Kick Start Activity 4 – Beginner – Connecting with others

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!

Kick Start Activity 2: Setting Up Pages – About and Contact

Welcome to the Teacher Challenge!

This our third post in the beginners series for 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging.  You don’t have to have ever published a “post” before, or maybe you’ve started to blog once or twice but haven’t quite yet stuck with it.

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!

This series is focused on helping educators set up their own personal / professional educator blogs.  Check out Blogging with Students if you want to work through our series designed to help you set up student and class blogs!

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

The aim of this activity is to help you understand how pages are used on blogs and you will learn how to create some pages on your blog.

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

  1. Why you need an About page
  2. Examples of ‘About’ pages on educator blogs
  3. Create your About page
    1. Introduction to the Visual Editor
  4. Making contact easy using a Contact page
  5. Examples of ‘Contact’ pages
  6. Other types of pages used on educator blogs
  7. Setting up the links to your pages
  8. Commonly asked questions about pages
    1. How do you disable comments on pages
    2. Why won’t comments display on my pages?
    3. Is it possible to publish posts to different pages on my blog?
  9. What now?


Back to Top

Why you need an About page

You never know how someone might find your blog – google search, twitter, facebook, or a link from somewhere else.

One of the first things a new visitor looks for is your ‘About’ page.

Your about page is all about letting people know who are you, what’s your interests and what you write about.

Start with telling people more about yourself as people are more likely to engage with your blog if they can relate to you as an individual. Then tell them about your blog and the reasons why you blog.

Not too long and not too short – include photos that help readers relate to you as a person.

Here’s my ‘About page’ on my personal blog.

What’s included on an About Page does vary depending on the type of blog and its intended audience. Here’s tips for writing About pages for Student and Class blogs.

Back to Top

Check out the About pages on the following blogs for ideas:

  1. Tracy Watanabe’s About page
  2. Shelly Sanchez Terrell’s About page
  3. Kathleen Morris’s About page
  4. Dean Groom’s About page
  5. Vicki Davis’s About page


Back to Top

Create your About page

All newly created blogs come with a ‘Sample page‘ created.  All you need to do is edit the ‘Sample page’ to change it into your About page

Here’s how you create your About page:

1.  Go to Pages > All Pages.

2.  Hover your mouse over the Sample Page title to bring up the action menus.

3.  Now click on Edit.

4.  Change the title of your page from Sample Page to About page.

5.  Edit the permalink to change it to about.

6.  Now just add your about information and when finished click Update.


Back to Top

Overview of your Visual Editor

The area where you write your pages and posts is by default in Visual Editing mode which uses WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) option for formating.

It works similar to any Word processing software.

Simply write your post, highlight any text you want to format, and then click the appropriate button in the toolbar to add formating such as bold, italics, or a numbered list.

The Show/Hide Kitchen Sink button is used to view the advanced formating options including heading styles, underlining, font color, custom characters, undo, redo.



Back to Top

Making Contact Easy

Those that visit your blog might also have a need to contact you.  This makes it easier for readers to contact you and for other educators to connect with you.

Many teachers choose to create an entirely separate “Contact” page to go with the “About” page.

Here are some tips to consider:

  • It’s best not to put your email address on your blog. A contact form (using a contact or form plugin) is better as it protects you email address from spammers.
  • If you do want to provide your email, use text and something like support (at) edublogs (dot) org or an image of your email address to make it hard for spammers to pull your email address.  Here’s an email icon generator you can use.
  • Home phone numbers are probably not something you want to share as well – but perhaps a classroom phone number is.

Other things to share might include facebook, twitter, or other social media profile information.  Some of these are also shared by adding widgets to your class blog.  We’ll show you how this is done with widgets in Activity 5 of this professional development series on class blogging.

Back to Top

Here’s Contact pages for ideas:

  1. Using Contact Form plugin – Huzzah’s Contact page, Mr Salsich’s Contact page
  2. Using Formidable Pro plugin – Online Safety’s Contact page, Biologist’s Contact page
  3. Page – The Skinny’s Contact Page

Create your Contact page

Once you’ve decided what you want to include on your contact page, and if you want to use a contact form, it is just a case creating a contact page.

