Step 1: Set up your blog

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Welcome to our latest free professional learning series on personal blogging!

This series guides you step by step through the process of setting up your own personal or professional educator blog.

Refer our class and student blogging series if you want to set up a class blog.

The activities can be completed at your own pace and in any order!

Wherever you’re at – we’ll step you through the tasks designed to increase your skills while providing help to support your learning.  Don’t stress, have fun, and remember to ask for help by leaving a comment any time you need assistance!

The aim of this first activity is to:

  • Help you learn more about what is a blog and why educators have their own personal or professional educator blog.
  • Help you set up your blog, customize your settings and change your theme.

Click on a link below to go to the section you want to work on:

  1. What is a blog?
  2. Why educators use blogs
  3. Examples of personal and professional educator blogs
  4. Sign up for your blog
  5. Create your blog (if you don’t already have one!)
  6. Update your Profile
  7. Upload your user avatar
  8. Check your General settings
  9. Customize your blog theme
  10. Commonly asked theme questions
  11. What else did you want to know?


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What is a blog?

One of the biggest challenges educators new to blogging face is understanding the basics of how a blog works.

So we made this quick intro video to explain.

We’ve recommend you start by watching this video.

We’ve included explanations of key blogging vocabulary which will help as you work through this series including Footers, Headers, Menus, Pages, Posts, Comments, Sidebars, Theme and Widgets.

You can check it out on MediaCore here if you don’t have access to YouTube.

Feel free to share this video on your own blogs, with students or teachers, or with whomever you think may enjoy!  Later in this series we show you how easy it is to add videos to your blog.

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Why educators use blogs

The main reasons why educators have personal / professional blogs include:

  • Share information and tips with other educators.
  • Collaborate with a global audience. Increased collaboration with others, leads to greater innovation and ideas, because each individual sees a different perspective – giving all involved greater “food for thought!”
  • To reflect on their learning or their teaching /work practices.
  • To learn how to blog themselves so they can use blogs effectively with their students.

Blogs are an important part of many educators’ PLN (Personal Learning Network).

Refer to The State of Educational blogging in 2012 for more information on why educators use blogs.

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Example of Personal / Professional Educator blogs

Your personal / professional blog extends your relationships outside of your school and allows you to connect with global educators who all willingly help each other.

Here’s some examples of real Personal / Professional Educator blogs to see how they are used:

  1. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
  2. The Edublogger
  3. The Principal of Change
  4. Free Technology for Teachers
  5. Cool Cat Teacher Blog
  6. Integrating Tech in the Primary Classroom
  7. Teacher Reboot Camp
  8. Dangerously Irrelevant
  9. Edublog Awards Best Individual Blog 2012


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Sign up for your blog

Your first step if you don’t currently have your own blog, or you would like to use a new blog for this challenge, is to sign up for a blog.

You can use any blogging platform you would like including EdublogsWordPress and Blogger, however when we write detailed instructions they will refer to Edublogs.  You will be able to adapt this information to the blogging platform you are using.

Here is some important things to consider before creating your blog:

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1.  Your Username

Username

Your username is what you use to sign into your blog dashboard and is displayed on posts and comments you write.

While you can’t change your username, most blog platforms do allow you to change how your name is displayed on posts and comments.

Most teachers don’t allow students to use first and last name online and it is common for them to model this by using display names like Miss W or  Mrs. Waters on their class blog.

Whereas on their personal blog they are more likely to use their first and last name because their primary goal is often to connect with other educators.  Using their full name helps others connect with them better on a personal level.

So you are more likely to see them use a username like suewaters and a display name like Sue Waters.


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2. Blog URL (Domain)

During the creation of your blog you have to select a URL for it.  When you want others to visit your blog you give them the URL link of your blog.   For example, the URL for the Teacher Challenge blog is http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/

Think carefully about your blog URL.

Once your blog has an established audience you’re less likely to want to change your blog URL.

A simple option is to use your name in the blog URL or use something that has meaning:

  1. Sue Waters Blog ( http://suewaters.com/ )
  2. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day ( http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/)
  3. The Edublogger ( http://theedublogger.com/ )
  4. Free Technology for Teachers ( http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ )


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3.  Blog Title

Your blog title is one of the first things a reader sees when visiting your blog.  Choose a name that reflects the purpose of your class blog and your students can relate to.

