Freelance Writing - SmartBoard Study

This week’s Teaching and Technology Freelance writing article, Interactive Whiteboard Study, reviews the interactive whiteboard (or SmartBoard as many call it, although that is a brand name). Learn how this interactive learning method works, and read about a study that reveals how this classroom technology can change your workload and your students’ learning.

Although the article is limited to the interactive whiteboard, there are other interactive learning products available. For example, there’s a portable interactive panel that can be connected to the PC and an interactive panel that attaches to a wall-mounted plasma screen that works well for roaming teachers.

Portable Interactive Panels
Interactive panels, when connected to the PC (desktop or notebook and a projector), also allow you to face your classroom while you teach, edit, and annotate computer applications directly from the panel. Using an interactive panel is very similar to using an interactive whiteboard, except the panels are usually much smaller: 15", 17" or 18". However, the screen image can be projected through a multimedia projector to various sizes onto a screen, making it perfect for large auditoriums and lecture halls. The advantage to an interactive panel is that it’s portable, making it ideal for roaming teachers or limited budgets.

Panels for Plasma
Plasma screens with an interactive panel or overlay have the same functionality as interactive whiteboards; however, they offer even more versatility because they can also be used as televisions to utilize public education channels or DVD’s.

The advantage of using a plasma screen is that the presenter doesn’t cast a shadow, unlike front-projection interactive whiteboards. The biggest disadvantage with the plasma screen is the cost and screen size (40-52”). However, Plasma screens do provide much sharper images than do similarly priced projectors.

If you would like to learn how the interactive whiteboard works or how it can impact your workload and your students’ learning, read Interactive Whiteboard Study. Also, participate in our poll: select SmartBoard if you already use an interactive whiteboard.

Building Website Content with Articles

The biggest and best tip to developing a successful website is content; search engines love it. Without content your website is doomed to failure before it even starts. Your content must include the keywords or keyword phrases that will increase your page rank; for example, if your website is about Internet freelance writing, your keywords may be seo, search engine optimization, copywriting, copywriter, editing, articles, free articles, writing service, write articles, and so on.

Your site should also have these keywords spread naturally throughout the content. Choose three to four of the most relevant keywords and place them on your home page. It's important to repeat them four to five times each, at a minimum. I have seen keywords repeated on successful websites over twenty times.

Choose between 50 - 100 keywords searches and have those repeated throughout your home page copy too. Your site should also have at least ten pages of content rich copy; successful sites have thousands of pages that are rich with good information.

Also, you need to update your site as frequently as possible. I suggest updating daily, if possible, using relevant copy while incorporating keywords.

Write articles to accomplish this task. If you hate to write articles or to create website content, you can easily and inexpensively hire someone to do it for you. There are several freelance writing and writer reference websites that encourage low bidding. For example, you can get a 400-500 word article for as little as $1 each. One such site is GetAFreelancer. You can also get free articles from public domains such as GoArticles, but you must include the author's name and copyright info.

Be careful about these cheap articles though: often they are written for spiders, not humans, so they don't read well, which will hurt your site. You must find a balance between keyword usage and good content.

Freelance Writing - Outlining isn't just for Beginners

When you begin to write, how often do you outline? If you’re a freelance writer, it’s imperative that you begin with this step because you’ll waste countless hours retracing and rewriting information.

Outlining causes you to think through the entire body of the work before you begin to write. It’s also a way to avoid writer’s block, since you’ll already have a map of where you need to go with your research or character development.

Steps for Outlining:

  1. Brainstorm
  2. Search engine
  3. Organize
  4. Elaborate

Whether you’re writing a novel, an academic essay, or a search engine optimization article, you need to outline. Begin by writing down your thoughts about the topic; don’t focus on order or clarity yet. Now, do a search on the topic to see what subsets of information you may have overlooked in your brainstorming.

Now, you can organize your list. I typically suggest to my students that the order depends upon your objective, but typically, list your strongest or most relevant points first. You may realize here that some of your points need not be included.

