Introduction to Class Blogs With Blogger

http://bit.ly/publishinblogger

Google Hangout On Air Introduction to Blogging

Presentation Slide Deck

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Publish in Blogger Playlist (19 Videos)

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A little note from Scott…

(author of this tutorial and friendly neighbourhood Digital Literacy Resource Teacher)

Before beginning to use a blog or any other form of social networking tool in your classroom, and before sharing it with your students and parent/guardian community, it is important that you have the support of your administrator.  The last thing that should happen is that he or she hears about it from the parent or guardian of a student in your classroom.  A conversation with your administrator, and showing them the steps you’ve taken to protect yourself and your students will go a long way toward ensuring that support.  Consider creating your blog (but not sharing the address), and then posting exactly what you would post to your class to show your administrator what your administrator, students and parents/guardians will see how you intend to use your blog.

At the end of this tutorial, you will find links to documents taking you through the process of connecting your blog to Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  The methods shown do not involve friending or following your students or their parents/guardians.  They are demonstrated because I believe in the importance of meeting students and parents/guardians where they’re at, and the reality is many students/parents/guardians do use social networks and you have the ability to safely share your class blog posts in these spaces if you want to take the time to set these tools up, and if you have your administrators support.

As always, you should review the relevant OCT and ETFO advisories regarding social media and electronic communication.

The instructions and screenshots contained in this document were accurate as of October 5, 2014.  Like everything on the web, specific steps are destined to change as software and tools are updated.

Although this tutorial was designed and developed for YRDSB teachers using their school board Google Apps for Education Accounts (@gapps.yrdsb.ca), everything shown here can be completed with a personal Google Account (@gmail.com) or a GAFE account from another domain.

If you would prefer your own copy of this document to print or edit, you can access a view only copy of the Google Doc here.

Table of Contents

Overview

What is a blog?

What to Blog About

Getting Started with Blogger

Copyright

Posting to Your Blog

Your First Blog Post

Features of Your Blog Dashboard

Customizing Your Template

Pages

Layout

Add a Gadget

Adding Google Translate to Your Blog

Subscribing by Email (A little bit advanced – but worth it!)

Configuring Email Delivery (Even a little bit more advanced)

Editing Posts (and deleting them)

A Picture Post

Safety and Security

Things to remember:

Turning Off Comments

Blog Privacy

Making your Blog Totally Private

Adding Additional Authors

Embedding Google Calendars in your Blog

Adding an Agenda View Calendar to your Blog Sidebar

Third-party Publishing

Using the Blogger App to Post from your Mobile Device

What to Try Next…

Embedding

Connecting Your Class Blog to Other Social Media

Overview

In this session we will:

What is a blog?

The easiest way to think of a blog is that it works like a diary where you make daily (or weekly, or hourly if you’re like me) entries.  The biggest difference is that instead of having to go to the end of the diary to read the most recent entry, the most recent entry appears at the beginning of the blog.  A blog can also link to other resources on the Internet, making it a handy way to share websites that can help students/parents with homework and assignments.

The tool we are going to use in this tutorial is Blogger.  It is Google’s free blogging tool.  The blogs created here are ad-free and can be accessed from anywhere that you can get an Internet connection.  They can also be used with a variety of plugins or apps to make blogging faster and easier.

What to Blog About

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Getting Started with Blogger

In this section we will set up your blogger account and begin the setup of your class blog.

Note:  for this tutorial, it is assumed you will be using your YRDSB Google Apps for Education (GAFE) account (i.e. firstname.lastname@gapps.yrdsb.ca).  You can also create a blog using a personal Google account (such as an @gmail.com address).  You will need a Google account if you don’t already have one to use Blogger.  If you don’t have one, you can create one at https://accounts.google.com/SignUp.  

  1. Visit http://blogger.com and sign in with your GAFE account. (Video)
  2. At this point, you will need to choose whether or not you would like to create a Google+ profile or a limited Blogger profile.