But don’t stress too much!  You can always change your blog title any time via Settings > General in your dashboard.

Some teachers organize a class activity so students can help choose the blog title.

Check out the Edublog Awards nomination lists for ideas of blog titles other educators have used.

Blog Title

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4.  Password

Passwords are our line of defense for protecting our online accounts.

The stronger your password the more protected your accounts are.  You should always use strong passwords for all accounts and use strong passwords that are different for each of your important accounts.

While remembering multiple strong passwords can be annoying, at least all your other accounts are protected even if a password is compromised for one account.

A strong password:

  • Is at least 8 characters long
  • Is unique and different from your other passwords.
  • Doesn’t include terms that are significant to you like pet’s name, username, real name, date, phone number that are easy to guess or use complete words that make it easier for hackers who use dictionary attack programs.  Also avoid common word misspellings and words in which letters have been replaced by numbers or symbols because some dictionary attack programs also check for these.
  • Contains a combination of uppercase and lower case letters, numbers and symbols (keyboard characters that aren’t letters or numbers).

A common method used for creating a strong random password is to turn a sentence that you can easily remember and turn into a password by using the first letter of each word, parts of words, substituting numbers and symbols as appropriate.  Choose phrases that are meaningful to you or includes your favorite hobby or sport to help you remember.

For example, my phrase might be:

Rush Hour 3 is my favorite movie might become rH/3iMfm

or

I love football could become iLuVfb

You’ll find more tips for creating strong passwords here.

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Create your blog

Now you’ve done all the research it’s time to create your blog!  All you need to do is follow these instructions if you would like to set up your blog on Edublogs.

Alternately,  check out The State of Educational Blogging 2013 to read more about the different blog platforms used by educators.

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Update your Profile

Your Profile page is where you can control the global settings for your username including where you set up your display name, change your password and email address.

Your Profile is most commonly used to update display name. password and email address so we’ll focus on this.   You’ll notice there are lots of personal settings options in Your Profile and you can read more about each Personal setting here.

The most important thing to update is your display name.  Setting up a display name makes it easier for some who leaves a comment to quickly look at your first name to personalize their comment.  If your username is displayed on posts means they have to search to see if they work out your first name.

Here’s how to update your Profile:

1.  Log into your blog dashboard.

2.  Go to Users > Your Profile in your blog dashboard.

Your Profile

3. Scroll to near the bottom of the page to  Nickname in the Name area.

4.  Change the Nickname to the name you want displayed on posts and comments.

Type your preferred display name

5.  Click on the drop down arrow and select your preferred publicly displayed name.

Select your preferred display name

6.  Now look at the email under Contact info.  All comment notification and password reset emails are sent to this address.

If you’ve set up your blog using our no email option it will look like this:

No email option

If you would like to receive comment notifications and be able to retrieve your password using the Lost Password link then we recommend you add your email address.

Please  note:

Your email address is required. You may change this, but you can only use one e-mail address per username.  This email address must be valid because to confirm that change an  email will be sent to this address and it won’t be changed until you click on the link in the email.

Change your email address

7.  Now scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see the new password field.

Change  your password by typing your new password into both boxes.  There is no need to update your password (unless you want to).  We just wanted to show you how it is done.

Changing your password

8.  Now just click on Update Profile to apply the changes.

Remember to always click on Update Profile whenever you make any changes on Your Profile page!

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Upload your user avatar

Your avatar is an online representation of you.

The user avatar is also known as your comment avatar.  You upload the user avatar via Users > Your Avatar and it displays in places where you leave comments and next to posts you publish on some themes.

The default avatar set in Settings > Discussions is automatically display next to comments you leave unless you upload your own Avatar.

Your user avatar helps your readers visualize who you are.   It helps create a personal connection with  your readers.

Below is an example of a user avatar and display name next to a comment.

Avatar

Uploading your avatar is as simple as:

1.  Select a photo.

Most educators use a photo of themselves on their personal blogs.

