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  • Why Student Blogging Is a Good Idea

    Monday, August 14, 2017 by

    Student Blogging Benefits

    How Blogging in Schools Builds Better Writers

    In most places, school starts back up in a few weeks. For some teachers, that means thinking about how to help your students develop their writing and reading comprehension skills in the year ahead. For others, it means finding ways to help students retain and use concepts they learn in science, art, history, and math. Having your students write for, read, and critique a class blog is an easy and engaging way to help them become stronger writers, more astute readers, and more adept at working with the knowledge they learn in class. If you're not already familiar with blogging and have never set up a blog before, this post will walk you through the why and how of using student blogs in your classroom. Create Your Blog

    How does blogging help students? Let us count the ways...

    The ability to write clearly is one of the most in-demand skills among employers, and it's important for acing college entrance essays, scholarship applications, and pretty much every email your students will ever send. Blogging can help your students become better writers through:
    • Carefully selecting topic ideas that will appeal to their readers.
    • Finding reliable sources for their blog posts.
    • Drafting and revising their blog posts.
    • Reviewing other students' posts and offering constructive feedback.
    • Listening to, processing and using feedback from other students.
    • Practicing, practicing, practicing.
    Everyone can benefit from being a better communicator, but strong writing skills are especially important for student journalists whose intended careers center on writing. They're also highly valuable for kids who are interested in STEM careers. Engineers and scientists have to keep clear, concise, and accurate journals during college and in the workplace. And writing clearly is critical to success in business, where so much communication happens via email. Writing and reading blogs also helps students develop other skills, like distinguishing between fact and opinion, identifying trustworthy sources of information, and following online rules and codes of ethics. In any subject, a blog run by students can reinforce information and open up discussions that move learning forward. Unlike writing with a pen and paper, which can seem tedious to kids who are used to texting and using email, typing out a blog post feels familiar and comfortable to students who've only known a world with computers and smartphones. Students whose families are on the analog side of the digital divide need hands-on experience with digital communication tools as well as writing practice in order to succeed.  

    General blogging for grades 3-12

    There are blog lesson plans for students in all but the earliest grades. Scholastic offers blogging lesson plans for grades 3-5 that include blogging rules, defining what a blog is, writing blog entries, and evaluating blogs written by others using a rubric that covers grammar, topicality, originality, and tone. For older students, ReadWriteThink has a blogging strategy guide and a long list of related resources for middle school and high school student blogs. Among them are a grade 6-8 five-part lesson plan series on career exploration through online research and blogging and an ongoing lesson plan for high school students that focuses on writing evaluation in blog format. You can create a classroom blog to reinforce knowledge and build skills in just about any subject. For example, yearbook, school newspaper, and AV club teachers can explore these student journalism blogging lesson plans from the American Society of News Editors.  

    How to set up student blogging for your classroom

    Another advantage of class blogging is that it's easy to set up. It's a good idea to review your school's technology and privacy policies and to touch base with your administrators before you begin. Then you – or you and your students – can choose and register a domain name for your class blog. You can review some best practices for choosing a domain name for your blog here, Once you have that domain name, or URL, you're ready to choose your web hosting plan. (What exactly is web hosting? Find out here.) Your host will store your classroom blog's text and other media on its servers,  and provide security for your site. Ideally, your web host will offer a WordPress option that makes it easy to choose a theme to design your blog and plug-ins to add extra functions like social media sharing tools. Find out which type of web hosting best matches your needs here. After that, you can develop a blog writing, editing, and posting schedule that fits your curriculum and classroom goals. You may want to use a single username for all posts to protect your students' privacy, or let them choose their own individual screen names so they have a sense of ownership over their posts as well as some privacy online. Once the blog is up and running, be sure to share the URL with parents so they can keep up with what's happening in the classroom and discuss it at home.   Does your classroom or school already have class blogs? Share your favorite examples in the comments!
  • Teach Your Students How to Build a Website

    Monday, August 14, 2017 by
    Teach Your Students How to Build a Website

    An Easy Educational Tool to Teach Web Building

    School’s starting soon and, if you’re an educator, you’re probably putting the final touches on your curriculum planning for the semester. One thing you may want to consider (if it’s not in there yet) is including a web building component in your course.  

