Welcome to the fifth step in our free self-paced course to help you set up your own personal or professional educator blog!
The aim of this step is to:
- Explain how widgets are used on personal educator blogs.
- Introduce you to the commonly used widgets.
- Show you how to change widgets and add widgets to your sidebar.
- Introduce how categories and tags are used.
- Show how educators use categories on blogs as part of their ePortfolio.
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.
Not all blogs have sidebars so not all blogs use widgets, however, they are quite common and useful. The Edublogger is an example of a blog without sidebars.
How widgets are used
Widgets are used for a wide range of purposes including:
- Help visitors find information on the blog — Search widget, pages widget, category widget, tag widget
- Track visitors to the blog — Flag Counter, ClustrMaps, Revolver Map
- Reader Engagement — Quiz widgets
- Latest news — Twitter widget
- Links to helpful resources, student blogs, and other class blogs — Links widget, Pinterest widget
- Help readers translate your blog — Google Translate widget
- Events Calendar for important dates — Google Calendar
- Book lists — Shelfari bookshelf and Goodreads bookshelf
- Email notification of new posts — email subscription widget
- Displaying recent comments or posts — 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
- Kathleen Morris Primary Tech
- Kevin’s Meandering Mind
- Teacher Reboot Camp
- The Principal of Change
How to add widgets
You add a widget 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 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.
5. The widget will automatically open — just configure, click Save, and then Close.
Widget video tutorial
How to remove widgets
You remove a widget as follows:
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 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.
‘Must have’ widgets
When adding widgets think about does it add 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!
Sidebar clutter is a good way of convincing first time visitors NOT to subscribe to your blog. The trouble is, sidebar clutter creeps up on all of us.
The key is to focus on ‘What are the most important things you’re trying to achieve when someone visits your blog?’
The main aims on your personal blog might include:
- Making it easy for readers to know what you write about and to find content.
- Encouraging readers to connect with you on your social networks or subscribing by email.
You do this by placing the most important widgets near the top of your sidebar(s) while removing any widgets that aren’t needed.
Here’s our recommended ‘must have’ widgets for personal blogs listed in order from the top of your sidebar:
- Search widget (unless it’s part of your theme header)
- How to connect with you on social networks (see an example of this on Sue Waters’ personal blog here).
- Subscribe by email (find out more about this in step 10 of this course)
- Categories widget
- Some people also like to display the most popular posts from their blog and/or a text blurb/image to introduce themselves (check out the example on Kathleen Morris’ blog).
With all other widgets, you need to balance your personal desires with minimizing sidebar clutter.
Class and student blog widgets:
- The aims of class and student blogs are very different from an educator’s personal blog
- It’s normal to see more widgets on class and student blogs.
- You’ll find examples of the most popular widgets used on class and student blogs here.
Tags and categories are used on posts 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.
Tags are more like the index at the back of the book and explode the topic into a million bits.
Another analogy is like shopping at a clothing store online. You’ll see different broad categories like men, women, children, baby etc. Then each of those category pages will have more specific options like dresses, shirts, pants, sleepwear, swimwear etc. Think of these as the tags.
Here’s an example of a post with the categories and tags displayed at the bottom of the post.
The use of tags is entirely optional (although each post must be attached to at least one category).
The categories and tags are displayed in your blog sidebar using the categories widget and tag cloud widget. You can also sometimes see tags and categories near your blog post title or under the post, depending on your theme.
When your readers click on one of your categories or tags, a page loads with all posts that use that tag or category. Well organized categories and tags can make it much easier for your visitors to find content that interests them.
Here is a summary of tags of categories:
Setting up categories
You want category names to be unique and descriptive so your reader understands the type of subject matter they will find when they click on the link. (e.g. a category game of ‘other’ or ‘random’ is not ideal).
As a general rule, you tend to limit the total number of categories you use on a blog. Perhaps have 5-10 total categories that all your blog posts can fit into. Then assign 1-2 categories per blog post.
All posts need to have at least one category but tags are optional. The default category is called ‘uncategorized’. This is not ideal. You can change the name of your default category by going to Posts > Categories.
On a personal educator’s blog you might use categories such as:
- Using images
- Global collaboration
- Mobile devices
- Digital citizenship
And your tags might be things like Creative Commons, public domain, Twitter, Facebook, iPad, tablet, Student Blogging Challenge, internet safety etc.
You want to avoid having the same name for a category and a tag.
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Categories and ePortfolios
Increasing numbers of educators now use their blogs as their ePorfolio. We are also seeing more educators document their achieving of teaching standards on blogs.
For example, in Australia teachers are encouraged to document their evidence to show the work they did to meet the criteria set out by The AITSL Teacher Standards. Some teachers do this using their blogs, and assigning the appropriate AITSL Teacher Standards, when they publish a post so they can use a custom menu to send posts to different pages on their blog.
If you look at Jarrod Lamshed’s blog you’ll see a link to The AITSL Teacher Standards in the top navigation and when you hover your mouse over The AITSL Teacher Standards you see a sub-menu with links to each standard. Clicking on a standard takes you to all the posts assigned the category e.g. ‘Know Students’ takes you to all the posts assigned the category Know Students.
