Why and How I Made this Blog….

I am finding that everyday more and more people are using Web 2.0 tools to collaborate.

tweetmeTools like blogs and wikis are used to share knowledge and experiences and more people are using rss feeds to keep on top of everything.  And tools like Twitter to keep up beetween blog posts. So I thought, I’d better give this a go!

So why did I create an online presence for myself?

Use of online tools, like Facebook, Flickr, del.icio.us, Twitter and Lastfm are increasing in people’s day-to-day life. These tools are used to network with others, in order to learn, knowledge share and collaborate with like minded people, to keep in touch with faimly and friends easily, without having to be a web designer or programmer.

The demand for easier, efficient and more flexible ways of teaching and learning is rising and I’m exicted to be part of that. Interest in web-based learning and exploring new technology for more engaging methods for delivery is increasing as the much discussed generation gap becomes more of an issue as Gen Y hit the workplace.

It was time to join them. So, I made this blog to share my journey. Since I started this blog, many friends and family members created their own blogs and wiki’s, colleagues have started Facebook groups, and we’re all uploading images to sites like Flickr!

So where to start?

Sites like pbwiki and blogger are a great place to start, and I recommend having a play around here. I found edublogs had more features and add-ons to play with and suited the educational focus I wanted. There are many teachers successfully using edublogs to record their own journey, to collaborate and with their classes to upload/point to resources and engage students through collaborative discussion, for resource sharing and to monitor and engage with students work.

How I Made this Blog….

I tried setting up with blogger, but I didn’t get the flexibility I was after back then. I wasn’t going to learn enough myself and I wanted that challenge.

So I visited one of my favourite blogs to see how it was made. Veerle’s Blog is Powered by some blogging software called Expression Engine. It looked great, so I downloaded the software and read the instructions. It involved setting up an MySQL Database and configuring some php pages. Although I’ve worked with this type of technology before, I really didn’t have time to make this work.

So I went hunting for a more simple option. I already have a web space (web hosting) and wanted to use my own domain name (flairandsquare.com) . I also wanted to download additional plug-ins and themes to use with my blog (not just because I’m a nerd, but because I wanted to create a presence, a virtual identity).

The solution for me…

wordpressThis is when I found WordPress. You can sign up with WordPress and get your own blog, with many themes and customisation readily available.

WordPress actually offers to install everything directly on your web space for you for freeInstall4Free (very handy – thanks WordPress). I provided them with my hosting details and within a day, it was all ready to go.

Note: once it has been installed, you’ll need to delete your old default page from your web space (index.htm or default.htm)

Web Hosting

bluehostBlueHost is a great service if you want your own space. They’ll also help you with the set-up.

It’s installed, now what?

Once it’s all set-up, you need to log in to your new blog (with the provided details), you are then free to explore the features of your own wordpress blog.

The first thing I did was choose a theme for my site.  The free WordPress Blog has many themes and plug-ins already set-up for you to use. I chose the iTheme initially, which I downloaded after searching for free WordPress themes (here are some good sites for them). It’s very cool (looks like a Mac desktop and you can click and drag the boxes in the sidebar on the right around), it took some configuring, but the simplicity that resulted was worth it I think. I’ve now moved on to a more complex theme as my knowledge of coding, blogging and RSS has increased, I wanted a more ‘magazine style’ site.

WordPress is also the power behind edublogs, which I highly recommend for flexibility, creativity, choice of themes, support for teachers and plug-ins available.

Things I’ve Learnt

  • Make sure you choose a theme and set-up your plug-ins before adding your first bit of serious content.
  • Back your site up regularly while you’re building it (particularly if you are using wordpress on your own server)
  • Create lots of profiles in all the social networking sites (listed below) and list your site in as many places, or on as many sites as you can. Give the link to everyone. This will improve your blog rating and it’s ranking in Google Search, as will visiting other blogs and leaving comments for other bloggers. It’s about developing online communities.
  • Don’t do it all yourself when there are so many excellent free options for educators out there that offer everything you will need.
  • Explore, try, fail. Explore… Try something else.

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