Back to Top
Here’s how to create a contact page using the Contact form plugin:

1.  Go to Plugins.

2.  Activate the Contact Form plugin.

3.  Go To Settings > Contact Form.

4.  Add your email address and click Update Options.

5.  Go to Pages > Add New.

6.  Now just give your page a title, add your content, the contact form code and click Publish.



Back to Top
Here’s how to create a contact page using the Formidable Pro plugin:

1.  Go to Plugins.

2.  Activate the Formidable Pro plugin.

3.  Go to Formidable > Forms.

4.  Click on Add New, select Contact Us and then Create.

5.  Hover your mouse over the Captcha field, now click  Trash to delete it.

6.  Now just edit the contact form to customise it to your needs.

  • The * next to a field means this is required information to submit the form.
  • Clicking on the * changes it to not required
  • Clicking on the Title allows you to edit the name.

7.  You can update the email address by clicking on Settings > Emails.

8.  Once you’ve made all changes click Update.

9.  Now go back to Formidable > Forms and grab your Contact Us shortcode.

10.  Go to Pages > Add New.

11.  Add a page title, your content, the Contact Us shortcode and click Publish.



Back to Top

Other types of pages used on blogs

There’s lot of different types of pages you can add to blogs.

The main things to remember are:

  1. Pages are best suited for information you rarely update such as your About, Contact and First time visitor pages.
  2. Too many pages can make information harder to manage and find.


Back to Top

Setting up the links to your pages

Some themes automatically add a link to pages in their top navigation while on other themes you need to add a pages widget or set up a custom menu to add the page links.

Personally I prefer to set up my top navigation using a custom menu as links in the top navigation are easier for readers and it allows you to customise the links considerably more.



Back to Top

Here’s how to set up your top navigation using a custom menu:

1.  Go to Appearance > Menus

2.  Give your menu a name – ‘Main’ will work great!

3. Click on the ‘Create Menu

4.  Now just select the pages you want to add to your menu then click Add To Menu.

5.  Now create a custom link for home by adding your blog URL, the name Home and click Add To Menu.

  • When readers click on the Home link they will be taken to your front page.
  • For example the blog URL of this blog is http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/
  • You can use custom links to link to any website — which is really handy!

Here’s what my menu now looks like:

6.  Now drag/drop the menu items to change their order in your menu.

Here’s what my new order looks like:

7.  Once you’ve finished changing the order click Save Menu.

8.  Now to display your new top navigation on your blog you just need to select Main from under the Primary Navigation drop down menu and then click Save.


Back to Top

Here’s some other cool tricks when setting up custom menus:

1.  You can create nested pages by indenting items in the menu.

If you hover your mouse over About in the top navigation of this blog you’ll see two nested pages underneath the about link.

2.  You can create static level tabs using a custom link if you just want a link name that doesn’t go to a page that exists.

For example, if you click on About in the top menu of this blog you’ll see it is a static level tab used just as a placeholder for page  links we’ve added underneath it.



Back to Top

Common questions we’re asked about pages

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

Back to Top

1.  How do you disable comments on pages?

Most Edublogs themes support comments on pages and by default comments are enabled on pages.

You can disable comments on pages using Quick Edit as follows:

1. Go to to Pages > All Pages

2. Locate the post or page you want to disable comments on

3. Hover over it’s title to bring up it’s action menu.

4. Click on Quick Edit, deselect ‘Allow Comments’ and then click on Update.



Back to Top

2.  Why won’t comments display on pages?

Most Edublogs themes now support comments on pages however there are a few themes that don’t.

If the theme you are using doesn’t support comments on pages, and you would like this feature, then you will need to use an alternative theme.

Back to Top
3.  Is it possible to publish posts to different pages on my blog?

We’re often asked if it is possible to add posts to other pages, rather than just the front page of the blog.    This is commonly asked by educators who want to use one blog for multiple classes or subjects.

And yes you can!  But it does involve slightly advanced blogging skills.

You do it by sending posts to different pages on your blog by assigning different categories to posts, based on the class or subject, and using a custom menu to create link to the categories from your top navigation.  When students and parents click on their category they’re taken to all the posts for that class or subject.

You can see it in action on CES Music Blog.   If you hover your mouse over Music Classes it displays links to the different Grades and all you need to do is click on a Grade to view all posts published for that grade.  For example, here are all the posts for Grade 5.

You’ll find step by step instructions on using categories to organize multiple classes or subjects on your blog here.

It does involve slightly advanced blogging skills — so leave a comment or email us at Edublogs Support if you need our assistance.


Back to Top

What now?

Now it is time for you to write your About page.   However, if you don’t feel comfortable about writing personal stuff about yourself yet — then we recommend you focus on writing another type of page.

One idea would be to create a new Page with a list of helpful resources you would like to share with others.

Once you have written your About page or Resource page come back to this post and leave a link to the page you have created so that others can check it out!

Or go to Activity 3: Writing your first post!