    Google+ is Google’s social network – like Facebook – and you do have the option to control your privacy settings there, but a limited Blogger profile may allow you more privacy by default.  

    For this tutorial, we will create a Blogger Profile only.  If you decide you’d like to create a Google+ profile at some point in the future, you can easily do so by clicking the +You link at the top of your Google Drive homepage.
  1. Choose a Display Name that students and parents will see.  You may want to receive email updates (rarely) or not.  Then press the Continue to Blogger button.
  2. You will now be brought to your Blogger Dashboard page.

  1. Click on the New Blog button. [Video]
  2. Give your blog a Title
  1. Something like Mr. Smith’s Class
  1. Choose the address you want for your blog.  This will be the URL and it will end in blogspot.com (or blogspot.ca)

Tips for choosing a blog address:

  • Don’t make it too long or it will be hard to type (although you can link to it from your school website, and you can make a shortcut to it using bit.ly)
  • Try variations on your name; add class or grade, school initials, etc.

  1. Choose a Template (this can be changed later)
  1. NOTE!!!  Do not choose Dynamic Views as this template does not work at all on the version of Internet Explorer installed on YRDSB Windows computers.
  2. I recommend the Simple template to start, and you can change it later if you’d like.
  1. Click Create Blog

  1. Blogger will let you know that your blog has been created.
  2. Click on the Dismiss notice and then click View blog. [Video]
  3. You will see your blog with no entries.
  4. Bookmark this page and write the address down so that you know how to get back to it.  This is also the address that you can share with parents and students or link to from your school’s web page. You may also want to send yourself an email with your blog’s URL.


    Blog URL:  _____________________________________________________
  5. The two important links on this page are New Post and Design.
  1. New Post allows you to write a new blog entry.
  2. Design allows you to change the appearance of your blog, add lists of links, or pages that will stay the same.  You can also edit or delete previous posts in this area.

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Copyright

Sharing a page from a text or a worksheet on your blog is not the same as photocopying it to hand out to students in your classroom.  Some texts and workbooks allow a certain amount of photocopying, but most prohibit storing or sharing electronic versions.  If you find worksheets or content online that you want to use, try linking to the website that it came from instead of copying and pasting it.  Of course, you are free to share anything that you personally create on your blog.

For additional resources on Copyright and Creative Commons, check out Copyright Matters and Creative Commons.

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Posting to Your Blog

In this section, I will describe how to make a making a simple post to your blog and include a hyperlink.

Your First Blog Post

[Video]

  1. Create your first post.  We can delete it later.  Click on New Post.
  2. Write a brief entry into your post (perhaps about how excited you are to try blogging or anything else you’d like to share publicly).

  1. We will now add a link to Google to your post so you can see how hyperlinks work.
  2. Type in “This is a link to Google”.
  3. Highlight Google.
  4. Press the Link button.

In the dialogue box, type in the address that you would like your link to go to (the URL).  You can test the link to make sure that it works.  

ProTip:  It’s a good idea is to have the link open in a new window.  This is because students (especially younger ones) tend to follow all kinds of links, and if they need a quick way to get back to where they started, they can just close the windows that they’ve opened and return to your blog.

 Press OK when you are done.

  1. Consider adding a Label to your post.  Labels are simple ways to identify your posts, so that if a student/parent/etc. wanted to find all of the math posts, they could click on a shortcut for that label. [Video]
  2. Click the Publish button to send your post to the blog.
  3. You will be brought to your list of blog postings.
  4. Click on the View Blog button to see your updated blog.

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Features of Your Blog Dashboard

In the sections below, we’ll look at how you can use your blog dashboard, which you can access by clicking on Design to customize the look and extend the function of your class blog.

