by Josh Corbat, teacherscansmiletoo
Education needs a louder voice.
It needs more teacher bloggers! Get ready to feel more important! Or, rather…get ready to realize how important you already are.
Education is a tricky business. Times have changed. Students are not what they used to be. Teachers aren’t either. Our role in the education field has shifted dramatically from the one room schoolhouse days. No longer are we expected to show up every day, fill the kiddos’ heads with knowledge, smile at them a bit, and then send them on their merry way. Now we’re expected to be role models, to be motivators toward a better, more active future. We are expected to create critical beings out of our students.
And, for good reason! No longer can we expect the children of our country to be competitive in the global economy if we don’t train them to be critical thinkers, to be the solvers of the future’s problems. The idea that education can be passive for students is simply wrong in today’s classroom. The best way to combat this passivity is to become an active group as teachers. Teachers need to model critical worldviews to their students.
I believe one of the best philosophies of education is that of collegiality. Without cooperation, teachers simply cannot expect to remain fresh, vibrant members of the classroom community. This cooperation can, of course, take many shapes: Work in cross-curricular settings, meetings with other members of your school and local community, and professional development are just the tip of the iceberg. One of the best (not to mention the most wide-reaching) ways to collaborate with other teachers is to start a teacher blog! You can blog about anything that you deem worth sharing.
Blog about funny teaching stories. Blog about your uses of technology. Blog about problems that have arisen in your classroom and how you’ve solved them. Blog about everything! Not only will your fellow teachers benefit from what you have to share, but the general public will have another much-needed window into the world of education. It’s time we make our profession more visible to everyone out there; we have a lot of successes that need to be seen!
Because I believe that teacher blogs are so important, I have constructed this how-to guide. It doesn’t cost a lot of money to start your own blog, and it’s MUCH easier than you may think. The reason this how-to guide focuses on how to start a self-hosted blog is because it offers much more freedom. Plus, you get to choose your domain name!
If at any point you get stuck or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. I’m always happy to help!
1) Head over to the host of your choice and purchase a hosting plan
Now, you can choose any different (like GoDaddy or any other equivalent), but I can tell you from years of experience that HostGator has been my favorite. Even their cheapest plans come with amazing tech support and unlimited space for all your wonderful materials that you want to share. Anytime you have a technical question, you can just fire up their online chat feature (or get on the phone) and someone is happy to help. I’ve never found myself frustrated with them.
As for which hosting plan to purchase: Just go with the cheapest one that will fit your needs. In most cases, if you’re only planning to attach one domain (blog) to the plan, just buy the ‘Hatchling’ plan (cute, right?). During the checkout process, you will choose your domain name. Be careful here, that is your blog’s address (what people will actually type into their browser to go to your site). Try to pick something catchy and memorable. But, most importantly, pick something that is unique to your blog’s focus. Or, maybe it has your name in it. It doesn’t matter; it’s your blog!
2) Install WordPress on your new domain. (There are other Content Management Systems–which is what WordPress is–but WordPress is probably the simplest and mostly widely adopted.)
The industry standard software for self-hosted blogs is WordPress. For those of you that are unfamiliar with WordPress, it’s not truly software like you may think. Nothing is actually installed on your computer. Instead, HostGator will install it on your domain and you will access your blog through a website. It’s very simple, secure, and totally awesome. Below is a step-by-step guide to installing WordPress through HostGator:
- Login to your HostGator cPanel (instructions for how to do that will be in an email from HostGator).
- Scroll down to the Software/Services section and click on the QuickInstall icon/link.
- On the left, under Blog Software, click on WordPress.
- Click continue to agree to all the mumbo jumbo.
- Leave the Application URL blank. This will install WordPress directly to your domain, which is what you want.
- Fill in the rest of the fields and options (the email, blog title, first and last name can be changed later through the WordPress Dashboard).
- Click Install Now!
- After WordPress is finished installing, you should see a “Congratulations!” message. You will also get an email with your administrator password. To log in, just type your domain into your browser, but add /wp-admin to the end of it (so,myteacherblog.com would be myteacherblog.com/wp-admin).