    Why You Should Teach Basic Web Building

    The ability to put together a website has become the kind of skill that people in a wide range of professions can benefit from. Even those who never encounter the need to build a website for their job may find themselves wanting to put one together for a side project or social issue they care about. In the same way that the importance of computer literacy has become a given in schools around the country, the value of understanding how to build a website is beginning to take on similar weight. Even for courses and subject areas where web design isn’t the primary focus, it can therefore be beneficial for students to get some hands-on experience with building a website. Luckily, as the need for web building as a skill has grown, so has the ease with which people can put a website together. You don’t have to teach students html or CSS. You can simply get them acquainted with using a web building tool like the one HostGator offers. HostGator Website Builder

    Use HostGator’s Free Website Builder

    Anyone using a HostGator plan for their website has access to HostGator’s free website builder. You can craft lessons around the website builder in order to give your students some hands-on experience with building a website.  

    Have Students Build a Website for a Fictional Business

    To help students get familiar with how to create and design a website of their own, assign them to come up with a business idea to build their website around. Then you can provide a series of assignments to help them learn the skills required to have a website that performs well.

    1. Create the website.

    Provide them some loose instructions on the steps to take here:
    • Choose your template. The website builder has hundreds for your students to choose from. Encourage them to think about which template is a good fit for their business idea, not just which one they like most.Website builder templatesChoose a color scheme. They could potentially stick with the colors the template comes in, but encourage them to at least spend some time experimenting with other options so they get an idea of how that works.
    • Pick your design. Tell them to consider (and test out) any changes they might want to make to the layout – where links, images, and the menu all go, for instance.
    • Write copy. This will require the biggest changes to what’s there already. They’ll need to fill in the text sections of the template with wording relevant to the imaginary business they’ve created. Tell them to spend some time browsing the websites of companies selling something similar for inspiration.

    2. Make it mobile friendly.

    Mobile has become a dominant force in how people shop and well, frankly, how they do most things. Making sure their websites are mobile friendly should therefore be treated as an important part of your students' experience in learning web building. The templates on HostGator’s website builder are responsive, so they should work well on any mobile device as well as desktop computers. Make an assignment of testing the website your students create to see how well it works on mobile and making any tweaks needed to make it more intuitive in the different format.  

    3. Optimize it for search engines.

    A website has to be found before it can do its job (whatever that may be). Your students should be very familiar with Google in general, but knowing how to use the search engine and knowing how to make a website that’s search engine friendly are two different skill sets. Teach them the basics of SEO, and make an assignment out of having them optimize their website based on what they’ve learned.  

    4. Create an online portfolio.

    An online portfolio can come in handy (or be a requirement) in many types of professions. Give your students the assignment to put together an online portfolio on their website of any work they’ve created in the past that they want to highlight.  

    5. Set up a blog.

    Blogs are a big part of the online world these days and knowing how to create and publish on one is undoubtedly a useful skill. Have your students create a blog on the website they’ve created and use it for publishing future assignments you provide throughout the semester to give them plenty of time to get comfortable with it.  

    6. Have students use and critique each other’s sites.

    A big part of creating a good website is trying to get in the mindset of what users will find easy and intuitive. To provide your students with a lesson in usability, make the final assignment in this project to spend some time on sites made by other students and analyze how intuitive they are. Students can provide feedback to each other which helps them better understand what makes websites well designed for users.  

    Help Your Students Save

    As a way to make this project (and any future websites they create) more affordable for your students, look into the HostGator Affiliate Program. You can make sure your students get a discount on HostGator hosting plans and make a little extra yourself.
  • What Is PHP Hosting?

