Welcome to our latest free professional learning series on personal blogging!
This series guides you step by step through the process of setting up your own personal or professional educator blog.
Refer our class and student blogging series if you want to set up a class blog.
The activities can be completed at your own pace and in any order!
Wherever you’re at – we’ll step you through the tasks designed to increase your skills while providing help to support your learning. Don’t stress, have fun, and remember to ask for help by leaving a comment any time you need assistance!
The aim of this first activity is to:
- Help you learn more about what is a blog and why educators have their own personal or professional educator blog.
- Help you set up your blog, customize your settings and change your theme.
What is a blog?
One of the biggest challenges educators new to blogging face is understanding the basics of how a blog works.
So we made this quick intro video to explain.
We recommend you start by watching this video.
We’ve included explanations of key blogging vocabulary which will help as you work through this series including Footers, Headers, Menus, Pages, Posts, Comments, Sidebars, Theme and Widgets.
Feel free to share this video on your own blogs, with students or teachers, or with whomever you think may enjoy! Later in this series we show you how easy it is to add videos to your blog.
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Why educators use blogs
The main reasons why educators have personal / professional blogs include:
- Share information and tips with other educators.
- Collaborate with a global audience. Increased collaboration leads to greater innovation and ideas because each individual sees a different perspective. This gives all involved greater “food for thought!”
- Reflect on learning or teaching / work practices.
- Learn how to blog to use blogs effectively with students.
- Create an ePortfolio.
- Document or remember professional development for own use or accreditation.
Blogs are an important part of many educators’ PLN (Personal Learning Network).
Refer to The Current State of Educational blogging in 2016 for more information on why educators use blogs.
Choosing your audience
Determining your audience is a useful first step when commencing any writing project. Fortunately, when your writing is in the format of a blog, you have the flexibility to alter and adapt to different readers as your blog evolves. The advantage of educational blogs is that the benefits come from the journey itself.
Despite this flexibility, it’s still advantageous to give your target audience some thought when starting a new blog.
Who will be reading your blog? Perhaps your audience will include
- Local educators
- Global educators
- Student teachers
- Principals, administrators and school leaders
- Parents (even if they’re not your target audience, they may read your work if you teach their child)
Stay open minded as you embark on your blogging journey. Initially you may choose your content for posts based on your perceived audience. As you get to know your audience more, and your own passions and interests develop, your content and writing style may evolve too. This is a natural pathway for many bloggers.
Refer to Who is Your Audience? Tips for Educators new to Blogging for more advice about choosing your audience.
Examples of personal educator blogs
Your personal / professional blog extends your relationships outside of your school and allows you to connect with global educators who all willingly help each other.
Here’s some examples of real Personal / Professional Educator blogs to see how they are used:
- Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day
- The Edublogger
- The Principal of Change
- Free Technology for Teachers
- Cool Cat Teacher Blog
- Teacher Reboot Camp
- Dangerously Irrelevant
- Edublog Awards Best Individual Blog 2015
- Jarrod Lamshed’s Connect Learning.
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 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 and it is common for them to model this by using display names like Miss W or Mrs. Waters on their class blog.
Whereas on their personal blog they are more likely to use their first and last name because their primary goal is often to connect with other educators. Using their full name helps others connect with them better on a personal level.
So you are more likely to see them use a username like suewaters and a display name like Sue Waters.
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2. Blog URL (Domain)
During the creation of your blog you have to select a URL for it. When you want others to visit your blog you give them the URL link of your blog. For example, the URL for the Teacher Challenge blog is http://teacherchallenge.edublogs.org/
Think carefully about your blog URL.
Once your blog has an established audience you’re less likely to want to change your blog URL.
A simple option is to use your name in the blog URL or use something that has meaning:
- Sue Waters Blog ( http://suewaters.com/ )
- Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day ( http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/)
- The Edublogger ( http://theedublogger.com/ )
- Free Technology for Teachers ( http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ )
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3. Blog Title
Your blog title is one of the first things a reader sees when visiting your blog. Choose a name that reflects the purpose of your class blog and your students can relate to.
But don’t stress too much! You can always change your blog title any time via Settings > General in your dashboard.
Some teachers organize a class activity so students can help choose the blog title.