- You’re done! WordPress is installed and you’re ready to pick a theme!
3) Pick and install a theme for your blog
Log in to your brand spankin’ new WordPress Dashboard. The Dashboard has all the great feature that you will learn to use (and love!). The main thing we’re concerned with for now is picking a theme to get your blog up and running.
- On the left side of the screen, hover (don’t click) over Appearance, then click on Themes (it should be the first option in the list that pops up).
- The site that appears has two tabs: Manage Themes and Install Themes. Since you only have the default theme (which you can keep if you love it) you will want to click on Install Themes.
- From there it’s up to you: You can search for something (like dark, simple, blue, or flowers) or you can browse the Featured or Newest themes. Just click Featured (my recommendation) or Newest to see what WordPress’s many contributors have to offer.
- Clicking Preview will do just that: Show you a preview of what your blog will look like.
You will need to keep a few things in mind when you’re choosing a theme. First, what is your blog for? If you will be writing original content (like blog posts, tips for colleagues, etc.) you will want to stick to a theme that is optimized for text. Most WordPress themes are designed perfectly for this type of content. After all, that’s what WordPress is all about! However, if your content will be more along the lines of images or videos, you may want to find a theme that is designed for those. The Picturesque and BirdSITE themes are perfect for photoblogging, for example.
Once you find a theme you love (spend a little time on this; many people will never change their theme once their site is up and running) just click Install Theme. The next screen will say a bunch of technical stuff, ending with “Successfully installed the theme Whatever.” Underneath that, click Activate to turn your new theme on!
4) Customize your blog’s title and important information
At this point, your blog isn’t really customized. If people go to your URL, they won’t see anything unique. So, we’re going to change that.
- On the left, hover over Settings, then click General.
- At the very top, change the Site Title and Tagline to whatever you think describes your blog best. You won’t have to change much else on this page. Maybe just your time zone. Note: These settings may have already been changed in an earlier step.
There may be more customization you can do, depending on which theme you have chosen. For me, if I hover over Appearance and click Customize, I have lots more options for my blog. I recommend going through these types of settings and familiarizing yourself with what you can do and change. If at anytime you have any questions, just email me. If you’re using my blog as a resource, I’m here to help!
5) Start blogging!
Now that you have chosen a theme and set up your blog title and stuff, you can start publishing content! This is where it gets really, really easy.
- At the top of your WordPress Dashboard, hover over +New. You’ll see some options, but I just always click the +New button (or Post, underneath it).
- Once you’re at the Edit Post page, you will see where you can type your title and create your blog post.
- So…add your title! Remember, search engines will use this title to help people find your post. Pick something that does a good job describing what you will write about. Keep it simple, but add your flair.
- In the main text box, type your post. You can bold, italicize, underline and all that jazz (I can’t believe I just used that phrase), but you can also add other content.
How to add a picture:
- Above the main text box, click the Add Media button.
- Click the Upload Files tab. (Alternatively, you can insert an image using the URL of any image you find online. Just make sure you have permission or whatever you need to show it. Click Insert from URL to add an image using a URL.)
- Click Select Files and find the image on your computer. It will upload automatically.
- You can then change the Title, Caption, Alt Text (what appears when you hover over the image), Description, Position, and Size on the right side of the screen. I suggest keeping the position centered, and the size is, of course, up to you.
- Click Insert into Post. Done!
It’s so easy to create something amazing by starting a teacher blog. My suggestion is that you give it a shot. If you love it, you will never turn back. If you hate it, you’re not really out a ton of money, and you’ve learned a new skill. It’s definitely worth a shot. I can tell you from experience that blogging is something I always enjoy. For me, it’s a form of meditation. Plus, when your colleagues comment on how much they like what you wrote, it makes you feel great.
Teachers can smile too, after all.
image attribution flickr user odysseygate; How To Start Your Own Blog: A Step-By-Step Guide For Teachers