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Welcome to the fifth step in our free professional learning series on class and student blogging!

The aim of this step is to:

  1. Explain how widgets are used on class blogs.
  2. Introduce you to the commonly used class blog widgets.
  3. Show you how to change widgets and add widgets to your sidebar.


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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.

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How widgets are used on class blogs

Widgets are used for a wide range of purposes including to:


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Examples of widgets on class blogs

The most popular widgets used on class blogs are widgets from other websites that are pasted into a text widget in the sidebar using embed code.

We’ve set up Widget demo blog to showcase the most popular widgets that educators and their students like to add to their sidebar. This lets you check out all the widgets in one handy location.

We’ve gone a bit widget crazy to help you see them all in the one location and you generally don’t see all these widgets together on a class blog.

Widget Demo Blog


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Widgets and blog design

There are hundreds of different widgets you can add to the sidebar of your blog using embed code in a text widget but when adding any widget you need to think about the design of your blog. Widgets can be noisy, take up a lot of space, and may distract readers.

When adding widgets think about whether it adds to your blog OR does it distract readers from your posts? You need to have a balance between widgets and your blog content; you want people to read your posts!

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How to add widgets

Adding a widget is as simple as follows:

1.  Go to Appearance > Widget.

widgets

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 clicking on the widget with your left mouse button and moving the widget.

4.  Drop the widget when you see a dashed line appear –- this indicates the widget is in place.

Add widgets

5.  The widget will automatically open — just configure, click Save, and then Close.

Widget Video tutorial


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How to remove widgets

Removing a widget is as simple as:

1.  Go to Appearance > Widget.

widgets

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.


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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 organize your previously published posts by month. Handy for readers who want to browse for older content. To save space on your sidebar, 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 sidebar. It’s added 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. When readers sign up, they get an email to let them know when you’ve published a new post.
Links Used to display a list of links in your sidebar. It’s commonly used to share your favorite 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. This makes it easier for readers to see what’s new on your blog.
Search Adds a search box to your sidebar that makes it easier for readers to search the contents of your blog.
 Tag cloud Displays a cloud of the tags that you’ve assigned to posts. It helps your readers quickly see what topics you write about.
 Text Allows you to add text or embed code to your sidebar. This is a very useful widget because you can use it to add content from other sources to your sidebar using their embed code (Note: only available on Pro or CampusPress blogs).

Some widgets are also added to your widget area when you activate plugins.


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Add widgets using embed code in text widgets

The handiest widget you’ll find in your dashboard is the text widget.

You can add any other widgets you find on the internet by pasting their embed code into a text widget in your sidebar.

This is how you add widgets from VokiShelfari BookshelfFlag Counter, Google Calendar and so on!

We’ve added links to popular widgets in our Pinterest cool widgets board and you can see these widgets on the Widget demo blog.  Clicking on a widget takes you to the website where you can grab the embed code.

Adding a widget from another website is as simple as: 1, 2, 3….

1.  When on the widget website, copy the embed code for the widget you want to add. Highlight the code with your mouse or press Control A (Command A) to select all.

Then copy by right clicking on your mouse and selecting copy. Or, press Control C (Command C). 

Copy embed code

2.  Go to Appearance > Widgets.

widgets

3.  Drag a text widget into your sidebar.Add Text Widget

4.  Click on the text tab in a text widget in your sidebar.

Click on Text Tab

5.  Paste the embed code into the text widget.

Right click on your mouse and select Paste. Or press Control V (Command V).

Flag counter embed code

5.  Click Save and Close.

6.  You should now see the widget in your sidebar.


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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’s been written increases students’ interest and excitement. This can motive students to blog.
  • It also provides built-in geography lessons — many students constantly check for new visitors and enjoy finding out more about the countries where their visitors are from.

Class blogs often use more than one visitor tracking widget as each widget provides different information about visitors to the blog.

Tracking widgets

Here’s a quick overview of 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.
 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.
Revolver Map Revolver Map displays all visitor locations and recent hits live and in realtime on a revolving globe of the Earth. A click on the widget opens the live statistics page.

 

Read more about how to add these widgets to your sidebar.


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Link widgets on class blogs

Links widgets are commonly used on a class blog to provide links to other class blogs, student blogs, and resources— they are designed to help you, your students, and other readers.

Traditionally, the most common type of link widget you’ll hear mentioned is a blogroll. Bloggers commonly use blogrolls to list their favorite blogs. Blogrolls help readers locate other blogs worth reading — you are saying, “These are some blogs I like which are worth checking out!”

Blogrolls on class blogs are used often used to provide links to student blogs, other class blogs they interact with, or resources.

