Blogging is a digital skill that every teacher and student should have. Its a great way to expand upon and share the learning that is happening both in and out of the classroom, and to engage students in ongoing discussion on the subjects that they’re learning about. Finding the best way to set up classroom blogs for your students (or an individual blog for yourself) isn’t always obvious. There are a lot of choices out there for blogging platforms, and we’re going to take a look at a couple of the most popular ones, and a couple that are designed especially for teachers and students.
WordPress is probably the most popular blogging platform on the web. It is a free and open source tool, and offers a multitude of features (available by plug-ins and widgets) and themes, which enable you to customize the look and functionality of your site based on your specific needs. It offers the ability to have multiple users within a blogging community, which would be great for a teacher who wanted to set up a set of classroom of blogs with one for each student. Though WordPress sites are easy to set up and fairly intuitive to use, they also offer immense flexibility to build much more elaborate sites with a lot of functionality, which might be useful if you’re setting up a site for yourself that you’ll use for a longer period of time than just a semester or year.
Blogger is Google’s answer to a free blogging platform. Thus, all Blogger blogs are associated with a Google account. So if you already use a number of Google’s services, this might be an easy add-on for you. Generally, the blogs are hosted by Google and include a subdomain of .blogspot.com, though it is also possible to purchase a custom URL if you so desire. Like WordPress, Blogger supports templates to allow you to customize your site. Blogger does have some limitations of note, the most important of which – for a teacher – would probably be the number and size of pictures (if your classes were to be posting a lot of media), and the number of invited users per blog (ie, if you wanted to invite all of your students to contribute to a particular blog).
Edublogs is specifically designed with students and teachers in mind, and they are, in fact, powered by WordPress. It is free to sign up, and the blogs have a subdomain of edublogs.org, though you can also customize your own URL if you choose. If you choose a free account, the blog is still ad-free and (what Edublogs calls) ‘student safe’, and you can create pages and posts and customize the look of the page. There are a number of levels of paid offerings as well, which bring add-ons like moderation controls for teachers, email support, student management, and a host of other options. They also offer private networks for schools and universities, so if getting your whole school blogging on the same system is important, this service would be a good choice.
KidBlog is another platform designed specifically for students and teachers. Kidblog focuses on making sure the content on all of the blogs is safe and secure – teachers have full control over the students’ blogs, all of the default settings are private so that internet creepers can’t accidentally stumble across student’s blogs, viewing controls are all in the hands of the teacher, and there is no advertising. The customization and functionality options are minimal, which Kidblogs says is to help students focus on the writing/sharing instead of fiddling with widgets. The service is completely free, which seems to be their big advantage over competitor Edublogs.
Check out Edudemic tomorrow for a look at more than 2 dozen ways to promote your blog – great for beginners to seasoned pros!