WordPress in Education- Beginner


What’s a blog? Why is it useful in education? I primarily use blogs and easy way to disseminate information to both colleagues and students, in a way which is easily archived and searched through the use of categories and tags. Secondarily, blogs in the classroom serve a valuable purpose, to allow students to carry out critical and productive dialogues about the course content and skills.

Blogs, unlike textbooks, are communication devices used by persons of almost any interest, place of origin, and occupation on earth. To get a better idea of the wide world of blogs (also known as the “blogosphere”), I recommend using Google Reader. This service, offered for free by Google, requires only a registration, and an

interest in reading blogs. Google Reader is an aggregator, meaning that it gathers up all of the blog posts I’m interested in. It also tracks which posts I’ve read. My Google Reader watches about 200 blogs for me, without me ever having to visit each blog individually.

What is WordPress? WordPress is an open source application that provides all of a blog’s functions- writing, posting, linking, commenting, responding, and even extending a blog’s capabilities and appearance through plugins and themes. Because it’s open source, the code that runs WordPress is constantly improved by interested techies. For educators, the most important facet of open source applications is that they are free.

This blog is a WordPress installation. The blog I created and administered at

Dickinson College’s House Divided Project is a WordPress installation. The blogs I use with students and colleagues in my district are a part of a WordPressMU (multi-user) installation.

For more information on blogs, blogging, and WordPress, see 6 Reasons To Get Your Students Blogging, 5 teaching blogs you should be reading, Why use WPMU in K12?, and Step-by-step instructions to start a class blog.

Mar 11th by admin Continue Reading

WordPress in Education- Intermediate


OK, so you’ve decided to take on blogging with your students and/or colleagues and you think WordPress might be the answer… How do you actually get your own blog?

Here are your options:

1. Use WordPress’s free blog hosting site. You can set up a free blog, accessible by anyone anywhere, and can customize the blog to a certain extent.

2. Contact a tech person in your district. See if district server resources meet WordPress’s requirement of PHP and MySQL. If your resources match, most tech persons can set up WordPress with minimal hassle. Many techie types can also set up a server just to be used by a WordPress installation. If you or your district is interested in offering a large number of teachers (or even students) their own blogs based on a single installation of WordPress on the district serve, the WordPress MU (“multi-user”) is the way to go.

3. Host your own WordPress blog or blogs on an external hosting site. This web page is hosted on a site external to my district. I don’t use it with students, only to share info with other teachers. Although this site is hosted by BlueHost, there are many web hosting companies that offer easy WordPress installations.

4. Trickiest of all, you can set up a server on a computer in your classroom. Depending upon how your district manages it’s servers, you could run a WordPress blog or blogs from a computer connected to the district’s network. Only people within your district (or possibly just within your school) can access the blog. I’ve done this several times (a few times with Moodle and Drupal), and in each case I used XAMPP to set up the server, and then set up a WordPress installation on that server. Some people like the privacy of a school or district-only server.

For more information, see Installing WordPressMu - The E-Book and my district’s strategies for getting multiple teachers and students involved through WordPressMU.

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WordPress in Education- Advanced


So, you have a few weeks, months, or years of WordPress in education experience, and you’re interested in extending the application’s abilities, or are interested in offering students a chance at web development and design.

WordPress is infinitely extendable. As an open source application, web experts around the globe are constantly tweaking and upgrading its capabilities, and even generating and testing “plugins” that allow a WordPress admin to change the function of his or her blog.

Furthermore, WordPress themes, which “skin” the WordPress engine to allow for a more distinct or customized look, can be further customized or even made from scratch by crafty teachers and/or students. An incredible number of themes are available for free, and can be customized for personal use.

Let’s tackle the plugins first. The best place to find and browse them is at the WordPress plugins directory. Be sure to check the requirements of a particular plugin in which you may be interested, and see if there are any special instructions for installation in your blog. In most cases, you download the plugin, unzip it into the wp-content>plugins folder, and then activate the plugin in the dashboard of your blog. Should your blog behave erratically after activating a plugin, simply disable the plugin and search for another of similar function (plugins are rated on the WordPress site, generally avoid a plugin if has a low rating).

For a bit more help with plugins, see Install WordPress Plugins From Dashboard and Wordpress MU plugin list for school install.

What about themes? How can I give my blog a truly personal touch? As an example of how radically a theme can be customized, allow me to give an example..

A year or so ago, I was unfamiliar with WordPress theming, but was interested in helping Dickinson College’s House Divided Project to create and administer a blog with the correct historical “feel.” After becoming a bit downhearted about available themes, I decided to use some CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and image editing experience to take an existing theme and make it into something more fitting.

I chose the basic layout of Wired Studio’s Corvette Theme. What do Corvettes have

to do with the House Divided Era in American History? Bubkus. But I liked the layout, and got down to seeing how WordPress read the CSS file that made the theme look like it did, and investigated the theme’s images folder.

After a great deal of hard work, I ended up with this.

Indistinguishable, right? That’s not my genius, it’s really the work of Wired Studios in creating an easily customizable theme. I gave them credit at the footer of the blog, and I would recommend leaving a theme’s original craftsperson in place on your customized blog, too (check the footer of this page!).

It is entirely possible to customize a them without any knowledge of CSS. All you need is image editing software like Photoshop, Fireworks, or even open source (free!) applications like Gimp.

If you download a them for use, it just gets unzipped into the wp-content>themes folder. You can then preview and/or choose the theme in your blog’s dashboard. If you look more closely at your theme’s file structure, you’ll find an images folder. If you use an image editor to change any file in this folder, and are sure to keep the image’s filename the same, it will instantly change the image on every page in your site.

Originally, this site’s theme looked like this. Apart from lots of CSS work, I changed

this site to it’s present look by editing and importing my own and other public domain images. For more information on plugins and themes, see WordPress Plugins and Using WordPress Themes.

Mar 11th by admin Continue Reading