7 Tips to Add Some Punch and Zing to Your Blog Posts

Three Things

After perusing all the teacher blogs in Middle School, a few things stand out:
1. Teachers have  increased the frequency of their posts.
2. The diversity of topics covered has increased

and the focus for this post..
3. many posts lack an engaging look and feel

pic source@Flickr

Here are…

7 Tips to Add Some Punch and Zing to Your Blog Posts

1. Insert a picture per post. Too many posts are large black blob of text. Using a picture sets the tone for your blog post. Be sure to use and show attribution of the Creative Commons photos you use. Two easy way sot do this are by using Compfight and Google Advanced image search.

2. Chunk it. Draw the eye and create a smooth flow for the reader by chunking your text into short(er) paragraphs.

3. Add scanning points. Utilize the bold and text color options to emphasis key words and ideas to your reader.

4. Make lists. Readers like lists. They …

  • draw attention to the most important step
  • emphasis key ideas
  • make it easy to scan

5. Awesome titles and subtitles. Be a student for a second- would you be more likely to click Meet the FlyGuy! or Class Animation Projects.

6. Crisp links. Link the site name itself or a catchy word rather than linking a long ugly URL.

You can check out Mr. Pasamba’s cool class site is a little freiendlier than http://pasambag.ism-online.org

7. Engage your students. Get the students involved by asking a question, creating a contest, requesting a headline to a funny pictur, etc. and encouraging them to respond. Here is a good example of a teacher site that encourages dialogue.

 

Introduction to WordPress

What is a “blog”?

From WordPress:

“Blog” is an abbreviated version of “weblog,” which is a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. A blog is a frequently updated, personal website featuring diary-type commentary and links to articles on other Web sites. Blogs range from the personal to the political, and can focus on one narrow subject or a whole range of subjects.

Many blogs focus on a particular topic, such as web design, home staging, sports, or mobile technology. Some are more eclectic, presenting links to all types of other sites. And others are more like personal journals, presenting the author’s daily life and thoughts.

Here’s a quick video to help explain things visually: Intro to Blogging

Generally speaking (although there are exceptions), blogs tend to have a few things in common:

  • A main content area with articles listed chronologically, newest on top. Often, the articles are organized into categories.
  • An archive of older articles.
  • A way for people to leave comments about the articles.
  • A list of links to other related sites, sometimes called a “blogroll”.
  • One or more “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files.”

Some helpful articles:

Introduction to Blogging

First Steps with WordPress

—–

The following information is here to get you started, and serves only as a brief reference. If you’d like to participate in training sessions with Brandon, please sign up in the faculty tower.

Ready to get blogging?

  1. Please visit the link that was sent out via email, and log in with your username and password.
  2. Immediately go to your profile, which is located at the top of your screen (probably says “Howdy, ____”) OR you can go to the left side of the screen and under the dropdown menu for ‘Users’, you’ll find “Your Profile”.
  3. At the bottom of your profile be sure to change your password to something you’ll remember!

The Dashboard:

  • Control center of the blog – the “brain”, where most aspects of the blog are controlled and the magic happens. Various tabs may be accessed via the left sidebar. We’ll break these down briefly:

Settings:

  • General: change things like date/format, email address, blog title, time zone
  • Writing: you may with to change the “size of the post box” to something larger like ’20’. I personally find 10 lines of text too cramped when writing posts.
  • Reading: you may decide if you’d prefer for the viewer to first land on a ‘page’ or ‘posts’. More about that later.
  • Discussion: readers may comment on your posts and offer feedback via the commenting box. I highly recommend checking the box: “An administrator must always approve the comment”, for the first few weeks. Any comments posted will therefore first be received by your email account for approval / denial.
  • Delete Blog: yeah, just don’t click this one. Please.

Posts:

  • Let’s get started by clicking ‘Add New’
  • First add a title representing the content of your post (the post being the article itself). It’s best to be accurate and concise with your title, as this is what will help viewers and search engines pick up on your posts.
  • Add content to your post; the buttons above the writing area contain various formatting options, adding hyperlinks, and methods for posting media such as images, sound, and video. Let’s save that for another time.
  • Once finished, you may wish to add this post to a category. Very briefly, categories help to organize your site for quick access to information. A nice explanation may be viewed here.
  • At the bottom of the page, you will see an option for “Allow Comments on this Post” – you may check this off if you do not wish to permit others to comment on your particular post.
  • Click “Publish” on the right side of your screen, and you’re all set!

Publish: your blog post is now live for all the world to view.

Draft: periodically the blog post is saved automatically, but if you are not yet finished writing the post and wish to save it for later, use draft.

Preview: click to view the post as it will be seen publicly, but without it actually being live on the web.

