Normally when we think of forms we imagine a data collection exercise, such as a parental survey or a contact form. However, the Gravity Forms plugin has a powerful extra function that bloggers in schools can take advantage of: namely, the ability to create a blogpost from a form.
What this means is that people can write a blogpost on your class blog without having to log in. All posts thus created will go through the normal post moderation process to prevent unwanted material appearing on your blog. Schools have used this feature in lots of ways:
- To create a community based blog such as a "Bake-Off" blog or community recipe blog where parents are invited to work with their children and contribute to a blog;
- To create simple structured writing tasks for younger children to introduce them to blogging;
- To create simple posts for Foundation Stage children taking the class bear home and writing a diary of what they got up to;
- To create whole school resource blogs which everyone can contribute to, e.g. a school library blog with a book review page on it meaning that ther is no need for children to be members of that blog in order to post on it.
Creating a form
When creating a form that is going to act as a blog post creator it is important to remember that you are, in effect, replacing the normal post editor. This is not the place to create complex forms and you should think in terms of "Title", "Post" "Tags". You can allow the upload of images too, but that will be dealt with in a later tutorial.
Choosing fields for your form
From the menu on your blog's dashboard, select Forms > Add New
Give the form a title and description (can be edited later).
Click Create Form
You are presented with a screen with a lot of information on, however, on the righthand side of the screen you will see the sections where you choose the fields for your form.
IMPORTANT NOTE: for this exercise we are using forms to create a blog post, so you can only choose fields from the Post Field section, highlighted above.
Use the dropdown arrow to expand the Post Field section.
We are only going to use three fields in this tutorial: Title, Body and Tags to create our book review form.
From the Post Field section click on Title. You will see that a box marked "Title" will appear on the lefthand side of your screen. This will become the first field on your form and will become the title of the blogpost resulting from the form being filled.
Now, on the left, hover over the title box and you will see a dropdown arrow appear. Click on it to reveal the options for this "Title" field.
In the "Description" box add some help for your students or audience to fill in the box correctly.
Make sure "Post Status" is set to "Pending Review" or "Draft". IMPORTANT NOTE: if the Post Status field is set to "Published" any form filled in and submitted will be public immediately.
Set the "Default Post Author" for the person who's name you wish to appear on the post. Note that because a user is normally not logged in when filling a form in your blog needs to know who to assign the post to and the dropdown will reveal a list of possible users. It is a good idea to create a user on your blog that is used for all forms. For example, in this instance you could create a user called "bookreview" to assign as the user for any posts created from this form. If you do not know how to create a new user on your blog, ask the network administrator at your school for help.
Finally tick "Required" on the assumption that a title will be a mandatory field for your blog post. This will add a red asterisk to the field and will not allow a user to submit a form prior to the field being filled in.
Once you have finished this section hover the mouse over the title at the top of the form to reveal the dropdown menu box and collapse the section by clicking on the up arrow.
Now select "Body" from the "Post Fields" selection on the right. Again a box entitled "Body" will now appear on the left. Use the dropdown to reveal the same choices. Note that the "Post Status" and "Default Post Author" fields will be set as for the title and do not need changing. Add some description if required and tick the "Required" box to make the field mandatory. Again, click on the up arrow at the top of this section to close the window displaying the field options.
Lastly, add tags to your form by clicking "Tags" from the "Post Fields" section on the right. The first tag in this example will be the first name of the child writing the post. Using the dropdown to highlight the options for the tags field change the "Field Label" and tick "Required" as in the illustration below:
In this example I want to add more than one tag so after collapsing the options for my first "Tags" field I will select "Tags" from the "Post Fields" section on the righthand side again. A second Tags field will now appear on the left. Use the dropdown to expose the options. Change the "Field Label"as illustrated below and change the "Field Type" to "Checkboxes". This allows the creation of a multiple choice list of tags. In this example, add "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" as the choices and click the minus sign to remove the third choice. You can add as many choices as you wish.
Finally I am going to add a third tag for the name of the author. So select "Tags" from the "Post Fields" section once more and edit the options.
This leaves us with three fields that will become the tags for this post.
I have now completed creating my form and finish by clicking the blue "Update Form" button on the right. Note that by selecting "Forms" on the menu you can go back and edit any forms that you have already made. You can also create as many forms as you like.
Adding a form to a blogpost or page
Once you have finished creating a form it is important to remember that the form is not yet visible anywhere on your blog. In order to publish your finished form you need to add it either to a blogpost or a page.
- Use a blogpost if the form you have created is for a single lesson;
- Use a page if you have created a form to be used multiple times over a longer period.
Create a new blogpost or page in the normal way on your blog. Add the title. Now select the "Add Form" button from just above the toolbar.
This opens a dialogue box where I can use the dropdown menu to select the required form mfrom a list of those that I have created. I can also choose not to display the form title and description as that may well be just repeated in the post.
I am now able to publish my form ready for my class to fill it in. The we have created above looks like this in the published post:
In future tutorials we learn how to:
- Pre-fill fields to add scaffolding to children's writing tasks;
- Hide tags so that tags can be preset on posts;
- Add images to forms.