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Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Guide to Blogging Terminology

In my previous post I shared some information about the upcoming Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge. If you're new to blogging or it has been a long time since you did any blogging, it can be helpful to have a glossary of terms that are frequently used when writing and talking about blogging. That's why I put together the following glossary of terms. (Access the glossary as a Google Doc here).

Before you jump into the glossary, watch Common Craft's explanation of what blogs are and how they work.


Theme: WordPress and many other blogging platforms use “themes” to describe the look of a blog. The theme can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing the theme does not change the content of your blog posts.

Template: Blogger and some other blogging platforms use the term “template” to describe the look of a blog. The template can include the color scheme and the layout of elements on the blog. Changing your template does not change the content of your blog posts.

Tag: Tags are applied to WordPress (Wordpress.com, Kidblog, Edublogs) blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. Tags make it easier for people to search and find older posts on your blog. For example, if you write a post about your Revolutionary War lesson, tag it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” tag and jump to the post that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by tag than it is to click through archives by date.

Label: Labels are applied to Blogger blog posts to identify the key ideas or purpose of a post. For example, if you write a blog post about your Revolutionary War lesson plan, label it with “revolution” or “revolutionary war” so that at the end of the school year when you have 150 posts on your blog your students can quickly click on the “revolution” label and jump to the posts that have that label. It’s a lot easier to locate older posts by label than it is to click through archives by date.

Tag Cloud and Label Cloud: Tag and Label clouds can be added to your blog’s homepage to make it easy for visitors to see the tags or labels that you use, click on one of them, and jump to a list of all of the posts that have that particular label.

Categories: In WordPress-powered blogs you can use categories for broad descriptions of posts in addition to using tags. For example, on iPadApps4School.com I use the categories “pre-K,” “elementary school,” “middle school,” and “high school.” I assign each post to a category and use tags for describing the academic topic of the post. This way if someone visits my blog looking for math apps appropriate for elementary school he or she can click on the “math” tag then click on the “elementary school” category to find all of my posts meeting that search criteria.

Embed: To display a video, slideshow, audio recording, Google Calendar, Google Map, game, and many other multimedia elements in a blog post you will use an embed code provided by service hosting that media. Embedding media into a blog post does not make you the owner of it and as long as you follow the guidelines set forth by the hosting service you are not violating copyright by embedding something you didn’t create. For example, when you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can embed it into a blog post and ask students to comment on the blog post. If the owner of that video decides to take it offline the video will no longer play through your blog post.

Embed Codes: An embed code is a piece of code, often HTML, that media hosting services like YouTube provide so that you can easily display the media that they host in your own blog posts. On some services an embed code will be clearly labeled as such next to the media you’re viewing. On other services the embed code will be one of the options that appears when you click on the “share” option. YouTube, for example, currently requires you to open the “share” menu before you see the embed code option.

Widget: A widget is a small application that you can include in the posts and or pages of your blog. A widget could be a game, a display of Tweets, a display of RSS feeds, a tag cloud, a calendar, or any other application that offers an embed code.

Gadget: Gadget is the term that Blogger uses for a widget. A gadget and a widget do the same things.

Plug-in: A plug-in (sometimes plugin) is a small application that you can add to the software that powers your blog. Unlike widgets and gadgets plug-ins operate in the background and visitors to your blog will not see them working. A plug-in can add functions to your blog such as suggesting related posts to your visitors or detecting the type of device a visitor is using to view your blog then automatically displaying the mobile or desktop version of your blog’s layout.

Post: “Post” can refer to an entry on your blog as in “a blog post.” “Post” can also be used as a verb as in “I am going to post a new entry on my blog.”

Page: A page on a blog is different than a post because a page is designed for static content. Pages are good for posting information that you want visitors to your blog to be able to quickly access. For example, my classroom blog had pages for curriculum outlines and review guides.

Permalink: Each blog post is assigned its own separate URL this is known as a permalink (permanent link). This URL is the one that you would share if you wanted someone to directly access a post rather than going to your blog’s homepage then searching for the post.

Hosted Blog: A hosted blog is one whose software is maintained by a company for its users. Services like Blogger and WordPress.com are examples of services on which you can create hosted blogs. The advantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have to worry about installing software, software updates, server maintenance, or bandwidth capacity. The disadvantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have access to the servers hosting your blog, the service may limit some customization options (WordPress.com in particular does this), and if the service closes you will be looking for a new place to blog.

