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!