Check out the Edublog Awards nomination lists for ideas of blog titles other educators have used.
Passwords are our line of defense for protecting our online accounts.
The stronger your password the more protected your accounts are. You should always use strong passwords for all accounts and use strong passwords that are different for each of your important accounts.
While remembering multiple strong passwords can be annoying, at least all your other accounts are protected even if a password is compromised for one account.
A strong password:
- Is at least 8 characters long
- Is unique and different from your other passwords.
- Doesn’t include terms that are significant to you like pet’s name, username, real name, date, phone number that are easy to guess or use complete words that make it easier for hackers who use dictionary attack programs. Also avoid common word misspellings and words in which letters have been replaced by numbers or symbols because some dictionary attack programs also check for these.
- Contains a combination of uppercase and lower case letters, numbers and symbols (keyboard characters that aren’t letters or numbers).
A common method used for creating a strong random password is to devise a sentence that you can easily remember and turn into a password by using the first letter of each word, parts of words, substituting numbers and symbols as appropriate. Choose phrases that are meaningful to you or includes your favorite hobby or sport to help you remember.
For example, my phrase might be:
Rush Hour 3 is my favorite movie might become rH/3iMfm
I love football could become iLuVfb
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.
Update your profile
Your Profile page is where you can control the global settings for your username including where you set up your display name, change your password and email address.
Your Profile is most commonly used to update display name. password and email address so we’ll focus on this. You’ll notice there are lots of personal settings options in Your Profile and you can read more about each Personal setting here.
The most important thing to update is your display name. Setting up a display name makes it easier for some who leaves a comment to quickly look at your first name to personalize their comment. If your username is displayed on posts means they have to search to see if they work out your first name.
Here’s how to update your Profile:
2. Go to Users > Your Profile in your blog dashboard.
3. Scroll to near the bottom of the page to Nickname in the Name area.
4. Change the Nickname to the name you want displayed on posts and comments.
5. Click on the drop down arrow and select your preferred publicly displayed name.
6. Now look at the email under Contact info. All comment notification and password reset emails are sent to this address.
If you’ve set up your blog using our no email option it will look like this:
If you would like to receive comment notifications and be able to retrieve your password using the Lost Password link then we recommend you add your email address.
Your email address is required. You may change this, but you can only use one e-mail address per username. This email address must be valid because to confirm that change an email will be sent to this address and it won’t be changed until you click on the link in the email.
7. Now scroll to the bottom of the page and you’ll see the new password field.
Change your password by typing your new password into both boxes. There is no need to update your password (unless you want to). We just wanted to show you how it is done.
- Using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols makes it hard for others to guess your password.
- The strength indicator provides an indication of how good your password choice is!
- Read more about creating strong passwords here.
8. Now just click on Update Profile to apply the changes.
Remember to always click on Update Profile whenever you make any changes on Your Profile page!
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Upload your user avatar
Your avatar is an online representation of you.
The user avatar is also known as your comment avatar. You upload the user avatar via Users > Your Avatar and it displays in places where you leave comments and next to posts you publish on some themes.
The default avatar set in Settings > Discussions is automatically display next to comments you leave unless you upload your own Avatar.
Your user avatar helps your readers visualize who you are. It helps create a personal connection with your readers.
Below is an example of a user avatar and display name next to a comment.
Uploading your avatar is as simple as:
1. Select a photo.
Most educators use a photo of themselves on their personal blogs.
2. Resize your image to 200 pixels wide by 200 pixels high.
3. Go to Users > Your Avatar.
4. Click on Browse and locate the avatar you want to upload.
5. Click on Upload.
6. Move the crop area to one corner, then expand the crop area to include your full image and click Crop image.
7. Now when you view a post where you’ve left a comment you will see your new comment avatar.
- If you change your avatar and still see the old avatar it may be your web browser remembering your old image.
- Hold the Ctrl key and press F5 to clear your browser cache.
Check your settings
The General Settings is where you configure the broad settings of your blog including your blog title, tagline, blog admin email address, timezone.
The most important setting to update in General Settings is your timezone. Educators often assume that blogs are automatically created set to their timezone and weeks later wonder why the post and comments date and times are weird.
