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 activity is to show you how widgets are used on class blog and to introduce you to the commonly used class blog widgets.
- What are widgets?
- How widgets are used
- Examples of widgets
- How to add a widget
- How to remove a widget
- Overview of Available widgets
- Must have widgets
- Introduction to tags and categories
- Adding widgets using embed code in text widgets
- Commonly used visitor tracking widgets
- Using link widgets
- Commonly asked questions about widgets
- What now?
What are widgets?
The term widget refers to any tool or content that you add, arrange or remove from the sidebar(s) of your blog — these are the blocks that make up your sidebar.
How widgets are used
Widgets are used for a wide range of purposes including:
- Help students, parents and visitors find information on the blog e.g. Search widget, pages widget, category widget, tag widget (learn more about categories and tags here)
- Track visitors to the blog. Visitor tracking widgets are used to highlight a blog’s global audience. This can be incredibly motivating for students and provides a built in geography lesson. e.g. ClustrMaps, Flag Counter, Feedjit Live Traffic Feed
- Student engagement e.g. Quiz widgets, Pet widgets
- Links to helpful resources, student blogs and other class blogs e.g. Links widget
- Events Calendar for important dates e.g. Google Calendar
- Book lists e.g. Shelfari bookshelf
- Email notification of new posts e.g. email subscription widget
- Displaying comments or posts recently posted e.g recent comments widget, recent posts widget
Examples of widgets
Check out these personal educator blogs to see how widgets are used on their blogs:
- Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
- The Edublogger
- Integrating Technology
- Kevin’s Meandering Mind
- Ozge Karaoglu’s Blog
- Teacher Reboot Camp
How to add widgets
Adding a widget is as simple as follows:
1. Go to Appearance > Widget.
2. Click on the arrow on the desired Sidebar to open up the sidebar (so you can add the widgets).
3. Drag the widget from the Available Widgets into the desired Sidebar.
You drag by click on the widget with your left mouse and moving the widget.
4. Drop the widget when you see a dashed line appear – this indicates the widget is in place.
5. The widget will automatically open — just configure, click Save and then Close.
How to remove widgets
Removing a widget is as simple as:
1. Go to Appearance > Widget.
2. Click on the small arrow on the right hand side of the widget you want to remove.
3. Click Delete.
This returns the widget to the Inactive Widget area.
Overview of Available widgets
Here’s a summary of the main widgets you’ll find in your dashboard and what they are used for:
|Archives||Used to organise your previously published posts by month. Handy for readers who want to browser for older content To save space change the configuration to ‘Display as a dropdown’|
|Blog Avatar||Used to display your blog avatar (uploaded via Settings > Blog Avatar).|
|Calendar||Displays links to your posts by date on a calendar Can’t be used as an Events calendar.|
|ClustrMaps||A simple widget for quickly adding a ClustrMaps to your blog sidebarAdded when the Widget plugin is activated in Plugins.|
|Custom Menu||Allows you to display pages, categories, and custom links with a single widget. To use you first need to set up your custom menu in Appearance > Menu.|
|Email Subscriptions||A simple widget for adding email subscription to your blog.Used to notify readers of your latest posts by email.|
|Links||Used to display a list of links in your sidebar. Commonly used to share your favourite blogs or websites with your readers.|
|Meta||Simple widget for easy log in and log out of your blog, to access your dashboard and to locate your RSS feed.|
|Pages||Displays a list of your pages in the sidebar. Commonly used for themes that don’t have page links in the top navigation.|
|Recent Comments||Displays the most recent comments left on your blog by readers.|
|Recent Posts||Displays the most recent posts you have published. Makes it easier for readers to see what’s new on your blog.|
|Search||Adds a search box to your sidebar. Makes it easier for readers to search the contents of your blog.|
|Tag cloud||Adds a search box to your sidebar. Makes it easier for readers to search the contents of your blog.|
|Text||Allows you to add text or embed code to your sidebar. It’s the most useful widget because you can use it to add content from other sources to your sidebar using their embed code.|
Some widgets are also added to your widget area when you activate plugins.
Sidebar clutter is a good way of convincing first time visitors NOT to subscribe to your blog.
Trouble is sidebar clutter creeps up on all of us.
The key is to focus on ‘What are the most important things you are trying to achieve when some one visits your blog?”
The main aims on your personal blog should include:
- Making it easy for readers to know what you write about and to find content
- Encouraging readers to subscribe to your blog by RSS and email
How do you do this?
