Edublogs Teacher Challenges

Free professional learning for educators by educators.

Activity 1: Getting your class blog started – Create blog and customize look

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Welcome to our free professional development series on class and student blogging!

This series consists of a range of activities that take you through the process of class and student blogging.  While many of the class blog examples we’ve included are from primary grades, the same principles apply for class blogs regardless of student age (including adult learners).

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 mentors who’ll 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 set up your class blog.


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

  1. Why educators use blogs
  2. Examples of class blogs
  3. Sign up for your class blog
  4. Create your class blog (if you don’t already have one!)
  5. Customize your blog theme
  6. Other theme tips
  7. What else did you want to know?


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Why educators use blogs

The main reasons why educators use blogs include:

  • Share information and class news with parents, family and caregivers.
  • Provide students with a way to access assignments, homework, resources and information about their class online.
  • For global collaboration and authentic audience.
  • To inspire and motivate students.

The benefits of class blogging include:

  • Blogging opens up the possibilities of audience in new ways. When students are writing or publishing for an audience other the teacher, it impacts how they view what they doing and the intrinsic motivation they have.
  • Students love seeing their work on the Internet and adore getting comments from people. It motivates them to write as it gives them an audience that is real.  The blog opens up a whole new world of people who can offer encouragement and feedback.
  • The blogging experience forces the students to do more reflection on their learning and allows them to showcase products they have produced with online tools.
  •  Blogging provides an authentic educational experience, where what they write is not only seen and commented on by their teacher, but by their peers and the “public.” For most students, it’s a bit of extra motivation knowing their peers will see their work.
  • There is an authentic audience – a global audience – one that is willing to connect, share, challenge, discuss and communicate with classes. This audience can provide further information, opinions, suggest resources, seek answers to questions and so on which pushes blogging further.
  • Blogging develops a learning network. Exercise books etc need not be pushed and crumpled in school lockers only to be placed in the rubbish bins at the end of the school year, but student work is out there for their school lives.

Benefits from class blogging summarized from The State of Educational blogging in 2012.

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Examples of Class blogs

Your class blog is what extends your class beyond the four walls of your classroom.  As you get going, you’ll soon decide the  kinds of content, information and connections you want to make.

Here are examples of real class blogs to check out for ideas:

  1. Kindergarten Duckling – Kindergarten
  2. Mrs K’s Class - Grade 1
  3. WPPS Grade 1 2012 - Grade 1
  4. Look What’s Happening in Room 102! - Grade 1/2
  5. 2KM and 2KJ @ Leopold Primary School - Grade 2
  6. Mr Salsich’s Class - Grade 3
  7. Mrs Yoliis’ Classroom blog – Grade 3
  8. Mr Baldock’s Class blog – Grade 3/4
  9. Grade 3/4 at Napoleons Primary School - Grade 3/4
  10. Jade J Year 3/4 Multiage - Grade 3/4
  11. 4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School - Grade 4
  12. The Hobloggers Network – Grade 4
  13. Room 2.1 – Grade 4/5
  14. The Skinny – Grade 5
  15. Grade 5 at Napoleons Primary School - Grade 5
  16. Welcome to MRJ’s Mount Olympus - Grade 5
  17. Learing2gether - Grade 5
  18. 6G and 5/6Cs Blog – Grade 5/6
  19. Year 6 at Penbank – Grade 6
  20. Mr. Miller’s Classroom Blog - Grade 6
  21. Huzzah – Grade 6/7
  22. Krebs’ Class Blogs - Grade 7/8
  23. The Edublogger class blog list - includes Maths, Science, English, History, LOTE, EFL /ESL, Library, School news blogs and more!


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Sign up for your class 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 Edublogs, WordPress 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

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, so most educators model this by using display names like Miss W or  Mrs. Waters.



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2. Blog URL 

During the creation of your blog you’ll 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.   Ideally you want to keep your blog URL short, easy to remember and suitable to be reused for several years.

A simple option is to use your name in the blog URL as these educators did:

  1. Mr. Baldock’s Class blog (http://mrbaldock.edublogs.org)
  2. Mr. Salsich’s Class blog (http://jmsalsich.edublogs.org/)

Alternatively, use something unique that has meaning like:

  1. Huzzah (http://huzzah.edublogs.org)
  2. The Skinny ( http://edublogs.misd.net/theskinny/)


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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.

Check out the following blog lists for ideas of blog titles other educators have used:

  1. The Edublogger class blog list
  2. Best Class Edublog 2011



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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 2012 to learn about the different blog platforms used by educators.

