Using WordPress.com with new Dashboard

I’ve been using WordPress (both the free WordPress.com version and the self-hosted option from WordPress.org) since June 2007 — 18 months. In that time, I’ve taught probably a couple hundred people (students and working journalists) how to start and manage a blog on WordPress.com. (It doesn’t take long, but you know, many people just prefer to be shown how instead of going in alone.)

Now WordPress has radically redesigned the Dashboard, the control center for your free blog. This kind of redesign can be really disorienting for lots of folks. I, for example, had been resisting the transition to Microsoft Office 2007 until just last month — precisely because I found the new interface for menus and panels really confusing! The new WP Dashboard is not as radical as the MS Office redesign, but it took me a bit of time to get used to it nonetheless.

With WordPress.com, you don’t get to choose — it’s a free service, and everybody got the new Dashboard whether they wanted it or not.

So, for journalism educators or anyone else: Don’t be intimidated by the new Dashboard! Here’s how the new stuff works (with refs to the OLD stuff):

  1. Go to WordPress.com and log in. (That is, if you already have an account. If you don’t, go there and register. Then you will have an account!)
  2. You’ll see a gray bar at the top of the page: My Account, My Dashboard, etc. Click My Dashboard.
  3. On the OLD Dashboard, everything used to be at the top: Write, Manage, Design, etc. These buttons are gone. On the NEW Dashboard, they are on the left side.
  4. Formerly on the far right-hand side: Settings. (This is where you give your new blog a Title and a Tagline.) This is now at the very BOTTOM of the stack on the left side. Click the word Settings to get to the General Settings, which are the first things you edit when you start up a brand-new blog. Note too that after you click the word Settings, a whole submenu for Settings opens up below that word.
  5. Formerly on the top left: Write Manage Design > Themes (change your Theme). You can change it again at any time. Again, this is something you do when you start up a brand-new blog. In the NEW Dashboard, this is under Appearance, three items above Settings. Themes and Widgets are on the submenu under Appearance.
  6. Formerly on the top left: Write (Write Post) > Write a Title, write a Post (main body); add an image or other media (there are little buttons that allow you to do these things; look for the words Upload/Insert). You can now write a new post immediately on the main Dashboard page — look for the QuickPress module at top right. However, this module does NOT provide the handy Insert/Edit Link button! So if you want to include a link (and tags, categories, etc.) in your new post, go over to the left-side list and look for Posts > Add New. That will take you the full post-writing interface (which has also changed somewhat). See some tips about using QuickPress.
  7. If you start a brand-new blog, you’ll need to delete the “Hello, World!” post that WP creates automatically on every new blog. On the OLD Dashboard, we used to click Manage to see a lovely list of all our posts. On the NEW Dashboard, we now click Posts (left side) to see that listing. The method for deleting a post has also changed. Roll over the post title, then click the link Delete that appears below it.
  8. Modify the blog’s Sidebar(s): Appearance > Widgets. ( “Add” items on left side to right side, e.g., Links or Archives; drag and drop within right side stack.) This used to be under Design; see No. 5 above.
  9. Modify your Blogroll and other links: This used to be under Manage > Links. In the NEW Dashboard, Links have their own place. Links > Add New should be clear enough. Name = text of link; Web Address = URL for link (the Link categories determine which header is seen in the Sidebar; the default is “Blogroll”). Managing your existing links is the same as managing posts; see No. 7 above to delete or edit links.

WordPress.com Support has published a brief illustrated guide to the new WP Dashboard.

Teaching WordPress.com: Time needed in a lab, with undergraduates: About 2 hours, hands-on.

For fellow educators: I prefer to have my students set up their own individual blogs because then each student is responsible for his or her blog. If someone asks me to address an issue on my student’s blog, I tell that person to contact the student directly. I’m no baby-sitter.

Note: This post is largely a rewrite of an earlier one, Get started with blogging, stress-free, which referenced the old version of the WP Dashboard and is no longer useful for starting out with WordPress.com.

14 Comments on “Using WordPress.com with new Dashboard

  1. Great post Mindy.

    I’m just getting to grips with the new dash as it’s bought a number of features I didn’t really engage with to the fore. The Press this feature for example is one I’m finding I use more now. But you’re right. It isnt scary and, for my money, wordpress is still the best one out there. The only downside is the fact that wordpress.com is still pretty limited for multimedia.The limitations on embedding is a real pain. Still, perhaps it’s the best prep for the limited CMS’ the students may find in industry 🙂

    I agree with the point about students hosting their own blog but there is a bit of a gray area if we ‘ask them to set it up’ and keep an eye on it. That said, I think it helps both parties to have the paper wall.

  2. Meaning that although there is a clear line between their ownership of the blog and the faculty (They set it up and run it)in reality we have some involvement in the setting up of and motivation for posting. We may also offer advice and feedback through comments or via seminar time.

    So there is a wall but it is easily broken through.

  3. Oh, okay … but to me the key benefit is making the student responsible for his/her own blog. They set it up, they can delete it when the course is completed, and they answer to any complaints from the public.

    The university can disavow responsibility for such blogs because they are not hosted on a university server.

  4. Thanks for the timely post. The new WP dashboard will take a little getting used to, but I’m happy to see that tags and categories are now more visible on the right-hand side of the “add a new post” form. I kept forgetting them when they were out of sight down below the form.

    I also prefer to make my students set up their own blogs. I want them to take ownership of what they write, and figure out how to manage their own blogs…not just post a few things on my class blog.

    Elisa Camahort, one of the founders of BlogHer, once described blogging as “a gateway drug of technology.” I agree wholeheartedly, but for that to work students need to have their own blogs.

  5. I agree but my experience is that you kind of have a responsibility by association – at least in some peoples eyes. If a student blogs and says on their blog that they are a student at xyz then xyz can expect a bit of any problems that may be created.

    Not saying it’s right. I agree that letting them set up covers 99.9 of things. It’s how I’ve done it this year and so far (touch wood) 200 students have behaved, even if some haven’t blogged as much as they could or should have.

  6. Is there a way to insert a video into a wordpress blog without an embed code?

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