Activity 3: Writing effective and engaging blog posts

Welcome to the Teacher Challenge!

This is the second post in 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging. You don’t have to have ever published a “post” before, or maybe you’ve started to blog once or twice but haven’t quite yet stuck with it.

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!

This series is focused on helping educators set up their own personal / professional educator blogs.  Check out Blogging with Students if you want to work through our series designed to help you set up student and class blogs!


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

The aim of this activity is to help you understand how posts are used on blogs and to teach you how to publish your first posts.

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

  1. Intro to posts and why are they used on educator blogs
  2. Who writes posts on the educator blogs
  3. Examples of posts on educator blogs
  4. How to write a post
    1. Introduction to visual editor
  5. Tips for writing better blog posts
    1. Use attention grabbing titles
    2. Use short paragraphs
    3. Use Headings
    4. Remember to link
    5. Enhancing posts with images and other types of media
    6. What to blog about
  6. Common questions we’re asked about posts
    1. My homepage has a message saying “Not found”   How do I get rid it and replace it with information?
    2. Is it possible to publish posts to different pages on my blog?
    3. How do you delete the Hello World post?
  7. What now?


Back to Top

Introduction to posts

Your posts are where you’ll publish your main content such as your reflections, what you’ve learnt and information you want to share with others.  They are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order with the most recent post at the top of the page.

By default, your home page is your blog post page and this is where you’ll see your new posts published.

If you look closely at a post you will see it is normally made up of:

  1. Post Title – tells the reader what the post is about.  A great post title grabs readers attention and is more likely to encourage them to read your post.
  2. Date published – all post display the date a post was published.  You’ll normally see this displayed at the top of the post.
  3. Written by – most themes display the name of the post author.  Your username is automatically displayed unless you’ve changed your display name.
  4. Your post content – this is the main information that you want to share or reflect on with your readers
  5. Comments – all themes have a link to comments.  This is where your readers can click to write a comment in response to your post.  Comments allow students, and other readers, to engage in discussions, share their thoughts and connect with your class blog.
  6. Tags - are used to help readers locate posts on your blog.  Tags are more like the index at the back of the book and explode the topic into a million bits.
  7. Categories - are used to help readers locate posts on your blog.  Categories are often used like chapters of a book; they provide a general overview of the topics you blog about.



Back to Top

Who writes posts on Personal / Professional Educator blogs

If you look closely at educator blogs you’ll see some are group blogs where several individuals publish posts on the blog while on other blogs the posts are published by just that educator.  Individual educator blogs are more common because most people are more motivated to post on their own blog due to personal ownership.

The Connected Principals is an example of a Group blog.  You can check out other group blogs here!


Back to Top

Examples of posts on educator blogs

So what do you publish as posts on your blog?  Pretty much anything you want to share you’ll publish as a post.  Your reflections, what you’ve learnt, how-to’s and cool information  — there’s so much you can share!

Here’s some examples of posts to check out for ideas:

You can also check out more educator blogs and what they post about here!

Please note the posts I’ve shared have been written by some of our well known educational bloggers!  Starting out your posts don’t have to be perfect — blogging is a work in progress!

The key is to take the first steps!  Here’s my very first post ever — if I never wrote my first posts I wouldn’t be here helping you today!


Back to Top

To write a post all you need to do is:

1.  Go to Posts > Add New.

2.  Give your post a Title,  add your content, your tags and categories and when finished writing click Publish.

3.  Presto! Your post will now display on your blog so others can read!



Previewing your Draft

Before you publish your post it is a good idea to use the Preview option to see what it looks like to your readers.

You preview a post by clicking on Save Draft and then click Preview. This opens up a draft version of your post in a new tab.

Then just go back to your draft and make any changes you want!

Back to Top

Introduction to your Visual Editor

The area where you write your post is by default in Visual Editing mode which uses WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) option for formating.

It works similar to any Word processing software.

Simply write your post, highlight any text you want to format and then click the appropriate button in the toolbar to add formating such as bold, italics, number list.

The Show/Hide Kitchen Sink button is used to view the advanced formating options including heading styles, underlining, font color, custom characters, undo, redo.



Back to Top

Tips for writing better blog posts

Reading online is different from reading in a text book.

The easier and more engaging your posts are the more likely they’ll be read and the better your message will be conveyed.

Here’s some tips to help you write better posts:

Back to Top

1. Use attention grabbing titles

Titles on blog posts are like titles on books. The better the title, the more it’ll grab the attention of readers and the greater the chance people will read what you’ve written.

Captivating and intriguing titles draw readers every time. Back that with a well written post and you can’t lose.