When you click design, it brings you to the Template page by default but you don’t have to change your template. [Video]

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Customizing Your Template

  1. Click on the Customize button to change the background, fonts colour, width, etc. of your site
  2. Simple customizations can be achieved by selecting a predesigned template (again - stay away from Dynamic Views) from the options at the bottom of the page.
  3. Use the background button to choose a preset colour palette or background image, or to upload your own.
  4. Click “Apply to Blog” when you have finished making your changes.

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Pages

[Video]

Pages are web pages attached to your blog that don’t change.  You may want to use these for different units, calendars, timetables etc.  You can create them just like posts and use the same features (insert pictures, links, etc.).  

  1. To create a page click on the Design button and then click on Pages.
  2. Click on New Page and then click on Blank page.
  3. Edit your page and then click Publish.
  4. You will be returned to your Pages dashboard.  Notice that the default behaviour of pages is NOT to show the pages on your blog.  To change this, you will need to add a Pages gadget to your blog layout.
  1. Click on the Layout link and then click Add a Gadget.
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  2. Scroll down the Gadgets dialogue box until you see the Pages gadget, then press the “+” button to add the Pages gadget.

  3. In the Configure Page List dialogue box, you must
  1. Select the pages from your blog that you would like to appear by using the tick boxes beside their names.
  2. If you would like to add additional pages (i.e. a link to your school home page or a search engine), use the +Add external link button.
  3. You can change the order that your pages appear by dragging them in the list order section.
  4. Click Save when finished.

  1. You can change the position of your gadget by dragging it from the horizontal gadget space to the sidebar if you would like.

  1. When you are finished, click the Save Arrangement button at the top right of your screen.

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Layout

Layout allows you to change the look of your blog and add a few features that might be important.  In particular, it will allow you to add links to the most frequent resources your students might access.

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Add a Gadget

We are going to add a list of links that you might want students and parents to be able to access at any time (we’ll also get rid of other gadgets that you don’t need).

  1. From the layout page click on the Add a Gadget link on your sidebar.
  2. Scroll down the list of gadgets until you find the Link List gadget (about 2/3 of the way down the list).  Then click on Link List or the + button to add it. [Video]
  3. Give your list of links a title (you can add more than one link list if you want separate links for different subjects, etc.)
  4. Add the URL of the site and give it a name.  The name is what will appear on your blog.
  5. Click Add Link.  You can add as many links as you like.
  6. When you are finished click Save.
  7. To remove a section, click on the Edit button.

  8. Then click Remove.
  9. Click OK to confirm.
  10. Make sure you click on the Save Arrangement button.
  11. You can click on the View Blog to see the new appearance of your blog.

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Adding Google Translate to Your Blog

[Video]

YRDSB has a diverse student population and communicating with parents and students who have a wide range of first languages can be challenging.  Although Google Translate is not perfect, it can help improve home-school communication be giving parents and guardians a general idea of what is happening in your classroom.

  1. Click on Design, then Add a Gadget.
  2. Find the Translate gadget and click on the add (+) button.
  3. Click on Save to add the gadget to your blog.
  4. Click on the Save Arrangement button.
  5. Notice that you can change the order of any of your gadgets, simply by clicking on them and dragging.

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Subscribing by Email (A little bit advanced – but worth it!)

[Video]

Allowing parents/students the option to subscribe to your blog by email makes it even easier for them to find out what is happening in your classroom.  

  1. Click on Design, then Add a Gadget.
  2. Find the Follow by Email gadget and click on the add (+) button.
  3. Don’t touch anything on the pop-up.  Click on Save when you are finished.
  4. On your homepage you will see a new Follow by Email gadget.  Parents/guardians/students can enter their email address and press Submit.  They will have to complete a “Captcha” to confirm that they are human.  They will then get a message with a link to confirm their subscription.
  5. The default time that emails are sent out appears to be between 1-3 PM Central Time.  The steps to change the delivery time are described below.

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Configuring Email Delivery (Even a little bit more advanced)

If you do use this email delivery service, you may want to configure it to send email at the end of the day instead of the middle of the day.  To do this, you will need to follow a few steps.