The other important thing to consider is the blog admin email address. This email address is where all comment moderation emails are sent; and is used for payment receipts (if you are an Edublogs Pro subscriber). If you would like to receive comment moderation emails then we recommend you add your email address.
You’ll find more information on the configurations options in General Settings here.
Here’s how to change your timezone:
1. Go to Settings > General.
2. Select your timezone from the drop down menu option.
3. Click Save Changes.
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. Tip: having a few posts on your blog may help you visualize your theme’s appearance better.
So lets finish off getting your class blog started by showing you how to customize your theme!
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Using the theme customizer
With the theme customizer you can customize your theme and see the results in real time before activating the theme.
Here’s how to change your theme using the theme customizer:
1. Go to Appearance > Themes
2. Click on ‘Live Preview‘ below the theme you want to use.
Or if you want to customize your current theme, click on ‘Customize‘ under the current theme.
3. This loads the customizer. Now all you do is work through the control panels on the left to customize the theme to preview the theme changes in real time before activating it on your blog.
4. Once you’re happy with the changes you just click ‘Save & Publish’.
Below’s a quick summary of each customizer control panel:
We recommend you leave the static front page set to ‘Latest Posts’.
Most class blogs use a blog post page for their homepage and we’ll explain why you might use a static page in our next post.
You’ll find more detailed information on using the customizer here.
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.
Uploading your own custom header image is as simple as:
1. Click on Add new image in the header image section of the customizer.
2. Choose an image from your media library or upload a new image from your computer.
- Only .jpeg, .gif, and .png files can be used for image headers.
- For best results we recommend you re-size the image to the exact dimensions recommended for the theme before uploading by using an image editing program.
3. Click on Select and Crop.
4. Click on Crop image.
5. Your new header image should appear in your blog preview window.
6. Click Save & Publish on the Customizer to activate the new header on your blog.
Uploading your own background image
On many themes, much like custom header images, you can add images to your blog’s background. A background image is another great way of adding that personal touch to your class blog.
Uploading your own custom background image is as simple as:
Click on Background Image in the Customizer.
- If you don’t see the Background Header section in the Customizer it means the theme doesn’t support this option.
3. Click on Add new image.
4. Choose an image from your media library or upload a new image from your computer.
- Only .jpeg, .gif, and .png files can be used.
5. Click on Choose Image.
Once you have selected an image the background image options will appear:
- Background repeat: controls if the background image is repeated. Choice are:
- No Repeat -background image is only displayed once on the page.
- Tile – background image is tiled horizontally and vertically.
- Tile horizontally – the background image only repeats horizontally.
- Tiled vertically – the background image only repeats vertically.
- Background position: allows you to control the position of the background image. Options are left, center and right.
- Background attachment: determines if you want the image to scroll with the content or to remain ‘fixed’ in place when a reader scrolls down the page.
For best results we recommend you use Tile, left and Scroll.
6. Your new background image should appear in your blog preview window.
7. Click Save & Publish on the Customizer to activate the new background on your blog.
Commonly asked theme questions
Here’s answers to commonly asked theme questions we receive into Edublogs Support:
1. Can I upload my own theme?
Because of the way blog platforms like Edublogs, WordPress.com and Blogger work you can only use the themes provided and can’t upload your own custom themes. Most themes are designed to work on single installs and many don’t work or can have compatibility issues on blog platforms.
Remember that custom image headers and backgrounds are an very effective way of customising your theme to meet your needs.
2. How do I change the font color, font size and text color?
Some themes have extensive theme customization options which aren’t supported by the theme customizer.
They often include options to change font color, font size and text color.
These types of themes add a theme option menu item under Appearance once the theme is activated. To do more extensive customization you just need to go to Appearance > Theme Options.
Blogging is about sharing, collaborating, and learning from each-other. So here’s your chance to ask a question, comment, and get involved!
We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation about blogging by undertaking one or more of the following challenges:
- Visit some of the blogs on the examples of personal educators blog list then leave a comment on this post to tell us which were your favorite blog(s) on the list and why they were your favorite blog(s).
- Leave a comment on this post and tell us how you went setting up your blog. For example, you could tell us what theme you chose and why? Or what you found easy? What aspects were hard and you would like to know more about?
- Leave a link to your blog in a comment on this post so we can have a look at your new blog.