2.  Resize your image to 200 pixels wide by 200 pixels high.

3.  Go to Users > Your Avatar.

Your Avatar

4.  Click on Browse and locate the avatar you want to upload.

5.  Click on Upload.

6.  Move the crop area to one corner, then expand the crop area to include your full image and click Crop image.

Crop avatar

7.  Now when you view a post where you’ve left a comment you will see your new comment avatar.

Important tips:

  1. If you change your avatar and still see the old avatar it may be your web browser remembering your old image.
  2. Hold the Ctrl key and press F5 to clear your browser cache.


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Check your settings

The General Settings is where you configure the broad settings of your blog including your blog title, tagline, blog admin email address, timezone.

The most important setting to update in General Settings is your timezone.  Educators often assume that blogs are automatically created set to their timezone and weeks later wonder why the post and comments date and times are weird.

The other important thing to consider is the blog admin email address.  This email address is where all comment moderation emails are sent; and is used for payment receipts (if you are an Edublogs Pro subscriber). If you would like to receive comment moderation emails then we recommend you add your email address.

You’ll find more information on the configurations options in General Settings here.

Here’s how to change your timezone:

1.  Go to Settings > General.

2.  Select your timezone from the drop down menu option.

Select your timezone

3.  Click Save Changes.


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Customize your blog theme

Your theme is what controls the look and appearance of your blog; this is what people see when they visit your blog.

This is how you give your class blog its personal touch.

Like most things in life, first impressions count.

Great blog themes make good impressions on readers so that visitors are more likely to check out your blog.   Overwhelming themes detract from your blog content, and make visitors less likely to read your content.

Every newly created blog normally has the same default theme.  The last thing you want is to look like all the other blogs.

Customizing your blog theme is normally one of the first thing most people want to do when they first log into their blog.

So lets finish off getting your class blog started by showing you how to customize your theme!

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Mobile Friendly themes

But first lets talk theme choices!

There are lots of themes you can choose from.  Your best option if you want your blog to display nicely on all devices including phones, tablets and desktops, is to use a mobile-ready theme.

The mobile-ready themes, also known as responsive themes, are designed to optimize the theme based on which device some one is using to view your blog.  If you view a non-responsive theme on most modern phones it will automatically zoom out so that your entire blog can be seen.   This means your readers need to zoom in to read your content.

Here’s what my personal blog, which uses Yoko – a responsive theme, looks like when viewed on an iPhone, iPad and desktop.

Changing layout of a responsive theme

You’ll find a complete list of Edublogs mobile friendly themes here!

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Examples of themes customization on class and educator blogs

Below’s screenshots of class blogs using the popular themes, with explanations of how the teacher has customized the theme, to inspire you!

Blaskan

Blaskan

Blaskan

Magazino

Magazino

Magazino

Mystique

Mystique

Mystique

WPMU-Dixi

Dixi

Dixi

Yoko

Yoko

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Using the theme customizer

Ready to change your theme?

Great!  It’s really easy.   Using the theme customizer you can customize your theme and see the results in real time before activating the theme.

Here’s how change your theme using the theme customizer:

2.  Click on ‘Live Preview‘ below the theme you want to use.

Or if you want to customize your current theme, click on ‘Customize‘ under the current theme.

3.  This loads the theme customizer.  Now all you do is work through the control panels on the left to customize the theme to preview the theme changes in real time before activating it on your blog.

4.  Once you’re happy with the changes you just click ‘Save and Activate’.

Below’s a quick summary of each customizer control panel:

Control Panel

We recommend you leave the static front page set to ‘Latest Posts’.  Most class blogs use a blog post page for their homepage and we’ll explain why you might use a static page in our next post.

You’ll find more detailed information on using the theme customizer here.

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Uploading your own custom header image.  

Almost all Edublogs themes include an option to upload your own custom image header.

A custom image header means you can obtain a much more customized look and feel adding your “own personal touch” to your blog.

For best results we recommend you upload your custom header image using Appearance > Header rather than using the theme customizer.

Uploading your own custom header image is as simple as:

1.  Go to Appearance > Header in your dashboard.

2.  Click on Browse, select the image on your computer and then click on Upload.

Or click on Choose image, if you want to select an image from your media library, select the image and then click Set as Header.

