Mexican Food & BlogHer

I’m in San Jose, Calif for BlogHer14 and while here I am having full days of networking, learning, and Mexican food. Yes, Mexican food. As an American ExPat living in Victoria, BC, Canada, it is really hard to get good Mexican food consistently. I joke that I miss my family, the weather, and Mexican food. And, on the occasional day in Victoria the order might vary. I should add that I am Latina and I grew up on Mexican food at home. I know Mexican food and it is my favorite–it reminds me of home.

I have been to Mezcal, Mexicali Grill, and Super Taqueria. The photos are from each restaurant in the order noted. I have had a great trip thus far and look forward to more conversation, learning, and Mexican food.











Blog Her, Blog Her

I am going to a conference for professional development this week. You might have heard of the conference–BlogHer. This year marks its 10th conference. You have to figure that some 11-12 years ago the group of women founders looked around the Silicon Valley and realized that they were doing something unique and needed to network with other women. Voila–BlogHer was born.

Now, BlogHer is a tween and is going strong based on the various other conferences, website, and more. I am happy to attend this year’s conference in my home state, California. And, I am looking forward to learning more and making connections. Lifts coffee cup–to BlogHer.


The Online Academic Community: Enterprise WP Environment

This post ran almost two months ago on Inside Higher Education for the University of Venus. I have revised it.

I would like to speak to  my use of our Online Academic Community (OAC) at the University. This is the enterprise WordPress site on our campus. It is in its first year of “real” (non-pilot) use and my hope is that more users were join the OAC for teaching, learning, research, and community building for scholars and student groups.

I had used the OAC during Summer 2013 term, but the 2013 Fall term was the first regular term in which I used the OAC. The OAC is our internal WordPress site. What makes it better than the regular WordPress site is that the cloud is on our campus. We only use themes, widgets, and plugins that comply with the provincial privacy regulations that keep my students’ data and all information in Canada. While I encourage my students to occasionally Google themselves and mind their digital footprint, it is important in the learning environment that any education technology tools I ask them to use as part of their evaluation maintains the integrity of their information. The other advantage of the OAC is that WordPress is my preferred blogging platform and I am quite comfortable with it. Plus, how can I say no to technical support from colleagues on campus? They are a tweet, email or phone call away from helping resolve a student query or the occasional odd troubleshooting. You cannot put a price on having technical support–it is priceless.

 What are we doing with the OAC? My students are blogging, vlogging, and uploading Wikipedia entries into the OAC. We are also using the OAC environment as portfolios for all of their work. Their blogs are academic research assignments that require the same care of an assignment that is submitted as a hard copy. Some of the students opt to make a particular post or vlog private, and this is acceptable. Given that the nature of my courses focus on issues of gender, politics, and sexuality, it is not uncommon that the students are blogging or vlogging about sensitive issues. The last major assignment is a research paper related to the course materials, and this also is uploaded into the OAC.

During this time, I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing their writing and analysis improve on their sites. Many of the students have been in my office working on their sites and discussing their work. In the beginning there were growing pains for some of the students as they figured out the technology and I helped them figure out the themes, widgets or overall set up of their blog site. And, this term the students are group blogging, placing their apps, and their TS Talks on their group sites.

The students are getting their fair share of writing opportunities, but they are thinking critically and learning transferable skills at the same time. The transferable skill really is the ability to use the OAC, publish on Wikipedia, and use Vimeo or YouTube for their vlogs. In previous terms, when we have used the regular WordPress site or other blogging platforms, I usually hear from a few students that using the technology was lots of work, but others note that the skills they learned were useful with their current job or their search for work.

 I am hopeful that the OAC site and technical support continues to make these assignments dynamic for my students. I am optimizing technology in the classroom in a way that works for most of them. While I have offered blogging assignments during the last six or seven years, I am more cognizant of protecting my students’ privacy and more familiar with effective social media platform use in the classroom. I like to try new things and I find that many students are open to using technology in different ways.


At BlogHer 13

I’m enjoying my second Blog Her. This year’s event is at Chicago, and thus far I’ve been able to enjoy the sights of the city. I walked around for almost two hours yesterday and then participated in the Blog Her 5K today and saw more of the city. I’ve been here before, so it’s great to be back in the Windy City. I’m quite happy to share that I’ve met some other bloggers, who I have first met on Twitter! It’s nice to have the real face to the Twitter handle or blog URL.

I also find it instructive to be surrounded with other people who get social media. This conference is clearly focused on blogging, but many are on multiple social media platforms. It is also comforting to see such a diverse crowd in terms of race and ethnicity. There are clearly lots of so-called Mommy Bloggers and today’s opening keynote definitely spoke to that niche; however, there are other types of bloggers here who self-identify as writers, style bloggers, and have walked away from the Mommy title. To be clear, I am a mom of two kids and I have nothing against mommy bloggers. I do not self identify as such.

The exhibit has been fun. I have only walked through half of it and appreciate the ways in which the vendors can just scan my registration barcode. However, I imagine that my friends who write about security would smirk about the high level of data mining. I actually walked away from the AT&T vendor, when they wanted my cell number. My email and name was not enough to fill out the form. I smiled and said, “No, thank you.” Don’t get me wrong, I like the free swag and have a bag filled with freebies, but I draw the line at sharing my cell number. I do not like getting calls/texts from businesses on my work land line or cell number.

This is my first of a few posts about Blog Her 13. I was comforted to hear the Blog Her team discuss numbers and trends about blogging and their website. Blogging and social media is here to stay and not some passing fad. I’d like a shirt with that sentence! The Blog Her team is doing a great job. I am including a screen shot of my favorite business card, so far. I met the founder Meghan Jordan at the Peoples Party last night.


Blogging Assignments: Yes, I’m Sold on Them

For the last four to five years I have included a blogging assignment in my Women’s Studies or Political Science courses. During the last three years the blogging assignment is mandatory and I have found that most students find the assignment(s) liberating in that it offers them a place to combine analysis with a creative assignment. However, I find that it is good to offer some flexibility with the assignment. Last Summer students had an opportunity to blog, put together a zine or make an iMovie that responded to a series of course readings. Six to eight of them put together zines and more opted to blog. For the second year in a row–no one opted to complete the iMovie assignment. However, one person did vlogging for her assignment and I was pleased with her vlogs.

These creative assignments are coupled with class participation, and lots of writing–a major research paper. The students get ample opportunity to think and write. My expectations are that the series of blogs helps the student hone her/his analysis of the course readings and my comments, then, help them improve so that the final paper is not merely an extension, but the final product for their thoughtful analysis related to the course material. I will continue to offer them this opportunity to blog.

The blogging assignment also allows the student to become familiar with a blogging platform and I find that most students enjoy learning how to add different matter (photos, video clips and the like) to their posts. The students experience some pride of ownership with their particular blog and then they get to do that practical thing—add familiarity to said platform to their resume. That said, there is also a growing area of literature that is examining blogging as a genuine assignment in the classroom and the benefits of blogging. I do think that we will continue to see social media use in our classrooms and here I do not mean that student laughing or smiling into their hands, as they text one another. No, we will see more colleagues using social media platforms in the classroom assignments. How are you using Web 2.0 in your classroom?