You’ll see a similar approach on Paul Heubl’s blog. If you look at George Couros’s Principal of Change blog you’ll see Principal standards documented.
Planning your categories
Here are our tips on 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 fewer categories under which all of your content can neatly fit.
- Aim for each category to 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!
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.
You create a new category as follows:
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.
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Now to complete the process, all you need to do is add your Category widget to your blog sidebar via Appearance > Widgets.
You can also change the title of the Category widgets to a title your readers relate to like:
- ‘Posts by Topic’
- ‘Things I Write About’
A common question we’re asked is “How do I send posts to multiple pages on my blog?”
This is done by assigning different categories to posts, such as teaching standards, workshop, professional development, presentations, and then use a custom menu to create links to each post category in the top navigation of your blog.
You’ll find step-by-step instructions on how to use categories with a custom menu here. We’ve used an example of a class blog where teachers want to use one blog for multiple classes or subjects — but it is the same process for setting up an ePortfolio on a personal educator’s blog.
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Tags can be displayed on your blog as a tag cloud; clicking on a tag name will take your readers to all posts tagged with that term.
The larger the size of the word in the tag cloud, the more posts that have been tagged using that term. Remember, your tag cloud displays your top 45 tags.
Find out how to add the tag cloud widget.
Our advice for tags are:
- Tags are normally short, one or two words, and are generally keywords from the post
- 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
- Ideally add 2-10 relevant tags per post (don’t use more than you need)
- You don’t need to come up with a list of tags ahead of time. When you’re writing your post, you can click on ‘choose from the most used tags’ on the right-hand side of your blog editor.
Tags 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.
Now to complete the process all you need to do is add your Tag widget to your blog sidebar via Appearance > Widgets.
You can change the title of the Tag widgets to titles that your readers relate to like:
- ‘Posts by Tags’
The larger the size of the word in the tag cloud the more 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 posts.
Add widgets using embed code
You can add any other widgets you find online by pasting their embed code into a text widget in your sidebar. This is for Edublogs Pro and CampusPress users only to prevent misuse by spammers.
This is how you add widgets from Twitter, Pinterest, Shelfari Bookshelf, Flag Counter, Google Calendar and so on!
You add widgets from other websites as follows:
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. Click on the text tab in the text widget.
5. Paste the embed code into the text widget.
6. Click Save and Close.
7. You should now see the widget in your sidebar.
Commonly used visitor tracking widgets
Some educators like to use tracking widgets on their personal blogs.
Here’s a quick overview of the most commonly used visitor tracking widgets:
|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 are 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.|
|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.|
The link widgets
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 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 used to be a standard feature on personal/professional educators blogs but some bloggers prefer not to use them now due to the size of their networks.
Here’s 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.
The best option is to copy/paste the URL from the address bar of your web browser (you’re 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 questions about widgets
Here are answers to some commonly asked questions we receive about widgets.
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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 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.
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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 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 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 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 blogs posts for particular dates. Dates that appear in bold type indicate dates you’ve posted.
It doesn’t let you setup 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 Caldendar.
We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation on blogging by undertaking one or more of these tasks:
- Look: Visit some of these educator blogs then leave a comment on this post to tell us which widgets on their blog you would use on your blog and why.
- Add: Now try adding some widgets to your blog. Leave a comment to let us know what widgets you added and share a link to your blog so we can have a look at your new widgets.
- Post: Write a post on what you would include on your list of ‘must have’ widgets for personal educator blogs. Or reflect on what you have learned about widgets. Don’t forget to add categories/tags to your post! Leave a comment with a link to your post so we can check it out.
Also feel free to leave any questions you are having (or tips/advice) as well.
How to leave a comment: Scroll down to find the comment box. Write your comment, then enter your name and email address (email addresses are not published). Enter the anti-spam word. Press submit and we will moderate your comment ASAP.
155 thoughts on “Step 5: Working With Widgets”
This reminded me of the MySpace days. I will need to refresh myself!
It was great to learn about using widgets.
The two widgets I added to my blog site are the calendar and google search widgets. Both appear when clicking on the home page tab. The calendar appears to give a sense of time to those kind enough to visit my blog but the google search widget is there to give someone a quick way to search my site. I think this would be very useful once I get the opportunity to fill my blog with various ideas, photos, and opinions which might need some navigational assistance to find quickly.
I like the software widget, it seems easy to navigate, use and learn.
From the free technology post blog, I enjoyed seeing the free educational learning tools and videos that were provided. Free sites are always a good choice you don’t always have to pay money. I appreciate you posting this information publicly.
This was enjoyable to use
I liked learning and using widgets. They help keep everything organized and simple.
It was great learning about widgets and their usage.
HI everyone! I guess I am the only one who finds this overwheming. but If I had to chose the widgets it would definatly be a world clock and link to some of my favorite YouTube travel for education history and cooking pages bu tthe cooking with history.
Widgets are a great tool to keep your page organized and informational. I learned you don’t want to clutter and have too many or else it will look messy.