Tag Archives: Web search engine

Disconnecting … to Imagine New Ways of Connecting

During a recent web search, I came across the image below and something about it really caught my eye. Maybe it was because of all of the colors (I love colors!) or the way the data cables so clearly represented a woman but I think what really struck me was how the model was simultaneously so expressive yet seemingly weighted down.

“Connected” a self-portrait by Kasey McMahon. Photo by Kevin Rolly

The artwork and it’s name, “Connected,” prompted me to reflect on how tied down we become at times simply by being connected. With my last bit of vacation coming next week before the start of a new school year, the idea of cutting ties with technology for a little bit and being a little less “connected” sounds nice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love working with technology and typically spend most of the day on my computer connected with other educators, searching for global projects, learning from my Twitter PLN, and updating websites. Yet, sometimes it seems we’re so connected that we don’t converse with the people we’re with and we begin to alter our expectations of ourselves and others in interpersonal interactions. I know at times when I’m in the middle of conversing with someone I have found myself drawn towards my computer screen and the pop-ups telling me I have a new email. And when my phone beeps with a new text message, it can be surprisingly hard to ignore it, even thought I may be completely engaged out and about with friends or family.

I’m curious if our pressure to be connected is due to the concern about what we’ll lose/miss if we’re not online (e.g., emails, social media updates) or due to a literal need to be connected to do work, or because of a simple desire or idea that being digitally connected is an important and valued way of building and strengthening professional and personal relationships. Perhaps the pressure to connect is a result of all three factors and this is why, combined, they are challenging to overcome or put aside.

Still, I think it can helpful and refreshing to digitally disconnect at times during the year so that we can focus more on other connections and feel less tied to cords, outlets, and electronic devices. I’m excited next week to be traveling and to hopefully connect with some other environments and people, such as the sand under my toes at the beach, the fresh air of a summer walk, and the family I’ll see while on vacation. While I’m sure I’ll have to check email occasionally and won’t be able to resist skimming my Hootsuite streams, it will be nice to feel like I can or even should walk away from those sites and enjoy other types of connections.

I’m also excited to use the time when I’m less digitally connected to reflect more on being connected and on the technologies I use so frequently. By stepping away from them, I imagine they’ll be easier to examine. As my new summer book (Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer) suggests, by focusing less on on the specific digital connections  I have, I can give my brain time and space to make broader connections. I can allow myself to be more creative and think about new ways to use my connections in the coming school year and creative ideas about how technology does and can intersect with our daily lives.

What do other people think? Are we ever too digitally connected? Do you take time to disconnect simply so you can imagine new ways of connecting? 

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Optimization for Education?

Googlebot from page 5

SEO or search engine optimization is increasingly on my radar these days. Almost daily, I see posts about it on sites like Mashable and tweets about it in my various Twitter streams. It wasn’t that long ago that I was still trying to learn and remember what the acronym stood for but over the past few months I have come to see how valuable SEO can be.

For those of you who are new to this term, search engine optimization refers to “the active practice of optimizing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines” as defined by SEOmoz. This means that you examine your website to ensure that there is consistency in your naming practices, that your links are updated and active, that your content is original and new, and that you have social media sharing tools embedded on every page.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that affect SEO, many of which I am still learning. Luckily, there are a lot of helpful resources on the web to find out how SEO works. For example, I attended a great webinar by Kuno Creative titled “Inbound Marketing: The New SEO Facts, Figures, and Data” which helped clarify the connection between inbound marketing (if you’re new to this term, check out this great infographic) and SEO. Through that webinar, I was able to find out about updates to Google’s search algorithm and how it rewards sites for providing good content that people want to share across the web. I also learned more about the importance of having numerous keywords appear in search engine results that will drive traffic to your site. Other resources, like SEOmoz’s extensive “Beginner’s Guide to SEO” and Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” have also been invaluable in my journey to understand SEO and its effect on my websites.

Yet, the more I learn about SEO, the more I begin to wonder about the implications of SEO for educators and educational organizations or nonprofits. Many of these groups have few employees and little funding and most of the educators I know dedicate much, if not all, of their time to designing lesson plans and preparing innovative and engaging projects for their students. All of which leaves little time to learn about SEO and apply the related practices to their company websites or personal blogs. Meanwhile, large companies hire full-time “search engine optimizers” or companies like Hubspot to help them with this work.

Does this difference in SEO resources and management capacity matter? Do educators, schools, and educational organizations need to be concerned with SEO? A few months ago, I would have said no – SEO is something that only businesses and companies trying to sell products deal with and need to worry over. Now, I’m not so sure. As I prepare to launch my own new website for early childhood educators to learn about using technology to create global learning experiences, I’m conscious of the fact that I would like my site to be easily found in search engines. I want educators to be able to find the free resources and tools I have collected without having to search ten pages of Google results before stumbling upon the site.

Watching the analytics for this blog, I can see how much traffic search engines can bring to a site and I want other educational websites and blogs to be accessible and easily found by families, teachers, and administrators who want to learn about educational issues. So, I’m left wondering about the importance of SEO for education and about whether there is a way to make information about SEO more accessible and understandable for educators and their related organizations. I want to optimize education so that it is a topic that has a fighting chance at being ranked in search results. I think educators easily have the “fresh” content that Google is looking for, I’m just not sure if they are always aware of how that content has to be coded and marketed to be optimized for search results.