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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!

But first lets talk theme choices!

There’s a lot of themes to choose from so here’s a list of popular themes used on class blogs with a link to blogs using the theme to help you:

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:

1.  Log into your blog dashboard.

2.  Go to Appearance > Themes.

3.  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.

4.  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.

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

The following control panels are available:

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Site Title & Tagline

Used to change the site title and tagline on your blog.   Not all themes display taglines.

Themes like Edublogs Default 2011, Anubis, Benevolence. Blix, Connections and Contempt include an option to hide Header text.  All you need to do is deselect the Display Header text option to hide the Site title and Tagline on these themes.  This option is used when you want to use a custom image header instead of text for the Site title.



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Colors

‘Colors’ controls the color of the header text and background color.   Which options are included depends on the theme.  Not all themes allow you to change the header text color.  Changes to header text color do take time and you will need to wait for the page to refresh to view the change.



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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.

Header Image is used to:

  1. Upload a new custom image header — if your theme supports this option.
  2. Or to select one of the default header images that comes with the theme you are customizing — if your theme includes a range of default header images.

Here’s how you use the header options:

1.  Click on drop down link on Header image.

2.  Click on ‘Select a file‘ (or drop file in upload area), select the custom image header that you’ve saved on your computer and then click Open to upload.

Please note:

  • The custom image header is used as is and you can’t crop the header image using the customizer.
  • Only the top part of the uploaded image is used if it is too large.
  • For best results resize your custom image header to the recommended dimensions specified on Appearance > Header before uploading or upload the image using Appearance > Header (as this allows you to crop the image).
  • Be patient when uploading the image header using the customizer.  There is a delay before you’ll see indications that your image header is being uploaded.

3.  Or click on the ‘Default’ tab to select one of the default headers.



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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.
You upload a background image as follows:

1.  Click on drop down link on Header image.

2.  Click on ‘Select a file‘ (or drop file in upload area), select the background image you’ve saved on your computer and then click Open to upload.

Please note:

  • The background image is used as is.
  • For best results resize your background to make it smaller if using an image from a digital camera (otherwise only the top part of the image will display).
  • Be patient when uploading the background using the customizer.  There is a delay before you’ll see indications that your image is being uploaded — this varies depending on the image size.
  • Most themes include a range of default backgrounds you can use.  These aren’t supported by the theme customizer and you need enable a default background by going to Appearance > Preset Background once the theme has been activated.

3.  After the image has uploaded the background image display options will become visible.

Changing these settings is entirely optional and the best option is to try each to see what you like.



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Static Front page

The static front page lets you select what appears on your blog’s home page.  By default, your home page is your blog post page however you can change this so your homepage is  a static front page and your posts are sent to a different page on your blog.

Most class blogs use a blog post page for their homepage.

The most common situation when you’ll see educators use static home pages is when they use a custom menu to use one class blog for multiple subjects or classes.   You’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to do this here!  This does require slightly more advanced blogging skills, so please let us know if you need our assistance to set up!



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Other theme tips

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.

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.

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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.

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  Activity 2: Setting up pages – About, Blogging Guidelines and Contact!

42 comments for “Activity 1: Getting your class blog started – Create blog and customize look

  1. Darren Hanson
    August 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

    I was working on my blog today adding student accounts, then went to archive some posts and set up my blog for the school year. I all of a sudden started getting this error message. You do not have sufficient permissions to access this page. I get this message in firefox, chrome, and safari.

    http://hanson210.edublogs.org

  2. stitchandteach
    October 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    I am trying to set up links on my blog so that students and parents can just click them and go to the sites. I have gone in several times and added a link with everything it needs, but when I go to my page, nothing is there! Is there a way to save this so it shows up? What am I doing wrong? I used to blog with blogspot and had no trouble with adding links. I switched to edublogger for privacy, but it seems extremely limited and difficult compared to blogspot. I paid for the pro version.

  3. tigeress
    September 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    HOW TO CHANGE AVATAR

  4. jerryberg
    April 23, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Hi, I teach k-6 technology. I want to get set up with 1 class where all students have a page or blog. I have no help. I’m trying to read and experiment. FRUSTRATING!

    Any help is appreciated. I have my blog set up (i think) I would like to have a place listings the students their site. thats where i’m at.

    thanks

    Jerry

  5. ashleykellow
    March 4, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Hi there,

    I need a forum (blog or otherwise) that fits these criteria, can edublogs do that for me?