For further tips on writing post titles refer to 15 Ways to rework your next blog post title.

Back to Top
2.  Use short paragraphs

Posts with really long paragraphs are harder to read online.

Best options are:

  • Break your posts up with paragraphs.
  • The more paragraphs the better.
  • Short paragraphs are better than long.
  • If you need to make some paragraphs one or two sentences long so they are visually easier to read online then do it if needed!
  • Make the first sentence of each paragraph make your readers want to read the rest of the paragraph.


Back to Top
3.  Use Headings

Use headings, and where appropriate bullet points and number lists, to break up the post into manageable bit size chunks.

Creating a heading is as simple as:

  1. Highlight the text you want to change into a heading
  2. Select the Heading Style you want to apply from the advanced formatting toolbar (you access the advanced formatting toolbar by clicking on the Show/Hide Kitchen sink icon) – for most themes your best option is Heading 3
  3. Preview your post to make sure that headings you’ve used has broken your post into manageable chunks



Back to Top
4.  Remember to Link

When you write about a website you should link to it as your readers often want to check it out in more detail.

Creating a link is as simple as:

  1. Highlight the text you want to link to a website, blog or post
  2. Click on the Insert/Edit Link icon in the standard formatting toolbar
  3. Paste the link URL
  4. Then click Add Link


Back to Top
5.  Enhancing posts with images and other types of media

When you look at blogs you’ll notice they enhance their posts with images and other types of media including videos and by embedding web tools.  We’ll show you how this is done later in this professional development series.

However,  if you can’t wait and want to start now here is some information to get you going:

  1. The Educator’s Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Creative Commons
  2. Inserting images into your posts
  3. Embedding videos from video sharing websites into posts
  4. Enhancing your posts by embedding media including slides, quizzes, comic strips, polls


Back to Top

6. What to blog about

For many edubloggers blogging is a bit about their readers and a lot about their own personal needs to reflect on what they are learning or what they want to share.

One of the commonest mistakes made by new blogggers is focusing on what they think their readers want to read.

Our advice is forget about your readers and focus on your own needs. You’ll be more passionate and it’ll come through in your posts.

And never assume that someone’s already written what you’re saying.

Remember:

Starting out your posts don’t have to be perfect — blogging is a work in progress!  The key is to take the first steps!  Here’s my very first post ever — if I never wrote my first posts I wouldn’t be here helping you today!

Back to Top

Common questions we’re asked about posts

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

Back to Top
1.  My homepage has a message saying “Not found”   How do I get rid of it and replace with information?

The Not Found message is because the home page is your blog post page and this message it means you’ve deleted all posts or changed them to draft mode so there is no content that it can display.

All you need to do is go to Posts > Add New and publish a new post.

Once the new post is published you’ll see it displayed on your homepage.

Back to Top
2.  Is it possible to publish posts to different pages on my blog?

We’re often asked if it is possible to add posts to other pages, rather than just the front page of the blog.    This is commonly asked by educators who want to use one blog for multiple classes or subjects.

And yes you can!  But it does involve slightly advanced blogging skills.

You do it by sending posts to different pages on your blog by assigning different categories to posts, based on the class or subject, and using a custom menu to create link to the categories from your top navigation.  When students and parents click on their category they’re taken to all the posts for that class or subject.

You can see it in action on CES Music Blog.   If you hover your mouse over Music Classes it displays links to the different Grades and all you need to do is click on a Grade to view all posts published for that grade.  For example, here are all the posts for Grade 5.

You’ll find step by step instructions on using categories to organize multiple classes or subjects on your blog here.

It does involve slightly advanced blogging skills — so leave a comment or email us at Edublogs Support if you need our assistance.

Back to Top

3.  How do you delete the Hello World post?

Every newly created blog is the same default lay out with posts displayed on its home page with a ‘Hello World’ post and an ‘Sample’ page.

You can delete this post at any time by going to Posts > All Posts.  

Hovering your mouse over the title of  the Hello post brings up four action links.

Now just click on Trash.  This sends it to your Trash folder where it is permanently deleted within 30 days of when you trashed it.

Remember if you delete all posts, and your homepage is your blog post page, you will see a “Not Found” message.   To remove that message you just need to publish a  new post by going to Posts > Add New.

Back to Top

What now?

How did you go?  We hope this has helped get your posts started and the information has helped!

Now it’s time to write a post on your blog.

It’s entirely up to you!

Here’s some ideas on what you could write about:

  1. 7 things you don’t need to know about me
  2. My passions – often a lot easier to write about something you are really passionate about whether it be reading, cycling, genealogy or crafts
  3. Review or share a favourite learning or technology tool that you use

Leave a comment below with a link to your post 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 3: Setting Up Pages – About and Contact!

