Looking backwards to go forwards (EduBlogging)

updated 31Jan2011

Staring into one's navel to remove lint...

Moving Forward Sometimes Means Looking Backward
If you've not set up Google Analytics and Webmaster tools for your blog, do do this as soon as possible.

This is immeasurably important: it helps you get real insight into your work, offers the opportunity to understand  better what your readers are interested in, shows where your readers are mostly coming in from, how they   find your blog and in general, what other bloggers mostly link to.

It also helps you to keep track of your progresss in attracting new readers.   

For those of you who have it already /those with another analytical plug-in, this post is a reminder to look backwards, every now and then:  to analyze your content.


Here are some examples based on my own experience

Webmaster Tools
1. I found out that one of my blog posts which had very, very few comments, is, in fact, one of my most popular posts with over 3000 links leading to it from external sources.  This lesson had nothing to do with what I generally write about and now knowing this, I recognize that I must dedicate time to doing a follow-up.  (And do more of this ilk).

If you're an educational blogger, what blog posts have been linked to most often?  What does this teach you about the usefulness of your work?

2. Two of the keywords which I use in the back-end of my blog are very effective for leading readers to my blog, however some words which one would expect to have more relevance to my work, don't (e.g. TEFL!) - this teaches me that while I refer to English language teachers and teaching in my writing, clearly I don't use some of the core phrases enough within my posts - the words people type into Google to look for content.

If you're an educational blogger, what keywords should you using in your posts to attract Google to list your blog?

Google Analytics
1. Printing out a list of my blog posts in order of popularity has showed me that
a) there is no relationship, it seems, between number of comments and people reading posts.   Some posts don't inspire conversation.  I'm not sure what to do with this information, but it's something for me to take note of and learn from.

b) it looks like many of my readers are mostly interested in practical tips and lessons that they can take into class, rather than my side-bar musings on teaching practices (seen based on time spent on pages)... although the rants on coursebooks and the posts on dogme, blogging and twitter best practices were also popular (but not in top 10).

c) dips in visits tend to occur in all holiday times - a good suggestion for me to take time off then too :-)
If you're an educational blogger, what blog posts have been visited and remarked on most often?  What does this teach you about the type of posts you should be writing and when? 

2. I also found out that there are overwhelming differences in popularity of certain posts, e.g few have been visited 25,000+ times, a lot of others 1-3000 times, some 500-1000 with others at less than a hundred times.  
So like the webmaster tools, this teaches me a lot  in what my readers are really interested in.  However, in my opinion, analyzing the unpopular posts was ALSO very effective practice.
  • In some cases, they were simply very badly written.   This offers me an opportunity to cover this ground again, better.
  • In some cases, they were posts when I had first started out blogging and didn't have a wide readership.  This offers me the opportunity to either rewrite or to start marketing these (either by tweeting them out again now; creating a post or a new sidebar widget of "hidden gems" or importantly back-linking to them in newer posts based on similar topics.
  • In some cases, they were actually well-written posts.  Some of these were released in holiday periods when not many teachers were reading or looking for this sort of post.  And, guessing, only, but in some cases, it's also possible that they were released when killer topics of higher interest were around the same time in another corner of the edu-elt-blogosphere and everyone was over there at that party.   As above, these posts are worth me looking at again, reviewing, updating and then sending out again.
If you're an educational blogger, what blog posts haven't been visited or remarked on?  What can you do now to bring more attention to these older posts?

Do you have any other tips for EduBloggers on looking backwards to go forwards?  Let us know your thoughts and experiences.

Are you a regular reader of my blog?  Do you have any other tips or sugggestions regarding the direction or content you would like to see more often on my pages?  Don't hesitate to share your thoughts and give me your advice, it will be much appreciated.


Useful links
Nik Peachey: how to track your sitewebmaster tools

TED videos for Business English, Part I (Making Decisions)

Turn and Hold, Plate 2
Vicki Hollett recently mentioned a trouble I often hear being voiced by teachers who are trying to source samples of high quality, authentic Non-Native-English-Speakers speaking English and my tip, of course,  is that you can usually find quite a number of these on the adult-educational-deeper thinking-video-sites.

