I love blogs, and I can’t think of an easier way to explain to others what they might get out of blogging than to talk about my own experiences. I’ll start with where we are: Teacherly Tech. I set up this blog last spring while I was in the middle of an arts integration project on my campus. I took a few months off for summer vacation and other indulgences. Now I’m back and just really getting warmed up.
I started this blog on a whim, which is the way all of my blogs have been born, but I think I’m going to really like it because it gives me a dedicated place to think about, write about, explore, and share with others one of my favorite topics. Teaching with technology is something of a necessary interest considering all of my classes are online at the moment. It’s more than that, though. I love tinkering with new technologies. This is a perfect place to do that and explain the technologies to myself and others along the way.
The blog is run by WordPress and hosted at Siteground, where I have a paid account. It isn’t a beginner blog, but it isn’t really an expert blog either. I’m using the blog to learn more about blogging, even though I have been blogging for several years, and I’ve used multiple platforms. There’s still much to learn.
That’s one of the beautiful things about blogging. You can start out knowing nothing at all and still produce a great looking blog with great content. You can also work at blogging for years and still find plenty of challenges in it. Like the varying levels of yoga, from beginner to advanced, you can operate a blog at many levels.
It’s taken me some time to get to this one, and I want to talk about what I’ve done that I had to teach myself as I went along.
(1) This is an installed blog on a hosted site, not one generated by a free online service. Admittedly, I installed WordPress using Fantastico, which makes it all fairly simple, but still I installed it myself.
(2) The theme (or the basic design) on Teacherly Tech is called Panorama. I found it by going to Appearance and Themes and Add New to search WordPress.org for new themes. WordPress makes this all very simple with search and click options for installing new themes. You just have to know where to look for them. That took me some time. On the first blogs where I installed new themes, I had to do it from the host site’s control panel rather than from the administrative dashboard in WordPress. This was much more complicated. People new to hosted WordPress sites can set up really slick custom sites without ever having to understand what’s happening on the server, though.
(3) After I installed the theme, I customized it by adding my own banner image and logo image. This was easy to do in this particular theme because it allows custom changes without having to edit any css. In fact, when I looked for a theme, I searched “customizable banner.”
(4) The banner image, by the way, is just a cropped version of the logo image. I purchased this photo at istockphoto.com.
(5) I copied a script from Google Analytics into the footer of my theme so that Google would track my site visitors, and I could find out whether anyone was reading what I wrote.
(6) I added plugins to provide features like the links to share on social media sites and the link of the top of the blog to go to my Twitter account.
(7) I set up an Akismet spam filter by activating a plugin that came packaged with my WordPress installation.
That’s basically it. I may have tweaked a little more here and there, but but by going through these steps I satisfied my own desire to have a blog with what I considered to be a custom, professional appearance.
There are more steps yet to take. I want to add gravatars, and I want to add something like Feedburner for podcasting. That’s just a matter of finding the plugins that work for me (and the time to tinker with them).
I share this information to say that you don’t have to have coding-level skills to create your own custom site. I’m just clicking around and copying and pasting a little script here and there to make this site do what I want it to do. I’ve gone this route, not because I was an expert, but because I had an insatiable curiosity to find out how it is done. That’s all you need.
If all you want to do is type in your thoughts, there’s no reason to go to a custom hosted site. You can just use a free blogging service like Blogger or WordPress.com. I wanted more creative control, and I wanted a place that gave me more chances to learn new skills. That’s why I chose a WordPress installation on a paid site. This version of WordPress does offer much more customization than the version at WordPress.com. That customization requires more steps in the setup process, but none of them are difficult steps. Thus, you don’t have to be a techie expert to have a blog site like this one, but it helps if you are a techie enthusiast.