You’re ready to write, but don’t start at the top. The best way to write is to elaborate on each point, skipping around so that you can best connect your paragraphs. Elaborating will also help you write better topic sentences and better transitional sentences.

If you get stuck, put the writing aside while you work on another project, but don’t just sit there and stare! Now, go write.

Freelance Writing - Tips for Writing SEO Titles

Tips for Writing Titles
One of the easiest things you can do to optimize your page is to write a title for it. You'd be surprised how many web pages don't have a title. To confirm that your web page has a title, open it in a browser and look up at the title line.

Now that you have a title, the best thing besides having good content is knowing how to write better titles. The most important thing to remember is that web page titles are normally read out of context: there is nothing else except for the title to tell people what your site is about (especially on a search engine listing).

Keep your titles short. The most common search engine cuts off titles at 64 characters. The other two top runners display more characters, but keeping it under 64 characters is a good practice.

Try to keep your most relevant keywords in the front. Make sure those keywords are on topic, precise, and represent your content. Search engines approximate word usage, so always place the keywords that matter at the beginning and close together. Keywords phrases that are split up and too far apart will not be considered as related.

Use separators instead of words such as AND or ALSO. Search engines ignore widely used words such as AND, OR, THE, etc. Instead, use characters such as a hyphen or vertical line. This will save space.

More on this topic later.

Freelance Writing - Write Often

If you are writing as a freelance writer or copywriter for the Web, especially in a blog that may be the source of referrals or affiliate programs, you must write consistently. You do not need to write constantly, and you do not need write lengthy pieces, but you must write often.

I read by another writer that B. F. Skinner remarked that writing as little as fifteen minutes a day, every day, adds up to approximately one book every year, which he suggested was as much writing as anyone should enjoy. I'm not sure I agree with the end, but you get the point: you do not need to write a lot, but you must write, and you must write often.

In my quest to write about why something matters, here's today's reason: this is important for ranking, relevant, seo or search engine optimization, among others.

Writing - Not what happened but why it matters

Poor blog writing includes trivial events and encounters, information that give readers no reason to care. Instead of telling readers what happens, them them why it matters.

I'm guilty of this writing as well because sometimes I need to digest my daily events, and one way I work through these events is by writing. In these times, consider yourself the reader, and for that reason, the writing matters. To become a better writer and reader, even for your own reading, try to find out why those events matter, and in the end, your writing will affect more people in a positive way.

This type of writing is important because rather than simply regurgitating information, we are working through it logically, to make sense of events and to connect them to other important events or people.

Digital Storytelling using Windows Movie Maker

Explore how digital storytelling increases student participation and memory, and review free resources for using this technology in the classroom.

Last week after posting the article
Digital Storytelling Simplified, I received two emails from teachers, one of whom was using a similar simplified method with success; the other teacher asked me why digital storytelling has become so popular in classrooms.

What a great question! How would you respond if someone asked you why you want to use digital storytelling?
Email me! I had my own suspicions, but I found several sources that claim digital storytelling can increase your students’ participation by involving them in the creation process; additionally, it can enhance your students’ comprehension and memory by associating events with emotions and images, for example.

Let’s compare reading a paragraph from a history book during a unit on World War I, with the same information shared through digital storytelling: the story reveals the events of Private Victor Silvester’s last week of life, in the trenches. One of your students reads the diary entry while images of soldiers in trenches appear on the projector screen and sounds of bombs exploding echo in the background: “As we were moving up to our sector along the communication trenches, a shell burst ahead of me and one of my platoon dropped. He was the first man I ever saw killed. Both his legs were blown off and the whole of his face and body was peppered with shrapnel. The sight turned my stomach. I was sick and terrified, but even more frightened of showing it” (War Diary extracts).

This is a real experience for students, not a paragraph in a textbook: the emotion of the story relayed through voice inflection, enhanced with images of the trenches and an audio clip of bombs exploding, all combine to pique each learning modality.

In this week’s article,
Digital Storytelling, I walk step-by-step through using Windows Movie Maker to create a digital storytelling presentation, and I include several Internet resources for free images and audio clips to enhance any digital story.