Always put the most important widgets at the top of the blog.
Here’s my recommended ‘must have’ widgets for personal blogs listed in order from top of sidebar:
- Search widget
- Subscribe by RSS
- Subscribe by Email
- Categories widget
- Tag cloud widget
All other widgets you need to balance your personal desires with minimising sidebar clutter.
- The aims of class and student blogs are very different from an educator’s personal blog
- So it’s normal to see more widgets on these types of blogs
- Here’s a list of the top widgets for sidebar of class or student blogs
Introduction to Tags and Categories
Tags and categories on posts are used to help readers locate information in different ways.
Categories are like chapters of a book; they provide a general overview of the topics you blog about.
Whereas tags are more like the index at the back of the book and explode the topic into a million bits.
Here’s an example of a post with the categories and tags displayed at the bottom of the post.
On a post you can add as many tags and categories as you need to make the post easier to locate.
The categories and tags you use are displayed in your blog sidebar using the categories widget and tag widget.
When your readers click on a categories or tag link in your sidebar it loads a page with all posts that use that tag or category.
Setting up your categories
Categories can have unique names and be wordy; you want them sufficiently descriptive so your reader understands the type of subject matter they will find when they click on the link.
As a general rule you tend to limit the total number of categories you use on a blog.
Please note on class and students blogs categories may be used more like tags; and some use only categories or tags rather than both. The key is to think about the structure you want to use to help your readers easily find posts. For example, you might use categories like Class News, Blogging activity, English, Science, Maths and then for tags you might use student first names (if the student writes the post), Algebra, fish anatomy.
Here’s my advice for planning your categories:
- Think of categories as if you were listing the chapters at the front of a book.
- Make them descriptive enough so your readers understand the subject matter you’re writing about.
- Ideally use 10 or less categories and make each category be about the same length (to look visually good in the sidebar)
- But don’t stress too much! You can always edit them again later!
Here’s an example of the category and tag cloud widget from the sidebar on The Edublogger.
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How to create categories
You normally add categories to posts before you publish them using the Categories module to the right of your post editor.
All you need to do is select the checkbox next to a category you want to use.
Creating a new category is as simple as:
1. Click on the + Add New Category link.
2. Type your new category in the Add New Category text box
3. Click Add New Category
You remove a category from a post by unchecking the checkbox to the left of that category.
Adding your Category widget to your sidebar
Now to complete the process all you need to do is add your Category widget to your blog sidebar via Appearance > Widgets.
You notice on my blogs I changed the title of the Category widgets to titles that my readers will understand more:
- The Edublogger - category widget is called ‘Posts by Topic’
- Sue Waters Blog - category widget is called ‘Things I Write About’
Tags are displayed on your blog as a tag cloud; clicking on a tag name will take your readers to all posts tagged with that term.
Tags are normally short, one or two words, and are generally keywords.
Here’s my advice for tags
- Choose terms readers would be likely to use if they searched your blog
- Make sure they are terms your readers can relate to
- Limit them to one or two words
- Remember your tag cloud displays your top 45 tags.
- The larger the size of the word in the tag cloud the more posts that have been tagged using that term
Adding tags to posts
ags are normally added before your publish your posts by typing your desired tags in the Add New Tag text box and then clicking Add.
You can add tags one at a time by clicking the Add button or hitting the Enter on your keyboard after typing each tag.
Or you can add multiple tags at a time by separating them with a comma as you type. If you forget to add a comma between your separate tags the system considers the words to be one tag.
To remove a tag from a post just click the X to the left of that tag.
You can also choose from your most commonly used tags by:
1. Clicking on Choose from the most used tags.
2. Now click on the tags you want to assign to the post.
Adding your tag widget to your sidebar
Now to complete the process all you need to do is add your Tag widget to your blog sidebar via Appearance > Widgets.
You notice on my blogs I changed the title of the Tag widgets to titles that my readers will understand more:
Adding widgets using embed code in text widgets
You can add any other widgets you find on the Internet by pasting their embed code into a text widget in your sidebar.
It’s as simple as:
1. Grab the embed code for the widget you want to add.
2. Go to Appearance > Widgets.
3. Drag a text widget into your sidebar.
4. Paste the embed code into the text widget.
5. Click Save and Close.
6. You should now see the widget in your sidebar.
Commonly used visitor tracking widgets
Visitor tracking widgets are popular on class blogs because:
- Knowing you’re writing for a global audience is incredibly motivating for students.
