, people look to us to model learning new technologies. Are you taking advantage of all the resources you can to streamline the often messy learning process?
Where Learning Conversations Take Place
  • Classroom 2.0: A place for members to share links, Classroom 2.0 is a social networking site devoted to those interested in the practical application of computer technology (especially Web 2.0) in the classroom and in their own professional development.
  • *Educators: This is a group for educators to use to share bookmarks. It is completely open and anyone can join. It will have a set of standard tags to help us share things that you might use in addition to your tags.
    *EDuStreams: Easily track education-related broadcasts (EDuStreams). Find out more about those via the Education World
  • Broadcast Learning article.


Christopher Parsons shares that we need to do four things with the overwhelming amount of unorganized content — information, ideas, tips and how-to’s, and personal information — we receive; the kind of content that might be useful in the future but today might be thrown away or filed away in a way — paper notes, e-mail, bookmarks — that would not be useful and would probably be forgotten. Those four things are:
  • Read: Read/watch/listen to the entirety of the content that you are presented with.
  • Evaluate: Consider what the content means to you, and whether or not it is a source of information that intuitively seems appropriate/acceptable for a task at hand.
  • Critique: Moving beyond evaluate, seriously reflect on the material and then form your own opinion of it.
  • Write Share your critique with others, so they can engage with you and the original content to develop a cohesive knowledge-product.

In the past, reading, evaluating, and critiquing were done to different degrees by each of us individually. It was rare that any of us actually published our critiques for others to read. Now, it is possible for me to share how what I read, evaluate, and critique connects with my own personal learning and schema. That’s powerful, because individuals like you and me now have the power to publish at will to an audience of millions. The key thing to remember is that as we externalize our thinking, it becomes less of “I am an expert expounding on what I know” and more of “I am a learner, just like you, sharing what I’m learning so that we can learn together through our common errors and maximize our breakthroughs.” Consider that our understanding of learning is changing. We need to think of learning as an experience that happens when we connect with others.

If you fail to connect to the network of learners, you miss out on a global conversation about what you are passionate about. And missing out is a darn shame because it can save you time, energy, and increase your reach, no matter how brilliant (or not) you are. That’s a powerful idea. Smart people get smarter because they have access to the network of learners. People who are just starting out are able to learn as fast as they can to accomplish what they need to do.

When I meet folks who are just becoming aware of the global conversation — usually because I push them over the edge in a workshop — I like to share several tools with them. They are essential learning tools that every 21st century learner should have. Using them involves action, but it is the acts of use that cast out our fear of change. The act of building your own personal learning network (PLN) is your fundamental act of freedom. Start now.


Although hundreds of tools are available, you only need a few to get started. Please be aware that the purpose of these suggested tools is to externalize the knowledge-building you do every day. It is also to take advantage of the potential power of networked learning. Thousands of educators are online, and you can tap into their collective knowledge to ask questions and have conversations about what you need to learn. The only expectation is that you share with them what you know. Each no-cost tool listed below does it in a slightly different, but complementary, way.

Here are some to get started:
  1. Social Bookmarking - - Use the no-cost to quickly take notes and copy-n-paste highlighted content from the web site.
  2. Build a PLN - for information stream.
  3. Get a Blog - - You can get an ECISD Class blog to share ideas in a timely manner!
Let's take a more in-depth look at each of these! Please feel free to skip around.

1) Social Bookmarking - Get an account.
Example: Below, you can find examples of "clipped" infographics. With Evernote, you actually make a copy of the content so that even if the original web site disappears, you still have a copy to access!

external image Evernote+Web.jpg
Ever wish you could access your list of links from any computer, easily share them with others, and publish them to a variety of web sites (e.g. blogs, wikis, Moodle)? If so, then social bookmarking tools make those tasks easy!

As wonderful as many social bookmarking sites are--several now feature highlighting, annotation, note-taking--they present problems due to cost. One free service that remains is, a social bookmarking service, that allows you to bookmark and organize web sites and content in notebooks, as well as "tag" them. You can share the link to your notebook with others, including students.

For example, you can find a notebook of classroom applications of Evernote online.

2) Use to build a professional learning network.

"I have learned more about what people are discovering from Tweets," shares Porter Palmer, an educator in a university Master's course, "than any single blog could bring me. I especially like it when my edublogger friends’ Tweets begin with, 'just blogged this…' I don’t have to guess when they might have updated. I can just click over and read their blog!" Twitter is a powerful Web 2.0 tool to facilitate communication and collaboration--globally. It enables us to get in contact with educators from around the world. Many 21st century teachers are out there. Find them and create a Twitter network that can be a support group, provide inspiring projects, and keep you in touch with like-minded people. All of you participating in a workshop, for example, can be a group.

  • Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service, that allows its users to send and read other users' updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.