    Needs:
    1. Free
    2. Student and teacher discussion with posts that follow threads – organized
    3. All members need to have the ability to upload documents, photos, and audio files the rest of the class can access
    4. Printing capability for all docs and photos
    5. Listening capability for audio files

    Can Edublogs fit these criteria?

    Thank you for your help.

  6. GABRIEL
    February 20, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    I love EDU BLOGS

  7. christinelock
    September 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    Hi Sue,

    I’m very new to this. I started a blog 3 years ago during an e-learning paper for my Masters but didn’t continue. I’m really keen to set this up for some writing students as I think having this wider audience will excite them.
    Your advice is very welcome!! I’m about to find out how I can create pages for them.

    • September 18, 2012 at 5:23 am

      Hi christinelock, hope that our information is helping you! The wider audience definitely does help students. One of our educators today was saying how she can really zero in on each student’s individual writing needs when they read a student’s comment versus an entire essay.

  8. mrsgarretson
    August 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Hello Sue~ I’ve been setting up my class blog and am wondering if I have the ability to change the font and size to make it more “readable”? I know I can change themes but would simply like to just change the font.
    thank you! Shelley
    the blog address is vikingscook.edublosg.org

    • August 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Hi Shelley, you can only change the font type if your theme supports that option or you enable the Google Fonts plugin in Plugins. The font on that theme you are using is quite small. I’m wondering if Edublogs Default 2011 would be the better option. You can change it to a 2 column theme, it does include options to change font and you can customise it using the image header and background.

  9. meg krause
    August 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    Here is my fifth grade class blog. I want this to be strictly for the kids’ blogging. (I have another blog that I use as a teacher blog.) My idea is to have all the kids blog on this one blog – does that make sense? Any tips?

    http://riverdale5k.edublogs.org/

    • August 13, 2012 at 2:51 am

      Hi Meg, are you going to get them to write posts on your class blog or using their own student blog? Personally I recommend you start them off in this order 1) they write comments in response to your posts 2) once you are comfortable they are good at this then you look at them either writing posts on your class blog or their own student blogs. We also have a new feature called My Class which makes it easier to manage all their student blogs if you decide you want to use individual student blogs.

  10. hweber923
    August 12, 2012 at 12:43 am

    Here is a link to my class blog. I have changed the theme and background colors so many times. However, when I added the calendar widget, it is on the background color! How can I fix this. Also, I would like to add the Shelfari widget that others have – how do I do that? Since parents will be able to access this, I would like them to know what we are reading in class.

    • August 12, 2012 at 2:42 am

      Hi Heidi, quickly adding your blog link as it disappeared – http://mrswebersblog.edublogs.org/ This one is a issue with the theme not wanting to display the calendar properly. Looks like Daisy Rae Gemini isn’t happy with it. However, most teachers end up not liking this calendar widget. It is designed to show the dates your posts were published and not the date.

      Most tend to use a Google Calendar as an events calendar. We are covering Widgets in our next post in the series. I will add some information on adding a Google Calendar as that is more likely the calendar you will want to use.

      • hweber923
        August 12, 2012 at 10:33 am

        Thank you Sue, I appreciate the help.

  11. carolhall
    August 11, 2012 at 12:24 am

    Not sure if this is the place but I am having a problem accepting student requests to join my blog. I am getting a message- You do not have sufficient permissions to access this page.
    If I try to add these as users again I get a cheating uh message….
    Please help :(

    • carolhall
      August 11, 2012 at 12:28 am

      carolynhall.edublogs.org
      sorry forgot to post before

    • August 11, 2012 at 11:20 am

      Hi carolhall, just a quick comment to say I sent a response via email. Can you let me know if you don’t receive it? Some times school email domains do block our emails.

  12. Kim Rauser
    August 4, 2012 at 12:20 am

    Testing my avatar.

  13. Theresa Allen
    August 4, 2012 at 12:18 am

    I love the new look! Even though I’ve done this challenge a few years ago, I still would like to follow along in case I learn something new or meet other educators. Thank you!

    Theresa

    • August 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm

      @Theresa Glad you love the new look! Ronnie worked hard of changing it! We’re covering extra stuff in this latest one as there have been new features added. Hopefully these tips help!

  14. Mrs Fay's ICT Blog
    August 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I’ve made some good progress today towards my blog structure (mrsfaysblog.edublogs.org) . Thanks so much for the 30 day challenge, it’s just what I needed.