    Wednesday, August 9, 2017 by

    What Is PHP Hosting

    PHP Hosting FAQ

    When the time comes to choose your hosting environment you’re going to have a ton of different options at your disposal. The hosting environment you choose not only needs to have certain technical capabilities so your website can grow, but you also need to choose the right scripting environment so your website can function properly. One of those environments is PHP web hosting. PHP web hosting is a style of web hosting that has the ability to read and execute the PHP programming language. Below you’ll learn what PHP actually is, its role in web hosting, and the benefits of choosing a PHP web host over the options available.  

    What is PHP?

    PHP is a scripting language that’s developed by the PHP group. The PHP language is an open source interpreter, which means that it interprets in real-time. It’s not built into the code of the machine it’s running on. PHP works to produce dynamic content and is usually embedded within working HTML code. The main goal of the PHP language is to provide a powerful and free tool to create dynamic websites. It’s currently one of the most popular scripting languages in the entire world. You can identify PHP files by the “.php” extension that follows the filename. If you’re looking to expand your knowledge on PHP, or just want to figure out what a specific function does, then check out PHP.net. This is the support and knowledge center for PHP developers around the globe.  

    PHP and Web Hosting

    Since PHP is a server-side language the server will process the source code. So, front end users won’t have access to the code like they do with strict HTML sites. However, PHP sites still do and can contain snippets of HTML and CSS throughout. PHP is very flexible and can do things that most static sites cannot. Before you make any decision about choosing a web host you need to ensure it supports a PHP environment. If it’s not fully supported, then any PHP scripting you have will be rendered instead as HTML. PHP can help to perform a lot of complex features like:
    • Display the best version of a site for a chosen screen size.
    • Send and receive cookies.
    • Create blogs, forums, and other interactive pages.
    • Create interactive websites that require user input.
    • Create a dynamic content site with the help of a database.
    PHP web hosts are compatible with both Linux and Windows platforms. The PHP Linux combination is one of the most popular.  

    Benefits of PHP Hosting

    If your website is built with PHP and your web host supports it, then your site will receive a host of benefits you won’t be able to get with other environments. Below we highlight some of the most common benefits of PHP hosting.  

    1. PHP Is Compatible

    PHP is a universal scripting language, which means that websites created with PHP are going to be compatible with almost every new device, including iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. The ability to generate sites that look good on every screen size is now a requirement for most modern websites.  

    2. PHP Can Be Cheaper

    Since PHP is a free, open source, scripting language the hosting costs in a PHP hosting environment are generally less than other commercial language hosting environments.  

    3. PHP Is Simple to Use

    Most developers prefer to work with PHP. It integrates easily with HTML and CSS, without needing any additional plugins or software to make it work. Plus, it’s a must-have if your site runs on a popular CMS like WordPress, Joomla, or Drupal.  

    4. PHP Is Incredibly Fast

    PHP is very light on server resources. This means that your site will perform much faster and won’t put a strain on loading times or overall site performance. When your site consumes a ton of server resources just to load a page this will not only increase hosting costs, but it will diminish your overall user experience.  

    5. PHP Easily Integrates with Databases

    The real power of PHP comes in its integration with databases like MySQL. However, since PHP is so versatile there are other database integration options as well. This is a core requirement for most CMS, blogs, online stores, and forums.   As you can see PHP web hosting is a great option if your site is built using the PHP framework. For questions about PHP and your HostGator account, please visit our support portal.
  • 6 Best Contact Form Plugins for WordPress

    Monday, July 31, 2017 by

    Best Contact Form Plugins for WordPress

    Easily Add a Contact Form to Your WordPress Site

    Looking for an easy way to create contact forms? WordPress doesn’t allow you to create contact forms natively, and if you’re not a developer, creating a contact form on your website can be a tedious task. The beauty of WordPress is that there are tons of different plugins that let you easily create contact forms on your site. But it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all those different choices. What are the pros and cons of each, and which one is best for your website? Let’s take a head-to-head comparison between the most popular contact form plugins for WordPress. Recommended WordPress Hosting

