Monday, June 23, 2014

Setting Up a Blogger Blog

A blog is a unique kind of social media website. It's social because it encourages others to interact with the main poster, usually in the form of commenting. But it's unique in that it allows the user to post multi-paragraph posts, as well as other media such as pictures, videos, and documents.

This website -- Innovate. Instruct. Inspire. -- is a blog that is directed at teachers; it is intended for other educators to read this site and glean information that could be useful in their classrooms. A blog could also be used as a classroom or grade level website that students and/or parents use to get information during the school year. Finally, it can also be a place for students to post their writing and/or discuss class-related topics.
First of all, please know that there are lots of blogging sites you could use. However, a lot of people choose Blogger because...

  1. ...they already have a Google account {gmail, YouTube, Google Drive, etc.}, so they actually already have a Blogger account, too. That means it's one less username and password to remember!
  2.'s free.
  3. utilizes a drag-and-drop interface when customizing the layout and design, which is super-easy. 
  4. allows for lots of customization in terms of colors, fonts, layouts, sizing, etc. You can do as much or as little as you want. 
  5. doesn't require the knowledge of HTML in order to manage it {although you can use HTML skills to further customize your website, if you want}. 

I currently maintain 4 blogs and help a friend with another, all without losing my mind. :) That's because Blogger is so easy to use! {Here is my old OUES blog if you want to take a look.} It's for this reason that this post will focus only on the Blogger platform for classroom blogging.

As discussed above, I think there are 3 main ways you can use Blogger as an educator:

Teacher Blogs
If you've ever been on Pinterest, you've surely seen some super-cute, practical, and/or just plain genius classroom ideas. If you clicked on the idea, you were probably taken to a blog.

The craze of teacher blogs has really picked up in the last few years, and I love it! Now, more than ever, teachers are creating websites solely intended to be viewed by other teachers so they can share the fabulous ideas they've used throughout the years. During my first two years of teaching, I spend a ton of time reading teacher blogs, and I attribute a lot of my good ideas to them.

As of late 2013, these are the top 50 elementary teacher blogs, as named by Teacher Certification Degrees. 

As of December 2011, here are 50 must-see teacher blogs as named by Edudemic.

I would compile a list of who I think are the best bloggers, but then we'd be here for hours. :) There are two ways I've found fabulous blogs: via Pinterest and on other blogs. For instance, if you scroll down and look at the right side of this page, you'll come to a list that looks something like this:

I know I've got at least 20 or so EdTech blogs I read regularly listed in that section {you may have to click "show all" at the bottom of the list to see them all}. Click on any of those links to view the blogs. From there, look for similar lists. Just keep clicking and reading!

The benefit to having a teaching blog is that you have a way to write down all your cool ideas and share them with the world. You can also make blog friends that can help you with teaching-related problems when they arise. {Not to mention, I'm sure a teaching blog would look nice in your portfolio or resume!}

Classroom or Grade Level Website
I love the idea of a classroom website. It's a fabulous opportunity for students to access valuable classroom material outside the hours of 8 - 3:30 on weekdays.

You can post contact information {such as your e-mail address and links to your classroom social media sites}, the syllabus, supply list, due dates to upcoming assignments and events, copies of your lessons plans so that parents are more in-tune with what's happening and absent students don't wonder what they missed, outstanding working {I used to call this my "virtual refrigerator" page when I taught 8th grade. I would black out last names and post great work on the 'fridge just like my Mom used to do with me.}, learning links, and so much more. On my Science Lab blog, I used to post a short blurb about what activities each grade level did with me each week. I felt like it was one way to help connect families to the Science Lab from home.

Classroom Blog with Student Contributions
You can also have students write posts for the blog. They can be about anything! In my class, I might have students type their lab write-up for the day with pictures from their experiment.

When I taught English, I had students volunteer to post their short stories and essays on the blog.

I also posted a blog with thought-provoking questions and asked the students to discuss the topic in the comment section. Students were required to respond with their original thoughts on the discussion question as well as respond back to another student who had posted. It was a great opportunity to extend the thinking, work on Internet navigation and etiquette, and to improve typing skills.

How do I get started?
Like I said, there are lots of other blogging websites, but this post will focus on Blogger. If you already have a g-mail, YouTube, or Google Drive account, you already have a Blogger account. Just go to and log in with that same username and password. If you don't already have a Google account like the ones mentioned above, click HERE to sign up for one. Once you log in, you'll see your dashboard, will will be empty if you've never set up a Blogger blog before.

Find and click this button in your Blogger dashboard to get started:

You'll see a pop-up that looks like this:

Type a name for your blog in the "title" box {don't worry -- you can change it later}.

In the "address" box, type the URL you'd like people to enter in order to get to your blog. Most people make this the same as their blog name, but it's not mandatory. Notice that your blog's address will end in unless you purchase your own domain name and apply it to your blog.

Choose any of the templates -- you can change that later, too -- and click the orange "create blog!" button.

From there, you will see an overview of your blog:

You don't have to customize your blog at all if you don't want to; you could just click "new post" and start writing! {Click HERE to read my article about publishing a post on Blogger.}

Take a look at the options over to the left:

Here's what you can do if you click on each of those options:

  • Overview: quickly see page views, news from Blogger, and any news about your blog {like if you got a new comment}
  • Posts: look at all the posts you've ever written -- published, unpublished, and scheduled. You can also add and delete tags and edit posts from this page. 

Pages: at the top of this page, you should see 3 tabs: home, about, and video tutorials. Each of those is considered a "page." Add, edit, and delete pages from the "page" tab in your dashboard.

Comments: reply to, delete, and mark comments as spam on this page.

Google+: connect your blog to Google+

Stats: see your monthly page views, how many page views each post has gotten, where your audience lives, traffic sources, and the breakdown of which browser users are viewing your blog in

Earnings: only visit this page if you are using Google's "adsense" to make money from your blog

Layout: play with where things are located on your blog on this page.

A header is what appears at the top of your blog. Mine looks like this:

Decide which pages {if any} will show on your blog. Modify how people can comment and what the bottom portion of each of your blog posts says. Add Google's "gadgets" around the sides of your posts. Gadgets can include a search bar, a list of labels from each post, archives, an "about me" section, any HTML you want to include, pictures, videos, and lots of other things! Blogger made it easy to add the most common items so that you don't have to know HTML in order to use a Blogger blog.

Template: choose how you want your blog to look. Scroll down to choose a pre-made template from Blogger. There are also lots of websites that create free Blogger templates -- all you have to do is copy and paste it where the designer tells you to. HERE is one of my favorite places to look for templates.

{The screenshot below was taken when I was using a different blog name. :) }

It is in the templates section that you can also change how your blog will look when someone views it on a mobile device.

Settings: change your title, description, blog address, and privacy options on the first page. Customize how many posts you want to show up on each page of your blog, and how people can leave comments. Choose your time zone and the date format that Blogger will post every time you publish a new post. The "other" tab has options for backing up your blog and deleting it, should you ever decide you need to do that.

Click HERE for my post about publishing a post on Blogger. 

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