Uploading your header image

3.  Your image will upload and if it isn’t the exact dimensions you’ll need to select the area you want to crop and then click Crop and Publish.

5.  Your new header image is displayed in the Preview box at the top of the page so you have an idea of what the header image looks like on your blog.

It should also appear immediately on your blog.  However if it doesn’t try clearing your web browser cache by holding the Ctrl key and pressing F5.

You’ll find more detailed information on using your own custom header image here!

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Uploading  your own Background Image

On many themes, much like custom header images, you can add images to your blog’s background.   A background image  is another great way of adding that personal touch to your class blog.

The easiest way to upload a custom background image is to use Appearance > Background or select one of the preset backgrounds in Appearance > Preset Backgrounds rather than using the theme customizer.

Uploading your own custom background image is as simple as:

1.  Go to Appearance > Background.

  • Themes that don’t support the custom background images won’t have the Background menu item under Appearance.
  • The preview box shows the current background image or selected background color.  If the box is blank it means you have not set a background image or color.

2.  Click on Choose file, browse for the image on your computer and then click on Upload

Or click on Choose image, if you want to select an image from your media library, select the image and then click Set as Background.

  • Only .jpeg, .gif, and .png files can be used for image headers.

Selecting a background image

3.  Once uploaded or selected from your media library choose your background image display options and then click Save Changes.

  • For best results we recommend you use Tile and Scroll.

4.  You can remove the background image at any time by clicking on Remove Background image.

You’ll find more detailed information on using your own custom background image here!


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Common questions we’re asked about themes

Here’s answers to commonly asked theme questions we receive into Edublogs Support:

1.  Can I upload my own theme?

Because of  the way blog platforms like Edublogs, WordPress.com and Blogger work you can only use the themes provided and can’t upload your own custom themes.  Most themes are designed to work on single installs and many don’t work or can have compatibility issues on blog platforms.

Remember that custom image headers and backgrounds  are an very effective way of customising your theme to meet your needs.

2.  How do I change the font color, font size and text color?

Some themes have extensive theme customization options which aren’t supported by the theme customizer.  Examples of these types of themes include WPMU-Triden,  WPMU-Dixi, Mystique, Yoko,  Mandigo and Edublogs Default 2011.

They often include options to change font color, font size and text color.

These types of themes add a theme option menu item under Appearance once the theme is activated.  To do more extensive customization you just need to go to Appearance > Theme Options.

You can also change font type, size and color in posts or on pages using the Supreme Google Webfonts plugin.

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What now?

How did you go?  Hopefully you’ve now created your own blog and information has helped!

Leave a comment below with a link to your blog and let us all take a look!

Also feel free to leave any questions you are having (or tips/advice) as well.

Or go to Step 2: Set up pages!

11 thoughts on “Step 1: Set up your blog

  1. I already have a blog on Blogger (http://www.cybraryplanet.com/) but if I was just starting out, I would definitely consider using edublogs. Your directions here on how to set up a blog are really wonderful, and I will definitely be sharing this with my teachers who are looking to get started with blogging, so thank you for this! I believe blogging is a great way to connect and share and get information out there to those who want/need it.

    • Hi Toni, thanks for participating in the Teacher Challenge series. I’ve visited your blog and it is coming along well. I’ve embedded your YouTube video so you can see how easy it is to embed a video.

      Hope that helps!

      Thanks
      Sue Waters
      @suewaters
      Edublogs Support Manager

  2. I created a blog last year for my elementary school library website. The biggest problem is that the district does nto keep our Internet explorer updated and so it is frustrating to try to keep it updated. My goal this year is to work on that blog as well as to create and work on a personal blog

  3. This is a great activity. I am not going to use Edublogs, but I think it is a great platform. I am not sure about the commitment to maintaining my own personal blog. I will likely setup a Blogger site to give it a try. However, I do believe strongly that a connected educator needs to publish their own content. I recently discovered Medium, which allows you to post without the need to maintaining an entire blog.

    I published my first post for #ce13. https://medium.com/@thetrainingguy

    • Hi there, thanks for sharing your class blog URL. It is looking really good! Well done adding the image with Creative commons attribution. Don’t hesitate to let us know if you need any assistance.

      Sue

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