Notes from a Laptop

February 1, 2008

Setting up classblogs – with Learnerblogs; no, Edublogs!

Filed under: Class blogs,Tutorials,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 8:25 pm

Begin by setting up an email account (to use for setting up blogs) at http://gmail.com

lplate.jpgThen go to http://learnerblogs.org  http://edublogs.org and click on ‘sign up for free’ option to set up the class blog. This involves selecting a username, adding in an email address (above). Be careful in your choice of username as it will be part of the web site address – good to be general, not too specific (e.g. will you use the blog with more than one group?) Follow through the rest of the screen, clicking to agree to educational use, entering the verification numbers, and clicking on the ‘gimme a blog’ option.

In the following screens, (unless you have to adjust your username), you are able to give your blog a name, which can be changed later if needed. Then, click off the option to have the blog appear in search engines (unless that is something you want.) In the edublogs option select ‘teacher’ for the main/class blog.

A screen should appear asking you to check your email for an activation message. Check this at gmail and click on the activation link. You should then receive a screen from Learnerblogs Edublogs with your username and password – this password can be changed later. BE SURE TO LOGOUT OF LEARNERBLOGS EDUBLOGS.

To set up students, begin again at learnerblogs edublogs, and go through the same process, making sure you are registering a new blog, not adding to your own. Have a username ready (student first name and initial combined – not an identifying name), then use your gmail address +the student username. E.g. if the gmail is groovyteacher@gmail.com, the email for the student blog (say sarahb.edublogs.com) is groovyteacher+sarahb@gmail.com – this ensures the notification for the student’s blog is delivered to groovyteacher@gmail.com which allows the teacher to perform the activation process for the blog.

It is a good idea to keep an accurate track of things as you set up the blogs, so have an Excel file open to record usernames and passwords. These can then be printed on cards with the class blog address for distribution to students when they start blogging. (No need to change passwords, if they are carefully recorded and printed out for students.)

When all students are registered with learnerblogs, you then need to log into the class blog from the learnerblogs home page with your password. Logging in will take you to your Dashboard where you click on the Users tab. Scroll down to ‘Add User From Commmunity’ and enter the students’ email addresses in here, selecting their role as ‘contributor’. Their names should then be listed as a contributor in the space above.

The students can now log in and begin to write posts. These will be sent to the class blog, and are managed by the teacher when logged in to the classblog by clicking on the ‘Manage’ tab on the dashboard. You are able to edit the post, send comments back to the student (in the title of the post – then SAVE), or PUBLISH the post for the student.

Once you have done this, you need to go through the process of setting up the class blog – setting up privacy options, presentation of the blog and your first posts.

As the students become more attuned with blogging, you can also introduce them to their personal blogs and instruct them in the set up process.

It is, of course, well worthwhile investigating learnerblogs and edublogs for additonal information about using blogs in education. A forum exists to look for advice or ask questions when you have difficulties or ideas to pursue.

##  Edited March 1 to take into account changes at edublogs, which have eliminated the sign up for learnerblogs, though the same principles apply. Reference to ‘learnerblogs’ should be ‘edublogs’ now.

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January 29, 2008

How to set up a blog

Filed under: Blogs,Tutorials — Lindajay @ 11:58 am

blog.jpgGone are the days when you needed to know about html and ftp transfer of files to add pages to the web. It is now possible for just about anyone to have a presence on the web. Using a wide variety of blogging technologies, individuals, schools and businesses have developed their own social web sites.

As acknowledged by Will Richardson in his book, Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other powerful tools for classrooms, we now have a new writing genre. Blogs provide a place for “connective writing” for large audiences, and potentially, to generate discussion across the globe.

But where to start?

A number of options exist, and recommendations will vary according to whom you speak. Will details the setup using Blogger, which is owned by Google. WordPress is  another popular choice for individual’s blogs, and Edublogs is a also good option for those setting up blogs to be used in educational situations, and one I have found to have great support.

To set up in Edublogs (having considered the purpose, privacy and practical considerations), you need to:

  1. begin at Edublogs, click on ‘sign up for free’
  2. select a username (which becomes part of the blog address, so be thoughtful in your choice) and password
  3. agree that it is for educational purposes, and verify, using the image details
  4. then hit ‘Gimme a blog’
  5. in the next step, you may have adjust your username (try to make it unique – and remember it cannot be edited later)
  6. you can enter the blog title – which can be edited later
  7. select the blog type (as a teacher) and whether you want it searchable by search engines
  8. then select ‘Create Blog’

After this you need to consider the privacy options and how the blog will be moderated. After this the fun of choosing the blog’s appearance can begin.

Initially, for school use, it is wise to set up so that the blog is not promoted on say Google, and that all comments are seen by the administrator before adding to the blog. This avoids both inappropriate comments and spam.

To do this, work your way through the Options:

  1. on the General tab, you can edit the name of the blog, set the time and your calendar, etc.
  2. on the Discussion tab, you should choose to have comments approved before addition to the blog (and tick off must have previously approved comment) – this means you will receive email notification to moderate comments.
  3. on the Privacy tab select the required option – you may want a class blog to be relatively private

To write to the blog, selecting the Write tab will open a wyswig editor, where you can enter your thoughts. Save as you go, and be sure to save any work before clicking out of the editor, to save the grief of lost work. After writing in the post space, you can click in the categories box to add a term to identify your post with a particular theme. You should also decide if you wish to receive comments or ping backs on your post. When your post is complete (you can preview it between saves), you can then select ‘Publish’ to send it to the blog. 