Please note:

  • If you are using the My Class tool, you add links to your student blogs by adding the Class Blogs widget to your sidebar. You don’t have to add each student blog individually.
  • You can read about managing student blogs using My Class here!

Here is how you create links to websites or blogs:

1.  Go to Links > Add New.

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 Widget Questions

Here are some answers to questions the Edublogs support team are frequently asked about.

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1.  I’m trying to remove a widget and I can’t find it listed in my sidebar in Appearance > Widgets. How do I remove it?

The most common reason why you may have trouble removing a widget, or see two of the same widget on a blog, is some themes hard code widgets into their sidebar. 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.


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2.  Why don’t the categories I set up in Posts > Category display in my Category widget?

Categories and tags on posts are used to help readers locate information in different ways. When your readers click on a categories link on a post or in your sidebar, it loads a page with all posts that use that category.

Categories won’t display in your category widget until the category has been assigned to a published post.


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3.  Why are some tags in my tag cloud widget larger than others?

When your readers click on a tag link on a post or in your sidebar it loads a page with all posts that use that tag.

The larger the size of the word in the tag cloud, the more published posts that have been tagged using that term.

The Tag Cloud widget displays a list of your top 45 tags that you’ve assigned to published posts.

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4. Why doesn’t my Calendar widget show the correct date?

The calendar widget creates a calendar in your sidebar with clickable links to your blog posts for particular dates. Dates that appear in bold type indicate dates you’ve posted.

It doesn’t let you set up a calendar of events. It’s only used is to display links to your posts by date.

If you want an Events calendar we recommend you add a Google Calendar to your sidebar or embed it into a page.

Alternatively, if you want to add a simple calendar use this Monthly Calendar.

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Your Task

We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation about student blogging by completing the following:

  1. Check out the Widget demo blog and try adding some of the widgets from the Widget demo blog to your class blog. Leave a comment to tell us which of the widgets on the demo blog would you use on your class blog and why.
  2. Read through the most recent comments in reply to this step and leave a response to another person’s comment.

 

375 Comments

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  1. I am probably only going to use the Twitter feed widget and the one for the flags of the countries visiting. I prefer a simple layout.

  2. Ive added the tag cloud widget to the hospitality classroom blog. After getting permission from my school i might also add a widget that links to the schools youtube account. Still not sure how i plan to use the blog long term yet but the side bar is a great space to talk to your audience. So, i might post job pathway posters or links to further learning. We’ll see..

  3. I added the translator widget to our class blog and plan to suggest it be required by all of my students. We have so many parents that English is not their first language, the translator will give them the opportunity to add to our community of readers.

  4. I like the idea of widgets, but I don’t think I am there yet. I really want a simple, beautiful page, and the widgets kind of clutter the space. At least, that is where I am right now on it. I think, over time, I will add widgets, especially one for my Twitter feed, and booklist.

    • Hi Laura.
      I agree with you. I’m also looking for a clutter free blog. I think the one for a Twitter feed would be a great idea. It wont be too big or flashy.

  5. After reading the information about widgets, I found some interesting ones that I could incorporate in my blog. I really like the map widget, weather widget, time widget, calendar widget, and booklist widget. I like the booklist widget since my area of content is English. I feel like this widget would be a great one to include on my blog. This would be wonderful for students. I think it would be good since they will be reading in English class!

    • I think I will also be reading the Booklist widget for my ELA middle school classes! It’s just another way to bring the curriculum full circle.

    • I love the idea of the booklist widget. I may need to pick a theme that makes it possible.

  6. I wanted to add that pet widget just for curiosity but it didn’t work, I think it would be too challenging for students, however, I like the look of the post calendar, it fits my chosen theme, I also added a picture with a quote, I think it’s a nice touch.

    • I agree, the calendar and quote look fantastic. They match your theme nicely and offer a clean look!

      Kathleen 🙂

      • Kathleen Morris
    • The pet widget sounds interesting. Calendars are always a good thing. They promote organization. I like the quote on your blog. The picture is also nice. Good job!

  7. I added tag cloud to my page. I think it is a fun visual representation to see the flags of different countries, and for students to get interested in learning more about the flags and places of our visitors.

    • mrscrowningshield
    • Sorry that should have read the Flag counter.

      • mrscrowningshield
  8. Widgets are kind of a challenge – for example, the pet widget. You have to go in and actually edit the size so it will fit on your sidebar. For some people, esp. students, that might be a deterrent to adding fun widgets. Is there some other way, other than editing the size within the code, to resize widgets? Just wondering. I plan on introducing widgets next week – should be a hoot!