Self-hosted Blog: A self-hosted blog is one for which you own the blogging software, you install it on a server or shared server, and you are responsible for all technical maintenance and updates. The advantage of having a self-hosted blog is that you can customize it to your heart’s content, you have access to the server(s) hosting your blog, and you can move your content from one hosting service to another if you choose. The disadvantage of a self-hosted blog is that you do have to feel somewhat comfortable installing the software on a server. Fortunately, most hosting companies have good tutorials on installing popular blogging software. Another disadvantage of self-hosting is that you are responsible for performing all updates and other maintenance tasks. This can be time consuming for new bloggers. Finally, to have a self-hosted blog you will have to buy a domain and pay a monthly or annual hosting fee for your blog. I pay roughly $200 annually to MediaTemple.com for hosting and I have eight domains on my plan. If you decided to go the self-hosted route, Media Temple is my recommendation for a hosting service. They offer excellent 24/7 customer service and I’ve never experienced any downtime since I started using them in April of 2012.

The Next Student Blogging Challenge Starts Soon

Blogging can be a great way to get students interested in writing and publishing their work for an audience. The challenges of classroom blogging have always been coming up with things for kids to write about and building an audience for your students' work. The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge addresses both of those challenges. The next Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge begins on March 3rd.

The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge provides weekly blogging suggestions suitable for K-12 students. Every week students complete the challenge then you can submit the URL of your students' posts to be included in a larger Student Blogging Challenge form that other participating classes can see. By submitting the URLs of your students' work, you're providing them with an opportunity to get feedback from other students and teachers who are participating the challenge.

The Edublogs Student Blogging Challenge is open to all K-12 classrooms. You do not have to use Edublogs in order to participate in the challenge. Click here to read the complete details of the challenge including how to register.

How Ocean Currents Work - And 24 Other Lessons About Oceans

How Do Ocean Currents Work? is a TED-Ed lesson that makes a fantastic addition to TED-Ed's list of lessons about oceans. The list now has 25 lessons covering a range of ocean-related topics including how waves are formed, the depths of oceans, and lessons about marine life.

In How Do Ocean Currents Work? viewers learn about the forces influencing surface and deep ocean currents. The lesson is told through the story of 28,000 rubber ducks drifting around the world.


I've watched this lesson a few times. The last time that I watched it I realized that the clay model featured in the video could be replicated in a fish tank or large dish pan. Having students make and modify models like the one in the video could be a good way for them to see and experiment with forces that influence the flow of water.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

ReadWorks Now Offers Illustrated eBooks

ReadWorks, a fantastic free service for ELA teachers, recently added new illustrated ebooks to their library. These illustrated ebooks can be used in the same way that all other ReadWorks ebooks can be used by you and your students. That includes distributing ebooks to your students through a ReadWorks classroom and or through Google Classroom.

ReadWorks is more than just a library of free ebooks for schools. ReadWorks offers standards-aligned lesson plans that incorporate ebooks from their library. And the ebooks themselves are all labeled with a recommended grade level and a lexile score range. All articles are accompanied by lists of key vocabulary terms and suggested comprehension and or discussion questions.

Every ReadWorks ebook can be read online. Students can also listen to every ReadWorks ebook. The combination of new visuals and the read-aloud function makes ReadWorks lessons accessible to more students than ever before.

FAQs About the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

Earlier this week I sent out an email about super-early registration for the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Some people have already jumped on that offer and others have emailed me with questions about the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp. Here's a short list of the some of the frequently asked questions and their answers.

1. What topics will be covered in the workshop?
• Teaching search strategies
• How to use AR & VR in your classroom
• Coding with kids
• Making movies
• Podcasting
• Fun formative assessment
• Putting it all together…

2. Do I have to be a G Suite for Education user?
No, you do not. This is not a G Suite for Education training session.

3. I teach elementary school, will this be too advanced for my students?
No. This is designed to be inclusive of all K-12 educators.

3. Do I need to bring my laptop/ iPad/ Chromebook?
Yes, you must bring your own laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Android tablet. Better yet, bring them all.

4. Do I have to stay at the Bethel Inn & Resort?
No, you can stay anywhere you want and you will still get breakfast and lunch included in your registration.

5. What can my spouse and kids do during the day?
The resort itself offers an 18 hour golf course, walking and biking paths, swimming, and spa services. There are outfitters in town who are happy to provide canoe and kayak rentals and shuttle service so you can explore the Androscoggin River that flows through town.

6. I'm thinking about flying, is there public transportation available between the airport and the resort?
While the Bethel Inn & Resort is in a beautiful location, it is about an hour’s drive from the Portland airport. I recommend renting a car if you are flying to Maine.

7. I need to register with a purchase order, can you accommodate that?
Yes, I can. I'd prefer if you can register online, but I can accept a PO from most schools in the U.S. Send me an email to start that process.