To add images, documents, slideshows or video you need to upload them in the box below the posting space. See Edublogs videos for further details on these elements if you have difficulties.

There are many tutorial videos avaiable on the Edublogs site, and even as you first visit your new blog you will see that your front page has lots of details to view and edit out, as you take ownership. The Presentation tab enables you to browse a large number of different themes, which you have to trial for suitability – some do not fit the screen as well as you might hope, while others are able to be modified. For some themes you can create your own header (using your own images), and most will allow you to select the options in your sidebars (when you click on the Widgets tab). Start simple then change and adapt as you become more confident.

Another facility you should utilise is the ability to collect your favourite links in the sidebar in a Blogroll. Notes from a Laptop includes links to lots of useful educational bloggers, but any internet link can be listed in Blogroll – just click on the Blogroll tab and add any relevant/useful links.

This outline is just a start, and though specific to Edublogs, may be applicable to other options. Be alert to changes which may occur as the developers are always working on ways to improve the options, and, enjoy the journey!

December 7, 2007

RSS feeds – what does that mean?

Filed under: Blogs,RSS — Lindajay @ 7:11 pm

rssfeeds.jpgOnce you get into owning a blog, it’s good to keep track of what others might be talking about. Lots of blogs have links to others (as in a Blogroll) or will often feature ideas discussed by other bloggers. Once you have discovered this, you may want to check back regularly for new ideas. Once upon a time, you might do this by developing a favourites folder, say ‘Blogs to Check’. But that might involve a lot of unnecessary checking of inactive blogs. So how can you know what blogs have been updated and when?

Grabbing an RSS feed from a website will help you keep track.

Most blogs will have this option within the sidebars of their blog (people want others to visit again and again) and using tools within IExplorer and Firefox, or an online reader such as Bloglines, you will be able to see which blogs and news sites have been updated since you last visited.

With Internet Explorer 7, all you need do, when at a blog you wish to keep track of, is click on Tools, then Feed Discovery. This identifies if the web page has an RSS feed to add. Then, all that is needed is to click on Subscribe to feed and you decide where it is to be saved (if you have multiple folders for your feeds).

After this, to view feeds, you need to click on View, Explorer Bar, Feeds – which will open a side bar which lists any feeds you have selected. The page which results when you select a particular feed is just for previewing – you can click on the main heading, or the post title, to view the whole blog page.

Firefox requires a similar method except that , at last check, you need to download Sage as a plugin (from the Mozilla web site). The process is then fairly intuititive. Sage becomes your left hand sidebar, and you can transfer feeds to this location and eidt or delete as required, with all details described at the Mozilla web site.

Bloglines. Using Bloglines enables you to track your feeds from any computer online (unlike the abovementioned options). At this site, you sign up, subscribe to your own personal feeds, and can also see popular feeds of others, and search from here on any particular area of interest – including newsreads.

November 12, 2007

It’s Delicious!!

Filed under: del.icio.us,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 1:22 pm

delicious.jpgOne of the most popular Web 2.0 tools is del.icio.us. It’s a web tool which provides:

  1. access to your bookmarks – anywhere, anytime, on any computer
  2. quick links for classes to use (I have entered previously selected sites for a teacher, 5 minutes before a lesson started)
  3. access to links others have found (by checking to see who is bookmarking similar sites to you
  4. professional research list (by finding those who have similar tags to your needs)
  5. tracking your browsing as you do it (easily tagged to del.icio.us as you browse)

How do you do it?

Begin at del.icio.us, and follow the sign up process. You need:

  1. an email address you can readily access to confirm and access details
  2. a computer you are able to download to (to download the del.icio.us buttons to the toolbar). Check with IT for admin rights for this step if it is not your personal computer.
  3. an internet conection, of course.

By following the steps given, you will end up registered with del.icio.us, with 2 new icons on your browser toolbar (if not check View/ Toolbars, and click the del.icio.us box).

Then you can start visiting your favourite pages and clicking on the tag icon to begin entering links to your del.icio.us pages. As your collection grows, you can collect like links in bundles to gain order.

Investigating the links which are popular (i.e. saved by other people), you can click on the pink bar and see what other people are collecting – you can see their del.icio.us pages. Privacy is easily enabled if you want to keep a favourite/ bookmark to yourself.

For more detail about what you can do with del.icio.us, see their simple outline page. Or read through the guide-to-delicious.pdf attached here, which outlines some of the main functions available.

October 8, 2007

Web 2.0 lessons

Filed under: Tutorials,Web 2.0 — Lindajay @ 8:29 pm
Tags: , , ,

web-20.jpgSo you are ready to embark on the voyage of using Web 2.0 tools? Probably works best when you have a bit of understanding of the basics. Right? What is a blog? RSS feed? difference between a blog and a wiki? why use Flickr? and what is del.icio.us all about?

One useful guide, I came across some time back is: Five Weeks to a Social Library . Here you can learn about the intricacies of some Web 2.0 tools, by accessing archived lessons at your own pace, then trial these tools at leisure.

This is one of many sites which help with the understanding of Web 2.0 tools – starting with the basics. Are there others you might recommend?

Raison d’être…

Filed under: General comment — Lindajay @ 2:12 pm

keyboard.jpgJust the beginnings of a place to keep and share notes from many places of inspiration – some of which I discover serendipitously, others from wise sages whose paths cross mine – either physically or in virtual spaces.

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