Back to School: A Blogging How-To
With Labor Day a distant memory (two days ago, already?), the school year is already in full swing. Whether you’ve been blogging regularly through the heat of summer, or slowed down your pace with some lazy days on the beach, it’s time to gear up for another term. Your campus bookstore can serve your Go ______! t-shirt and spill-proof mug needs. For setting up (or polishing) your blog, you can count on us: from social tools to academic boosters, here are some indispensable tips for the young scholar-blogger (and yes, educators, you can use a blog, too).
What did you do last summer?
What’s the point of a summer course in France, an internship at a buzzing not-for-profit, or work at your uncle’s cupcake bakery, if you can’t share some pics with your friends? Showcasing your exploits is easy with a beautiful customized gallery.
Galleries can come in handy once the semester really kicks in, too. You can create new ones for your art portfolios and class field trips, or to liven up your student club website with photos of your recent dance marathon/blood drive/environmental protest. (Nobody will stop you from creating a gallery for last night’s pong tournament, of course.)
If you’re more of a one-pic-at-a-time, no-time-for-uploading-files type of photographer, no worries. You can use our handy Instagram Widget to show the latest filtered treasures from your feed, or share images directly from your Flickr account. Either way, you can use your blog as the visual archive-in-the-making of your school years.
Cast a wide (social) net
Between class, extracurriculars, and work, taking the time to connect with everyone in your network can become overwhelming — especially if you have to juggle multiple gadgets and apps. Instead, think of your blog as the mothership, the central hub from which you reach out across platforms to everyone who matters to you.
You can broadcast your latest musings on the Civil War, organic chemistry (shudder), or the state of a-cappella singing on campus directly to your friends via Publicize.
One click can send a post to your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and Path accounts. You can also give visitors to your blog the option of following you on the social platforms you use by adding sleek social media buttons to your sidebar or footer.
Whether they’re friends, classmates, or passersby, you can make your audience feel special by activating the My Community Widget, which shows a thumbnail image of the people who started to follow your blog, liked a post, or left a comment. Likewise, if any of your readers feels particularly inspired by your ever-growing wisdom, adding sharing buttons to your posts will allow them to promote your brilliance on their own networks (can a reading report go viral? There’s only one way to find out!).
You can also bring in others’ voices and perspectives to play off yours. The Twitter Timeline Widget lets you show any public feed on your own blog, and now, with our shiny, just-released Media Explorer, you can search for, and embed tweets and YouTube videos into your posts, right from the post editor.
Blogging your way up the curve
Of course, sometimes school actually is about studying. When you need it to, your blog can be as versatile and powerful a tool as they come (and doesn’t require Red Bull and ramen to keep going). You can use your blog for anything from a photography assignment to a screenwriting exercise, to say nothing of your history, geography, or philosophy term papers.
Science majors need not despair: you can easily solve your problem sets on your blog, too, using the LaTeX markup language for all those fancy symbols only you (and Stephen Hawking. And Will Hunter) can decipher.
With a dash of shortcode you can create an in-blog slideshow presentation that will impress your classmates and professors alike, making expensive presentation software unnecessary (more cash for…anything!). Those awkward moments when your presentation won’t start or your memory stick is left, forgotten, in a computer lab on the other side of campus? We don’t think you’ll miss them, either.
Curriculum-crushing for the modern multitasker
When the syllabus calls for a group project, but your friends are too lazy to leave their room, your blog is still there for the rescue. Using the many collaboration features built into WordPress.com, you can invite friends to edit and contribute to a post, or you can start a new group blog for your project (don’t forget to add a Milestone Widget to show your project’s deadline). In fact, you can start a new blog for any project, any course, or any student group you’re active with: since your account comes with free, unlimited blogs, you can easily keep your different worlds from colliding (or at least your biology T.A. from going over your spring break photos).
If you’d like to devote a blog solely to your studies, many hacks are available for a smooth ride through the semester. If you’re taking five courses, for example, you can create five static pages, one for each, where you can develop your projects and describe your work. A Custom Menu Widget can lead visitors from your blog’s sidebar straight to the page they want.
Alternatively, you can forego pages in favor of categories (say, one for each course), each grouping the posts relevant to that topic. You can take the streamlining a step further by also adding Category Pages, where posts related to each course can be grouped for your convenience (as well as for your peers’ and professors’ easy navigation). Finally, you can display these categories in your sidebar with a Categories Widget that allows your visitors to find what they’re looking for instantly.
Tough graders, loud library patrons, flat beer, endless moments of epic-ness: whatever the coming school year throws at you, there’s nothing you can’t do without a pair of headphones, a pair of flip flops, and your blog. Sleep? Optional.
You might also enjoy these posts:
- Come Together: A Guide for Group Blogs
- Education Continues Outside the Classroom on WordPress.com
- Focus On: Collaborative Blogs
- From Proofs to Prime Numbers: Math Blogs on WordPress.com
- Embed Tweets and YouTube Videos with the Media Explorer
- Publish, Promote, Repeat: Dashboard Tools to Share Your Stuff with the World