    1. WPForms

    WPForms WPForms is the most beginner friendly contact form plugin that comes with a drag and drop form builder to create beautiful WordPress forms. With WPForms, you can quickly build forms in just a few clicks with pre-built form templates. Contact forms, subscription forms, order forms, and more templates are available so you don’t have to build common forms from scratch. There are also plenty of more advanced features, including conditional logic, multi-page forms, geolocation, form abandonment lead capture, and more. You can also integrate WPForms with your email newsletter service to easily build your list. Pros:
    • 100% responsive forms: Your WordPress forms will always look great on any size device.
    • Optimized for speed: WPForms is highly optimized for web and server performance. It doesn’t negatively impact the page speed of your site.
    • The easiest plugin: Several pre-built templates are bundled with WPForms, so you don’t always have to create a form from scratch. Just pick a template and edit it as necessary.
    • Free version is limited: The free version of WPForms comes with all the basic features most users need to build a contact form. For more advanced features such as order forms, digital signatures, and more, you’ll need to invest in the premium version. With the premium version, you’ll be able to integrate with third-party services like OptinMonster.
    Price: A free version is available in the WordPress repository. For advanced features, you can get a license starting at $39.

    Who Should Use WPForms?

    WPForms is the best solution if you’re looking for the easiest way to build a form. Without any assistance, even a beginner WordPress user can create a WordPress form with WPForms. Developers looking for an easy contact form plugin to set up for their clients to edit forms themselves will also find WPForms to be the best option. If you’re looking for advanced features such as digital signatures or form abandonment lead capture, WPForms is also a very affordable option.  

    2. Jetpack Forms

    Jetpack forms Are you already using the Jetpack plugin on your site? Jetpack is a multipurpose plugin by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, that offers different modules to enhance WordPress features like WordPress stats, mobile themes, related posts, and more. Jetpack Forms is one of the most popular features offered by Jetpack. If you’ve already installed Jetpack on your site, you can create simple contact forms by activating the contact form module. Pros:
    • Customizable contact forms: Jetpack’s form builder allows you to make simple customizations like adding basic form fields. It also offers an option to change the subject line of the email sent to you whenever someone submits your form.
    • Limited options and features: The main downside is you can’t create complex forms with Jetpack Forms such as order forms, newsletter forms, post submission forms, and more.
    • Bundled in a large plugin: Jetpack is a large plugin that includes separate modules for various features like basic site stats, related posts, and more. If you just need contact forms, there’s no need for such a large plugin on your site.
    Price: Free

    Who Should Use Jetpack Forms?

    Jetpack Forms is most suitable for those who are already using other Jetpack modules on their site, and only need to create very basic forms without much customization. Otherwise, it’s not necessary to install such a large plugin to create simple contact forms.  

    3. Gravity Forms

    gravityforms wordpress contact form plugin Gravity Forms is the most feature-rich contact form plugin in the market. It lets you quickly integrate your form with tons of different third-party online services through addons. With Gravity Forms, you can build powerful and complex forms with ease. The plugin is also developer friendly, so you can extend its functionality per your requirements. Pros:
    • Tons of addons: Gravity Forms allows you to install from a huge list of optional addons that let you integrate your form with a variety of third-party services.
    • Enhanced features: The plugin is constantly being improved with more advanced features. With Gravity Forms, the possibilities for creating a powerful form are endless.
    • Developer friendly: If you’re a developer who needs to customize your form to any extent for clients, Gravity Forms might be the right solution.
    Cons: Gravity Forms is a premium plugin. If you don’t have a budget to purchase a premium contact form plugin, Gravity Forms is not for you. The personal plan doesn’t come with any addons, and it allows you to use the plugin only for a single site. Price: Starting at $39

    Who Should Use Gravity Forms?

