Saturday, June 21, 2008

Learning to Blog

While anyone can learn to blog, for many it is a lonely frustratingly-long time before you are writing a quality blog and have an audience. Why not take a short cut and ride along with us?

You can, of course, learn about the key skills in blogging by reading articles and through trial and error. Or you can take a fun course. offers two online courses. One, Get Ready to Blog, is a free automated course that anyone can sign up for and take at any time. It's for total beginners, a precourse to get students ready for Blogging 101. In the precourse, you'll start with the very basics about how much it costs to start a blog (nothing) and the different approaches to blogging and setting up your first blog. also offers Blogging 101, an 8 week online course with a teacher which you take as part of class. The course teaches you the skills you need by having you practice and get feedback. There are some reading assignments but the heart of the course is learning by doing with guidance and support and feedback.

Blogging 101, the learning to blog class runs intermittently. There are generally eight students in each session and a teacher. Black belt mama, the teacher, has a masters degree in creative fiction and is a successful blogger. She's also a total charmer, students love working with her.

In the first section of Blogging 101, students compare blogs to see what distinguishes the best ones. They learn about how to form a coherent combination of topics, the visual look, and the identity of the blogger (the "about me"). In the second section, they apply these rules as they set up their own blogs, define their writing identities, and write their first posts. Students get feedback and explanations including help with technology and graphics. Issues about personal safety, privacy, and copyright are covered. In the third section, students start to react to comments (initially each others), keep writing their blog, and are given some assignments to help build an audience through posting on similarly-focused blogs and forums. In the last section, the students learn to use the promotional tools such as technorati and the different blogcatalogs and groups.

What many students like best is that by starting their blog as part of a group, they have readers, feedback, and comments from the start. And long after the course has finished, they have their initial classmates who have become their first group of online friends that they can learn from and shares experiences with.

The students are a diverse group. From the recent alumnae, there's Topsy Techie who writes about her Unconventional life of a homeschooling family and is well on her way to becoming a famous bloggger. The students range from the Daily Grind of kooky caffeinated JavaMama, the ultra fit Spin Diva, the aging but still eager BlackBeltat50, the trials of Renovation Girl redoing her house and starting a family and of SheParent wrestling with her 11 year old, the life of one BBW (big beautiful woman), and there's the more senior Grey Haired Geek.

Come sign up. The free automated precourse is a total no brainer for anyone thinking they might like to start a blog and want to get a basic orientation. And Blogging 101 sessions fill up quickly so you should move quick. The Blog Writing Course just announced that the summer session starts July 7th and the fall session starts September 8th. Reserve your place now.


other paragraphs.....

Writing a blog successfully is way different than writing an article or an essay. In a blog, readers engage not just because it's a collection of good articles but because there's some continuity. Also, most readers want to be learning something. In fact, most blog readers say that they read blogs on subjects that they are trying to learn about or stay current on but they choose which blog to read by how entertaining the author is. Most blog writers find that they want to mix elements of their personal life with commentary on some subject in which they have interest and expertise.

So the readers expectations and writers plans are a great fit which explains why blogs are becoming so popular. But with thousands of blogs being started every day, how do you make sure that your effort is fun for you and popular with readers?

Writing blogs is also very different from writing traditional novels or even newspaper columns. The key difference is that the writer is expected to interact with the audience and to create a community experience. This requires a combination of traditional writing skills (grammar, point of view, characters, vocabulary), social skills, and technical skills.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Safety and My Online courses

I run an online learning service which has thousands of students ( It's automated and there have been no teachers so all of our security issues have been of the technical type so far.

We started recently a new service teaching writing ( in which we provide an 8 week writing course online which is led by a teacher. I'm looking for some feedback on our approach to safety:
1. All parents (who must sign up students) and students are informed that all of the class communication should happen thru our online website (moodle is our learning management service). No email and no phone calls.
2. 100% of the communications are saved, monitored, and reviewable.
3. We review about 20% of them on an ongoing basis.
4. No private student to student communication is allowed.

My new big question (as we expand past teachers that I personally know or who are onsite) is about teachers.

I only hire "accredited teachers" which means (in the modern era) that they have had a full background check with fingerprinting etc. Since I intend to hire some of these teachers over the internet, I also conduct a webcam based interview (although so far, we don't use that technology in the classes). My reason is so that I can visually verify their identity against the documents that they've sent me (including a driver's license) to make sure that the person is who they say they are. (I'm worried about identity theft and approving "borrowed" credentials)
Anybody got any feedback on this approach?


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Time4Writing is alive and useful

Time4Writing has courses that start every week! This is made possible since most of the 8 weeks courses are built to provide one-on-one instruction from a writing teacher to your child.

The courses are online and require about two and half hours per week. They really help the kids' writing. The feedback is provided the day after each assignment is turned in and the feedback is specific and useful

Help your kids learn to write.

And I quote.....Online Elementary, Middle and High School Writing Courses.
8 Week Sentence, Paragraph and Essay Courses

For many students, learning to write well is difficult.

Time4Writing provides online 8 week writing courses that help students build writing skills. Students learn through one-on-one interaction with a certified teacher.
writing courses for elementary, middle and high school Schools rarely have the resources to provide the detailed, systematic feedback that students need to maximize their writing skills. Time4Writing helps students build writing skills for general communication, self-expression, and high stakes writing requirements such as SATs and college entrance exams.
writing courses for homeschoolers Homeschool parents often find that teaching writing is difficult. They feel that the editorial process is subjective since, of course, there is no answer key. Writing courses provide the editorial feedback that helps students improve.
Will your children benefit from Time4Writing?

Do your children need help in developing their writing skills?
Would your child benefit from regular writing practice and detailed feedback?
Do your children have upcoming reports or timed assessments?
Is your child writing with joy and confidence yet?