Change the default start page on your browser

When you open Internet Explorer (IE) — or Firefox, or whatever browser you are using — by default it will open at a particular page. What page it opens on is something you can change.

I always have my browser open at Yahoo UK, partly because that takes me to my e-mail but partly also because the news headlines often contain interesting stories (often bizarre, fun stories) that I then copy and save for use in class. "Goat crowned king of Ireland", "Mobile phones for dogs" — the headlines make you (and your learners) want to read, and that must be a good thing.

How do you change your default start page?

Assuming that you are using IE, actually go to the page you want; then pick Tools >> Internet Options (see image, above); and then click "Use current". Then next time you open IE, you will return to your page automatically.

If you are using Firefox, do the same thing: go to the page; pick Tools >> Options; and you will find "Use current pages" under the "General" tab.

Have things come to you
Doing that, watching for those interesting stories out of the corner of your eye, is one way to have things come to you, rather than going looking for them. "Don't search!" would always be my advice on using the Internet.

For learners, I always recommend that they have their browser open either at Yahoo UK or at the BBC World Service — and then spend 5 minutes (every time they log on!) picking one item that looks interesting to them and reading it. 5 minutes extra reading practise a day — great for your English!

As you can just make out in the second image, above, the BBC World Service has the added advantage of a 5 minute audio news (and sport, and business) bulletin. 5 minutes extra listening practice too!

How do you set up a blog (with Blogger.com)?

Setting up your Blogger account is very easy, but I've provided the screenshots below to guide you through the process.


Step 1: Take a quick tour
First of all you have to go to www.blogger.com and create a new account. Remember when you set up your Hotmail or Yahoo account? Well, this is pretty much the same.

To give you an idea of what blogging involves, you might "take a quick tour" first. Choose that link (shown above).

To set up your account, click where it says "Create your account now" (also shown above).


Step 2: Set up your account
The first screen you get is shown above. Your "user name" and "password" you could make the same as what you are using on Yahoo, or wherever — which makes it easy to remember them.

Your "display name" is what it says when you post to a blog (what appears on the webpage). Under what you write it will automatically say "posted by" and whatever name you have chosen. I suggest you use your own preferred first name, with a capital letter. My "display name" is Tom, for example.

Accept the "terms" and then click "continue"…


Set 3: Give your blog a name
The next screen looks like the one above. For a first blog, I suggest that you choose one of your hobbies and use that as the "blog title" (you can always change it later, or create a completely new blog) — "Mountain biking in Spain", for example.

You'll see another example below — "Jumping up and down on the bed", my favourite sport when I was a kid!

The "blog address" is the address you will have to go to to see your blog. Don't put any spaces in it — "mountainbikingspain", for example.


Step 4: Choose a template
You then have to choose a "template" (screen shown above). The template controls what your blog looks like. You don't get many choices, and you can change your mind afterwards (and will in fact then get more choices).

I suggest you choose whichever you think is least horrible!

Click "continue", and then you'll get this:


Step 5: Sit back and watch
"Your blog has been created" (above). It really is that simple!

Step 6: Create your first post
Now you can start "posting" to your newly created blog. The interface is shown above, with lots of those buttons probably already being familiar to you:

You will need to write something in order to be able to actually view the blog, and have to click "publish post" (not shown above) first. You also get a "save as draft" button, which allows you to save what you've written and post it later.


Your "Dashboard"
One final thing… Top right, you'll see a link "Back to Dashboard" (circled above).

Your dashboard shows you all of your blogs — you can have lots of them — and you can access and edit them from the dashboard.

My "dashboard" (I would click — for example — "Young Learners" to edit my Young Learners blog, circled):


There's more to learn about blogs, of course — but the best way to do that is to try a blog out for yourself…

>> Go to blogger.com in order to set an account (and blog) up for yourself

How do you set up a blog (with Zoomblog.com)?

I originally chose Zoomblog.com rather than Blogger.com for this blog to some extent because Zoomblog offers a particular tool that Blogger.com doesn't have (yet), namely categories.

Without categories, you can only really navigate a blog chronologically. With categories, you can also navigate via author-defined subjects (blogs and blogging, the introduction session itself, muddiest points were three that I set up).

As on blogger.com, a Zoomblog account is remarkably easy to set up…

Step 1: Choose "Start a blog now"
Go to Zoomblog.com, ignore anything you don't understand, and hit that button!

Step 2: Choose your "level of expertise" — easy, intermediate or expert

Basically, "easy" means you don't get all the options — I'd recommend you go for "expert" (even if you are not!): you can always change if you find all the different options confusing.

Step 3: Fill in the form…
I suggest that you stay with a password that you already use, say, on your Yahoo or Hotmail account, as it will then be easier to remember.

At this point you'll have to wait for Zoomblog to send you a confirmation link — which will go to the email address you fill in above.


Step 4: Start your blog
Think of a subject that interests you — fishing or crochet or bike mechanics, it doesn't matter want — that goes in the blog title (the first field, above).

The important field is the "blog name/address" — that's where you will go to actually view the blog once it's online. No spaces in it.

The other field that is important is "who can read this blog". Pick something other than the default "everyone" if you are concerned about privacy.

Personally, I'd suggest making it private at first (you can change later), at least until there's something there worth reading.


Step 5: "Format and style"
You then have to choose what is called a "template", which determines what all of your pages will look like. Click one of the buttons to make your selection.

Step 6: Create your blog
Hit the "create blog" button at the foot of the page to do so — it's really that simple.

Step 7: Your first post
If you chose "Expert" your editor looks as shown above. Click "publish" to create your first post.

If all those options look confusing, and you want to change your settings, clicking "Level" allows you to go back to "Easy" (shown below), or Intermediate.

For the sake of comparison, here you can see the Zoomblog version of this blog (no longer maintained).

In October 2006, I switched back to Blogger.com in order to be able to publish on our own server (ihes.com).