The other day, I finally finished putting together a post which had been lying around in draft for absolutely ages: Speaking Tips for using TED videos in class, conversation prompters, and so given Vicki's question, I thought, along with these dogme2.0-type suggestions I really should get around to organizing all the videos I've downloaded in the past, stored on my computer, used in classes, set as homework~put up as online discussion topics on my Ning(s), watched alongside students... and share with you the ones we've liked best!

I've sorted them into related topics to make it easier for you to share them with your own adult languge learners.  As often as I can - each Thursday/Friday -  I'll load up more of them, in a series of posts.  If you've any suggestions or recommendations from other sources on the same themes, don't hesitate to provide us with the links!   

I recommend either printing out a copy of this post , using the addthis/bookmark button at the bottom of this post, saving/ bookmarking / emailing yourself this page... (to find the links again later on in TED.com).

This week's Business English themes include:

Choices, Decision-making, Negotiating, Strategic-thinking

The art of choosing
Sheena Iyengar studies how we make choices -- and how we feel about the choices we make. She talks about both trivial choices (Coke v. Pepsi) and profound ones, and shares her groundbreaking research that has uncovered some surprising attitudes about our decisions.

The paradox of choice
Psychologist Barry Schwartz takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz's estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied.

Are we in control of our own decisions? 
Behavioral economist Dan Ariely, the author of Predictably Irrational, uses classic visual illusions and his own counterintuitive (and sometimes shocking) research findings to show how we're not as rational as we think when we make decisions.

A monkey economy as irrational as ours
Laurie Santos looks for the roots of human irrationality by watching the way our primate relatives make decisions. A clever series of experiments in "monkeynomics" shows that some of the silly choices we make, monkeys make too.

How we read each other's minds
Sensing the motives and feelings of others is a natural talent for humans. But how do we do it? Here, Rebecca Saxe shares fascinating lab work that uncovers how the brain thinks about other peoples' thoughts -- and judges their actions.

See also blog post and discussion on Vicki Hollett's blog regarding theories of the mind and issues related to this video - both post and comments hold potentially good conversation starter-type questions.

The walk from "no" to "yes"
William Ury, author of "Getting to Yes," offers an elegant, simple (but not easy) way to create agreement in even the most difficult situations -- from family conflict to, perhaps, the Middle East.

Carl Honore praises slowness
Journalist Carl Honore believes the Western world's emphasis on speed erodes health, productivity and quality of life. But there's a backlash brewing, as everyday people start putting the brakes on their all-too-modern lives.

Hope you enjoyed these as much as we did! 

Which was your favourite?

Write a lesson plan based on using one of these videos (or any other that refers to the subject of decision making) and post this up on your own website or blog.  Alternatively, upload the LP into a document sharing site (e.g scribd/ slideshare/ google docs and let us all know the URL in the comments below.

Part II, TED videos: success / failure
Part III, TED videos: motivation

Why I use Premium HootSuite for Twitter

There are major advantages and major disadvantages to being followed on Twitter by a large audience.

There was a time, when I first began tweeting, that I thought the ideal number of people to interact  with probably lay in Dunbar's one-hundred-and-fifty... however, once I'd passed that I still felt the value of connecting with other teachers... so reckoned, okay, maybe double that would be okay but then as time went by, that number kept growing exponentially to the point where now, to be honest, it sometimes scares me!

These days I am followed by over 3500 people and follow back over 2000 (my primary focus is on educators as generally I don't really need to have any contact with marketers/ socialmedia-Xperts/ pornspammers/ movie-politics-music fans/ coffee-tea-bathroom-activity-sharers) -  and while this number, if you're not a regular on Twitter, might sound like "holy-kaow!"  perhaps even something to aspire to...  the truth is, I should warn you, is that sometimes the mentions list lists and lists... and with all that comes a sinking feeling of "yikes-how on earth can I possibly answer or acknowledge all this - personally?

There have been days when there were so many DMS that it would have taken well over an hour to respond.

They have been days of Information Overload.

