Tumblr: How-to

Backgound

To get an idea why I think Tumblr is a great asset to “Edge-ucators,” read the post Tumblr: New home for Look to Learn.  The essence of the post is that even though I love WordPress and use it extensively, because so much rich media is passed through Tumblr sites, if you want to create Look to Learn activities, Tumblr is definitely the way to go.  This page details a process for getting started and making the most of  Tumblr.

Getting Started

Go to the Tumblr Web site and click on the “Sign Up” button.

Fill in your email address, a password you want to use and a username that will appear as your identity. Then click the Start button.

 This will get you into the Tumblr Dashboard, but won’t let you do too much until you activate the account through the email verification message that will be sent to the email address you used on the Sign Up.

Go go to your email and wait for Tumblr’s automated message.  When it arrives click on the link.  Note: Internet Explorer (as per usual) sometimes fails, so I recommend Safari or Firefox on PCs.

Now you have access to fully customise your Tumblr account.  You can choose to go through the list of things that greets you when you first get an account (like setting your avatar, etc.) or just make a couple adjustments.  We’ll do one two things before getting into finding rich content. If you are in your Dashboard, then click on the Gear icon to change the name from “Untitled.”

 

Then look in the left sidebar – at the bottom of the column headed with “Account” and click on untitled name of your new blog.  This opens the screen where you can add your avatar, name the site and change the theme. the button for Customizing your Theme (which is the view of your public site).  Go ahead and change the avatar, then click on the Customize button.

This will open up the Customize Panel with the Preview screen to the right.  Find the section that says “Untitled” and change that to be whatever you want your site title to be.

Then have a play with choosing Themes.  If you choose a new theme, click on “Use” and then make sure you click the “Save” button before finishing here.

Close the Customize screen and let’s get on with finding great content.

Finding Real, Rich and Relevant Digital Content

I’m suggesting the main reason to use Tumblr is to easily find and post rich digital content.  The (not too bad) alternative for creating Look to Learn activities is to use Netvibes for RSS feeds of content and WordPress for posting.

To make the most of Tumblr (and save you precious time), it’s a good idea to fuel your dashboard with fresh content by Following creators whose work you value.  Below is a list to get you started.  The first link for each site goes to the account’s “archive” page that lets you see a thumbnail of their recent posts.  This way you can tell if you find the content valuable.  If you like at least some of what you see, click on one of the thumbnails to view the full post.  Once the page builds you will see a menu at the top of the page that only appears for Tumblr users who are logged in.  If the content looks of interest, click on the + Follow icon and from now on, anything newly posted by this provider gets sent directly to your Dashboard.  As is the great way with Web 2.0 – the good stuff comes to you!

So spend a good 30 minutes – an hour to look through and Follow at least some of these and other sites.  You can also Explore Tumblr and search Tags: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/ to expand beyond these sites. Remember you have to be logged-in to your own Tumblr account to get the Follow and Reblog menu.

For Fun

Getting Productive

Now that you have lots of interesting content streaming into your Tumblr Dashboard, go there and start skimming through the posts.  Stop for a closer look at any that seem interesting.  Then click the “Reblog” icon to make them a post for you to share with students (What is the fascination with Lady Gaga all about?).

This opens your “Create Post” screen.  Click your cursor at the beginning of the attribution and press return / enter a few times so you have room to add your Looking Prompt.  You can either type in your own prompt or simply copy / paste and edit one from my list (or anyone else’s) of Look to Learn Sample Prompts (as below).

And then paste into your rich text / WYSIWYG editor in Tumblr.

The last thing before posting is to add some Tags so that you and others can easily find posts thematically in the future.  Simply type into the Tag field in the right sidebar.  Separate tags by commas so that you can use several words in a tag.  Note: I have learned it’s good to avoid using the – (dash/hyphen) character here.

That’s it – now go and make  5 – 10 Look to Learn activities (remember, it’s not “cheating” to reblog mine or anyone else’s Look to Learn Tumblr posts that already include the Looking Prompts).

Extra Bits

Here are some things people might find helpful.

Add a Page with the Copy/Paste Prompts

You can always go to my page to copy the Looking Prompts, but really it makes sense to have it in your own site so that you can modify them so suit the way you like to phrase them, delete some and ad others.  This is surprisingly easy.

Go into your Customize panel and scroll down to find the “Pages” dropdown.  Click on “Add a page.”  This opens a Rich Text / WYSIWYG editor.  Now click on this link to open the Look to Learn Prompts.  Drag across / highlight the body of the page (the main heading and the prompts) and Copy.

Then Paste this into the “Add a page” window.  Make sure you give the page a name and tick to have it appear in the sidebar.  Save the page and you will then have a new page added to your Tumblr blog where you can always get easy access to your favourite prompts.

 

Add a TagCloud to your side bar

If you are game, you can paste some javascript into the HTML of your theme so that a clickable TagCloud appears in your sidebar.  Copy the Text below.

<div><!--Tumblr Tag Cloud [2012-03-27]-->
<script type="text/javascript"
src="http://rive.rs/javascripts/tumblr.min.js?
css=default&minsize=100&maxsize=160">
</script></div>

Then go into your Customize panel and click on Edit HTML button.  This will be a horrible mess for most people, but if you are game, look through the HTML / CSS until you see the Divs for the Sidebar (if this is meaningless mumbo jumbo, probably don’t attempt this in case it “breaks” your theme). Then paste the code above after the Description Div – exactly where this is will depend on the theme you are using.  For the default theme, it’s around line 1000.

The only thing to be careful of is that no hard returns / line breaks were copied / pasted in, so delete any if they appear.

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