  1. Click on the Edit button beside your Follow by Email Gadget.
  2. Click on View Stats and Learn More.
  3. This will take you to the Google Feedburner site.  Click on the title of your blog.
  4. Click on the Publicize tab.  (You might see a notification that “Your feed is so new, we’re still playing with the bubble wrap).
  5. Click on the Email Subscriptions button.
  6. Set your timezone and select the time that you would like your email delivered.  
    Timezone:  (GMT - 5:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
    Scheduled Email Delivery:  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm


ProTip:  Although 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm is one Email delivery window that is available, you may want to leave yourself a few minutes at the end of the day to complete your posts or send any last minute reminders home.  Selecting 5:00 to 7:00 will usually result in delivery at about 5:30 pm.  If you would prefer and earlier delivery (say 4:00 to 4:30), you can always switch time zones to Atlantic (GMT - 04:00), and keep delivery for 5:00 to 7:00 pm.


Click the Save button.

  1. That’s it.  You can close the Feedburner window or tab.

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Editing Posts (and deleting them)

[Video]

Occasionally you’ll make a mistake and want to fix it.  To do this you need to be able to get to your previous posts and choose the one you want to edit (or delete)

  1. Click on the Design button.
  2. Click on Posts.
  3. Look for the post you want to edit.  As you hover over it with your cursor, you will see that you can Edit, View, or Delete it.
  4. We’re going to edit our first post.  Click on Edit.
  5. The post editing screen will come up.  Make a few changes, and then click Update.

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A Picture Post

[Video]

To create a post with a picture in it you need one of two things:

  1. From the homepage of your blog click New Post.
  2. Write the text of your post.
  3. Click on the Picture button.
  4. Click on the Choose files button (or the other options)
  5. Select the file from your computer.
  6. Then click Open.
  7. Then click Add Selected.
  8. Once you have added your photo, you can click on it to arrange it the way that suits you best.
  9. Click Publish when you are ready.

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Safety and Security

[Video]

As with any online tool, teachers need to think carefully about how they use blogs to communicate with their students and their community.  Blogs are public spaces where the whole world can see what you say.  This is a good thing, as it can be a place to model appropriate online activity with students, but you should think through how what you post will reflect on you as a teacher and how it respects the privacy of your students.

Things to remember:

For further reading, you may want to check the OCT Professional Advisory:  http://www.oct.ca/publications/PDF/Prof_Adv_Soc_Media_EN.pdf.  Much of the advice in this document refers to Social Networking sites such as Facebook/Twitter or 2 way communication tools such as texting and email.  Your classroom blog is much more of a one-way communication tool.

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Turning Off Comments

[Video]

I personally prefer to turn comments off on my blog.  This prevents readers from posting comments/opinions/etc. that you may not want on your blog.  If you’d prefer to allow comments, you also have the option to review comments, and post the ones that you approve.

  1. From the Layout Page, click on Settings and then Posts and Comments.
  2. In the drop-down box beside Comment Location, choose Hide.  This will prevent anyone from commenting on your blog.
  1. If you do want to allow comments, select Embedded.  
  1. Click the Save Settings button in the top right of the screen.  That’s it.

Blog Privacy

[Video]

By default, your blog is public, listed on the directory of blogs in Blogger and can be searched by search engine such as Google, Bing and Yahoo.  Unless you choose to make your blog private (which you might do before you are ready to share it with your administrator, students, parents/guardians, etc.), you can choose how much visibility you’d like your blog to have.

I think making it visible to search engines is a good thing.  That way, students, parents and guardians who misplace the URL of your blog can simply search for it.  Listing your class blog on Blogger is optional.  The steps below describe how you can change these settings.

  1. Go to your class blog dashboard and click on Settings.
  2. Click on the Edit button beside Privacy.
  3. Adjust the settings to reflect what you’d like and press Save changes.