And on those days, when I felt I couldn't answer all the mentions or the DMs or  thank folks for the RTs personally, for sending on the right posts by people I respect... that instead of feeling good about being so globally connected, I would commit one of the  deadly sins of Twitter and look at others who have managed to manage all this so much better than I do and  then I would feel jealous, or inadequate or  impossibly guilty... going to bed with the feeling that I've been impolite  - catholic guilt  - worrying that somewhere out there, there is a teacher who now thinks that I think I am too good to answer her/him back...  That thinks I'm a snob. Or not interested in his or her words. 

To be honest, at several points when I felt overwhelmed, misunderstood... I thought I would simply have to give up being on Twitter.   Of course, I tried to balance that feeling - knowing that that person does not see the same page that I see - that s/he simply has no idea what it's like to try and follow 2000 people's tweets  and  get it right.

Sometime after the summer as more and more tasks (slippery frogs) piled on,  I wound up with the conundrum of  how on earth could I balance my real work, my quality of life (going to the gym, talking to friends & family) with setting aside time for social-media and networking with this amazing global edcuational community.

Ages ago, I saw a tweet sent out by Val360 saying that she loved HootSuite and I wandered over to the site, couldn't figure it out and gave up: way too complex, I thought.   However, I decided I really needed to find a way to better manage my Social-Media life.

I went back to Val's recommendation and had a deeper look.

HootSuite lets you manage everything although unfortunately it doesn't make cups of coffee - but since using it,  I found that I only spend about a half hour a day on Twitter and sometimes even less - I can quickly chat with my PLN -whoever's online at the moment /but also who was around earlier - I can check out if there's anything urgent I need to help out with; say hey to the general universe, answer the important DMs, favourite the posts I want to read later on or that I think may be worth RTing during the week.  

I am also able to set up multiple organizational tabs e.g - EDTECH or ELT, and then I can divide each of these into streams (columns) ~ which is pretty much one of the chief reasons I prefer this tool over Tweetdeck.   In each of these columns, I can even manage tweets according to specific feeds, keyword searches or look up specific twitter-lists (private/public) and quickly - it resembles scanning a control panel in an airplane or something - I can see what's hot and what's not, or can help make something important be seen by more people.

Once a week, I tend to go in for longer, quietly lurking while I check on what I've favorited, decide whether or not to schedule RTs and follow-back the other educators who've found me during the week.  

I can even manage more than one account: the BELTfree account which I mentioned on Thursday,  this is set to automatically feed blog posts (why I have the Premium version) from ELT Bloggers without logging on and off all the time, (part of my personal contribution to the community I belong to and my strong belief in democratization of education) ~ I can also organize Re-Tweets not to occur at exactly the same time as everyone else's (to guarantee that excellent links/info/call to action can be seen by a wider audience across time zones).

The premium version also comes with the ability to tweet in teams (if you're a company that may be useful), you can manage your Facebook and LinkedIn updates and you get some pretty powerful analytics on how effective your tweets are or aren't!

Anyway, there's much, much more -stuff I haven't even got around to using yet - so my techtip for teachers  and professional educators interested in social-networking is definitely check out HootSuite!

Hope that was useful, don't hesitate to ask questions if you've got any!


Useful links
Twitterfeed by Mike Harrsion
Hootsuite is Mashable's best social-media tool

Wondering how to keep on top of all the #TEFL blog posts??

Follow @BloggersELT on Twitter

Become a Fan of BloggersELT on Facebook

Read through the archived posts and tweets on Delicious

That's how!

This feed includes blogs about all issues involved in the practice of English Language Teaching including Teaching with Technology, Business English, Young Learners, General & much, much more and also includes (for the bloggers) tips on blogging.

Reasons your English Language Teaching blogs may not be feeding in:
  • the majority of your work is plagiarized
  • the majority of your posts are just embeded videos or mentions of other people's work
  • your blog isn't actually about English Language Teaching
  • you've just started, i.e. you've only one or two posts up (when I first checked)
  • your blog's only about you/ your personal or professional life and it serves no real purpose to ELT :-)
however being completely human... it is possible that I have not managed to feed in your blog because I typed in the wrong address or I completely bypassed on the fact you now have a new address or  that you got serious about blogging and write loads of post all the time... or I completely forgot to do it the day I found your blog or despite the fact we've been connected forever I  simply didn't notice that you were/ have now become a blogger(!) so hmm,  if any of those is the case, please don't hesitate to write and let me know (see email on the side or DM me on Twitter/Facebook). :-)


p.s. I also try to feed in older blog posts from some of the best blogs - hashtage #fromhisarchives etc however have got seriously behind on this task, if you'd like to help with this and /or  have a good idea on how to do it efficiently (after all, these excellent articles shouldn't just disappear into the netherspere, then do let me know!)