Kick Start Activity 1: Setting Up Your Blog – Create blog and customize look

Welcome to the Teacher Challenge!

This post is part of the beginners series for 30 Days to Kick Start Your Blogging.  You don’t have to have ever published a “post” before, or maybe you’ve started to blog once or twice but haven’t quite yet stuck with it.

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!

This series is focused on helping educators set up their own personal / professional educator blogs.  Check out Blogging with Students if you want to work through our series designed to help you set up student and class blogs!

The aim of this first activity is designed to help you create and set set up your blog!

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

  1. Why educators use blogs
  2. Examples of personal /professional educator blogs
  3. Sign up for your blog
    1. Choosing your username and display name
    2. Choosing your blog URL
    3. Choosing your blog title
  4. Create  your blog (if you don’t already have one!)
  5. Customize your theme
    1. Changing your site title and tagline
    2. Changing your header text and background color
    3. Uploading your own custom image header or using a default header
    4. Uploading your own background
    5. Using a Static Front page
  6. Introduction to comments
  7. Leave comment on this post
  8. Extension activity – optional


Back to Top

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.
  • 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.

Back to Top

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 check out for ideas:

  1. Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
  2. The Edublogger
  3. Free Technology for Teachers
  4. Cool Cat Teacher Blog
  5. Edublog Awards Best Individual Blog 2011


Back to Top

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 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 are some questions to consider when choosing a blog platform.

Here’s some things to consider before creating your blog:

Back to Top
1. Username and Display Name

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.

In most cases it’s better to choose a username that makes it easier for others to relate to you as a real person. For example, compare spwat3 with suewaters — which is easier to relate to?  Also having an recognisable name people can relate to helps you build your online presence.

And if you would rather not use your full first and last name online — then use a display name like Miss W or  Mrs Waters.



Back to Top
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 as it means you’ll need to re-build your readership.

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 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/ )


Back to Top
3. Blog Title

Your blog title is one of the first things a first time reader sees when visiting your blog.  Ideally you want your blog title to relate to what your blog is about while capturing your readers attention.

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

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



Back to Top

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.

Back to Top

Customize your blog theme

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

This is what gives it your 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 read your posts and subscribe to your blog.  Overwhelming themes detract from your blog content, and visitors will be less likely to read your posts and subscribe to your blog.

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

New bloggers often spend considerable time changing their blog theme to work out which theme works best for them. While you do have a limited time to make the right impression for first time readers….Don’t spend too much time initially on your blog theme because you will find that you change it as your tastes change.

Ready to change your theme?

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 educational 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:

Back to Top

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.



Back to Top

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.



Back to Top
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.



Back to Top
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.



Back to Top
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 personal / professional educator blogs use a blog post page for their homepage.

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.

Back to Top

Introduction to comments

Blogging isn’t just about writing posts – it’s about sharing your learning and reflecting on what you have learned.

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

Comments are an important part of blogging.  This is where the reader can share their thoughts, connect with the blogger, and interact with other readers.

To fully appreciate how blogging changes your learning we need to encourage interacting in comments as much as getting you to write blog posts.

Back to Top

Leave a comment on this post

So your final step in this first activity is to come back and leave a comment on this post.

Here’s the type information we’d like you to share when writing your comment:

  1. What part of this first activity did you find easy?  Or the most enjoyable?  Did you find any tasks easier than you expected?
  2. What parts of this activity did you find hard and why?  And if you are stuck with a step(s) — tell us in your comment so we can give you some help!
  3. Make sure you leave your blog URL in your comment so we can drop by and visit your blog.

Leaving a comment is as simple as this…

1. Click on the heading of the post you wish to comment on or the “comment” link at the top or at the bottom of the post.
2. Scroll down until you can see the “Leave a Comment” section
3. You will be asked for your name (you can use a nickname) and email address (this is not published)
4. You will also need to write the “spam word”
5. Click “submit comment”



Back to Top

Extension Activity – Optional

Congratulations!  If you’ve done all those steps — well done.

And we’ve included this extension activity for those who are wanting for extra work and for those beginners who have already set up their blog.

For the extension activity we would like you to write a post on your blog to tell us more about you such as:

  • Why did you join the Teacher Challenge’s 30 Days to Kick Starting your Blogging?
  • Why do you want to learn more about blogging?
  • What aspects of blogging have you struggled with?

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post with a link to your blog and new post to share with others.

Or go to Activity 2: Writing effective and engaging blog posts!