Making your Blog Totally Private

This is something that you would only do if you want students/parents/guardians/etc. to be required to sign in to view your blog.  It will disable automatic email/Facebook/ Twitter/Google+ updates as these features require a public blog with an active RSS Feed.  You may want to do this before you are ready to share your blog with your class or if you haven’t had a conversation with your administrator about blogging in your classroom.  Follow the steps below to make your blog private.

  1. Go to your class blog dashboard and click on Settings.
  2. Scroll down to the permissions section and click on the Edit button beside Blog Readers.
  3. Select Private - Only these readers and then press Save changes.
  4. Note that you could add your administrator as a blog reader (using their GAFE address) if you’d like.
  5. When you are ready to share your blog with your class, simply return to this section, and switch your blog to Public.

Adding Additional Authors

[Video]

One way to improve the effectiveness of your blog is to allow other teachers (i.e. rotary teachers) to post to it.  That way, students/parents/guardians can quickly get information from all of their teachers in one spot (the homeroom teacher’s blog).  Follow the steps below to add an additional author.

Note:  At this time (March 1, 2014), YRDSB teachers do not have access to their Google Apps for Education email (@gapps.yrdsb.ca).  A blog author MUST be able to receive the invitation email to become an author on your class blog.  A work-around would be to share to a personal Gmail or Google Apps email address that has email enabled.

  1. Go to your class blog dashboard and click on Settings.
  2. Scroll down to the permissions section and click on the Add authors button beside Blog Authors.

  3. Enter the Google email addresses of the authors you would like to add.
  4. Authors must open their email and click the link in the email to become authors.
  5. Once you’ve added authors, you can also elevate their status to administrators on your blog.

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Embedding Google Calendars in your Blog

[Video]

Embedding a Google Calendar in your class blog allows students and parents to quickly know what’s happening in your classroom.  The added bonus is that they can subscribe to your class calendar using any of the popular calendar formats (Google Calendar, iCal, etc.)

  1. Create a Page for your blog called “Calendar”
  1. See Creating a Page for help on this step.
  1. Open your Google Calendar in a new tab (don’t close your blog).
  2. Click on the dropdown arrow beside your Class Calendar (assuming you’ve created one - not your personal calendar) and then choose Calendar settings.
  3. Scroll down the page until you see the Embed this calendar section.  Click on the link to Customize the color, size, and other options.
  4. You will be brought to the Google Embeddable Calendar Helper.
  5. The most significant part you may need to change is the width that your calendar will be displayed at.  Many Blogger templates have a main content width of around 600 pixels.  You may need to play with the width settings a bit to get it just perfect.
  6. After you have updated the width of your calendar, copy all of the HTML code in the box at the top of the page.
  7. Now, switch back to your class blog calendar tab.
  8. Click on the HTML button.
  9. Paste the HTML code you copied from your Calendar page into the editing box.
  10. Then click on the Compose button to see your calendar to check your work.  If everything looks the way you want it, click Publish.
  11. You will come back to your Pages dashboard.  Click on View to check your calendar page and make sure everything fits.
  12. If your calendar is too wide (or too narrow), scroll down the page to the bottom of the calendar and click on the Pencil icon to edit the page.
  13. Click on the HTML view.
  14.   Look for the width of the blog near the end of your HTML code.  Change the number to make the width bigger or smaller.  Make sure you don’t delete the quotation marks around the number.  You can also adjust the height here if you’d like.  Click update when you are done and then view your page.  Repeat as often as necessary to get it just perfect.

Adding an Agenda View Calendar to your Blog Sidebar

[Video]

ProTip:  You can create a small calendar that sits on the side of your blog to give students/parents/guardians an “at a glance” view of what’s coming up in your classroom similar to that seen below.  The main blog content is in the large left side of the screen and there is a small agenda calendar, showing the next few days on the right.

