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.
- Why educators use blogs
- Examples of class blogs
- Sign up for your class blog
- Create your class blog (if you don’t already have one!)
- Customize your blog theme
- Other theme tips
- What else did you want to know?
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.
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:
- Kindergarten Duckling – Kindergarten
- Mrs K’s Class – Grade 1
- WPPS Grade 1 2012 – Grade 1
- Look What’s Happening in Room 102! – Grade 1/2
- 2KM and 2KJ @ Leopold Primary School – Grade 2
- Mr Salsich’s Class – Grade 3
- Mrs Yoliis’ Classroom blog – Grade 3
- Mr Baldock’s Class blog – Grade 3/4
- Grade 3/4 at Napoleons Primary School – Grade 3/4
- Jade J Year 3/4 Multiage – Grade 3/4
- 4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School – Grade 4
- The Hobloggers Network – Grade 4
- Room 2.1 – Grade 4/5
- The Skinny – Grade 5
- Grade 5 at Napoleons Primary School – Grade 5
- Welcome to MRJ’s Mount Olympus – Grade 5
- Learing2gether – Grade 5
- 6G and 5/6Cs Blog – Grade 5/6
- Year 6 at Penbank – Grade 6
- Mr. Miller’s Classroom Blog – Grade 6
- Huzzah – Grade 6/7
- Krebs’ Class Blogs – Grade 7/8
- The Edublogger class blog list – includes Maths, Science, English, History, LOTE, EFL /ESL, Library, School news blogs and more!
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:
- Mr. Baldock’s Class blog (http://mrbaldock.edublogs.org)
- Mr. Salsich’s Class blog (http://jmsalsich.edublogs.org/)
Alternatively, use something unique that has meaning like:
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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:
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.
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:
- Blak Magik – brown theme ( Room 2.1 )
- Edublogs Default 2011 – highly customisable ( Grade 3/4 at Napoleons Primary School , The Edublogger)
- Mystique – highly customisable ( Mr Baldock’s Class blog, 6G and 5/6Cs Blog )
- Nature – ideal for younger students (Mrs K’s Class)
- NotePad Chaos – unique looking theme ( Blog around the World )
- OceanWide – white 3 column theme (Mr Salsich’s Class)
- Pixel – dark theme ( Grade 5 at Napoleons Primary School )
- PressRow – white 2 column theme ( The Hobloggers Network )
- PrimePress – white 2 column theme ( Mr. Miller’s Classroom Blog, The Skinny )
- WPMU-Dixi – highly customisable theme ( 4KM and 4KJ @ Leopold Primary School )
- WPMU-Triden – highly customisable theme ( Teacher Challenge )
- Yoko – clean looking theme (WPPS Grade 1 2012, Year 6 at Penbank )
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. 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’ 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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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:
- Upload a new custom image header — if your theme supports this option.
- 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.
- 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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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.
- 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!
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.
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.