Monday, January 12, 2009

How to Set up a Blog

I spent my free period at work today helping a colleague create a blog for a graduate class she will begin teaching in a few weeks. She was excited about the idea of having place where she could share her thoughts and ideas, as well as receive reflections from her students.

Her first post is going to be instructions for her students so they can create their own blogs, and hopeful encourage the class to establish an online community. It's such a good idea, I thought I'd include those instructions here as well.

My favorite blogging site is of course, Blogger (my least favorite, as mentioned earlier is EduBlogs), but feel free to explore other sites such as WordPress or TypePad.
  1. Go to – This will be where you log in to your account once it is created. Before that can happen, you will need to create an account. Click on the large orange “create an account” button.
  2. Enter the email you wish to associate with your blog. Enter your name, choose a password, correctly retype the captcha, and click “continue” at the bottom of the page.
  3. Choose a title for your blog. This will be displayed at the top of your blog, so make it interesting. Finally, choose a url. This should be something that fits your blog topic but is easy to remember. The final url for your blog will look something like this:
  4. Last step! Choose a blog template. This determines how your blog will look to visitors. The basic layouts consists of a header with the title of your blog, a main area where your posts will be displayed, and a sidebar for other information such as links, a bio, or a blog archive list. If you don't see one that you immediately fall in love with, no biggie. It can be further customized or changed all together at any time.

A Few Warnings:
  • Blogging in the classroom can be a genuine learning experience, but only if your students buy into the concept. In order for the students' blogs to become a network, each needs to contribute regularly both to their own blog posts, and on other blogs in the form of comments. The general rule of thumb is that good blogs are updated at least every three days.
  • Despite their obvious potential, some schools block access to blog sites due to the unpredictable nature of the content they may provide. Before creating your own blog, make sure your intended audience will be able to see it.
  • (This warning comes with a story first, so sit tight – there's a moral to all of this.) As an undergraduate, I did not have a very good cooperating teacher at one of my placements. He did, however, leave me with an analogy that I think about all the time while teaching. He said that dealing with students is like trying to hold a clump of mud. Squeeze too tight and the mud will push through your fingers, but hold it too loosely, and the mud will drip out. It's a delicate process, holding mud. And it's a delicate process using blogs in a classroom. Give the students too much structure and direction, and their posts become static and unimaginative, but too much freedom risks lack of focus or purpose.
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