    Gravity Forms is not for everyone, especially for those who are on a limited budget. The plugin is a good fit if you need to create highly complex contact forms or want a developer friendly form that lets you customize your forms per your needs.  

    4. Visual Form Builder

    visual form builder Visual Form Builder is yet another easy to use contact form plugin. The plugin is fully responsive. Both the admin and front-end interfaces adjust to any screen, so you can create contact forms on the go. The plugin is available for free to download from WordPress.org directory. There’s also a premium version available with addons for features such as payment processing. Pros:
    • Basic spam protection: The premium version gives you an extra layer of spam protection with Akismet.
    • Each addon sold separately: If you need access to a lot of addons to enable more features, the pricing can quickly get more expensive than other form plugins.
    Price: $29. Addons can be purchased separately.

    Who Should Use Visual Form Builder?

    If you’re looking for a cheap basic plugin with some cool features for your website, you might want to consider Visual Form Builder.  

    5. Formidable Forms

    formidable forms Formidable Forms comes with a simple drag and drop interface and visual styler. The plugin allows you to build forms in just a few minutes. It also allows you to choose from 30 different field types, so you can build any type of form. You can download the basic plugin for free from WordPress.org plugins directory. To access more advanced features like user registration, payment processing, and email marketing integrations, you can find several addons that can be installed along with the pro version. Pros:
    • Style customizations: Its visual styler lets you change the look and feel of your form. You can change field colors and sizes, add backgrounds and borders, and more.
    • Extendable with addons: Formidable Forms helps you integrate your form with several payment systems and online services.
    • Supports charity: A portion of every Formidable Forms fee is donated to the Operation Smile charity.
    • Expensive: No addons are available with the basic license plan. Compared against other plugins, the basic plan is more expensive.
    Price: Starting at $49.

    Who Should Use Formidable Forms?

    Formidable Forms is best suited for those who want to customize the look of their forms, but it can be pricey compared to other plugins.  

    6. Contact Form 7

    Contact form 7 With 3+ million active installs, Contact Form 7 is the most popular contact form plugin in the official WordPress plugin directory. You can also find a limited number of addons for Contact Form 7. It is the only plugin featured in this article that doesn’t come with a drag and drop form builder. There is a learning curve if you’re using the plugin for the first time. However, the plugin provides you with a demo form that you can see inside your WordPress dashboard, so you can look at it to learn how to create a form. Pros:
    • Free: The plugin is 100% free of cost.
    • Established: As the plugin has been around for many years, many WordPress themes support and recommend Contact Form 7, and there are many third party addons available.
    • Coding skills required: The plugin expects you to have a basic understanding of HTML to create a contact form. The form builder interface looks almost like the text editor.
    • Limited features: You can’t build a complex form with Contact Form 7 because it supports only a limited number of addons. The documentation contains technical jargon which would be hard for beginner users to understand.
    Price: Free

    Who Should Use Contact Form 7?

    Contact Form 7 could be a nice choice if you know HTML and just need to create a simple contact form for your site, and don’t mind digging deeper into docs to find answers when needed.  

    Which Is the Best Contact Form Plugin For You?

    We’ve looked at various popular contact form plugins available for your WordPress site. With all the different contact form plugins out there, it is easy to get overwhelmed. If you need a fast and easy way to create beautiful contact forms, even with advanced features, WPForms is the best choice for you. You can try the free version and then move on to the premium version when you need enhanced functionality. If you’re after a feature-rich plugin, and want highly customizable complex forms, Gravity Forms is the best plugin for you. Which one is your favorite plugin? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
  • Why Do I Need Web Hosting?

    Monday, July 31, 2017 by

    Why Do I Need Web Hosting

    Want a Website? Then You Need Web Hosting

    You can't have a website live on the Internet without the need of web hosting If you want to build a website for your business, then you need to invest in a solid host. There’s no way around it. Below you’ll learn about what web hosting actually is, why you need it, and the various types of web hosting that are available.  