Compliments, Praise and Insincerity

Pizza Man
I was reading through Cool Cat's great post on the fact, it seems, according to New York Times,  that college students these days would rather have a compliment than a pizza or... get this, sex.

Now, on the surface, I guess I do agree with Cool Cat about the boost we all need (whether as the educated or the educator) to our self-esteems... except that last night as I was heading off, sniffling (got the worst cold and cough ever) I started wondering...

The reason that Pizza is no longer a treat is that it's so accessible.

You can get a pizza anytime day or night.   You can buy them at the Supermarket.

I remember,  growing up in Antigua,  that there was only one Pizza place on the opposite side of the island and it was about a 45 mins drive away.  We had to beg and beg Daddy to take us there  - maybe he agreed around three times a year and once we got there and got out of the car, we ordered our very own pizzas and cokes...  Wow, it was all so incredibly tasty!    My mouth even still waters for that particular Pizza though truth be told that nowadays due to all the Carbs+Chemicals, I actually don't eat Pizza very often or even want to... but ah, that Pizza...

Except it's not the Pizza, is it?

It's the longing and the delay in getting what I wanted.

Like Cool Cat, I agree that cheap compliments aren't helpful and that kids can spot a fake however I really wasn't comfortable with her call to give out sincere compliments once every class period/ once a day to a colleague... because the very adding of a time to this makes it a task and not a spontaneous truism.

The point I guess I'm trying to make is that sincere praise takes time and energy and real thought.  It must mean something. Compliments shouldn't be abused and made smaller through frequency and over-indulgence.

They should, I reckon, be given out when they say in their subtexts:

I watched  you for a while you know and I noticed what you've done and how you improved; You know what, I saw you grow; I saw you change and how you have very much blossomed.  You made me proud; I learned from you.

Personally, in general, I'm just not a big fan of people who tell me how great I am, especially if they do this repeatedly, as inevitably (through hard-experience) I know that's what really happening is that they've read and made their bible: How To Win Friends and Influence People and now they've got some kind of warped mental database of standardized compliments which they pay to people - anyone at all - because, pretty much, they're just trying to get something from them.   

(And it works (80%?) of the time! )

How cynical is that?

Are we all suckers 
or is it that as we get older 
we lose the ability to spot fakes?! :-((.

Also, I tend to find... how do I say this, I tend to find that people who have been over-complimented  by parents/ school-friends and then, if having achieved any sort of postion in life (boss, actor, etc)... they can then wind up generally having a very displaced view of themselves, their importance in the world and they can/may use this self-view to abuse others they deem as lesser.   

Over-self-esteem is almost as bad as low self-esteem.

Anyway, I'll wrap this post up by saying that I do hope we don't make the next generation of students cynical of compliments by praising them too much, too often, too insincerely only because this sort of research may leave us feeling that we're not good teachers if we don't do it often enough.

I really hope we can be balanced, as some things in life, in my opinion, really should remain worth working for.

Worth desiring.

Useful links

How important is the web 2.0 for your career in education?

A wee spot of fun last night wound up leading to some really rather interesting results... and one has to ask, given the almost sku-wiff nature of these, if these statistics are really only due to these people's presence on blogs, twitter and all-a-that?

And if it is, what does this mean today? Tomorrow?

Five years from now, or even... twenty years from now?