Understanding “pages”:

In WordPress, you can write either posts or pages. When you’re writing a regular blog entry, you write a post. Posts automatically appear in reverse chronological order on your blog’s home page. Pages, on the other hand, are for content such as “About Me,” “Contact Me,” etc. Pages live outside of the normal blog chronology, and are often used to present information about yourself or your site that is somehow timeless — information that is always applicable. You can use Pages to organize and manage any amount of content.

What Pages Are:

What Pages are Not:

  • Pages are not Posts, nor are they excerpted from larger works of fiction. They do not cycle through your blog’s main page. (Note: You can include Posts in Pages by using the Inline Posts Plugin.)
  • Pages cannot be associated with Categories and cannot be assigned Tags. The organizational structure for Pages comes only from their hierarchical interrelationships, and not from Tags or Categories.
  • Pages are not files. They are stored in your database just like Posts are.

To wrap things up, I hope this post will help serve as a brief introduction to the world of WordPress, but please feel free to drop by the workshop sessions I’ll be running for more hands-on training. We may be offering a follow up session for more in-depth training and delving into the possibilities that WP may provide. Please feel free to also contact me via email at any time for quick questions. I’m here to help!

Exporting and Importing Your WordPress Blog

As the year winds down, many of you will be moving on to new adventures. Wouldn’t it be great to take all the hard work you’ve put into your blogs with you? Well, you can!

However, before moving onto the steps of how to export your current blog, you’ll need to head over to WordPress.com (assuming that’s your preferred platform) and create a new blog. WordPress has two types of blogs – those hosted by WordPress (which end in .com) and those that you must host yourself (which end in .org). Our ISM blogs are on paid hosting (.org), so unless you’d like to pay for your own blog hosting, you’ll need to create a WordPress.com blog.

Give some thought to your blog’s new web address. I recommend to use something that’s not tied to a particular locations, school or situation as these may change. Assuming you’ve already created the new blog, let’s move on.

It’s relatively simple and straightforward:

  1. Log in to your WordPress blog here at ISM.
  2. In your dashboard, on the left hand column, you’ll see “Tools”. Under that, click on “Export”.
  3. You’ll be presented with a few options. Where it says, “Choose What to Export”, click “All content” and “Download Export File”.
  4. That will then download a file to your computer. (an XML file)
  5. Ok now the export is done!
  6. Assuming you’ve logged into your new WordPress.com blog, follow a similar path (from the dashboard, left-hand side, “Tools”, “Import”.
  7. Select, “WordPress” from the list of options from which to import.
  8. On the next screen, “Choose File” and select the XML file that was exported from your old blog.
  9. Make sure you select, “Import Attachments” – that will then import all most of your media from your old blog to the new one.
  10. Once it’s done, visit your site to confirm that things look similar to your ISM blog. Of course it will appear differently depending upon which theme you’ve chosen. However, there are literally thousands of themes to be used with WordPress.

WatchKnow – Free educational video resource

Free educational videos delivered over the Internet. Viewed any time, from anywhere.

We believe that everyone should have the same opportunity to learn. The best way to make this possible, we believe, is to organize into one, super directory the hundreds of thousands of good videos currently available on the Internet. To make this a reality, we invite teachers, instructors and educators to suggest videos for inclusion into our directory, and then to review, approve, and assign those videos into appropriate categories using a wiki framework and philosophy. The videos are the highest quality found on the World Wide Web, cover all major educational topics from elementary to secondary schools (or age range 1 – 18), and are Kid Safe!

WatchKnow has indexed over 20,000 educational videos, placing them into a directory of over 3,000 categories. The videos are available without any registration or fees to teachers in the classroom and to students at home 24/7. Users can dive into our innovative directory or search for videos by subject and age level. Video titles, descriptions, age level information, and ratings are all edited for usefulness. Our Web site invites broad participation in a new kind of wiki system, guided by teachers. We have had a tremendously positive response from educators to the website. If we continue to work together, we can create an incredible, free, educational resource for students across the world.”

WhatKnow.org

Smartphone Safety for Students (and Teachers!)

The following presentation is geared towards the military, but the premise is still highly valid for both students and teachers. With so many students utilizing smartphones and applications with geo-tagging and GPS, security and privacy are critical concerns that every family should fully understand.

Please take a moment to browse the presentation. Your phone may be transmitting information without you even aware of what data is being gathered! (I know, it sounds 1984-ish)


31 Cool Ways to Use Google Stuff in Education

This is a google presentation, you can create your own and embed them in your blogs just as I have done here. One of the fun things you can do is share the presentation with your students and then you can have them make comments in a ‘chat’ window. Click the “open in a new window button” (next to the page counter) and then click “View Together” (which appears at the right hand side of the bottom tool bar.)

(Incidentally, this presentation is embedded using the “Embed Iframe” plugin.)

