Kick Start Activity 4 – Beginner – Connecting with others

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Important parts of the blogging process include:

  1. Reading other people’s blog posts
  2. Interacting and commenting on other people’s blog posts to challenge each others thoughts and views
  3. Writing posts in response to other bloggers’ posts

Simply put — Blogging is about connecting with others!

So this post is all about helping you gain skills to connect better with others.

In this fourth activity you will:

  1. Be introduced to RSS
  2. Learn how to set up Google Reader
  3. Set up Google Reader and subscribe to blogs
  4. Create and upload your comment avatar
  5. Visit other people’s posts that interest you and leave a comment
  6. Visit the Discussion Question for activity four to share more about how you use or will use RSS feeds and freed readers
  7. Complete the extension activity (if you have time).

Step 1: Introduction to RSS

RSS is an acronym which stands for Really Simple Syndication.

In simple terms, RSS is a simple and effective way of keeping in touch when new information is added to a website without having to visit the website to check for new updates.

How it works is you subscribe to your favorite website using the RSS feed in a RSS feed reader such as Google Reader.  Whenever new information is added to the website it is automatically sent to your RSS feed reader where you can read it at your convenience.

For example, whenever your favorite blogger publishes a new post it is automatically sent to your Feed reader.

Sites with RSS feeds are normally indicated with the word RSS and/or the orange RSS icon.

For more information, watch RSS in Plain English

Please note :

  • Blogs on all standard blogging platforms automatically include RSS feeds and don’t necessarily use words or an icon to indicate the presence of the RSS feed.
  • For all Edublogs, the rss feed is found by going to yourblog.edublogs.org/feed.  However, RSS feed Readers like Google Reader automatically detect your RSS feed from your blog URL so there is no need to know the feed URL.
  • RSS lets you do lots of cool stuff including adding latest updates from your favorite blog(s) or news website(s) to your own site using RSS widgets like FeedWind’s RSS widget

Step 2: How to set up and use Google Reader

A key aspect to managing reading other people’s blogs, being able to quickly respond to their posts and connect with them is to use a RSS feed reader.

The most commonly used RSS Feed Reader is Google Reader.

Here’s how you set up Google Reader:

Setting up a Google Reader account and adding subscriptions

1.  Create a Gmail account (if you don’t have one)

2.  Go to Google Reader and sign in with your Google Account

3.  Add the blog to your Google Reader account by:

  • Clicking on Subscribe
  • Entering their blog URL
  • Now click Add

You can also subscribe to all the comments published on student blogs by adding their student comment feed by:

  • Clicking on Subscribe
  • Entering their comment feed URL. For Edublogs blog you add comments/feed/ to the end of the blog URL. For example it should look like this http://theedublogger.com/comments/feed/
  • Now click Add

You follow the exact same steps to subscribe to any other website that has an RSS feed.  However, you’d normally locate the RSS feed you want to add and then paste in the feed URL.


Managing Subscriptions using Folders

Folders in Google Reader are like folders on your computer.

You use them to manage the different types of blogs and websites you read.  Folders let you easily prioritise your reading and locate subscriptions.

For example, to manage student blogs you can set up different folders for student blogs from each class or a folder for Student Posts and another folder for Student Comments.

Setting up a folder in Google Reader is a simple as:

1.  Hover your mouse over the blog title to display the drop down arrow.

2.  Click on the drop down arrow to display the subscription options.

3.  Select New Folder.

4.  Name your new folder and click OK.

Adding subscriptions to your folder is as simple as:

1.  Left mouse click on a blog title.

2.  Drag the blog into the folder.

3.  Then release your mouse to place it in the folder.

Alternatively, you can bulk add subscriptions to a folder using your subscription page:

1.  Go to Options and select Reader Settings.

2.  Click on the Subscriptions tab.

3.  Select the subscriptions you want to add to a folder.

4.  Click on drop down arrow next to More Actions and select the Folder you want to add the subscriptions to.


Reading posts inside Google Reader

Latest posts from the blogs and websites you subscribe are automatically added to your Google Reader when they’re published.

You read them inside Google Reader as follows:

1.  Log into your Google Reader account

2.  Click on the folder you want to read.

3.  Make sure it is set to Expanded view so you see the full post.

3.  The number of unread posts is shown in brackets next to the folder name.

4.   Just scroll down through the posts in the folder to read all posts.

5.  As you scroll the posts will automatically be marked as read and the number of unread posts listed next to the folder name will decrease.

6.  Just click on the post’s title to visit a post to add a comment


Step 3: Set up Google Reader and subscribe to blogs

Now you have learnt about RSS and Google Reader it is time to set up your own Google Reader account.

