Well, Fidget Me Widgets! (Those Things on the Sidebar)

This week’s Teacher Challenge:  analyze and improve the selection/arrangement of widgets in your blog’s sidebar.

According to Sue Waters, “The term widget refers to any tool or content that you add, arrange or remove from the sidebar(s) of your blog — these are the blocks that make up your sidebar.”

This latest challenge came at a great time for me because I had already created a “to do” list of changes for my sidebar based on what I had seen on other blogs during the course of the month-long Teacher Challenge.

1.  Add one of those nifty RSS logos.

Thanks, Sue Waters, for explaining that.

2.  Create a friendlier first impression with a welcome message and a photo or blog avatar at the top of the sidebar.

I struggled with this because although I administer the blog and have created most of the posts so far, it is truly an organizational blog.  An avatar or photo of me would not be appropriate.

Instead I went ahead and made another change that was on my “to do” list–create a panoramic picture for the blog header that expressed it’s purpose.  I’m very pleased with the result.  This collage of four of our students is welcoming and truly reflects what the blog is all about.

Thanks to Britt Gow and Anne Mirtschin for giving me directions for using IrfanView to accomplish this.   Britt Gow’s blog header was my model.

IrfanView is a snap to download.  At first I didn’t know how to use it, but I found the “help” feature to be incredibly clear and was soon on my way to creating the panoramic image.

3. Provide directions for commenting.

Lydia Schultz’s sidebar is my inspiration for this.

4.  Remove the tag cloud.

Since it only shows your 45 most commonly-used tags, the tag cloud did not suit my purposes.

I experimented with changing my blog theme to one that had 3 columns because the sidebar is quite long.  However, all of the three-column themes that I previewed took away other features that I value.

Any suggestions or ideas for improving the sidebar would be greatly appreciated!

7 thoughts on “Well, Fidget Me Widgets! (Those Things on the Sidebar)

  1. Carol–
    Thanks for the mention. I love how you made your blog cleaner and clearer in layout. It makes sense that if feels so, given that it is an institutional one. And I love your new header.

    I’m going to try to add the tweet meme to my blog–I wondered how that worked. Let’s see if I succeed!

    It’s so nice that the Challenge can create this kind of community.

    • Hi Lydia,

      Yes, I’ve got to check out this week’s new challenge about twitter to understand the whole “tweet” thing better.

      Blogging can be kind of lonely business. Really love the community that has grown up around this Teacher Challenge.

  2. I think your sidebar is very well organinzed and easy to follow. I like the directions for commenting. I may have to look at that for my blog–either in the side bar or by adding a page explaining blogging and commenting. Blogs are a pretty new concept for most of my students and their parents.

    • Kay,

      Thanks for your kind feedback. This Teacher Challenge has really shown us the power of collaboration. I’ve learned so much from you and other bloggers. Keep up the excellent work!

  3. Hi Carol,
    I’m glad you liked my header image and I am really pleased you found it easy to create – I had someone with me in the room to help me with Irfanview the first time.
    I think your blog is very clear and easy to read, with a logical order of widgets and good hints about how to leave a comment. You have done some great work with the Teacher’s Blogging Challenge – maybe we can add a “Teacher’s Blogging Challenge” badge to your sidebar as well?

    • Britt,

      Thanks for stopping by and for the encouraging comments. Is there a ready-made badge somewhere for the teacher challenge? I know that Malyn (Britt,

      Thanks for stopping by and for the encouraging comments. Is there a ready-made badge somewhere for the teacher challenge? I know that Malyn (http://malyn.edublogs.org/2011/02/01/blog-bling-why-not/) posted about how to create a badge, but why re-invent the wheel if you don’t have to, right?

  4. Pingback: Posts of the week – Visit these blogs – Week 4 | Teacher Challenge

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