    • I also had difficulties with that pet widget. But I think that students would love it, because it’s fun and you can personalize your pet which was interesting even for me. And good luck with the widgets 🙂

  9. I’d use tag cloud, flag count or revolver, Twitter, and author to help students realize the impact of their efforts and to share in social media to help them understand one of the most important uses of social media.

    • Manuel Fierro
  10. I use a lot of widgets, specially those who help students find content easily, like Tag clouds, Categories and Archives.

  11. I love widgets and it was fun to see how to use them correctly.

  12. I loved abd appreciated the widget demo blog. It gave me a chance to see some widgets “in action.” I have added the world clock, revolving map (visitor tracker), and the DOGO current events widgets. Each of these will work well for my 6th grade Social Studies class. In our county, 6th graders do the first half of a two part course in world studies (the other half is in 7th grade). We explore Europe, Australia, Canada and Latin America. I think the world clock will appeal to students, as will the revolving globe showing where people are from who are visiting the blog. And current events/news is always a great thing for Social Studies.

  13. I put the school’s activity Google Calendar on my sidebar! I will think of other appropriate widgets with my teacher team.

  14. As a school we use Twitter quite a lot so I started by adding the Twitter widget. At first it consumed the page but I realised I just needed to edit the size and now it is sat neat;y at the bottom of the page. This will be nice because there will be a nice link between both learning journeys.
    http://bgpbloggers.edublogs.org/

  15. The first widget I added was “Pet Widget” and I created a guinea pig. I wanted to put it on the right hand side of the blog, near the top, so as as to attract the children’s attention and keep them on the blog for longer. But it didn’t quite fit. It was a little too wide and looked awkward. I didn’t know how to make it narrower. Eventually I placed it at the bottom, in the footer area. It still looks a bit awkward there. But at least it fits. My pupils love animals!
    The other widget I added was Wonderopolis. My children always love to read weird facts and unusual records, so I am sure they will lap this up.
    http://deanburnep.edublogs.org

    • It’s looking great. It can sometimes be tricky to get those widgets displaying how you want depending on the code and the them you’ve chosen etc. Wonderopolis is a wonderful too. Their widget is great!

      Kathleen

      • Kathleen Morris
    • How fun that you added the Pet widget! I think my students would also love Wonderopolis, I’ll have to think about whether or not to add it sometime later. I am all for anything that will keep my kids on the blog longer.

    • I love your student’s artwork! This evening I added the Wonderopolis widget also. There are so many fun things to explore on the website and I look forward to seeing how my student’s enjoy it.
      Good luck on your blog adventure!
      Trish
      https://mrsdsroadrunners.edublogs.org/

      • mrsdsroadrunners
      • Trish. Thank you so much for your comment on one of my pupil’s postings. He was overwhelmed to receive a comment from the other side of the world. You made a little boy very happy. Thank you.

    • I’d like to use pet widget too, seems fun from reading your post and others replies to your post.

      • Manuel Fierro
    • One way to resize the widget is to actually go into the code and reduce the size (height and width). I did that and now my kitten works well on the side bar. I reduced the size (in the code text box) by 100, first for width (didn’t know there was a height) and then had to go back in and reduce the height by 100 as well. You can see what it looks like here: http://thewriteclass.edublogs.org/ Have fun and just try different numbers to make it fit!

    • I will have to try this out. It sounds like a fun addition. Thank you for sharing your struggles with it. I now know what to anticipate.

      • mrscrowningshield
  16. So I finally added two widgets to my blog. The tracking widget caused me a lot of trouble, then I realized you had to have java enabled. We can not use that at school so I switch to a flat map and I finally got it. I feel pretty proud of myself. Hopefully other widgets won’t be as difficult. I was also able to add a video. This is a video I’ve shown during class and it relates to our Genius Hour process. I thought it would be nice to share with any visitors to our site as well.

    • Well done! It’s a great feeling when you finally figure something out. I’m sure you’ll find adding widgets more straight forward in future.

      Kathleen Morris
      Edublogs Community Manager
      @kathleen_morris

      • Kathleen Morris
  17. I had a very hard time trying to add some widgets until I found out that the Theme I have chosen didn´t aloud me to add the m in a sidebar, they where hiden and I coud find them clicking on a icon like the one used for “setting” in most movile phones. So I decided to change the theme.
    I am npt very happy with the new apareace of my blog but I will keep on working on it.
    I am trying now to had an events calendar.
    Here is my blog please let me know if it looks good to you
    http://ainhoacsdma.edublogs.org/

    • Hi there,

      Sometimes it can be hard to find the theme that works for you! Did you know your blog is password protected? That’s totally fine of course but just wanted to let you know that other participants won’t be able to view it.
      Thanks!