If you have a great resource that you use to create digital storytelling projects, please
email me.

Writing Academic Essays and Ghost Writing

While completing the last details of an eBook with a client yesterday, I was offered a project to write a thesis for a graduate student. I was told that the student's major is mechanical engineering, and he has only his thesis to submit to graduate.

I must admit that I was a bit miffed that they offered this project to me. I supposed they did need to test my ethical boundaries, since I do so much ghost writing. Which takes me to my dilemma of ghost writing...

Do any other ghost writers out there feel just a bit offended when clients ask to add an "about the author" page (about them, of course) when you've spent countless hours researching and writing? I'm not sure why this bothers me, but it does.

Digital Storytelling for Beginners

Digital storytelling increases student participation, yet many teachers feel the technology can be intimidating. Is there an easier way?

As I was researching digital storytelling for this week’s article, Part I of a two-part series, Digital Storytelling Simplified, I realized how intimidating this method of sharing and learning can be for educators and students who don’t use technology in this way. I think the intimidation comes from the term “digital.” When we see such a nebulous word, we fear the unknown. Then I realized that digital storytelling is simply show-and-tell with a twist.

Once we can associate the unknown with something we understand and feel comfortable with, it seems less tenuous, so I set out to simply the process of digital storytelling into three simple steps. After we become comfortable with sharing and learning this way, we can transition from graphic storytelling to digital storytelling, utilizing technology in the classroom. By graphic storytelling, I’m not referring to the use of simple comics; I’m including images, illustrations, photographs, etc.

Many schools in my area (suburbs of Chicago) have had digital storytelling programs for several years, but some of my friends who are teachers feel the delivery method is overwhelming or too complicated to try. They’ve attended workshops for a few Flash-based programs, or similar products, but they feel it’s just too difficult for them—and these are intelligent, resourceful teachers! They express the desire to participate in digital storytelling, but they often feel that some technology in the classroom is just too difficult to use.

Teachers have been participating in storytelling in their classrooms for years, but the gap hasn’t been bridged between what they’ve been doing and this new form of delivery: digital storytelling. It seems the workshops discuss the benefits and demonstrate a piece of software, but they don’t connect this form of teaching and learning to what teachers have been doing successfully. This gap leaves wonderful educators feeling left out.

If you’re ready to apply the principals of digital storytelling to a simpler format of delivery, graphic storytelling, take a look at Part I of Digital Storytelling Simplified. Next week, in Part II, I’ll include resources that will help you advance your storytelling to a digital delivery format, using Windows Movie Maker. If you've used WMM and have any questions or comments you'd like me to share in next week's article, please email me.

Freelance Writing Project Declined

How many writing projects have you declined? I turned down a second project offered by a site owner this morning. I think I've learned as much from this person as I can. His project's guidelines are nebulous, which leads us in circles after I submit a draft. I follow his instructions, without variation, and he "changes his mind" after he sees it in writing. I've decided that when it takes eight hours to create a $5 article, it's not worth it. What am I doing wrong with this owner?

RSS Feeds and Feed Sites

What I learned today: a RSS feed syndicates your content. Yes, yes, I know the rest of you have known this for a long time, but I've been teaching composition inside a classroom forever. I've been finding feed submission sites today, and I've managed to get through a short list so far to submit my Teaching & Technology feed.

I've kept the list of feed url's if you're interested, just send me a comment.

I'm assuming the goal of these feeds is to get people to visit the website, thereby increasing traffic to either a)make possible sales, b)get possible click-throughs, or c)get 15 minutes of fame. Maybe I'm missing something, but during my one-day self-tutorial on this, that's my take on it.

Oh, I also created my own RSS file, which was interesting, but terribly monotonous. I'm certainly glad I don't have to do that manually.

Freelance Writing - This Week's Project

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For the last week, I’ve been ghost writing an eBook on head lice, yes head lice. When I was offered the project, which required 50 pages of text, I honestly didn’t think that there were 50 pages of text that could be written about the little critters.