    I didn’t seem to have a default ‘about us’ page. Is that right? I’m happy to create my own but I thought I should check with you first to see if you have one I could edit to save some time.

    Your instructions are great, easy to follow with just the right amount of detail.

    My second problem is that I don’t have a feel for the scale of this blog. I am setting up one blog for all of my ICT classes (thanks for the static page instructions) but i keep getting the scary feeling this will be too big for one person to moderate. Any advice?

    • August 5, 2012 at 12:50 pm

      @Mrs Fay’s ICT Blog Glad your 30 Day Challenge is helping! We cover how to set up the About page here – http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/2012/07/30/activity-2-setting-up-pages/#createabout WordPress changed the default page on all newly created blogs from About to Sample page because a lot of people also use WordPress for creating sites. Edublogs uses a highly customised version of WordPress. While I can understand reasons for the change it does make it a bit more confusing.

      In your case I would probably do your About page a bit different. You are currently using the theme NotePad Chaos. The “What is This Place’ pulls the information from your About page. If you want the information to go in this location I would use about 2 paragraphs on my About page and maybe consider having two different about pages. One with a shorter version for the What is this place and more detailed information on the other About page. The permalinks needs to be About for it to feed through to What is this page. Would you like me to change the permalink for you?

      • Mrs Fay's ICT Blog
        August 7, 2012 at 4:28 pm

        Thanks for the reply. I am thinking of simplifying my page before I go any further…just creating one blog for my main ICT group so that i’m clear on the structure before I add the complexity of several classes. Also, I’m thinking of using a different theme that is ‘less chaotic’. I will develop my about page as a next step so I don’t think I need my permalink changed just yet. Let’s see how I am with my refinements and then I’ll ask for more help if needed.

        • August 8, 2012 at 4:59 am

          Hi Margaret, looking at your current structure you will definitely be better off with the custom menu with links for each grade. Personally I like Yoko for the theme as it is very adaptable. Setting up the custom menus can be confusing initially. Would you like me to do it for you? I can also change the theme to Yoko so you can compare the difference.

          • Mrs Fay's ICT Blog
            August 8, 2012 at 9:47 am

            Thanks, Sue. Yes, I would like your help with setting up the custom menus and changing the theme to Yoko. I’ll work on improving my about page in the meantime. Cheers!

          • Sue Waters
            August 9, 2012 at 6:07 am

            Hi Mrs Fay’s ICT Blog,

            Wasn’t able to use Yoko as it is a Pro theme only so I’ve used Edublogs Default with a custom image header. I’ve quickly added an image header to give you an idea of options you could use. Feel free to change it to an image you prefer.

            The sidebar is currently looking empty and as you add more content we will be able to work out what needs to be added.

            I didn’t need to do any changes to your custom menu as it looked like you did a good job! I just activated it on that theme so you could see how it worked.

      • Cyndi
        July 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

        I spent an entire evening combing the Internet for an answer to the ‘What is This Place’ editing question. THANK YOU! This one short paragraph helped out more than any other piece of info I’d read. You rock!

  15. Sue Waters
    August 2, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks krauser! Yes based on your structure a static homepage would be best.

    I’ve just updated our instruction on how to use custom menus with categories to send posts to different pages and the third step of the instructions then shows you how to create the static homepage that goes with it.

    Did you want to check out the instructions here to see if they help set up your static homepage – http://theedublogger.com/2011/08/18/using-categories-to-organize-multiple-classes-or-subjects-on-your-blog/

    Can you let me know if that hasn’t helped so then I can provide more assistance?

    Your class blog is looking really good!

  16. krauser
    August 2, 2012 at 3:35 am

    I have been playing around with my blog for a couple of days now. I think that I have got my page layout pretty much like I want it, added a couple of widgets, and created a menu. However, I still don’t really get the static page. Seems like you have to create it on a sample page, but I would really like my static page to be my Home page, or at least I think that I do.

    • August 2, 2012 at 3:53 am

      Hi krauser, static homepages involve slightly more advanced blogging skills and you are more likely to use them if you are sending posts to different pages on your blog (for different subjects or classes) or you’re using your blog more as a website than a blog. We’re happy to assist you with advice on if a static homepage will work for your situation and how to set it up.

      Can you give us a link to your class blog?

      • krauser
        August 2, 2012 at 4:36 am

        Here is my link: http://krauser.edublogs.org

        Yes, I am wanting to use my blog to both blog with my students and as a website. I am hoping to have my freshman class participate in the Student Challenge in the fall.

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