      Kathleen Morris
      Edublogs Community Manager
      @kathleen_morris

      • Kathleen Morris
      • Oh boy! When I was setting up the site, I thought this might be more secure for our students. Now I see the rewards of opening it up to a wider audience. Can you point me in the right direction to fixing this?

        • Sure thing! Changing your privacy settings is straightforward. Just go to Settings > Reading in your blog dashboard. Then choose ‘allow search engines to index this site’ OR ‘discourage search engines from indexing this site’. With both options, anyone will be able to view your blog if they have the link but the second option means it won’t show up in Google searches.

          There are instructions here or let’s know if you need more guidance with this!

          Kathleen

          • Kathleen Morris
          • Perfect! Thank you so much. I’ve updated my site. I think everyone can see it now.

            • Mrs Kissel
          • Thank you all of this information! I also set mine to password access only, to protect the privacy of my students. Although I think at this point in time, while I am still learning and building, it’ll be beneficial for people to access it.

            • bgpbloggers
  18. Adding widgets has been a slow process for me as this is my first experience blogging. Since I am utilizing my blog with students, the journey has been a tandem experience for all of us. I have added a couple of widgets, but I feel reluctant to add too many. Even I get distracted by the variety available. My middle school students are clamoring for virtual pets, and avatars: we will see…
    https://mrsdsroadrunners.edublogs.org/

    • mrsdsroadrunners
    • I feel your frustration. I am in the same boat. I am setting up the site first, then I will go back with my students and “tweak” it to fit our needs. I see them wanting virtual pets too. And I didn’t even know that was an option.

    • Yes, I am the same. I put on far too many. But I will wait and see which ones are popular with my pupils and parents, and then prune back a little. But my eyes have been opened to the variety of possible widgets.

  19. My blog is an experiment with goal setting in a dance school. My student will be teens so many fun widgets are not appropriate for what I am aiming at. However the links widget is great as I want to direct them towards dance specific resource sites and the countdown clock is perfect as I am working with SMART goals, including time bound. I am struggling with the calendar, which I want to have to figure out but I am inspired by this calendar on https://mrscrockett.commons.hwdsb.on.ca/events/

  20. For now, I’m just going to keep widgets simple with a search and recent posts. As my blog evolves, I may add more such as a links widget.

  21. I will try adding a widget to the class blog tomorrow. My main worry is the importance of adding them? I am introducing this process to a young age group and worry that this tool will detract from creating blog posts. Will this become their focus, adding or changing widget? Any comments or experiences from people introducing this to a young class (8 and below?) Thanks!

    • Faye Mellenthin
    • I’m worried about the same thing even with my older students. I don’t want to distract from the content on the blog… I’m looking for comments on that as well.

    • Hi there,

      I did a lot of blogging with grade two students (7/8 yo) in the past. Yes, widgets can become distracting. They can get a little obsessed with finding virtual pets and all sorts of fun things. I love the enthusiasm but I found sometimes you need to have limits in place. Like, tell students they can add one/two fun widgets and a few core ones. And also perhaps come up with guidelines about changing widgets (perhaps no more than once a month etc.). You could have students help you come up with the guidelines so they feel ownership over it all.
      Otherwise, you don’t have to have widgets. Some blogs now don’t have sidebars at all (like TheEdublogger.com) and many people prefer to have this cleaner look so the emphasis is placed on the actual posts.

      Hope this helps a bit!
      Kathleen Morris
      Edublogs Community Manager
      @kathleen_morris

      • Kathleen Morris
  22. I added a class blogs widget and a Twitter widget that is attached to our principal’s Twitter page. I attempted to incorporate a class pet, but I didn’t like the way it fit into my template, so I took it out. My students will be attaching their student blogs to our class blogs on Thursday. We’ll see how that goes. If you want to check out how much my principal tweets, you can do that here: http://msshenderson.edublogs.org/

    • That’s amazing your principal is so active on Twitter. What a great role model. I’m sure the school community loves it. 🙂

      • Kathleen Morris
  23. I love all of the widgets! I only added two: the email subscription and the revolving globe. The email subscription will be important for parents/guardians to follow the class. The globe is more just for fun to see where the blog is being viewed. Here is the link: http://tselby.edublogs.org/

    • I think the globe will be fun once we get student blogs attached and moving. I was worried they’d be frustrated by the lack of visits if I attached that widget too soon. You know, it’s all about the likes…lol.

  24. When they are ready, I will use the Class Blogs widget to allow students portfolios to be linked to our WAHS Design main page.