    What is Web Hosting?

    You can think of web hosting as a home where you store all of your things. Except, instead of storing furniture and household goods, you’re storing all of the files necessary for your website to function. These files usually include your HTML and CSS files, documents, media files, and more. The web host you end up choosing is the company that sells server space for you to rent out. Web hosts manage these servers and make it easy for you to host your site so visitors around the world can access these website files. But, in order for your website to actually be online, you also need a domain name. Think of your domain name as the addresses on houses. It would be very hard to find your house without an address people could remember.  

    Why You Need Web Hosting

    If you want to have a website that you can call your own, then you need to invest in hosting. Fortunately, it doesn’t even cost that much to have your very own piece of online real estate.  

    1. You Have Control

    When you have your website on a free platform like Blogger or Tumblr, you’re taking a risk. In order for your website to remain online you have to agree to their terms and conditions. There are plenty of horror stories online about site owners having their profitable websites taken down for breaking a certain rule or condition. If you’re serious about building out your website, then this is a risk you can’t take. Even if your website does get back online you’ll end up losing crucial sales during that time period, and can even annoy some of your site’s visitors.  

    2. More Customization Options

    Another issue with free hosting platforms is co-branding. In other words, your website shares branding with the free host. This lessens your credibility with customers, and impacts the overall look and design of your site. When you use a free option you won’t be able to expand or customize your site as you wish. You’ll have limited access to plugins and tools and the growth of your site will be limited as a result. When you host your own website you’re truly in control. You can customize your site as you see fit and you’re only limited by your own creativity.  

    3. Your Website is Safe

    When you don’t host your own site you can never be too sure about the overall security of your site. When you can choose the CMS, the security plugins, and other measures you can be sure that your site has a higher level of security. Plus, many web hosting companies (HostGator included) offer 24/7 expert support too, so you have someone you can contact immediately if you ever run into an issue.  

    Who Needs Web Hosting?

    If you’re building a website to sell your products online, write and profit from your blog, or promote your freelance work, you need your own web host. Having your own web host provides you with customization, control, and scalability over your website and online presence.  

    Types of Web Hosting Available

    When you begin your search for hosting, you’ll notice that there are various hosting options available. The style of hosting you choose will differ based upon storage, technical knowledge required, support, speed, and reliability. Below you’ll find a breakdown of the most common hosting types.  

    Shared Hosting

    Shared hosting is typically the cheapest hosting option available. With shared hosting you’re renting server space with dozens or hundreds of other sites. The resources on a single server are then shared between all the sites hosted on that specific server. Since there’s little technical knowledge required to get it up and running, shared hosting is generally a great entry-level option for those just getting started online.  

    Cloud Hosting

    Cloud hosting offers you a network of servers, known as the cloud, to host your site. This is great for sites that receive a high volume of traffic as the server load can be distributed over a number of different servers. Cloud hosting is very flexible and great for large websites that have a more global audience.  

    VPS Hosting

    With VPS hosting, each private server is divided into individual servers that act in a similar manner to a dedicated server. The server resources are generally shared with other sites, but the number is much smaller than shared hosting. This is a solid choice for sites that need more control and server resources, but don’t want to invest in a separate dedicated server.  

    Dedicated Server Hosting

    Dedicated servers offer you ultimate control and customization. Your website is the only website that’s stored on the given server. This gives you more access to server resources and higher site performance overall. This style of hosting is generally more expensive, but is a must have for more resource-intensive and high-traffic sites.   When you’re getting started online it can be tempting to use one of the free options out there. But, if you’re serious about building a profitable site or service, then you need to take your hosting into your own hands.

    HostGator all the web hosting types outlined above, with 24/7/365 expert support, a 45-day money back guarantee, and free email marketing through Constant Contact.

    Launch Your Website With HostGator!