Simple Solutions to View All Text and Plug-ins when Composing a Post

Since we upgraded to the latest version of Word press, you may have noticed that when you are creating a new post, you might not be able to see all of the text or plug-in buttons.  There are several ways to fix this problem so you can easily add new posts.  One way is to create your post in the HTML tab instead of the Visual Tab. You can also press the Full Screen Mode Button.  To exit the Full Screen Mode you just need to select the button again.  The other way is to collapse the Publish menu and Categories menu that appears on the right had side of the dashboard when you are drafting a post.  The images below will give you a visual of what you need to do.  If you continue to have any trouble, be sure to ask the IT people in your division.

Adding Tables to Blog Posts

If you’ve ever had the need to separate content on a blog post, you may want to use tables. You will need to get your hands a little dirty with coding HTML, but it’s quite simple, actually.

When starting a new blog post, simply switch to HTML mode and paste in the following code:

<table border=”1″>
<tr>
<td>row 1, cell 1</td>
<td>row 1, cell 2</td>
<td>row 1, cell 3</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>row 2, cell 1</td>
<td>row 2, cell 2</td>
<td>row 2, cell 3</td>
</tr>
</table>

This will give you a table with three rows and three columns. If you want to remove a column, simply delete the entire line of code that begins with <td>:

<td>row 2, cell 2</td>

To add another row, add another section of code from <tr> until </tr> copying all of the code in between. If you’re feeling more ambitious, visit this site to give you some further options for customization.

A great example for how this has been used is on Keith Bailey’s blog posting of student created videos:


Pingbacks

Ever wondered what a pingback is? For example it looks a little like this:

New pingback on your post #4 “Course Guide, Information Booklet, and Text”

Website: Math IB H2 – Upcoming Quiz (IP: 216.104.40.210 , serv01.m380.sgded.com)

URL    : http://hs-math-ibh2.ism-online.org/2010/10/10/upcoming-quiz/

Excerpt:

[…] […] 6.5 – 6.8.  You can download the syllabus from an earlier post by Ms van on this blog: http://hs-math-ibh2.ism-online.org/2010/08/05/course-guide-information-booklet-and-text/ category:&nbsp;Peabody, van Nooten  tags:&nbsp;combinatorics, probability, […] […]

Usually it’s no cause for concern, all it means is someone has linked to your post. In this case, one math post October 10th links to an earlier post from August 5th. You can tell who is linking to you, and if you don’t like the  originating link, you have the option of deleting it in the links at the bottom of the message.

If you don’t want to allow them at all, you can disable them at the bottom of the Post window by un-ticking the box.



Change it up! Making the switch from iNove to Nelo


Nelo Theme in Blog Layout

The Nelo theme offers a variety of layout choices for your blog.  You want to make sure that you choose the layout that will meet your needs. In the dashboard, got to Theme Options, you have two layout choices, blog homepage or custom homepage. If you choose blog homepage for your layout choice, your posts will appear just like they did when you were using iNove.

The custom homepage layout gives you the choice to show only a custom post, recent post, or both custom post with recent post.

Custom Post

Nelo Theme Custom Post on Custom Homepage

If you choose to show only a custom post, the image and post you create will always be displayed on your blog homepage.
Think of it like a static page.  It may look like all of your content is gone- don’t stress! Your other posts are on your blog, but will have to be accessed through category links, tags, or pages.   If you want to change the image for the Custom Image and Custom Post, you will need to go to your blog dashboard, then Appearance, and select Custom Homepage

Recent Post

This setting will show your most recent posts on your custom homepage. The most recent post, will wrap around the custom image that you upload to your custom homepage.  The your recent posts will appear under the Latest News heading.  If there is an image in your post, it will be displayed to the left of the post summary.  The text of the summary will start at the left margin if there is not an image present in the blog post.

Custom Post with Recent Post

Use this setting if you want to have a static image and post appear on your homepage along with the most recent posts that you have added to your blog.  When using this setting, however, you may run into a problem.  If you have added images to your media library, the most recent image will be repeated.  So if you want to keep the custom post and show your recent posts without having a repeated image, you can just add a plain white image to your media library.  Then, the plain white image is repeated, but you can’t see it if you are using a white background.  I know it is not the most “technical” solution, but it works!  The Nelo Theme developers are in the process of fixing this issue.  We will let you know when the problem has been resolved.

Nelo is a great theme once you understand the difference between the blog homepage and custom homepage.  If you are looking for some inspiration on ways that you can use Nelo to set up your blog, check out the following elementary blogs.

Mr. McCallum- ECLC

Ms. Grabow- Grade 1

Ms. Juteau- Grade 1

Mr. Rea- Grade 2

Ms. McGrath- Grade 3

Ms. Hines- Grade 4