  1. Follow the steps above to get to your Embeddable Calendar Helper.
  2. This time choose the default view Agenda.
  3. Adjust the height and width to something like 200 pixels by 300 pixels (you can adjust this later if you’d like).
  4. Copy the HTML code from your Google Embeddable Calendar Helper.
  5. Go to the Layout page for your blog.
  6. Click on Add a Gadget and then  HTML/JavaScript.
  7. Paste your HTML code into the Content section.  Give your box a title like “Coming Up!” or “What’s Ahead?”.  Then press Save.
  8. When you get back to your Layout dashboard, press the Save arrangement button.

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Third-party Publishing

There are a variety of tools and apps that can make publishing to your blog even easier or faster.  They usually make it easier to format text, work with tables, and add/upload/format media such as pictures.

Examples

The examples below are ones that I have used successfully with Blogger.  There are many more available.

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Using the Blogger App to Post from your Mobile Device

  1. Download and install the Blogger App from the Google Play Store or the iTunes App Store.
  2. Sign in on iOS or select your account on Android.
  3. Select your blog.
  4. Write a post.
  5. Publish.
  6. Your blog will be automatically updated.

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What to Try Next…

There are a lot of things that you can do with your blog.  One skill that is very useful is to be able to embed content from other Web 2.0 tools in your blog.  For example, YouTube videos, Calendars, Glogs, PDF documents.

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Embedding

To embed something in your blog, you first need to find the “code” that is provided by the website that allows the file/document/video/etc. to be embedded.  There are a few examples below.

Protip:  Box.com is a powerful tool that can allow you to embed many formats of documents and files into your blog.  You can find a complete tutorial for this process here.

YouTube

Glogster

Box.com

Google Calendar

TED

PollEverywhere.com

One you have the embed code copied; follow the steps below to embed the file in your blog.  I will use a YouTube example (Specifically – Getting’ Triggy Wit It:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2uPYYLH4Zo)

  1. Make sure that you have copied the embed code from the website that has the content you would like to embed on your blog.
  2. Navigate to your blog and start a new post.
  3. Enter the title of your post and a short description of what the embedded file is.  Write a short note to yourself “Embed Here” so that when it is time to embed your code, you will know where to paste it.  This becomes more important if you have a longer post or a post with multiple files embedded.
  4. When you’ve finished the text of your post, click on the HTML button.  This will take you to the “code” that lies behind the blog post.  Don’t worry; you don’t have to know anything other than how to copy and paste.
  5. Highlight the note that you made to yourself (“Embed Here”) and paste your code that was copied from your website here.
  6. The code to embed the file will replace your “Embed Here” note.
  7. If you click on the Compose button, you will be returned to the “normal” view of your post.
  8. Review your post.  If you’re happy, post it to your blog by clicking the Publish button.

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Connecting Your Class Blog to Other Social Media

You can use online tools such as If This, Then That (http://ifttt.com) to automatically move content from your blog to other social media streams.  

Another little note from Scott…

(author of this tutorial and friendly neighbourhood Digital Literacy Resource Teacher)

Let me be clear, I am not advocating “friending”, “following”, or adding to “circles” the students in your class or their parents and guardians.  The links below describe a processes to set up public social media streams that re-post content from your blog to these services.

So why bother setting up these streams?  In my experience, most parents won’t enter the URL of your blog and search it out on a regular basis.   If you want to connect with today’s parents, you need to realize that they are much like their children (and probably, just like you!).  You have to reach them where they are.  Rather than trying to get them to come to your blog page, you need to put your blog content in front of them.  By giving them a stream of information in a tool they already use, you make it easy for them to stay in touch with your classroom.

As always, you should review the relevant OCT and ETFO advisories regarding social media and electronic communication.

Social Media Tool

Web Link

Google Drive Link

(view only)

Email

See above

See above

Facebook

http://goo.gl/kqj0nf 

http://goo.gl/Mm2eDn 

Twitter

http://goo.gl/G0oJwh 

http://goo.gl/OCl4lX 

Google+

http://goo.gl/HwU3cy 

http://goo.gl/GSD5t8 

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