You can use Twitter specific tools to connect with others. One of my favorites is the Twitter search tool, accessible at It allows you to search the many “tweets” that occur each day (view a search on Education) and subscribe to the results via RSS. (See the “Google Reader” section of this article for more on RSS). That way, real-time comments about what is critical to your work come to you. Whenever there is contact with other educators, I find my enthusiasm and energy for education renewed. That’s the power of communications. You select whose tweets you will receive so you can build your own professional learning network.

Many 21st century teachers are out there. Find them and create a Twitter network that can be a support group, provide inspiring projects, and keep you in touch with like-minded people. All of you participating in a workshop, for example, can be a group. Locate one another in and become a network.

You can use Twitter specific tools to connect with others. One of my favorites is It allows you to search the many “tweets” that occur each day (view a searchon Education) and subscribe to the results via RSS. (See the “Google Reader” section of this article for more on RSS). That way, real-time comments about what is critical to your work come to you.

Some Twitter specific tools:

  • TweepML - Use this service to easily share groups of Twitterers with each other. Imagine that your entire organization's staff signed up for Twitter. Instead of each person going through the laborious process of becoming a follower, you could do it in one click with TweepML. Special thanks to Cory Plough and others for sharing this tool with me. Find out more online at
  • Just Tweet It - This fun tool enables people using Twitter to find others with similar interests. I can imagine sharing this with educators who are just starting out who need help finding other edubloggers.
    Visit Online at
  • Hashtag - This enables you to track a specific event--such as a conference like TCEA2009--using the Twitter network. You can encourage people attending a conference or learning event to share what they're learning about and then track them all using hashtags.
    Visit Online at
  • TwitterMail - You can send updates to Twitter via email. When you sign up for TwitterMail, you are provided a TwitterMail email address. Send an email to that provided address and it is posted to twitter. This might be great for educators who live behind the "Berlin Wall;" you know, access is blocked by content filters in an effort to "protect" anyone from using the web inappropriately but with the more disastrous effect of preventing anyone from using it all. You can email your twitter updates out and receive them.
    Visit Online at
  • StrawPoll - Ever wish you could use your Twitter account to conduct a quick poll, maybe, how many of you think Texas funds the state technology allotment at a sufficient level? Well, you can use StrawPoll to accomplish this using Twitter. Do your own surveys using Twitter...what a powerful way to get answers from your network of co-learners.
    Visit Online at
  • TweetBeep - You can get email results of searches when people tweet a particular keyword (like a tag). What a great way to tap into the conversation about education and reform without actually having to sit there and watch it happen as it happens.
    Visit Online at

Whenever there is contact with other educators, there is hope. That’s the power of communications. I can’t begin to share the excitement I felt on September 19, 2000, while participating in a TeachMeet 7 taking place in Scotland. How did I find out about it? Obviously, I was not in Scotland. I was sitting at my desk working on work projects, when a “tweet” came in from Paul Harrington, an educator in Wales. As a result of his sharing via twitter, I was able to participate in the conference via my web browser and listen to speakers like Ewan McIntosh and others share what they are doing in schools in Scotland. Do you think that might have impacted my perspective about the power of global learning opportunities? How might participating in a dialogue with educators from around the world have impacted your perspective?

By combining the power of and Twitter/Plurk, I am able to track more easily ad-hoc professional learning opportunities as they occur, as well as have conversations about them before and after they occur. That kind of just-in-time learning, as it happens, can be very powerful for educators. I invited other educators to join and now we have a collaboratively updated list of EDuStreams —educational professional learning happening online via uStream, Elluminate, sessions that are appearing online. EDuStreams are actually video/audio presentations and conversations done by educators about topics they are interested in. Twitter/Plurk allow us to share those at will, while allows us to keep track of those opportunities and share them with others, even if they are not on Twitter.

You can also use a third-party service known as Packrati ( to save your tweets to bookmarks. As they describe it, "We follow your twitter feed, and whenever a status you tweet or re-tweet contains URLs, we add them to your bookmarks. Optionally, bookmark URLs in @replies to you, and in tweets you mark as Favorites."

Example: Norms for Online Behavior
Find it here: with a list of educators to follow at

3) Start blogging with your students.
Blogging is a process of reflecting on what you learn every day. How can anyone spend time blogging on top of what they do all day? The fact is that some of my best blogging research — when I decide on Future Blog Posts — occurs while I’m looking for something else. In fact, my focus during the day is learning something, either for work or to satisfy my own curiosity (which begins with a question or a wondering).