Once you have set it up we want you to subscribe to the following blogs:

We’ve made it easy with the first few by giving you the blog URL you need to add to Google Reader)

  1. Teacher Challenge Blog - http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/
  2. The Edublogger – http://theedublogger.com/
  3. Choose five blogs from any category of the Edublog Awards 2011

Step 4: Create and upload your comment avatar

An avatar is a computer user’s online representation of themself or their alter ego.

Your avatar is an important part of your online identity.

It’s an online representation of you that shows up in places such as where you leave comments, forum posts or on social networks and is part of how others visualize who you are.

As a blogger it’s a good idea to have an avatar that others recognise as representing you.

How to create an Avatar

There are two options that you can use for your avatar:

1.  A real photo of yourself
2.  Use an online tool to create an avatar

Remember it is always your choice!  The important part is to have an avatar — it doesn’t matter whether you use a real photo of yourself or create an avatar using an online tool!

But for best results always resize your image to 97 pixels wide by 97 pixels high and save as a .jpg before uploading your avatar.

The key is to think carefully of how you want others to visualize you when choosing your avatar – it’s all about creating a positive digital identify!

Here’s information to help you resize images:

  1. How to crop images using MS Paint
  2. How to resize images using MS Paint
  3. How to crop and resize using MS Picture Manager

If you would like to create your avatar using an online tool check out:

  1. This review of online avatar tools here that includes examples of avatars created using each tool
  2. Online avatars broken into categories based on age restrictions and gender – ideal for students

Uploading your Avatar To Edublogs.org

This avatar will display on all comments left on Edublogs.org blogs when you are logged into your Edublogs account.

Important tip:

  • If you are changing your avatar, it can take a few hours for caches to clear. Try clearing your browser’s cache by holding the Ctrl key and pressing F5, which will help.

1.  Go to Users > Your Avatar inside your blog dashboard

Your Avatar menu

2.  Click on Browse, locate your avatar on your computer and click Open

Browse to locate avatar image

3.  Now click Upload

Click upload

4.  Once uploaded select the part of the image you want to use as the avatar and then click Crop Image

Cropping your avatar

5.  Now whenever you leave comment on your blog or (another Edublogs.org blog) your avatar will display with your comment.

Uploading your avatar to Gravatar

Gravatar is a service that provides globally unique avatars.

Most standard blogging platforms support Gravatar.  So when you go from site to site leaving comments your gravatar image automatically displays –provided the email address associated with your Gravatar’s account is used.

So if you upload your avatar to Gravator whenever you leave a comment on a blog that supports gravatar (such as Edublogs.org, any Edublogs Campus site, WordPress.com, WordPress.org) your avatar image will automatically display next to your comment!

Important tip:

  • If you are changing your avatar, it can take a few hours for caches to clear. Try clearing your browser’s cache by holding the Ctrl key and pressing F5, which will help.

1.  Go to Gravatar and click on Get your Gravatar today!

2.  Enter your email address and click Signup

Signing up for a Gravatar

3.  Go to your email account and click on the link in your gravatar confirmation email to activate your account.

Email sent from gravatar

4.  Now follow the instructions to set your username and password.

Setting up your gravatar username and password

5.  Next upload your image by clicking on Add one by clicking here!

Uploading an image to Gravatar

6.  Choose where you’d like to get the image from – for best results ideal image size for upload is 80 x 80 pixels

7.  Once uploaded click on Crop and Finish

Cropping avatar image

8.  Click on G Rated as many sites only support displaying avatars with a rating of G.

gravatar4

Step 5:  Visit other people’s posts that interest you and leave a comment

Now you’ve set up Google Reader and organised your comment avatar — you’re now ready to click on links to posts in Google Reader and go to their blog to leave a comment.

So this week we’d love you to take the time to write a comment on a post(s) that interests you or makes you want to share your input.

Before commenting you might like to check out Huzzah’s Commenting Guidelines.

And if some one leaves a comment on your blog we respond back to your readers in the comments on your post. This is very important for building your blog’s community; it demonstrates that you value your readers and their input.

Step 6:  Extension activity – Optional

For those that want to write a post -

Here’s some ideas of what you might like to write about:

  1. Write a review on online avatars.  What works?  What doesn’t?  Tips!
  2. Write a review of some blogs you have found and are enjoying to read.  Why?
  3. What aspects of this activity did you find easy?  What surprised you?  What did you struggle with?  How could you make it easier for others?

And finally don’t forget to leave a comment with a link to your post so we can drop past to check it out!

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