Besides having an itching head all week, I’ve learned more than one would ever want to know about these blood-sucking parasites. Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to use this wealth of information for my own benefit, but I certainly hope not.

So what have I learned about freelance writing from this project? Pictures are worth at least 200 words; a thousand is pushing it. Write on my friends.

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Article - Teachers & Online Degree Program

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With affordable technology and easy access to the Internet, teachers today have the option, but is there a stigma associated with an online degree program for teachers?

When I was completing my student teaching, I finally saw the end of my education nearing—or so I thought, and I couldn’t have been happier: I was ready to finally start making some money, but I had no idea that teachers with a BA were earning about 5% less than teachers holding a MA, with the same tenure. Knowing that fact probably wouldn’t have prompted me to get my MA that early anyway, because my first few years of teaching were hectic.

If you’ve finally gotten all your preps honed to an art, you may want to look into some of the options that allow teachers to earn a degree online, specifically an online accredited degree that will help you expand your knowledge and increase your salary, and what teacher doesn’t want both of those?

Take a look at the key factors that will help you decide if an online graduate degree is right for you. You’ll find that not every online degree program is worth the time or money. This week's article,
Teachers Earn a Degree Online, will help you understand crucial elements that help you select an online graduate degree in Education. Explore accreditation, district acceptance, technology/equipment required, programs, costs, and more.

Is there a stigma attached to this type of degree? Have you considered an online degree program, but you're afraid your district won't accept it as credible or valid? With affordable technology and easy access to the Internet, at least teachers today have the option of getting an online graduate degree, an opportunity so many teachers in the past never even dreamed of having.

I have a girlfriend who teaches high school English in Virginia; she and I were discussing the acceptability of online degree programs, and she’s spoken with her department chair about them. Her chairperson is relatively tech-savvy, so she had positive things to say about the opportunity to earn a degree online, but I’m sure there are some administrators out there who frown upon it.

What do you think? Have you spoken to any of your colleagues or administrators about an online graduate degree? I’m curious to hear what you have to say. Please email me -- I’d love to hear and share your comments.
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Search Engine Results - User Statistics

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When people perform internet searches, and search results pages appear, 47% of people scroll down to see more results than those shown above the fold, the remaining 53% do not scroll down.

They are looking only at the top portion of the results page. Most people (93%) don’t look beyond the first page. And a miniscule 7% click through to a subsequent page.

If you can believe it, 38% of people don’t click on any result, which is odd to me… Half the people click on one result. Less than 10% click on two results, and it just decreases from there. When someone clicks a result, 51% of the time s/he clicks the first item (top result); 16% of the time, the person clicks the second item from the top, 6% of the time s/he clicks the third, and again, it just declines from there.

A New Freelance Job

Hello fellow freelance writers. I've just begun writing for Suite101's Teaching & Technology. Please stop by and say hello. I'd love to hear from you there as well.
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SEO Copywriting - How do these writers survive?

I’m developing a brick-and-mortar course on writing for the web that will include SEO (search engine optimization) copywriting, which I will teach next semester. As a result, I’ve been doing a few freelance writing projects for the web, and all I have to say is, HOW IN THE WORLD DO THESE WRITERS PAY THEIR BILLS?

First, I registered on several freelance websites just to browse and explore the types of writing jobs available. I’ve received several projects from one bidding site, but these contract providers expect to pay only about .01 cent per word; it’s quite ghastly. If I didn’t teach, which certainly doesn’t pay well, I’m not sure I’d even be able to eat on this pittance. freelance, freelance jobs, freelance writer, writer, copywriter, seo copywriter
For example, I wrote a 1500-word article for one website owner who has totally rewritten the article, in substandard language I should add, and he has yet to offer payment, which is a mere $5, if you can imagine that! On the up side, I have learned a great deal about (SEO) copywriting and how website owners use it to gain higher search result page ranking.

It’s obvious that most of the writers are using content generators or simply plagiarizing, or possibly paraphrasing. My next objective is to research content generators; I’m very curious about this…freelance, freelance jobs, freelance writer, writer, copywriter, seo copywriter