At the end of the day, early evening in fact, I quickly look back at what I tagged for a Future Blog Post, which is actually a “tag” I keep in Delicious. I might bookmark many items, but I only blog about those that are immediately relevant or connected.
In the past, I would copy-n-paste the link or the relevant quote or point that triggered my thinking into my blog program (e.g. Blogger) but now I just use the SHARE button on my GoogleToolbar. In that way, blogging for me isn’t a “special” activity, but part of everything I do. When I’m asked about what I know about a particular topic relevant to my work as a technology director, I am able to check my bookmarks. If I have spent time reflecting on the implementation of a technolgy-related project in my blog, I usually bookmark that as well and quickly can pull up the needed information. That work prepares me in advance for questions my job naturally throws at me.
  • So here I am again, coaching, and asking my students to trust that they will need what I’m requiring them to do: blogging, wiki-ing, social bookmarking, digital story creating, and online discussion. If they can get through my class, they will be able to apply those new skills to their teaching — and their students will benefit.
Source: Cycling through EdTech

In a real way, this is a much different way of behaving and acting. Modeling it for our students is critical, as Cheri points out above, but understanding it ourselves is just as important. Before blogs (BB), I never would have done that (tag ideas, blog about my response/reflection, wikify my resources for others, podcast valuable conversations with other people for later listening). In fact, keeping a journal was a joke for me, even though I knew that every “good” writer kept one. It wasn’t until I started blogging — with a real audience reading it — that I understood the power of blogging everything.

Amy Gehran at Contentious Blog articulates this really well when she writes the following (via Teach-n-Babble):
  • A blog post is not (or at least, it shouldn’t be) a writing assignment you must prep for and deliver as a finished package…Blog your initial brainstorming…Blog your research and discovery…Blog your interactions. Did you just have an interesting conversation relevant to a topic you’ve been blogging? Ask the person with whom you conversed if you can blog the relevant portion, and whether you can identify them…The clincher to all this is to use your blog as your “backup brain” or at least as a public notebook. Why not get more mileage out of work you would have done anyway by changing your habits toward managing information and communicating publicly? Instead of keeping your thoughts, notes, and conversations to yourself, post them.

In my recent Blog Your World! workshop at the PBS/KLRN ICTT 2007 Conference, I shared it in this way, as perceived by one of the newbie bloggers, Juliet Ray at Deep Thoughts (drop by and give her a comment):

  • What an exciting day today is! I have created my first blog. Hello digital world, here I am! I look forward to using this site as a way of not only communicating with others, but to “externalize (Miguel’s new big word/concept I learned today) my knowledge.” Additionally, it will serve as a personal journal to assist in reflection on my journey through life.

This kind of externalization is useful to others. For example, back in 2005 I wrote a how-to for doing something in GNU/Linux operating system that used KDE as the GUI (as opposed to Gnome or the others out there). In September 20, 2007, someone found it and blogged about it…if I hadn’t externalized my knowledge, made a “backup brain,” then the information would not have been here for Jim Plumb to discover:

Another neat result of Jim’s discovery is that I rediscover my own blog entry when Jim writes about it or interacts with it. It makes me want to re-read the entry. In reviewing my social bookmarking network, I noticed Mark Ahlness had picked up on one of my favorite blog entries, The List Article. I hadn’t seen that blog entry in ages, even though every article I write is based on the structure outlined in it.

Blog what you learn, what you do. Soon, you’ll realize you know — and as importantly, discover more — about what is in your head than you think.
Example: LeaderTalk Blog for school district administrators at

Get started at Google's with an education-related blog about what you are learning and how it is relevant to your work. Ask yourself a few questions to get started, such as What are you most passionate about in your work? andWhat is the hardest thing you do in your work, and why is it challenging? Finally, share your successes — and failures – by answering such questions as What obstacle or problem have you encountered and how did you overcome it?
Some common questions technology directors might want answered include:

  • What backup software do you use in your district?
  • Have you considered switching from MS Exchange to Google Apps? How did you make the transition?
  • What special-education tracking software or web-based service are you using at the District level?
  • What kinds of audio/visual solutions are you using to broadcast school board meetings?

And many more. Responding to those types of questions in your blog and sharing resources with other educators via Delicious will enable you instantly to share ideas about important matters relevant to your work.

Use Google Reader to Manage RSS Subscriptions:
Most new web pages now have what is known as an RSS feed button. A web site with an RSS (real simple syndication) feed enables you to read the content without visiting the site beyond the first time. You can subscribe to a site’s content — and subscription is free — and any updates/changes to the site will be delivered directly to you. (Watch this Video.) The benefit of that method is that creating a personal learning network will not result in more email, but less. Instead of receiving email notifications, you go to Google Reader to review the latest updates and changes, and participate when you have a need.

My Example: Miguel’s Shared Items in Google Reader
Get Started at


The tools discussed here can save a lot of time and energy as you try to join the flow of conversation. One of my favorite quotes — which came to me via Mark Wagner — is, “He who learns from one who is learning, drinks from a flowing river.”
I hope you’ll continue to learn every moment and share that learning with others. The rewards are infinite.