- Realizing people from other countries are reading what they’ve written increases students’ interest, excitement and motives them to blog.
- It also provides built-in geography lessons — most students constantly check for new visitors and enjoy finding out more about the countries where their visitors are from.
It’s quite common to see class blogs use more than one visitor tracking widget as each widget provides different information about visitors to the blog.
Educators often also like to use tracking widgets on their personal blogs.
Here’s a quick o overview the most commonly used visitor tracking widgets on class blogs:
|ClustrMaps||ClustrMaps is a thumbnail hit counter map widget that shows the geographical location of all visitors to your blog. Number of visitors from a location is indicated by the relative size of the dot. Clicking the ClustrMaps thumbnail takes you to a large World map so you can examine your traffic sources more closely.Here’s detailed instructions on how to add a ClustrMaps using the ClustrMaps widget.|
|Flag Counter||Flag Counter widget shows the total number of visitors from each country next to the country’s flag. Every time someone from a new country visits your site, a new flag will be added to your counter. Clicking on the flag counter takes you to your Flag counter page which provides more detailed charts and information about your visitors.|
|Feedjit||Feedjit Live Traffic Feed displays visitors to your blog in real time and includes: Which city and country your visitors are in; Which website they arrived from, if any; Which page they visited on your website; Which external link they clicked to leave your site, if anyYour traffic feed is updated as each visitor arrives on your site. This update occurs before it loads so each of your visitors can see their own location displayed.Clicking on the Feedjit Live Traffic counter takes you to your Live traffic page which provides more detailed information including the countries associated with web visitors’ IP addresses, the web browser, computer operating system, and referring website.|
|Feedjit Live Traffic Map||Feedjit Live Traffic Map displays real-time visitor tracking by showing the geographic locations of the last 100 visitors to your blog. If you move your mouse over any point on the map the city and country for that visitor will be displayed. Clicking on the Feedjit Live Traffic Map takes you to your Live Traffic Map page which provides more detailed information.|
Links widgets are commonly used on a personal educator blogs to provide links to blogs they like to read and resources— they are designed to readers find websites easily.
The most common type of link widget you’ll hear mentioned is a blogroll. Bloggers commonly use blogrolls to list their favourite blogs. Blogrolls help readers locate other blogs worth reading — you are saying “these are some blogs I like – which are worth checking out!”
Here is how you create links to websites or blogs:
1. Go to Links > Add New.
2. Add the name of the website or blog to the Name Module.
3. Add the URL to the Web Address module.
Best option is to copy/paste the URL from the address bar of your web browser – as you are less likely to make a mistake.
4. Select Blogroll in the Category Module or create a new Category then click Add Link.
You use different categories if you organize your links in different locations in your sidebars.
Once you’ve created the links you add them to your sidebar by adding the Links widget (via Appearance > Widgets).
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Commonly asked we’re asked about widgets
Here’s answers to commonly asked questions we receive into Edublogs Support:
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The most common reason why you may have trouble removing a widget, or see two of the same widget on a blog, is if some of the widgets have been hard coded into the theme. Any hard coded widgets can’t be removed.
NotePad Chaos is an example of a theme with hard coded widgets. Pages, Categories, Links and a What is this Place are all coded into the theme.
Now we’ve talked about widgets, tags and categories it’s time to show us what you’ve learnt.
Here’s what we would like you to do:
1. Check out your blogs sidebars and make the changes.
- Are they cluttered?
- Are there any widgets you don’t need and should remove?
- Are there any widgets on my recommended ‘must have’ widget list you need to add?
- Are there any other widgets from the student and class blog recommended list you want to add?
2. Work on your categories and tags
- If you don’t currently use any categories, go to Posts > Categories and set up the names of the new categories.
- Now work through your existing posts and add assign the categories to your posts using the Quick Edit action link menu in Posts > Edit. While you are doing this add your tags.
- Add your Category widget and tag cloud widget to your blog side bar
- Remember categories won’t display in your Category widget until they have been assigned to a post
Remember to come back to this post and leave a comment to ask us to check out how you went.
Refer to the extension activity if you want write a post about your experience.
Step 7: Complete the extension activity (if you have time)
Write a post on what you’ve learnt from this activity.
Here’s some ideas of what you might like to write about:
- How was your blog sidebar? Was it cluttered? What was missing and why? What needed to be removed and why? What would you include on your list of ‘must have’ widgets?
- Has this post changed your thoughts about how tags and categories are used? What changes did you make to your tags and categories.