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Interview Of The Month: Sue Waters, The Most Helpful & Well-Liked Person In The Education “Blogosphere”

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Regular readers know that in the fall I began a new feature called “Interview of The Month” where I interview various people in the education world about whom I want to learn more. You can see read those past interviews here.

This month, my guest is Sue Waters, whom many know from her writing The Edublogger and her own personal/professional blog.

Sue has helped enormous numbers of teachers get started in using blogs and other forms of social media to help with their own professional development and with using those tools with students.  I know I wouldn’t know what I was doing without her help!

I always call you “the most helpful and well-liked person in the education blogosphere (and twitterverse).” I know many people agree. So, who in the world are you and how did you get here?

Thanks for the lovely words as always.

I’m a person who enjoys and is passionate about helping others. I’ve always been like this in whatever I do.

However, I’m now fortunate enough to be in a situation where I have more time and a greater ability to help others on a global basis as a result of my work with Edublogs.org and Incsub.com.

I’d have to say I got here through a certain degree of luck, support and lots of hard work. Who could have imagined how much my life would change in six year? To go from training others how to farm fish to what I do now — is incredible.

It sort of goes like this. Part of my work involved managing our program for students who studied aquaculture online. Annelieske Noteboom, the elearning coordinator for our College during this period, recognised both my abilities and that there were so many more ways that I could be using technology with my students. Through her, support from my College, and the Australian Flexible Learning Framework I was constantly encouraged and supported to extend myself more.

Early on I decided the best way to learn how to use an online tool was to use it for my own personal learning while documenting and sharing what I was learning. My work came to the attention of James Farmer (CEO Edublogs) because I was blogging with Edublogs and he liked the way my how-to information helped others.

James offered me the opportunity to write posts on The Edublogger and this eventually lead to full time work with Edublogs.org and Incsub.com — where I do every thing from support, dealing with enquiries, to write how-to’s for Edublogs, WordPress MU and BuddyPress.

What would some of your suggestions be to teachers who are new to this PLN (Personal Learning Network), blogging, Twitter business? How should they approach it?

1 ) Find people who are happy to help, support and mentor them through the process.

Mentors are really important part in the journey. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance of both face-to-face and online mentors.

Having people like Annelieske to constantly motivate, encourage and challenge you are really important. Hint, I’m always happy to help explain anything.

2) It’s not a race.

Take it step-by-step, work out what works for you and take time to learn how to use. You don’t need to learn everything at once!

My PLN yourself wiki is a good starting point because recommendations are based on over 200 well connected educators. It will help you get started — provided you invest the time to learn!

You get zillions of questions all the time. What are some of the most common ones, and how do you answer them?

Questions are hard as there aren’t that many common ones — they’re constantly changing and evolving

As people are asking them, though, I’m ensuring the information is provided in posts on The Edublogger, on our Help and Support site and through manuals on WPMU DEV.

If anything it probably more of an issue that they aren’t realising to ask the “right” questions and it’s hard for all of us to make sure they are aware of all the important aspects they really need to know.

There will always new people learning how to use these technologies. It’s important we all don’t lose sight of this aspect.

How would you assess the “state” of the education blogosphere — growing/shrinking/changing?

When we talk about the state of the education blogosphere — in terms of using with students it is definitely growing.

Educators are being more aware of online technologies and the importance of using them with their students. We’re seeing a continual increase in the use of blogs with students for an extremely wide range of purposes.

Yet how educators are using blogs for their personal use is changing as social networking is evolving. Tools such as Twitter and Facebook are complementing blogs, helping their content reach a wider audience and changing how readers interact with the blogger. Once conversations with your readers were in post(s) comments or on other blog posts, now they are often spread from Twitter, Facebook, comments etc

I don’t know what your official job title is, but you’re something like the Edublogs’ ambassador to the world. What’s the most fun part of your job and why?

Oh no, not the job title?

To be honest, there really hasn’t be a good fit in terms of a title that really describes it, which is why you’ll see a wide range of job titles against my name depending on where you see my name displayed.

Can I say Chief Chocolate Expert in the Blogs.mu forum is my favorite job title?

How that came about is that Andrew , our chief technical officer and part owner of Blogs.mu, gave himself the title of Staff – Chief Troublemaker in the Blogs.mu forum so I decided if he could do that then I should be allowed to be a chocolate expert!

Is it okay to say that all of my job is fun? Or maybe it might be scary? But the trouble is I really enjoy my job so much that it doesn’t feel like a job — hence the reason why I work too much.

Each day I’m constantly involved in a wide range of cool stuff. When people who know me look at what I’m doing they are probably only seeing the tip of the iceberg.

For example, the educators mostly see the web 2.0 and blogging aspects of what I do. While the WordPress MU and BuddyPress users mostly only see that aspect.

But if I had to pick the one thing — it would have to be working with the students. Seeing transformation of students actively wanting to learning and being responsible for their own learning is inspiring!

Can you give us a sneak peak into what the Edublogs’ future might hold?

Our focus for the future is making Edublogs even better — improving users experience, our service and functionality.

We’ve already introduced new functionality like Premium support (so Pro users have email support), provide tools for batch adding students to blogs, adjusted the role of contributors so they can add media, and changed who can see comments inside dashboards (to minimise the chance of younger students seeing inappropriate comments).

We’re currently in the process of advertising two new positions; a marketing magician; and an advanced WordPress plugin developer.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask you about?

Can’t think of anything? Perhaps send chocolate?

Thanks, Sue!

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

3 Comments

  1. Great questions, Larry. Such a true picture of Sue; we only see such a small amount of her work. Did the chocolate arrive OK Sue?

  2. Sue,

    Thanks for your words from the heart (of teaching).
    “It’s not a race” hits all the chords with me, we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over about this (and especially our students). The competitive nature takes over it seems, at all locals and all levels — but the race is within. God provide me with that teacher (mentor) that speaks to me and not how I can be better than others….

    Again, thanks for your continued dedication to education, Sue. (and too Larry!),

    David

  3. Good choice for the interview! I can’t even imagine what Edublogs would be without Sue Waters. I know that she has helped me many times and somehow she always manages to answer my questions very quickly. I see her as one of my overall blogging teachers, even from afar.

    And yes, if I ever am lucky enough to meet her, I’ll definitely bring chocolate!

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