Watch this:

Graham Stanley = Blogger, Author
Graham Davies = Emeritus Professor of Computer Assisted Language Learning, Tweeter (protected)

Shelly Terrell = Prolific Tweeter, Social Media Consultant, Blogger
Nicky Hockly = Author, EdTech Consultant, Blogger

John Hughes = Blogger, Tweeter, Author
Paul Emmerson = Author, Website

Jason Renshaw = Blogger, Tweeter, Author
Mario Rinvolucri = Author

Jeremy Harmer = Author, Blogger, Tweeter
Earl Stevick = Author

Alex Case = Prolific blogger, Twitter-antagonist, Edu-journalist
Jeremy Harmer = Blogger, Tweeter, Author

Alan Maley = Author
Ken Wilson = Author, Singer, Actor, Blogger, Tweeter

Larry Ferlazzo = Prolific Blogger, Author, Tweeter
Scott Thornubry = Author, Blogger, Tweeter

Scott Thornbury = Author, Blogger, Tweeter
Stephen Krashen = Author

For those of you hitting this page who know who all of these people are, i.e. famous folks in the field of English Language Teaching, were the results shocking or to be expected?

Do you think that being easily found on Google is important to your career?  Today it really may be worth thinking about things like what your digital footprint is like, do you have any kind of social media presence, at all?  Do you currently feel it's a collossal waste of time?

If so you've probably little to worry about however if you're an educational professional who may be checked up on, you know - googled, then you never know... before that next conference someone may well be checking you out because, although your talk sounds good in the blurb, fact is no one really knows you, and as a result choices might now be made that may not have been made B.G...

Perhaps, after glancing at these results, there may be some things to consider:  like is it possible that  someone else may wind up getting that writing job - you know the one you wanted - and it was only because  nowadays they were more well known than you are?  Can they now pull in the bums on the chairs that you can't, because nowadays it seems you only belong to the last decade's group of DELTA students?  :-(

But please don't fuss and panic... all this social media stuff is actually, really, only a few years on and if you ever needed a really good reason to join/set aside some time to become active soon, this might be it, mightn't it!


Useful links:

Disclaimer:  The erratic nature of Google's ranking may well yield different results on different days in different countries.  Different keywords after names will affect search results... Do your own Google-Fight if you don't agree!

    I'm Baaa-ck

    Did ya miss me?  Hope so :-).  This was post was supposed to go out yesterday but I had a peruse through the 'verse and 'spere and ended up with a rant instead...

    London New Year Fireworks 2011 - 08

    Soz where have I been?  Well, I had a super holiday sleeping mostly on the floor of my sister's and  hanging out with her and my baby brother in the UK, watched the fireworks over the Thames on TV,  watched endless reality TV and dull comedians... and went to my cousin's wedding in Wales - she was a gorgeous bride!  Ate loads of Marmite and Branston Pickle and was dismayed by Cadbury's - hmm, perhaps too long in Europe with real chocolate... was relegated chief chef and fed my family, read lots and lots of throwaway-after-reading-don't-remember-their-names-novels, finally got around to seeing Inception (um, um, what was the fuss about exactly?) and also watched the entire four seasons of Heroes.  

    Sidebar: Hiro Nakumura was my favorite character so I was totally gutted when the love-of-his-life, Charlie got lost in the space-time continum by the very bad Butterfly Man a.k.a earthmover Samuel Sullivan - wasn't that just awful? Thought Claire terribly naive for coming out to the Brave New World about her superpowers - the world will never accept nor understand them, sigh, and of course wasn't completely convinced of Sylar's final act of goodness. 
    I mean evil is as evil is. N'est pas? Still, it was a great show...

    So, um, aside from pure nothingness in my break (recharging batteries and creativity after 3 years of non-stop work), I've also been reflecting on what's on the agenda for 2011:

    • Possibly beginning work on a new coursebook - yeah, dogme me... we'll see tho', so don't start calling me hypocrite just yet - at the moment I'm very much not happy with their offer.
    • Started doing some consultancy work for Voxy - remember I wrote about them as being the most impressive mobile learning start-up around? Well, I'll be mainly advising them on the academic side as well as helping build brand awareness and also helping to develop the games aspect of the product.  I'm so incredibly psyched to have the opportunity to work with a bunch of young and very tech-savvy entrepreneurs in an entirely new and radically developing area of educational technology - more about this later but in the meantime check out their new i-phone app!
    • I've decided that I really must load up more of my SimplyConversationsTM conversation prompts directly on to this blog for free as my website is still down and I just don't seem to find the energy to set it up again!
    •  I've enrolled for the digital storytelling course with EVO and the Webheads and am very excited to be part of this and to participate in all the activities and learning!  Oops, that'll mean homework!
    • From next week on, when I'm officially finished with my "vacation," I'll be putting Business English in 5mins back into motion again and I'll also be back to working on my MyEC with the wonderful global students I work with there...as well as returning to face-to-face teaching.
    • As much as I can, I also, knock-on-wood, still hope to blog 3 days a week... (Sundays for the SocialMedia stuff, Thursdays LessonTips/Plans & Tuesdays for the rest of my educational musings... except when I get distracted.. and it's  also my number one resolution to comment much more too on other people's blogs as lately I've slipped into a pattern of reading and bookmarking them into delicous however, honestly, I really used to like all the global conversations with other teachers and miss the real discussions we used to have there!
    • What else? Lemme see.. I'll be at Spain's TESOL (talking on From Ink to I-pads: motivation in language learning) and in the UK in April will be hosting IATEFL's first ELT blog symposium (featuring Tara Benwell, Berni Wall & Peter Ryley) - am very much looking forward to hooking up with you at one of these! 

    Hmm... there's probably more ahead, and heaps more on my tooooo-do list  but in the meantime, let me wish you all a Happy New Year and I truly hope it brings you everything you want and need!!

    KarenneLondon New Year Fireworks 2011 - 08

    Common Courtesy and Conferences

    Conceited Cutlery
    Well, it's all spinning off again in the Blogosphere and this first post since back from holiday was supposed to be all gooey and soft and all about how I really missed y'all while I chilled out and relaxed and also, what I'll be getting up to in the next few months...

    But there it is, smack-bang: a lack of basic, common courtesy.

    A while back I drafted a post including Lindsay Clandfield's incredibly useful tweeting during a conference he attended in Japan  and then later a cracking summary of Hollett's plenary (which although I had attended in person earlier, found to be a brilliant review in tweets) but in particular, what I really wanted to highlight was the fact that he asked permission before doing so.

    Back then, as now, all I really have to say is about this boiling-over situation on Harmer's blog, is that if you implicitly know that a presenter does not want his session tweeted or live-streamed (and in 18months, Scott Thornbury has been very clear on his views) then do not do it.  

    To do so anyway, is nothing short of rude.

    To have done so accidentally because you did not know his views prior to noticing others doing so and thought you'd join in the fun is understandable, however it still requires an apology and a backing down off the topic.   

    Or just because you happen to own a smartphone bang-out-the-window-go-your-manners?

    To have done this, despite knowing how he feels about this issue and exactly how clear he has been  regarding the issues involved begs the question why.   Why didn't you just go to a different speech and simply not attended?

    To carry on this discussion on Twitter ad nauseum - what will be gained?  By whom?

    Does it prove that no matter if a presenter specifically states a preference for limited viewing of that which brings in his bread and butter, we have a right to violate that privacy?  That we, the Twitterati, can force our educating educators into situations where they have zero control over our personal respresentation of their knowledge - are we really that arrogant? 

    Has the intrinsic narcissistic nature of Social-Media warped an adherece to social mores?

    Don't get me wrong, I have learned a great deal from reading through the tweporting and I even enjoy the challenge of summarizing someone else's text into 140 characters however I wouldn't enjoy this if I knew the presenter felt uncomfortable about it.

    The fear of an eventual misrepresentation of educational statements made by our field's leaders, by one of the Twitter  "reporters," is valid and dare I say, inevitable.

    Twitter is not Utopia.

    People will, as they have always been, whether with ink or with i-pads, will be people.  And people often have their own agendas.  If a misleading statement is twublished by a competitor or adversary (something which may not be clear to the rest of the Twitter stream) then that statement  could potentially  cause long-running professional damage because, even though edu-Twitter is currently a small bubble, it is one that is growing and one that seems to have a far-reaching public impact.   

    The decision on whether or not a conference, workshop or plenary can be tweeted  or not must be the presenter's choice: it must be their decision on whether or not to take that risk: not the Twitterazzi's.

    Na ja, I'll write my NewYearsRes's tomorrow, especially as one of those is to write less about Social-Media and more about lessons... hmm...

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